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One Incident Which They Three Had

Everyone was telling Sheila, Sheila get married, Sheila get married. But Sheila didn’t want marriage. What is this Sheila, marry a nice boy Sheila, they told. But Sheila told no, she doesn’t want to marry anybody, leave alone a nice boy. Sheila’s mummy is crying, day and night. Sheila beta, marry no, please no, you marry, I’m telling, she sobbed. So many nice boys are there that too. I’ll find you a nice boy Sheila beta. Don’t you want to marry a nice boy, Sheila beta? No, Sheila told, she doesn’t want nice boy or bad boy even. Then who will you marry, Sheila beta? Your grandfather, Sheila told. Sheila’s father tells if you don’t marry you will become shunned by the community, Sheila. What type of girl doesn’t marry, they will ask, and they will give the answer, Sheila type of girls don’t marry. Sheila is such a bad example, they will tell about you. Sheila doesn’t care, she tells, she’s happy on her own, she tells, fuck the community, she thinks.

Sheila likes to enjoy with friends, Seemaa and Riima. When friends are there to enjoy with who needs marriage, am I right? But Seemaa and Riima’s families were also looking for marriage prospects for them. Seemaa had a boyfriend who went to IIT. Very marriageable type. Her boyfriend is telling come, we’ll get married. Seemaa tells to him, uff, chillax, what’s this marriage ka pressure yaar? He tells arey yaar in one year I’m going to be thirty (years old). I want to get married, settle down, have babies, vagerah. Seema’s mummy-daddy also telling her marry this fellow nice IITian fellow good job good salary medium complexion medium height. But Seema tells to them uff, mom, dad, I’ll get married when I feel like, just chillax, okay. And Vikas wants to have babies and I’m not ready for all that and I don’t think I’ll ever be, mom, if I was you I’d have aborted me. And Seema’s mummy-daddy were shocked and disappointed because their baby girl had grown into a very outspoken young woman who calls them mom-dad instead of mummy-daddy like she used to and her marriageability is declining minute by minute, she is almost 24 now, which is almost 25. Anyway that is Seemaa’s story, Seemaa’s problem. I don’t think it’s going to work out, if you ask me, Sheila thought. Seemaa’s not looking for anything serious right now, even if her parents are putting pressure.

Riima, meanwhile, wants to marry but is out humping half the world. Riima asked every boy after exhausting bout of sex what about marriage what about marriage, and boys are going to sleep or acting asleep, one way or another they are avoiding the question, they just want to tap that ass and stamp their passport, if you know what I mean, because Riima’s mummy is from UK so Riima is half-white and counts as foreign. One time a boy agreed to meet Riima’s mummy-daddy but just to check out the mummy, and when Riima’s mummy set down the tray of tea and biscuits he took a good long look at the veiny white mounds inside her blouse and thought not bad, not bad. Then after a perfectly pleasant meeting he followed Riima’s mummy into the kitchen and did something bad, I don’t know what, use your imagination, and Riima’s mummy-daddy throw him out of the house and Riima is quite heartbroken, Sheila thought. Anyway Sheila feels bad for her but secretly good because she wants all three of them to be unmarried because she feels marriage and boys get in the way of true friendship, and if they really want to do all this kissing and other dirty things vagerah they can just do it to each other, I mean, what’s the difference, except there will be no shame to it, and Sheila finds it strange that they three are so best friends since schooldays who have no secrets but still she has not seen either of them completely naked nor have they her. In trial rooms while shopping and changing into nighties at sleepovers they have seen one another in underwear, but never really naked (and by such estimation they are chaddie-buddies but not bum-chums) and what is nakedness but every person’s most basic secret, Sheila thought.

