Declared as Deemed to be University under Section 3 of UGC Act 1956
Common Strangers An Anthology
Musings of Common Strangers An Anthology (For Private Circulation Only)
II FEP Department of Media Studies
Christ University Hosur Road, Bangalore - 560 029 Tel: +91 80 4012 9100 â€˘ Fax: +91 80 4012 9000 Website: www.christuniversity.in
Contributors Nimeshika Venkatesan • 08D4427
Kunoto G. Chishi • 08D4407
Nishvin John • 08D4410
Trissa Mathew • 08D4438
Swati Satyashankar • 08D4445
Joseph Harris • 08D4442 2
Sartaj Tanweer • 08D4447
Foreword A touch, the fragrance of a flower, the sight of a bird flying over the horizon… All seep into a distant corner of our minds. A corner called memory. Each memory is a treasure, a gift-like time machine that lets us reflect upon each moment we have lived. ‘Musings of Common Strangers’ is a collection of works, memories to be precise, that have touched our lives. The lives of seven individuals who got together to pen down the moments that they will carry with them all their lives. Walk with us, as we trod down the memory lane called `Musings of Common Strangers’.
NO - A poem • Nishvin John
OMNIPRESENT - An essay
EINNIM - A poem
• Swati Satyashankar
A poem • Nishvin John
MOVING ON… - A poem • Sartaj Tanweer
THE FINEST MEMORY IN MY KITTY - A Personal Narrative
AN EXPERIENCE UNTOLD… - A Personal Narrative
A COINCIDENCE -A play
THE WOMAN IN RED -A short story • Nimeshika Venkatesan
OOTY-A RETREAT -Travel writing
• Kunoto G. Chishi
• Nimeshika Venkatesan
• Joseph Harris
• Trissa Mathew
• Swati Satyashankar
• Trissa Mathew
KUTTI KAAPI KADAI -A play
THE LAST LAMENT - A poem
INTO ARMS -A short story • Swati Satyashankar
PARIMALA - A poem Nimeshika Venkatesan
23 25 27
OMNIPRESENT • Swati Satyashankar
Their existence is virtually undeniable and unavoidable. As they flood your mind, permitting spirits of your past to manifest themselves, they arouse a very special feeling. A feeling that alters itself in accordance to the memory that stirs it. A feeling we commonly call Nostalgia. Irrefutably, there is room enough to accommodate all of them and there is enough room to absorb more. No one can deny that the euphoria it awakens or the anger it beckons, is something we would rather avoid. Yet, eternally there are memories we struggle to cherish and those which we force to exterminate, so that they do not haunt our present. How do we answer the question when posed in a nonchalant manner? When a child innocently looks into your eyes and asks you, “What are memories?” Memories are merely reflections of our past. A look back or a walk down the lane. It is a part of us that keeps us connected to the world we existed in. the part of us that kindles the way we exist in the present. Most importantly, it is evidence of our existence – proof that we lived the past and the journey is what has given us the opportunity to be a part of the present, or what we call, ‘now’.
But now, is never more than a fraction of a second. It is a flash. Quicker than the shutter of a camera, for the moment we have lived ‘now’, it fades away into the isolated corner of our lives called memory. A memory is no more than a film. A film where each ‘now’ constitutes every frame, and the various frames make the visualizations that appear as the reminiscence of what we have lived. So what is life without a memory? It would rather seem ghost-like and appalling; a man without memories can be compared to one devoid of a soul. He has no proof of existence or foundation for contemporary life. A record of experiences always helps to relive memories and revive the ones that stay still somewhere in remote areas of our minds. And this, is a record of the outlook on the ubiquitous memories.
MOVING ON… • Sartaj Tanweer The wind blowing through my hair, As I rode away from home, The memories asking me to turn back, I kept moving on, Riding through the traffic, Still wanting to turn back home, Taking every vehicle as an obstacle, I overcame them and kept moving on. Moving away from home,
EINNIM • Nishvin John For 19 years you nurtured me, in turn got pain. Toiled day and night, never let me out of your sight. And for that you got few words with no meaning, The 19 years of your nurture, what is your gain? A mother is an instrument of love You gave me more than what is ever recorded
Knowing that someone was waiting for me, at my destination,
And I can’t remember anything that you have asked for
Even though my memories were pulling me back,
I kept moving on….
And all you got is a broken heart. They say you need to be mature to understand. I hit puberty years ago, but maturity hit me now. Ignoring you was my greatest mistake, but loving you is my promise. Mother, please don’t leave me ever. I love you! You must understand.
