Besharam bevakoof badtameeZ

Some words – Honest like a honey bee's, pure like a butterfly's and dumb like an Ogre's when I run out of stupid similes.



The train compartment was crowded as usual. Mr Clement climbed up on to the train bearing his huge suitcase and his not so huge frame. He had missed his Eighty-Thirty local like a lot of other people and was running late for work. A stable family life meant helping out your spouse in the kitchen, whether you like it or not. Punctuality at work naturally suffers when you don’t have the determination to push through your morning chores at break neck speed. Mr Clement was a calm and composed man. He was old as he was wise. He was of the opinion that a lovely night in bed was worth more than a professional advancement. Even if you lick all those asses that sat on top of you, and wiped them clean later; there was no surety that one would get acknowledged. The late Clement Sr had a few things to say about work-“Turning up on time, Doing good work, Getting people to like you- if you can do at least two of the above three gracefully you are a sure shot success”. Wise words from a wise man.

Mr Clement tried to adjust his suitcase so as to hurt as few people as possible. No mean feat this, in a train that crowded. You barely had to hold onto any straps to support yourself. Simple physics principles were at work here. Every action had an opposite and (nearly) equal reaction. All internal forces in a free body cancels out. You lean against a fat man, the fat man leans against a fatter man. The chain continues until you reach the gate, which probably supported the fattest of them all. All one had to do was to make sure that he or she doesn’t get crushed under too much weight. And the door- you can’t be too careful while being near the door. At times you wouldn’t even know where the train had reached, and presto manifesto- the door would slide open. A bunch of people who suddenly realized that their station had arrived would jump out in a jiffy, and another unruly bunch would jump right in. You had to have a lot of physical dexterity to survive all this.

Slowly and steadily the people in the train started thinning out. To the extent that Mr Clement could turn around and observe his fellow travelers. There was a slight commotion at the other end. He tried ignoring it initially. But the sound levels grew too loud and started breaking into his thoughts before he decided to pay some attention-

My Julie needs her space, don’t you point your finger at her that way. Uncouth philistines. What do you think of yourselves?”

A lady dressed in brilliant red was throwing words at random individuals around her as loud as she could. The clothes showed that she had copious amount of money but the choice phrases and that grimace meant she had recently acquired wealth. Married rich probably. She was accompanied by a poor excuse for a dog- a strange poodle with all its fur plucked out and a sad look on its face. The animal was the reason behind the arguments flaring inside.

“Why do you have to keep the dog on the seat? Can’t you see? This tired old woman has been standing for so long. It’s illegal to carry pets-“- a gentleman, middle aged; was trying to put across his point rather timidly.

Shut up! Don’t teach me the law. I know how the law works here. Why don’t you get up if you are so very concerned?” She just spat him off like gum.

“But can’t you keep it down. It’s just a do-”Another petite woman was giving her best try.

How dare you? Filthy bitch. Seat my poor child on the floor? Unclean rags!”

“Keep it on your lap then?” An intelligent looking teen gave words to what Mr Clement thought was the easiest solution to the whole problem.

What did you say? Do you even have any idea how much this costs? It is worth more than your house, for all you know.” The lady had gone too far.

Mr Clement, the devout Catholic that he was; drew a cross across his chest, prayed to the Lord and stepped forward. Four long strides and he reached the scene of action. Picking up the dog in one hand, he smoothly opened the window with the other. With the use of little force he threw the dog out and calmly closed the window.


The tired old woman who had wanted to sit for so long, stared at him for a while and then said-“You threw the wrong bitch out.”

With a cheerful smile Mr Clement replied, “I have done what I could”


-Sr Ja [19/02/2016]

*punchline courtesy of a lecture I attended when I was a kid-name and occasion have been forgotten. Apologies.



