Saturday, June 16, 2018

Government Nouns: Electricity

The elders called it a miracle, as a village crowded around a battery-powered transistor radio, with a loud announcer hailing the Prime Minister’s efforts to finally electrify Leisang, Manipur, the last village without electricity in India. In a few weeks, a group of inebriated, and the cheapest-tender workers pushed a steely tower into the ground, broken with prayers, and yellow flowers. Twenty days later, the wires went up, disappearing into the distance, promising to return with the power of light, and sound, and progress.

The locals were ecstatic, cracking their savings into Edison bulbs, and yards of colorfully twirled wire, table-fans, and for the select few, free televisions for election votes.

When the power arrived, buzzing promises into every home, nobody turned their lights off to sleep and dream. The Prime Minister tweeted about it on his electricity powered cellular phone.

Rain-soaked animals could not cover in the darkness and/of human warmth any more. Scorpions died flip-flop deaths. Bed bugs shriveled up anemic. Mice broke skulls in coconut-lured traps, placed conspicuously in the lights. They sat on insulated wires, chewing at the rubber for nourishment.

Brown monsoon puddles, alive with malarial mosquito larvae, twitched stupid. A few clung on to the playful, matching-puddle-brown legs of a child, baked in the sun on labor days. Others barnacled the sides of a blue-ruled notebook-paper boat, filled with dreams in black ink, half-sinking in puddle water, immobile. Like the dreams.

So when a mouse-bitten black wire to power a lightbulb came undone in last night’s storm, it hung ominously snaky, in the neighboring puddle, waiting for revenge.

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Flight

Hands folded behind her back in expertly unbeknownst-to-fliers signage, she signals that the child that just stumbled in is afraid to fly. “First flight for the little one?”, she fake-grins at the mother that follows a second after, stumbling. She has no time to stop and listen or return the smile. Instead, she thrusts her three bags of life through the fat first class seats, much to their occupants’ pretend class-based annoyance.

Seated in Row 21, the mother straps her son to his seat, as he snivels nervously. The fear of flying is a shitty nobody, compared to the fear of where they were going, or the fear they just left behind.

Wartime flights. The frictional wheels of the airplane against the bomb-pocked runway, drowning the low-volume screams in the horizon, not so far form the airport. The whizz of the wings in smoky air, filtered through artificially perfumed air-vents. The smells of burning hair and skin – repugnant and throaty, now smelled like Febreeze, with a hint of reality. The pilot’s flight-plan, riddled with do’s and don’ts red contours of no-fly zones, as he blinks stupid and promises a safe flight, albeit long, chugs a shot as he presses on.

The coach stewards botox their smiles on, and offer everyone sympathy cookies, butterscotch. The sweet and crisp meal, sinks its artificial flavors slowly. The cabin, a series of teeth grinding, mastication, and imagination – of their best home-made lunch, nonpareil.

The luck to flee was an opportunity that didn’t offer itself to everyone. Some burned with the bombs. Others had their limbs blown as trophies. Still others yet had other parts atrophy. Children smiled buried.

The lucky flew.

“Are we there yet?”


Saturday, October 15, 2016

Government Nouns - River

Picking up her spade, she eyeballs left to right in a ruse of privacy, and shoves it with might into the moist and welling bund. The Kaveri bleeds silently and brown into her dried puddle of a yard. She cups a few handfuls to her face, dunks her two unkempt children in. They squeal and splash about.

Image courtesy: Flickr

Growing up along the border was often a confusion of this’s and that’s or this’s or that’s. You took the bus far north and you aren’t a Kannadiga any more. Or you slather your face yellow with turmeric and vermilion and traipse too south into Kongu Naadu and you’re no longer a Tamil. You either picked a side, or settle in the middle – a strange limbo of cultures in a disarray of border politics, not-my-job’s, and associated freedoms.

As a little girl, she often wondered how maps worked – did a cartographer really walk the courses, and dig his drafting pen deep into the soil with an invisible ink? How did he cross the rivers and seas?

Did the water taste better on the other side of the bund?

Her youngest smiles evil, as a warm gush of urine makes its way up the little pond, now large enough for her little plot of tomatoes and spinach. She tugs at his right ear.