THE FINEST MEMORY IN MY KITTY • Trissa Mathew I don’t remember a lot of things in my childhood and there are not a lot of great memories as I had a rough childhood. However there is one memory that sticks with me. My mother and I never had a great relationship while I was growing up. She tried her best, but she had me when she was twenty six and being so young, who wouldn’t make mistakes. We battled on together. She always worked to keep us alive and fed. I don’t remember seeing much of her as a child. I was always taken care of by other family and friends. One particular day, my mother and I had a huge argument. We didn’t talk to each other for days. I must have been about eight or nine at that time. Then one morning I woke up and heard this meowing sound. There before me was this little kitten. I was shocked as I had always wanted a kitten but my mother is horribly allergic to cats. I went to my mom and asked her where this kitten came from. My mom said that it was my kitten, her peace offering.
This was a life changing perspective that I had of my mom. I suddenly saw that she did love me. I hold onto that memory, her peace offering, her placing me before herself in such an unselfish way. I finally saw that she is just a mother, trying her best and still learning. We all make mistakes. It is important to hold onto the good memories that you have. See the good things and ignore the bad things. If it is a good memory of someone that you have had difficulty with, chose to hold onto that good memory. Don’t remember the ones that put that person into a bad light. Look for the good in that person and it will make your life easier. This is my only major child hood memory that I can recall. An unforgettable peace offering that gave a mother daughter relationship a chance.
This was one of the finest memories as my mother chose to suffer with allergies, just for me to have a kitten. 7
KUTTI KAAPI KADAI (The small coffee shop) • Nimeshika Venkatesan Characters
PARVATHI KARTHIKEYAN: A 25 year old woman works at a coffee shop.
SHANE WILLIS: An IT professional with good build, with hair graying at the sides. He is a somber man, tall, dark in his early thirties. SRIKANT VASUDEVAN: A young handsome boy in his early twenties. A good friend of Shane and Parvathi. PARINEETA: 18 year old, aspiring model. KARTHIKEYAN: Parvathi’s father. He is in his late sixties and works as an accountant in Henry’s shoe factory.
Background: Set in late twenties a small town- srirangam. A little coffee shop at the end of Mylai Karpagambal Street. It is a small stall almost like a box at the end of the street. A small slate fixed to board with the morning menu written. The shop is surrounded by a couple of rickety benches on either sides, or a few cane chairs. Parvathi a young woman in her twenties is brewing up some coffee. She is slim, and is clad a soft kadhi saree. To the left of the counter is a gas stove with idlis steaming on the pan. Its early Monday morning, the distant temple bells could be heard. To the right of the stall, Shane, a young IT professional is sitting on the bench reading a newspaper. Parvati is talking casually to Shane whom he greets with a grunt. Parvathi pours the freshly made coffee into empty tumblers. PARVATHI: Iam so sick of what’s happening these days. There seems to be no
end to these sky-rocketing prices, don’t you think?
Murder, rape, robbery, inflation is all that the newspapers are yelling these days. Shane? Are you listening to me? SHANE: Um hum. What’s new about this paro? This is not the first time your saying this are you? Nothing can be done about it. PARVATHI: (Pretending to be annoyed) what are you Shane? Are you even human? Am talking about people’s life here, and you thinks this is all a joke? Who knows someday one of us might end up in that front page? SHANE: Well in that case, I will be more than happy to be on it. (grins) Here you go into one of your” who will save this world” phase. Chill out paro, nothings going to happen. But yes I might add on to unemployment woes if you don’t give me my coffee. (Paro coldly offers Shane his coffee ) I got work to do(walks back to the shop) SHANE: Grand realization. (Srikanth a tall handsome man in his early twenties enters, the shop. He had met Shane and Paro at the same coffee shop a year ago. He goes to Shane and lightly pats him on his back, Shane who is drinking coffee splutters.) SHANE: You idiot! Why has god give you the magic of sight?? Look what you have done (points at the coffee stained shirt.) SRI: You know what Shane? You need to take a break. You’re getting too hot in the head. Come let me give you a massage.
