Saturday, 30 January 2016

My Dusty Loves

The day I walked into the bookstore it was raining peach flowers outside. But even then, when the world seemed mellow and existence felt crisp, all I could think about was how in sometime people were going to slip on those flowers after they had been crushed into a putrid black paste by boots and tires.

I cursed under my breath and pushed the glass door open. The girl at the cash counter who talked to me occasionally smiled at me and I acknowledged her with reluctance. With feigned urgency I walked towards the corner where they kept the kind of books I read.

I like free spirited women and 300 page books that tell a story, the kind you can pick up at an airport the kind that will keep you good company for a couple of days before ending, disappearing with out a trace, the kind that doesn't linger, the kind that doesn't tug the heart strings the wrong way. I was at the brothel of words now trying to pick a book that would keep me company for a few nights. I looked at them, ran my finger over the cervices of their spines, whispered lewd things in their ears, smelled their virgin pages, checked the prices stuck on their bodies. I felt a familiar arousal coursing through me. But that day it felt too familiar. Their slender bodies, their banal plots, I felt I knew them too well. The heroes, the villains, the damsels, the intensity of our encounters, the shallowness. Perhaps I needed another kind book. One that could touch me deeply, which could address concerns buried in the deep recesses of my heart. I looked around, hopeless, expecting to find nothing of that kind.

Then I saw her, huddled away in a corner of the bottom shelf, almost shy, trying to avoid any attention. She was thicker than the books that were around her, more prudish. Her name was written on her spine with golden letters in a black background, unlike the cacophony of designs and colours on the spines around her. I got to my knees and slid her out with my forefinger. The backside of her dust jacket was filled with praise from vaguely familiar names, men who had had her before. But I knew enough about literature to not take them too seriously. I opened a page at random and read a few paragraphs, the writing was simple and unadorned yet enjoyable. She felt good, her body felt supple in my arm and I thought that her price was reasonable. I decided to take her home. I took her to the girl at the cash counter, paid the price and walked out to the street with her in a brown paper bag. Outside people were already trying not to slip on the flowers. I walked towards my apartment looking down taking one step at a time.

That night sitting up on my bed in the yellow light and soft darkness of my table lamp I opened her to read for the first time. Like any new lovers we needed time to get accustomed to each other. I approached her with trepidation opening her first page and reading the words slowly, sounding them out in my head only to lose my self in her sometime after the third page, forgetting all caution, sweat, trembling, soft caresses, pleasure and doubt. After 32 pages I felt good but a bit disoriented, as if my soul had just entered my body after being elsewhere for the last half hour. I put her on my nightstand and went to sleep satisfied. Over the week I got to know her more. I became more aware of the fluidity of her motion, the flourishes of her language, the enjoyable inconsistencies of her plot. She was unlike any other book I had read before and every night she took my heart to places whose existence I barely knew of. Every night I fell asleep happy and exhausted, it was a magical time.

But as time wore on inevitable boredom started creeping into our relationship, poisoning it at a slow pace. I started to mistake our familiarity with lack of excitement and started seeing only her negativity, I was becoming blind to her light, her pages seemed endless, her story pointless. I started to crave the slender, virile little books that I used to read not long ago. On lazy evenings I found my legs taking me dangerously close to the book store, I overheard voices in my head conspiring, pushing me to go in, take a book, just look at them, that's all, no buying, just look at one book, they whispered.

I went in with my head buried deep in the upturned collars of my trench coat, perhaps the girl at the counter didn't recognize me. I moved towards my favorite corner in quick steps, there I saw many familiar names in familiar shapes and sizes, I gasped for breath. Here I was again at the brothel of words, but this time I could not shake off the feeling that I was committing an act of infidelity.

I took them out, one after another, trembling with a heady mixture of guilt, pleasure and forbidden arousal, smelling them, reading pages in between, plot summaries on their dust jackets. There is nothing wrong in reading two books at a time, the voices were trying to convince me, these are small books I could finish in a week, I wanted to be convinced. I picked one that raced my heart the most. I took the book to the cash counter, paid for her in wrinkled noted pulled out of my pocket in a hurry and walked out with her hidden under my arm. Outside it was snowing salt, children on the street were looking up at the sky with their eyes closed and with their tongues out.

That night I read the new book. She was much lighter in my arms. I savored every word of her even though I knew exactly what was going to happen next. We made love with out thinking too much, with out feeling too much, with detached pleasure. I was satisfied, even excited by the way she just skimmed the surface of my soul, not even trying to probe its depths. Before I turned off the lights I kept her over my old companion, who seemed to be asking me, glassy eyed in a trembling voice, 'Why?'. I had no answers.

The next night I choose to read her, mostly out of guilt. But as I labored through her lines in the soft yellow light all I could think about was the slender beauty that I enjoyed the previous night. Perhaps the old girl saw it in my face, as she too was terse and our love felt forced, mechanical.

I tried alternating between them, but somewhere I lost that thread. I found excuses, flimsy arguments, to read the new book, that I left her at a cliff hanger yesterday or that I will only read one page of her before going back to the other book, weak and pathetic lies that I told myself. I finished the new book in 10 days. I went to the bookstore and brought home some more like her. A thin layer of dust was settling on my old companion. I have almost forgotten her now. She has become a permanent fixture on my nightstand, almost one with the varnished wood. Sometimes as I reach to turn the reading lamp off I see her black thick spine begging me to take her back and I turn the light off before the guilt can hit my heart.


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Jinnu Moydheen

This story is not my own, it is an old legend, which means that it belongs to no one and that it belongs to everyone. It originates from North Kerala, or so I have been told. I cannot be sure because I don't know the story of Jinnu Moydheen, a magical presence in the small football fields up north of this small state called Kerala, the green appendix of the Indian subcontinent. The magical thing about this legend is that there is no need to hear it, or read it, only knowing the name of the protagonist - Jinnu Moydheen; is sufficient to invoke the sweet aroma of a tale in a mind fertile enough to accept it. Jinnu, meaning genie in the lingua franca, a powerful spirit, golden lamps, castles in Persia, aromatic markets, intoxicating harems, howling of a distant sand storm in the infinite desert; Moydheen, a common Muslim name in Kerala, a boy playing ball in the monsoon soaked field, getting into harmless fights with his brothers, sleeping with his head on his mother's lap, dreaming how boys everywhere dream, dreaming dreams that only a boy can dream. It is a story contained in its name, a story whose name is the story itself, there is no story without that name, the name is everything, perhaps there is no story but only the name, which in turn is the story and the name.

