Thursday, April 24, 2014


“It’s always possible that we’re in a bad nightmare. Remember when you wake up, Tambai, we’ll have a nice laugh,” mother said whenever time was bad. Tonight, it couldn’t have gotten any worse, and yet her voice was more reassuring than ever in my throbbing head, as I sat there waiting for damnation.

Outside the shanty, it was just the three of us, awaiting the news. The two wags from Devasserry, still hissing over local gossips, were getting impatient by the minute. It was dead of the night, and the snores of even the late sleepers of Ottachi Makul travelled in circles around us. At a distance the windows on the Cranford Bungalow that stood above the brush of the cinnamon estate had blacked out for hours now.

The wait seemed indefinite, but my senses were alerted every time a slight purr from inside was heard over the ceaseless buzz coming from the boredom of my two companions. The love of my life was lying inside wiggling in pain. She was in great danger even though these two clowns didn’t give two hoots about it. They only wanted the whole drill to be over soon. Suddenly a shriek louder than the previous one emerged from the shanty. Tugging on the talisman hung around my neck I prayed for the life of my wife and baby. Prayers worked most of the time, as it was the Goddess of Ottachi Makul who took care of things around here.

*                                              *                                  *
Vachi was blue from pain. I wiped her sweaty forehead and stroked gently on her inflated belly. She squirmed like a worm. It was a heartbreaking sight. She was my friend, even though we had grown apart since she stopped working at the cinnamon estate and moved in with the Burghs to nurse the unattractive estate supervisor Adam Burgh’s retarded brother Bartholomew and his senile mother.

She stared at me breathing heavily. “I know why this is taking forever,” she said pulling on my blouse till my ear was perched on her mouth, “I have sinned!” I couldn’t believe my ears. I recoiled with a shudder and stared at her in disbelief.
Adam Burgh’s unsightly face flashed a grin in my head. 

While it was apparent that Mr. Burgh had feelings for Vachi, she had failed to notice it from the start. She did not take a hint even when she was given a room inside the Manor unlike the family of servants who lived in a shanty in the rear yard where the neighborhood cats, constantly raped by Ursula Burgh’s black Persian, copulated in great quantity. From what I know, she still doesn't have a clue. Then how did this happen? With Mr. Burgh’s unveiled diffidence that his appearance gave him, I’m pretty sure he must have bottled up his desire because even almost a year later when Vachi went and announced her marriage, he did not do anything to stop it. Then she got married, but that didn’t seem to have stopped anything from happening after all these five years anyway!

“This one’s a mongrel,” Vachi mumbled deliriously grabbing her belly, “I cannot have it… I can’t keep it!”
I stood there shaking in shock and anger. Her husband was on the other side of the wall!

*                                              *                                  *
Mother had changed a lot after the death of my little brother, or was it little sister? It was a stillborn, so we didn't get to know. There was a certain kind of bitterness associated with everything she did after that. She was the sole matriarch of a family of pawnbrokers that financed most deficits of Ottachi Makul, and had taken over the reign of the family following the untimely death of her husband. Everybody feared her.

She was against my love for the half-caste daughter of Aachi Moosa from the beginning. At first I thought it had something to do with his reputation. In his youth Moosa had relentlessly fornicated with innumerable women of good upbringing up until he got married. After his first two wives were conceded as barren, he married the stunning Ayathullah Biwi, who instead of Moosa, is believed to have impregnated herself with the seed of one of the accessible English soldiers who guarded the Cranford Cinnamon Estate and dispatched to the family that pretty half white- half brown daughter who would grow up to steal my heart. Ayathullah Biwi died young leaving her baby to the mercy of two of Moosa’s elder wives, taking along with her, the secret of its pedigree. So the family did not have a lot riding on honor or reputation in the village. But I was madly in love and nobody was going to stop me. But for Mother, it was like a vicious urge to just not let it happen, I still know not why, which is why I decided to run away from her. We escaped from Ottachi Makul.