Anyway, that is all backstory, take it or leave it as you like. Now listen about one incident: one day they were in college in Indian Philosophy class (they are M.A. philosophy students) and college dean Dr. Narasimh Nayak tells on the PA announcement that new dress code is there. No jeans, no shorts, no chappals for boys. For girls, no jeans, no skirts, no t-shirts. Doesn’t mean no clothes! Dean tells and laughs throatily before recomposing. Means, for boys, full pant full shirt with buniyan underneath, closed shoe only. For girls, salvar kameez with pinned dupatta and, ehem, bra underneath, flat shoe only. This dress code is in force with immediate effect. If any student is found in violation of it they will be receiving suspension. What the fuck is this bullshit, Sheila thought. We are master’s students, Sheila told to Seemaa and Riima, what is this dress code bullshit why not make us wear uniform itself like we are in KG class, Sheila told. Fuck the patriarchy, Seemaa told in agreement. What is this immediate effect bullshit, Riima tells, in a fetching pink t-shirt that tells COME & GET IT, am I supposed to change out of this outfit right here and now? Come, Sheila tells to her friends, let us protest this bullshit dress code. Yes, let’s, told Riima and Seemaa, let’s go to Dean’s office tomorrow and protest. Why tomorrow, Sheila asked, if the dress code is effective with immediate effect then our protest should also be immediate, in fact, we are already protesting by not wearing the dress code, so no delaying, come, let us go to Dean’s office and protest against this bullshit. Who is with me? Sheila asked loudly to her entire class. Sheila what is this crass behaviour, tells the Indian Philosophy professor Shyama Seshadri, are you in a KG class or are you in a fishmarket to interrupt the lecture like this? Karmanye vadikaraste, ma phaleshu kada chana. Sit down and behave yourself! Lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu, he told. Seshadri sir was always telling Sanskrit quotations with no context. In fact that is his whole philosophy class, nobody learns anything, just hears him tell some Sanskrit bullshit without explaining, Sheila thought. As if in full India no one can think philosophy without knowing Sanskrit. I want to know how to tell him in Sanskrit fuck off, Sheila thinks. Sheila stood up and told to her class in a loud voice, we are strong independent women, we won’t simply lie down and allow such oppression, come let us protest, let us go to Dean’s office now itself. What about us, some boys told, dress code affects us also. Yes, you also come, Sheila told. Here! Here! Seshadri sir shouts at Sheila. What is this, talking to boys, you think you are in some foreign university kya? Meanwhile boys were just giggling among themselves as if they are girls. Sir, we were talking to you only sir, she only talked to us, sir, we didn’t hear it also, as if we will want to hear anything that these females will tell, sir, they tell, and laugh like anything.

Sheila was furious. One side sir is telling like this sit down sit down other side class boys are being uncouth bastards. Sheila can’t take it anymore. She stormed out of the classroom, thinking she will protest this dress code bullshit on her own if she has to, she doesn’t need support of any friends, Seshadri sir shouting after her, Asatoma Sadgamaya!, but lo and behold, walking in step beside her are Seemaa and Riima. This is why to have best friends who are in need and who are indeed. She saw them and felt full of pride but also shame for having doubted that her best friends would support her. Why we don’t have a gang name, Sheila thought, like Gung-ho Gals or Terrific Tripartite Feminine Force or maybe Awesome Threesome haha imagine that heehee, and Sheila finds she is full of vigour and anger and confidence through the support of Seemaa and Riima and they all march down the corridor with their heels going click-clack in sync to Dean’s office and over there a small woman with big teeth who is Dean’s assistant tells excuse me do you have an appointment, to which Sheila tells excuse me ma’am did Dean take my appointment for implementing dress code, for which Dean’s assistant has no answer and simply shows her big teeth in an expression that Sheila does not know what does it mean. So they three simply ignored the assistant and went straight into Dean’s office where Dean was sitting behind his big desk with his laptop open in front of his big glass cabinet full of trophies which are won by his college students. One of these trophies was won by Riima for Best Model in Fashion Show competition in another college’s culturals when she was in her second year B.A. (they three have done B.A. also in this college so they feel a strong sense of ownership towards it), and another one of these trophies was won by Seemaa for Hindi Poetry Writing Competition first prize and Dean’s rule is students are not allowed to keep any trophies which they win as students of the college since the college has only sent them for the culturals so if they win anything they have to give it to Dean who will keep it in his cabinet to display to everyone but the cabinet is in Dean’s office so nobody can see their trophy without appointment.

What is this, just barging into my office without appointment, just because you girls did B.A. here and are doing M.A. now you think you own the place? Dean shouts. Seemaa tells, uff, chillax yaar, we just want to discuss an issue. Dean gets even more angry, tells I am not your yaar to chillax, I am very busy, I don’t have time to discuss any issues. Riima tells yah, I can see that, I made a big mistake by accepting your friend request. They three can see in the glass trophy cabinet the reflection of Dean’s laptop screen in which is showing photos of Riima on Facebook. (Dean sends friend request to many students and if they do not accept it, there have been consequences, such as removal from football team or not getting permission to go for culturals or conferences. One time Dean found out that boy-girl students are being friends on Facebook and some are having relationship status also! He suspended them right away, telling, you said It’s Complicated, so I made it very simple for you.) Don’t you have any shame sir, Sheila tells, looking at female students’ photos and same time implementing dress code. We came to talk to you about that only, sir, you can’t do like this, we won’t accept this dress code, she tells. Yes, we won’t, tells Seemaa. Dean closes the laptop. Oho, you think you are some bigshots, is it, just strolling in here and telling me I can’t do like this I can’t do like that we won’t accept this we won’t accept that, he tells. In fact that’s why I am looking at students’ photos, because of the clothes you wear on campus only this dress code is required. Otherwise tomorrow you will simply come and sit in class in bra and panties, he tells. No sir, this is unacceptable, Seemaa told. Who are you to tell it is acceptable or unacceptable? Is your father Prime Minister of India or some Tata-Birla for you to tell it is acceptable or unacceptable? I don’t think so that is the case, Dean shouts. But sir, with all due respect, Sheila tells, trying to soften their approach so Dean will not feel antagonized, even though she was feeling extremely angry by this point and just wanted to give one tight slap to Dean. What respect, there is nothing to discuss, the dress code is final, Dean tells. You cannot outrage the modesty of the faculty and other students however and whenever you please. Just simply leave my office at once. And tomorrow when you come to college better not be looking vulgar like this, better you come in salwar-kameez with a pinned dupatta and tie your hair in a plait; none of this open hair business and no wearing high heels and no lipstick or makeup of any kind whatsoever, and you should wear bindi also; I don’t care if you are Hindu Muslim Christian whatever, all Indian girls should wear bindi, then only they look nice. But sir, Riima started to tell. No but, just shut up your mouth and get out! Dean barked at them. Sheila can see Seemaa is starting to develop tears and Riima is also looking at Sheila like what to do now should we just leave?