Manifesting Secrets


I needed hundred bucks, I got it from Appa’s almirah. Hundred bucks was a lot of money. A lot. That was the single biggest amount of money. The Gandhi on the note was blue- like someone had poured out all the blue ink in the world on a ten rupee note (after adding an extra zero of course) and rubbed their fingertips on it to spread the color. I learnt that in school. Gave a cool look to all my pencil drawings. Jeez! Hundred is a huge number. Learning to count till hundred is such a big deal. I was writing a letter to Appa and Amma – from “The Teachers of the School. To Father and Mother’. There was a format to a letter; they teach you all this in school. Formal letter format- for official purposes. Official was fancy word for serious. Or grown up. Or moustache. Or sari-wearing. “Giving hundred rupees to me for being a good student in school” would come under official purposes. They wrote letters for ridiculous reasons anyway- last week we wrote a letter to the Principal – all of us – thanking him for the summer holidays! Pshaw! As if he had a choice. So yeah, official letter it will be. Got out my composition book and copied the format with precision. Complete with subject, date and my sign. You ought to sign near the bottom right corner under your name- I always kept forgetting that. Last term, paper that was the only mistake I made. I wrote it in my neat exam handwriting, tore the paper from the notebook with a 30cm Camlin scale, and folded it right across the middle. Got an envelope from an unlocked drawer (Appa was a very trusting person) wrote the addresses (“From- The Teachers of the School”), kept the letter inside and dropped it inside the letter box before I went to sleep.

Next morning Appa took the letter from the box and smiled, and showed it to Amma.

She thrashed me.

Appa keeps telling her everything even when he isn’t supposed to. Amma was a bad bully. No idea why they got married. If she had kept her almirah unlocked like Appa did, I would have taken all her Gandhi notes and given it to the neighbor’s goat or something. Lucky for her that they have no goats. But how on earth did Appa know? Should have copied the informal letter format- knew I’d forget these things.

Damn English composition.

Akansha. My Akshi. She was tall, gorgeous and curly haired. I love butter chicken. She gobbles up panner tikka masala. I read Dawkins, Forsyth and Roy. She buys glossy magazines with girls on the cover- name immaterial. I was lucky if I knew which class I was supposed to go to, and she never missed topping a subject. I am not much of a talker and she happily takes my share too in a conversation. We fight, I disagree- she stops talking and wins any argument. She dances, and… well I can tap my foot in rhythm – almost always. I met her on the first day of college, and everyday hence. I adore her.

I call my parents every day. At least one of them. Even if I just talk for a minute, I summarize a day’s events. On the last day of college, a week after I got my first job, I call up my Dad having made up my mind to tell him that [Continue reading at ]

Ambareesh Sr Ja [08/07/2015]

[Article written for MADCUE | Reinvent. Title – Damn English Composition –

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When Fools Rush In.


Pink shirt collapsed on the carpeted floor without a thud. He fell slowly, and bled slower still. ‘Dark blood spilling from his skull like a secret’

A few hours before, Miss Sena Roy had sat staring at a kid across the street through her broken window. Lost in her thoughts, she hadn’t heard the phone ring the first time. When it rang the second time she heard it too late. She rushed to the vibrating table only to gasp a croaky “Hell-o?” as the phone became still in her hands. She checked the number- it was her agent. It had been months since he last called. Ages ago. She could hardly remember his voice by now.

The third time she didn’t wait on ceremony-“Hell-ooo! How are you Prem?”

Hi…” Pleasant and silky. Strange, but.

Prem could have been a bit on the female side- she had seen those pedicure pamphlets-but he was never female, per se. Her memory wasn’t that horrible, or was it?

“… Uhm, Mr. Prem isn’t working here anymore Miss Roy…” That explained it. Silky was a replacement for old Pretty toes. Heavens! How long had she been unemployed?

“…but I am calling to let you know ma’am, that there has been a call up for experienced hands in the role of-”

“YES. YES. I’ll take it!”

“… uh, yeah? It will be under the banner of-“

“I don’t care. Give me the date and venue’

“It’ll be at the……” Unpleasant but still silky.

“Fine. Just send someone over to give me the script det-”

WE DON’T do that anymore. You’ll have to come down and get it yourself. Have a good day”. Unpleasant and sulky.

She sighed as she heard the line go dead, and put down her phone. She glanced at the photos on the wall. Old but glowing in sparkling clean frames, these were just the best ones. There were so many others gathering dust at her home- her former home- she corrected her thoughts. Her parents’ house. Photos and the certificates. School, College, University, State. Hundreds. She ruled the stage once, owned it rather. Miss Sena Roy always felt more at home being someone else than Miss Sena Roy-in fact anyone else but Miss Sena Roy. No one saw a Miss Sena Roy anyway- there was only an annoying, rude, demanding, selfish girl who was pleasant on the eye and scintillating in her dialogue delivery. They looked at her through eyes, narrowed by reluctant acceptance- “She’d go places” they used to say- grinding their teeth.

