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Archive for the ‘short story’ Category

A Waif of the Desert ©

In Rajasthan anyone who can traverse the Thar desert with the sheer willpower to live is not an ordinary mortal like you  and me.  In the days of Raja Man Singh the desert was a killing field as it is today. One did the trek and lived to tell its tale. 

 Mallika began life with bad strike against her. She was a girl in the land of men. Where the Maharajas fixed their ferocity with moustachios waxed to a point, no doubt his courtiers had their own manliness in so many ways declared. Some used ghee (or clarified butter) to jet black glossiness while the lesser mortals used henna as Mallika’s father. He  sported it in deference to his lowly profession in the palace. He was a water carrier.

Pratap Rana was indigent and he lived with his wife and many sons often outdoor under the shade of a champak. When his wife became pregnant he proudly sat on a charpoi smoking his hooka and all the villagers knew he was thrice blessed with sturdy lads and he shall be lucky once again.  How he waited agog awaiting the arrival for his son!

 Oh no! The goddess must have been displeased at him for something. His astrologer friend was certain.  Mallika a girl was born to him and it was inauspicious. ‘ Contrary to all hopes you have a girl. Now try to please the  goddess somehow.” He advised and left the father.

Pratap Rana could not help thinking how unfortunate it was. And for his family. It was most unfair! The careful financial plans to their future the girl had upset. He had much to worry about. He owed already to the village money-lender and his sons cost him money. His own lands were already pledged and the money he had raised so many times against them had vanished without a trace!  How was he to marry off  Mallika when time was due for her marriage? In those days the infants  were married off in pomp and style though the bride and the groom didn’t see or cohabit decades later. “Where shall I raise the funds for the feast? And the priest!” he asked his wife and she had no answer to that. As a palace employee he also had a standing. He was certain he would not lose his honor before the villagers who didn’t dare to swear or sit in his presence.

So with the connivance of his wife he put the infant in an earthen  pot  and laid in a dry well.

He was sure that no one had noticed it.

He was wrong.

A bandit saw something suspicious in that midnight activity. “ Treasure!” thought the desperado and he quickly retrieved it. “ A girl!’ he exclaimed. He didn’t judge why a father did go to such lengths to bury a child in the secret of the night. All that he saw was a girl who was a goodly child and an investment.  He thought she could be taught to a life in crime and when time came she could be sold to some noble man for a good deal of money.

The same night he spirited away his find across the desert. Something in her told she must live. So through the blazing heat of the day she learnt to stay alive. At nights when robbers sneaked in and out plundering caravans she learnt to stay close to her father. She had much to thank for the man. He was big and powerful; and as gentle as the pillow on which her head  rested. At night while the camels trudged on their splayed foot over the burning sand she had nothing to fear.

The sights and sounds were her lullaby. Mallika heard tingling of bells. She heard her father slurp his tea over a saucer or talk proud things over camp- fire and smiled. Her father brought parrots carved in wood and it squeaked at the press of a button. She had jewellry to wear. Then she was surrounded by chatter of monkeys that accompanied  her company fo hand-outs. She could hear grownup laugh and play as though they were still children.

 When she grew up she knew crime was as any profession honourable. As honorable as her father.  Because he couldnot be any other than a god who saved her when her life hung in a balance. More weighted to the  point of death. She heard storied from the old women who tended her and kept from all harm while men-folk were away.

Her career begain on a crepuscular evening when the thoughts of the old often turn to  some nameless dread.

On such an evening a man in princely clothes. He had come there to track  Azli-Naqli the most dreaded bandit of the province. He had stopped to ask the way and had rode for most part of the day. A twelve year old girl who in such vivacity had chattered with other girls near the well ran ahead of others. She knew them turn off one fter the other. They dared not run beyond the gul mohur that gave such bazing fiery red in the month of May. It was sort of a warnig signal. Not for Mallika. She was breathless and yet the strangeness that wafted in the wake of the rider gave her some hilarity. She caught his stirrup gaily. She like any child of healthy curiosity wanted to know why a prince should come into their hovel that had the smell cowdung put out to dry. ‘Our only priced possession is that tree over there.’ She said. With a laugh he asked,

 ‘Nothing else?’