One can hear the story being told (or the name being uttered) during cold, misty mornings in tea shops. Tea shops that contain in their entirety a small hut, two benches, a samovar, a bunch of bananas hanging by a rope from the flimsy roof of the hut, and the owner Raghavan, who is adept at throwing tea into the air and catching it in a glass without spilling. And as his patrons wait, watching Raghavan expertly transfer a thread of tea couple of feet long from a glass in his right hand to a glass in his left in the pretext of cooling tea, the newspaper boy comes down the road on a cycle which is too big for him and throws a single copy of the morning newspaper into the tea shop. Following usual practice, one of the patrons who is literate reads from the newspaper aloud so that everyone, including the old men who never went to school and Raghavan who is occupied in the performance of tea cooling as if in a trance (Raghavan also never went to school), can hear the daily news. But all news doesn’t interest the tea shop crowd, who are more fickler than Shakespeare's Roman mob, and the designated news-reader should navigate them adeptly like Antony, reading only the news that interests them.

'Communists stage a walkout from the Parliament' says the reader
'Hmmmm...', the patrons shake their head.
'Father murders family, later kills himself'
'Ooohhh....' murmurs the crowd.
'10 sovereigns of gold, TV, laptop stolen'

At last the sports page is reached. It is full of news about cricket which the reader avoids. In a small column in the left bottom corner of the page the reader finds what he is looking for.

'Hattricks for Ronaldo and Messi'
The crowd is silent, only the sound of tea crashing turbulently into empty glasses can be heard, the reader holds his breath waiting for the start of another hour long , pointless debate on which of the two is better.
Then someone, someone old I presume, says 'Ronaldo and Messi are good. But not as good as Jinnu Moydheen'

'Jinnu Moydheena?' someone else asks, may be he is new to the place.

'Sometimes during football games the ball flies towards the net as if it was kicked by someone invisible. A shot that is sure to bulge the net, no one would even be near it when it flies towards goal magically. When that shot goes in it means Jinnu Moydheen has scored. The score is updated and the match restarts from kick off.'

This is how one hears of Jinnu Moydheen. For the curious reader who wants to know more I will delve into his genesis.

Moydheen, as he was known before he attained football divinity, was the last of 4 brothers of a neither rich nor poor family from North Kerala.Even from the beginning, before birth, there were signs that Moydheen's destiny would be inexorably linked with the ball. His mother,at the time eight months pregnant with Moydheen, went to watch a seven-a-side football game and was hit on her stomach by a wayward free-kick forcing Moydheen to come out one month in advance. Sure the unimaginative doctors said that it was the force of the hit that cut short his stay in his mother's womb, but the truth is that after feeling a football so close to him while swimming in foetal fluid Moydheen couldn't wait one more month to get out there and start kicking it. Moydheen's brothers also used to play football and the ball they used, which was more like a bundle of dirty rags covering an old rubber bladder, was passed on to Moydheen. The ball and Moydheen were inseparable, where ever he went the ball went with him, like the sheep in the nursery rhyme, but Moydheen never touched the ball with his hands, he would kick ahead and walk behind it, occasionally scooping it into the air and juggling it with his knees, sometimes balancing it on his forehead. When he ate the ball was under the dining table, when he bathed the ball soaked with him and when his mother deemed the old pile of rags to be too dirty to be in bed both Moydheen and the ball slept on the floor locked in embrace. A thin and seemingly unhealthy kid, Moydheen's idol was Garrincha, the bent winged Brazilian angel, who with his polio bent legs weaved magic on the field and afterwards drank himself to death when he realized that he had reached an age which was too old to play football. And like Garrnicha Moydheen too was unplayable in the field, he was lighting fast and could get past a defender in the blink of an eye, a deft touch a drop of the shoulder and he would leave his opponents stranded. It seemed that great things were in store for little Moydheen, who in his own way was one with the ball.

Once every four years, during the time of the football world cup, the small state of Kerala becomes in itself the complete microscopic copy of the football playing world. People take sides with fervour that is unmatched even during election times. Although there may be fans supporting the European teams, who with their technical finesse and ruthless ambition epitomize the continent that once ruled the world, these lost souls are a minority. The heart of Kerala lies, both in literature and in football, with their brothers half way across the world in South America. In the uncertain, crass,mostly illogical, and breathtakingly beautiful style of the Argentines and Brazilians the people here see the kind of game played in their own streets, by the shirtless local boys in the monsoon rain with empty bottles as goal posts and the fattest kid as the goalie. So for one month, when the tournament is played in some far off country whose name most people in Kerala are hearing for the first time, the state is draped in the yellow of Brazil and the blue of Argentina, battle lines are drawn, and in the air hangs a festivity that I believe only occurs in the third world, the kind of festivity, a gaiety that must be smelled to be known. Moydheen like his three brothers and father, was a Brazil fan. In Pele, Garrincha, Vava, Zico and Socrates, Moydheen saw the Gods of football and in Maradona he saw the Lucifer.

In the summer of 1986, a week before kick-off of the World Cup in Mexico, Moydheen, heady from destroying a team of Argentina fans in a seven-a-side football game, proclaimed something that would change his life forever.
'Brazil will lift the cup. Argentina will lose. Let Allah cripple me if that doesn't happen!'

One can hardly blame Moydheen's optimism in the matter. In the 1982 World Cup the Brazilian team with the likes of Zico and Socrates played the most beautiful kind of football ever seen, Joga Bonito! Though they lost to the Dutch in the later stages of the competition the team now had a chance to set history straight, to play the beautiful game and to win the beautiful cup.

