River had tagged me way back in time.

And as a ‘tagged’ someone, I am supposed to send this online probe to 8 unsuspecting victims. So here goes my end of the bargain:

* EIGHT things my errr… perfect lover should have: an extremely high tolerance for quirky behaviour, the gift of finding beauty in strangeness, a nose for sniffing out mood changes, a hunger for liquid pleasures, intoxication in the eyes, a body built for bedroom adventures (not necessarily in the bedroom), a mind that’s mostly out flying and a mouth that knows its meant for better things.
* The sex of the target: Preferably female but she can also be male.

And my eight victims are: Le Chitelier, blow, scout, Nimbu, Raghav, Ms.B, km and Sue hardy-Dawson
Begum Zaitun was 30, suicidal and very brave.

She had lost her husband a few months ago. At home the slurs were becoming unbearable. They questioned her competence as a wife, as a woman, even as a human being. Begum Zaitun was a fresh widow. From Chhote Khan's much-loved wife she had become Zaitun, the witch. Suicide seemed like a release from the prison that had once been her home.

So she walked. Walked towards the dreaded Chambal. The refuge of bandits and outcasts. The river that circumscribed her small walkable universe.

It was early dawn. Zaitun was walking her last mile. First time out, without her white penguin veil. She found herself a jumping spot, in the middle of the old stone bridge. Suleiman and Zarina, her surviving fifth and seventh born, were with her, on either side. Zaitun had planned to follow her husband. To the end of her walkable universe. The river. The refuge of outcasts. With her entire family. The slurred, 'black-faced' family. She had become a husband-eater. Bad luck buzzed over her head like hungry flies. They said, she should have died in the cradle. Still-birthed. Finished at the beginning.

But she lived.

"Hold my hands and close your eyes," she told Suleiman and Zarina. And she jumped into the Chambal. When Zaitun touched the water surface, it opened its mouth to welcome her. It was a moment. An awakening. A thrill she had never felt before. Zaitun had entered another universe. Not wet, not cold but light-headed and flushed with a silver iridescence.

Suddenly she was not inside the river but walking on it. Walking towards a man with long hair and a beard. He was wearing a white cloak made from a fabric of light. She had never seen him before.

"Who are you, sa'ab?" she asked momentarily blinded by his brilliance. "I am a lost soul, a lone woman: husband-eater and cursed mother... But who are you, sa'ab? Your kind one doesn't see often? Are you an angel? A saint maybe?"

"I am Jesus." His voice was like the chorus of a thousand minstrels, each singing of his own loss.

"Oh the Christian god."
"Maybe... but I am older than that."
"Do you believe in Allah?"
"Do you believe in resurrection?"
"I don't know. What is happening to me, Jesus?"
"Change."
"But why?"
"Because you willed it."
"How?"
"By jumping in the river."
"I had nothing to live for."
"What about Suleiman and Zarina?"
"They are children. They would go straight to heaven."
"And what about me?"
"You? I don't know... Where are my children?"
"They are safe."
"But why did you save me?"
"Habit."
"You mean it is your habit to save people?"
"You could say that."
"Can I see my children?"
"Yes, but first you must see something else. Here, look over there."
"What is this place? Is this what lies beyond the river? It's beautiful... what is this place?"
"This is where you must return."
"Can I enter now?"
"No, not now."
"But... I have nothing to live for... please let me enter this paradise... yes paradise it must be."
"No, not now. You have your children to whom you must return."
"But when will I be able to enter this place."
"Soon."
"How long is soon?"
"When the time is right."
"Oh please don't go... wait.. Suleiman? Zarina? Where did you children go?"
"We were here, Amma. Someone saved us from the water. But you were unconscious."
"Did you see him? The man who saved us."
"Yes. It was a fisherman from the other side."
"What did he look like?"
"Like a fisherman, Amma. Are you all right?"
"Yes, son. Let's go home."

And home they went but Zaitun had changed in ways more than a suicide ever can.
We're at the circus. I can see through the horse legs, the stables, the lifted tent cloth. We're standing somewhere near the ticket counter. I'm attached to my dad's trousers like a paper clip.

At my height I can only see legs, human and horse. A signboard, in a richly painted blue and red crescent, says Gemini Circus. I'm semi-literate so I can only read the vowels. Syllables, sometimes. But this one I know. Ger-mini Circus. I can't wait to get inside. The tickets are a bad idea.

"How much longer, Pa?"
"We're getting there, son."
"But when?"
"Okay, tell me how many horses are there behind the tent?"
"Can I go inside and count?"
"No… but see… count… the legs… Four please… count the legs."
"What about me, Pa?"
"You will sit on my lap."
"But I want my own seat… Or else I am going to go from here."
"Okay… one more please."

We're inside now. It's dark for broad daylight. There's a hole in the tent at the top. From it are hanging ropes: some metal, some jute. Straight ahead of us is the band box. From it are glistening brass wind instruments, a set of huge star-dusted drums, electric guitars and players in gold suits.