SHANE: (Moves away awkwardly) get yours paws of me the last time you talked me into it, I couldn’t move my hands for days.( walks towards the shop, parvati, wipes the stain with a wet cloth) (Slightly vexed) Where do you get all this time, snooping around. You seem like some kid desperately looking for something to amuse yourself. (parvati looks at Shane for a moment and gets back to wiping his shirt. (Abruptly Shane moves away, picks up his laptop) I’ve got a job. I’ve got a life. (Exits) SRI: (to Paro) now why was he in such a hurry. No never mind I don’t want to know. That man, he remotely sounds like my father sometimes. He needs to chill out! PARO: And you must buckle up. (In a worried tone) how long would you go on prancing like this Sri? You have not completed a single paper. Wear a red nose and ugly boots... Oh wait you already are wearing them; you’ll be fir to join the circus! (grins) SRI: (Sri walks towards the counter, and grabs a cup of coffee) they are not ugly. Besides what do you know about them? They are my lucky boots. Circus, that’s not a bad idea. I may consider it. PARO: (looks up at the sky folds her hand) Kadavalee do something to this boy..(After a pause) anyways what was that book you were talking about? SRI: I really don’t know.. I’ve been looking around the attic quite frequently but I did not come across this. Strange. From what it says, I think it belongs to my 9
grandmother. PARO; (looks at the book) There are some poems here and some riddles also. But it just doesn’t make sense. SRI: You are right, Iam not able to figure out anything either. It’s like this crazy maze and there is no way out (chuckles) PARO: Well nothing is going to come of it anyway. I’ve got enough riddles in my life that’s needs to be sorted. I don’t think I need more (picks up the used cups and plates and puts in the sink and starts washing) SRI: No Paro I have a feeling about this. (Exits)
Scene 2 Its early afternoon and there were a few customers scattered, probably farmers or shop keepers who had come for a short tea break. Paro was busily frying up some vada. Parineeta is a teenager, aspiring model, pari’s childhood friend. She is a pretty girl in her early twenties. Pari walks towards the counter. PARI: Hey Paro, what’s cooking...? (After an elongated pause) hmm... I don’t see sri anywhere where is he? PARO: Oh... he just left about an hour ago, probably playing with the diary. That boy! He is such a character where does he get all this wild imagination? PARI: Diary? (puzzled) well never mind that (sighs). How 10
I adore that boy. He is so naïve. So innocent (Pari seems lost in her thoughts walks away and sits on the chair. PARO; oh.. no. no.. None of your love sickness around here. (Brings Pari a cup of coffee and sits on the chair next to hers) PARI: Wait, I have to tell you something! I was just surfing through the net the other day. The government seems to offering scholarships to students based on merit. And if Iam not wrong Madhavi College is one of them. But hurry registrations close in 2 days. PARO: (Her face lights up with joy) what? Really? I can’t believe this is happening. I don’t have to work at this dingy coffee shop anymore ( choked with emotion, holds Pari’s hands) thank you so much Pari. You’ve made my life. (Paro wipes the tear stain face with the end of her pallu and goes to the counter and brings a plate full of freshly baked butter biscuits. Both of them settle down and start chatting casually) Mr. Karthikeyan, Paro’s father, who was returning home after his daily shift at Henrys’ shoe factory. He was the accountant at the factory, and was passing by the coffee shop; he sees Paro and Pari casually chatting and walks into the shop. KARTHIKEYAN: (Striding into the shop, paro sees him and hurriedly goes back to the counter) you think I’ve got you this job for you and your friends to chit chat eh… I go around slogging like a dog, trying to make ends meet and look at you, wasting your time.
PARO: Appa I was... Just-
PARI: See you soon Paro. Take care. (Exits)
KARTHIKEYAN: Don’t you dare answer me back. You are going out of my hands magalee. Prices are rising insanely, I can hardly afford a decent meal and you.( sinks into a chair on the right, paro quietly brings a cup of coffee and places it near her father)
(Paro gets back to the coffee shop and starts frying pakodas for the evening. The sizzling of the oil could be heard, invading the endless silence) Curtains down.
PARO: (curtly) I want to study appa, I have applied at Madhavi. (After a pause) I don’t care about working at this shop.
KARTHIKEYAN: (in an unnaturally calm tone) Of course darling, when money grows on trees.