Like a charm the wagging tongues worked- she got offers straight out of college. Far too many. She signed them all. Feelings of bravado and vanity perhaps? She did not want to recall. There was no role that she couldn’t do and she gave her all, everywhere. Money was aplenty. She did a record eleven films in her debut year. You read about one-hit wonders in the world of entertainment, those sparks that you think you’d seen; a blink of an eyelid- and you missed them. A strip tease of talent, and then they were Fate’s jokes. Nothings. A big zero- very like the number of successful films Miss Sena had in her debut year- none.

Miss Sena Roy was a ‘no-hit wonder’. Her career was remarkable in its un-remarkability. Films crashed and sank like rudderless ships. Her roles hardly grabbed any attention- that was worse than bad reviews. She wasn’t at fault in most cases, except that probably she shouldn’t have rushed and taken so many projects on. The money trickled off, followed swiftly by confidence and self-esteem. The fool that she was, she paid no attention to her mistakes and went about digging her proverbial grave. She took anything and everything that came her way- as if rushing her life on to save it. But the more she tried to quicken things, the more she sank. Sleazy movies, pointless roles- more and more rudderless boats. Another wave, another crash. It was all a blur now.

She sighed and woke up from her thoughts to knock on the door of the studio. The place was deserted, save a guard who opened the door and let her in. The script clutched in her hand, she duly walked behind and was led to a huge room and a tall, well-built, mustached man wearing a pink shirt behind a mahogany desk. While arranging flowers on a gorgeous heavy-looking vase, he exchanged pleasantries coldly – short replies in curt, heavy bass tone to her friendly, ‘I-love-butterfly’ voice questions. She proceeded to say the dialogues, and stopped soon- there weren’t many.

There was a minute of silence, right through which he stared at her. For lack of anything better to do she repeated the exercise. And waited when the lines ended. “Done. Do you have another set of lines?”

“No. Again!” he beckoned, walking towards her.

She was past the first half of the page, when she gasped short- as she felt a cold, calloused hand creep up her shapely thighs. The lights seemed to dim. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The hand went further on, as if on cue– greedy and searching. The room reeked of gleeful, shameless lust.

She turned around and slapped him in a spilt second. Years of sorrow strengthening the blow, like hot oil into a fire- of fury.

Brushing the blood of his lips with the back of a cold, calloused hand- he leapt at her like an animal.

For the first time in many years, the fool that rushed in at life that day, was not Miss Sena Roy. She was carefully seizing a firm grip on the heavy vase, behind her.



Ambareesh Sr Ja

27/06/2015- [“Dark blood spilling…” – Quote credits- Arundhati Roy, 1.38 – God of Small things]

Broken Diamonds.


“I’m angry. All the time. That’s why I never smiled at you in the lift. I hate the new lifts. The old ones, the ones that remind me of ‘Silence of the Lambs’ were perfect. One could just slam them dead, and smoke away in rage. It always left fellow travelers in a state of confusion. ‘What did I do?’- I could read it off their faces. Why do you have to ask me stupid questions all the while? Why do you care where I worked? Why do you want to know if I’m married? It’s 9.88 seconds on average from the 6th floor to the lobby, and you want to make conversation then and there? Why? Because it is socially acceptable? Well, you know what? I don’t want to be socially acceptable. For all that matters I don’t even care if there is a society. There, I said it.

It never occurred to me that I was special. It never will. Oh yes, the people around me kept telling me that I was. When I could read by two, write by three and remember remarkably well by four. Solid data, and at good retrieval rates. There were a lot of competitions. They were all easy. I wasn’t the smartest, but the others weren’t that smart either. That was my explanation. I hated it all. It involved a lot of standing. Right from waiting for my turn to be asked questions; to waiting for the speeches to end so that I could collect my certificates. I hate standing. I hate queues. For an average 25 year old, I hate a lot of things.