Now, back from exile, while praying for my beloved's well being sitting outside the shanty all I wished to be true was Mother’s words that she often repeated when I was a little boy, “It’s always possible that we’re in a bad nightmare.”

There were few men who lingered here and there in small buzzing groups around the shanty even after nightfall. Everybody was curious to know the end of the fiasco that horrified Ottachi-Makul that afternoon. But gradually, realizing the end was indefinite they dispersed.

It was the worst day of my life. My two companions were from the Devasserry Constabulary, and they were there to make the arrest, except that the delayed childbirth was still in the way.

*                                              *                                  *
I stood there paralyzed for a few more minutes. Vachi’s cries got louder and uncontrollable. I shut her mouth this time choking her a little.
“I have sinned… I have sinned!” she mumbled through my fingers.
“Nobody needs to know, girl,” I whispered, “the newborns are all the same.”
“They will know, “ she squealed under my force, “I have sinned with a white man!”
My doubts were confirmed! Adam Burgh it was!

But even after her marriage when she returned to the Manor, Mr. Burgh was mostly mute as far as I know, and she unreservedly nurtured his stunted brother not knowing a thing. With her husband she even gave birth to a baby boy in the meantime. So when did this happen? But by then we saw too little of each other, and perhaps I didn’t know everything.
“Is it Burgh?” I said.
She nodded, weeping silently now. “Please help me end this,” she said, “I can’t have this.”
“Adam Burgh?”
“No,” she said with a look of indignity on her tired face, “it’s Bartholomew Burgh. He doesn’t know!”
“The retard? For god sake, Vachi!”
Her cries got louder again. Holding her belly in a tight hug, she jerked in pain.
“I can’t kill, Vachi, I just can’t” I was helpless too. Only the Goddess of Ottachi Makul could have known a way out of this. But then suddenly a face prettier than the Goddess came to my mind.
“I might know who can help us,” I said startling her a bit, “stay put till I’m back. I think I know who can help!”  Saying so, I stormed out of the rear door into the dark leaving behind my pregnant friend, combating a new contraction.

The house was not very far, but the alleyways were deeper in that direction, and creepier too. I hastily tiptoed to avoid surprising any mating snakes on the rocks. When I crossed the pepper garden where the untouchables shat, I could see the glimmer of a small kerosene lamp hanging down from the rafter on the veranda. I knew the window. So I sneaked to the side yard and knocked right on it. It took some time, but before I awoke the rest of the family, it opened.

*                                              *                                  *
We only got back to Ottachi Makul in the morning. Aachi Moosa had passed away. His poorly attended funeral was in the afternoon, and by evening, Mother’s men had kidnapped my pregnant wife! When we returned, I had resolved to confront Mother. But it went out of control in the blink of an eye, and I couldn't find anybody. Not mother, not her men, not my wife. The search was futile. I only got to hear that they had summoned Midwife Nallola, the prolific abortionist of Ottachi Makul! I ran around like a madman looking for my wife even under thickets, but the panic and the frenzy did not last more than an hour. 

It was later that afternoon when the whole of Ottachi Makul gathered around Asainar Tangal Haaji’s abandoned granary where farm implements were stored of late. It was all over by the time I got there. I saw mind-numbing flashes of my life’s end for the first time. It was macabre. Blood flowed in all directions. Through the red vapors of death, I could see hacked limbs and heads strewn all over the place. All of Mother's men were lying there in pieces! Some heads still blinked. Mother was lying in a heap, motionless. She had her head intact, but the hands were missing. Her body was lying in two halves. A little off from her stiff, in the middle of the carnage was sitting the numbed form of my wife breathing heavily, staring into the distance, and a bloody felling axe still trembling in her hand. With her other hand, she clutched on her bruised belly. Suddenly she screamed. A furious rush of fluids broke open under her and flowed into the puddle of blood.

By the time the coroner and the constables arrived, the smell of death was cloying the putrid air and the guilty had gone into labor. They had no choice but to wait.

