Saturday, February 24, 2018

GRAND MOTHER'S REMEDIES - CASTOR OIL


GRAND MOTHER’S REMEDIES

CASTOR OIL

My grandmother was a stickler for following certain practices to maintain good health and well being. One of these was what was commonly known as the Castor Oil Service, akin to the 3 MONTHS / 5000KM SERVICE we get done for our cars.

We kids (my sisters and I; my brother escaped by not being born then) would be woken up early in the morning on a Sunday chosen by our grandmother, based on auspicious signs from the almanac. Instead of coffee with milk and sugar, we would be given small tumblers of coffee decoction mixed with sugar and a spoon of Castor Oil cunningly added. The coffee and sugar were meant to mask the smell and taste of the good old oil but failed miserably. The instructions : clasp fingers of left hand tightly over nose, pick up tumbler with right hand, gulp down contents. Glug glug glug. No gagging ... Go and sit in a corner and await your turn. No breakfast, no nothing. Straight lunch, to be served after the system was serviced.

Several turns later, we would be totally exhausted in every sense of the word and our systems would be declared clean as a whistle, and we would be packed off one by one for a quick bath. This would be followed by a frugal lunch, consisting of overcooked rice with a thin watery pepper rasam without any chillies or dal in it. Known as “milagu rasam” in Tamil, a much milder form of this captured the imagination of the British and they took to it with gusto, and after minor alterations to suit their bland tongues, rechristened it “mulligatawny”, the name derived from “milagu thanni” or “pepper water”, which it is, literally.

Tired after the morning’s exertions, we would forsake going out to play but rest awhile.

The evening would be spent in prayer. Bhajans would be sung, led by grandma. She had a bhajan book from which she would choose the bhajans for the day. Thanksgiving done, we would busy ourselves with our homework, while she would rustle up a quick dal rasam and occasionally a simple vegetable as a side. Rasam rice followed by curd rice. Dinner done.

Next oil change and service after three months or 5000 km, whichever comes first.

-          © Shiva Kumar
24 Feb 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A Short, Short Story with a Twist


A Short, Short Story with a Twist

This is a story with a twist in the end. It begins once upon a time, in a small village.

Once upon a time, in a small village called Arukanchatti on the East Coast of India within waving distance of the sea, there lived a young boy Angalan, with his parents Chinnappan and Chinnathaayi. Chinnappan was a shepherd by profession and Chinnathaayi became a shepherdini by marriage.

The shepherd owned a small herd of half-a-dozen sheep. He also owned one single billy goat. As the goat was outnumbered by the sheep six to one, it was in a minority and had no standing. The man could not have been called a goatherd. He was more a shepherd than a goatherd. Six times more. Had he owned only one sheep and one goat, it would have been a toss-up between being called a goatherd or a shepherd. But six sheep count for something. Six of one kind or half-a-dozen of another, as the case may be. The question resolved itself and he was called a shepherd. He would have been called a shepflock had his herd been a flock. But it wasn’t, so he wasn’t.

The goat was special because he was the only goat in the village. He was dark brown in colour, with one white leg, his front left, and three brown legs, making four legs in all and enabling him to walk on all fours. He also had two horns, one on either side of his head above his eyes, curving outwards menacingly. They were sound horns, though he never ever used them. He was never threatening. His failing or weakness was that when someone, anyone, came close to him, he gave the game away by grinning sheepishly. Goats grinning sheepishly immediately stop being threats.

Every morning, Chinnappan would get up early and walk down to the stream nearby to complete his ablutions, while his wife would get ready his breakfast of a coconut shell bowl of rice porridge, or congee, sometimes from the rice left over from the previous night and sometimes from freshly cooked rice, and a glass of watery tea made from an indistinct variety of tea dust procured from the only petty shop in the village. He would have his breakfast uncomplainingly, for he liked congee and did not mind watery tea. He would then pick up his long wooden staff curved at one end to help pull down high branches to pluck leaves, and, driving his herd out in front of him, walk off to the grazing ground in the valley full of shade trees and grass about a kilometre from their hut. Angalan would accompany him, walking by the side of the goat.

One day, while Chinnappan went ahead with the sheep, Angalan and the goat loitered on the way and found themselves in a small glade. The goat seemed happy, for the trees had low hanging branches with plenty of fresh green leaves. He began to nibble at them and enjoy himself. Angalan saw a bush overgrown with juicy berries. Soon he was plucking the berries and feasting on them.