Later in life when Sheila will recall the incident she will feel she should have given some punchline when she did it, like here’s your modesty or how’s this for a dress code or Tamasoma jyotirgamaya or some such line which are all somewhat nonsensical but would have given more effect. Not that it was lacking in effect at all, she doesn’t regret the incident, she is quite proud of it in fact, proud of herself and her best friends for standing up to Dean and removing the dress code. Of course it was never formally withdrawn, but no student ever got a suspension (at least while they three were students there and then later when she itself became Dean of that college and returned all the trophies to their winners) on account of dress code violation. Later in life Sheila will be eighty-two years old and share a room and her life with her best friend Riima in the old age home of the future where there were robots who serve them chai and biscuits and flying scooters which they can ride here and there. Their best friend Seema also comes to visit them every weekend on a flying scooter of the future of her own (she finally got married to that IIT boyfriend and lived happily ever after without children until he died in an altercation with a robot chauffeur at the age of sixty-three (which led to the anti-robot riots of 2048) after which Seema lived happily ever after by herself) and they sit for hours drinking chai and eating biscuits and playing futuristic video games and gossiping about other seniors in the home and recounting old incidents of life to each other and to others of which this victorious dress code protest one was their favourite one. They tell the other old folks how in Dean’s office that day when they went to protest the dress code Dean didn’t listen to them and told them to get out and shut up their mouths and they felt so angry and didn’t know what to do until Sheila without saying a word simply lifted up her shirt and bra and flashed Dean right there in his office and Seemaa and Riima looked at her in shock for many long moments until they too did the same. They three were all standing in front of Dean topless and Dean was speechless and Riima went further and removed all her clothes and bunched them up and threw them at Dean’s face and then Sheila and Seemaa also did the same and they three stood grinning at one another’s nakedness and then they walked out of Dean’s office just like that. They will surely get a suspension, Sheila thought, but they never did and after that day nobody ever mentioned dress code again except to talk about how they three had protested it, but the real reason that incident is such a fond memory, thinks Sheila, is that after that day we three had no secrets between us.

(This story originally appeared in The Four Quarters Magazine, August 2014 “Big Love, Small Towns” issue) 

The Satisfaction of Indra

Indra’s string of sexual exploits had left him with a member as swollen as his ego.

“And that’s the problem,” he whined to his Chief Concubine, Kamadevi, as she stroked his engorged penis sympathetically. Not even she, with her inexhaustible youth and vitality, her centuries of training in the tantric sexual arts, could satisfy her king. She had flung entire harems of ravenous celestial nymphs upon that erection, and they had come away exhausted and fulfilled, leaving the king’s scepter standing taller than ever.

“I can give it another try,” Kamadevi said, licking her lips.

Indra shrugged. “I never mind that, but…” Kamadevi was on her knees before he could finish, “…you know that’s not going to work. I need a real solution!”

Kamadevi mumbled her apologies through a full mouth.

So it was that Indra set off on his elephant in search of sexual satisfaction. He roamed far and wide, and the women of every land he passed through threw themselves upon him; if the tales of his unquenchable lust did not convince them, there was no resisting the sight of his enormous throbbing manhood.

“It’s even larger than the elephant’s,” they whispered in amazement. “So hard,” they squealed as they mounted the pole, “but so tender,” they murmured when it was deep within them.

Even the queens of neighbouring realms were tempted off their thrones, and rival kings cowered under the shadow of Indra’s staff. In this way did Indra’s empire expand.

But Indra’s appetite remained insatiable. “Is there no one who can fell my mighty phallus?” he thundered from atop his elephant.

“There is one,” answered an old sage. “Yonidevi, the Cosmic Queen.”