It was almost daybreak when the wait finally ended. There was a bloodcurdling scream from inside. It was not my wife. I rushed in and accidentally stepped into a pool of blood reminiscent of the previous afternoon. This time it was really over. My wife lay there motionless, and the midwife held on the limp form of my lifeless baby, the umbilical chord still dangling down from it. It all spun out of control and I had to sit down to avoid falling. I couldn't process it all at once, so I shut my eyes and made a wish. I, Tambai, the loneliest man on earth, hereby wish for the nightmare to end. I really want to wake up and embrace my wife and child!

*                                              *                                  *
By the time I sneaked back in, Vachi was shivering in unbearable pain.
“Vachi! Vachi!” I said trying to pacify her, “This is Ayathullah Biwi, Aachi Moosa’s youngest wife. They don’t have a child. She would take yours and raise it as her own.”
Vachi squinted in agony, but she was more concerned about her exploding guts. Then the baby came, a beautiful yellowish white infant that refused to cry at first.
“It’s a girl,” I whispered to Vachi, “but there’s no time.” I handed the newborn to Ayathulla Biwi and said, “Hurry! Bathe her immediately you are out of her, and rub her with salt as well. Quick! Hurry!”
She was gone in a second, and by the time the baby cried, they must have crossed the pepper garden.

Then I dug up a hole in the rear yard and put away the junk in a flurry. I returned and called in the worried husband who was eagerly waiting out in the night with their four-year-old son. When I broke the bad news, the man seemed to have already known, but tears ran down the little boy’s face. 
“Tambai,” Vachi called her son, and motioned him to come near her.
When she held him close, he felt up her deflated belly.
He asked, “Was it a boy or a girl?”
Vachi nervously smiled.
“You don’t want to know,” She said shutting her eyes in pain, “It’s always possible that we are in a bad nightmare. Remember when you wake up, Tambai, we’ll have a nice laugh!”

Sunday, April 20, 2014


At first it was the unfortunate Laali incident.  A week following New Years Eve a scorpion that was perched inside her chemise stung her when she wore it right off the clothesline where it was hung to dry. That was only a few days after she came home following a dispute with her new husband. The Kohlis never talked to anybody in our family about the matter, nor did Laali utter a word when she returned. Then the insect snuffed her. Things were pretty crazy in the Bhatia household for near to two months that followed her funeral. So I could obviously not bring my case up on any of those days. It would have seemed somewhat heartless on my part. It kind of would also have been a bit of a bad luck. Moreover my instinct of being consumed right over the tandoor by the entire family was unsettling. So the drill was only to wait for a better time, which I resolved to carefully ensure convincing Reeha to stay put till the clouds moved.

The Bhatias were pretty prosperous from all the textiles money, but the ancient duplex in Punjabi Bagh was still too small for a joint Sikh family with nineteen members not including the maids and the Dachshunds. So even at twenty-two, I was sharing bedroom with Jimpi, Bunty, Pressure and Mintu, and the bed with Makkan, who up until two years ago skillfully wetted it on most nights. Despite having the luxury of Reeha’s bedroom window right across the street, it didn’t do much with these jokers breathing down my neck all the time. None of them in the room knew, except of course Pressure who was a resourceful wingman from the beginning, and in the house, perhaps our famously unmarried Raju Aunty, with all her clairvoyance (she had predicted the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when she was just twenty six).

I was certain that it was going to disappoint everybody in the family, but trickier than persuading my own parents was to bring it up with Daduji- the tyrannical patriarch of the Bhatia household and a widower who despite going to turn ninety any minute was strong enough to take down all the burly men in the neighborhood and still stand upright. He was the singular most difficult person in the world I ever heard of, both living and dead. Back in the day when I violated the norms of conduct, while the worst threat my father came up with was to enroll me into Queen Mary School for girls, Daduji warned me of amputation of fingers! His problem with the Kohlis was yet unresolved and the local police had to be brought in to restore the momentary peace. All I knew was that the Kohlis did not have anything to do with the insect bite. I’m not very sure as to how the whole issue was finally put to rest, except the fact that the Kohlis soon moved out of Delhi, and ever since their Pashchim Vihar bungalow has remained uninhabited.