PARO: (Who was slowly loosing her anger, concerned) what happened appa? Is there a problem? Why are you pouncing on me like this? (Pleading) what did I do? Karthikeyan (Indifferent to Paro’s presence, continues talking) First the only house I have is gone because of debt, now Iam also losing my job, because of some moron’s fault in tallying!( Karthikeyan furiously rants away, while paro gets up goes to the counter brings a cup of coffee and gives it to her father) PARO: Seri Appa, this is it. Iam going to study at Madhavi and nothing can stop me (after a pause). Not even you. (Parvathi remains frozen at the spot) Karthikeyan (shaken, looks around composes himself. He walks out.) (Paro wipes her eyes welling with tears, and goes back to the shop. Pari looks at Paro for a brief moment)
(Early hours of evening, at Parvathi’s house. A few blocks away from the coffee shop. It’s a small house, with a porch and a backyard, and a small garden in the front. The rooms are quite small tastefully decorated with linen curtains. To the left is a wicker mat, with a few cushions strewn around. A miniature Tanjore painting is hung on the wall. To the right is the kitchen, Parvathi is cooking and softly singing to herself.) (Srikant enters the house, calls out slumps on the mat. He takes out the diary and starts reading) PARO: (Enters with a cup of coffee and plate filled with murrukkus) You are still hung up with that diary or what? SRI: Mm but this time it actually makes more sense. Listen to this. This seems to be the one, it’s written on 1st September 1971. Life is but a crazy maze I don’t know why but iam in a daze, 11
Now that you’re in You have to get out, Use of noodle But don’t you shout! Ps: Passion is your only weapon, Use it well, and things might happen. PARO: Wow, Sri I dint know your grandmother could write this well. I don’t know, it all sounds nice but things are not working out. My dad has disappeared after that confrontation, must have gone drinking I suppose! And now Iam thinking of moving out. The scholarship date is nearing. SRI: So much has happened within these few days. Even I don’t know what to do. (Paro goes back to the kitchen.) Sri goes through the remaining pages. Leaves it on the table and leaves) PARO: I have never seen Sri so depressed, something must be seriously wrong; he seems to be hiding something from me. And Pari I haven’t seen her for a quite a while, she is not even answering my calls. She was saying there was some kind of misunderstandings with her boss. And Shane, He just left! (Pause), He just left? without a
word, I haven’t seen him all day. What happened to those happy days? Those days which now seem ages ago? When Sri was his cheerful self, Pari and I sat chatting for hours together. I can’t bear this anymore (crying) Now my only hope is the scholarship. And that’s also getting out of my hands. (Pari goes to the table and picks up the form. She sees the diary lying there. She picks it up and starts reading.) Paro: passion is my only weapon, use it well.. Passion for art.. Use it well.. The scholarship.. (Parvathi smiles to herself. Fills the scholarship, seals it in an envelope. Puts a stamp on it and leaves it at the table and goes back to the kitchen.
Scene 2 (It’s almost midnight. Sri is sitting in the garden outside Parvathi’s house. The moon is shining bright in the sky; Pari walks in and sits next to Sri.) Pari: Its such a beautiful night don’t you think? (Pari goes closer to Sri and holds his hand) Sri I don’t know what’s goin to happen. I might seem to be a bold strong-willed woman, but now I confess, Iam meek as a mouse, a loserSRI: (Puts a finger on her lips gently) Shh no Pari, not a
word, I know it’s a difficult time for all of us. It’s not like you will never get another job. Times will change Pari, just wait…
SRI: (Gets up, sits on his knees and holds Pari’s hand), Pari I love you, will you marry me and grow old and mad with me? (Winks)
PARI: How long Sri...(Tired) Iam sick of all this! Why don’t you understand, the diary is a waste, this not going to help! It just a waste of time!
PARI: Yes I will only if you do the cooking!( laughs and embraces) I feel like a thief, being a few feet away from paro and not telling her anything1
SRI: Puts an arm around her comfortingly, Pari, puts her head to his shoulders and weeps)
SRI: We will soon..
No Pari, don’t say that, not you.. I know others think me of a clown but not you( pleading) what we need is a guiding direction and the diary seems to offer that.
(Sri and Pari look deep into each others eyes. Hand in hand they walk under the shimmering moonlight. A distant owl hoots, the insects buzz a low murmur, dissolving into the fading silence)
Pari: but Sri it’s all so far fetched! It’s insane, unreal.
Sri: Isn’t that what life is all about Pari? Huh... the insanities and the mysteries make it worth living (laughs) ( Sri opens the diary once again and reads) 2nd September 1977 Insanities and insecurities are at its height Love birds, don’t worry, its all right Caged and bound as you are,
Act 111 Scene 1 (It’s five the following morning. Paro is sitting at the coffee shop; the sun has not yet come out. Parvati is seated in one of the benches. A little mail box is located to the left.)
Listen to your heart and fly away far. Ps; love birds do fly, up. Up Way high in the sky! PARI: Today is the second of September, does that ring a bell? 13
PARO: Okay, today is the last day for submission of forms and iam sure it’s going to be accepted. This is the day; it might change my life entirely. But why am I not happy?? Well without Pari, Sri, and Shane... Everything seems to be incomplete, how fast time has changed, It’s been hardly a year and I can’t bear to stay away from them. Those happy times, those ridiculous jokes we shared, over coffees all seem to be a distant memory now. (Parvathi walks towards the counter, it was empty, and she had closed the shop the previous evening. A few stray cob webs lay hanging in the remote corners. the slate was wiped clean.) she looked at ‘Kutti Kaapi Kadai for the last time, and turned to leave. She walked towards the mail box.) PARO: (wedged it open, in it was a letter, coated with dust)
“Dearest Paro, I knew you would look in here. But I risked it. Iam not that bad in reading people you know, I know my job makes me uninteresting. But that’s not what iam all about. Let me answer that question you asked me. I cant believe Iam saying this, Iam a 30 year old man hopelessly in love with you. Fighting against carnal desires. Running away from half of his life, and now, lamely professing my love. Oh by the way Sri has no grandmother, foolish boy, I knew he would fall for it! To hell with modesty! Am I a genius or what? (Curtains down)
OOTY-A RETREAT • Joseph Harris
Ooty, also known by the locals as “cold forest”, has the attraction of having a pleasant and cool weather. This is one of the hill stations, where you find people walking more than riding bikes. It was discovered by a group of travelers from Tamil Nadu. Soon after their discovery of this 2300 meter (sea level) high hill station, it was used by many rulers as a retreat to get away from the hot weather. Though Ooty seems to be modernized now, some of the old cottages built at that time can still be seen. The best way to enjoy Ooty is a well planned three day trip.