Remembering a refrain of a ballad she replied,” A  starry sky/ A velvety sky/ diamonds fit for a prince/ I bring to you..’ The stranger had never heard anything like that. So he wanted to see her parents. He also explained why he was there for.

She looked around and saw that she was not seen by others. Neither was the arrival of the stranger. She asked the man to go home and not go about searching into matters he had no idea of. “ Asli-Naqli’s head is all I want to take.” She stood in front of the horse and said with her almond eyes blazing, “ Asli-Naqli is a saint.”

“ No A horrible criminal!”

 “Dare to tell me to my face my father Uttam Malwari is a criminal?” she  asked and before he could realize the connection, she had pulled him down. It did not take much time for her to snatch his dagger and thrust it home.

The villagers in a trice appeared and they were of Thuggis, a caste that lived by criminal profession. They took over and hurriedly sent her away to stay with his father in a fort where he had his hide-out.  “ Just stay there till trouble is taken care of.” They advised her. She just did that.

Mallika had declared war on the good folks of Rajasthan.

The End

 

 

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Some 2.4 billion years ago when the Milky Way started upping its star production, cosmic rays–high-speed atomic particles–started pouring onto our planet, causing instability within the living. Populations of bacteria and algae repeatedly soared and crashed in the oceans

The researchers counted the amount of carbon-13 within sedimentary rocks, the most common rocks exposed on the Earth’s surface. When algae and bacteria were growing in the oceans, they took in carbon-12, so the ocean had an abundance of carbon-13.

Many sea creatures use carbon-13 to make their shells. If there is a lot of carbon-13 stored in rocks, it means life, the origin of which is still unknown, was booming.  Therefore, variations in carbon-13 are a good indicator of the productivity of life on Earth.(ack: wikipedia)

benny

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“At the Creation Time each life form was allotted equal levels of energy to which behemoths complained. Their complaint was, “You have counted us equal with insects which are so many.” “Our energy level is same..”
“Trim yourself to make the most of it.” Advised the Keeper of the Celestial Park.
Taking heed of his advice they became in course of time, elephants which were half the size of their forefathers. Complaints of injustice did not come from the behemoths alone. Bees were angry too. They saw mites lolling whole day among the herds of cattle. They complained to the Celestial Keeper that holding same levels of energy with those lazy blood suckers was unfair. “We buzz all day and by sundown we are a wreck!”
“Make your constant toil, something to remember by.”
The result was that they began producing honey which pleased all. “Give them bees, whatever energy left of mine,” said bears who loved it above everything else.
“Why such kindness?” the Keeper could not understand.
“I am thinking of my cubs.” One wise old bear said,” perhaps self interest. Call what you will.”

In every action and reaction energy is carried across. Every cause and every effect in the loom of Cosmic Nothingness works non-stop. How the wicked prosper by downright villainy stands out. Simple folks believe they are benefited by their lawlessness. But how long? The upright and simple folks also prosper with energy as in this story. Can the bears or flowers thank enough the bees for their yeoman service?
Perhaps a supernova scatters energy suddenly upping the chances of survival for some weak species. Laws of Compensation and Negation are moral co-valence of Supreme Intelligence.
benny

