December 31, 2008

Fat Princess and Innocent Pea

For Karen, my favorite princess ;)

She was huge, this Fat Princess of ours. Not due to some genetic condition or anything she could control, because then we wouldn't make fun of her. She was fat because she was lazy, greedy and ate way too many fried chicken wings. And the Pea is exactly what it sounds like. An unappetizing, nasty, weird green, low-calorie piece of nutritious shit. Put food and our Fat Princess together, and what do you get? An eaten pea and a still very hungry, unhappy, slightly jigglier around-the-thighs Fat Princess. You need to understand that the Pea was just a helpless little thing and the villain was Fat Princess. But this is a happy story.

It was a dark and stormy night. Fat Princess had been out hunting for plus-size clothing the whole day. Since no one was as fat as her in the whole kingdom, and also since her clothes were all made by the town tent-maker, the whole thing was an exercise in futility. I don't really mean “exercise” literally, because on the way she managed to snack at every KFC in town, and the place wasn't called Kentucksyville for nothing. (KFC = Kentucksyville Friggin' Chicken, their motto “Just friggin' eat this shit”) Pretty futile, like I said. At the end of the day, our fair (pimpled, not hot, and certainly NOT wise) maiden got really pissed off. What the fuck?, she asked herself loudly with her mouth full, making people stare. I need a fuckin' break. She decided to party. Being a Princess has advantages. You can force subjects (hot guys AND hot girls) to dance with you and cut their heads off if they used the words “fat”. Or “plus-sized”. Or even “obese”.

Or “chubby”. She hated “chubby” so much.

It was 3 a.m. Fat Princess was feeling very trippy. She had smoked enough pot to forget life's large problems (pun intended), and was currently engaged in winning her seventh consecutive beer-pong contest. Suddenly she looked at the clock on her arm. It was actually a clock made for the church tower but ordinary watches were too small to be held in place by the long, thick ropes needed to strap the face around her trunk-like wrist. It was late, she realized. She suddenly had an idea (not being wise), and decided she should just go for a jog, lose some weight, get motivated, think about droppin a quarter pound or so, maybe even brush her teeth once a week or something. The pot was obviously laced.

She waddled for about a minute and reached a poor man's house. Please may I come in?, she asked meekly. She was high, remember. Otherwise she didn't do meek, our Fat Princess. She was what you call “In your FACE, BITCHES”. The poor man (actually a handsome prince put under a spell by a nasty witch, because otherwise this won't be a fairy tale) let her in, wringing his hands and hoping she wouldn't come close to him. This was of course, impossible, as her hips touched both walls at once, but he hoped for the best. He was better off being a poor man than becoming husband to the Lastest of the Bra Sizes. Can I please get eight bottles of whiskey please? To start with?, she asked in the tone of an angel. He shuddered. He downed several shots himself and contemplated suicide.

At 5:00 in the morning, he showed her to the bedroom and tried to edge out, without creating sexual friction. At 5:01, Fat Princess discovered the Pea. At 5:02, she ate it. At 5:03, she turned around and kicked the poor man's ass up through the chimney because there weren't more peas left in the house and she was, as she herself so neatly put it, “sooooooooo fuckin' hungry, you dick”. At 5:03 two things happened. 1. Fat Princess went to sleep in desperation and her snoring woke up 3,092,245,293 men who had to go to work in a few hours. 2. The poor man turned into The Prince. According to the Spell Law Book, 347th edition, “If a poor man is kicked up the chimney by a princess who is inebriated AND high on weed, he will find himself turned back into a prince and find himself falling through the royal bedchamber of her parents, to his immense horror and dissatisfaction. At 5:04, he found himself falling through the royal bed chamber where the King and Queen of Kentucksyville were sleeping. At 5:05 they were no longer sleeping. At 5:06, the Prince had begun his story.