After cousin Laali and the toxic scorpion slowly subsided into the list of acknowledged domestic tragedies, the family routine gradually gained speed. Meanwhile, across the street, Reeha was beginning to get serious marriage proposals, and one of them from a Mechanical Engineer at Bajaj Auto almost actually took off. Her typewriting classes at Vishal Typing & Shorthand Center were stopped and I saw less and less of her as more proposals went raining in. I finally decided to stand up for my truths and announce it to my folks, but before even I moved a finger in this regard, Raju Aunty foretold another looming tragedy in the family, and less than a week later Tonu Uncle, Father’s youngest brother and Pressure’s dad, was fatally mangled when a Labor Union strike went out of control at the distribution wing of Sargun Garments and Exporters, the hub of our family business in Kirti Nagar, named after my late grandmother, Daduji’s wife. He was hospitalized with spiral fractures on his ulna and the radial bone of his left arm and a bruised ego for almost half a month, and my case was adjourned indefinitely. Heaven knows, I have never before prayed for somebody’s speedy recovery more than I did for Tonu Uncle's in those days. Eventually when he was up and about, there were talks and peace settlements with the leaders of the Labor Union, which went on for some time leaving a kind of constant domestic unrest in its wake, day and night, as the overall atmosphere in the house was controlled by the ups and downs of our family business as a rule. Before the issue with the Union got stable, a new suffering broke loose in the Bhatia family. It was Jimpi who actually brought in the virus from Guru Nanak Public School. In two weeks' time everybody except a few grown ups including Daduji and me were down with Chicken pox. It was quite a riot after that, everybody with boils moving around like zombies.

Reeha was at her wits’ end. A new proposal was brimming up and the two families were planning to meet up any day. I did not have a lot of time left to act. But there never seemed to be a good time for it. Either ways guts were going to spill. If I made Daduji unhappy, he was going to cut me off from the Sargun Enterprises, which if ever happened, I had not the slightest clue as to how to make a living any other way, although in response to what I had to say, cutting me off from the business was the least of what he was capable of. My own father’s reaction was going to be nothing more than a little display of shock and some scolding for setting a bad example for Teena, my little sister. But Daduji’s instincts would be to cut me in half. I lost sleep. After the cousins retired every night I talked with Reeha hours on end in sign language through the windows in the light of emergency lamps. It only riled her up even more. Yet I promised to rescue her soon.

At last when the madness of the Pox unhurriedly declined, I mustered every ounce of courage to confront the Bhatias, when the resident soothsayer spoke again, this time of another likely death in the family! It was just unstoppable! But I did not have a choice even if it was my end that figured in Raju Aunty’s forecast. That evening, I waited till every last little Bhatia came to the dinner table before I addressed the family. The monsoon influenza was in town, and along with a few others in the house, Daduji was feeling poorly. But then, I was determined. So I declared to them all- once and for all- my love for Reeha Kazmi, the dusky daughter of our Muslim neighbor Ajmal Ali Kazmi, with whom I was legally wedded for almost eleven months, although we agreed to live separately till we educated the families about it. I admitted the fear for keeping it a secret in the initial days, but for leaving things at it, pushed the blame on to the subsequent string of tragedies that never stopped striking the Bhatias the whole year. I’m quite sure that I surprised them all. Daduji was really weak to respond, so he called Goldie Uncle next to him and whispered in his ear. Quickly absorbing his father’s big secret, Goldie Bhatia, a titanic mountain of a man and former “Mr. Ludhiana” enthusiast, walked up to me and swiftly swung his enormous right hand on my left ear, and in a clap, it all blacked out! A ring resonated into the hollow for some time, but the darkness remained.

