MEDIUM RARE

A six o’clock tie. Four o’clock chair. And twelve o’clock cutlery. Time made Hank and Hank made time. That’s the relationship they shared. For each other and with each other. Hank could not stand someone sitting in a 10 20 position. And time did not appreciate when Hank would wear the hat in an 8 10 position. Needless to say they fell in respect with each other; love was late, so they weren’t particularly fond of it.

It was Thursday when Hank and time got themselves into a rather odd situation. Hank had a presentation to deliver by 4 pm, and he badly wanted time to be with him. But time had to be somewhere else. Time was running out. Hank tried to stop her; time tried to convince Hank she could not wait. She was gone. Hank sat there, motionless. Time on the other hand had just gone down for a walk. She wanted him to miss her, value her, not just look at her as a reminder. She did not want to ruin his presentation. With just a few seconds to four, she returned. But to her disbelief, Hank asked her to wait out as he busied himself on the phone.

The air went cold and silence stormed to all corners of the room. Time was glaring at Hank. Muttering tick tick tick under her pursed lips. Hank was not ready to apologize. To add insult to injury, he tilted his hat. “Let’s discuss this over dinner”, commanded time.

Sharp 9. A six o’clock tie. Four o’clock chair. And twelve o’clock cutlery. Steak was to be ordered. Time did not like being kept waiting, so she insisted on Rare. Hank on the other time wanted to make her wait, so she could understand his agony. He wanted it Well Done. Time stood still. She wanted to tell Hank, she waits for no man. And Hank did not like time dictating his life. They settled for a medium rare.

From this moment on, they both started dissecting the afternoon.

Hank getting into the meat of the argument, stated,“You always knew it was at 4. You’d known for days. How could you bail out on me”?

Time was getting heated up, ready to grill Hank into submission. “You take me for granted when I’m there. I had to leave to make you realize I am more than just a goddamn alarm. You don’t value me Hank, you never do”.

Hank was in the mood to add fuel to fire, “Don’t you understand woman, Time is Money”.

Hank just heard what he had said. He decided to reduce the heat. “Listen, I value you over anybody else. You know that. I was really under pressure in the afternoon. I promise I’d never do that to you again. You mean everything to me. I can’t stop thinking about you even for a second. I wouldn’t know what to do without you!”

The meat was flipped. Seasoned. And served.

As Hank prodded her with a should-we-eat, she blushed out, “It’s about time”.

Tavern

In the back alley of New Jersey, Gilly was on her third bourbon. It was her second straight night. Five men down, she was about to gulp her sixth. The old tavern in her neighbourhood was home to her. It had seen all the faces and phases of Gilly over the past few years. The intelligent spectacles. The blonde slut. The blue haired hippy. The manipulative confidante. The lonely seeker. The plus one. The beers. The wine. The mojitos. Just like the ageing casks, she had moved to whisky now.

Although, she wasn’t getting better with age. Neither was she degrading. She was standing outside the door of impasse. She did not want turn around and get back into the field. She was equally hesitant to turn the door knob as well. Resigned to fatigue and yearning for pieces to come together, she called for one more glass.

After the first two drinks, Jim usually had conversations with the person seated opposite to him, himself. Even with no one there, no one found this interaction unusual. Because the conversations were so intriguing and interesting, everyone silently searched for themselves. It was one of those beautiful moments that happened every once in a while at the Tavern. Jim used to dig deep and bring out such a heady concoction of words and emotions that everyone wanted a glass for themselves. Some even waited for seconds. The bartender called it the Jim’s Special.

On the rare occasion when Jim called for a second bottle, he often ended up painting a self-portrait.  The Tavern had put up many of these portraits on one of its walls. Each echoing a sentiment, a mood, a person that was present in the bar. Jim had just ordered for his second bottle.

Gilly had admired Jim for a long time now. She also fell in love with him once in a while. She had never taken to dark rum though. She wasn’t sure if she could handle it. Sometimes she thought she could take the rum and gulp it down too. But she often excused herself of it. The right time and place stood in between some time ago. Questions on compatibility often went unanswered. But today seemed different. She took the bait of weather change and started making her move towards Jim.