Then there were Ma and Pa. They were nice. Or so I have been told. I don’t recall meeting them. Maybe I was busy learning word roots. That’s how you remember a billion words, by the way. You learn what the root means, and learn a million other small things and learn how they are tied together. Billion words. Any language on earth. Ma- they say was a good teacher; taught English in the neighborhood school. She looks gorgeous in all the pictures I have. Pa was a lawyer. Not sure how good he was in the court, but he must have been a lousy driver. Otherwise I could have had them both around for some time more. I hate truck drivers. Especially the ones who drive fast, and rash.

I was good at chess. Before I stopped playing it five years back. I hate anything with black and white now. I was ruthless in blitzkrieg. They have rankings. You can look up my name. I was good. When I played.

That being said, you can look up my name at a lot of places. The record keepers love me. Loved me. I was always not rude. The latest issues probably wouldn’t have me in them. But the old ones surely would. Look for the ones starting with ‘The youngest… ‘. There would be one complete page, at the very least.

I don’t know why you asked me out. Dates weren’t my thing. Girls aren’t. Romance isn’t. But I don’t recall talking to anyone like I did to you. You don’t make me angry either. Well, not anymore. I was, when you stopped me outside the lift. I don’t know why you are doing this. I am so confused”. He broke down.

“Honey, it is fine. You are panicking. Reception is in two hours. I think you should go change.” She smiled at him lovingly, before ushering him into the room. “Oh also, I knew whom I had stopped at the lift. The newspapers always had photos”


Ambareesh Sr Ja


She’ll give them back. Touchwood.


Have you ever watched a woman painting? I haven’t. I’m not built for that kind of appreciation. I get mesmerized by a minute of graceful dancing, when I lose myself in oblivion. But admiring paintings is way ahead of my gnat-sized attention span. Let’s reframe this then, shall we?

Have you seen an empty canvas? Have you seen a beautiful painting that made you …


The interim, between empty and beautiful- needn’t be interesting. Unless, you could see the painter herself in person. A creative soul making a novel work of art- she would be smiling without knowing it, forgetting for a minute or two to brush away that annoying strand of hair from her face, giving no care for a speck of dirt in her eyes. But sadly this image can take one person at most, and hence this can’t be seen outside this sheet of paper. Still, close your eyes and see her.

I digress. Beauty is truth. But truth is an eventful distraction.

The interim is what I’m trying to recall. I have a beautiful painting, and I had seen the empty canvas. Mind you- the empty canvas was beautiful too- to look at, to touch and smile at. I was happy with my empty canvas. But once while I was looking at my empty canvas, a painter walked in. She was beautiful, as all painters are. Clad in pearl white, she sung me to sleep. I slept. And slept. And I slept some more.

I am looking up now, and the canvas is beautiful. I don’t want my empty canvas now. I realize that canvases were never meant to be empty. But I can’t remember how long I had slept. I am a bit worried, for I can’t see the painter around. The canvas in itself is interesting. There’s a slice of  the sweetest orange, next to a sparkling glass of champagne and a pearl white painter’s brush.

Now I wanted to see the painter. I needed a favor. I didn’t know where to look. So I slept, I wasn’t tired, but it seemed right to just sleep.

I slept some more. I woke up.

There was a green fountain pen in the canvas now. I hid the other three, the pen looks ugly. I  took a peek at the brush. Too white. The glass looks too sparkly and the orange too sweet. I take a step back. Now the four of them together; look, well-very odd. But they fit. It’s kind of beautiful. I love the canvas.

But now the painter walks in. She needs to borrow the canvas. I oblige.

She says she needs the slice and the glass for a while.

She says she’ll give them back.

She is trustworthy, but the pen and the brush look very sad.

I am too.

I will miss the slice of orange and the glass of champagne, a lot.

They are the best I have.

With love to you two, Sr Ja.




“Have you been fucked… Neel?”

The question lingered in the smoke that had ejected with the words, and it seemed to hang there forever, before– “No.”

The pause should have been awkward, since there were just two of us in the room, and my name wasn’t Neil. Or Nilak. Or Neelakanta, or anything that could be shortened to Neel. Still, the name wasn’t as important as the question. Maybe the wrong address, quickened the lie.

