The Zardoz

I should not have spoken to that madam.

When she first said that she would put my picture in the paper I was very happy. My face in the paper, like a leader or a film star. How envious my friends would be! But now after answering all her questions, all my joy has disappeared.

She asked me such silly questions.

Don’t I want to play with my friends?

Ofcourse I do. But mother insists that I stay busy until she gets home from work, otherwise, she says, I will join the riffraff and becomes a no good. I have to go work with my brother. Plus we need the money.

We are a family of zardozi craftsmen. My father, his father, my great grandfather, are all known for their fine gold embroidery. Father used to work for a very famous company. The clothes he embroidered were sent all over the world. Zardozi is hard work. It takes great love and immense concentration. Father used to work for 12 hours daily. Only Sunday was a holiday. Sometimes when the company was having a show, he had to work longer. But then slowly his eyes started going bad. How can he sew all those fine intricate designs if he can’t see properly? So he had to quit. Now he collects all the waste and takes it to the dump yard.
The pay is not enough to feed the family so mother and my brother started working. She works as a maid. Of course my brother does embroidery. He used to sit and watch father. Then father gave him his own betan material (practice on canvas) to practice on. It took him about one year to fully learn. Now he is earning 200 rupees a week.

The journalist madam was not happy when I told her that I dropped out of school five months ago to join my brother. What is the point in learning all that history and geography when I am going to spend all my life in this slum only doing embroidery, I asked her. Sure I like science and math. I am good at math. I know how to add, subtract and multiple. No one can cheat me. That should be enough for my work.
Father is sick, mother is old, and we have to save money to get my sister married. Now I get only 50 rupees a week, out of which I give mother 40 and keep 10. I use that to buy sweets and sometimes a rubber ball to play on Sundays. I will get full pay only after two years.

And then she asked me the strangest of questions. She asked me if I had any dreams and ambitions of my own.

I did not know what to answer. This is my destiny. It is what all the men in my family do. How can I think about doing anything different? Even if I wanted to, who will teach me?

Madam said I could go to school and learn things. But if I don’t go to work how will we eat? How will we buy father’s eye drops? And who will marry my sister without dower money?
I asked her if the boys in her part of town relinquish their responsibilities to weave dreams while their family starves.
She had no answer for me.

In the end she patted my head with pity in her eyes.
I don’t want her pity.
I did not ask her to print my story. Of what use is it to me? I turned 12 this year. I am now a man. This is my fate and I don’t weep over fate. It is what it is.

I should never have spoken to that madam.

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Inspired by the word prompts Craft and Lovingly
Image credit support.yogtech.org

A piece of heaven

I stand transfixed in front of the open door, as pleasant breaths of coolness chill and seduce every nerve in my body. The refrigerator whispers sweets nothings, inviting me closer. Heavenly aroma wafts up, tantalising my senses, serenading me, delicate fingers of fragrance beckoning me. Little birdies of chocolate and caramel start their happy dance in my head, which is now suffused with a delicious sensation created at the thought of sinking my teeth into all that gooey richness. My dazed eyes glisten in the glow of melting caramel. Even the dullness of the light bulb does not diminish the beauty of this dark creamy brown divineness. Meanwhile somewhere in the distance there is a battle raging between my waistline and my taste buds, and at this moment it looks like the waistline is losing – badly. It’s an expensive cake, gifted lovingly, and it’s going to go bad if nobody eats it, and it’s so big who can eat all of it, and dark chocolate is good for the heart, and everyone deserves a few cheat days. OK, so what if my next cheat day is not due for another five days? I’ll eat a big bowl of salad for lunch tomorrow. One piece and no more, for sure. The serenade from the refrigerator is getting louder, like an opera reaching its crescendo, drowning out any ability to think. As if driven by an invisible overpowering force, my hand breaks off a piece of cake and pops it into my mouth. And with that first taste of bliss, all pretences are gone, and I stuff another handful of heaven into my mouth. My eyes close as I concede to the exotic transgression. I die and go to heaven. The only thing alive here is the clicking of the calorie meter.

“Strength is the capacity to break a Hershey bar into four pieces with your bare hands – and then eat just one of the pieces.”

– Judith Viorst.


I could not Resist reposting my greatest weakness!