To the bartender’s puzzled look, Gilly replied, “It’s time for the Jim’s Special”.

As she seated herself in front of Jim, she switched the glasses. Jim gave her a disappointed smile and continued painting.

Gilly: “Pour some of me in that. I don’t taste bad you know”.

Jim taking a sip from the whisky replied, “I used to prefer this sour. But that was a different time, a different woman.”

Gilly: “This one lingers long after you’ve taken a sip. Give it time.” Saying that, she returned to the bar.

Jim continued as if the conversation never ended. He was still facing the seat where Gilly was seated.

Jim: “It reminds me of that old wound we once ached for. It’s like every sip has stories inside. Would you like to visit sometime? There are many stories back there.”

Jim: “But that’s what they are – stories. Why don’t you make one now and pretend like you’re telling an old one? Isn’t that what we usually do? Go to the cushion of past and wake dreaming dragons? And all this just to get into bed again with someone new”

Gilly had taken a liking to the rum. As she was twirling her fingers around the rim of the glass, quietly, she was also turning the doorknob.

SEASONAL DELIGHT

The Hot Summer
He was clean-shaven for a while. Character filtered down to the not so well-defined jaw line. Integrity had begun to rust in his razor. As the sun made his visits more frequent, the stubble woke up from its slumber. Donning a nonchalant face Mach ventured to a bar after months. The four-day beard came with its share of invitations. They came for Mr. Playful. He was going for Mr. Cool. Caught between acquired taste and required pleasure, he played the waiting game. Two weeks and nearly savaged, Mach took the swagger to the bar again. He wanted to be barbaric with that rebound someone. The head of the beer drowning deep in his nearly savaged look brought out the lifeguards to give some mouth to mouth. As he readied to go dirty, they mistook him for being gentlemanly. As acquired taste walked into the room, required pleasure took the long walk home. Six more weeks of waiting. By now macho, dirty, biker, metal head had all taken refuge in his beard. Twisting, twirling and wearing a sea of arrogance, he made a dramatic entrance at the bar again. Two weeks and nine women down, this was the road trip he was waiting for. The beard was at its all-time length. Just then a broad walked in with all the haughtier she could muster. One look and the heroic barbarian caved in. She had one advantage – She was hungrier. The beard fell short. She ate him like leftover meat. Devoured and wanting to be chewed off, Mach was losing his edge. The storm had taken the sun out. Sheepishly, the razor stepped out of the closet.

The Great Fall
Aristocracy was a class Mach had never been to. Struggling for status, he’d always been stuck somewhere in middle class. Wearing a thin line, he walked into a wine club in search for red. Outcast stared at him in the face. Fine locks of gold turned him down. In this heap of sour grapes, he walked out unfermented. Four weeks and a handlebar later, he walked into a library of stiff upper lips. This time around he wanted to read a dream. Flipping through thousands of pages, a pair of bespectacled beauty caught his eye on page 46. Brown hair swirled down to her shoulders. A dress that slipped down further. She looked expensive. Before she could turn this rag to riches, she quoted a price. Although the price was high, he felt cheap. Disgruntled, he dragged his pride out and walked down the road of shame. Cold feet and a joint later, Mach met the razor again.