It was over so quickly! Mine must have been a rather short life, but I was not disgruntled about it. There were not a lot of regrets either. I was only sad about having left Reeha behind. Even though Pressure and I have had discussions on life after death a number of times while growing up, we were not quite sure about the details. For instance, the glowing transparent winged beings that fluttered around me in the dark never figured in any of it. I was flying too. But I had no wings. We were all headed for some place I had no clue about. In fact they were guiding me through the thick and bottomless night. Pressure and I also had a secret pact- whoever died first will have to come back and talk to the other from the world of the dead. I looked around, only in vain. Let alone Pressure, there was nobody in sight except the angel figures till I reached a place where I finally could hear voices, still in the dark. I recognized the voices. They were all there, that is, everybody still alive in the family, and it was their voices. I couldn’t see any of them but they were all talking about a recent death in the house, and how Raju Aunty’s latest prophecy also clicked. Pressure was there too, but despite trying real hard, I could not speak with him, or perhaps I did, and he couldn’t hear me. I could also recognize Reeha’s voice amongst them. This went on for a long time. There were prolonged bouts of silences in between as well, when they all shut up and left. But then they returned sooner or later. All this while I was trying to connect with someone or the other, but with no luck.

I was unconscious for a whole week, and when I finally opened my eyes, they told me Daduji was dead from complications that arose with the fever. Reeha was next to me. The Kazmis had sent her over with only one condition. They asked us to expel the Dachshunds from our house, as Ajmal Kazmi wished to stick with his religion at some place possible in the alliance. With Daduji’s death and the general distaste about our marriage, there was no party in the family, but many a number of times during the wake, we sneaked out to Damdama Lake for some non-Bhatia time and occasional boat rides as it was winter time already. While things couldn’t get all that normal in the Bhatia household even without Daduji, we started living like other married couples, and the bad year finally came to a close. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

TOP TEN GRAPHIC NOVELS you must read before you croak!

(…in the English Language)


Written & illustrated by Brian Michael Bendis

For all of those who will never make it to Hollywood, here is a hilarious account of the misadventures of comic writer prodigy Brian Michael Bendis in the fabled land of movies and movie stars. True Story! A thoroughly entertaining work, Fortune & Glory- a true Hollywood comic book story has Bendis’ trademark rich dialogues giving us the accurate picture of what really happens behind the smoke and mirrors of Hollywood-land with the likes of Uma Thurman and Clint Eastwood making funny cameos.


Written & illustrated by Alex Robinson

Six masterful plotlines involving six different lead characters heading to a single gripping climax- that’s Tricked for you in a sentence. Alex Robinson’s stark black-and-white illustrations greatly supplement the brutal realism roaring from each frame all the way from chapter-50 to chapter-1. The change in tone, mood and habit of language and narrative for each plotline is detailed markedly different from each other.


Written by Various, Illustrated by Dilip Kadam

Over 1300 pages split into three volumes, the graphic novel version of the great Indian epic Mahbharata published by Amar Chitra Katha and written by ten different authors, is a must read for all those mythology enthusiasts out there, despite being more or less a straightforward interpretation of the classic Sanskrit text, because there is more action, more drama and more magic in the basic plotline than can ever be imagined.


Written & illustrated by Joe Sacco

This disquieting work is a triumph in the area of comics-journalism while assuring the future potential of the graphic medium in areas of reportage. True account of the author as a war-zone reporter in the Israel-occupied territories during 1991 and ’92, Palestine reveals, from Sacco’s intimate knowledge of the subject, the horrors of the impact of public policies on private lives, shown like never before in mainstream media.


Written & illustrated by David Mazzucchelli

Those of who told you Asterios Polyp was the Fountain Head of graphic novels didn’t get the point. Although a story of an architect, this meta-art of a novel is a satire on the tug between formalist rigor and emotional subtlety in art as well as life. The non-linear structure of this hallucinatory account is interspersed with vivid dream sequences involving the narrator who also happens to be the stillborn twin of the protagonist.


