College

Locked Spaces 

The auditorium. (sjc.ac.in)

H 302, they said. That was where the first year EJP students had to assemble, right after the orientation. There was the college anthem, college choir, the principle and of course Cheriyan sir – who had to be stopped for lack of time. From the huge, closed auditorium with large speakers hanging on either side of the stage, like the fangs of a tiger, I entered a golden room with brown benches and chairs. An amusing name it was, like in apartments – the block, the floor and then the room number. Undefined fuzzy faces chattered with excitement, P wore spectacles that were almost frameless, S sported a watch that had a dial whose diameter equalled the length of her wrist, and there were at least three girls who had chosen to wear blue that day. The seniors walked in and explained their experience of the course to us. We were a class of 52 – and the numbers were to come down, they warned. 

An AM meme.

The next day, I searched for my classroom on the notice board outside the block, as it gazed down upon me. H 407 it announced, and after a lot of hard work the destination had arrived. It was larger than the previous class, and was pale yellow with light brown benches. On the second bench, right under the fan, I almost froze to death as my three fourth sleeve was not warm enough. Everything after the first half an hour went in a trance, while I tried hard to concentrate and not fall asleep. During break, the canteen was tested on – houseful, but spacious enough to figure out the separate billing counter. After almost vomiting the once bitten fried, dried up mixture of potato, peas, carrots, onions and Maggi masala that they called vegetable cutlet; I tried to adjust with the chocolate they gave as change and the mineral water I bought (for fear of further experiments that day). 
Post lunch, the first hour was language, and this time it was H 305, hid behind an open cube, almost a terrace garden. It was a dusty brown, with cold brown benches. A few minutes into the class, the Welfare Officer came to collect me. He walked me to the lift, and warned me to take care of myself in the Bangalore climate. (Only later did I realise it had been royal treatment, for later that year others had to write 250 words on why they had used the lift.) I went home, and did not attend college the following day. 

A Sunny H308. ©NM

The next day, it was H 308, a blue room with wooden brown benches, and dark blue curtains. The classroom was opposite the open square space, which had a few potted plants. I would cut across, in order to reach my Hindi class faster. That was a classroom we all loved, every one of us had our own place in it. It was essentially in that room that we had the best movie screenings, the most hilarious classes with AM every day of the week, except for Saturday. That was where we had after – movie question – answer sessions with him, after the two hour slot on Thursday afternoons. AM would throw space age cows, flies, and bird brains at us, when we ask, “Why was the movie screened in class?”, or “Why is the movie called so and so?”. And if at all one of the cows dared ask him what the name of the movie was, he would roar, and stroke his beard before throwing the question out the window. 

Another one.

The canteen white – white tables and chairs, white walls, and two old alien menu boards with spelling mistakes. It was one place, where one could always find students, but still there would be a place to sit. That was where AM would send us occasionally for assignments that could only take shape in his head. Our work could be done efficiently, sitting at college, thanks to the Wi- Fi.

A year later, we were shifted to H 403, a white room with milky brown benches, where in one could barely see what was projected on the white sheet – due to absence of curtains. I would sit in the middle row, second bench, as always. The room was right next to the one which seated our juniors, and our poor seniors didn’t really have a permanent class. Teachers changed, classes changed, posts changed; the number of students and our work increased. We saw lesser and lesser of AM, and the floor would be crawling with BCom students. The open square space was converted to staffrooms at both the third and the fourth floor. 