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She was called Sin. Who gave her such a name I cannot say. Was it her professional name she would not say for silver or for my abject surrender to her wish the whole day. My persuasive speech and silver was wasted on her. She came in her street clothes a voluptuous red head on whom any dress didn’t do justice. I meant to keep aloof and keep the encounter strictly business like. No perfect specimen of her kind had I ever seen or made love to. Having bought love by galore from the day I became a man I knew I was the boss.
I placed directly an envelope into her hands. I noticed the dimple in her elbow and I could not help thinking she was well upholstered. She smiled and laid aside the envelope unopened with neither hauteur not rancor. ‘I will demand my price after my service.’ The rodomontade of a whore was not in her speech. It was more of woman of pleasure who had whole time to give pleasure and transport her clientele to dimensions they never had an inkling of. She knew it and the luxuriousness of oohs and ahhs during our sport was that of woman who was born to give pleasure.
Pleasure she could give like a tap running on and on. I asked her name and she said: Sin. Much to my annoyance she never budged. Her body could writhe and roll and add to the pleasure but her inner spirit was like a barbed wire, cutting and tearing my human frailties that must seek pleasure and pay and go on paying,- and in the end feel left out in the cold. She was correct and Sin chose to be correct.
She stuck to our contract; it was sealed over a written contract sealed and delivered to her three days before the encounter. She would surrender her body totally for the price she deemed fit. I knew how high the price was but that nothing compared to the wound in my innermost being. It was a rvage I could not bear. I wanted to her carnally and the knowledge was all that mattered. By midnight as she parted she merely nipped my earlobe so only I could hear it. ‘Price is paid for.’
The strangest sensation was the early hours of the night. Sin was completely erased from my thoughts! I slept like a log and the love-making had sunk into some dark pool like a boulder and not for once I could recall it. She had completely disappeared from memory.
In my forties I married a girl from the village where my ancestral house even now stands. Meanwhile I had become a man with power and influence and I was the Big Boss to great many.
Marriage of the Big Boss was an event and how the townsfolk bent backwards to make the wedding a success. I knew the bride knew my position and my prestige. She was docile and on the wedding night I would do my duties. One thing led to another and she was all for me to take. But the image of Sin lay before me. Incredible it was! My hair all stood on ends and sweat beaded on my fore head. The bride asked if anything was the matter. The shadow of Sin lay between and the lips of my bride had taken on the snarl of a cougar. However much I tried she just didn’t go away. My bride was all for sleeping off. But it was a vain hope. Sin had come back and she was demanding payment.
One night I just sneaked out of the house and I had not the heart to face the woman I had married. Let her live with the illusions she was married into power and prestige. I had paid the price Sin demanded. Her image merely would not go away was the price I paid.
benny

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The Man Who Could Hate Anything ©