The Long Winter
Long hair. The ultimate rock star. The heart-throb. The majestic lover. These were some of the things Mach had longed for. Three years. That’s what he had decided to give himself. He was in his early 40s. It was never or now. For a year he waited for his turn. To woo. To charm. To make love. To be loved. Adored. To be the one name they squealed. And when his day arrived, the day carried on for months. He was having whomsoever, wherever, however. He would turn them down. Turn them over. Turn them into whatever he wanted. And they happily obliged. As his hair continued to grow, so did the women. Mid-life crisis was a rented apartment he had long vacated. He went for golden locks. Brown flocks. Black beauties. Free flowing hair he loved. And made love to. By the time the third winter came along, he missed the chase. He wanted someone to make it tough for him. As snow trickled down from the heaven above, a guardian devil rose from hell below. Cai. That’s what they called her. Known to drink up many a soul, she was looking to quench her thirst by drinking away someone else’s. She was the skin of sin. From head to toe. Mach first caught her glance when she waltzed away through the sea of women around him. Mach’s throat went dry. She had that effect. Black eyes. Slender body. Big lips. Cai was an ideal to be strived towards. Sharp. Witty. Manipulative. And beautiful. For Mach, she was all the seasons behind him. She was the stiff upper-lipped. She was the lifeguard from the bar. That girl from the library. She was red. And white. She made the grapes sour. She was the two winters he had wasted. This was love the way he had never imagined. Uncompromising. Humiliating. Sacrificial goat-like. Cai was everything Mach was wanting in a woman. Everything Mach was wanting in himself. Twisted pleasures locked in a braid. Dark fantasies rolled in a bun. He left what was his for the taking and went after what could never be his – Cai. One hair swept back Thursday, she ripped his soul apart. Conversation. Books. Sex. Alcohol. And a razor. She snatched his happiness. Took those golden brown locks of his and fed it to her cat. Seventeen nights later, satiated, she moved on.

The New Spring
The fifth spring was here with the sun rising high. Mach was wearing make-up and a wig rolled back in a bun. He opened his dresser to look for different shades of pink. He went for Coral. Kissing the mirror, he winked and stepped out of his apartment. His customer was late. He looked in his pocket mirror one last time. As the car arrived, lusty eyes looked back at him from the window. Leaning towards the window, Mach went, “Hi, I’m Cai. And I’m about to turn your world upside down”.

MEN IN BLACK IV

Agent K was testing the legs of a squirmy little alien to look for signs of electricity. As he was busy writing the findings from this research, Agent J walked in dressing a Yoda lookalike in the latest Billabong shorts. As awkward silence was filling up the room, a burp sound came from the sandwich toaster. It was a message from the headquarters.

“Agent H is missing. He was last seen in a black alien infested area known as Bandra in Mumbai, India. Indian post was slow with its results as our technology was stolen to create electricity in their country. It’s been 37 years. Find him”.

Agent K dropped the squirm. Yoda let out a wheezed sound after being squeezed. Both agents took their Stark toys and turned the key three times. The toy spoke: “I’ve privatized world peace. I’ve privatized world peace. I’ve privatized world peace”. And then it broke into a smoke. 3 seconds later, the agents were dressed as the title of the movie asked them to – In Black. Using technology and the Invisibility Cloak, they landed outside Bandra station. And within no time they were surrounded by khakhi dressed men speaking an alien language. Agent J took out his space gun but was stopped by K. “They’re human. Don’t shoot”. As they walked out that moth infested, poop smelling area, they saw beautiful women hailing cabs. They asked the ‘Operator’ to program them to understand this language. Hindi software was getting installed as their eyelids were batting. As the area did not have Wi-fi and network service providers were cheating the locals under the garb of 3G, it took some time for the language to load. As the language was loaded, they witnessed the horror.

“Baiyya, baiyya, Kaar chaloge?”

“Baut badiya aye”

“Sweety, kitne dino baad baar nikle aye”

“Mera pet bar gaya”

“Yaan Waan, Kaan batak raye te?”

Agent H was missing. It must be hiding in their lands somewhere. It’s not there in their language as well. They had to try to find him.

They went to a tobacco shop and tried experimenting. Maybe these guys were under a spell. “We just need to add the H and maybe the spell can be broken.”

MAHALO went Agent K.

“What men?” replied the shopkeeper.

MAHALO followed Agent J.

“Maal nai mangta aye. Aur aisa maal lo maal lo nai bolneka. Samja tum? Kaayde ke kilaaf aye”.