THE Department. ©NM

And here, Cheriyan sir would often complain about the absence of curtains in the room, at the same exclaiming, “ Oh! What a wonderful view you have.” It is also where we had numerous arguments with VJ, our class mentor; but she would never let us win. I remember her mentioning in one of the first year HRD classes that she disliked kids, for they were noisy. But she was like that stubborn kid, who no matter what argument you gave, wanted us to give her a better reason to give in. “Why did I make you read this piece? Because I liked it.” She would say. In one of her creative writing sessions , P interrupted my trip to the past since he had forgotten why he had thrown a stone at his cousin brother. I had to snap out of my head, so that I could remind him that he had intended to throw the stone at a pesky rooster, but the stone had adopted another trajectory, and he had to immediately teleport from there. 
In another one of her classes, H had narrated – with what-the-hell written all over his face – his experience at a small hotel in Palakkad. More like what we call a thattukada, I believe. He had ordered for a Poori Masala, his brain’s dictionary had autocorrected it to Masala Poori. But alas, when the food arrived he was shocked to see what he called Poori Bhaaji. P and I, almost killed ourselves – kollu kollu kollu. I facepalmed so hard that my eyes almost catapulted out of the socket, and landed on the bench – facedown. Evidently, he had not noticed that we get Masala Dosa in the canteen, and not Bhaaji Dosa. 

More cameras popped up at every nook and corner, and there were prohibitions on mobile phones, among other things in an attempt to make our lives more scientific and organised. The Wi- Fi would never work, and there were new restrictions on it – you could never access social networking sites or apps, or sites which have content that come under entertainment, fun or even hot – sites on food, and food writing that is. The large media lab had undergone binary fission, resulting in two unequal media labs, with big technical names. An these were often used for Disciplinary Meetings. Students started sitting outside the canteen, due to improper seating arrangements. 

Under construction. ©NM

And then, the college realised that students outgrew the college, and they decided to perform plastic surgery on the humanities block. Apart from covering the face of the block, this also resulted in live background noises. Another year later, the operation is still going on. Faces popped up outside the windows of our classroom, on the fourth floor – and no, they were not levitating. With canteen 2.0 just four floors away, students started buying parcels, and eating it in class. It also led to, “stuffing your faces” as AM called it. Though it has multi-cuisine , and idly-dosa over it, this canteen did not have any of these. It mostly had samosas, coffee and tea. 

Stairs. ©NM

H 408 is handicapped for our course, as it does not have a projector. It divides the class into two wide rows that extend up to the last benches. And with no more middle row, anywhere I sit is too distracting – either too front, or too behind. During Ingnitors, it took us 20 minutes to reach the ground floor from H408, and another five to reach the allotted classroom in the science block. AM does not directly meet us anymore, other than for one of the electives, or for Disciplinary Committee meetings. Externals for our first and fourth semester Journalism Practicals, became our professors. The entire college works by the shift system, but we go home only to eat and sleep. Storms will come, throw cows, trees and birds at EJP, but EJP will not budge. The one professor that has remained constant would be ER– he taught us Optional English in the first semester, still does.
The strip from the stationary, the space in front of canteen, all the way up to the auditorium has been converted into a ramp for students and bikes. The strip is a potential accident prone zone, and in future, will probably exhibit a sign announcing the same. 

While waiting outside the Department of English, one cannot ignore the ground, which beckons you into the windy sandful centimetre squares it covers. Students were mere iron fillings in it as they assembled for sports day, beginning with the march past. Nobody loved to walk around in the sun, and in the second year it was not that sun but the rain that made me frown at the idea. Moreover, after an almost failed attempt at a quick brunch before the march past, while the sun had directed its energy to dry up the ground in time; I was interrupted by the realisation that one required permission to grow long hair. 

The New Face of the Humanities Block on a Sports Day. ©NM

The tug of war was the only class event we participated in by choice, but we did not have enough boys for a boys team. We lost to the same team both in the first year and a second year, and had managed to upgrade to a silver in the second year, from bronze. The first year, around five of us had fallen down, oxidising our silver grey  shirts into an apple brown. The ground was also where we had fests like Footprints, and Exodus – ramp walks, and various performances with food stalls orderly sprinkled across. 

