Archive for the ‘Writing Assignments’ Category

Babu’s Gents Beauty Barler

In Carnatic, Music, Music, Short Story, Social, Writing Assignments on June 23, 2013 at 10:34 am



I entered the barber shop via a hidden and decrepit side-street. I gently stepped over Jimmy – that lazy dog sprawled across the entrance to the barber shop. It noticed me after I had crossed over and quickly stood up to wag it’s tail enthusiastically. Jimmy, and that included every mongrel here named so, practiced the art of the welcome at the slightest hint it may be required. This was the third Jimmy that stood guard at the steps in the past few years. I acknowledged him by calling it’s name. He must be a barber’s karmic avatar, just like the previous two, unable to break free from the cyclical karmic forces that tied them down to a barber’s shop. He let out a contended high-pitched whine that quickly lowered in pitch to a wide silent yawn as he coiled around himself for comfort and sleep.

I deftly pushed the glass door that had a life-size sticker of a smiling woman’s face with hands clasped in a ‘namaste’ position. This was all Babu the barber had to offer as a receptionist and I was OK by the lack of fanfare here. The banner on top of this shop provided me with gentle amusement. ‘Babu’s Gents Beauty Barler’ it proclaimed, mocking my fine sense of linguistic prowess and shaking my firm opinion on a gender biased cabal and profession. This was good. One already had a sense of psychological trimming-down outside the barber shop; and by means of a reverse meta-physical extrapolation: the real trimming of real overgrown hair awaited inside Babu’s parlous: The haircut.

“Come, come” Babu invited me in with his typical South Indian hospitality, anglicizing a word-pair borrowed from his native tongue – Tamil, that had a general predilection for reduplication. In Tamil, simply stopping with the single word “Come” would have meant giving the guest a partial welcome. An incomplete invitation bordering on business-neutral. Babu’s was different. This was home and it demanded completeness in all words, deeds and actions.

He said that out loud enough to mean a general invitation on behalf of the few contended men sitting inside. I could count at least three of them that were overstaying their welcome that only Babu’s could provide. Each one of them felt obliged at that instance to make light conversation with me sometime during the course of my haircut. A self sustaining bio-sphere of happiness. That was what drew me in. A momentary hypnotizing event, this haircut. I would pick on elements of this parlor, as I reclined on my chair to ruminate on it’s divine purpose within this cozy clam-shell of a barber shop.
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A snail’s pace

In Poem, Writing Assignments on June 9, 2013 at 11:29 am




Snails speak in
eloquent silence

They are at home
With themselves;

Loud chatter
Of silent thoughts

Echo within
their mollusk shells

Are they slithering
Towards something?
Or even away from it?

What does it matter
When they wear a home
As loose and
Easy jacket?

They are not too different
from the water lilies
The pond too,

The noiseless ones are there
To tell us something,
There’s vigor
In a silent hue:

Creation’s hum
Barely heard,
Leaves behind
A slimy wake


I need to master this art
To quite down, to go easy
And to be at home
For my own sake

This snail sparks courage
As I stand speechless,

A squirrel darts hurriedly
Between the snail and me,
Ruffling dead leaves


  1. This poem is directly inspired by an iconic poem by Robert Frost : Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The squirrel here, represents the horse that gives the harness bells a shake, to ask if there is some mistake.


Other poems
tucker raghu vatican2
Karma’s chameleon The mannequins of Mumbai The embrace



Karma’s chameleon

In Poem, Writing Assignments on June 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm





I’m karma’s chameleon
Dictator of melanins
Commander of colors

I’m a spatial creature
I decide what’s up
I decide what’s down

What’s normal,
What’s usual,
I view upside

Hold my head high
or even down low,
Face adversaries
at very odd angles

Heady plume
Burning red.
Like a Roman soldier,
I go to battle

I cock my head
To a bold
New angle

That gentle sway
Of extinct forbears
Amplifies my threat
To T-Rex’s

I am karma’s chameleon,
Recycled patterns
Of greater ships
Riding times’s arrow
Piercing rainbows

I drop from the sky
On terrains not envisioned
By marksman
Or me


Other poems
tucker raghu vatican2
A snail’s pace The mannequins of Mumbai The embrace



Blood, Sweatshop & Tears

In Short Story, Social, Women, Writing Assignments on May 14, 2013 at 8:08 pm


APTOPIX Bangladesh Building Collapse


The dust-fog lifted swiftly into the air. For a few minutes that followed, the eclipsed scorching sun cast a gloomy shadow on a six-storey garment factory plaza, now pancaked into a two-storey rubble.