Reaching here itself would need some planning. One can choose between a bus, taxi or even a motorcycle. It takes about seven hours to reach from Mysore and Bangalore to Mysore is about three hours, so you’re looking at about ten hours in traveling. However it’s a wonderful experience- great views and scenery. Once you enter Bandipur Forest you‘ll see all kinds of animals like elephants, tigers, deer, bisons et al. It’s a great sight; the hills are spotted with waterfalls and springs. Once you pass Bandipur forest, you could jump into a taxi which takes you to Ooty. You could also continue in the same bus, but the advantage of taking a taxi or a motorcycle is that you can stop anywhere and admire the beauty of the forest and the animals. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Ooty from Bandipur and once you reach Ooty, it’ll take you about ten minutes to reach the heart of the beautiful hill station. A lot of walking and trekking of the hills must be on your to-do list while you are in Ooty. This place provides stunning views of the hills with small villages on them, foggy valleys, the lush and beautiful plantation on the hills and never ending plains, rich with trees. Worth a visit is Mountain Home- a small town on the hill tops of Ooty, a beautiful but spectacular view. Coonoor15
a modern town on the outskirts of Ooty, sometimes also known as the capital of Ooty, is another must-visit place. Even though this is a modernized town, it still retains nature’s beauty and magnificence.
The people here are very calm and gentle in nature, believing in the notion of non-violence and non-pollution. Considering the fact that walking is a means of transport, you will often tend to see people riding on horsebacks.
We started for Mountain Home, as walking is not an option, you’d either have to take a taxi, motorcycle or even a toy train. The best way to travel would be by the toy train as you will experience breath taking sights, different types of trees, plants and animals. You also pass a big lake in the middle of Ooty, which is referred to as the “Lake of Ooty”, right after that you’ll see the entire city market. Once you reach Mountain Home you feel like you’re in a movie. The view is just breath taking and spectacular, the only color that you will see is green because this town is filled with big beautiful trees, plants and grass. Each cottage has a garden, lawn and different types of flowers surrounding the house. The mode of transport used here is walking, cycles, motorcycles and automobiles, but the town is pollution free as no cars or bikes are allowed into the main area. The type of cuisine found here would be of South Indian origin with a hint of “hill station”.
Then we headed to Coonoor the capital of Ooty. This small town is known for its beauty and large markets. People mainly visit Coonoor for its markets, there is so much to choose from- pure chocolate, sweets, fresh vegetables and fruits, pickles, special mushrooms and much more. Numerous springs and waterfalls are present here, not forgetting the collection of vintage cars driving all over the town.
Ooty is all about walking through God’s creation- nature, the ice cold breeze, green grass, birds chirp while people ride horseback through the thick fog. The hill tops of Ooty are always covered with milky white clouds which creates the image of a photographers dream.
entire market place are switched on giving it a glow, as the calls of vendors are heard. This is the only time when youâ€™ll see the whole town come alive and enjoy the evening after a busy day. The type of cuisine found here is purely South Indian, but none the less Ooty is famous for its homemade chocolates, macrons (cone shaped sweets), chikki, honey, woodcrafts, tea, coffee and much more. The language spoken here is Tamil as Ooty is a part of Tamil Nadu.
We then came across a huge race course track where frequent races are held, not to forget the big betters that come here. The one thing that you will experience is a lot of rainfall for which you have innumerous tea shops, who offer you their irresistible combination of tea and biscuits, the perfect antidote for cold weather. After our evening tea we headed for Blackwater Park, where you can have fun and dinner. The rides are thrilling with loops, twists and turns. Why is this amusement park a must visit, because itâ€™s been rated as the second best amusement park in India and it has some of the best slides.
The people of Ooty are committed to conserving the nature to such an extent that their government has banned the use of plastic bags. The weather experienced here is cloudy skies, rain, thick fog and icy cold temperatures. Being a modernized town now, Ooty can still pull the trick of being one of the most beautiful hill stations in the world.