‘In the midst of Plenty’ Bar was just the kind of therapy for me. I could meet all kinds of people and build up my shattered ego. I have been below par lately. Now that I am cured I don’t mind telling it. It was not paranoia but something just as bad: I had a feeling every one in my circle of friends was out to make me look silly. For instance when I wanted to speak of my vacation someone was sure to come up with a more exciting and exotic locale and it made me shut up. If I did suggest a diet that worked another would have one to make mine a fad. No wonder my ego trip was going nowhere with the kind of friends I had. I lost them one by one. Only one that stuck by me was my low esteem till I sought counsel. Dr. Appelbaum who treated me was sure ‘friends were not what I needed but some strong man-to-man talk with whomever I came across.’ ‘Be assertive, man,’ was the keyword. So I wanted a strong opening line whenever I buttonholed some one at random.
‘See that your approach makes the other at a disadvantage.’ I mentally quoted as I headed to do my thing. The bar was always full and it brought together customers from all walks of life. Sorry for this digression. For this story is about the man in a red blazing tie, almost loud enough to shatter my color sense.
I met the man slouched over his drink. His eyes struck me as infinitely sad. Having looked into mine he could not easily shake loose.
“Ah, I got you” I murmured with a touch of triumph. “My power play is having results,” I said to myself as I moved towards him.
Always the opening line was as embarrassment for me as the one that was the recipient. Having made the move, I could not back out now! “A bold tactical move speaks for you” I quoted the ‘Power play for the Wimps’ written by my shrink and was in the bestseller list for a while. With all his collective wisdom distilled in it I felt strong and at an advantage. I pulled up the chair not waiting for his response and sat opposite to him. I wanted to touch upon the weather. Before the snot of conversational kerchief could come fluttering into view, I sidetracked. His tie was so loud and it was swatting me all across my line of thoughts. I must have been so unsettled I said: “Nice tie”. Almost at that moment I bit my tongue in embarrassment. I was supposed to unnerve and not please him.
The stranger ran his fingers through his tie with distaste and almost spat out: “This rag! I hate its color. Besides, it is too wide.” He said it and his bilious eyes glided below his hooded lids. The pause was as painful to me as well as for him.
Gently I said: “Hate is a very powerful emotion. Try to say, it is only a tie, I can always loosen it’.
‘Oh yeah?’ he was combative in the way his lips curled. I could see he was in no mood to yield the ground to me. I said, ’you try to see it objectively. A tie is a tie is a tie. But I am in charge over my sartorial elegance.’
‘That is what you think.’ the man hissed, ‘I am on the road and if I loosen my tie, I will be breaking the office protocol for salesmen’s dress code’.
‘Such code is man made and you can break, if you want to.’ I stood the ground.
‘And be thrown out of my job?’
I was on the wrong track here. I knew it and he knew it.
I had already taken a plunge and I had to paddle around the painful silence that ensued. The more I talked I could get the better of shyness. Dr. Applebaum had encouraged me to use big words, another ploy to keep the other on the edge, and keep guessing. ‘So your tie is de rigueur, eh?’I do not know if my French made any sense to him but his eyes just bulged from some inward stir, ’I represent Acme Haberdashers, Inc.,’ I wasn’t sure if I were expected to respond to it but he added, ’this tie is the latest in the line of ties which I am expected to sell like hot cakes. But it is more like a garrote to me.’
He said as if to no one, ’I hate it.’
‘Hate is still a potent emotion…’
He just stamped his foot and asked, ‘Are you a salesman, yourself?’
I went pale somewhat and I mumbled, ‘Yes, I sell Kohinoor Dictionary to Colleges.’ A touch of levity was in order, the plan B, as suggested by my doctor. I said, ‘I sell words wholesale. Satisfaction guaranteed.’
‘So that was why you were dropping big words on me?’
“It was unintentional,’ I said with a flutter.
I hastily added that I felt no inclination to sell one after I had learned ten thousand words. ‘ I am still counting.’
He thrust his face forward to say, ‘I hate confidences from strangers who fatten on their line of trade.’
This was going out of control so I meekly asked, ‘is there anything you don’t hate?”
“No!” he spat out. He downed his gin in one gulp and studied his nails as if he were seeing them for the first time. “I hate every thing. This drink that makes me bitter. I hate the weather that drove me into this awful joint.”
For a full ten minutes he went on the monotonous litany of his hate which I could see was so pervasive that even the toothpicks neatly stocked before him in a chipped porcelain cup were not spared.
While his monologue seemed gaining second wind, I excused and said: “I hate to break up this meeting.”
It somehow made the contact. The stranger stretched his hand as if to say ‘hold it’. “ You also hate then! That makes you my soul mate!” He was sure he had not thought hate could make people want to connect.
He turned to the bartender and beckoned him. “Hey Joey, here is my pal. We both have things to hate. What would you recommend?”
As the bartender took a trifle too long, the stranger leant to me and said in a whisper: “We both hate bartenders who are slow, don’t we?”
I nearly choked and ran for life.
Months later I was walking along with Dr. Appelbaum stopping to watch the stalls during the Annual fruit and Vegetable show. My shrink had an interesting theory on man and his job and how it in turn shaded his attitude to it.
I asked what prompted him to touch on the topic that was neither here or there. Dr. Appelbaum mentioned of a patient who had for long suffered from same symptoms as I had and chosen a line of work where he had to meet people he would have in normal circumstances avoided. ‘I have a patient who sells ties and wears it to be noticed. Such a red tie,hmm…’ I was curious. My companion pointed discreetly at one whom at the moment was gravitating toward the stall next to where we were. Dr. Appelbaum said,‘ See the one with the red tie?’
I turned my head and there he was the man who could hate anything. I sighed. Fortunately it was not on me but a sad looking cauliflower on which he had fixed his attention. The same old sad eyes but biliously fixed on the vegetable. His tie was same red and as wide as last time. The man who could hate everything was still at it. His hooded eyelids did not hide his malignity and he stood with his feet slightly apart to give him balance. He had his hat still on and he bunched his hand with his first two fingers into an imaginary gun. He was about to send the wilting cauliflower to kingdom come.
Dr. Appelbaum quickly averted his eyes and said, ‘Let us leave. He is rather serious case.’ He said he had taken him without hoping for success. Before our man could spot us my companion dragged me away.
benny