As they were thus passing the time of the day, the boy saw, in the distance, dust rising in the sandy stretch that passed for a road. By and by, a Jeep, such as it was, came into view round the bend. It was a rickety old thing, a few decades old at least and seemed to be running on sheer will power.  It stopped just short of the glade and disgorged an old man from its interiors. He looked several years older than the Jeep, with his wrinkled skin and long, flowing white beard. He was wearing loose khaki pants, a tan shirt, a sleeveless khaki jacket with several pockets, weathered brown boots encasing his feet and a sola topee on his head. Lanky and walking with a slight stoop, he approached the little boy.

Angalan had not seen an outsider in his village for several months and didn’t know quite what to make of the old man walking towards him. But he showed no fear for he did not know what fear was.

The old man stopped short of the boy and, finding a round boulder under the nearest tree, went and sat on it. For some time, no one spoke. Not even the goat who, in any case, was busy getting his breakfast and lunch combined. Faint, creaking noises were coming from the Jeep. The old man looked at the boy and the boy looked back at the old man.

The man pulled out a worn leather pouch from a side pocket of his jacket. From another side pocket, he pulled out a pipe with a dark wooden bowl and a bamboo stem. The bowl he stuffed with tobacco from the pouch and lit with a match stick from a match box he pulled out from yet another pocket. With a few tentative puffs, he had the pipe going to his satisfaction. As the aromatic smoke wafted in the air, a comfortable, quietish silence prevailed.

The old man contemplated the boy for a few more moments and then spoke to him in Tamil with a faint Pondicherry French accent.

“Ennappa onn peyar?” he asked the boy. (“What is your name?”)

“Angalan” responded the boy and in turn asked, “Onn peyar enna?” (“Angalan. What is your name?”)

And the old man replied, “Twist. Oliver Twist”.

I told you in the beginning itself, there’s a Twist in the end. In fact, if you look carefully, you will find there are two.


-          © Shiva Kumar – 09-20 Feb 2018


Monday, April 24, 2017

Hoy Calcutta!

 Hoy, Calcutta!

I did not look closely at the holding pattern of Calcutta when I visited the city back in 1978 but I reckon something must have been holding it up. I read somewhere that the city stands at an elevation of 9 metres, or almost 30 feet, above sea level. It stands virtually in the backyard of the Bay of Bengal and, if it stretched its neck a bit, I suppose it would be able to get a good view of the sea. Thirty feet. Quite a feat. Didn’t want to get its feet wet, I suppose. I wonder how they managed to put it up. It is still up there, I’m told. I’m sure it must be up on stilts, unlike my own city, Bangalore, which seems to be on steroids these days.

When I went to Calcutta for the first time, it was by train. With my 5th Semester Engineering class group. For much of our journey, we experienced heavy rains and we were told that several cities were flooded. We were headed for Varanasi but skipped it and decided to push straight for Calcutta.

I got off the train in Hooghly. No, wait. That’s the river. I actually got off at the railway station, the last stop, the terminus. Yus. Howrus. No, Howrah. Hurrah! That’s the name I was looking for. Howrah, not hurrah.

Having got off or alighted or disembarked or detrained as the case may be, we proceeded to make our way out of the station to a Hotel Ashoka where we had booked rooms in advance. It had an International or Intercontinental suffix, I don’t remember exactly which at this point of time thirty nine years hence, but it certainly hinted at a global reach. We got to our rooms and deposited our bori and bister. Then I packed a toothbrush and a change of clothes and took leave from the group for a short break. A batch-mate friend who belonged to Kolkata and was my neighbour in Bangalore was enjoying a holiday in the City of Joy and had invited me to spend a day or two with him.

Per instructions given, I boarded a tram moving towards Dalhousie Square. It was a two-car tram and I got into the second car which was quite empty. The seats were all slatted, made from some kind of dark wood. I took a window seat.  I had been told by my friend to get off at Dalhousie or Esplanade. I muttered “Dalhousie” to the conductor as he came towards me with his hand stretched. He took my money, gave me a ticket and then tugged at a string attached to a bell to give the “go” signal. The conductor in the first car echoed this with his own bell. The tram started off and, with a lot of screeching trundled along the Howrah Bridge, “The Grate Still Breeze of Calcutta”, through heavy traffic at a sedate pace. My first ever ride in a tramcar. My first ever sighting of the great symbol of The City of Joy! I could see all kinds of vehicular traffic, even pedestrians crisscrossing the tram’s path, cutting across the tram-rails just in front of the slow-moving tram with impudence. They were not bothered and neither was the tram. It maintained a slow and steady pace. Last stop, Dalhousie. The tram did not go beyond this point. At least the tram I was in. I was sorry to get off because I was just beginning to enjoy my first ever ride in a tram. Sadly, it turned out to be my only tram ride till date. I have not been able to step into a tram again for I have not been to Calcutta or Kolkata again.