It started with the Pea, he began. It was a dark and stormy night, he continued. Say no more, say no more, shrieked the Queen delightedly. I know the story. I saw something similar on Oprah. Fat Princess felt the Pea through the million mattresses in your Palace and you loved her because she is true royalty just like you and you came to ask for her hand in marriage. Say no more. She gazed at him dreamily. He was an answer to prayers. Now they wouldn't have to restock the Royal Refrigerator on the hour, every hour. The Prince would just have to go bankrupt feeding Fatty, as they nearly had. Oh well, his problem. The Queen was jubilant. The King just said, What the fuck? Okay, marry her if you have bloody cataracts. You're obviously bloody insane, but I don't give a shit”. It is evident where the Princess got her language from. The Prince wrung his hands in frustration, and then went to look for a clean shirt.

The wedding was held secretly because whatever said and done, grossly obese brides do not look great on tabloid covers. The Princess started smoking, as a wedding gift to herself. She decided she had “only one fuckin' life to live, and didn't care what the world thought. Screw all those stuffy assholes!”. No one in court dared correct her language. Soon she became a chain-smoker and rapidly lost lots of weight. Once she was thin, she was so stunning and beautiful that the Prince became crazily in love with her. Shallow idiot. They lived a long, fulfilling, happy life and died at the unwise, young age of 34, she of lung cancer, and he of bronchitis due to second-hand smoke. Their deaths were peaceful, and thankfully, they did not leave successors. Death did not them part. They were buried in the same grave, hands clasped together.

The country became a democracy and went through years and years of civil war. This made the people deliriously happy as they felt they were finally “livin' it up”. The Pea lived happily ever after too, albeit in mashed form, having been digested and curtly excreted, in the Royal Septic Tank. I told you this is a happy story.

December 27, 2008

Metastasis

(For my mom's mother - my giving, uncomplaining, angelic grandma, for Karen's mom - who was warm like my own, and for my professor's aunt whose painful death inspired him to become an excellent oncosurgeon. All these wonderful women died of cancer. God bless their souls.)

Malignant cells
Proliferate and rain down
Into the crimson
I swirl to the floor
Leave a patch here
Leave a patch there
And we all begin to grow

I become big
Me becomes many
We migrate
In search of new prey
A neuron here
A piece of bone there
The signs begin to show

A frenzied dancing
Graceful undulations
I laugh wildly
My army is strong
She becomes tired
She becomes weak
Then she is no more

December 23, 2008

Aunty From Hell ∼ An Indo-American Mini Soap Opera

Background: Most people the family haven't seen Bublee Aunty for the past ten years or so, and anyway, the kids don't remember her at all. She left for the States when her children were really small, and now they are grown up and all over the place. Pychotic Niece is a college girl but has lived in the U.S at some time previously and thinks she knows everything about life and its meaning. Stuff in brackets () is thoughts.
Suggestion: Whenever Psychotic Niece thinks, imagine a close up of flashing black eyes coated in thick blue mascara.

At the Airport
Uncles and Aunties:(Proud and jealous all at once) Arre, Bublee. You are looking so nice yaar.
Bublee Aunty:(Proud and merciful all at once) Thank you, thank you. I went to Florida for the summer. I needed to get a tan. Came out quite nicely na?
Pyschotic Niece: (What the hell? This woman is burnt so badly and she wants a tan? What, she thinks she's white or something? Indians don't need tans! I knew she was going to be like this. I shouldn't have come. What was I thinking? Man, I wanna barf right now. Or fall off a cliff in Florida and die. Do they have cliffs in Florida?)

After a Heavy Breakfast
Bublee Aunty: Okay, my little ones. I brought lots of nice, nice things from America for you.
Children: Yeah, thank you aunty. American presents!!!
Smart Boy: I want the most expensive thing in the suitcase.
Pychotic Niece: (Yeah, bullshit. I bet she bought clothes and toys from those nasty American wholesale stores, the ones that have large-scale sweatshops in India and China. They are such cheap shit. Does she think we're so ignorant that we won't know that? Look at all these kids clammering around her. Will they even look at her if she was poor? No, if they saw her walking on the road they would laugh and howl because she's so fat. Oh, what a materialistic world we live in. And this woman from America is promoting this. In her own family. We are all doomed.)

After a Short Pause
Smart Boy: I love this shirt Aunty. But can I have another one? This one says Made In India.

Long Pause

Bublee Aunty: Arre babba, spelling mistake. It's supposed to say Made in Indiana. That's where I live. I brought it all the way specially for you.
Aunties and Uncles laugh, but in barely- concealed indignation. All things from America should say Made in China. Only that was acceptable.