The Perfumier

He took my hand in his as he led me through his perfume laboratory, explaining the art and science behind it.
“Perfumery is a complicated art. Perfumes are foods that reawaken the spirit.”

And awaken it did.
The gentle hum of his passionate monologue was combining with the complex aromas swirling around me, rapidly turning this sensuous journey into an olfactory erotica. I feel my mind fall into a languid stupor despite every nerve ending in my body firing in amatory awakening. My pulse quickens as my core temperature rises to rush to my cheeks and for some inexplicable reason I am drawn towards him with the heady trance of a butterfly drawn to nectar.
I summon enough mettle to meet his gaze. His grey eyes are twinkling. He knows what this is doing to me. He is trying to make me feel this way!

With a gentle finger he reorients my face to look at the vial he now holds. “This is Musk,” he continues, gently pulling me against his chest, “No other natural substance has such a complex aroma associated with so many contradictory descriptions.”
I inhaled deeply, another whiff that puts my mind into a frenzy of sparks. The feelings rock my head backwards and he starts kissing my ears.
“Isnt it wonderful, like the smell of baby skin. Do you know where musk comes from? I don’t use any of that synthetic musk. That’s not pure. I get mine natural. From the musk deer. First I trap the deer, male, only the male, the female deer is of no use to me. Then I take out their musk pods.”
I let out a tiny gasp and squirm uncomfortably. I don’t like this part of the story.

But then I feel his lips softly graze my neck as he pushes his body into mine. His arms engulf my senses and steal away my worries. In that moment I was only alive in the present, all thoughts of past and future melted away.

“Your scent,” he whispers into my ears, “you smell beautiful. I’m going to bottle you, the Scent of a Woman, the ultimate aphrodisiac. You will be my most priceless fragrance.”

Another vial, a different scent. I feel myself slip into blissful oblivion as his voice gently drones on…
“Extracting the androstenone will be a little like extracting musk, I suppose. You see, the female pheromone is excreted from the apocrine glands…”

Simple is Hard

The French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal released a collection called “Lettres Provinciales” in which he wrote: “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Steve Jobs elaborated with “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

I don’t know about moving mountains, but with said effort I am able to complete a few blogs.

Basically I’m a rambler, so when I sit down to write Three Line Tales™, or flash fiction in a 100 words or in 150 words, that is a really-big, barely-surmountable challenge for me.

Here’s how the process goes. I write where my heart and mind lead me. Then I mull over it chopping down paragraphs, sentences, phrases, discard rhetoric flourishes, replace multiple words with one optimum word. Phew! That’s challenging work.

Back in school we had an activity called Precis Writing – Reduce the given essay to one third of its length. I hated that. I treat words like valuables. I don’t like to give up any. My own written words are like my babies. It’s so cruel to make me choose between my babies.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Clare Booth Luce, so we should endeavour to keep it short and sweet. But then a very wise Albert Einstein warned us “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
Or in my own simple words – Please don’t make me reign in my runaway thoughts. It’s what keeps me sane.

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Thank God there is no word limit on the Daily Prompt.

Man. Simple is Hard.


Note: Three Line Tales is a fantastic blog hosted by Sonya at only100words.xyz

I am

Some Devastations happen within…

I am my father’s cherished treasure
to him more precious than all other.

His heart it was not firing right
Serious matter that gave us a fright
So there we were in an alien city
in a pioneer hospital that was quite pretty
Tests tests tests galore
this rigmarole such a bore
When finally we were good to go
the administrator wanted to know
“Have you got with you anything valuable, sir?”
“Indeed,” said daddy, “my daughter here.”
They had a laugh, this joke the best.
But he and I knew, he meant no jest.

I am my father’s cherished treasure
to him more precious than all other.

The clock keeps ticking, we all get old
Another hospital sterile and cold
This time the tides against me flow
I know I must let daddy go.
Drowning out the repertoire
I will now sign the DNR.
The doctor frowns, the doctor asks
“Is there no other, a man perhaps?
Is there no son? Is there no brother?”
I stand before him tears held back tight
ripping my heart out to do what’s right
as he lashes me with his ignorance
This seemingly educated who has no sense.