As the sun sets, the cold winds start to blow and the market place comes alive. Lights which surround the 17
THE LAST LAMENT • Trissa Mathew
Born are many blessed Their heart, mind, soul to art And memories they live. Wish to relive, And now I part to my memory Wish I could relive. Family, my father sweetest. Praveen, 20 years older to me. Loved me. No, but stubborn I was Those Balarama I bought for. Yes stubborn I was Temper raised its ugly head And a chair I broke, in my fury Lifting it I flung at him My gratitude, for his love. But stubborn I was.
• Nishvin John
It was a normal day but special to me It was the day my heart ran for joy. Everything looked so beautiful, cool breeze, and the singing of trees. As if Mother Nature was smiling, more like I was being teased. The doors of heaven scattered its light ‘cause a young lad had to fight for pride. It did not involve sword and shield, It just needed love to come of a maize field Thick and green. All these years it was trapped deep Alas! When it is allowed to run free The time came closer and the wait too long, that perfect song sung by that perfect Goddess. Then the sky turned from bright to darkness, The hunter who set out to hunt became the prey, The girl I loved for a long time Said a two-letter word that made me Breakdown and cry. Mother Nature had tears rolling down her cheeks Even the doors of heaven shut at love’s cost.
AN EXPERIENCE UNTOLD… • Swati Satyashankar Silent tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched the doctors connect the artificial ventilator to my Grandma’s body. Her breathing varied incessantly. I simply stood there, not moving, not responding to the clutter of emotions inside me. All the moments I had spent with her- various memories from the past- kept tripping over one another, overlapping and fighting to be expressed. But I just stood there. It all seemed like an entangled web of a million images and voices. I felt as though I were sitting inside a time machine that transported me back to someplace familiar, to someone known.
her beloved, Rama, come quickly to rescue her from Raavan’s captivity.” I could hear it now, her sobbing, loud and clear. I could hear Sita cry; she was wailing like a child. She fell to the ground, still wailing loudly. The heartbeat monitor let out a monotonous beep - a sound that stung my ears. I cringed in pain as I felt two hands lift me up, take me away, away from witnessing sorrow, into a world of emptiness.
“Swati putti, don’t you want to listen to a story?” “Yes, Ajji. Please tell me a story.” “I will, only if you finish eating your food. Come here quickly and grab this bite from my hand.” As a child, I used to be extremely fond of Grandma’s stories- my favourite being the Ramayana. I would lie down beside her after lunch, and slowly drift away to sleep while she continued to narrate the story. “…and so, Sita cried in silence everyday and prayed that 19
A COINCIDENCE • Kunoto G. Chishi Characters Dennis : ex-hermite, 40 years old. Alicia : present hermite, 19 years old. Oprah : Alicia’s mom, ex-hermite.
(Dennis enters this re-union party. It was a Re-union of Hermites and he hoped to bump into one of old friends from his batch. But then…) DENNIS: Man, this is weird! ALICIA : (suddenly from behind) Excuse me? What is so weird?
DENNIS : Oh I am sorry, I didn’t mean to… ALICIA : No, no, no, it’s ok, go on and tell me. What’s weird? DENNIS : This re-union thing. ALICIA : Why? You don’t like the music old man? DENNIS : (asks himself- “old man?”) Yeah that’s also there and also I am in the wrong place. ALICIA : An old man like you in a teenage party? What do you expect? DENNIS: Look the banner says all Hermites are invited. ALICIA : So you’re saying you’re a Hermite too? DENNIS : Yes, I passed out this college in the year 1959. ALICIA : Wow! That’s 20 years back. What was it like back then? I’ve heard it was the top college back then huh? DENNIS : Back then? Why what’s wrong with the college now? Isn’t it still the top college now? ALICIA : You sure don’t know anything about Mount Hermons, do you? DENNIS : Not really, no. But I did know about it back then. What Mount Hermons like now? ALICIA : Mount Hermons is the worst college in academics and the worst in every other thing except for sports. Nobody has beaten the Hermons’ football team for the past 6 years now.
DENNIS : I see it still has its name for sports then. We were the best back then too. Our Cricket team was the best though. Well if you know the college is so bad in academics then why do you still study in this college? ALICIA: Uhh… I have two reasons for that. DENNIS: Ok, and what is that? ALICIA: The first one is, I love sports, and I play for the college -football and swimming. I would rather choose sports than studies. I hate studying. What about you? Did you also hate studying? DENNIS: Actually I did hate it initially, like when I was your age, but later I learnt that you gain a lot from it so you shouldn’t ignore it whatever you do.
is a Hermite too. I don’t know which batch she is from though. But yeah she is the reason I am here. DENNIS : Oh really, and what is her name? ALICIA : Hey Mister, where you getting at here huh? DENNIS: Woah, woah, slow down kid, I am just curious to meet somebody from my batch. ALICIA : And how do you even know she is from your batch? DENNIS : Exactly why I asked you her name, to see if I know her. ALICIA: Ok, ok, her name’s Oprah Radley. (Dennis suddenly bursts out laughing) What? You alright, Mister?