The cymbals clash. Dhissssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

The grape coloured curtains part. Two jokers appear. One is my height, another's on stilts. The one on stilts thwacks the one below with one of his stilts.

Futtttttttack.

The crowds claps.

The show begins. The curtains part again. And the world's most beautiful girl appears. She's with a man, taller, much taller than her. She cartwheels from there towards the centre. She stops right below the hole and the ropes start descending towards her.

The man suddenly appears behind her and lifts her like a fallen fruit. He puts her back on the tree. And she with her mouth bites into the rope.

The rope suddenly gets a life of its own.

She starts spinning. A flower. Frilly cape, hair, ballerina skirt all aflutter, hands behind her back, legs stretched straight, and head going round and round and round.

My head's heavy. With love and star-shaped eyes. For the first time.

"Pa, is she a fairy?"
"Hahaha… she could be… she could be…"
"Pa, can we take her home?"
"Hmmm… this is her home… you know."
"Can I work in the circus, then?"
"What will happen to school?"
"But I don't like school that much."
"Watch, she's coming down."

The fairy comes down. Slowly. Delicately. Hanging from the rope, like a puppet. I am mesmerised. Back on the ground, she skitters around the centre, comes back below the hole. Takes a bow and runs back, inside the grape coloured curtains.

My hopes are crushed.

"Will she come back, Pa?"
"We'll see… keep watching."
"No but please… tell me."
"Shhh… "
"Pa, ple-e-e-e-e-se s-a-a-a-a-ay no… Please say no… Will she come back?"
"Hmmm."
"Okay."

The fairy comes back. Changed into a blue ballerina costume. She takes a round. Waving to the crowd. Her skin is now paler against the blue. Her face is shining with rouge sweat drops. She's the most gorgeous, most naked girl I've ever seen without having to look up or away.

She's now taking these magic leaps from the centre spot. Dancing on a moon shape that's following her every step. The band is playing something loud and garrulous. But she has her own music. She's dancing with her moon. Dancing as if there is just her and the moon. And no one else. And then she starts flying. Hovering above the moon, just like fairy.

I am entranced. Bound and gagged in love. The show ends much later. But for me it ends with the fairy's flying away.

"What happened to you, Dhiju?"
"I think I am not well."
"You were fine till some time ago…"
"Pa, I think I should join the circus."
"What will you do there?"
"I… will… I will… hold her up, Pa."
"Hahaha… for that you'll have to grow up, no Dhiju? Do you want to eat something?"
"Umm-hunh."
"No? That's surprising… not even a softy?"
"Okay. But Pa, first I want to do susu."
"We'll go in the interval."
"But I want to go now."
"Phew… go with your bhai."
"No. You come. He will lose me."
"Hahaha… Lose you? How?"
"Pa, please come."

We're out in the broad rude daylight. It's like the end of a dream. It's deserted. Except for the horse legs seen from the lifted tent cloth. I am standing near the ticket booth. My father's waiting in the toilet queue. I am waiting near the lifted tent cloth. Waiting to catch a glimpse of the fairy. Suddenly a huge snorting horse face appears at the opening. I'm startled. Pushed back a few steps. But still waiting.
(A collage by Me)
There used to be a white, branded, Y-front.

It was made from the softest cotton and elastic. It was worn with a thrusty swagger because it stretched well, pulling across the front like Pinocchio in a balaclava. The Y-front was chosen for special occasions. In the hope of making a beginning with its rough and promising contours. But the Y-front was branded with bad luck. It just never got lucky.

Then one day, a no-occasion party happened. Not exactly a masked ball, but close. The party ended. Everyone left. Except, the Y-front and a pink lacy number, actually, the party's host and reason. Somewhere in the course of cleaning up, the Y-front felt a cotton and elastic pull towards the pink lacy number. And out it came, tearing through the teeth of its zipper door.

The Y-front finally got lucky. But not in the way he'd hoped for.

A sort of rubbing acquaintance with the pink lacy number followed. And then the 'skirtains' came down. The pink lacy number had other plans. It went down. Really down. The Y-front was also pulled down but just enough for a showing. Pinocchio was unmasked. Kissed and caressed. And then taken for a ride, through eager and burning lips and teeth and an expert tongue.

After awkward goodbyes and seeyousoons, the Y-front headed home, slobbery and satisfied, pulled across Pinocchio like a grinning mask. Back at home, just before the shower, the Y-front's wet patch showed a bloody red spot.

Pinocchio was bitten.

The white and bloody Y-front was duly tossed into the rubbish bin. And Pinocchio, bloody and painful, was laid up for a week in loose pyjamas and a water-proof band aid to stick to.

And the pink lacy number became history, never to be repeated or forgotten.

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As an art practitioner I work in a variety of mediums, what you see here are glimpses of my many creative projects. If you like or feel strongly something here please don't forget to comment

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