Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Little Devils



September 6, 2007


Usha aunty visited today. You know her, don’t you dear Diary? She the one with a mustache and likes to pinch little girls’ cheeks. “Look at those two little devils! Aren’t they simply adorable?” I winced at her remark. ‘Don’t call me a little devil; I am a TEN year old girl!’ I wanted to retort, but held back my tongue ‘cause my mom was there you know!


I’m tired of these aunties and uncles calling us –me and my little sis Anu- “little devils”. Now Anu is a proper devil if you ask me, little or not. You should have seen how she climbed into Usha auntie’s lap! Aunty even kissed her on her chubby cheeks. YUCK! I don’t know how or why she puts up with these adults treating her like a baby. I wouldn’t do it even for TWO lollipops, NO WAY!


It is Anu’s birthday tomorrow, her sixth. Dad said there will be a big party in the evening, balloons and all! He said he will be back from office early just for her b’day. Dad was away on his tour last month, when it was my b’day. But I don’t hate dad for that, to tell you the truth, dear Diary. Dad has to work, I know. I’m a big girl now. But I hate the little devil for having her b’day when dad is not away!


You know dear Diary, how it is with that snotty girl. She gets the first AND the biggest chunk of ice-cream or chocolate pudding or whatever that mom makes or dad brings home. And she gets to watch all the cartoon shows on TV. For me, it’s “Tanu, don’t you have to finish your homework?”


Dad had brought this doll for me, you know, the one that shuts her eyes when she sleeps. It was my b’day present. But the little devil cried and cried until mom let her have the doll. Dad said he’d bring me another doll but I said no,” I don’t want a new one dad. Let her have it.” “Look how our Tanu has grown up into a big sister! ” dad had said proudly to mom. But of course you know dear Diary, what fun we had that night, don’t you? As the brat went to sleep, I had taken the doll from her and cut its head off with the kitchen scissors and then put it back under her blanket. I wish you had seen her face the next morning!


I’m not going to school tomorrow. My favourite Mohan uncle is coming with his two kids. I like Raju and Meenu a lot. They are such fun to play with! Nitu auntie’s Bunty is another devil, but OK type of devil you know, oldest among us cousins. He will be here too. I hope he doesn’t fight with Raju.


Good night dear Diary! See you tomorrow.



September 7, 2007

What fun we had today, dear Diary!


Mohan uncle and Neetu aunty arrived in the morning. Bunty did not beat Raju up. Mom and the aunties were busy with the b’day preparations so they did not bother us too. We all played hide-n-seek, except Anu of course. Who would want to play with that snotty little devil? Bunty said we should let her play but I said no, “She will cry any time and will spoil our fun”. She did cry at that. So mom took her into kitchen and fed her all the goodies uncle and aunty had brought with them.


You know the basement dear Diary, don’t you? The one where dad keeps all sort of junk and where I feel a little afraid to go alone. Well, we played hide and seek there this morning. It is not as weird as I had thought. Dark and damp and smelly, yes, but so many places to hide! When it was my turn, I could not find Bunty at all. I had to give up before he came out of that big steel trunk in the darkest corner of the basement. As a punishment, he made me crawl into it and closed the lid.


It was very cramped in there, dear Diary. I could not breathe and was panting when Bunty opened the lid in a minute or so. “How did you breathe in there?” I asked him. “You have to hold the lid a little open, you silly girl!” he said. I told you he is a devil, didn’t I?


Mom made a BIG cake for the b’day. In the afternoon, Bunty and others went to the park to play. But mom made me stay home with Anu. “Come back soon. Anu will cut the cake at six.” Mom told Bunty. Then I helped Mohan uncle with balloons and ribbons.


Around five ‘o clock mom dressed Anu up in that silly frilly dress bought specially for today and then left her in my charge as mom joined the aunties in last minute preparations. I asked Anu if she wanted to play the special game we played in the morning. She said yes.

“See this big trunk Anu? You climb into it and I close the lid. You count aloud up to ten and then I open the lid. Got it?” I asked her. She said she didn’t want to. “Don’t you know how to count up to ten?” I taunted her. That did it!

Mom asked me several times but I stuck to my story, “She said she wanted to go play with Bunty and others, so I let her go.”


Everybody was searching everywhere for the b’day girl. But I stayed in the drawing room, watching the big cake on the center table. Even if they find her, how are they going to open the big lock I had put on the trunk, I wondered, when its key is buried deep inside this cake!

It’s the b’day girl who cuts the cake, no dear Diary?