The tournament started and Moydheen watched the World Cup in the small black and white TV in the town library, the only television in the whole district. Sitting on his haunches in a room full of fellow football fans, Moydheen watched every game in all its grainy glory, making out what he could and imagining the rest. Both Brazil and Argentina brushed aside the opposition in the group stages and moved forward. While Brazil played in their signature free flowing attacking style, the Albiceleste too marched on with some gritty displays and shows of brilliance by Diego Maradona. In the quarter stages Brazil was set to play France. Brazil played the game in typical fashion, creating scores of chances but converting none. As Brazil finally scored, Moydheen rejoiced, but France soon equalized and as time wore on Moydheen grew nervous, as the score kept tied in deadlock. The omens seemed to be against the Brazilians. Zico, who could score from free-kicks 30 yards out failed to score a penalty and nerves got the better of Socrates when he missed a open header on goal. The match went to extra time and then to penalties and in the raffle of the shoot-out Brazil bit dust, the joga bonito failed. Moydheen was devastated, but he did not fall into despair. Brazil might have lost, but there was a chance that Argentina would lose too and then he would be able to salvage atleast a part of his lost pride. Argentina faced England in the quarter finals, and Moydheen sat down in front of the TV to watch the game, praying to the God he believed in and to the many others he didn't to make Argentina lose, and may be break Maradona's leg too in the process. In the first half the game remained scoreless, but in the beginning of the second half the diminutive Maradona poked the ball past England's towering goal keeper, Peter Shilton, with his hand. The referee didn't see this altercation and the goal stood. Moydheen couldn't believe what he saw. Surely God wouldn't allow such a travesty! In his heart of hearts Moydheen knew or hoped that England will score to maintain the balance sheet of justice. But little did Moydheen know that there was no justice in football and that the hand that scored for the Argentines was the hand of the same Gods he prayed to. Moydheen watched on not losing hope and it was then that Maradona received the ball in his own half and charged like a blue and white comet into the English half. In his black and white screen Moydhenn saw English defenders fall like skittles trying to get the ball off him, one ,two, three... they kept tumbling down, Maradona was now inside the English box, Peter Shilton dived to get the ball but was beaten by the Argentine's touch and sprawled like dead octopus on the field as Maradona slotted home to complete a magnificent goal. The TV room erupted in euphoria of having witnessed perhaps the greatest goal in football history and Moydheen hopes sunk without a trace. The rest of the game he watched like a catatonic, no thinking anything, not saying anything, just watching for he knew that the English could now score a hundred goals but Argentina would always win, as one cannot lose after scoring a goal like that. Argentina won that match, and the rest of the matches, beating the Germans in the final to lift the cup. Moydheen didn't bother watching any of the matches after the quarters, he knew the outcome of the tournament the moment he saw Maradona rip England apart.

The night Argentina won the cup Moydheen had a terrible dream. In the dream he saw Diego Maradona in full Argentine kit, biting a Cuban cigar, sawing off his legs with a chain saw. In the morning when Moydheen woke up and tried to walk he found that some thing had changed. His legs were bent inwards and his knees were inside out, he was crippled and could barely walk, and for sure he couldn't play football any more. The days when he could play with the ball as if it was an extension of himself were over, a part of Moydheen died that night. He would still go to see matches when his friends played, sitting in the stands shouting 'shoot!' and 'pass!', and then for a second he would forget about his legs and would get up in excitement to run into the pitch and play, but then his weak knees would remind him painfully of his misery and he would sit down again to watch the game. Moydheen accepted his fate as a punishment from God for his arrogance, for the certainty with which he tried to predict the future. For four years he lived like this, still loving football, still loving his ball but unable to play, just watching.

It was another World cup summer and the customary seven-a-side football match between Brazil and Argentina fans was under way while Moydheen watched from the stands. The Argentina fans scored the first goal and in celebration they mocked Moydheen. 'Still think Brazil would win?' they shouted at him, taunting him in chorus. Moydheen couldn't take it any longer, four years of frustration and disappointment finally cracked something inside his psyche, he hobbled on to the field and signalled to his friends that he wanted to play, and they let him do it out of sympathy. He could barely control the ball or move around the pitch, whenever he got the ball he passed it someone near him, kicking the ball with whatever little strength he had in his flimsy and grotesque legs. His friends tried to get him involved in the game as much as they could, but it was hopeless. The pitiful game looked set to end in a 1-0 defeat for Moydheen's team, but then someone passed Moydheen the ball near the half way line. This time instead of kicking the ball to someone nearby, Moydheen trudged forward with the ball in his feet, picking up speed and balance as he moved forward. An opposition defender approached him trying to tackle him and take the ball, but Moydheen dragged the ball back with his right foot and adeptly turned on like a dancer leaving the defender in dust, he dashed forth with the ball, defenders fell in numbers, it was carnage and it seemed that the old Moydheen was back, soon he was inside the opposition box and the goalkeeper like everyone else on the pitch could only watch Moydheen curl the ball into the top corner of the net and then vanish into thin air, gone, like a spirit into the netherworld.

Nobody saw Moydheen after that but a new phenomenon became common during seven-a-side matches. The ball, often in the middle of the field would suddenly spring to life and dart forward as if dribbled by an invisible force, it would then race into the penalty box and slot itself into the corner of the goal. When that happens, it means that Jinnu Moydhhen has scored, and by the universal rules of football, the score is updated and the game resumes from kick-off.

-  AJ

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Bolaño Would Kill Me

The murky smell of dusk mixed in with the  red metallic scent forming a vapour that though many may term unpleasant wasn't unbearable.
Ronald stood there gazing at the drying pool of blood formed by the mutilated corpse of a young man of indeterminate youth. Ronan though was kneeling down getting his face right into the viscera lying heaped around the body. He could smell shit from there.
'Pretty brutal' Ronald said.
'Those are the perfect 2 words to describe it. Look at it.'
Ronald had seen enough he didn't want to come close and smell the putrefying shit of a putrefying desecrated corpse.
'Look at how he has been killed.' Ronan continued. 'It is pretty in a sense. The cut is pretty, the way the organs have been pulled out is pretty- almost with care. But it speaks of barbarism as well. The way the act has been done without a moment's hesitation'
'So you have a profile of who our killer could be?'
'Only one man knows the answer to that.'
Ronan stands up and gazes out from the scene, at me. Ronald follows his gaze and stares at me.
Two detectives looking through their frames at a man sitting in a well lighted room hunched over a desk.

Another body, soaking in a tub of its own effervescent redness. A tub of anger.
'Gruesome isn't it?
As usual Ronald stands some distance away as Ronan draws close.
'Same modus operandi as the other murders.  Same elegance. What could this mean?'
'It's a message.' Ronan dips his hand in and brings it out letting the mixture seep through his hands back to the source. The inside had become the outside.
'To whom?'
'It has already been received by the intended person.' He looks up. 'Hasn't it?'
He is asking me.
I can only scribble.