Written & illustrated by Chris Ware

Today and yesterday is enmeshed with fantasy and reality in this labyrinthine work presenting the life and dreams of an awkward cheerless middle-aged man and his boyhood as a friendless child of divorce. The dreams are what make Jimmy Corrigan the eponymous “smartest kid” in this multi-layered gem of a book with a considerable amount graphics that you are made to read without text.


Written by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Watchmen is a stunner and a true example of creative mastery that exploits the expansive scope of graphic storytelling as a medium. The moving frames, the flashbacks, the quirkiness of the subject matter and the remarkable sub plots are all weaved into a volatile package with Moore’s distinctive command over the art. A Great game changer in the history of graphic novels!


Written & illustrated by Marjane Satrapi

The sheer simplicity of this autobiographical work set in the most turbulent time in the history of Iran and afterward is nothing short of breathtaking. Without taking sides, Satrapi exposes all those knotty details surrounding the Islamic revolution that demonized her country in front of the world biased by social censorship. The power and intensity of this revealing coming of age account is well complemented by the starkness of the art employed.


Written by Alan Moore, Illustrated by Eddie Campbell

Well known for its spookily vast area of research into one of history’s most notoriously unsolved mysteries in the world, Jack the ripper; From Hell is a titanic work by a genius at play. Although Alan Moore solves the mystery with his reasons, the liberties he takes are kept transparent for the reader’s judgment. The Sinister artwork by Eddie Campbell depicting a shadowy London with all its crookedness has to be the best thing that happened to the project after it was conceived.

01. MAUS

Written & illustrated by Art Spiegelman

There is not another work in this list that will move you as much as Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning Holocaust masterpiece despite all the “animal people” in it. Attributing heads of mice, cats, pigs and dogs to Jews, Germans, non-Jewish Poles and Americans respectively, the harrowing experience of a Jewish holocaust survivor (Spiegalman’s father) is said with resounding honesty employing minimalist drawing style leaving behind a legacy of “serious” comics since its initial publishing.

And to move further down from the tail end of the above list, if you haven’t croaked by the end of top-ten, i.e, …

11. Dark Knight Returns (written by Frank Miller, Illustrated by Miller & Klaus Janson)
12. Ghost world (written & illustrated by Daniel Clowes)
13. Louis Riel (written & illustrated by Chester Brown)
14. A Contract with God (written & illustrated by Will Eisner)
15. Blankets (written & illustrated by Craig Thompson)
16. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin(written & illustrated by Justin Green)
17. Stuck Rubber Baby (written & illustrated by Howard Cruse)
18. V for Vendetta (written by Alan Moore, Illustrated by David Lloyd & Tony Weare)
19. Mid-life (written & illustrated Joe Ollmann)
20. Buddha (written & illustrated Osamu Tezuka)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


cover photograph by duyum dulom
So waiting for my turn, I’m sitting in the most depressing place on earth- the hallway outside the Principal’s office on the day after the scout camp got over. Varun Batra is already inside, and you never know what that jackass was gonna say. The dude can’t hold back anything for long. He’ll crack soon although he considers himself to be a tough cookie and everything. He is a jerk alright, but is the wussy variety, and that’s what sets him apart from the normal jerks of St. Michael’s- the fact that he couldn’t man-up to confront you in your face for nuts. So if he was mad at you, what he’d do is, he’d take a revenge pee in the pool when you’re in it too. Father Dogzilla, our Principal, is a savage predator and very well knows the drill with the likes of him. To say the least, he can make goats sing, and he’s at making one right now.

Meanwhile Chetan, the famous dork sitting next to me, is crying his heart out. I’m talking about the malnourished Chetan; the other one, Mermaid, is two years our junior. This dude’s the kind who’s got at home one of everything you’re talking about. You name it, and he’s got it, or his dad has it, or the mother-in-law of his goddamn uncle’s great grandma has it. Even if you were talking about scud missiles, he’d tell you he’s got one in his back yard. Anyways, sitting right next to me, he’s weeping like a queen rather effortlessly, and trust me, it can depress the hell outta you, especially when you’re already feeling sick in the stomach. It’s just the three of us right now, ‘cause Kabir, my best friend, doesn’t need to testify, at least for the time being, as he’s lying leg-up in trauma somewhere in Naidu Memorial.