***

© Rajendra Pradhan

Soft

[A play on clich├ęs]

Heart in his mouth, he pleaded, "Don't leave yet honey! Who will clean this
mess? Just give me five minutes and I shall finish my meal."


"Don't you have any manners? Don't talk with your mouth full." She retorted.

"I have to hurry or else I will be late for Rhonda's birthday party. She has
promised to bring some deliciously handsome guys from her office to the party. I am staying over. See you tomorrow. And don’t forget to clean up after your
supper"; she added with a hungry gleam in her eyes as she put on the sandals.

Still with his mouth full, he called out, "Will you bring one of your friends
home from the party, dear? But let it not be a blonde. I like the brainy ones,
remember?"


"Don't crack bad jokes. May be I shall bring one of those handsome men!" She
quipped back.


"You can have all the fun you like darling. But me, I have strictly
heterosexual taste." He persisted.


“If you keep that up, one of these days I will have you by your balls, slowly
turning over on a barbeque”; she shouted back at him. The thought brought a
smile on her crooked lips as she closed the door behind her and hurried to her
friend's place, like a bitch in heat.


Inside, he went back to his supper. He chewed hard and cursed his wife, "The
slut has once again left the dish undercooked! These urban bitches! They are
hard nuts to crack, even in pressure cooker situations!"


Settling down here in this metropolis had been her idea. "Lots of easy prey
here darling, especially for us who know the art of hunting" she had said with a wink. She had been right. With so many birds of different feather flocking
together here, the metropolis had spiced up their lives with variety, he
conceded albeit reluctantly.


Like a lion in his native Africa, he let his wife do all the hunting while he
stayed home and watched the telly whole day sipping beer. Getting up only to eat when hunger, that was as unavoidable as death and taxes, hit him in his
potbelly. ‘But tonight, the bitch has left the cleaning job to me’, he muttered
angrily as he returned to his lion's share waiting for him on the kitchen table.


Ignoring the look of stupid surprise frozen on the blonde's dead face, he
looked inside the carcass. It was cold as a witch's teat.


"Pity she had such a small brain! Not enough even for a breakfast. And the
liver we already had, at lunchtime. No soft parts left anymore! She must have
been one of those aerobic freaks. No flesh on her bones to sink one's teeth
into, either. There is more meat on a chicken's forehead than on this dumb
chick!"; fretted the cannibal who had been softened by urban life, as he plucked out shreds of uncooked heart tissue from his teeth.




***

© Rajendra Pradhan

Friday, August 17, 2007

Don't Ever Get Caught

Don't Ever Get Caught
an inspirational tale

In ancient India, gurukuls were the learning centers where students stayed for years until they graduated. Unlike modern institutions, the students of a gurukul would pay their fees only at graduation time and it was called Guru Daxina. At one such gurukul, at end of the course, the teacher gathered all his students and spoke to them. "Students, I have taught you all I could. Now I want my Guru Daxina."

The rich among his students offered to pay money and gold, but the teacher declined. He said, "My dear students, you have learnt the sixty-four arts here. Thievery is one amongst them. I want you to practice it and steal something for me. But remember this, the guru daxina must be stolen. You are not allowed to earn, beg or borrow the amount for my daxina. You must steal it. The second condition is that nobody should see you while you are stealing. See you back here in seven days."

On the seventh day, all the students returned with their guru daxina. Some had brought gold coins, jewelry, expensive items et cetera, all stolen from their own homes or from elsewhere.

But one student hadn’t brought anything. The teacher asked him the reason, “Didn’t I teach you the art of thievery? Why have you returned empty handed?”

The student replied, “Sir, I could steal anything I wanted. But you said nobody should see me while doing that. Well, I MYSELF was always there, seeing myself whenever I attempted to steal. So I could not meet your second condition. Forgive me please.”

Needless to say, the student was the only one who had paid the guru daxina his teacher really wanted.

Freebie Freedom

it is that time of year again, to take a break
from pilfering, politicking and tax evasion
as from our beauty sleep we wake
the plastic people of a neon nation

neon nation is lit like a Christmas tree
its glory shines across a global sky
to suffer and die in dark they are free
the meek ones who never ask why

never ask why we hoist flaccid flags
and what the celebrations are about
the culture story may be riches to rags
but we have now big economic clout

economic clout and the digital glory
have taught us a new kind of wisdom
who needs to remember the struggle story
let us wallow in our freebie freedom

freebie freedom, for we know not the cost
under the lights though shadows remain
in those dark voids don't you get lost
come on pals, it is that time of year again