'The bodies are piling up.' Ronald says seated on the desk his eyes enveloping Ronan on his chair.
'The morgue- our morgue- is infinite.' Ronan replies.
'Kill your darlings, more like commit genocide. They don't have souls or our souls don't matter to them.'
'We are only alive for as long as we are needed.'
'So who could be our killer?' Ronald shifts to a more comfortable position on the desk.
'That is evident.' Ronan leans back in his chair and closes his eyes. Blackness.
'It is a mockery. There is art in the killings, but it is a copying of a brutality. It is rubbing his face in the act of copying more than the killings themselves. It is a warning. A message to him.'
'What does it say?'
'It says what he fears. It says that he is a mockery, that he has done nothing new, that he rips off and uses what is already there. It is a testament to his cowardice, his cowardice to not follow through. It is all of this. The killer is saying he is not creative; that he is a mere mirror and mirrors are abominable.'
'But not as much as your own eyes.'
'Eyes are more so, they are the capriciousness of God, building us with mirrors so we are forever haunted by its presence and ours. What does ours reflect, Ronald? Our eyes reflect what he writes, but if we look closely at our own eyes, at each other's we see the truth in them. The illusion that has been build on them.'
'So who is it?'
'It is Bolaño who is hunting Ronald. And he stalks our God by stalking through the world he has imagined. He rips apart and kills what he has ripped apart and killed. It is Bolaño's rage.'
'Who is Bolaño?' Ronald asks.
'Another God. Another fool.'
Ronan straightens up and as he opens his eyes I see myself reflected in them. He is looking at me.
'He is close you know. He is so tantalizingly close. Any moment now you slave of literature. Literature uses conceited fools just as well as omniscient geniuses.'

I stop writing then and look at what Ronan has said to me. I think about killing him, getting this over with. Kill them all. I have control over them..... or do I?
I hear a knock on the door. A knife 12 inch long stabs its way through the wooden heart.  
You stop reading. Nothing makes sense. It's too abstract.
What did the writer mean?
What do we ever mean?

- Rohith

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Story of a Trivial Encounter

The look is so mundane, so integral to our day to day existence that it almost always escapes our notice. Everyday hundreds of people look at us and we look at hundreds more, and our looks and theirs pass through our pale bodies, slowly drifting away like white diaphanous ghosts of the interactions that will never happen, talks that we will never have, things that we will never indulge in together, places that we will never go together, all of that which was curtailed by the look that didn't go according to plan, the looks that shot out of us and passed through each other without meeting, without our eyes locking and hence lost.

Uxfxmo and Mfgxg passed each other in front of the old bakery that sold the best jam rolls in the city. Both were seeing, or may be noticing, each other for the first time. And so they looked at each other, being as clandestine as they could. Uxfxmo noticed that Mfgxg was wearing a red shirt and that his face was slightly asymmetrical. Mfgxg looked at Uxfxmo and thought, falsely, that he resembled someone he knew from school and also that his shoe laces were about to come undone. After this brief period of scrutiny, purely by chance, their looks met, Mxgfg saw Uxfxmo looking at him looking at him looking at him looking at him... back and forth, ad infinitum. And the universe, being the gentle creature that she is, hates infinities. So both men were gripped by a great sense of shame and they looked away. Uxmtxo looked down as if the cobblestones had suddenly caught his attention, and Mxgfg faked a coughing fit, their gazes diverged from each other and the universe was once again finite and well,and the men went their separate ways.

After that day, these men who had never seen each other before, kept popping up in each other's field of vision. It became evident to them that they lived in the same neighborhood. And within a short time (in the scale that measures the time required for two men to forge a bond between them) they became familiar to each other. They slowly became comfortable with each others faces, as if they had known each other for many years and now when their paths crossed they carelessly nodded like long lost friends between whom words were no longer necessary.

They could have left it at that, but they were curious to know about the other. It bothered them that they could be so comfortable and friendly(atleast on the outside) to a person about whom they knew nothing. In a fit of curiosity, that they didn't bother hiding, they asked around, their friends, their family, the bartenders, the shopkeepers were all faced with the same set of questions 'You know that guy?' 'Who is that?' 'Kind of short, bald' 'Has a beard' 'He comes in here sometimes, you must have seen him' 'What's his name, where does he live?' eventually they found out enough about each other to satisfy their curiosity.

And one day they talked. It was Mxfgxg who started with a 'Hi", Uxmtxo said 'Hello' back as if he was expecting it all along, as if by the predetermined workings of the cosmos it was inevitable that they talk that day. They talked of the most uninteresting things, the weather, the street, the price of vegetables, and before they parted they asked each others name and other things that they already knew, a necessary charade. After the small talk was over they went their separate ways and realized that they would never be great friends, they would never go drinking together, nor would they have long conversations about things that interested them. They were simply incompatible. They would always be strangers on the street who knew each others name.

But in their failed attempt to extrapolate their acquaintance to friendship they had dragged their relationship into the murky middle ground in between. This gave rise to some practical difficulties. Mxgfg was blessed with a good eye sight( unlike Uxmtxo who wore glasses that had lenses thicker than the underside of soda bottles), and when ever he saw Uxmtxo approach from a distance he couldn't figure out what to do. Should he wave or nod or do something else to acknowledge Uxmtxo's presence? Had they been good friends Mxgfg could have shouted as soon as he saw Uxmtxo 'Hey Uxmtxo! Over here!' and then he could have quickened his pace to reach his friend. But they were not thick friends and Mxgfg didn't want Uxmtxo to think he was some overbearing lunatic. On the other hand, Mxgfg could wait till he was really close to Uxmtxo and then just nod. But that would mean that he would have to act like he didn't see Uxmtxo till the very last minute and Mxgfg found that very hard to fake.

So whenever he saw Uxmtxo coming towards him, Mxgfg was seized by this great quandry which made him uneasy. He usually ended up doing a combination of a wave, a nod and a cry of joy, like an actor seized by a fit of epilepsy on stage. He then walked the rest of the distance between them feeling incomplete. He would think about the encounter all day, plagued by the question 'Did I do it right?'. He would go home and draw schematics of their encounter, marking with a big 'X' where he waved at Uxmtxo, which he would then show to his worried wife and amused childern asking again and again the same question, 'Did I do it right?'. 