“I’d thought so…. Ever…..  Ever smoked a cigar?” the voice was dreary and rugged, and had seen its share of fire and ash to get that rasped edge. Blunt but not broken, sonorous yet not strong.

“A Cuban? No. I don’t think so.”

No thinking, on these terms, Steve- go on, take a bite- and don’t worry- these ain’t Communist! Hahaaahhh…..”

The laughter was a full one, one that rung in the air and forced you to join in, even if the idea wasn’t remotely funny. The wrong name did not bother me this time – not enough to refuse the offered packet. A pleasant hour of silence passed. Red light seeped in through the broad tainted glass. The windows were fastened, but transparent. There were hardly any furniture on the floor, unless you counted a broken sofa. It must have belonged to an old lady, downtown. She must have made that embroidered sheet- pieces of it still clung on- as if reluctant to leave a carcass. She must have sat through the monsoon, with her cat by her side. The cat might have died, and it was probably still inside the sofa. Nothing else would explain the room’s odour.

“You know why they banned these? Hah, Reed? All these……? Alcohol…. And cocaine, and….. Smoke….and cigarettes and … whiskey…. And women… and whiskey?”

“Women aren’t ba-”

“YOU know why? Because these- make us men- make you, alive. And they are all afraid of the living. They all want you dead and broken and …. Lifeless. Not the live ones, Oh no no, never, ever-”

The clock chimed ten times, and he kept muttering through it all, and while it subsided- I couldn’t wrap my head around his words. There was no pressing need to clarify, or any assurance that he’d remember whatever he had blabbered. He took a long draught and let a sheet of smoke rise up through the nostrils, clouding his eyes. That technique-It was called something fancy, something after France- I could never recollect the trivialities. It was terribly annoying.

Another hour of sullen silence, yet the train of thought hadn’t past the last bridge, fully. Oblivion and pleasurable bliss were banned to keep us dead inside? Couldn’t be. How could something dead, care? Be cared for? How could something dead fall in-

“You fallen in luv, Bran? Ever? Huh?” The gruffly old beard, could read my mind now. Great.

“Yes, Guv’nr. Yes. Over and over and over again- a hundred times the very least.”

“Hahaaahhh! Good for you, son, good for…..”

It was true.  Every single day, every single time I killed the ones I was paid to – I fell in love. Especially the brave ones. I had a choice. Indeed I did. To walk away and meet a wife and kiss her and cry on her lap like a baby. But I wasn’t a strong man- I could never cry. Couldn’t shed a drop, even when they slit her throat and dropped her at the doorstep.

That was the second time I’d fallen in love. And since then, every single time I let the crimson warm color drip, I fell in love. It was magical.

The clock struck twelve.

“Mind if I borrow these, Guv’nr? You won’t be smoking no more” He nodded drunkenly.

I stood up.

Next morning while washing the blood stained shirt, I got it. French Inhalation- that’s what it was called.

-Sr Ja [22/12/14]

Et tu brutal?


                               I find it difficult to say ‘No’. It’s my Achilles heel. Not that it’s my only one- imagine a human centipede with thousand feet, and this is a particularly rotten heel. It crudely influences the way I think, act and in some chronic cases – even speak. I avoid confrontations as much as possible and when I absolutely have to, I make it as brief as possible. No blowing off steam to instil fear, no pulling smug faces to induce guilt. There were instances when I rarely did, but then those were really desperate times. All the other while my default excuse was – “Char log dekhenge toh kya sochenge?” (*what will others think?)

Tch Tch. Such an average Joe.

Hard decisions. How do you make hard decisions? How do you decide whose head would roll when they wake up on a pleasant Monday morning, unaware in bliss? At what point does being conscientious cross over to brutality? Funny how our brains are hard wired to ask the wrong questions, all the time.

Cruelty is remarkable. One, among very few things, that truly depends on perspective. It closely resembles a diamond. The bright emanating rays are due solely upon the way you hold it up in the light.

Take a deep breath, lean back and look away from the silver screen for a moment. Go into that Sherlock-esque mind palace of yours; it might not be as well illuminated as his, but you can still find your way around. Move into those dark nooks and corners, struggle past a few sticky cobwebs. There you shall find them, buried deep underneath those dusty scrolls, where they were conveniently forgotten. Now you see them, vivid and clear. All those deeds of blood curdling savagery.