So I sit there in the miserable hallway with this whiny dingus right besides me blowing his nose all over the place for nearly two hundred friggin hours, when finally Varun Batra emerges out of Dogzilla’s hole like a celebrity, all sweaty and red as hell, with “I’m royally screwed” written all over his pimply face. Poor thing was out of wind. So he first struggles to control his wind and everything, then he manages to tell me, we’re royally screwed, pfft like I didn’t know we were! But before I even get the time to look into his eyes and find out if he has already ratted us out, I hear a roar from behind- Dogzilla yelling my name out. So what I do, I slowly move my ass into his office, and oh what can I say! A mere look of that place could send willies up your spines. In my case it was also bad memories that tumbled back in. You ask me, the room is like a real treat. It actually looks like a flea market took a crap in there. It’s crammed with millions of Dogzilla’s favorite things- all his mementos, and photographs, and wall hangers, and showpieces, and whatnots- and guess what, he’s got extremely bad taste in everything you could possibly think of. You just have to take a look at that fading fake reindeer-head fixed above that window to confirm. Even his paperweight is flashy with a glowing bulb inside that transparent thingy. Don't be surprised if you ever find a reptile hidden somewhere under his table there. And it’s behind all that heap of trash that you finally get a peek of the prince himself, his dreadful face stuck on his shoulders without a neck. Dogzilla is so ugly, so goddamn ugly that if a water buffalo and Popeye’s girlfriend Olive Oyl, were also in the contest, it’d be a freaking tie between the three, if you know what I mean. In fact you don’t need to know if he’s fat or thin, or hairy or lanky, or squint eyed or floppy, ‘cause in the face of the kinda intense ugliness he radiated, none of it counted. You cant blame his wife when, in public, she tries and stays away from where he’s standing as much as possible, and go sticks next to Tyagi or somebody a bit less obvious. Navin Tyagi from the chemistry department is not a beauty queen himself, but put next to Dogzilla, he shines like a new coin. You must have watched Monsters Inc, I suppose. Well, this one sitting in front of me is like catching it live! Dogzilla almost always wore shades like it was lunar eclipse or something. Maybe he wanted to hide the shame in his eyes, or maybe the dark circles, I'm still not sure which one exactly. Riddled with a million personality disorders, it’s not difficult to understand that it’s his appearance and his wife’s unwelcoming attitude towards it that made him this extremely bitter person he is today. Can’t blame the prince if when it comes to hurting people’s feelings, he’s always a five on five!