I looked for, as instructed, and located, the Telephone Exchange in Dalhousie Square and walked across. There, waving down and hopping into a black-and-yellow Ambassador, I bade the driver take me to Park Street. And he obliged, running down the length of Chowringhee, past the Planetarium and then swinging a left into the famed food and fashion street. I got off in front of Flurys, where my friend was waiting. Flurys, the legendary pastry shop, has a long history behind it and is known for its pastries, he explained to me. We walked in and asked for some of their pastries but were told that they had completely run out of stocks and a fresh batch was still in the oven. We would have to wait till 3 pm. So much for all the anticipation. I wondered what I would write about Flurys, if I were to write about Calcutta forty years hence. But forty years is a long time and I didn’t dwell on it. We had a cup of tea each to dilute the disappointment and then my friend, after pointing out some of the Park Street landmarks like Trinca’s, Kwality and the paan shop adjacent to it, drove me to a theatre to catch the matinee show as a sort of compensation. Liberty, I think the theatre was called, or was it Regal? And Athithi was the name of the Hindi movie, starring Shashi Kapoor. Nothing special to mention about it, except that it was quite noisy, both in the lobby and inside the theatre.

Movie done, we moved over to what the Calcuttans call the “Lakeside”, near the Victoria Memorial, lined with stalls selling “chaat” and other street food. I sampled the famed “puchkas” and was not disappointed. A puchka is a round, crisp, dry ‘poori’, the top of which is cracked open with the thumb and stuffed with a cooked potato-onion-chickpeas filling. This stuffed poori is then dipped into a tangy solution of tamarind water, chilli, salt, chaat masala and black salt. The tangy flavours in the solution get the gastric juices flowing! One round of puchkas was followed by another Calcutta special, the “jhal muri”, puffed rice mixed with fried lentils and stuff, finely cut pieces of onions and green chillies, spices, salt and sprinkled with lime. Mouth watering! I had my fill of these typical Calcuttan street snacks and washed them down with cool and refreshing “nimbu paani”. It was late evening and we did not feel like having dinner, so I was dropped off in a vacant third floor apartment in an unknown (to me) location which belonged to my friend’s family but was unoccupied at the moment. I was told to get ready in the morning and that I would be picked up by 8.30.

It so happened that I was tired after the long cross-country train journey and all the perambulations through the city of joy during the day. Moreover, the apartment where I was put up was vacant and there was utter silence. When my head hit the pillow, I went off like the light I had put out moments earlier. I never woke up. Well, I did, but not before creating a huge scare. My friend and his uncle came for me at 8.30 in the morning as promised and rang the bell of the apartment. I was sleeping in an inside bedroom and it is quite possible I did not hear the bell, or it may be that the bell did not work. I slept on. After a few attempts, so they told me later between gaalis, they started banging the door. I slept on. I mean to say, 8.30 on a peaceful morning in Middleton Street or wherever, who will notice a piddly thing like a knock on the door? I am told that my friend was in a state of panic and wanted to call the police. His uncle, however, was made of sterner stuff. He said, no, don’t call the police, I’ll try the balcony. So he went up to the next floor and, using some new spider-man technology, climbed down from that balcony to this balcony. And managed to reach my sleep-benumbed brain. I woke up with a start and, for the next several minutes there was a terrible thunderstorm attacking me from two sides. I endured that and afterwards all was well. That became the highlight of my visit to The City of Joy. Boy!

But I left out Chowringhee! What a street! On my way back to rejoin my group, I took a walk along this long and iconic lane. I seem to remember that there were buildings only on one side of the street. Some kind of clearing and construction work was going on near the Esplanade end and I was told it was for the underground Metro. I think there was a large, open ground kind of area on the other side. I believe it is the Maidan. Chowringhee was a street alive with the sounds of a million tongues. Every step I took, I heard a different language, or so it seemed. People were chattering away like there was no other agenda. I would have been the only one silent as I walked along, trying to take it all in and not succeeding. I walked along slowly, gawping at everything. But no one seemed to mind. Quite a friendly city, this, with friendly people ever ready to help.