Psychotic Niece: (All my suspicions are confirmed. God must be laughing at us. An Indian toils in sweatshop and a multi-national company pays sackloads of money to transfer it to the U.S just so that another Indian lady can buy one on a 50% discount for her Indian nephew back in India. It's so messed up. I can imagine how she packed her suitcase. Just before she left from her posh home in her small-town suburb, she must have said, what can I get those poor, unfortunate people living in India? Then I bet she went to the flee market and bought the first things she saw. Yuck.)

Lunch Time
Bublee Aunty: (eagerly, to make people jealous again) Let us all go out to eat. It will be my treat. To celebrate Diwali. It will be really nice.
Aunties and Uncles: (eagerly, like they never ate out five times a week) Yes let's all go. We can buy firecrackers also on the way back. (Diwali is eight months away but who cares? You're the rich one who lives in Indiana. Bring on the dollars baby)
Bublee Aunty: Let's see, we can go to that Bhavan place. The one near the govt. College.
Psychotic Niece: (I knew it. She has the money to take us to the Taj if she wanted to, but being a cheap bitch, she wants to take us to some place like that shitty vegetarian restaurant. She won't take us somewhere outrightly awful, but just barely respectable enough to cover her fat ass.)

Timid Other Aunt: But... But... the children all like chicken very much. Maybe... we... can go somewhere better... like the Taj... special occasion na? What with Diwali and all? (Even Timid Aunt thought the same as Psychotic Niece, then.)

Short Pause

Bublee Aunty: Arre, didn't I tell you in the e-mail? I have become a vegetarian. For past two years, I haven't even eaten eggs.
Psychotic Niece: (You're vegetarian? YOU are vegetarian? From what ANGLE are you vegetarian? You don't look it. Your cheeks touch your collar-bone. You lie.)

At the Shitty Veg Restaurant
Bublee Aunty to Timid Aunt: You should do yoga, dear. Keeps my figure in shape.
Timid aunty: (I do NOT want your figure) Oh, okay. I forgot that you told me Guru Miwaoifkappa has relocated to America. I didn't know he lived in Indiana. You are so lucky. He is known for his yoga all over the world now.
Bublee Aunty: (with a shudder) Oh no, no. I go to a modern yoga class. It involves some cardio workout and involves pilates and strip-teasing also

HEAVY SILENCE

Psychotic Niece: (I would have sued.)
Timid Aunty: That sounds very nice. More payasam?
Bublee Aunty: Yes please. SLURP

Looking Through Old Photos
Timid Aunty: Oh look, Bublee in college.
Psychotic Niece: Oh God, she looks EXACTLY like me
Timid Aunty: Didn't your mother tell you? Bublee looked just like you when she was younger. Spoke the same, even dressed the same way. (You'll probably turn out just like her too.)
Bublee Aunty: Yes, you are my favorite niece because you are JUST LIKE ME. See, I bought you a nice Louis Vuitton bag as a special present.
Psychotic Niece: Aaaaaaaaaaargggghh (runs out screaming and starts a charity home for old people in the middle of the African desert)

Moral: If you somehow manage to get a look at your Future, pack up and run like Hell. It might be the only way out.

December 19, 2008

An Insignificance

But to see her was to love her, love but her, and love her forever - Robert Burns

She woke up at six a.m precisely and checked as usual. Nothing presented itself magically at her frozen nerve endings. Good, because emotion, or any other rot like that, was the last thing she needed. Carelessly examining her bitten nails, she picked up the phone and called in sick again. On loss of pay, they said. And yes, we are looking for a replacement. Whatever. She rolled over in slow motion and got up. The cycle was parked outside, the yellow-and-black colors already fading, and the rust visible in rather many places. It was his last gift to her. She idly thought of him as she searched for the keys. He had been quite nice; very understanding and sweet in fact. But terribly boring. They all were boring actually. But he had been quite nice. She climbed on and started pedaling slowly up the road. She did not look left or right but of course she took in everything. The rip in the child's clothing. The violent wound in the tree bark. The fear in the mother's anger. She knew these things needed to be there. This was the world and everything in it. The drunk beggar at the junction greeted her with a beatific smile. She nodded back, her eyes glazed. Charity is a fallen angel's gift.

