After much deliberation and rumination she spoke weighing each word with her thick-fat tongue.

“What is the point of this meeting… anyone?” This was just after John Marrow had been officially declared a vegetable. “I come in pieces,” Cowshellya Rani was trying hard to impress, finding recourse to flowery language. But flowery language too had its limitations. Between her never-stopping teeth language had also been reduced to a cud that she threw around, like her weight, every time she called a meeting.

“Peace is what you probably mean,’ said Grass Kumar, quivering at the sight of the Cowshellya Rani’s never-stopping teeth. “Is there a plural of peace?” asked Cowshellya Rani, parting her lips a tad sideways to smile. This time no one spoke for the plural of anything meant many. And being many was simply an invitation to be eaten. And no one wanted that. Even Grass Kumar was called just Grass and not Grasses even though he was many.

“You know it’s not like the old times now,” said Cowshellya Rani sighing, “I have changed”. As a sign of this change she gave the vegetable Marrow a lick on the cheek. A gasp was heard running through the hall. Unsaid words fell to the ground like melted ice-cream forming puddles of unsaid words and flowed in different directions causing much unsaid confusion.

“Can I be allowed to speak?” Baigun Khan came forward. “I think we’re getting too coloured by history. And we can’t let that happen. Can we?” A round of applause followed Baigun Khan’s suggestion and all present started hugging each other. But no one dared go near Cowshellya Rani, even though she smiled more than usual.

That hurt her much. When she couldn’t bear the pinch of not getting a hug any longer Cowshellya Rani mooed out so loud that everyone shook and shivered. “Will I never get a damn hug?” Hearing this everyone stopped hugging, waiting for Cowshellya Rani’s need for attention and intimacy to pass.

They had suffered heavily under her reign. Even the memory of those horrible times was enough to send chills down their spines. They were, after all creatures of the soil. And Cowshellya Rani had in the twinkling of an eye polished off many a green pasture. Therefore Cowshellya Rani’s change of heart felt awkward and incredible and those present were not about to err on the side of caution by hugging her.

“You know, another reason why I called this meeting…” Cowshellya Rani spoke seeing that none among those present had shown any interest in hugging her. “…is to tell you that from now on I have vowed to turn humanitarian. Meaning I will only feast on the two-legged kind.” Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. And gradually they all started moving towards Cowshellya Rani so that they could hug her.

and yesterday I sat
smoking a new leaf
and wetting the lashes
of your watchers
and filling my cavities
with your neck
and eating the darkness
behind your ears
and feeling the wire
around your cups
and drawing fingertracks
on your back
and sucking red marks
on your stomach
and breathing the holes
of your fingers
and putting your thighs
in the 'at ease' position
and fighting
your strong-hungry soul
and then,
wearing you
like a pyjama.

Pic by Moses S
So, what did you dream?
I dreamt I was sleeping.
That's boring, no?
No, but I was sleepwalking.
In the dream?
Yes.
And then?
I dreamt I was sleeping.
Sleepwalking?
No, sleeping on my bed.
Which is what you were actually doing.
Yes.
Must have been confusing?
No, why?
I don't know… but isn't that a lot of sleeping?
Yes, I was really tired.

Soon after the promotion came Ram Dhakeli's birthday. It was an equinoctial September day when day and night have equal hours. Ram Dhakeli was to get her share of equality too. MD-saab's Amitabh Bachchan voice had already filled her head with the hum of a budding heartache. That day, she got to sit in the exalted MD office. It was her first. MD-saab was a man of few words: whenever she answered his office bell it was to take orders and nothing more. That day MD-saab asked her to sit down on the squeaky leather chair meant for those with whom he wished to discuss work. It was the first time Ram Dhakeli was to look into MD-saab eyes and catch him smiling behind them.

That warm September day was also circled red on MD-saab's personal calendar. It was the beginning of his spring.

At the first squeak of Ram Dhakeli's leather chair MD-saab began his dry-mouthed monologue.

"Ram Dhakeli, your work is very good," he said and cleared his throat. "In fact, it is very, very good." He stopped and nodded meaningfully at Ram Dhakeli and cleared his throat again as if his words needed help coming out. And in that silent pull and push of words MD-saab suddenly slumped into a reverie. The cotton sari that hugged Ram Dhakeli's slender fairness cream neck was gradually sliding off it. The inside of MD-saab mouth felt like desert sand. His lips too were on fire. But continue, he had to. "Please quit this job, Ram Dhakeli." There was that look on his face that begged another clearing of throat. But he wasn't allowed. Ram Dhakeli's eyes were on him piercing his soul with a look that butchers sometimes see in the eyes of their kills. "I want you to come and work for me… in my house," MD-saab offered clumsily to melt the tension in the air.

Ram Dhakeli was disappointed. This was not what she thought he had called her for. "No saab, I am happy here," she said locking her harmonium-player fingers into a lattice of skin and bones. The chair squeaked again. The squeaks were like a cue. The birthday bonanza had been cued to a halt. She got up to leave but MD-saab waved her down with a halfway salute. She sat down. "Please take your time, Ram Dhakeli. You are after all a woman, a young woman. Unmarried, I mean alone. Please take your time. Think about the future."

Ram Dhakeli was new to the politics of words. She stood up again. This time MD-saab didn't stop her. When she was at the door MD-saab swung something round and metallic at her. It touched her at the sensitive hollow of her fairness cream back. The sound of metal on floor made her turn around and inspect the fallen object. It was a ring, a solid 22-karat, weighty and stoned with the precious niners. Emerald, pearl, garnet, opal, turquoise, ruby, sapphire, amethyst and diamond. Nine stones for the nine planets. The whole universe on a finger. Ram Dhakeli had up until then only envied women with this sort of power. Never in her wildest dreams had she thought she would become one of them. "It's for you, keep it and think about my proposal," said MD-saab as he thrummed on his wide forehead. "You may go now, Ram Dhakeli. You may go now…"

Ram Dhakeli was frozen. She couldn't get her harmonium-player fingers to strike the right notes or her vocal chords to express gratitude. MD-saab was staring at her unblinkingly, like an owl. His fingers still danced on his forehead. It signified nothing significant. He just liked the sensation. Like horses galloping on his head. For MD-saab this was a big gamble. The power and prestige of his exalted office hinged achingly on the reply of a mere woman, a widow and a member of the fourth-class.

"Dhanya…. dhanya…. dhanya," spluttered Ram Dhakeli like a frigid car engine. She should have stuck to something less speechy like 'Thank you', she thought.

"It's okay, Ram Dhakeli. It's all right. Theak hai." MD-saab allowed himself a smile, his first on that warm September day.

He repeated the 'Theak Hai's till his voice was trapped and sound-proofed by a mesh-wall of words. Ram Dhakeli recalled MD-saab's 'Theak Hai's later at night when she was lying on a string cot: her bed and bedroom. She was after all freshly 22, in love and suddenly a bride-to-be again.

Sleep came on invisible ant legs and crawled all over her. It began at her feet, covering her like a blanket. Ram Dhakeli dreamed of MD-saab and his wonderful Scutler Palace house. It was a confused dream for it was a palace-house she'd never seen before yet it filled her with a strange and paradoxical been-there-ness.

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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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