And so Indra began his arduous ascent towards the court of the Cosmic Queen, his departure mourned by millions of women who had been forever ruined by his sexual prowess; the ultimate sexual experience was a curse they would never wish on their daughters, for it had left them with a yearning that no other sex could fill.

Indra arrived at the gates of Yonidevi’s palace, wearied from his journey, but still cocked for action.

“The Queen has been expecting you,” said the gatekeeper, and led Indra to the royal chambers. Indra had never seen a palace of such immense dimensions; even his elephant was dwarfed by the sculptures in the courtyard. Indra was ushered into the royal bedroom and instructed to undress and wait. The bed was vast like an ocean; the satin caressing his buttocks indescribably soft. Then Indra felt a rumbling beneath him. The bed quaked and sheets cascaded, nearly throwing Indra off. From under the sheets emerged Yonidevi, naked, dark as the night, titanic. Her breasts were Himalayan peaks, her navel a swirling abyss, and between her legs yawned an unfathomable canyon.

As Indra’s gaze expanded to take in her colossal beauty, his organ pulsated violently, straining against its own enormity to reach the vastness that lay before it.

“Come, Indra,” said Yonidevi sleepily, “I have not been pleasured in aeons.”

Immediately he was upon her, tasting her hilly lips, feasting on her columnal nipples, before plunging his manhood into her cavernous depths. He pumped and whirled his third arm within her, straining with his most concerted sexual effort to gratify this being who was the very cosmos herself. His appendage thrilled in delight, he could feel orgasm approaching, climax visible on the horizon like the crest of a looming tsunami, OH! he screamed in ecstasy, OH! until at the very last moment he lost all sense of himself and disappeared, entirely, into the chasm of the cosmos.

“Have you started?” yawned Yonidevi. But Indra was gone forever.

I Love You With All My Heart

[Originally posted on KMWN in July 2007]

To say I love you with all my heart
would be an incomplete truth
For I love you also with my bladder and spleen
and each and every tooth.

My liver is a determined lover
and when it’s not making bile
it pines for you all night and day,
yes, it pines all the while.

My intestines, they think of you
and stop their daily digestion
I really wish they didn’t, ’cause
it gives me constipation.

A salty discharge comes from my eyes
When you are not in their view
and at the same time my nose starts running
as if I have the flu.

Of course, it’s true my brain won’t stop
dreaming about you all day
And lower down my genitals
love you in their own special way.

So you see, I love you more than
Karthik or Ram or Murugan,
For while they may love you with their hearts,
I love you with every organ.

Sanguine Pizza

Across the table, the blue-eyed man would not stop staring.

“Stop staring,” she said, her cheeks turning a crimson hue of green. “You’re always staring at me.”

“I’m not staring,” the blue-eyed man said, “I’m gazing upon the unearthly beauty that sits across the table from me. I am drinking in unadulterated heaven with my eyes. I am downloading visual nectar.”

“Oh, stop,” she said, turning an even crimsoner green. “Since you are a poet, is it not your everyday job to melt women’s and government servants’ hearts ?”

Robra was both a woman and a government servant, and since the blue-eyed man, whose name was Manickchandru,’s poetic expressions were so melting her heart, she was inclined to believe that he was either an expert at melting women’s hearts or melting government servants’ hearts or both.

“Mostly women’s hearts. Only occasionally am I commissioned to write poems to melt government servants’ hearts. Usually when the government feels their servants are getting dissatisfied with their wages and are about to go on strike, they commission me to write a poem that melts government servants’ hearts.”

Robra thought about it, and realised that she had never received a raise in her ten years of government servanture. Every time she and her colleagues thought about asking their bosses for a raise, they would get a red envelope instead, that contained a poem that invariably melted her and her colleagues’ hearts.

“But this one is not like one of those poems, Robra, this is from the bowels of my heart, from the depths of my aorta, from the core of my superior vena cava,” he said, leaning forward and gazing at her with those deep blue eyes. Robra loved his eyes. She would have drowned in them, were it not for the fact that she was a state-level champion swimmer.

“The poems I write during the day,” said Manickchandru, “I write for money. Those poems are not truly inspired. It is when I see you that I feel true inspiration, the kind that poets spend their entire lifetimes looking for.”

Robra’s cheeks went from crimson-green to a bright scarlet-green. Yet, while she found Manickchandru quite charming, she was not sure how much she could trust his words. He was, after all, a master wordsmith, who could twist and turn words into shapes never dreamt of before, and she was sure he had caused many a girl to swoon with his poems. Was she just another one of those girls? Would she be just another feather in his cap? She did not want to be one of Manickchandru’s conquests. She wanted to know if what he said he felt for her was true or fallacious. But how could she know for sure?

He attempted to reach across the table and hold her hands, but she had cleverly guarded herself from such a move by strewing knives and forks strategically on the table, causing Manickchandru to injure himself every time he attempted to reach across the table and hold her hands. It was a trick she learnt from her friend Tanku. Manickchandru grazed his elbows and was unable to reach across fully.