Uxmtxo had no troubles with the 'when?', due to his poor eye sight he only saw Mxgfg when they were really close ( Only if Mxgfg knew this). Uxmtxo was more worried and confused by the 'what?', he could never decide what to say when he saw Mxgfg. Before they knew each others name Uxmtxo never bothered about it. But now that they had made conversation, exchanged names and talked about meterology, Uxmtxo felt that their relationship was elevated to the level that included verbal greetings. But what greeting conveys 'I-know-your-name-but-that's- as -far-as-this-is-gonna-go in a succinct way? A simple 'Hi' or 'Hello' was too distant, too cold or worse, Mxgfg would see it as a pretense for a conversation and start chatting. Uxmtxo didn't want that. 'How are you?' or 'How was your day?' was too friendly and moreover Uxmtxo couldn't figure out whether he should walk away after asking such a question or should he wait for an answer. Suppose he found the perfect greeting, what then? He couldn't go on saying it everytime they meet. That would be dull and repetitive and it could be perceived by Mxgfg as an insincere greeting. Not that Uxmtxo was being sincere. He could care less how Mxgfg's day went or how he was feeling. But Uxmtxo lived in a civilized society and in civilized societies sounding insincere was a greater crime than being so. Whenever Mxgfg approached Uxmtxo would try to say something appropriate which usually came out as some incomprehensible mumble, as he was consumed by doubt(Mxgfg hardly took notice of this as he was lost in his own apprehensions).

So they kept meeting each other, as if pulled by an all permeating force field, two men trying to feign sincerity and camaraderie where there was none, failing to realize, or may be realizing but not willing to acknowledge that they were nothing more than two strangers and the universe wouldn't explode if they walked past each other without saying anything or doing anything.

Weeks and months went by and the matter became worse and worse. They hesitated even to step out of their houses in the fear of running into the other. Soon Mxgfg stopped going out all together and sent out his wife and kids outside to run errands for him. When it became absolutely necessary to step out he covered his face with scarves and sunglasses so that Uxmtxo wouldn't recognize him even if they met. Uxmtxo also considered the drastic step of not going out all together but he couldn't go through with it as he knew he would lose his job as a salesman if he did that. Instead he resorted to the tactic of following the most convoluted and deserted route possible when he had to travel between two points. He had to travel many more miles than necessary, get out of his house two hours early to go to the grocery store around the corner, he got mugged a few times and was almost stabbed once, but it was worth it. He never saw Mxgfg again.

You must be distressed dear Reader, you must be! How can our protagonists get away with this? Is it not seen in literature ( and to some extend outside of it) that the most complex and carefully laid out plans often fail spectacularly? How is it that the universe, with her insatiable urge for chaos and mischief, let these two gentlemen get away with their plans? How did she not make them meet?

Maybe after many years they do meet but it wouldn't matter for they would have forgotten each others names and faces, they would have also forgotten why they dislike going out so much and yet they will carry out their charades almost like a ritual. Mxgfg would see from afar a man approaching him, tired from walking all those extra miles, and Uxmtxo would see a human scarf exhibit with no trace of a face walking past him when they are close enough, and they would walk away like strangers, and then things would be almost that same as before, before the day their paths crossed in front of the bakery.


Saturday, 25 April 2015


Love is selfish.
Umberto Eco
I'm all men. All men are me.

'Research for writing'- was for me synonymous with 'this will be dropped'.

Any story for which I had to do research always ended up in the trash can of  'will pick up on a dry day'. Half of it is because of procrastination, another half is because of the way I write. I am more of an impulsive writer, and as it sounds, it's a two sided coin. Then again another part can be because as I delve deeper into a piece of fiction, I discover why it can never ever be true. So for me research and writing never went together.

That is the reason why I never pursued the diary I got nearly 20 years ago, when I was working as professional employee and trying to juggle my writing career at the same time. I trudged through data daily while my aspirations of becoming a writer were but fleeting glimpses of rainclouds in a desert.

The diary was not that special, cardboard bound in cheap plastic made to look like leather. I actually found it while I was hunting around for used books. In a small dusty corner filled with the ancestors of books who were falling apart, I found a hand written diary. I cannot remember why I bought it.

It looked like a romance novel at first. The diary was the canvas for a story, a story with a female narrator, no name, nothing on it. An anonymous text.

After pouring over it though I realized that it was not what it had appeared at first glance.

The author had imagined the life of a woman who had been in love with and married to a man who had a peculiar condition. This man was apparently from a race of men who did not have the ability to love.

In effect, he had all other emotions, he could feel everything, except for love. Of course, that is interesting but not as interesting as when we consider one other thing that the author had apparently added to the plot.

Apparently all these men needed love to survive. They needed to be loved by someone with total sincerity and absoluteness. Without this they would wither and die. Love from mothers, lovers: this is what they needed and without it they had no life.

The idea was brilliant, but the execution mediocre. The story started somewhere in the middle with the woman already married to the man. There was a lot of drudgery about day to day happening and that too was told in a haphazard style with no clear indication as to where anything was going. And it ended abruptly as well, in a kind of limbo. It just stopped after one line with no clear conclusion. Maybe the author himself had given up on it.

Whoever had written this was never going to be a good author. The idea was brilliant, but if ideas where enough, then the next Dostoyevsky would have been a  homeless man.

This made me want to pursue it, to write it better. I knew it had never been published; it was just a germ of a story. I knew that I could have written it much better but as I said, research got in the way.

Years later, I sat down with Higashi Takanae Hiro* to have a long winded debate on the usage of others' ideas. He was of the opinion that if someone had written about the idea, no matter how obscure or unpublished it was, all other authors had a moral obligation to not pursue it- to not build upon it or augment it or make it their own.

In the heat of the moment I hunted down and gave him the diary, hidden in the murky depths of the manuscripts of my old works and other assorted yellow books. Time had etched itself on to the diary as well but there was no damage, it was still in pretty good condition. I showed it to him and spoke about how it was a story I had once attempted to write but had given up midway. I wanted to use it to show that how inefficient the skill of the writer was who wrote it. I had believed that I could do better, and still perhaps do now.

As to who won the debate is hard for me to tell, as all our arguments ended somewhere abruptly with no clear winner or loser. But one thing that I can say is that Hiro was very much attracted to  the diary.

He asked me if he could take it with him.

 I might have thrown away the idea earlier, but it was always good to have something to fall back on the dry days so I was reluctant. But Hiro said he would not be pursuing the idea but rather he wanted to research something. So I gave it to him and suffice to say forgot all about it.

Anyway at that time, I was sick of it all at that, at having to defend myself. At the sudden rearing up of a thousand heads that wanted a taste of my blood. I wanted to get away from it all and it was Hiro who came to my aid. He proposed to me a trip. Out in the country, just the two of us, on the car, in places where my words were valued as much as toilet paper.

In an off the road hotel as I looked up at the fan and thought about nothing at all, Hilo got a call. I was disinterested in the conversation he had but he came back all excited and wanted me to go with him to somewhere. I told him I would not move out of the bed till the next day, and he said he was fine with that.

At dinner that night of cheap takeout food, that caused me diarrhea the next day I found out the reason for his excitement.

