Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fiction: The Kiss

She had made fun of me the first time we met.

The acerbic words, the colourful and often (more like always) hurtful diatribes I am now known for were missing in my repertoire back then. It was a time, when once I had found out that the female of the species Canis Familiaris is called a ‘bitch’, had found it exceedingly funny and decided to christen everything I met on my way back from school by the same name, my mom had put a little red chilly powder on my tongue and warned me that if I ever called a woman that she’d disown me.

She had made fun of me and I had remained silent.

I was four years old and she was about three years older and four fingers taller than me. She could have easily taken me.

She had made fun of me and I would have done the same if I were in her position.

You see, I still hadn’t mastered the subtle art of tying my shoelaces. I never really understood the whole ‘one little bunny goes over the bridge, hides below the hedge and is then pulled out by the evil witch’ bit. What the hell was a bunny doing on my shoes anyway?

She had made fun of me and then gone ahead and tied my shoelaces.

We had become friends instantly. And we were inseparable. We were together when I lost my first tooth, when she and I learnt to ride a bicycle, when her parents split, when she had her first period (the oddest day of my life so far), when Jurassic Park came to the theatres, when she was asked out on her first date …

And then my parents decided to move to a different city.

We were sitting on top of the water tank on my terrace (our favourite place). We had not spoken for over an hour. We just sat there looking at the houses around us, the play ground where we had learnt to climb trees together and our old school in the distance. We didn’t look at each other. We didn’t want to cry.

My mom called out from the driveway. They were ready to leave. I said I’ll be down in a few minutes.

I looked at her. And did something I had never expected to do. I kissed her, kissed her for the longest possible time. But something was amiss. She wasn’t responding. Her lips weren’t moving. I kissed her harder, pulled her closer to me. Nothing. I only withdrew when I felt her tears on my cheek. Her face was expressionless. She didn’t say anything.

My mom called again. I stood up in a daze. Said goodbye. She still didn’t say anything. I stood there for a moment and then climbed down the stairs.

On the way to the airport I did not speak to anyone. All I could think about was her. Had I done something wrong? Had I destroyed the only friendship which meant anything to me? Had I …

I was fourteen years old. And that was my first kiss.


I was waiting for her on the airport. We hadn’t met or spoken to each other for almost ten years. She had found me through the internet. She was going to be in the city for a few hours.

I was moving around impatiently in the waiting area, the least bit interested in the cricket match coming on the television. A man walked up to me and inquired about the score and then went ahead and gave me a lecture on the importance of the coach and the captain. I nodded and smiled, appreciating his knowledge and depth of the game, while all the time wishing that he’d find a small unassuming puddle of muck and drown himself in it.

Somebody tugged at my sleeve and turned me around. And before I knew it I was being kissed, kissed passionately. It was her. And we were kissing. She drew me closer and we went on kissing. We stopped when we heard a loud applause. It wasn’t for us. India had won the match and people were celebrating. We laughed. The way we used to. I picked up her luggage and arm-in-arm we left the airport.

“That was how I should have kissed you all those years back” she said as we were getting in my car. “I hope I made up for it”

“More than you’d ever know” I replied and smiled.

We spent the next three hours driving around the city remembering the old days and talking about the present. She works for a top NGO. She is happily married. Plans to have a baby in the next few years.

Just now I left her back at the airport. All the guilt that had built up over the last ten years has been swept away. I have regained a good friend. And I can look back fondly and say - that was my first kiss.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Chubichawa Podcast 01

I finally took some time out of work and decided to record my very first podcast (audio). If all goes well then I’ll probably be able to make it a weekly show. The wonderful people at the Internet Archive are hosting the podcast. Visit my podcast page here. The audio is available in various formats (I recommend the 64 Kbps MP3 recording – 4.4 Mb). I have used this amazing sound editing software called Audacity (open source, hosted by sourceforge.net). This first podcast is a potpourri of some stand-up comedy pieces, old song recordings, a reading of one of my short stories and a review of the new Harry Potter film. It’s just over 9 minutes in length.