At the far end of the ground, on the left side was a diamond net which separated it from the Quadrangle. Or rather The Banyan Tree, as AM preferred to call it. It cannot be a quadrangle – he had tried to explain once, looking at all of us with his eyebrows almost knit into each other – because it is not closed on all four sides. And then, end of discussion. The Banyan Tree was the main venue for Meta, the LitFest run by the English department. Where I had missed, and also enjoyed numerous performances, jam sessions, and panel discussions. “I am going to be making decisions, and you are not going to like it”, AM had announced during a jam session in Meta 2016. The first year, I remember volunteers almost hanging off the first floor of the science block  trying to take down the web of painting that had been up on the stage. 

Puddle. ©NM

On the right side of the ground, are new unmarked buildings. It has let bikes and scooters be parked on it, and footballs no longer break bones. At the far end of the ground, near the basketball court, stand skeletal steel structures, on spaces that are yet to be swallowed. 

short story

The Unintended Curse

NM ©

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzuup.  Unwind into a line. And zzzzzzzzzzzuup back into my pouch.

Antara could not stop playing with her brand new magical pouch, which was in fact one long zip. It zipped all the way into a pouch, and almost looked like a zebra with alternate black and olive green. And this was where she kept all her precious stationery : her favourite pen, her special calligraphy pencils, stapler, and lots of other colour pens.

It was only it’s eighth day, and it had already grabbed surplus attention. Antara was not sure if she was happy about this, or fearsome. She dismissed her fears and decided to enjoy the limelight. School was almost over, fifteen minutes to the bell, when her class teacher glided into her classroom, with evaluated answer sheets.

Oohhh… Finally! Thought a very nervous Antara, as she eagerly waited for her roll number. She did not dare to look at it till she’d sat down in her seat. Slowly, she opened her folded answer sheet, which was bleeding at the margins.

44 and half out of 50? Wow, this is one of my best performances this year! I don’t remember the last time I did so well in any exam, Antara mused.

Trrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnggggggggg.

She immediately dumped her books in her bag, and ran off to the hostel. She hated it there, but she really had no choice – she was stuck there. But nevertheless, that day she was in a very good mood. After dinner that night, she decided to use the ‘study hour’ to study. The study hour was compulsory, and was to be utilised for homework, and for studying – but she never did either. She did all that she wanted to, anything but studying, only to stare at a random book when the wardens are watching her.

But that night, for the first time in a long time, she was in a studious mood. She dug her hand into the bag to fetch her books and her pouch. The books landed with a thump on the metal table, but the pouch did not make it.

Where is it? I had kept it inside the bag today! It must be here somewhere. Antara ransacked her bag in vain. Oh no! Did I leave it behind in class? Antara realised that she had been in a hurry that day while packing her bag. She spent the rest of the study hour in memory of her special pouch.

NM ©

Next morning, she stood staring at the large white door. It was latched, but not locked. The class was empty, and she ran inside. Her desk had no trace of her pouch. It had simply vanished into olive green dust.

It’s not there in the hostel, not there here, not in the lost and found. Where could it possibly have disappeared to? Did somebody steal it? Haaw. What if  somebody has it and does not want to return it? After all it has all my precious stationery.

A tearful Antara was frustrated.

Well, whoever has it, I wish you’ll never have a chance to use my special pencils. They’ll also lose it the very next day. Then let them go around searching for it like I did.

Akshara sat in class, happily remembering the look on Antara’s face the day before when she couldn’t find her pouch. She could not bear Antara, and was tired of all the attention that had been so cruelly snatched away from her. And so, when she came across the pouch, while leaving class, she did not bother to return it. She couldn’t wait to lay her hands on those pencils everyone was talking about. She ran to the hostel as soon as the bell rang, but even after raiding her room twice, she could not find it.

Nisha had fallen in love with those calligraphy pencils ever since she’d laid eyes on them. She was not sure at first, but that pouch under Akshara’s bed was definitely the one that once belonged to Antara. Initially she did intend to return it, but then she wondered what harm would it do if she decided to keep it for a day? Just to give those pencils a try. She ran to her room after the study hour, and took out a beautiful royal blue pencil. But before she could even put a full stop on the page, Akshara entered the room – she immediately hid it.The next day, during the Library period, she realised that it was no longer in her possession.