This was a more serious threat than Boris – The animal. That was one man. Here, one entire suburb was infected. And these were humans. Where could they find him? Rumour had it they might have hidden H in Vikhroli. So Agent J approached a young woman in her mid-20s and asked her if she could guide them to Vikhroli.

“Vikroli. Wat is dat?”

Agent J was taken aback. The ladies here are oblivious to everything outside Bandra. Either they deny the existence or they simply don’t have the knowledge. They must be unaware. Or maybe, they seriously are under a spell.

As they were crossing the stretch near St. Andrews College, they spotted a few Nigerians and what seemed like Agent J’s lost brothers from Boston. As a wide grin was plastered around Agent J’s face, he went and shoulder hugged them with happiness. After around 4 rounds of Waddups, J discovered that these boys trying to be men are not from where he thought they were. They were locals again. One of them though was a foreigner; he claimed to have come from what he called ‘Maaim’.

Baffled with this behavior, the Agents found themselves trapped under a serious spell. One they found was more threatening than any alien invasion. This one seemed entrenched. A virus that was seeded years ago, and has been growing ever since. They had lost connection with the base. Also with the operator. Their wallets had been stolen. And they found their own ties being sold on the streets. They were in a land far superior to theirs. There was a time, when they actually believed they were cool. This suburb with all its flair and disguise was a goldmine of geniuses. Some, they understood. While others they claimed were far ahead of their time. How they wished Griffin could come. The fact that he couldn’t spoke highly of the power, this small suburb possessed.

They put on their invisibility cloaks on and took a train to Marine Lines to meet the Navy officer to help them sail away to America. As they stepped out, they couldn’t believe what they saw. It was Agent H polishing shoes. He was wearing earrings and had a tan. He looked very close to the Bandra folk. When Agent H greeted them with Whaddup, he told them his story.

“That small suburb is a very powerful place. It has a quicksand quality. It sucks you in its world. Takes away all your possessions. Changes the way you talk. Makes you look down at people from other parts of the world. It has a life of its own. Only when I got out, I realized what had happened to me.”

“There has to be a way out. You must have figured something out.” Agent J pleaded.

“There is. But we have to enter Bandra again for that. I’ve tried 272 times, but failed. Getting back in is difficult. And once you get in, getting out is more difficult. Those people have a shrine; it’s called “Carter Road”. I’ve been caught every time I’ve tried to go there. Their Gods come there. And their goddesses, well, you get sucked in those flying kisses and that accent, and within no time, you’re trapped. And caught. Naked. Exposed. Anyways, on that road, there is a stone. Under which I’ve kept the portkey that will transport us back to our world”, concluded Agent H.

The agents had invisibility cloaks. Using that, they not only entered Bandra again, but successfully reached the stone.

Agent H looked in their eyes and said– “We have to say this together and say it right. Three times, only then we can go back. Ready boys? 1, 2, 3”.

“Aye bugger, wat men. Baiyya baiyya”

“Aye bugger, wat men. Baiyya baiyya”

“Aye bugger, wat men. Baiyya baiyya”

They were back in the living room where Yoda was steeling wheezing and the squirmy alien was creating electricity. And that’s when Agent H kissed the Yoda and the Squirmy Alien. There were tears in his eyes. At that point, Agent j said, “Welcome home man. Welcome home”.

Three years later

They were sleeping on the bed. Minds connected. Bodies living in resistance. His fingers were aching to feel her hair. Her fingers were itching to hold his. It was a strange feeling. A strange bond. One that LSD had prescribed. There was an unusual calm. Eerie to the world, scaring the souls. The idea of being together was daunting them. She poured a drink for herself and kept it at the side table. His glass was already there. Half devoured. It spoke of the unquenchable thirst. She knew that. Yet, she poured a glass for herself, or so she wanted to believe.

The Kerouac in him had taken a sabbatical. The Plath in her was inching closer to her destination. They were an odd couple. There was a time where they had hesitantly relished each other.

