How Kurtas Are Made

>> Sunday, August 7, 2011

There’s a soft but desperate knock on the door. I don’t even bother opening my eyes, relying on my hands to find the latch. There he stands, huddled in the rain, shoulders quivering, shifty eyes… my gosh he is midnight poetry.

“What are you doing here?” I mumble, half worried, half amused. 

“I’m in trouble,” he squeaks.

“Really?” I lay the foundation for a small game of cat-and mouse, closing the door behind me, “What, what kind of trouble?”

“Umm, it’s not that big…” he says, not recognizing my mischief. I’m hurt. After all this time, even the smartest sponge would have caught on to that. “Not that big, but big enough to drag me out of bed at 3 am and bring me out in the fucking rain…”

Now I’m leaning against the frame, taking my own sweet time for it to sink in…

He’s looking at his fingers now, staring at the pathetic little creases that the rain has made on them. He slowly shifts his eyes to mine. Well played chap! “Come on in you cheap bastard!” 


"Good. Now you have my t-shirt, my pants, my coffee, my blanket, my Crocin, so do you mind telling me why you honour me with your presence?” 

He looks happy. Happier, I guess. He clutches the mug with both hands and I can see that his toes aren’t as white anymore. He smiles nervously at me and I feel like a schoolteacher. I sigh and drag my chair closer to him. “Hmm?” I ask. 

“She wants me to write poetry for her,” he blurts. 


“But I can’t write poetry.” 


“So what do I do?” 

“I’m sure there are plenty of fish in the sea…” 

“Nooooo…” he wails. “Poetry. For her. From me.”

“‘A rag and a bone and a hank of hair and the fool he called her his lady fair.’”

“See! You should teach me! You make up poetry like that!” he says, snapping his fingers.

I stare at the fool. I’m already the object of his admiration for rattling off an old bard’s lines. “You can’t learn or teach poetry,” I say with a touch of irritation. “Why does she want all this from you? Give her a nice card or flowers or candy or clothes. Why poetry?”

“She wants something unique, something that no one else has or will have.” One look at him and you know that he’s bought the idea as well.

“Well,” I say exasperatedly, “has she given you anything unique or, you know, a b…”

“A what?”

“Er,” he looks genuinely confused, so I decide to corrupt him later. “Anything. Unique. Ever?” I’m using his technique on him. I don’t feel so old anymore.

“Er…” his brain is working furiously now. I lay back and admire my handiwork. “She had my initial inscribed in her mehendi,” he grins.

“Wow, how original. I’m sure she’s the first person in history to do that. Let me call the Guinness people and tell them about this miracle here.” He looks hurt. I’m obviously treading the line here. No jokes about a piece of his heart. Nope, never. Unless we’re drunk. Maybe not even then.

“Okay, so how much do you love her?”

“This much!” he says incredulously, stretching his hands.

“What are you? Five? I’m asking whether you’ll die for her! Give her your marrow if she gets cancer. Sell your ancestral property for her. Rob a bank for her. Walk into the sea. Take an experimental drug. And you give me your fucking arms for measurement! Do I look like a fucking tailor to you? Kurta banaega apne pyaar ka?

He looks pensive. Certainly 3 am lectures are not his thing.

“Will you at least Google some good stuff for me?” he says at last.

“I’ll mail it to you by tomorrow afternoon. Shut the door on your fucking way out.”



>> Saturday, April 2, 2011

Here walked the great man, with one leg. Don’t mistake him for those mendicants or beggars strewn on the streets of holy cities, smoking hash and showing off their proud members to equally pious herds of worshippers.

No, Tobar wasn’t among them. He was greater, closer to enlightenment than priests who groped their young apprentices in frenzied closeted passion, women who silently prayed for a little private time with their brothers-in-law and children who gleefully tortured little insects. The chewed out stub of his old walking stick was testament of that. It accompanied him wherever he went; places he didn’t even take his god: the bathroom, the quiet hours on the river bank, the empty-fog-filled nights that slowly treaded from his ears to his head and the groaning, sweating lonely unregretful love he gave himself. You don’t need, or want, your god in these places. Tobar didn’t.

Tobar had loved, and how! He loved his house; the little ramshackle excuse for a residence. He loved the birds that noisily fluttered to his courtyard every morning with their expectant, beady eyes. If he were ever late, he could see them crook their neck at him and blink with annoyance. He loved the misshapen trees that squatted in his backyard and bore fruit whenever it pleased them. Oh, and there’s also the mad mad MAD sex that he loved, but he wouldn’t miss it if it weren’t there.

Everyone knew Tobar because everyone seemed to be born after him. They nodded respectfully whenever they saw him and wondering about this ageless handicap over steaming cups of tea was one of the pastimes. He taught little boys to use their slingshots but they knew better than to use their newfound skills from him. One whack from his angry stick and they knew their smashed skulls would be buried somewhere in his lazy backyard; and who knows, among many others too.

Then one day, just like that, they realized that he wasn’t there anymore. That the birds didn’t miss him anymore and had found other generous seed-givers. Then someone noticed a tree. Endless at both ends. What was curious about the tree was that a part of the bark near the ground grew almost parallel to the tree. Very familiarly. Like a walking stick.

Too bad Tobar wasn’t around to see everyone’s jaw drop open or he would have had the laugh of his life.