Wild and Homeless Books

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‘Hello. May I help you?’ The woman at the bookshop stood in the centre of the room, a large digest held in the crook of her arm, a pair of vintage 50’s style glasses perched on top of her head. The wrinkles and folds of her skin were so pronounced it was hard to tell what she must have looked like as a young woman. Perhaps she was once admired, courted and coiffured. Now her skin appeared so fragile, I was afraid it would crumble into snowflakes at the mere touch of my hand. Most people wouldn’t have given her a second glance. To me, she was enthralling, like the withered pages of an old book. Continue reading “Wild and Homeless Books”

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Part Six

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The book was in tatters, the cover missing, binding broken, lying nondescript in a corner, inside a 2 ft by 4 ft wooden chest in the attic. Why it caught her eye that afternoon, amidst a mix of paperbacks and hardbound novels- crime, romance, travel books, biographies and encyclopaedias, she didn’t quite know. Continue reading “Part Six”

The Composite

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Jose deftly administers the final tempering on the ‘kadala curry.” The chick peas sizzle and protest before settling down like a gang of young boys reluctantly aligning with a new, sudden entrant in an ongoing gratifying soccer game.

Leaning on the wall, one hand resting on an ample waist, she scans the battlefield. Soiled vessels, spoons lie homeless on a greasy kitchen counter beside an open spice box; splattered yellow curry stains on the tiled wall behind the burner, a sink brimming with dirty dishes— a throbbing pain begins to radiate around her entire head. 

Jose strikes the ladle on the rim of the skillet repeatedly, compelling fragments of fused onions, tomatoes and spices, clinging on to the ladle for dear life, return to their simmering comrades inside the wok. Continue reading “The Composite”

The Morning Ritual

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Dimitri likes to brew his own tea every morning. He politely declines any offer from anyone else to prepare his tea, citing a preference for a distinct taste that he is accustomed to, one which he alone can brew. He fixes it- water on the boil, a spoonful sugar, a spoonful of tea leaves, a dash of milk. He strains the concoction in a cup, opens a cabinet and produces a tiny ornamental box. Lifting the ornate lid, he dips his thumb and forefinger into the case, takes a pinch of a secret ingredient and sprinkles it over the piping hot tea. The first sip, over a steamy haze, singes the tip of his tongue, rolls backwards hitting the roof of the mouth, and crashes at the rear of the throat like a waterfall. Piping hot steam with gold and purple hues rises from the cup, shuddering momentarily before settling onto his eyelids as condensed droplets, just like a bird that brakes its flight to swoop down on an overhanging branch and ruffles its feathers before perching motionless. The drops on each of the lids begin to draw closer, merging together into one before gently sliding into his eyes, forming a misty film. He walks inside the mist, finding himself in the middle of a thick pine forest, the trees deep green and far larger than he has ever seen.  Soaking in fresh rain-washed air, the forest snuggles under a quilt of a soft white cloud. A flock of larks hover above his head, singing melodiously even as they fly, unlike other birds who sing only when perched. As he reaches out to touch their magnificence, they scatter upon him a puff of silver dust, at once taking the shape of a Laughingthrush, instantly flying away, their characteristic laughing calls reverberating through the woods. Dimitri peers into the cup; the empty bottom stares back blankly. Continue reading “The Morning Ritual”

Of Books & Memoirs

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At St. Paul’s historic books library, rows and rows of books, yellowed with age, wait patiently.

Brushing aside a spider web woven loosely around, she pulls out a tattered hardbound book with faded gold lettering. As she opens the book and flips through the pages, a scent drifts through- warm and musty, like the inside of an attic. This one is different, she notes, from the one she gets from the books at town hall library which hosts more recent literature; perhaps it has something to do with the process of acid sizing in printing during early 19th century. Continue reading “Of Books & Memoirs”

Change in Aperture

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Photo “Isabel Nao

 

She joins him on Blake’s Peak in the late afternoon, just as the sun begins its descent. Her face isn’t remarkable in the conventional sense; her nose, eyes mouth, seem like unrelated pieces in a jigsaw puzzle wrongly placed near each other. But there is something else about her, he can’t quite put a finger to. The search ends the instant he looks into her eyes.  She smiles, not with her lips; it’s her eyes that smile instead, beguiling him into a calm undercurrent… like the eye of a hurricane, around which spins a storm. He turns away quickly, as if to inspect his camera. He is here to take her portrait pictures. He would do just that, and probably never see her again, he tells himself. Sitting under the warm autumn sun, atop the mountain, they talk- about her life, her passions. It helps him bring out the subject’s true spirit, make her real. It is only when the yellow ball of fire changes to hues of orange and then tangerine, merging with the sky like juice mix in a glass of water, that they realise there is little time left for the mountain portrait shoot that they had come for. They make a dash for a spot. She turns to the expanse of highland facing her. “Just think of who you really are” he shouts out. Something comes over her, like a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Her back straightens, her head tilts high.  A gust of wind catches her auburn hair. She raises an arm to hold it back, as if adjusting an invisible crown, a faraway look in her eyes. He sets a wide aperture to capture a shallow depth of field, so the background behind his subject is nicely blurred, making her stand out better. As he looks through his lens, amazed at the transformation –  the real Diane unravels, shot by shot, defiantly flaunting her own essence amidst the dwarfing mountains.

In Retrospect

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She learns about him for the first time at a literary festival.

He is one of the three new authors interviewed on a panel discussion amidst much fanfare. Bespectacled, self-assured, he has that intellectual, nerdy persona that writers often exude. He speaks haltingly; his husky drawl sliding easily in between spaces, amorously wrapping itself around his carefully chosen words, almost as if reining them in. Continue reading “In Retrospect”

Sometimes…

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You needn’t always
be raring to go
Some days you may just want to
stare out of the window

You needn’t always
turn out right
You can have mornings too
that may not be so bright

You needn’t always
be the sun
Be there every day
for everyone

You needn’t always
want to think
Some days it could be
an effort just to blink

It needn’t always
be about them
Sometimes it can be
about you before them

 

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It wasn’t his birth flower.

He was perplexed, the first time one had appeared, a lone speck of white with a yellow centre, like an unwanted weed in a garden. It seemed to have blended into his skin, like it was one of his own. A few days later, he had noticed another one and by the end of the month, the weeds had spread like buttons across the back of his hand. Continue reading