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Changing values

In a curious town like Pye-in-the Skye there are many ways to be considered ‘mad.’ Max was not an idiot but the folks thought he was a borderline case. They didn’t take kindly to those who did not live unto their expectations. Nor did they warm up to those who stuck to their guns. As soon as he learned to assemble a refrigerator he knew he wanted to sell one. Where did he go but to the North Pole and naturally the rest sighed and said, ‘Good riddance.’
He wanted to sell refrigerators to the natives.
The Inuit didn’t buy a single one and he died a very poor man. All that he left behind was some ice boxes and a technical manual.
On the other hand Dr. Faustus having made a pact with the devil became the most celebrated scholar. He knew everything that went under the Sun, which passed for knowledge. How the crowned heads and scholars alike feted him! Then came the computers that made him redundant. He died in grief. He said that a machine beat him. Yes.
The world went a-changing! Then came a thaw and ice melted. The polar caps vanished as an icicle in a furnace. The people in Nunavut learned to live with the climate changes. Then someone found the papers of ‘Mad’ Max and it was a discovery that electrified the whole region. They began to make fridges themselves and control their houses to the right temperature.
The world in their own muddling ways saw a great injustice was done to Inuit. They owed to them a great debt for destroying their old way of life. How to repay them?
Nunavut became synonymous the home of refrigerators. The world leaders came to an agreement that fridges made there could be sold worldwide duty-free. Buying fridges made in Nunavut was consistent with principles of ethical living. Inuit prospered.
Who contributed to the welfare of the world more? A fool or a scholar?
benny

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Solid Fame ©

I wanted to try my hand at sea fishing like the way Hemingway did; so when I had a chance I chartered a boat for a day. Suppose I tell you the name of the boat was Harry Morgan. Wouldn’t you think I was far gone into it? I mean the Hemingway thing?
Call it a beginner’s luck I caught the strangest looking fish as soon as I learned to cast a line. The captain of the boat said, ‘It is a flounder. No doubt of that.’
It was not a Marlin that I had hoped for but a flounder. A monster of a flounder!


I said that it was a flounder but with the most peculiar habit of weeping. Captain Bill looked at my catch and gave a cry. He had never seen such luck as I had. The fish began to beat its tail, ‘Give my life back and I shall fulfill your wildest dream.’
The captain was standing next to me and I asked, ‘What shall I ask him, Bill?’
‘Fame! Fame!’ the captain hissed in my ear. So I told the flounder, ‘Make me famous.’
The fish wanted to know ‘famous for what?’
I couldn’t give the specifics so I said, ‘Fame, it is not all that difficult?’
The fish said my wish was granted.
At the end of the day I headed to the nearest bar. I knew what fame meant. ‘I shall be on every one’s lips.’ I said to myself.
The bar where fishermen frequented was choking full. But as soon as I stepped in those who hung out made way for me. I knew I was famous. They were all looking at me and in their envy I knew the flounder was a genius.
While ordered for a shot of whiskey I heard one comment, ‘He is very famous!’
‘Famous for what?’
A pause. The first voice spoke, ‘I dunno.’
It was greeted with a guffaw. I saw red and I went back to the end of the wharf. I was alone, and called out, ‘Flounder, flounder.’
The flounder surfaced and asked, ‘what will you be now?’
‘I want to hunt and kill a lion.’ The flounder said, ‘Go and you shall indeed kill one.’
I went to Africa for big game hunting. I shot my first lion and I went home. I was on every one’s lips. But no single one spoke in my favor and they all damned for having killed one of the last two remaining lions.
I was upset. And I had no use for such fame.
So I went to my flounder. I said, ‘Flounder make me famous. This time make it certain it is for solid reasons.’
The flounder said, ‘There is now only one way you can secure your fame. Are you ready for desperate measures?’
I answered, ‘yes.’
He whispered into my ears and I directly went back to Africa and killed the last lion.
Next day the papers were full of it. I was the cynosure of all eyes. People paid money to be photographed in my company. They wanted my autograph. Celebrities vied with one another to dine with me. They even followed me everywhere, cheering me all the way. In fact they never had enough of me.
‘Whoever heard of a flounder riding our streets? Or bagging a lion!’ So sang they all.
There is even a proverb, ‘getting a load of Flounder Fred’ meaning one is famous in whichever way you looked.( reprinted from Elves Bells)
benny

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