A half-hearted effort that yearned for justice. It crawled upon them at every interaction. Spoken. And unspoken. He was changing by the week. He called it growing up. She called it drifting away. Her growing hair was testimony for her longing. One inch below the waist, just the way he wanted. Minutes turned into hours into days into weeks, encapsulating time into moments. Fleeting was their nature. Erratic and sporadic, moments were soon turning into memories. Stamped with past, future was dwindling in the horizon.

She took a gulp. The glass was half empty now. He wanted to give this another shot. He was waiting for her. She was with him at this moment. She turned to the other side of the bed. “Are you awake?”

“Yes.”

Marital Martyr

Vacation was cut short by a phone call. He was asked to return. National duty came with its own set of rules. A disciplinarian regime sometimes broke some rules to keep the others. She always found this unfair. Sometimes she wondered if this was a love marriage at all! With so many arrangements, so many restrictions, her life was somewhat an irony. She often found herself living in confinement, living at the borders. It was like she too was following the Captain’s orders.

For a woman as committed as her, she often felt cheated. She called the country his mistress. One who had taken away her love. She had her doubts. “Whom does he love more?” She never had the courage to answer that. It was a demon in her head. And she was nurturing it every day. He had packed his bags.

“Colonel Abhimnayu Rawat, promise me you’ll return soon”.

“Mrs. Rawat, I’ll see you as soon as I reach. We’ll Skype.”

“But what is so urgent. At least give me a hint. Tell me there’s nothing to worry”.

“You know I can’t tell you details. This pretty face will keep me alive. Ha ha ha. Don’t worry”

“Never make such jokes. Don’t talk about death. How many times have I told you?”

He kissed her more passionately than he ever had before. This troubled her. But she couldn’t muster the strength to ask. Eyes welled up. This was not how she wanted to see him leave. But it was too late. He had left.

The next few hours were turmoil.

She had an eerie feeling about this. The way they parted. That long kiss. She tried connecting the dots. Cringed every time she came close. Was this it? Had the mistress taken away her love forever? She looked at their pictures. Before marriage. Honeymoon. All the good times they had. The mistress was always there. Either playing backdrop or camouflaging itself in the uniform. “That bitch”, she muttered. More pictures she saw, more she felt betrayed. The shadow was always there. How could she not see it? Blind love, that’s what she blamed it on. Falling prey to the oldest trick, the oldest cliché in the book. She felt unintelligent at this point. The mistress enticed him with accolades.

“Decorated officer, my foot”, she yelled.

She looked at all the things she had got him. The perfumes, the clothes, the artifacts, the gadgets, the moments. She could see all of them sitting in the house. All left alone. To dwell in the past. Sleeping on the side table. Yawning inside the almirah. And most of all, laughing at her. Mocking at her defeat to the mistress. Food turned stale. The water ran cold. Drops of sweat were getting outraced by the tears. Sleep had gone out for a stroll. And the clock was simply ticking along. She read all the letters he had written to her. All hope was not lost. She could still save her soul. She could still bring him back.

“Darling, I’ve reached. Safe and sound. Let’s Skype in 30 minutes. And no tears this time”, the husband texted.

She walked towards the bathroom. Unfastened her hair. Stripped down. And turned on the shower. The water was warm again. It tasted like hope. Wearing damp hair, a smile on her face and a spark in her eyes, Mrs. Rawat logged on to Skype. All she could see was a blank screen. And her image was frozen. Time stood still for the next couple of minutes. Nothing was moving. Not wind. Neither the clock. Not even her. Colonel Abhimanyu Rawat was offline now. That was the last he saw of his wife.

That day a lot was lost.

Smiles.

Happiness.

Moments.

Past.

Future.

The bitch had won. India had won.

I warned you not to jump into the pyre!

The first man after Adam, John Connors was lost in time while playing hide and seek with his geek friends. His wandering mind and social experiment with attaining Eureka, did not allow him to travel back or further in the case to his time using logic. Bored and impatient, he stumbled upon a few nude men burning wood. He thought he was in Stone Age. The lack of availability of bacon was really frustrating at this point. His anal habit to crack unfunny jokes to a disinterested audience was itching now. He wanted to impart knowledge to these men, and fondly remembered the faces of his best audience – the suicidal lab rats at Skynet.