The water purification plant just outside town was pretty impressive. It was a modern building, all steel, deep ponds and shiny pipes. It had been a retreat for her as long as she could remember. For years and years. She parked the cycle near a dome-like structure and sat down on the cement seat. The mother sitting nearby with two young children discreetly started wheeling the pram away. She watched them leave, without really bothering too much because it happened everyday anyway. It could have been her several tattoos, or her odd piercings, or the heavy black eye makeup. It was most probably due to the multiple symmetrical scars that riddled her wrists and neck, lines made in palliative attempt. Humans are quite shallow, really. A gong went off in the distance and the churning in the nearest pool stopped. The little waves tried to adjust themselves so that the surface could look placid and calm quickly. She got up and stood at its edge, observing with aloof disinterest. Maybe a change of scene would help, she thought. Maybe I could go to Greece and do some sketching of that ridiculous Colosseum. Or even Venice with its garbage-filled canals and ugly gondolas. Yes, Venice sounds quite plausible. Venice...

She jumped. No, it had not been her intention to do that at all, but struggle she would not, as there was nothing to struggle for. She did not make much sound going in, barely a few ripples. No soap opera, this. The muddy water enveloped her in a welcoming embrace and she gladly sank into oblivion. Her body floated noiselessly, calmly, one hand raised slightly above her head, and the other at her left breast. She did not look like Juliet. She did not look ethereal or pretty or delicate. She did not possess unearthly beauty. She looked exactly what she was, a twenty-four year old wasted hippie, who had gone through it all. Her body was used, worn, and now finally rested in Pool No.14 of the Municipal Water Plant.

There was a slight quickening in the air. Nothing brazen, but a tiny part of the space-time curve suddenly gave way. He dropped the drill he was holding and ran frantically through the nearest exit. It's too late, it's too late, mocked his voices. I know she's dead, he shouted back, sweat pouring from every crevice, spit escaping in speedy ejaculations. I know, I always knew it would happen, but I want to see her. He dragged the pool and lifted the body out. She was so ugly, even after death. No serene, peaceful smile to ease the passage. Why had she been so incapable of returning his love? It had always been so very hopeless. He buried her with whatever money he had. Put flowers at her grave every year. Remembered her every hour of every day. Till he died miserably in a run-down nursing home four long decades later. She never knew. It was all too insignificant somehow, the whole affair.

December 05, 2008

My Inner Face

But if there was a sequel
Would you love me like an equal?
- Belle and Sebastian, Is is Wicked Not to Care?

My inner face is that face I have on when I think no one is looking. Like your face when you're crying under the blanket. Or while looking at the mirror in a public restroom that seems deserted. If someone suddenly comes out of a stall and catches you, your expression will instantly change, but in that split second, some stranger got to see that inner, secret face you thought nobody would.

December 02, 2008

One Horrible Minute

(I wrote this on the same day I discovered the World Clock application on my mobile, had terrible PMS and my country was in shock over a bad terrorist attack. We still are but the PMS has moved on.)

Those who come a hundred or two hundred years after us will despise us for having lived our lives so stupidly and tastelessly. Perhaps they’ll find a means to be happy.
- Uncle Vanya, Chekov

00:48, Washington D.C
A drunk college sophomore is puking on the bathroom floor. Her lipstick is gone, and her eyes are red. Her stomach contracts in response to one tequila too many. She cannot feel the alcohol on her tongue anymore. Another night of hard drinking is almost over. It will probably be followed by some random sex. This is how college should be, she tells herself. She downs the glass of vodka she is still managing to hold.

06:48, Madrid
He sees the wizened tiny lady before she catches sight of him. This college professor has traveled across the ocean to meet his birth mother. He knows the stories, having been told them many times by his foster parents. Poverty led her to give him up and his life was better this way and all that. Tears gush down her wrinkly face as she puts her arms around him and whispers broken words of love and welcome. It should have been a poignant moment, a coming-together of the ends of a circle. He feels nothing.