Selva rushed to the tiny window the size of an exhaust vent, to investigate the loud explosion.  A thought raced across his mind: Indu is dead

The local elections were in full swing, and political rivalries could turn up anything – even a cycle-bomb. As he peered outside, he had an eerie sense that he might be peering through a different window. The familiar view of a brick-clad facade of the drab and decrepit six-storey garment factory refused to greet him today. What greeted him today instead, was a rubble-heap of deathly proportions: fallen concrete beams with ripped-off and twisted metal rods, crumpled factory floors, and caved-in ceilings.

But the reason he was shell-shocked and the blood drained from his face, was the wordless realization that thousands just like him worked in the garment factory that this building housed.

And there was Indu on the fourth floor of this collapsed building. Buttons Section, third row to the right, next to window the size of an exhaust vent. Always waving her red dupatta through the vent-window at the sight of Selva getting off his clackety-clack Hero bicycle at 8:00 AM every weekday morning. Just like she did today. He had waved back to her. Where is she?

The floor manager was screaming his head off.

“The workers are trapped!” he yelled. “Let’s get them out”

Selva heard loud wails coming from another worker who was calling out to her sister somewhere in that collapsed building. There was instant chaos and panic on the floor. Selva was caught up with the rushing crowd, he rushed down the stairs and moved quickly to the high gates that fenced in the garment workers. The security guards did not budge to their request of opening them as it was not the appointed time for the gates to be opened. Some of the workers scaled the high fence.  The guards were quickly overpowered. The gates swung open and a burst of men rushed out towards the collapsed building. A dust cloud emerged behind them with unmatched flip-flops and slippers strewn about in it’s wake.

There was an undefined and invisible periphery around the collapsed building where the army of men suddenly stopped.

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Gudiya – A doll that saved me

In Short Story, Women, Writing Assignments on April 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm

Sindhu clutched the green sheet that covered her, as she lay on the stretcher.  She stared at the ceiling.  She was parked in a freezer cold room with two other patients awaiting their turn at Operating Theater #3 of St. John’s Hospital.  She shivered.  She wished the ordeal would be over soon. She let her tears roll down her cheek and wet the joyless hospital pillow.

Her world came crashing last week.  Dr. Srinivasan made it clear, the baby needs to be aborted.  Sindhu was six months into her pregnancy.  The baby had already assumed a life of it’s own. Stuffed toys of every pastel color and shade filled the baby room. She gently stroked her bump.  The loss of motherhood was devastating.

Her stretcher moved forward suddenly without notice, as the nurse proceeded to Operating Theater 3.

The miracle of childbirth eluded Sindhu for over five years after that first aborted journey into motherhood.  So long, that she almost gave up on conception. She conceded that having a baby would be a miracle, second only to the survival of their strained marriage. Dr. Geetha was her last hope. All else had failed so far. She visited her once a month. The fertility clinic was becoming an all too familiar place.

“These reports do not indicate any abnormality. Just take some time off from work. Go to a resort, a place of pilgrimage maybe…anything to take your mind off of your stress” said Dr. Geetha. Sindhu found that extremely difficult, that was like asking her to stop thinking of pink elephants.  The pink elephants immediately filled her thoughts and refused to move out.

“Where is he?” Sindhu looked around for Ramesh. “He should be back from the pharmacy by now.  Where is he?”

Maybe he met a friend and went out for tea? Oh God! I hope he does not disclose the purpose of our visit! Such a blabbermouth, that Ramesh, waiting to broadcast and make public the most intimate of secrets!

Could you believe he actually told his mother! Totally uncalled for, she has no right to know! And how is she going to help us anyway? She is probably going to start a chain-mail, asking everybody to forward it to ten other strangers.

Before long everybody in the universe will come to know Sindhu was “having problems conceiving”, as the mother-in-law had once hissed furtively into the phone, to some other crony friend of hers.

“Taking my mind off” she told herself as she picked up a tattered Femina magazine and decided to continue where she had left off last week.  She found the page missing and torn-off. She showered her irritation on Ramesh, who eventually appeared with a large green tender coconut in his hand and a still-warm newspaper-wrapped packet of idlis – those fluffy steamed rice dumplings that she loved.
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