ALICIA: Yeah, yeah, I get that a lot from people your age, you people always keep saying that like YOU actually loved it.
DENNIS: (laughing) yes, yes, I am sorry, please excuse me; this is too exciting for me.
DENNIS : You seem like a grumpy one. What’s your name by the way?
DENNIS : You’re a sibling of my batch. Your mom and I were Classmates in French class.
ALICIA : Alicia Radley. DENNIS : (staring at her with that curious look on his face) Don’t tell Me! ALICIA : What? What you looking at me like that for? DENNIS : Oh sorry, no nothing just curious. Ok so what is your second reason for studying in this college? ALICIA : Oh right, Yes the second reason would be, (thinks for a while and then) yeah, because my mom
ALICIA : Well tell me already.
ALICIA : What? You had French in your time? DENNIS : Yeah, her name was Ms. Madini. She was scary and old. She was very serious when it came to doing our homework; she could get really freaky at times. ALICIA: How well did you know my mom? DENNIS : Not much really, I just knew her from our French classes and that’s all. I do remember though that she was a very studious girl and she loved quarreling with 21
the teacher. She seemed very stubborn, kinda like you. ALICIA : Yeah right. Anyway, she’ll be coming now in a minute or so. I am leaving, this party isn’t my type. I asked her to come pick and me up. DENNIS : Oh wonderful, then I guess I’ll say hi to her, it has been a long time since I’ve met her. ALICIA : (finally remembering something) Ah yes, I was on my way to get a drink, a soda. You want one too? DENNIS : Sure, yeah thanks. ALICIA : Alright in a minute. (Walks towards the door suddenly…) Oh, by the way, what is your name? DENNIS : It’s Dennis Garner. ALICIA : Oh. Alright then see you in a minute. (Alicia goes out.) (In the meanwhile, Dennis is just sitting down at the sofa and reading some magazine and from nowhere…) OPRAH : Dennis? Is that you? DENNIS : Hey Oprah, it’s you. (Hug each other and Oprah sits down on the sofa) How have you been? OPRAH : Good, good. Wow! It’s been quite sometime huh? DENNIS : Yeah, Thank god I met you. All thanks to your smart daughter, she has grown up to be just like you… OPRAH : Oh you’ve met her already? That’s nice. Yeah she has grown up. So, what are you doing now? DENNIS : I am in the Air force now and I am off for a
month, so just thought I’d come by and check out what this place looks like now and also hoped for encounters like this, you know. Things have really changed, nothing is the same. OPRAH : You bet, it’s 2009, what do you expect? Anyways why don’t you come over to my place tonight for dinner? DENNIS : Yes, I don’t mind, but only if you promise to tell me everything that has happened here since I left college. (Alicia enters) ALICIA : I see you guys have met already, here old man, your soda. OPRAH : Its Dennis sweetie. That’s his name. ALICIA : I know mom, he’s old anyways. DENNIS : (laughs) If you say so kid. OPRAH : Alright Alicia, get your stuff, I’ve invited Dennis over for Dinner, we’ll all leave now. ALICIA : I am all set. (Looks at her mom) OPRAH : (looking at Dennis) Shall we? DENNIS : After you ladies. (All leave.) (Curtains close)
THE WOMAN IN RED • Nimeshika Venkatesan
No: 26, Vadakku Uttra Street, Kanjeerangam - a place that had been through, colorful times, beautiful memories, and exuberant carnivals. Interestingly September 25th to 5th of October is migratory season for both birds and people. Sightings of kingfishers and African crows which are otherwise uncommon are dismissed like stray cows during the Kanjeerangam carnival. Tourists from all over the world flock here to snatch a glimpse of the Vanna Thiruvizhaya (Carnival of Colors). The town is also famous for its porridge (Kanjee) and poverty. Unlike other townspeople, the folks here are very proud about their rice gruel. It is prepared with different spices and offers a huge spread to choose from. The people especially believe in leading simple lives, just managing to scrape through the poverty line to escape nasty glances from the government.
in her twenties got off the rickshaw along with a man; clad in a rich red saree she stood out in the crowd of nylon clad woman wearing cheap imitation jewelry. Whining children, incoherent babble of ladies haggling with the bangle vendors, jarring temple music, drives tourists from all over the world to the Kanjeerangam carnival. The woman and the man walked on. “Adi Yey (hey listen), look here, that girl, she seems to be new! Have you seen her?” The other lady replied, “I don’t know, she is probably the corner house old woman’s daughter. Must have eloped with her lover and is in hiding now.” The lady and the man walked on, casually talking amongst themselves indifferent to what was happening around
Interference is yet another of the town’s favorites. Their intense consideration for others’ problems obliges them to assume the duty of probing into matters, when anyone appears to be in a crisis. The final decision, however, is left to the concerned party. On one such occasion, when the night sky was lit with stars and streets lit with carnival lights, a young woman 23
them. Subsequently the village elders contributed to the story, while pursuing their routine betel chewing ritual. “Look how beautiful she is, that woman, down the road, she looks like Goddess Lakshmi!” one old woman said.
womb. Bless her with children and all the happiness she deserves,” the round bellied pundit placed a slice of raw mango into the hands of the puzzled lady and went about his daily routine of ‘Aarthi’ and ‘Pooja’.