Did you just shake your head in disbelief, mocking my self-righteous rant? You did. You just pulled a come-on-I’m-too-sweet-for-this smirk! Go on- dim the lights, tilt the screen, look at your image, turn to your good side and fake a smile. Hey! You look so adorable. How convincing!


Perspective. Being on the right side of the wrong wall.  Nothing is ever the way it seems. A routine act for a spider is “ …chaos to a fly”.

But let this all not alarm you. If it wasn’t for all this ‘perfect imperfections’ wouldn’t we all be boring empty bottles of wine?

Remember the diamond analogy? Ruthlessness has its own matchless value. How do you think we outlived those gigantic flesh eating monsters? We suffered, we let suffer. We survived, we had to.  There wasn’t really another choice.

  Sweet are them pair of eyes,

That didn’t see those bloody nails.

Aren’t only those wise,

Who don’t hide their lies?

But that was long long ago, and I don’t see the point of it all now. Maybe I am an average Joe after all, I don’t get the bigger picture, God bless the rest.

Greed may be good, I’m not so sure of cruelty. I don’t mind a bunch of Gekko-s, but another Hitler? No, Thank you.

-Sr Ja

(May the souls of those little angels who perished in the horrific Taliban Peshawar school massacre, rest in peace)

Rooted Lives



Mamma kept insisting that plants had feelings.

Despite holding a doctorate to her credit, she held a few staunch beliefs that could barely be termed scientific. Being the prime fighter for rationality and logic in my small household, defeating her in pseudo-intellectual debates had become my life’s mission. Women, in addition to their superior peripheral vision, are gifted with an amazing repertoire of ways to win arguments. Dealing a royal flush is easy as opposed to proving your point.

So I ask- if that’s so, “You, being a vegetarian, are equally guilty of being cruel, right?” She rolls her eyes, withdraws and murmurs something about ‘always thinking  of food’, leaving me unsatisfied. While I’m thinking of something imaginative, yet immune to such theatrics, she proceeds to narrate incidences which prove her point.

Exhibit A: The mango tree in our front yard. Apparently ‘she’ (don’t even ask!) gave us a precious bunch of mangoes three summers ago. Granny, acting purely out of kindness, donated a couple to our mango-less neighbors. That the tree has stubbornly refused to bless us with mangoes ever since, is a fact. According to my mother however, ‘she’ is pissed, and might favor us when ‘she’ grows older and, hence obviously, wiser.

Exhibit B: The hibiscus plant which flowers when I get home. Though I argued that flowers are seasonal and  my visits were too, it once bore a healthy blood-red beauty when I visited home in the middle of a semester- uncanny. The long commute between Goa and my hometown is a dampener to my intentions of proving that, this particular piece of flora has no surreal awareness about my travel plans.

I have heard about plants having heartbeats or a pulse or another equivalent, I’m a bit hazy on the details. It does seem plausible, but…

To be pinned to a spot all your life. To serve everyone in all ways possible. To die with no qualms and still be a boon to the living. Altruism cannot be better portrayed.

I had often wondered why mothers should love their children. Could it be that they are afraid of societal wrath if they do not? Most of us as children were, and some of us still are and will be, selfish bastards. Hence the oft quoted – “…with a _____, only a mother can love”. Seems such a raw deal. Maybe love means a lot more than those four letters could ever represent.

Indian women across the centuries have been the trusted trees who nurtured our culture and nudged it forward quietly.

Not that they are weak or need any protection.

But we all have stood under one’s shade or planted another.

Let us take a step back, and open our eyes, to mend our ways.


Stop pinching their leaves, peeling their barks.


Be a real husband, father, brother, son.


Be a real man.


 Inspired by :

 Disturbed by :




Sunlight peeped in through a narrow slit on the wall near the square window. Windows and doors served no real calling for the shackled soul. They held their charm for the unchained- for them it was a source of ­­­­hope- a flickering, but charming ray of hope. For Martin however, hope was a long forgotten feeling. He remembered it as something wonderful, much like the lust for warm flesh, which he had felt somewhere deep inside, long back. It was all long gone, like a summer rain, pleasant but pointless. The sweet memory was its purpose maybe, but he did not care anymore.