(c) Rajendra Pradhan
15th August 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Cigarette

she wanted to hawk
a naked left breast
for the price of a cigarette

I said, I can get twenty thousand for the price
so why don't you include the right one as well

after all,
it is unmarked
as yet



(c) Rajendra Pradhan

I see a post on the river

little paper boats set afloat
bobbing up
and down

breathing a lungful
of comments and swimming up
for a while
before sinking, finally
in the murky depthsof disinterest

hoping to be searched for
and born again
into another life
or network

(c) Rajendra Pradhan

Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Poem’s Worth


“Poetry won’t feed you! Study hard and get some education. Only that will see you through life” my father scowled at me. I was not of money earning age yet. I might have been about twelve at the time. Still, my father’s remark was justified as I think now, looking back across all these years, notwithstanding the fact that I had proved him wrong, just once.

I was in sixth grade then and my teacher had given me an assignment to write a poem on Chacha Nehru, the first prime minister of India who was said to love children. I had no firsthand experience of his love, of course, and did not know what to write. 14th November, Nehru’s birthday which is also celebrated as children’s day, was round the corner and so were my midterm exams. Sometime earlier that year, my teacher had caught me scribbling something in my notebook that was not even remotely related to whatever was going on in the class.

She was a strict teacher even by the standards prevailing in those days. She confiscated my notebook, made me stand up and dealt seven blows on my upturned palm with the stout wooden ruler. To this day, I have not discovered the logic behind the number of blows, but she religiously stuck to the code. Three for being late, five for being absent, seven for serious crimes like not doing your homework or writing poetry in classroom.

However, I was least bothered with my smarting palm on that particular day. I will never see my notebook again, I thought. What a great loss for the posterity! Along with the notebook, the world had lost about a dozen poems scribbled in it during that term. What fine poems they were! Six of them had been about my dog and the rest were on various subjects like sky, moon and sun. But the one that worried me most was about the girl in my class sitting on third bench on the right side of our classroom. Will the teacher read that poem and make the right connection? How many blows of the wooden ruler are reserved for such heinous crime? I wondered.

The next day, I was called into the staff room. “So you write poems don’t you?” I detected a hint of scorn in her voice. “Sorry Maa’m. Won’t do it again” I replied with a trembling voice. She laughed heartily “that’s okay lad. I want you to write a poem on Chacha Nehru. You will read it at the children’s day function in the school. Just don’t do it in the class. Understood?” Then she handed me my notebook.

That had been the reason for my father’s flair up of anger. For the past three days I had been doing nothing but trying to churn out a poem on a man I knew nothing about except that he wore a rose on his coat. I was never too good at studies and father was worried about my upcoming exams. With a lowly government job and a large family to feed, he was right too. Only education would make something of us six siblings, he often told us.

So I told father of my predicament. That night he gifted me a small book on Nehru. I read the book and finished the poem. I was embarrassed to read my poem at the function but my teacher and the fear of her wooden ruler saw me through the performance. I will never write poetry again, I committed to myself, if it means standing before two thousand schoolmates and reciting what I had written.

A year passed and I almost forgot about the incident. Once again the Children’s day loomed large on horizon. Once again I was called to staffroom and as I stood trembling before the teacher, she told me that this year there was a poetry contest on All India Radio. The subject, to my dismay, was of course Chacha Nehru. No! Not again! I won’t write another Nehru poem! I was about to exclaim when the teacher told me that she had already sent my last year’s poem for the contest and that it had been selected!

So I was going to recite the poem on radio. Millions will be listening to me! I was numb with fear. But my father was overjoyed. In that week, he made me recite the poem zillion times, showing me when to pause and so on. Finally I did it without any hassles. There were just a couple of people in the studio when they recorded my poem and the event passed without major hiccups.

Life returned to normal very quickly for the radio star poet. I was busy with the midterm exam of my seventh grade when the money order came. A whole fifty rupees! I didn’t know All India Radio paid such handsomely for a half-heartedly churned out poem on Chacha Nehru. That night I showed the money to my father and told him triumphantly, “poetry pays!”

Many ages later, my poetry collection was to be published. Father was very ill. I wanted to postpone the event but he insisted that I should go ahead with the already arranged program, even though he would not be able to attend it. He watched the video of the publishing function later that day, lying on his bed. Three days later my father passed away.


Rajendra Pradhan
17th June the Fathers’ Day

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Code

Suleman was busy writing new code for his dream project. He could have delegated the job to any one of the three hundred and fifty software programmers in his company. If he wished, he could have assembled a team of the brightest among his staff and put a project manager over them to supervise the project. But this task he had chosen to do himself. This was the top secret project his company had managed to win from the international competition. He would not trust his employees to keep it secret.