I had the sniffles the last few days and had a little trouble breathing so my voice wouldn’t be its usual clear resonant self. I suggest listening to the podcast in the privacy of your room or with headphones on. This stuff is not for the faint of heart or for parents and younger siblings. Comments and feedback regarding the format and suggestions for new material are welcome. I suppose it will only get wackier with time. Prudes offended will by now know where to shove their self-righteousness.

The download link

Monday, November 14, 2005

Time Capsule

Forbes has come up with an excellent idea for an email time capsule. This is the email I wrote to myself. I shall receive it after 3 years.

Dear Anshu

You know how I (you?) find it extremely difficult to write the first line. Whether it’s a short story, a play, a poem (remember you used to write those free-verse poems in under five minutes – they usually involved a raven and a dead poet … I hope those two have now become your most famous and enduring creations), a text message or a letter like this one, I always struggle with the first few words. So much depends on the beginning; it defines everything which comes before and everything which will come after it. The first line is like a first kiss (and even though we know that things only start looking up after the third kiss – once you have figured your way around the shape, structure and style of the woman’s lips, tongue and the inner sanctum of her beautiful mouth – the first kiss usually seals the fate).

Damn! This is difficult.

Let’s be analytical about this thing and break it up into sections.

This is where your life stands on 14th November 2005

My (Your) Belief System

Just cause you're hung like a moose doesn't mean you gotta do porn.
-- Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle

What’s Up with You?

You are working on another novel (which one got published first?)
You are planning to move to UK.
You are single and ready to mingle but not actively mingling.
There are too many mosquitoes in your room.
You only hate one person with all your being (did you ever forgive that evil frigid cow?)

Recent Happenings

You realised you are not always right about others (you can also get emotionally hurt in a gym – oh! And you have recently figured out that you can get emotionally hurt).
Your already weak faith in arranged marriages is completely shaken.
You judged dramatics in IIT.
Babe (also known as Death and in certain quarters Piggy) has published his first research paper. It’s an elegant review of Strain Field Calculations in Embedded Quantum Dots and Wires. You brag about it to anyone who’d lend you their ears willingly (or unwillingly) and you are so proud of your boy that your heart might explode any minute now.
Vintage Suds just duped his prof and packed his MS thesis project and joined a job.
The Hawk is working his arse off (ok he is just working) in Houston.

Your Short/ Long Term Aims

Publish! Publish! Publish!

What Were You Thinking Before Writing This

You were thinking about the word Anonymous. You were remembering how in kindergarten a teacher told you that Anon was a famous poet who wrote a lot of poems. Dad then told you the correct meaning of the word and you had blasted the living intellectual lights out of the teacher’s head. Even today you are an egoistic bastard and you are proud of it (for your sake I hope you are; I warn you I’ll go medieval on your arse if you are not).

Then you were thinking that you had recently come across a blog (by accident) which seemed to belong to the anonymous poetry lover (Anon1) who left beautiful comments on your blog. You are 93.7% certain, but since you want to maintain the veil of mystery that surrounds your interaction with Anon1 you have decided not to revisit her blog.

There is also an Anon2 (who doesn’t like you by the way). You are not entirely certain whether Anon1 and Anon2 are different people. Anon2 likes to leave scathing personal remarks about you. She also brings out the one quality in you that you hate as well as crave the most. Your anger (an outcome of your tickled ego – it cannot really be hurt, your ego that is) results in such an amazing outpour of words (which are very caustic in nature, mind you) that they destroy everything in their way. There is however the stamp of ingenuity on them, the mark of superiority, which you want all your words to carry. It’s a shame that anger is your greatest creative catalyst.

You were also thinking about ZZ. She hasn’t mailed you in a long time and you don’t really expect her to. You don’t really expect anything from her. But you would like an occasional line or a reason for her withdrawal.