The wall was covered with lines of charcoal. Thin short black lines made in bunches of four, crossed out by a diagonal one to mark a fifth. He had ran out of coal a long while ago. Probably five years or a few more before, he wasn’t sure. It couldn’t have mattered less, he had ran out of space anyway. He forgot when he had started counting the days inside the cell. It was surely when he was all set to get out, and go on – thirsty for life. The guards mocked his enthusiasm and fiery spirit. In a stinking rat hole where two grown men could hardly lie together in comfort, he tried to keep himself strong and fit. “This chap has gone bonkers”, a sergeant said when he had seen him running to and fro inside the cell. “Doesn’t he remind you of a mouse?” cackled another- but panting under the weight of his own mass he had muttered through clenched teeth- “They are coming for me, and that day you will all know”.

Quite unlike in the movies, they never came. There was no great escape. No clever ploy to worm out through a hole in the wall behind a Raquel Welch poster. He never accepted his fate for a long time. He could never give up, the spark had to stay alive. He almost strangled a prison guard who brought food, for a chance remark that he – “ all fallen rebels, is a coward”. A brief visit from the duty office later, he could whistle through the gap in his bleeding front teeth.

­ Political prisoners were never freed, for they were traitors to the nation. The affairs of the state were most confusing for the police personnel. If the regime fell, the prisoners of today would flay them alive tomorrow and they could well share the darkness with the current top hats. In all fairness, the scepter had changed hands four times in the last quarter of the century alone- permanence, peace and prosperity being promised to the people each time. The current reign however was remarkably different, and they all felt it quite early. Le Nouveau, or The New One; as he was popularly known, was ruthless like none before him. He was meticulous in his planning, prudent in his ways and impossible to predict. Within weeks of his ascent the corrupt bureaucrats had disappeared without a trace, and no one bothered to enquire further. He held his ‘friends’ close with terror and his enemies closer, with pain. Any bearers of the old ideologies were either wiped out or condemned to indefinite imprisonment, like Martin.

He was tortured, long after he told them what he knew, well aware that he couldn’t possibly reveal anything that they hadn’t realized already. Still the screws turned, nails cracked and blood dripped. He had to denounce his beliefs and fall in line. They took him apart inch by inch, and finally broke him down.  He screamed for mercy, plead forgiveness and professed his loyalty. Everyone loved The New One, it wasn’t a question of choice.


The door creaked open letting in a painful stream of light and unfamiliar noises. Like a ­blind born piglet hiding under its mother sow – he ducked his head behind the stinking closet. He suffered from hallucinations lately. Sensory deprivation and regular blows could compete with any drug. It was all in your head after all- like his father used to say.

A jab to his ribs made him double up in agony.

“Get your stuff, sign the papers and leave these clothes at the gate.” His manners hadn’t changed, though he had put on weight since their last encounter. But again he couldn’t be very sure, there was so much blood trickling down to his eyes then.

“Today?” he gasped, rubbing his side. Hallucinations weren’t accompanied by bruises, usually.

“Now! On your feet. I do have other work to do, you know? Ungrateful swine!” he spat, turned on his heels, and the noise subsided as fast as it had risen. The door was left open, and a guard outside- polishing his rifle, looked at him with disdain.

What he saw, thought Martin, as he staggered up clutching the wall for support, was a pile of bones and skin. What he saw, struggling to stay on its stick legs, was barely human. One couldn’t blame the guard- he was nothing but the uniform he was wearing. Uniforms never had eyes.

‘…….has been granted on the lines that the aforementioned shall not indulge in any form of anti-national activity, which includes propagation of…….’ Quickly signing on all the papers, he extended his arm, returning the pen- signaling that he was done.

“You better not come back”,  said the young sergeant as he struck his listing off the rolls.

“I sure won’t. And you better not forget my name”. He smiled. The uniform frowned and led him outside.


He got a carving knife for ten francs near the capital.

“How do I get to the Élysée Palace, son?” The kid pointed east.

“Hasta la victoria siempre”- he winked and walked on, whistling through that gap in his teeth.