Saara was the last to leave the library, and the only one to notice the olive green pouch all alone in a corner. She vaguely remembered it to belong to somebody in her class, but she was not sure whom it belonged to. Later, as she walked out of her class with her bag, she was not sure it belonged to one of her classmates anymore. So she dropped it at the lost and found counter.

The next day, Nita ran in search of Antara. She was bursting with excitement –  finally she had been able to locate her best friend’s most valued possession. Antara could not believe her eyes, she had lost all hope. She held it to herself, she didn’t want to lose it ever again. She was happy she had got her pouch back a day before her practicals. Now she could write her practicals with her favourite lucky pen.

NM ©

The following evening, Antara had had her coffee and was on her way back to her room.  She was in a good mood – her practicals had gone really well, and now that all her stationery was back, she could sketch again. She sat on her bed, took out her pouch and her book. But something was missing – there was no zip. It wasn’t her pouch, it was only stripes of olive green and black. 


poem

Madman Percy 

*Dedicated to my adorable absent minded aquarian kutty.*

NM ©

Two decades ago, was born madman Percy,

Who lacked all senses, all but mercy. 

Who loved his pups to the toe

And everybody else was friend or foe

The wavy hair that danced with the breeze 

Which fell down with every sneeze

Filled with curiosity his ever questioning mind

Wandering in thought of the answers to find. 

One and all, to be his best friend

But he is nobody’s to lend

After much incomplete consideration and contemplation

To his true love, coffee, he diverted all attention

All best options at once, impatient for another chance

To music the gentleman hums, he jives his best dance

Often misplaces names and faces, amidst the info-pile

But one is already drowning in his smile.

description

A Sinister Set of Stories

Five years ago, while cutting triangles and circled for my math records, I tried using the scissors with my right hand since my left hand had fallen numb. But I ended up with hexagons, octagons and pentagons instead of circles, thanks to the sharp edged devil with a disproportionate handle. I also remember reading as a kid, that left-handers had a shorter life span and that it was due to having to use things designed for right handers.

​​

Read the rest : http://www.opendosa.in/left-handsa/


family, movie

Why I Should Maybe Stop Watching Horror

And also movies where you have”suspenses”. 

Last Saturday, VJ let us engage in the Conversations about Cinema, and it was super fun. Everybody had stories to tell, but I forgot so many of my own. And that class brought back so much of them. 

I have often been scolded by my friends for spoiling the suspense, which I manage to guess. And there’s this thing I have for animation movies – because I feel they’re like dreams. Anything and everything can happen. 

I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen my horror movie. But then maybe, it doesn’t start with a movie at all? 

The earliest memory I have of anything ‘horror-ish’ is perhaps this weird serial I used to watch with my grandpa and cousins. This is something that happened only at my mom’s house. The room would be dark, lights off and all those trees would be peeking in through those old fashioned grilled windows. I don’t remember the name or the story at all; it has a couple and a yakshi I think. I don’t even remember how old I was – seven or eight? My grandpa used to watch, and we used to sit with him. Somehow, the idea of getting scared didn’t scare us, instead it might as well as have excited us. But one of my cousins was a little hesitant to look at the TV; she had the habit of peeking through the gaps in between the fingers of her hand – which covered her face – so that she would be terrified, but still not miss any part of it at the same time. The same cousin would, years later, sit with me to watch Paiyaa, fast forwarding through all the songs and the fight scenes – it’s a Tamil movie. 