You were also extremely hungry and were about to have a midnight snack.

I hope your life is chaotic and you don’t dream too often. That’ll happen only if you fall asleep when you are dead tired or when her (the tall, slim, 34 D hot intellectual’s) embrace is irresistible.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Life Aquatic with Long Legs Obsessed Man

* Life came full circle when I was invited to judge the inter-hostel dramatics competition in my alma mater IIT. The last time I was on that stage I was taking my clothes off in front of a capacity crowd and the audience was admiring the chequered boxer-shorts I had specially purchased for that play. Needless to say that was the most fun I have ever had performing. This time around a fully-clothed-me was up on stage describing how I used relative grading (the curse of my IIT life) to decide the winners. All the eight plays were extremely entertaining and overall standards were very high. They actually used lights and sound effects!

* Three crazy weeks of writing and reading. Writing output has reached new heights. And reading – ah! Been reading some wonderful stuff –

Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke
Neverwhere – Neil Gaiman
The 13 ½ Lives of Captain Bluebear – Walter Moers
One Night @ the Call Center – Chetan Bhagat
The Divine Comedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso) – Dante Alighieri
The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith
The London Pigeon Wars – Patrick Neate
Marvel 1602 – Neil Gaiman and others
City of Glass (graphic novel version) – Paul Auster
Most of Will Eisner stuff
Most of Sin City by Frank Miller
The Far Side (7 volumes) – Gary Larson
The Dark Knight Returns – Frank Miller and others
Tons of other graphic novels

Finally the backlog of books to read is reducing. Another ten days and I’ll be out of the red (read?!).

Social life – zero, zilch, non-existent!!

* Paid a visit to the newly relocated Odyssey. And then went to Landmark. The Universe was in a mischievous mood today. First I bumped into a young lovey-dovey couple who were busy necking in the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy section. Personally I believe libraries and bookshops are highly romantic places. And I am all for public display of affection. So I gave them a little space and moved away. But why, why did the chap have to go ahead and crack that dialogue to his girl – “Relax... A hickey from Kenickie is like a Hallmark card”?

Grease?! You dolt, you are in a bookshop for crying out loud. You are surrounded by beautiful love inspiring words. And you come up with Grease. I shot a glance at the girl which conveyed both my disappointment and commiseration.

I moved over to the graphic novel and comic book section. I was looking through Bone – Jeff Smith’s hilarious 1300 page collection of the adventures of Fone Bone, Phoney Bone and Smiley Bone. Two girls were standing near me looking at the Indian Writing section. Even though I had my back (they could probably see my profile) towards them I could feel one of them boring through me with her eyes. It felt like ants were crawling down my back. So I turned around and faced them.

A short scrawny 18-something girl was standing with a tall (very) stunning enchantress. Contempt, hatred and loathing for my very being were tightly packed together in an unwavering look from the short one. I have drawn some sharp reactions from people in the past but this was the oddest of them all. And from a stranger who I could have squashed under my foot? Never!

Now I should have been thinking about an appropriate expression for my face. But somewhere the Tall Girl Alert had been activated in my brain and all thought processes had ceased. Instead of looking at the little one I was staring at the tall one. After a few seconds I realised I wasn’t blinking. Luckily she spoke and reactivated my brain.

What book is that?

It’s called Bone. It’s a graphic novel.

What is that?

I told her. For the next 10 minutes I introduced her to Frank Miller, Neil Gaiman and Japanese Manga. She decided to purchase Bone. And then the little one pulled her away and I got a call from a friend. She waved and left. Damn! I didn’t even ask her name or take a number. And she had long slender legs which seemed to go on and on. Cruel, cruel world! Gave me a taste of forbidden ambrosia and then snatched it away. Sniff!

* Read on someone’s blog that they were having a bad hair week. It seems like I have been having a bad hair year. It’s because of the frequent haircuts. I should go back to the 3 cuts a year policy. Life was so simple back then.