 “I don’t care if I fall as long as someone else picks up my gun and keeps on shooting” –  Ernesto Che Guevara 

Being Indian




Dear Steph,

How have you been? I hope you are as happy, healthy and vibrant as when I first met you and I wish the same for all the people that you care about and who care for you.

As I recall reading not a long while ago, time and space are relative. Though you may claim to know it already, I’m pretty sure that most of the people I know are not aware of the magnitude of this relativeness.Time and space- they pass way more swiftly as we get older. Take a 4 year old kid and his father for example. Imagine him crying for candy around noon, and the strict Dad asks him to finish his meal first. One year for the kid is 25% of his life time (so far). The same is about 10% for his father. When the kids are ordered to wait for a couple of hours for their goodies, what grown-ups don’t realize is the fact that it is equivalent to making them wait for a cup of coffee for half a day or more. I’ve heard of couples who got divorced for less than that.

I would love it if you were to keep the above relativeness in mind while reading the rest of the letter. On a later date, and from a later perspective- anything and everything mentioned here may look, sound or feel different. It is due to the state of transience we live in.

How is it to be an Indian?

A seemingly simple question that you threw across my cognizance has snowballed into something that forced me to get lost in my last score years of memory.

Imagine living in a country which hosts 1 billion people and 1500 languages. From Ayyavazhi, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam and Hinduism to Zoroastrianism I can safely presume that there is a religion for every letter of the alphabet- and some of them originated here and spread far out into the world. This is just the beginning. Soon ‘Indian’ would literally be used in favor of the word ‘diverse’. Make a note. You heard it here first.

In India, if one were to sit in an express train and take a nap, she might wake up in a place where the spoken word is unspeakable and the food unrecognizable- even if you were truly Indian in all respects. The beauty is, this might happen if you go in any of the four cardinal directions; the outcome being different every time. Never be startled if you run into fifty different type of Indians, and I am sure you are to meet a dozen more. Ten years ago, if you chose a set of twenty people across the world- one would be an Indian. By 2015 one in seven would probably be an Indian. As someone jovially pointed out, this is indeed a unique way of world domination. We’ll all jive to different music, lick clean a million different delicacies, wear a thousand traditional clothes unique to their last strand, and pray to one among the 330 million Gods that are supposedly praised in our holy scripts.

We invented the zero.

We boast of the richest men and the filthiest of slums.

A majority of my fellow countrymen may not give a hoot for any kind of sports, except for cricket. We are yet to qualify for a soccer world cup, but when a man named Sachin Tendulkar used to walk down to bat, even the million Gods stopped to watch.

Here broad mindedness may still be a rare quality. Remnants of  parental control run through our genes, and with the turn of the millennium all of them wanted their progeny to be engineers or doctors. Marriages are ‘arranged’ for you by your elders and someone might still question the need for ‘finding’ your soul mate yourself, and so you might very well sleep with a person you’d no idea existed a month ago, on your nupital bed. Mini skirts are frowned upon, and rape is often seen as the victim’s fault.

However, what makes people interesting are the things that they love and not the ones they hate. Nine out of ten movies we make might qualify as musicals according to western standards. But I admire the way the colourful songs celebrate love and life, no matter how ridiculous the lyrics may sound. I love the fact that we are so strongly bonded to our roots, and the proud heritage. That marriages last for decades, till death does them part. That most families that I know of take care of their previous generations with love and respect. That even if you don’t have a dime of money in your pocket, you can survive for weeks. [Unbelievable? The Golden Temple of  Amritsar, Punjab (A state in Northern India) – provides food for a hundred thousand people irrespective of their sex, religion, cast, creed or birthplace. Every. Single. Day]

I thought of a hundred things to tell you about my country when I had first heard your question, and a million more by the time I picked up my pen. I could ramble on about the gorgeous places and the culture and the cuisine and ….the rest of the million things. But all of this is easy to find. What I think would be beyond staring, at this peninsular nation through a satellite-run-periscope, is understanding the way it makes you feel. Imagine your favorite type of music blasting in your ears from a set of headphones. Literally to the brain numbing level. Believe that happening to all of your senses. Add to it the enormous magnitude of size, novelty and diversity. There you have the recipe of this amazing country.


Incredible India!


Where everyone is truly alive.



Yours lovingly,

Ambareesh Sr Ja.