“Her husband is no less either. He looks like Sri Ram! I’m sure there must be some fault in the horoscope; otherwise I would have chosen her for my grandson,” the other lady piped.
The lady and the man, walked on. The following morning, in a village not so far away from Kanjeerangam, a huge poster is hung on the outside a tea stall.
The woman and the man walked on. “It’s a nice town, don’t you think? So lively and colourful,” the woman in red said. “Yes it is! The carnival is supposedly famous here and so is the rice gruel,” replied the man. By and by they neared the temple, a bunch of beggars pounced on the lady for alms, the woman, flung a few coins and shooed them away. “May you and your brother live long,” one of them mumbled. Meanwhile, words spread like forest fires in the town of Kanjeerangam. It was now the priest’s turn. “Oh lord, is this a woman or an Apsara. Why do you play with the lives of such innocent people? Don’t curse her with a barren
“Unidentified barren woman, clad in red, elopes with lover during Kanjeerangam carnival. It is being believed that the woman could be an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi”.
INTO ARMS • Swati Satyashankar
“Please clear your inbox, Mom. You won’t be able to receive any more mails from Ishaan bhaiyya if you don’t!” screamed Ishika from the living room. His e-mails clogged her inbox, but she still refused to delete them, however insignificant and trivial the content in them was. She was again carrying out the ritual of going through all his photographs, mails and his belongings that she had kept with her safeguarded for years. Thoughts of him clouded her mind each time she saw them, but not a tear of sorrow trickled down her nowwrinkled cheeks. Uneasiness suddenly came upon her as her mind raced to the one incident that she had been trying to avoid remembering. The flow of the past was too powerful now to control. It had managed to break the conscious fetters that she had tied them with. She was reliving the dreaded moment now…
didn’t want to face the world, she would find refuge in his embracing arms. From the corner of her eye, she saw him look at her while she pretended to not notice him. He waved and strode swiftly toward her. He then took her in his arms, and before realization dawned, she had lost herself! She was unaware of everything happening around her - unaware of the catastrophe that the next moment would bring in her life. She felt his clinched hands go limp around her, his body unbearably heavy on hers. She wasn’t sure if she had
Her stomach cringed with joy as she saw him walk in her direction. She knew she was entitled to his hugs, and they always made her feel good. She could forget all her pain and worries in his body’s warmth. Each time she 25
heard a gunshot an instant ago. People crowded around them, some expressing anxiety and some, curiosity. She stared at the sky blue hospital walls and was occasionally disturbed by people in white sprinting around in the hospital. Her eyes searched for him. She longed to see him, hold him in her arms again and never let go. Another man in a white coat stood next to her assuring her that she was perfectly all right and good to go. She only had a concussion. He only got a question in response – “Where is he?” She got no answer. She had gotten no answer in all these years. She did not know where he was, whether he lived or…no! She preferred to believe that he lived, somewhere. Her heart said so. For thirty-three years she had been telling herself that he was alive. “There’s someone at the door for you, Mom,” yelled Ishika. She walked slowly to the living room. A man in a grey suit with graying hair stood there staring into her eyes. He looked like he was in his late fifties. She narrowed her eyes and asked, “Do we know each other?” not recognizing the man. All he had to do was, stride swiftly toward her and take her into his arms.
â€˘ Nimeshika Venkatesan Twice I have been betrayed I tried to put behind The musty past But it ceases to fade away I looked at deserted classrooms, Memories that have derailed, Echoes of cheer and jeer Haunts me and Cease to fade away.
Fifteen years ago she went To that school And then she Never returned, I saw her duppatta stained with blood, And it ceases to fade awayâ€Ś
Empty lawns, football grounds, Just a glance away, Peeling paints, Musty scents Cease to fade away. Dusty plates, comwebbed chairs Is all that remains, Delicious aroma of dal roti Cease to fade away 27
â€˘ Kunoto G. Chishi
Declared as Deemed to be University under Section 3 of UGC Act 1956
‘Musings of Common Strangers’ is a collection of works, memories to be precise, that have touched our lives. The lives of seven individuals...