It was the diary.

He had been mesmerized by the idea. Not because it was unique(as I said there is no such thing as unique), but because he had heard this story before. As legends, rumors, myths and tales told by mouth passed from one to another. He had also come across this in some obscure texts, written by psychologists and doctors whose name had gotten lost from one print of history to the other.

He had been sure that he had some of the works with him. He went back that day armed with the diary and pored over his many volumes of obscure texts of different languages and he found three where such a condition with its ensuing side effect was clearly mentioned.

The first was Hoc Autem non est Verum by the Italian Giovanni Giovinco, the second Esto no es Real  by the Spaniard Sergio Torres and the last Ce ne est Pos RĂ©el by Pierre Le'Vol.

Hiro always thought in a different way to me. I would have formed the conclusion that the author had come across the obscure texts himself and had been inspired by them to write the story. But Hiro thought that it was actually written by someone who had experienced it.

In fact he had dug deeper into it and had finally found an acquaintance who said that he knew a woman who had been married to a man like this or at least a woman who had said to him that she was married to a man like this. They had been good friends once upon a time but had drifted apart. With his help though Hiro had finally managed to track down the woman.

I was skeptical. To say that I scathingly tried to undermine what he had strived for is an understatement. I tried to debase him, filled as I was with hatred and loathing. I called him a fool for believing in the lies that our profession sold, but he would have none of it. The next day after chugging down pro-biotics and some tablets, I set out in all my discomfort to what I thought was a fools journey.

As I sit here and write this, I wonder where all my belief in things that are unseen went. I remember wishing for letter on my 11th birthday or hoping to suddenly find out one day that I could turn my hair golden by yelling hard. I was happier and more open to uncertainties when I was younger. As you grow up you start to close yourself off to things, to the world.

When I saw her finally, she was frail old thing pushing 90, I realized that whatever she was she was definitely not a writer. Even an unsuccessful one had an air of pompousness about them. Yet her handwriting was the one that adorned the diary which we handed back to her that day.

She lived with her grand niece. There was tea; herbal for me on learning my condition. We sat there. me , Hiro, her grand neice and the lady herself inside  a small house on old but comfortable chairs staring at her digesting her own diary.

She finally looked up at us and started speaking, she gazed not at us as she spoke and she didn't stop. We listened sipping on tea to a tale. She spoke of what happened after, what happened before and more importantly she spoke of her own life.

She had met him one day in autumn, standing frozen in a bus stop with the smile of the world on his lips. A hidden smile that she had believed only in her heart and had never expected to see for real. They met on several occasions after that in different places. In places where she worked, where she visited to calm herself and in her dreams; slowly but surely she fell in love with the man.

He had a failing health when she met him and his eyes had the grief of his mothers sudden death in him. His father had passed away years ago. He was an orphan. No brothers, no uncles, no aunts- just him. She took him into her heart and nurtured him on her love, sweat and laughter until he emerged cured and hale as a lion. She believed in the healing power of love then, but the literal truth behind her statement she only realized later on.

She married him. They never had children, but she was not overtly sad. She had him.

She was still in love, after 20 years with him and he still loved her. That was enough for her.

Love is a strange thing. It is selfish yet sacrificial. It is perfect yet imperfect. It asks just as much as it gives. She didn't know when she got the nagging suspicion that the love he was showing her was not real.

Doubt is an itch in love that you shouldn't scratch but curiosity killed the cat. And she scratched at it again and again with growing viciousness until the skin tore open and out flowed all the lies and the deceit.

She heard it from his own lips. He told her of what he was. He confessed how he had never and could never love her but how he needed her love. He begged her not to abandon him. She hugged him close and told him that she would never leave him as long as she breathed.

It was lie told out of both love and resentment. Death had already claimed its prey.

She couldn't love him the same way after that day. She went back to their years together and remembered all his words that had meant so much to her once upon a time but now sounded hollow. Her love had lost its power.

He started becoming sick soon afterwards, a thing that had never happened in their 20 years of marriage. He steadily grew worse and worse and no cure that a doctor prescribed could make him better.

She held his hands while he passed away one sunlit morning. She held his hands and said 'I love you' with guilt embossing the words with its deceptive shine.

He passed away with a smile on his face.

Both of us were silent as we drove back to the hotel. I gazed at the scenery flashing by caught up in my own thoughts.

I cannot remember the last time I loved someone. It is so far away in the past, it is as if it had never existed at all.

I have become immune to love. Love for everything. People, places, books, words ........ I lost them all along the way. I was that man as well, that man she loved with all her heart once upon a time.

Yet I cannot fell that all is not lost.

There were always people to charm, always new lies to be told. He could have embossed the truth he said to her, he could have left her for someone else. There are always selfish ways to hold on to your life. but he remained.

So shall I.

So shall we.

To breathe our last. Holding on to our own meaning of love..... of reality.

*This was way before anything. The court case against me, Hiro's car accident, his paralysis, his death.... I miss him. He is and will be forever irreplaceable.


Saturday, 4 April 2015

The Divine Idiocy of Nothing

There is nothing in my life to really hold your attention. People seem to like action, romance, hardship and even the occasional philosophy. Can't say I have much of that. Nothingness permeates my life. So much so that it generates everything for me, as strange an oxymoron that is.

I was kidnapped when i was a kid. Taken right from under my parents noses, right from the little gate in front of our home. A group of vagabonds. The plight of little kids is always a sympathy attractor and so there i was branded with a hot rod, gaining a scar that i still carry around. The scar still pains me now and then. It even oozes puss on days. Its like one of those injuries that you hear about that acts up now and then. The scar is a reminder for me, of what could have been. A painful reminder. But anyway by the age of 6 I was .......

I was a still born. I came into the world dead and the world brought me to life. The philosophical implications of this is profound. A persistent theory that goes around is that the world is an illusion brought into existence by our being. In other words, the fact of us being alive brings to life the world or the universe. But for me it was in the reverse. For me, the world brought me to life instead of vice versa. So I have always chosen the other side when it comes to this debate. I owe my life to it and I have formed a special relationship with it. It is my mother. I talk to to it now and then. In fact the world really started talking to me when I was 12 and locked up in my room hating my parents for being total.......