So I’m standing there in front of him and his pile of crap with zero hope. He’s reading a book, and without raising his head, greets me rather indifferently although, being the school long jump champion and all, you might think it’d be a hoot for him to see me again. He almost never asks you to sit down, so he directly gets to the point, tell me son, what actually happened? I assume my surprised-raccoon face and say, sir? He looks up from his book this time and says, don’t make me say everything twice, son. You heard me! I suddenly get goose bumps and all, and I say, I honestly don’t remember a thing, sir. Dogzilla doesn’t look surprised or anything. It’s like he expected me to say exactly that, or maybe he believed me, which is only less likely from past experience. But what can I say, he’s a natural! He says, okay then tell me about what happened up until you lost your memory. He’s partly ridiculing me, but then I had to maintain my calm. So I say, we all reached at the campsite by eleven and we were assigned tents in a group of- he doesn’t let me finish, and impatiently interrupts, skip the daytime son, I was there too, tell me about the evening. Say, start after the cultural activities got over. So I say, then we had dinner, then we split, and returned to our tents, and went to sleep. And when I woke up the next morning, I got to know Kabir fell from the tree, and that Varun and Saurabh were missing. Then we all started- he interrupts me yet again, but son, you missed out the part between where you went to sleep and woke up the next morning. What happened there? Ha, this one was a real head scratcher, so I reassume my surprised-raccoon face and say, sir? -to which he rolls his eyes and say, I thought you understood before when I said, don’t make me repeat myself. (Holy moly! Believe me, I got it)! Then he says, okay forget it. Just tell me whose idea was it? I know it was the four of you together, but who came up with the idea first? Frankly I was not in the mood. You ask me all you want, even try some torturing, but I’m not telling you anything you freaking son of a gun, I said that with my eyes. Maybe he read it instantly ‘cause in the very next minute he slows down and sits back even smiling a little. Then he says, the management is very disturbed about the whole issue and wants it seriously looked into. Well, the management is disturbed about every-freaking-thing, just in case you are wondering. But to tell you the truth, it was Dogzilla who’s in trouble, and we all knew that. So I was gonna stay put till the old fart eventually gave up. But he is a real force of nature, you know that? He never gives up, ‘cause suddenly he switches tactics and says, you tell me what actually happened and I spare you! Woohoo, slowdown grandfather! I couldn’t believe my ears. Then he continues, I know you are intelligent son, and unlike the other flunkeys you know better. Tell me everything, and you walk. Sweet Moses! It’s not the voices in my head, I confirm this time. Dogzilla is actually saying it out loud. I’m so happy that I’m about to pass out. Out of excitement I even went to the bathroom a little. I immediately do a little Math in my head. So if I was gonna walk and Kabir was safe in the hospital, who cares about the other two losers. I take a few seconds to come to terms with it all, and finally tell Dogzilla everything, from how we knew about his bottle of scotch, to how we stole it from his tent after he crashed, and how bad it tasted, and how, after consuming it, we pinky-swore to not tell anybody about it, and how later that night Kabir climbed the tree and refused to get down, and how the other two guys strayed into the woods in the meantime searching for a ladder, and how I ran for help and finally blacked out in the tent holding on the empty bottle. Dogzilla patiently listens to the true story, and the moment I finish he goes into a tailspin and starts yelling at me like a psycho-man. He suddenly forgets all his promises and everything. It’s actually human rights violation, breach of trust and all. You ask anybody in St. Michael’s, peace with Dogzilla never lasts longer than a toffee. He yells and yells till a few of his veins pop from his forehead. And you gotta understand, this is despite the fact that he loves me deep down. I feel so sorry for the prince, so I finally say, I’m so sorry we finished it all, sir, but I could ask my father to replace your scotch. That was like the final blow. It actually sounded better in my head. I knew he didn’t like it, so I say, maybe with two bottles? It just got totally bend out of shape after that. Stars and clouds and everything you see flying out of an angry head in cartoons burst out of Dogzilla’s gorgeous face. He always tells the nicest things when he’s annoyed. Finally on the other side of the cursing game, before totally kicking me out, he barks, you really thought I’d let you go for creating all that ruckus, you stupid worm! We will all meet tomorrow again, and this time with your parents. Then I went flying out of the door. He sent me alive so that I could go out and spread the joy. So I walk up to Chetan, who was still moaning like a suffering dog, and say, get up and go home. I took care of it. He did not get it then, but when he later did he stopped talking to me altogether. He, Kabir Waqif, Varun Batra and I were suspended from St. Michael’s for three weeks starting that day. Kabir did not stop talking to me, probably ‘cause he did not know what actually happened. By the time he was back from hospital, people had moved on and were talking about other stuff. Even if he did, he couldn’t have not talked to me forever and all since we are like buddies and everything. But I was not sure about Varun Batra. So I never went swimming with him ever again.

“I am very sorry for what I did. I promise I shall never repeat it. I rightfully deserve the punishment I'm given. ” The prince made us write that a thousand times each before we returned to his land. He’s so old school, that ugly bastard who broke my trust. And you wonder why God is harsh on some people!
Also from the 'Raza' series;



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