Suleman paused for a break and ordered his secretary to send in some tea. He was tired now. Had been working all day long. As he waited for the cup of tea to arrive, Suleman thought about his childhood days. No one would have believed that Suleman would go ahead and start an IT company. He remembered the days when his father ran a small tea stall by the roadside in Mumbai and Suleman was the only and unpaid employee at the stall.

His uncle who lived in Dubai would visit them once a year and bring new clothes for Suleman. He had to make those clothes last the whole year. Suleman liked his uncle. The uncle would chide Suleman's father for making the boy work at the tea stall. Uncle wanted to take the boy with him to Dubai. But Suleman's mom would not have anything to do with it. "I do not want my child to become a gangster like your brother" she would say to Suleman's father.

Suleman remembered all this as he waited for his tea. "Why is it taking so long, Helen!" he barked into the intercom. "One moment Sir, I am just bringing it in, Sir" his secretary answered sweetly.

Suleman waited for Helen to enter his office. Good girl that, he thought. Nice curves and super efficient. He changed his secretaries twice a year. He believed in variety. A successful man like him has the right to indulge! Helen was his latest acquisition. Shall take her to Lonavala this weekend, he said to himself.

His mind drifted back to the project in hand. No one would guess the code I am thinking up, Suleman thought. Brilliant indeed! I am substituting commonly used words for other commonly used words! Sir means a pig in my code. Boss means dog. Madam means bitch. Yes means screw you... Suleman smiled at his own ingenuity.

"WHERE THE HELL IS THAT TEA I ASKED FOR!" a thunderous voice bellowed from the boss's cabin.

Suleman woke up from his daydream with a start. The big boss's secretary was glowering at him. "Come on you fool! What are you smiling at? Pour that tea into the cup. Boss wants his afternoon tea!" Helen, the secretary woman yelled at Suleman.

"Yes Madam" said Suleman, smiling inwardly as he meekly poured tea from his kettle and handed the cup to the curvy woman. He was still smiling when he reached his father's tea stall across the road.

***

© Rajendra Pradhan

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cleansing Souls - on a contract



(this was written for an exercise on Shakespeare and Company Network of Writers. The picture was the clue given.)

***

Hellooo! Hellooo ! Who is this? array kaun hai bhai? Will you speak up a bit please? I can't hear a thing over this din. Achhaa! So it is you again. Array bhai I told you na, don't call me so often. I am on it, I told you so already. Rest assured old man! This constant nagging affects the business, you see. Yes yes, I know how important it is to you. It is my business too!

What? You want an interim report? What sort of a client you are? Do you think we are one of those market research companies that ask silly questions to a few dozen people and then declare a winner of the election in a constituency of million voters, based on their 'opinionpoll'? We don't give any report shiport. No no no! No means no. Your job will be done and you will know about it when it is finished.

What? You insist? What nerve indeed! Listen old man, you have not paid me any advance yet. If I don't do your job, I don't get paid. Simple as that! What? You know I am smoking a cigarette? So you have put a spy on me, haan? So what if I am doing that? Can't a man enjoy his fag in peace?

No. Smoking certainly does not affect my image. Our clan has always indulged in much more deadly stuff. What is a ciggy compared to ganja and charas, I ask. This is India man! Not some demented country like America, which is taken over by those anti tobacco lobbyists. So put your phone down and let me enjoy my smoke.

***

Oh, you again? You won't rest until you get your report? So get it then, what the hell! Of course, I can swear, whatever and however I like. Now shut up and listen. I don't have time. I see a bakra coming this way.

So far in this week, I have washed thirty souls. Cleaned them of all sins, and some money too. What is wrong in that? Money is maya. Money is bad. So what if I reduced their burden of maya a bit? I have to buy my king-size Gold Flakes. And pay for this phone too. Consider it as my perk if you will. Okay? Now listen. I have to achieve my target of hundred souls a week. Yes I know that! So don't you waste my time.

But I must tell you this. River Ganga is very polluted nowadays. Almost filthy I would say. I myself have stopped taking dips long back, don't you worry about me. And I carry pure bottled water in my kamandal. But these pilgrims, I have to wash their sins. That is our contract, no?

I perform the pooja for them standing on the bank while they take their holy dip in the filthy water. So be prepared. Better make some extra room up there. Many of these cleaned souls may be already on their way to your abode.

Now you have got your report. Put the phone down and let me go clean some more souls. Ah, that group seems nice. So many ladies! Soon theywill be all wet. Bye. See you later!

***


(c) Rajendra Pradhan