I look at my daddy lying there
If you could speak they would not dare
Humiliate your only heir
All he sees is a woman standing
A projection of his own shortcoming
Knows not what a fool he’s being
But it’s ok daddy, the fools I can endure
Your love has made me most secure.
He may not, but I know for sure

I am my father’s cherished treasure
to him more precious than all other.

The Game

The headlines took me by surprise.

Federal agents on Tuesday morning raided and shut down The County Hotel believed to be used by crack cocaine dealers as the site of their drug and prostitution business.
During the raid, made based on an anonymous tip, three men were arrested and charges filed against two others, for cocaine distribution and attempted cocaine dealing.
According to the investigation led by U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives with local police, the motel owners made money by charging drug dealers or prostitutes the going nightly rate to rent the rooms, then charged visitors who came to buy drugs or sex a cover charge for entering the property.

“Bloody Hell! Isn’t that the hotel that you were considering buying?” I asked.

“Not considering, I’m going to buy it, and I’m going to get it for a song too.”

I looked at the cold hearted bastard sitting there smirking like the cat that has eaten the canary and got a really really bad feeling at the pit of my stomach.

“You don’t get successful by playing by the rules my friend. You get successful by playing with the rules,” he continued.


Written for The Sunday Photo Fiction – January 22nd 2017 using Daily Word Prompt Successful

The almighty dollar

Overworked or overzealous
Or is it just a floor show
A masochist or moron
I really do not know

Humbuggery or Drudgery
Does it really matter
Driven by rectitude
Or victim of servitude
Is but pointless chatter

He may be a lackey
May be miserably unhappy
Don’t feel too bad honey
For when it gets to payday
His grief will simply fade away
It’s all about money money

 


Ew…thats cynical….if I may say so myself!

I think I’ll sit this one out

Every so often friends invite me to join them for one or the other Marathon.

So, when Persia was dust, all cried, “To Acropolis!
Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!” He flung down his shield
Ran like fire once more: and the space ‘twixt the fennel-field
And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
Till in he broke: “Rejoice, we conquer!” Like wine through clay,
Joy in his blood bursting his heart, – the bliss!
– Robert Browning (1879)

Cheers to Philippides, who ran like fire, to announce the good news of victory, from the Battlefield of Marathon to his masters at Sparta….never stopped to rest his feet, never paused to smell the roses or fennel, never even stopped for a sip of wine….but ran and ran…and duty discharged…he promptly collapsed and died.

χαλάζι νικῶμεν – Αντίο

Hail, We are the winners – GOODBYE.

Oops!

And how does history recognise him?

Well, the historians still debate about whether his name was Pheidippides or Philippides, and the fine gentlemen who founded the Olympic Games named a race inspired by him after the battlefield rather than the runner.
So a few conflicted mentions in history and mythology and a poem by dear dear Robert Browning?!

No Sir, I am most certainly not running any marathons.

Thank you. I’ll sit this one out.

I could probably be tempted to join a couch-marathon or a dream-marathon. The end result will be the same. Philippides met a premature death due to over-exhaustion, I’ll meet a premature death due to under-exhaustion, but at least I would have enjoyed the journey.

The Greeks can keep Pan, I shall keep the Pancakes…and all other gastronomical indulgences 😉

The Birdwoman

“Siiirrrr….”

Entering the bank with that loud announcement, she went over to squat down in the corner.

That simple seemingly insignificant word created quite a ripple… merely because it came from her.
Skirts were tucked in closer, people moved away, haughty looks were shot towards her corner before faces quickly turned away, and then everyone suddenly got busy, as if the ripple had never ever happened.

She was a kuruvikara rag-picker from a nomadic tribe, once considered to be untouchables and criminals. Obviously untouchability is outlawed now, eliciting the strictest of punishment, but laws don’t change mindsets, they just force us to put on a veneer of hypocrisy.
We still keep away from the kuruvikarans. Naturally we claim that is because they are dirty smelly thieves and scavengers. They eat cats and crows, children are warned, keep your babies and pets safely indoors, women are cautioned. We don’t walk past them, we walk around them. They are The Unseen.

In a bank full of educated, she was a lesser mortal, and she knew that. Oblivious to the discomfort she had triggered, or perhaps much too accustomed to it, she sat there with a smile upon her face, in no hurry, content to wait till the bank peon would make some time to fill out a cash deposit slip for her.

