>> Friday, June 1, 2007


Every time a vehicle sped past, a pair of weak and old eyes would stare out at the dust-stained, ancient windows. The flickering hope died the moment it was born. She sighed and resumed her work; if staring at a dilapidated room could be called work. She had worked tirelessly for 20 years to keep up her reputation of being a wicked tyrant and an enormous bank account fuelled Megha's reckless behaviour.

Vimla glanced at her list and shuddered involuntarily, "Not the old crone!" A pall of gloom swept over her dark eyes. Her hair was held in a somewhat awkward bun by a net at the back of her head and her tiny face beheld fear. A visit to sweet lil'ol Megha wasn’t exactly a planned picnic; rather it was devious murder; the manager of the store Megha worked for being the sadistic butcher. The manager DR- real name Dharmesh Roy (infamously known as Devil Reborn) - considered it a fitting punishment to allow the "mid-night bulb burners" to do the honours of the late deliveries.
It was Vimla's Honour today.
Vimla sighed, took a long breath, as if it were her last, and rang the door bell with a face as if the bell tolled for her. Megha's ugly little face peered through the semi-open door and gave a huge wicked grin; she had found the perfect feast for the night.
As Vimla unburdened the groceries off herself, she was conscious of a pair of cataract eyes leering at her.
"Vimla, isn't it?"Megha mocked, “My memory and eyes are not the same anymore dear. “She lied and gave a fake sigh. Vimla was was not to be fooled by her game of cat-and -mouse but she kept mum. "Isn't your brother still in the 9th standard? Is it his third or fourth time?"Megha enquired.
"It's only his second time!" Vimla retorted.
Wrong move.
"Only his second time! Eh? Is he planning an encore? A seasoned player, an 'outstanding' student, isn’t he?"
"That bloody ruffian! Vikram, isn’t it?"
Megha had selective amnesia; she only had a difficulty in remembering people's virtues; their names and failures never escaped her.
"Yes." mumbled Vimla.
"Speak louder!" she barked “You and that damned old lady of yours earn peanuts while that scoundrel...”
"Vikram's a good boy!" she interjected.
Vikram was a good boy. Good at stealing change from his mother's and sister's purses, good at wolfing tobacco, good at leering at girls, good at staying away from school; in fact he was good at all no good things.
"A good boy." Megha muttered under her breath, she knew of all his good deeds and her repulsive smirk pledged so.
Vimla handed over the receipt, received her due, turned at the door and was saying, “Good night and please don't insult my family..." when she got a wet and loud "PHA!" in reply.
"Witch, crone...”Vimla kept uttering despicable all the way to the store.