The knives and forks were for Robra’s own protection, but at that moment she was ready to dismantle that elaborate line of defence. She wanted quite badly to reach across and hold Manickchandru’s hands, but on her right palm she had written down a reminder with a black marker that said “Robra, control thyself” that reminded her to control herself.

Then, across the table, the blue-eyed man would not stop scribbling. He seemed to be furiously attacking a tissue with a pen, unmindful of the fresh cuts and bruises on his arm

“What are you doing?” Robra asked.

“Inspiration waits for no one. When it comes, it must be captured,” said Manickchandru, capturing inspiration.

Robra waved her hand in the air wildly, and the waitress approached the table. She wore a clean yellow apron covered in grime and pizza toppings, and dried sarcasm stained her red sleeves. Her hair was tied in an pizzalike fashion, reminding diners that she was a waitress in a pizza restaurant, not one in, say, a Tandoori or Chinese one. She had an air of pessimistic nonchalance and optimistic carefreedom about her.

“Welcome to Sanguine Pizza,” she said, giving Robra and Manickchandru a dentist-chair grin. “May I take the lovers’ order?”

“Oh, uh…” Robra turned a lemon-red green and looked nervously at Manickchandru who seemed to be so focussed on what he was writing that he hadn’t noticed the waitress’s presence. “We’re not lovers, really…” she said, “…more like likers. Strong likers, perhaps.”
And that was when Manickchandru looked up, alarmed. But Robra did not catch this reaction, because she had turned to the waitress to order her order.

“I think we’ll have one large Sanguineous Pizza… is that okay, Manickchandru?”

When she turned to face Manickchandru, she noticed a fairly shocked expression of curious unease on Manickchandru’s face, like he had been slapped when he was least expecting it, by someone he least expected to be slapped by.

“Manickchandru? Is that okay?” Robra repeated, “Are you okay?”

Manickchandru said nothing.

Hesitantly, Robra, turning to the waitress while keeping her eyes on Manickchandru, said,

“Just get us the Sanguineous Pizza for now.”

The waitress nodded and left, swishing her apron and leaving a trail of toppings behind her.

“What’s the matter, Manickchandru?” Robra asked.

“You said we weren’t lovers. Don’t you love me, Robra?”

This was a difficult question for Robra to answer. She had been asking herself that very question. She did like Manickchandru a fairly reasonable amount, perhaps even more than that – but was it love? She did not know. She had never been in love before – or maybe she had, but was never sure if it was love. They had never explained this ‘love’ to Robra in medical school. True, she had never been to medical school, but that was besides the point. Then she remembered something her friend Tanku had taught her about getting out of conversational corners like the one she had been backed into.

“I don’t know, Manickchandru, do you love me?”

“Of course I do! I love you as much as I possibly can!” he said exclamatorily.

Robra blinked. She had expected Tanku’s strategy to work differently. Then she remembered something else Tanku had said to her: “The best way to get out of a tight spot in a conversation or an argument is to make the other person define their terms. Then attack the definitions.”

“What do you mean by love?” she asked.

“Love cannot be defined. It must be felt.”

Robra had a feeling this conversation was going downhill, meaning it was getting worse. Although one could also say it was going uphill, because that means it was getting more difficult.

“I definitely feel something for you, but I don’t know if that’s love, Manickchandru.”

Manickchandru grunted in frustration and slammed his fists on the table, causing the forks and knives to jump into the air. One knife sailed through the air, its deadly edge thirsty for blood or food. Luckily for it, the waitress was coming out of the kitchen, carrying the Sanguineous Pizza Robra had ordered.

Ah, today is my lucky day! thought the knife, here is someone who possesses both blood and food!

The knife dived into the Sanguineous Pizza, bounced off it, and into the waitress’s eye, who did not like having knives in her eyes, or even a single knife in one of her eyes. She flailed wildly, making quite a mess of pizza toppings and blood. She let out a bloodcurdling scream that distracted Manickchandru and Robra from their uneasy discussion on feelings. When they saw what had happened to the waitress, they stared in helpless horror, horrified by the horrific horrendousness of the situation. As they stared, a single drop of blood from the waitress’s eye flew through the air. Manickchandru and Robra followed the flight of the drop with their eyes as it gracefully – although not so gracefully that it negated the horror of the moment – floated through the air like a miniature trapeze artist who looked like a drop of blood, and landed on Robra’s spectacles, which she happened to be wearing at the time.
Manickchandru watched as Robra took off her glasses and wiped them on the edge of her shirt. She put her glasses on again, and looked at Manickchandru.

His expression of horror became even horrificer. He began shaking violently and large blisters began to erupt from his skin. His eyes bulged and his ears flapped unnaturally. A stream of steam issued from his nostrils.