And so we both waited; she wiggled to get more comfortable upon the cold floor and I squirmed to get more complacent upon my cushioned chair. Even in the sweltering summer, she wore three layers of skirts, the longest of which came down to her ankles, a shirt, had a small towel like cloth thrown over one shoulder with several colourful beads around her neck. An extremely conspicuous ensemble! I wondered why. Would it not be more prudent to dress like the average population, to not make herself so obvious? Was she so foolish that she did not realise that people would treat her differently? Or perhaps she was that strong to dress that way despite it. I contemplated the amount of self-conviction it must take to smile benignly in the face of all the disdain being directed at her. Suddenly I felt very ashamed, embarrassed at myself for even viewing her as a member of a community rather than as a person. What did that say about me?

I cringed and lowered my eyes. At that moment I felt very dirty.

I needed to do something, I needed to do something so that I did not sink any lower in my own eyes, and so I walked up to her and offered to fill out her deposit slip. Startled, she gave me a big toothy paan-stained smile. A beautiful smile. A pardon for my ignorant prejudice.

As I was handing her slip back to her I met the eyes of the bank teller. With a subtle nod of his head he softly mouthed a thank you.

And then it struck me. Perhaps not all the hasty look-aways were reactions of rebuke, perhaps some were reactions of self-recrimination, just as I had felt a few moments back.

Note: The Narikuravas (jackal catchers) and Kuruvikaras (bird eaters) are nomadic tribal communities of Southern India that pride themselves on the traditional occupations of hunting-gathering and making and selling bead necklaces. Ever since they moved to the city for opportunities, the struggle has been to preserve their tradition while blending into urban life.

Image Credit: Divya Karthikeyan

The Mystic

She wanted to have a baby so very badly.
There was a void in her heart that all my love and attention could not fill. It was obvious in the way she stared hungrily at the sound of any child’s cry, before turning quickly away with an expression of disappointed resignation. The chasm between us was growing. Our love was not dead, but with every passing month it was distorting into a close mimic of hate, a bitterness I was willing to do anything to whipe away.

Thus it started.
Umpteen visits to doctors, hours of tests, strategising treatments, tiresome tests and painful injections, planning, hoping, waiting, getting disappointed, searching for new options, going through it again and again, and with every failed attempt the growing desperation. When medical science failed her, she resorted to alternative medicines, and when they did not help, she started hinging her hopes on mystics and gurus.

I should have put my foot down, should have talked her out of this nonsense, should have consented to adoption, but I was too weak. I simply went along.

No, that’s not true. I didn’t just go along, I believed. Like her, I clung on to every glimmer of hope, however implausible or unscientific. Disregarding the disparages and skeptics around us, we went from mystic to mystic, until the day we met him.

There was a charisma and reassurance about him that enabled us to stop and breathe. When he smiled, it was as if the dark clouds parted to allow brilliant life giving sunlight through, thawing out our frozen hearts and reigniting hope. The unfolding of the cosmos is preordained, he explained, and we had only to wait for our moment. In the meanwhile we were to pray, undertake cleansing and purifying rituals as a couple and as individuals, ready ourselves for the arrival of the blessed one.
She was at peace one again, a glimmer of her former self, and I felt such a relief at being able to lay down my burden into the capable hands of another. I started concentrating on work again, saving as much as possible for the family I was now assured I would have. She spent her days cloistered in prayer, emerging from every ritual with a lighter heart.

It was 11am on a Tuesday morning when the postman came.

Outside the wind was blowing hot and hungry but indoors the only sound was the clock’s agitated clicking, grating on my mind, click click CLICK CLICK, like the trigger of a gun being cocked back over and over. She had sent me a divorce notice.
I did not understand why.

I waited for her return so that we could talk, but it was he who finally came to my door. There had been a revelation, he had seen her future. It was my negative energy that was keeping the baby at bay. If I really loved her I would step away.

I did not understand.

The days that followed are a blur. Someone came by to collect her things and with them the scattered remains of my dreams.

I still watch her sometimes, like a cheap voyeur, standing across the street from where she works. She steps out of the car and waves to the driver. Shamelessly I soak in the smile meant for another and briefly calm my tumultuous heart.

She is married to him now.

I keep looking for signs of a baby bump but see none.
Yet she is happy, she is calm.

I do not understand.

 


Posted for word prompt Cling