A Sense of Social Conduct

I’m a genuinely congenial fellow usually. I don’t generally allow myself to whip anyone with a flyswatter on more than two occasions a week (although I admit I did whip one particular lady seventeen times in a one week, as she was irritating me with her determination to be seen by normal people). So you would imagine my surprise when this young gentleman named Ankit snapped at me at a bus stop near the patch of mud where I had planned to bury my late rabbit, Rocky.

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Ponnamma

Her hands were for the most part a blur and only stopped once every breath to show you their impeccable grace. Around her, six unruly men, staring at her closed eyes through the smear of skin colour her hands were making. They were shut, those eyes, but behind the lowered eyelids it was impossible to miss the blossoming emotion that impregnated every hand-gesture with meaning.

The men were amused; nothing much else. Blind men who did not know that beauty created from the soul is not disposed to wait for mere mortals to appreciate it; that she did not see those cheeky jaws peeping out from behind their sneering lips; that she was unable to give a damn. Her concentration was complete; her meditation was divine. She was the professional, surrounded sadly by amateurs who would never know the soaring elation of the state she so easily ascended to. The consummate professional; consumed by passion.
When she opened her eyes, she did not see the men. She collected her things and went to the stage where she would enrapture hundreds with the very movements she had just revised. The men on the other hand would jump, scream, whirl and bustle around the stage, yet the audience would not consider a yawn worth the effort.

The woman, and her nimble hands, and her sentient fingers, and her deep eyes: those are the things that make the theatre ignite with energy. Those are the things that make life ignite with electricity.

Ponnamma

Memories and Mysteries

Hello. My name is Shailesh Kunder. I live in a small town in Uttar Pradesh named Saharanpur. My life has been very uneventful, I am sixty now, with not many stories to tell my grandchildren. But whatever I tell them is completely true, and I tell them with all my energy. I do have one story though which I cannot tell my grandchildren. This is that story.

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The Rest

Two women, in salwar kameez, sit glistening under a white incandescent, hazy light. A pool of light in calm blue water next to them is disturbed only by the shrieking laughter of the two small girls in cute green and brown striped swimsuits.

The two girls, in green and brown striped swimsuits, swim excitedly under the white incandescent, hazy light, lit also from below by those eerie pools of light that make pools surreal at night. Their shrieking laughs are complemented perfectly by the soft ripples in the water that a young lady in a black bikini is making on the other end of the pool.

The young woman, in a black bikini, swims calmly alone on the surface of the water, free in every move she makes with her muscles. The water doesn’t stop her: instead, it makes way for her, enjoying the soft waves she makes as she paddles across it, length after length. Her soft motion would be meditative but for the rude slaps on the squash ball being made by the sweaty man in red shorts and orange vest in the squash court.

The sweaty man, in shorts and a vest, is lunging fiercely at the squash ball, his body tense but loose from exhaustion. The room’s light is unflattering; every bead of sweat dripping off his forehead is obvious against the crude white backdrop of the walls that surround him.

He stops. He comes out. He calls loudly across the pool to the other side to the two women in salwar kameez. He asks them to pack up. They oblige, without response. The young woman is still wading through the pool, unnerved by the shouting man, but not done yet.

The two women shout loudly at the two little girls making merry in the water. The two girls laugh and continue, until one of the women issues a threat. They come out, still giggling, dripping.

They leave.

The young woman finishes a length, looks around and sees no one around. She stands at the edge of the pool and looks around. She looks up at the upper floor where I stand. Our eyes meet for a few seconds. She quickly gets out of the pool, wraps a towel around herself, and leaves from the walkway furthest from where I stood watching.

There is silence, as the white incandescent lights begin to make their presence felt. The pools of light have disappeared with the ripples: they are just bulbs under the water. Nothing moves for several long moments.

With nothing to distract me, I suddenly have to pee. I go back in.

Little Girl and her Grandma

I think I want to write a story. A story of a beautiful girl who would walk through meadows on cool breezy summer afternoons with her cane hat and springy dress, the dress has flowers on it – lilies, white and pink and orange. It is frock actually. She’s holding a basket in her right hand; it is slung over her arm, hanging by the elbow actually. She’s picking flowers, slowly, gently, as if she weren’t actually killing them off, but simply caressing them, convincing them to come into her hand as if it were the start of a new life. The flowers are looking more alive once they’ve been picked somehow. The basket has only the brightest of the lot. The lifeless ones have been left behind, the girl knows exactly what she wants. These flowers will go to her bouquet that she is making for her grandmother. She is ill, her grandmother, and ill like never before. She had had coughs and colds and things like that before, but somehow last night was different. Her parents had seemed scared last night; the grandmother seemed paler than usual. So she decided the only way to make her grandmother feel better was to make her look at something far livelier and cheery than the worried, anxious faces of her parents. It would not do. So she had decided to get out of her little countryside home and walk barefoot to the other side of town, where flower fields blossomed for miles around…

She had never thought about who owned these tulips; funny thought, now that she thought about it. It never seemed relevant. She always just came here, and picked the tulips to her heart’s content. She never bothered to wonder if it was wrong, what she was doing. Which is why she felt strange today. She has never really had this feeling of guilt before. Maybe I’ve grown up, she thinks, and smiles. She picks the flowers gently, lovingly as ever, much more lovingly than the owner of these tulips had ever watered them. But she has this nagging sense of guilt in her mind, lurking now, behind those happy thoughts of the beautiful, cheery bouquet she was about to make for her grandma. She decides she cares less about the owner, and more about her grandmother, so she starts to walk across the field and back to the main path, trudging carefully on the muddy field… She sees many flowers on the way that might be nice for the bouquet, but something in her heart tells her she may have run out of time… Then there was the encouragement in her mother’s eyes when she had told her of the bouquet plan. “Go, my dear, what a wonderful idea!” mother had said. And when she had left the house, her mother had not even bothered to check whether or not she was wearing any slippers… That was new. Even for her mother, that was new.

So she ignores these other nice flowers, and walks briskly back to her home. She feels this urge to walk faster, ever-faster, yet, she needs to have the bouquet ready by the time she gets back home too! So she makes the flowers sit in the right positions in her nice little basket, and walks faster and faster. Grandmother! She’d love these flowers, she thinks. She makes nice little patterns with the orange tulips, and with the pink ones, and with the white ones she makes a lovely border for the whole arrangement. It looks quite pleasant, she thinks. Grandmother would love it, she thinks to herself, and allows herself a small smile.

If there wasn’t her grandmother around, who’d she make bouquets for? She thinks. For the grocer, perhaps. He’s a nice enough fellow. But making them for grandma has its own charm, its own happiness. So she feels happy, and starts to skip back home. She is much faster now, and she rushes past the trees and the ducks in lake and over the little bridge over the stream that fills the lake, and into the town’s main street… She struts past the grocer, who waves at her as she passes by, she smiles at him, but feels sorry she hasn’t made anything for the dear grocer today… Next time I will, she promises herself. She is almost home now, and she checks her bouquet again: the flowers are all messed up now! She shouldn’t have skipped about, she made the arrangement go awry! She reaches the home, but stands on the steps a few minutes and sets the bouquet again… When it looks just nice, she enters the house and sees her parents sitting with their silly grim faces in the courtyard. She just shrugs her shoulders and walks past them with the sole intention of showing her grandmother these wonderful fresh faces. It’ll make her day, she’s sure of it.

She opens the door, and there she is the wrinkled kindly woman in her typical sky-blue sweater, cosy inside her patchwork quilt, quietly knitting away.

“Look what I brought for you, grandma!”

She smiles.