"You are the most wicked person I've ever seen DR!" Vimla complained. The four of them Vimla, DR, Irene and Samir were squatted on the floor of the store the next day. The fan creaked lazily and uselessly above and the din of traffic had become a tad bit more bearable. "C'mon, let's on the AC for a while, it's steaming in here!" Vimla pleaded.
The store owner Prakash had ordered the AC to be switched off during their lunch breaks and since he was presently on the roads surveying his other stores, Vimla and her friends felt the need for the extravaganza.
"Would you have done it if you were in my place?"DR asked patiently.
"Of course I would, anything for a friend!"
"That's why I'm the store manager and you're not."
Touché, thought Vimla, but she wasn't ready to give up that easy, “I thought Mr. Store Manager was our friend!", and she made a mock angry cum aghast face.
DR merely gave a wicked grin and turned to leave when Irene, who had been silent for so long said,"What's more important to you, friends or money?"
He smiled and said slowly, “If only friends could erase those orphaned scraps of paper called 'bills' that land up on my doorstep every month." He was leaving and Irene opened her mouth to say something when Samir cut in,"Oh, please shut up! He IS our friend out of the store but inside it he's our manager. Why do you have to end every conversation with 'love' or 'friends'?"
Vimla followed DR in the store and grumbled behind him, “That crone Megha managed make my whole life flash before my eyes, kept saying things 'bout mom and Vikram. Her fat bank account doesn't give her the license to insult others."
"Well, she doesn't lie about anything," DR said, “She just presents facts...well...a little bluntly. “he added slowly.
"A little bluntly!"Vimla repeated, “A little! She called my brother an 'outstanding' student, a bloody ruffian..."
"Well, he is 'outstanding'; literally!"DR said unsuccessfully trying to stifle a grin.
"That's not the point!"Vimla said angrily, her voice rising to a shout trying to hide her embaressment,"Why did you send me to her house when you know she loves to pick on me?"
"She doesn't love to pick on ‘you’; she loves to pick on everybody. And anyway, what was I supposed to do, ask or order her to drop by the store and pick all the stuff by herself? Kind ol' Megha and Lord Prakash would eat my head off...raw!"
"There were others in the store you could have asked; no, you don't 'ask' people, you only order them around!"
"Listen,"DR said a bit wearily, “you take your own sweet time to get to work...get the cartons from the warehouse. “He stiffened suddenly and had attained the Mr-Store-Manager look. Vimla couldn't understand; she opened her mouth to say something but DR just waved her away and turned her back to him. She fumed, swore at him silently and turned to go when she saw Prakash, the store owner looking at her with faint interest. She froze but managed to shake it off and walked past him wondering how long he had been listening.
She hid behind a rack and tried to grasp their conversation.
"What was she cribbing about?"Enquired Lord Prakash with his newly attained un-Guajarati accent.
"Nothin', we were just discussing where to display the diapers, “replied DR.
"Heard she was late yesterday, is it often?"
"Yes, she was late, and excuse me." DR walked away giving Vimla a stern look from the corner of his eye. She fumbled and set back to work knowing Prakash hardly needed the scent of a reason to fire anyone.

The sun had retired for the day and all four of them were making their way to the bus-stop with Vimla narrating her encounter with Prakash as if she had grabbed her heart from a lion's mouth.
"So DR didn't say that this is the third time you're late this month! Cool!" said Irene, “cause if he had..."and she rolled her eyes.
"So, what gives Mr. Store Manager?" asked Vimla.
They cracked jokes all the way but a smile lingered on DR's lips. Buses roared by and a slight breeze tickled the backs of their necks.
Samir dreamily mumbled, “I guess DR's our friend in AND out the store."


Of Red and White roses

Of Red and White roses
Stare not at my white and frozen face
at my upturned nose
still stubborn.
Iron hair.

Don't let him read from a book
that an unfortunate bachelor scripted
in his mid-life crisis.

Don't ask an unknown entity
secure a place in never land.

Stop praising my wretched parents

She who never forgot to remind
I was the mistake of a blotched expiry date.
Tell them I spat on her grave
with a dumbfounded crowd suspecting me Possessed.
He tried to devote every moment of his life
To protect, love and understand.
he was snatched when I was nine.
The only man I prayed to and for.

Pause at the names of schools and colleges

And then swear.
How they made my life miserable
'cause knowledge comes at a cost.

Talk about the bitch Rachel
stripped me with words in front of the college
Confiscated my I-card, Degree and esteem.
Reminded the Cost of Life.

Don't reside on the urchins I fed
Tell them how I gnawed on leftovers in my teens
When you say I donated clothes,
remind them I had two pairs of shirts for years.

'Magic numbers' they called me at work
Cause I never had paper to practise.
Super-memory, you say
Because I remember every scar I bore.

Enough about my present bosses,
Mishra is the name to cry out
Stole my work, recognition and salary
for 5 whole years.

Dedicate an ode to Sheela
A black-and-gold thread around her neck
bound her to me
through every Indian Tragedy and nightmare.
She was there.
The dimple on my chin.
And remains.

Yes, my children are big and strong
Hari and Neeta(Bless you!)
They loved, fought, loved.
But I never forgot Sandesh
In my arms, when he was
6 months old.
My arms thence weak
with the burden of a child I couldn't save.

Yes, I have money and cash!
All earned through sweat and blood
so don't you dare bless Destiny!
None of it came through charity
or smashed through my once-tin roof.

The millions of creases on my forehead
Each have a story to tell.
Patience, Wit and Stubbornness
not Wagging, Lies or Bribe.

A Life well Deserved
A Death well Lived.