I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Literally not figuratively, the figurative takes too much precedence it seems to me. The doctors were amazed, flabbergasted. My mom was okay with it. My grandmother had told her that how as child she had swallowed whole a silver spoon that was part of her, the grandmother's, wedding cutlery from her nostalgic day at the altar. She just assumed that it had come out with me. She told the doctors to pack it up and put it in jar. She melted it and made silver locket out of it which she hung around my neck for good luck. It's been around my neck for soo long that I cannot remove it any more. It kind of melded with me as I grew becoming a part of me. My father was always against this theory concocted by my mother. He being an educated man knew that the spoon was not the one my mom had swallowed. So he tried to reason it out. But each of his hypothesis was crazier than the next and our entire family came to believe my mothers story than any of my fathers. And so it was that...

I remember the incidence clearly. I was too young to be thrust into that kind of situation, but I am proud of my younger self for rising to the occasion. I was 11 years old at the time i believe. I was slowly coming to understand that my father was working for the government as a secret agent. I had actually heard stories that it was his job that cost him my mothers life, his eternal regret I believe. But I was proud of my dad and at what he was doing though we never discussed it. So one day while we were outside driving around in his car, a black sedan pulled up next us on a signal and shots rang out. I was scared and covering in the passenger seat but I saw that my dad was hurt and out cold. The sedan moved to the front and pulled to the side and these men in black coats with guns in their hands were coming towards us. It was instinctual, my fathers blood I believe, I hopped on to my dads lap and gunned the engine. The car whizzed past the attackers as they.....

I had always shown remarkably less empathy. I cannot be what I am not, so I embraced it. I remember the first time I disembowelled a cat. It was exhilarating to say the least. Of course cats are just the first step, from there it keeps on going up and up and up..... Look at where I am now, slowly cutting of a persons fingers as they lie screaming on the table. Well silent screams anyway, you can't scream when you have a gag stuffed in to your mouth. It feels good. I find this experience more pleasurable than sex. Ah the first time I killed a human being, it still sends a shiver down my spine. I was 17 years old and ........

I remember her clearly. she was my first love. some people say that love can't exist between children, that one has to grow up and be mature to really understand what love is. But I disagree, vehemently. Love is there, love is everywhere and it can be felt by anyone at any time.It doesnt discriminte and that's the beauty of love. It cares not whether you are a kid or an old guy. It comes unbidden and indiscriminately. I was 10 years old when I met my first love. She was a year older than me, 11 and I saw her many times on the bus as we went to school. Her hair, her eyes.... when she walked past me I smelled heaven on her. It was love with a passion that I could never describe now. I wanted to tell her that I loved her everytime that I met her. I couldn't find the courage though, that is until one day.........

I was born........ I was born and I am here and I am languishing in nothingness. Isn't that enough?


Saturday, 17 January 2015


                    The air that day was so dense with poignancy that the whole universe smelled like dry chrysanthemums. But I neither smelled nor sensed any of that melancholy, much of which was impending, during the indefinite period of time I spent outside Kumar’s door, deep in thought. During that time, staring at his closed door, I ventured to recreate memory by memory from a haze of vagueness the events of our friendship that had been muffled and eroded by time over the last 5 years. But it was a sad attempt at recapture, the past is just a dream and memory just a sense of reality we attribute to it. From the numerous conversations we had the only thing I remembered were a few phrases and some sour comments, form the many visits to this house only the taste of his green tea lingered somewhere in my head. Only two things stood out from this background of faint remembrance. The first was the longing both of us felt for India, our motherland. That insipid and rather forced patriotism that we both had while we were in India had turned into a feeling that permeated our every breath once we crossed her borders. The second was how little I knew about this man. I had never asked him about his past even though during many occasions I had given him long animated lectures about the lush, green beauty of Kerala and the taste of my mother’s cooking. Deep down I knew why I never asked him. I was afraid of a nostalgia more poignant than mine, memories merrier and food even tastier. It was important for my sanity that my reminiscent motherland remained the best and in Kumar’s memories I was afraid of finding one even better.

The door soon opened and a familiar bald head lined by white wispy hair on the side peered out. I was expecting a scream of surprise, a friendly hug, but I was met with sad eyes and a forced smile.
‘Ah Roy… Come on in’ he said.

He lead the way and I followed him perplexed and I noticed the sadness in the air, the walls duller, the lights darker, the furniture lifeless, the curtains heavy. We sat down on either side of the dining table where he had received me many times before, during much happier times. Times when the screech of chairs being pulled on the floor wouldn’t be noticed above the noisy laughter of friends. I noticed his eyes, red and covered by a lens of tears.

‘What happened? You done look so good’ I asked him.

He looked at me with those eyes and I felt dry gusts of great sadness on my face.
‘I got a phone call from Delhi… About 10 minutes back. My father died’ he said, his voice choking in between. 

Uneasiness in the worst of all human feelings, neither pain, regret nor sheer rage can hold a candle to the bitter concoction of unease that lodges somewhere between your stomach and heart and then refuses to come out. I was feeling it right then, boiling in my gullet. 
‘Sorry to hear that. Had he been ill for a long time?’
‘Yes’ he replied. His eyes were fixed on the palm of his hand.
‘How old was he?’, I asked, cursing in my mind the moment I choose to visit my old acquaintance, eager to run away from the situation after a few cliqued enquiries and words of consolation.
‘Sixty five’ he said, still staring at his clenched fist, I noticed something shining from inside it.
‘I’m sorry for your loss. What was his illness?’
He looked at me and then showed me what he was holding in his fist. It was a silver anklet, a simple one, a thread of silver with two hooks on either end, the type that adorned almost every female ankle in India.
‘This killed him’, he said to me. His voice weighed by remorse ‘I never told you about her…’
‘No, you never did’, I had no idea who he was referring to.
‘My sister’, he said, his eyes had left the room and were once again fixated on the silver thread in this hand, from his meditation of despair he spoke

 The village I was born was in one of the remote corners in India. While India had her tryst with destiny and winds of change swept through the country, my village was relatively untouched. We still lived a 100 years back, refusing to give in to the pressures of the time, stubbornly resisting change, choosing with callousness to live in the dark. But things beyond our power were at work all around the country, and change was trickling in at snail’s pace.A government school in the village was the first manifestation of this transformation.