Years later, my grandfather had passed away. The four of us were together in that house after years, for the rituals. And one night, we were in his bedroom discussing the movie ‘Mirrors‘. Well not really discussing, since we hadn’t watched the movie. I had just seen that one scene where the hero’s sister dies, and decided I’ll watch the movie in leisure – from the beginning- the next time. The eldest one, S, then continued to narrate the story. And I helped her scare the other two. And after this, I don’t remember why exactly  – we (S and I) had to step out of the room. It was dark out there, since our mothers were at some other corner of the house. We had to go to S’s room – she lived with her mother and grandpa – to take something. She was searching in the dark, so was I. But then she turned on the lights (on purpose) , and I was standing right in front of the dressing mirror. I had an exciting heart attack, after which we started giggling. We went back to the room and terrified the other two, reminding them that reflections were enough. 
I have perhaps become used to watching horror movies, and writing horror was a much later addition. I had watched Conjuring 2 in theatre, and that was the first horror movie I saw in a theatre. I had planned to go with my two BBFs – Bangalore Best Friends, S and P. 

The movie was, in many ways funny. And there were so many people commenting aloud – even us perhaps. But my classmates had perhaps praised it so much, that I had placed the movie high in expectations. So much that, no matter how scary the movie was, it would still not be scary enough for me. It was maybe unfair of me to do so. But then, it was a beautiful movie -mind blowing I would say. 
I have already written about how to write horror stories. Or rather how I write themI’ve always wondered what somebody expects from a horror movie. Many a times, almost half of the horror effect is lost when you’re watching it on TV. But you can still recreate it to an extent – lights off at midnight that leaves just you and the movie. Shefali says horror films bore her; and I sort of agree with her. It doesn’t bore me, but if you’ve already watched the movie, then you lose the advantage of the ‘surprise’ element. And also, there are movies with a lot of blood shed – killing people or butchering them, piranhas or sharks eating you. All these would never fall into my idea of horror. A little bit is perhaps inevitable, but usually such movies disgust me. 

I guess I’ve always been interested in the stories they tell, even if most of the time it is incomplete. And at times barely there. And this is not just for horror movies. We all keep watching a movie again and again and again. For instance, I don’t remember when exactly I had first seen Manichithrathazhu, but I know that every time after that I haven’t changed the channel if they’re playing the movie. My parents don’t let me see the movie in peace (or in pieces) as they start reciting dialogues as if the Bhoot has got them. And then, I join them. 

family, short story

Three Stories 

​*This was written seven months ago, based on a prompt given by my professor. 

I was walking up to the main road – in uniform – with my mother. My apartment was around 200-300 metres off the main road – but it was not like the usual idavazhi. It was more like those long driveways you made for sand palaces at the beach. I crossed the road, and waited for the bus. 
I was so busy chatting with my mother that I noticed the bus only after it stopped in front of me. I jumped into it, only to realise lunch kit was with my mother. (So next time my teacher asks me, “Have you ever forgotten your lunch, I can say “Yes”.)

I was sitting in III A, worrying about my lunch. My class teacher informed me that my mother had called her up, and had asked her to let me have something from the canteen.

I was extremely excited at the thought since the canteen was only a week new. Finally the lunch bell rings, and I rush to the canteen. But to my disappointment, I discover veg meals on my table. I hate plain rice, especially the gundu gundu ones. They’re so scary, as if they will eat me up. But well, the sambar was good, so was the pickle. After lunch, I ran off to play, and almost forgot about this. Till I was back home.

My mother was eagerly waiting for me at the bus stop. On our walk back home, my mother started chatting: how I had forgotten my lunch, how she had worried so much that she called up my teacher and asked her to get me a pizza from the canteen.

“Pizza? I had meals!”, said I .

My mother’s smile flew away immediately, and she all she said was, “oh”.

I had stopped walking and was staring at her, in utter disappointment. But she snapped out of her trance, and we walked silently.

                                                                                   

                                                                                     *********

You are busy eating pizza. You pull out the big jalapeno, and deposit it in your mouth. A little bit of cheese follows from the tip of the sector. You settle down on the couch, and turn on the idiot box. Your mom is angry that you eat so much of junk, and that you have become such an excellent potato couch.
She starts murmuring and grumbling. 