And then he exploded in a massive mess of flesh and blood and bone and brains. That was, after all, what he was made of.

Robra picked up a tissue from the table and, taking off her glasses, proceeded to wipe the exploded Manickchandru off her face, when she noticed something on the tissue. She put on her glasses to see what it was. She realised that it was the piece of tissue that Manickchandru had been scribbling so furiously on. It seemed to be a poem that he had been writing. She began to read:

My Dear Robra,
You beautiful, slithering cobra,
What strongish love I have for thee,
We go together
like crop and farmer
Me and you and you and me.

Every time I
See your brown eye(s)
Naked, not hidden behind glass,
My love it increases
like incurable diseases
Growing in both volume and mass

My Dear Robra
You smooth, slender cobra
Descended from the angels’ abode,
I think you should know
If my love for you grow(s)
I will overload with love and explode.

Robra shivered and quivered. Finally she understood the meaning of love. Alas, it was too late. The man she now knew she loved lay scattered in fragments of organs and tissue. Robra, never one to miss a pun, realised that she was holding one of his tissues in her hands!
Overwhelmed with emotion, she burst into tears, and sobbed uncontrollably into Manickchandru’s final poem, unmindful of the fact that by doing so she would ruin the poem, and the fact that she would get ink all over her face.

Malaise Burger

Across the table, the green-eyed man would not stop fidgeting.

“Stop fidgeting,” she said, throwing him the same silver-hot glare that she was using to heat her plate.

“I’m not fidgeting,” the green-eyed man said, “I’m tying knots.”

But it was evident to her that he was doing much more than tying knots. Sure, he was tying knots, but he was doing much more. For example, he was fidgeting. He simply would not stop. He fidgeted with everything – the pieces of string that he had ordered in order to tie them into knots, the pieces of string that had already been tied up into knots, his hair, the pages of the Motorcycle Magazine he had so carefully chosen a few minutes ago from the motorcycle stand outside Malaise Burger. As if that much fidgeting wasn’t enough, he was now leaning across the table and fidgeting with her hair and her clothes. It was entirely inappropriate, she thought. And to think she thought she loved him.

“I said stop fidgeting, I’m trying to heat my plate,” she said again, and more sternly.
The green-eyed man withdrew his hands, sliding them back across the table, bruising his arms on the forks and knives strewn across the table. She liked to have a lot of forks and knives on the table for protection. They were not so much strewn as strategically arranged to protect her. Unfortunately apparently evidently they were not enough protection from the fidgety green-eyed man.

“You’ve got my hair in knots,” she said, with an air of consternation.

He didn’t reply. He was busy fidgeting with himself.

“What’s your name?” she asked, as she tried to take the knots out of her hair.
“Suraj,” the green-eyed man said, looking at her shiftily with his shifty eyes. He mustered some courage and asked, “What’s yours?”

The waitress arrived before she could reply.

“Can I take your order?” she asked, and spat a wad of chewing gum at Suraj’s face.
She (the woman with the silvery hot glare) already didn’t like this waitress. Her apron was covered in what seemed to be a carefully blended mix of blood, sweat, grime, and animal faeces. Besides, the waitress had just spat chewing gum at the man she thought was her newfound love, and that was not a very polite thing to do. The waitress had eyes of steel, like the ones they made in the factories, except they were all-natural.

“My name is Tanku,” she said to Suraj.

“That’s – that’s a lovely name,” Suraj said.

“Frankly, I hate it. You won’t believe how embarrassing it is to respond reflexively to people calling out to you with ‘you’re welcome'”

“I think it’s lovely.”

The waitress cleared her throat loudly and conspicuously, as if she were trying to draw attention to herself. Tanku could have killed her. What did this woman want with her new man?

“Are you going to order?”

“I – I’ll have the Malaise Burger,” Suraj stammered, his hands now fidgeting with each other.

“I’ll have the Malodorous Fries,” Tanku said, blistering under her breath.

“You mean the Marodolous Flies,” said the waitress, and grinned, revealing a row of yellow teeth, and a row of brown and black teeth below those, that smelled of rotting gums.

“Yes, that,” Tanku said, and in one swift motion, swept the forks and knives off the table in the direction of the waitress. The waitress, experienced as she was, dodged all of the knives, and all but one of the forks, which stuck in her neck and caused her to issue forth in a very masculine voice, “Is that all?”

Suraj nodded, and Tanku nodded, and the waitress left.

“So what do you do, Suraj?” Tanku asked her new prospective lover.

“I run a business,” he said. Now that the forks and knives were off the table, he was fidgeting with her again.

Tanku grappled with his hands, trying to keep them away. “That’s nice,” she said. “What kind of business? You run a chain of Xerox shops, don’t you? I just know it.”