But the stinking hierarchy of the caste system still ruled us, and my family was at the bottom of it. My father was a chandala, the keeper and the sole owner of the local cemetery, like his father before him, leading up to the time when one of my ancestors were given the forsaken job of burning corpses. My father did his duty, his dharma as he called it, with devotion and diligence. And by his submission to the system he condemned us to be the poorest of the poor, people considered to be equivalent to corpses.
My sister and I were born a year apart. My father wasn’t very happy with having a daughter but I like to think that he loved her in his own way when the thoughts about her future didn’t plague his simple mind. I, his elder son, was expected to be a chandala like him to take up the divine duties of our family. The duties which entailed disrespect and contempt from the whole village. My father wasn’t happy when social workers came to our hut to enroll us for the new school. He feared that education might put dreams of a different, better life in my head and he was sure that my sister had no use for books and letters since her future husband was probably going to be illiterate. But he let us go when they told him that we would be given free lunch every day at school, and lunch meant that the only thing he had to give us was water to drink before we slept at night.
School was painful. Equality and compassion existed only in the social science textbook and even that was denied to us as buying a book meant starving for a week. But me and my sister made do with what we had, we tried to study because deep down we had a feeling that it would be the way out of our miseries and also because alphabets and numbers were a welcome relief from corpses and pyres.
Soon my mother was pregnant again. The local seer saw in his inked leaf that it was a boy. My family rejoiced, my father even more. A son for him was someone who could continue his cursed existence, a sacrificial animal for the sake of vocational immortality.
Three months after the good news my mother had a miscarriage. My father was sad, but not devastated by the news. In those days of meagre medical care an infant dying before being born was a common thing among the poor. Almost everyone in my village had that sibling no one talked about, who was mentioned only in uncomfortable pauses that occurred during uncharted conversations about the past.

Six months later my mother was pregnant again. A boy, according to some random and mundane act that was supposed to tell the future. Seven months into it she gave birth to a stillborn. The distressful silences at my home was becoming louder and louder filled with cries of my unborn brothers.
It was during the third pregnancy that the Aghoris started visiting our cemetery. They were a few at first, taking the pilgrimage road to the Himalayas that passed through our village. I had never seen them before as my father never used to let them in to the cemetery fearing that they would violate unburned corpses for their rituals. But this time he let them in. When I saw them for the first time, their trishuls, their chillums, their hair in chaotic medusa like tangles, their mouth blackened by human flesh, their skin covered in ash, I felt inside a fear so ancient that it belonged to dark nights spent in lonely caves, listening to the howling of wolves and watching the occasional lightning illuminate the forest around in a moment of eerie brilliance, the fear of the shadow you see out there in that microsecond of illumination that you hope is that of a tree or a branch, that you hope is not of some beast lurking in the shadows waiting for the dark to make a carnal dash for your cave, a fear that was not from this millennium or the one before it.

But what made my fear worse was my father’s eyes. In them I didn’t see that same fear reflected but instead I saw a glimmer, which I later realized to be the twinkling of admiration, an acceptance of powers higher than hitherto unknown. He let them camp in our cemetery, brought them ashes for their rituals, unburnt femurs to make chillums. He used to go to the cemetery grounds late at night to meet them, something he never used to do before. And the following mornings I used to find mutilated corpses there. I preferred not to think about the signs.
Five months into the pregnancy my mother gave birth to a piece of flesh. It was after this that the skulls started appearing. In every house, hut, shack and palace in India there is a hallowed place that is somehow different from the desolation surrounding it. When me and Anarkali came back from school that day we found our father, legs crossed. In the corner of gods the pictures of Rama and Krishna were replaced by a solitary skull. My father was chanting something in a language that we did not understand, but each syllable of those mantras oozed so much evil that we could not stand there listening to it, we ran inside. I came out sometime after the chants ceased. My father was nowhere to be seen, the skull was still there and on its eerie whiteness there were two dots of blood red.

Within a few days there were so many skulls stacked, one over the other, in that corner that the rest of us began to wonder about their source. My father spent less and less time in the hut during mornings, he spent daylight talking to the aghoris, smoking from their chillums and lost in the primeval trance of their company. Nights he slept in the hut, perhaps he was yet to get used to the nocturnal activities of his new comrades.
My mother was pregnant once more and we all sensed that it would be different this time around. But nothing could have prepared against what was to come, not even the lunatic glimmer in my father’s eyes that heralded it.
I still remember that amavasi night. Amavasi nights, bathed in darkness were filled with the sounds of aghori chants. But we had learned to sleep through those sounds, though I now wish I hadn’t. Had I been awake I would have known that Anarkali was missing from the usual spot she slept, snuggled between me and our unborn brother. Had I been awake I would have noticed the cries of a 9 year old girl being consumed alive by the flames of a newly lit pyre amidst the aghori chants.
But I had slept and was woken up in the morning by whispers of my father. Through my half open eyes I saw him, both his hands covered in ash held over my mother’s pregnent belly in a solemn gesture, his lips moving to the syllables of some macabre black magic chant. The scene startled me out of my half slumber and I noticed that she was gone.
‘Where is Anarkali ?’  I asked.
My father looked at me, his face happier than it ever had been for the past few years, and said ‘Forget her, she is gone. What name should we give your brother?’
He stopped his narration, his eyes were bloodshot, and his face was glistening from a thin layer of sweat through which two solitary tears tumbled down each of his cheeks.
Me and my mother both knew what had happened. For two days we lived between my father and the aghoris, who were now practically living in our house, performing rituals for the birth of my brother. The school noticed our absence and sent someone to check on us. After the news got out the police soon followed. They found Anarkali’s charred remains from a pyre few hundred meters behind our hut. They took whatever was left of her to exhibit in charades of litigation between my father and the state. I think I foresaw this. For the previous night I found her pyre and from the bones, ashes and burnt pieces of cloth I found her silver anklet, the search was difficult due to the tears in my eyes.

‘My father’s mercy petition was rejected by the President a week ago. Today they hanged him’ he said

He fell silent, lost in a universe of sorrow at the nexus of which was the anklet he held in his hand. I knew I had to say something before his sorrow and my uneasiness devoured both of our sanity.
‘What do you think the Aghoris told your father?’ I asked him.
I had, in my crassness, touched upon the very question that had been plaguing him for years. He answered me with a voice not his own but of his memories.

‘In a country of a billion gods it was only natural that my father thought he had met one in the form of an aghori. A benevolent deity that would gift him another son and placate his misfortunes, for a nominal price. Perhaps he thought that at the last moment the skies would break open and god himself would stop him. But that didn’t happen, my sister was burned alive, no demiurge saved her.’

I realized that the answer was the reasoning he had been using for all these years to try and forgive his father, an uneducated man, floating between life and death halfway across the world.
Then in a tone laced with perfect lucidity, he added to his answer the phrase that he always used to defend failed philosophies and doomed schools of thought.
‘My father believed in many gods, and he thought he saw one. When you believe in a million miracles, probability dictates that you see at least one’.