Suddenly, I was accosted by a tall gent sporting a luxuriant moustache and wearing a long coat. Now who would wander along Chowringhee in Calcutta wearing a long coat on a warm mid-September day? Exactly. So I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and tried to do a quick sideways shuffle to my left. But this fellow twirled his moustache and did a sideways shuffle to his right so that we ended up facing each other again. We did this tango a couple of times and then stopped for breath. When he was satisfied that I could not get away, he undid the buttons of his coat and dramatically threw it open. The inside of the coat was festooned on both sides with pens of all colours and descriptions! He was only a pen seller trying to earn his living. I managed to make him happy after I selected a cheap pen. Ceremoniously clipping this to my shirt pocket after collecting my money, he stepped aside politely and with a gracious gesture of his hand allowed me to continue my walk through Chowringhee. With an equally gracious bow, I took his leave.

A few steps later, I stopped, fascinated by a tall contraption which looked like a weighing machine and from which were issuing forth short puffs whenever someone stood on it. I was gaping at it, when the chappie standing next to the machine beckoned me forward and, pointing to it, called me a brute. I looked at him and said “Huh?” and he repeated the charge. I was not ready to pick up an argument in a strange land, so I said “Huh?” again. He quickly deduced that I was a “baahar ka aadmi” and spoke to me in Hindi. He told me that a try would cost 50 paise. I was to stand on the pedestal and drop the coin into the slot at the top right corner. And hey and presto! A spray of perfume would hit me amidships and cover me with a fast acting and long lasting scent! He again called me a brute and this time I could infer that he was referring to a well known brand of deodorants and perfumes. Indeed! But I didn’t want to be fumigated, so with a blank look on my face I deftly moved away from him with quick steps. He wasn’t as intrepid or acrobatic as the pen-wala and I managed to escape. Chowringhee!

While meandering through the by-lanes, I found a South Indian hotel where I was able to get a typical vegetarian meal. Happily I went back to my hotel to rejoin my group.

I was sorry to leave Calcutta and promised myself that I would come back one day.

I wonder if I will have these experiences again when I revisit the old city.

Good old Calcutta!

***



Glossary

Bori and Bister > literally, sack and mattress. It stands for “bag and baggage”.
Chaat > spicy street food
Puchka > see above
Poori > an Indian bread, deep fried till it puffs up
Jhal Muri > see above
Nimbu Paani > lime juice
Gaali > abuse
Baahar ka aadmi > outsider


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

ACROSS THE PALE PARABOLA OF JOY

Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, "Plum" to his countless fans, passed on to the other side on Valentine's Day, 14th February, 1975.

This was written in tribute, in July, 2015



ACROSS THE PALE PARABOLA OF JOY

P   Plum begins with this curvaceous line
A   And then leaves it dangling fine
L   Levitating, hanging, as it were
E   Enthrallingly suspended in mid-air

P   Pelham, yoo hoo! (PGW who you?)
A   Answer my call
R   Run to my rescue
A   And please tell me all
B   Break the flower pots
O   Overturn the tables
L   Landscape the blots
A   And open the stables

O   Ossify the owls, but please complete it
F   Fossilise the fowls, but finish it, dash it!

J   Jumpin’ Jenkins!
O   Ogling onions!
Y   You started it; pray end it, you Purple Bandit!
                

  © Shiva Kumar 


Friday, February 3, 2017




MY HOODED NEIGHBOUR

Monday, 31st January 2017, just after noon, I had collected my lunch box and was stepping into my car when a woman walking down the road came to me, pointed behind her and said in an excited voice "Haavu!" (Kannada for "Snake"). I didn't catch on immediately but then she turned round and pointed. Just across the street, less than 50 feet from my house. I walked across and looked. At first I couldn't spot him because he was so well camouflaged. But when I looked closer, I could see him, about eighteen inches of him that had emerged out of a rat hole, facing away from me. His half open hood was as large as my fully open palm, maybe even larger! The "Naamam", the distinguishing mark on the rear of his hood, of two circles joined by a U-line, like a pair of spectacles on the salt-and-pepper speckled scales, was clearly visible. Naja naja! 

Was he taking in the sun? Was he checking out his territory? Did something disturb him? He remained in that position for a good 5 minutes or so, not making any sound (that "hiss" can scare a person into immobility), not turning around, not moving at all, allowing my daughter and me to snap off quite a few pics on our mobile cameras from almost, but not quite, hand shaking distance. Then, perhaps satisfied that the sun was shining down brightly and all was well with the world, he downed periscope and slid back into the hole.