“That’s what most people think, but – but I actually have a company called Suraj Knots.”

“Oh. So what kind of a company is that?” she asked, still trying to keep his hands off. She would be fine with such behaviour in private, and after they had gotten to know each other a little better.

“We tie knots for people who need knots, and untie them for people who need knots untied. You’ll be surprised how lucrative it is. We charge around 300 rupees for tying the smallest knot.”

Suddenly Tanku welled up with emotion. Her throat welled up with choking and her eyes welled up with tears. Her glass welled up with water, but that was because the waitress had returned and was filling the glass. Her heart welled up with love and her brain welled up with affection, while her ovaries welled up with lust.

All this time she had been pushing this man’s hands away, thinking they were just fidgeting. She ran her hands through her hair and felt the hundreds of knots he had made in them. She ran her hands through her clothes and felt the hundreds of knots he had made in them. Each knot worth at least 300 rupees! And he had done it for free.

“So sweet,” she told him. He was definitely marriage material now.A door flew open and a plate flew out of the door, landed on the table, slid across it, and almost fell off the table, but it didn’t.

“That’s your Malaise Burger,” the waitress said, still in a masculine voice, but when she looked at Tanku, there was the feminine throb of joint sisterhood and female understanding. The waitress could see Tanku may be falling in love with this green-eyed, fidgety man.

Deepak and His Marvelous Time-Traveling Shoes (That Do Not Work)

(Originally posted on KMWN in December 2009)

“No,” said Deepak, “I do not want regular shoes. I want special.”

The bewildered salesman scratched his head in ponderment.

“What is this special special?” he asked. “I’ve shown you the most expensive shoe we have. More special than this is not there.”

Deepak was sad.

“But I want special shoes!” he cried.

The salesman went and got his manager and came.

“This boy wants special shoes,” he said, holding up a pair of red-and-green shoes with in-built wheels and laser guns and an mp3 player. “But our shoes don’t get more special than these, and he wants something more special (than these).”

“Boy,” said the manager, looking down the length of his long nose (at Deepak (who was the boy)), “you want more special shoes than these?”

“Yes,” said Deepak. He wanted shoes that were more special than those.

“But these shoes have an mp3 player,” argued the manager, “in each shoe. You can hear to two songs simultaneously, and enjoy like anything!”

The manager pointed to the shoes and slurped and smacked his lips for effect.

“What is so special about mp3 players? Just because there are two does not make it special. A regular ball-point pen is not special. Does having two of them make it special, I ask.”

The manager scratched his chin and nodded in agreement. “The boy speaks the truth, as if he has become old with age and is speaking with the wisdom that he has got from that.”

“Yes,” said the salesman, “I agree wholeheartedly. If there is one thing special in this shoe shop it is this wise boy.”

“No,” said the manager. “I mean, yes, the boy is special, but there is one other thing that is special in this shoe shop. Rather, there are two other things. Rather, there is one pair of special things. Rather, there is one special pair of things.”

“Is that a pair of shoes you are talking about?” asked Deepak, his eyes widening in hopefulness.

“Yes,” said the manager. “But first, I will have to see if you are worthy. I know that you are wise, you have already proven that you are so. But are you brave? And kind? And capable of drinking 8 litres of bananas?”

“Bananas are solid,” said Deepak, “They cannot be drunk.”

“Well then what do you call a banana that’s had too much alcohol?” asked the salesman, and laughed uproariously at his own joke.

But the manager did not laugh. He was as serious as hell.

“You have passed the first test,” said the manager, “simply by pointing out that bananas are solid. You have now shown that you are wise.”

“But I thought you said I had already proven that I am wise,” asked the ever-observant Deepak.

“Ah, for noticing that, I now know that you are truly wise.”

“And prior to this I was falsely wise?”

“Listen, boy! What is your name?”

“Deepak,” said Deepak, stating his name.

“Listen, Deepak! If you go on asking troublesome questions I cannot sell you the shoes.”

“Alright, fine, I’m sorry. I won’t ask any more questions.”

“Alas!” exclaimed the manager, his hands being thrown up in the air by him. “This was also a test, and to succeed you would have had to show that your inquisitive spirit could not be quelled. Unfortunately, it has, and therefore you have failed the test. Therefore, you cannot get the shoes. Which are special.”

“Listen,” Deepak exclaimed! “How many of these tests are there? I am a school boy and therefore subject to several tests a day. Already today I have taken five. One maths, one physics, one jokology, one economics, and one which you just now passed me through. I am exhausted of tests. Are you going to sell me the shoes or not?”

The manager looked happy.

“See?” he told the salesman, seeing Deepak.

“Yes,” said the salesman.

“I wasn’t finished. See? The boy is still asking questions. His inquisitive spirit has not been quelled after all. Go fetch the secret box from the secret room.”