“What is it ma? Let me eat in peace.” You say.

“It’s all my fault.” She says. “I should have never forced you to taste this. Now all you eat is junk. Who will eat the vegetables? My child doesn’t like healthy food.”

“What’s wrong? And why would you force me to eat junk at all?” you ask, curious.

And she begins:

When you were really young, around five I think, we had gone to Pizza Corner. It was your first time, and you manged to try the garlic bread. But you didn’t want to eat pizza at all. You didn’t even want to try it. Perhaps you were intimidated by it, I don’t know.

(You stop chewing like a cow, and drop your jaw. No way, you protest.  Don’t believe her – she is just messing with you.)

Believe it or not, that is the truth. I had to persuade you to try it. Just a bite. But no, you were so adamant. If only I had given up, and let you be. 

(Seriously? You look at the pizza slice you are eating and silently apologise to it – for you hurt its feelings back then. You feel guilty.)

And once you had taken a bite, you liked it very much. And now, all you eat is pizza.
                                                                           *************

 

Somewhere near Malalparambu, Calicut little Neha is lying on her mother’s lap, extremely bored. She had had her dinner, but that too was boring. She was very excited at the thought of dinner, but all of it had vanished when she didn’t find anything special. She preferred her mother’s cooking – so crisp, hot and fast. She never had to wait long to eat. But now she was at her aunt’s.
Little Neha was the only kid in the house. Her cousins are much older to her. Her cousin sister is preparing for the medical entrance; and so the aunt never allows anybody to watch TV in peace. One would wonder why they have a TV at all. The uncle is always watching the news or sports. Poor little Neha hates both.

The uncle is watching news again. But everybody is sitting on the floor: her parents, the uncle, the aunt, and her cousin brother. The cousin sister is upstairs – in her room – locked. No, nobody locked her up, but she had locked it from the inside. This weird behaviour always intrigued little Neha. But the news bored her more than anything. Everybody is busy listening to, or perhaps trying to listen to the news. Except her. The elections are going on, but she is least bothered about it. Why should she be? She is not allowed to vote.

Her mother notices that she is quite distracted.

“Pay attention. The elections are up, you should know what’s happening around you’, she says.

“No. News is so boring. I don’t want to watch it.”, replies little Neha.

She asks,”Ok. Whom do you think should win?”

“Well….” Muses little Neha, quite take aback by the question.

“I think congress should win” she says finally remembering one of the very few names she knew in politics.

Why? Because there is Sonia Gandhi in it.  Gandhi. She knew nothing more. Nobody is aware of this innocent conversation happening behind them, and they continue watching.
                                                                          *************

description

Lost and Found

As a kid, I used to be so lost in another world, that there were moments where I could not figure out where (and how) I’d lost my stuff back here on Earth. There were a few things I kept losing, but otherwise I was a pretty careful child.

One of them was the back of my tiny gold earrings – the tiny screws. I do have the habit of playing with my earring when I talk or think. Now that I think of it, I could have’unscrewed’ them unknowingly. I used to lose one almost every week. I’m not sure how this tradition stopped – probably my mom stopped making me wear gold at all. It saved her a lot of energy.

Then there were handkerchiefs. When I was really small, it used to be pinned to my uniform. But as I grew older, I started carrying it in my hand. Many a times, in spite of having a pocket, I misplace it. I often forget that I’m carrying something, and drop it – a hanky in my hand restricts my hand movements. I often find it lying on the ground, after a sudden realisation that my hands no longer carry the handkerchief .

Another one would be bindis. As a kid, I would wipe my forehead, forgetting that fact that I’ve worn a bindi – completely displacing the bindi. And for this reason, I avoided bindis for a long time until a few years ago. And now, I wear it everytime I wear Indian. A red bindi for a red Kurti, a blue one for a blue churidar.