-      


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Lightning Quick!

Quick Light (Tez Roshni)


How quickly time flies! They say it travels at the speed of light.

I am reminded of the good man, Olaus Romer, an Earthling who was born 372 years ago and died 306 years ago.

One balmy afternoon, when a weak sun was shining its light down and a light breeze was playing about, our friend, as the story goes, was lying under his favourite tree contemplating life. There were no apples hanging from the tree as it happened to be a jackfruit tree. He was fortunate that no jackfruit fell on his head, or else there would have been no telling what the gravity of the situation might have been, and the good man escaped by the skin of his teeth. Ah!

Just when he had begun to doze off and the opening credits of his day-dream began to roll, he was startled into wakefulness by a call from his favourite aunt on his smart phone. She asked him what he was doing and he replied somewhat testily, for he was forced to pause the dream, “Contemplating Life”. And Aunt Matilda, who was a little hard of hearing, misheard him and said, “What are you contemplating light for? Don’t just lie there and contemplate light. Do something about it. Light! Pah, bah and tchah!”

And Olaus was always in mortal fear of his Aunt Matilda for she was the one who, when he was a boy of four, scared him by switching off the light without warning during story telling sessions when she spoke of spooks and things that move in the dark. He always wished that he would be able to catch a fistful of light and keep it in his pocket so that he would never be in the dark. But, try as he might, he could not. It always managed to slip through and was too quick for him. Hah!

He decided to find out just how quick light was.

Now, he was familiar with the planet Jupiter in the sky. Among its sixty seven moons was one called Io (pronounced “Ayyo”, and rightly so). Io had a habit of playing hide-and-seek with Jupiter, going off every now and then into its shadow. Olaus started off by timing the eclipse when Io suddenly moved into the shadow of Jupiter and again when it suddenly moved out of it. Don’t ask me how, but with the help of a stop watch and by a clever mix of observation, logic, mathematics, trigonometry, some intrepid calculations on the fingers of his hand and remembering the carry-forwards in his head, he was able to derive a figure, rounded off to a hundred and forty thousand miles per second, as the speed of light. This was later discovered by other clever mixers to be off the mark by a slight margin of some forty-six-thousand-odd miles per second but it was close enough for everyone to pat him on the back during their next Friday club get-together. Wah!

(One intense trignomerist, or whatever you call those astronomers who use trigonometry to bring them up to speed, patted him a little too hard, causing him to exclaim, “Io”!)

It is already three hundred and forty years since Olaus was thus patted on his back. Since then, other noteworthies have sat down singly and jointly, gallons of coffee* at hand to keep them awake, and have calculated the speed of light to a nicety. And the conclusion they reached was that light travelled too fast. At the rate of two hundred ninety nine million, seven hundred ninety two thousand, four hundred fifty eight metres every second, to be precise! That’s mighty quick.

Sudden, what?



I wonder if the coffee they had was the South Indian filter variety, strong, sakkare kadimeˊ !




© - Shiva Kumar – 07 Dec 2016

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Courtroom Drama

The Face in the Court

Monday morning. The clock in my head said 10:23, which was more or less the right time because this clock is right most of the time (except on Sundays and public holidays). The Court Complex in the heart of the city. Bustling with activity. Black-coated and black-robed lawyers rushing to and fro, looking extremely busy, some looking like they had just been para-dropped into the court grounds, their black robes billowing behind them and hair carefully mussed up. Flustered assistants running behind them carrying piles of files and looking even busier, and clients with furrowed brows following close on their heels, hanging on to their every word and trying to get in that last request.

The court halls were starting to fill up with accusers and accused, plaintiffs and defendants, parties of the first part and parties of the second part and such like, and their relatives and friends. And, of course, their lawyers. Some are there out of genuine concern. Some are there because it is their duty. Some are there purely for the courtroom drama. And some, like me, are there without knowing why.