09:48, Tehran
The woman checks her cell phone over and over. No text to inform her about the ride to work. She will have to get a taxi; she was running late for a business meeting at the news channel she worked at. She pulls at her burka impatiently and calls up the cab company. Being a divorced mother in this place was not easy. She had no friends, but her job kept her busy. Arbeit Macht Frei.

12:48, Bangkok
The man slowly nibbles on his sandwich, and asks the waitress for a napkin. The little girl at the table nearby turns to stare at him. Surgery for tongue cancer had left him with half a jaw and a badly disfigured face. The doctors said he had three months left. Pain radiates sharply over his head as he tries to smile at her. She screams, pushes her chair away and runs. She will always remember this moment with shame. He will forget, it has happened before.

18:48, Samoa
He watches her face as he rapes her. He looked deep into her eyes and she looks right back. They have been co-workers for six years but she was married and so happy. But today, high on meth and rum, today he cannot and will not control himself. Today he asked her out for coffee. Today he drove to a lonely spot and pushed her down. Today he is inside her, forcing his lust on her unresponsive, lovely body. She is silent, her brain instinctively shutting down, her emotions screeching to an abrupt halt. She can never tell anyone. Maybe he'll do it again, he thinks.

02:48, Buenos Aires
She looks at the baby in cold rage. The nurse placed it in her arm thirty seconds ago and the whole family is around her, cheering, some still not quite awake from the wait through the long labor. She hates the child. So much. She hates everyone. Take it away, she wants to scream. I can't bear this small slimy body on me. It wants love and care I cannot give. It wants affection and energy but I have none. She catches her husband's eyes. He alone is not smiling. He knows. He takes the baby and cuddles their first child. We will survive this, he whispers as he gently kisses her forehead. You will get better. She nods, exhausted.

21:48, Vancouver
He pushes back his graying hair as he leaves the woman's apartment. One more time and it's over he tells himself. Just one more time. His wife is at home, baking him chocolate chip cookies in the weird little arty shapes he loved.

05:48, Reykjavik
She was eighteen but scared of the dark. No one knew of course. It was just another night she is spending wide awake with the blanket over her head, trembling so much the bed wobbles. The trees outside the windows are violent ghosts and the pictures of celebrities on her wall move in strange motion. She suppresses her screams into tiny yelps and curls into a neurotic ball of fear. She needs therapy but the idea seems silly.

08:48, Baghdad
She stands in the kitchen, staring at the blank wall two inches from her face. He died last night, her handsome little boy. He blew himself up in the crowded market-place five streets from home. She had seen the images of his body on the TV early morning before her husband got up. They were calling him a terrorist. She cannot believe this. Her little Abu, who used to be so kind to stray dogs. The most sensitive and shy one of all her sons. He was a smart boy too, with an astounding capacity for numbers. He had wanted to be a physicist. Now his severed head was on every channel, his dead eyes open and expressing something alien to her. She collapses over the stove. How will she ever pray again?

23:48, Mexico City
He waits for the train to move. His fingers are sweating, leaving muddy patches on the newspaper he holds. How will he tell her that this woman he met is so much better than her? They have been together for so long, she almost an extension of him, and now he will be shattering her world. Her carefully-planned world of marriage and babies and special songs with awesome lyrics and earnest debates and long road trips on holidays. He did love her of course. But this new woman, she was magical. She was bewitching, and he couldn't stop thinking of her. She held him spell-bound in her intricate weave. He knew he could not live without her, could not breathe deeply till he experienced her. He had to tell his girlfriend today, but… he would never be able to meet her eyes. And he did not want tears when he only felt joy. He dials the number from memory as the train started to leave the station. Her life was going to fall apart.

11:18, Mangalore
Terrorists attacked Mumbai and some are holed up in a couple of hotels even now, the gunfights still raging on. The bloodshed is terrible. I'm watching TV and am haunted by the face of one of the attackers they keep showing. He was seen around the neighborhood for a few days before the shootings began and they captured his picture on a security camera on one of those days. He is so young, with a smart hair cut and a very attractive face. He is wearing Versace and holding an umbrella. He looks normal, friendly, even happy and relaxed. But he wasn't. He was insane. He's probably dead now, or going to die when the NSF gets him but I weep for his life. It could have been different.