The salesman’s jaw dropped. Then he picked it up and went to the secret room and fetched the secret box.

The secret box was roughly the size of a shoebox, and one would have thought it contained a pair of shoes, if the box were not stamped with the letters SECRET in bright red letters all over.

“What I am about to show you,” the manager said, “is extremely secret.”

“Even I have not seen what is inside the box,” exclaimed the salesman!

Slowly, the manager pried the secret lid off the secret box. Inside there was a pair of brown shoes, made of what seemed to be regular shoe material.

“These might seem to be the most regular shoes in the world,” said the manager, but these are actually the most special shoes in the world. At least they are the most special shoes in the world that we can sell you.”

“They seem to be regular,” said Deepak.

“That’s what I said, no, they seem regular, but in reality they are not at all regular. I mean, they are regular in the sense that you can wear them much like regular shoes, and they perform the function of regular shoes reasonably well, but there is an element of specialty to them that you will find in no other shoes.”

“What makes them special?” asked Deepak.

“I am glad you asked me that,” said the manager, “because I was just about to tell you. Now, when I tell you this, nobody will know the secret of these shoes except for the three of us. Even the maker of the shoes does not know their secret.”

“Why is that?” asked Deepak and the salesman in unison.

“Because the shoemaker is dead. He was killed by elves. Anyway, here is the secret of these shoes. They are marvellous, time-travelling shoes.”

“What?” asked Deepak.

“These shoes, when worn, enable the wearer to travel through the dimension of time!”

The salesman’s jaw dropped.

“How much do they cost?” asked Deepak, who, being as wise as he was, knew that time travel could not come cheaply.

“Obviously there can be no price tag attached to these shoes. They are priceless. But since you passed my tests and showed yourself to be worthy, I am giving them to you at a discounted price of Rs. 3,000/- only,” said the manager.

“Considering the original price was priceless, it is quite a huge discount,” said the salesman.

“Indeed,” said the manager. “The only condition to this discount is that you cannot tell anyone the secret of these shoes. Nobody will know about their time-travelling capabilities except you and me.”

“What about him?” Deepak asked, referring to the salesman.

The manager then killed the salesman with a shoe.

“Who?” asked the manager.

So Deepak paid the manager three thousand rupees and walked away from the store as the proud owner of a new pair of time-travelling shoes.

At home, Deepak tried on his new shoes. They were a perfect fit, quite comfortable, and now that he thought about it, really quite good-looking, too. He wondered if they only appeared good-looking to him because he knew that they were secretly time-travelling shoes as well, but when his father saw the shoes and said how good they looked, Deepak knew they really were good-looking.

But they did not work.

At least, Deepak could not figure out how to make them work. The secret box contained no instructions on how to use the time-travel feature of the shoes, and no matter what Deepak tried, he could not get them to time travel. He resolved to go back to the shop the next morning and ask the manager how to use them.

But the next morning, the shop was gone. It simply vanished. Rather, it had shut down, and in its place was a unisex beauty salon called Byoodafal, as its big board announced in giant purple letters, alongside a picture of an androgynous man or woman.

“What happened to the shoe shop?” asked Deepak to the receptionist at the beauty salon.

“What shoe shop? Go away, this salon is not for boys. It is for unisex,” said the receptionist and shooed Deepak out of the store.

Deepak was sad. He had a pair of marvellous time-travelling shoes that did not work. Rather, he could not figure out how to make them work.

For years, three years to be precise, Deepak tried to make his time-travelling shoes work, and never took them off, even while bathing, because he feared that the shoes might suddenly decide to time travel and leave him behind. He also searched everywhere for the manager of the shoe store, but to no avail.

Except, one day, exactly three years after that fateful day in the shoe store, Deepak saw a man walking down the street who looked remarkably like

“Shoe store manager,” Deepak yelled!

The man on the street stopped in his tracks and turned to Deepak. There was a spark of recognition in his eyes. The manager had not forgotten his very last customer.

“Hello, Deepak,” said the manager.

Deepak went up to the manager, grabbed him by his collar, and shook him violently.

“For three years I have been looking everywhere for you. These marvellous time-travelling shoes you sold me do not work! At least, I have not figured out how to make them work.”

“What year is it?” asked the manager, who suddenly looked very puzzled.

“It is 2009,” said Deepak.

“Are you serious?!” the manager said incredulously. “But I sold you those shoes in 2006!”

“Yes you did. So?”

“Don’t you realise, Deepak, you have been using the shoes correctly all along! Have you not travelled through time since that fateful day in the shoe store? Have you not travelled three years into the future in those very shoes?!”

Deepak realised that he had been using the time travel feature of the shoes all along. He had thought that his marvellous time-travelling shoes did not work, but they had in fact, been working continuously since that fateful day in the shoe store.

For the first time in three years, Deepak felt something akin to happiness.