I was actually on my way to the city market planning to check out a fountain pen repair shop and a second hand book seller in the Avenue Road-Chickpet area and had just alighted from the bus at the stop near the court, intending to walk down from there to where the stationery stores, book shops, pen sellers and repairers, wholesale merchants and bargain shops are located, when I saw someone in a bright checked shirt waving at me from the court grounds just opposite. I couldn’t see his face but he looked very, very familiar. And that checked shirt too. Where had I seen it before? Curious to know who it was, I crossed the road and walked towards him. I could just make out the round face, the broad nose and full head of greying hair but couldn’t pin it down. As I neared him, he gesticulated and ran towards the stairs leading to the court halls on the upper floors. I ran after him and was just able to make out his form disappearing into the Court Hall No. 7 on the 1st floor. Who was this gent in the bright checked shirt? Why did he run away from me? Curious.

I quickly entered Court Hall No. 7, but was accosted at the door by another gent with a handlebar moustache, looking official in white trousers and white half-sleeved shirt. He was obviously one of the court staff, the chappie who stands at the door and shouts out names of the parties to each case as they are called out by the clerk. He stopped me just inside the hall, his moustache fairly bristling as he looked me up and down three times sternly, making me feel like the party of the other part. But apparently he decided I wasn’t guilty until proven so because he told me to sit down quickly as court would be starting any moment and I should not make any “galaatta”. He made space for me between two aggrieved parties on the bench along the wall and I squeezed into it. The chap I had followed inside, the raison d’etre for my coming to this place, the gent in the bright checked shirt, was nowhere to be seen. Curiouser.

Just when I was thinking that I should get out from this place, the aforementioned white shirted official-looking gent walked up to the door behind the magistrate’s bench, threw it open smartly and announced in a loud voice, “OPEN COURT”. Every person stood up as a distinguished looking black robed magistrate walked in through the doorway, climbed up the steps to his seat, did a “Namaskara” to the packed Court Hall and settled himself in. The clock hanging on the wall facing the magistrate showed the time to be precisely eleven o’ clock. The clock in my head more or less agreed. I couldn’t very well leave at that moment, could I? So I sat down and waited.

There were lawyers everywhere. The early comers were seated around a U-shaped table below the bench. Those who couldn’t find a seat were standing behind the seated lawyers, hoping to take their places soon. Some more were standing behind the clerk. The benches along the wall were full with people waiting expectantly and there were more people standing near the door. ‘Jampacked’ is the word I am looking for.

As I looked around, I thought I glimpsed a familiar face craning around the neck of another just outside the door but it disappeared before I could zoom in and get a fix on the identity. He was there one moment and not there the next. The gent in the bright checked shirt checked out as suddenly as he had checked in. Curiouser and curiouser.

As the Court began proceedings, a hush descended on the hall. The magistrate uncapped a fountain pen, wrote something on the pad in front of him and nodded to the clerk who then stood up and called out the first case listed for the day. “OS numbar eks-woi-jed, Such and Such” (note that both are Such until one of them is proven Jhoot). The white-and-white gent, standing at the door, repeated the names called out in a loud voice, “SUCH, SUCH”. Two lawyers standing expectantly near the clerk with their ears flapping approached the bench and made a respectful submission that they were appearing for the plaintiff and the defendant, respectively. The magistrate quickly scanned the papers placed by the clerk in front of him, wrote something on the last sheet, said something to the two lawyers that I couldn’t follow, looked at a table calendar placed in front of him and pronounced a date for the next hearing. The two lawyers slowly backed off and retracted their ears. Next case. Similar action. And so it went on. Court was rushing through cases that were in the preliminary stages.

I sat through some ten or twelve cases and nearly dozed off. Then suddenly there was a lull as the clerk was getting some papers signed by His Lordship. I saw my chance. Before he could call the next case, I quickly stood up, thanked the two aggrieved parties for letting me sit between them, did a “Namaskara” to the Court and stepped smartly out of the hall. Mr. White-and-white glared at me but I was free and couldn’t be stopped. I glared back at him and walked off. And looked around. But could not see any sign of the gent in the bright checked shirt. He had vanished as if he had never been there.

I walked back to the bus stop ruing the fact that I had lost an hour for no reason at all. I was thinking that if I got hold of that checked shirt, I would wring the neck it encased. And as I was revelling in this thought, lo and behold, there it was! And there was the chap wearing it! I saw him waiting at the bus stop. I decided I would steal up to him and catch him unawares. But before I could cross the road, a bus rolled up, our man got in and the bus pushed off.

As I stood there shaking my fist, I suddenly remembered that I had a bright checked shirt identical to the one that chap was wearing. And a chilling realisation struck me amidships and sent me reeling – I knew where I had seen that face before. I had seen it in the mirror.

It was my own face!


© Shiva Kumar - Nov 2016