What you don’t know about John Connors is that he was a failed sous chef at The Tin Factory Gourmet. John was always weak at Math. He always aspired to be a Stand Up comic, but being an armchair critic, he was trapped under an occupational hazard.

But in a different place, at a different time, the rules really did not matter. And being rebellious was not really his thing, it was just a forced character trait written by the scriptwriter. So, getting back to the fire and nude men, or an audience as he saw it, he decided to give stand up comedy a shot. Here is an account of how that went:

(Response stated here is unanimous in nature)

John: You must be wondering how I landed up here…well, blame it on the GPS and the female who directed me here, what was I thinking, women and directions!

Response: Facepalm

John: Oh…kay. I guess you people need to “warm up” to my humour.

Response: Blank stares

John: Ok, let me give you some real juicy gossip from the inside. When I was shooting with Arnie, I found his voice rather strange. I thought that robotic monotone was a master move for the role. But later I realized, that’s how he spoke.

Response: Facepalm

John: Ok, what’s your problem? And why is there no bacon. Why did you start the fire in the first place?

That’s when Billy Joel stood up from the back. John started laughing when this happened. But the eerie silence made him stop. Turns out, Billy wanted to go and piss. What he said later made John piss in his pants first.

Billy Joel: “I’ll be back”

John then had an epiphany which he thought could save himself the embarrassment. He decided to play Phoenix and jumped into the fire. Before his eyes burnt, he looked at everyone enjoying crispy bacon.

Jake Sully had tears in his eyes after looking at the sad demise of his childhood hero. Eywa could not stop it. Aiwa did not broadcast it. Such sadness had taken over. Back in the ship, Jake was updating his log.

Day 964, 11.45 pm.

Times in Pandora are tougher than ever. Guy Kremer has increased his rates. Valet parking as a concept miserably failed. Ewya did not find merit in Supper. Aiwa failed to do business here as well. Simon Cowell has a huge fan base. And Alex Ferguson still has not gotten a valid Visa to enter. John Connor paid a visit though. Then he jumped into the fire. In a moment of madness, Billy Joel wrote a song. I think it’s going to be a rage. Also, I had texted John not to jump into the pyre. But it’s not his fault, Vodafone is still nascent here.

Spooning With Nine Cats

Nestled in each other’s bodies, conversation took its first flight. Swimming through the dingy lanes of Gregory Roberts to the mansions created by Ayn Rand, these early birds jumped from the cliff. Through clouds, kissing the skies, they flew into each other’s past, discovering lonely roads where they often went alone. Conversation played quilt, letting in warmth through words. Swaying from one side to the other, intentions woke up and announced themselves. Kurosawa slowed down time, Ray brought in the poignancy and silent cinema was greeted with a language, which was now turning comfortable. Moves were darted; some were hedged while others were welcomed. As night yawned its way to the morning, the two birds were flying right next to each other. He ran his fingers through her feathers, making his intentions very clear. She held his gaze and made him fly behind her to a world she hesitated to go before. With a new friend and an old feeling she entered the mountains, and as lovers would tease, they flew. Romancing the air, flying under, hovering over, darting across, they expressed hidden desires which were socially wrong, but innately right. Before the sun could spoil the night’s wonder, they returned to their nest. As Nine Cats purred, they kissed.

 

The French Window

The phone rang. Arah was neck deep in work. It was her man from the past. A beautiful past. Her team was waiting for her. To direct. To lead. To open new horizons. To better their future. Her past was calling. What would she answer? A call from the future or one that had intoxicated her before? She was sporting a tweed jacket – a sign of she adopting a more serious role in life, one that demanded responsibility. She was happily busy, more so than ever before. She let the call die. But the past true to its haunting nature, appeared on her phone again.
She entered the General Manager’s empty cabin. The room was longing for an owner. Time stood still. It was serene now that she had walked in. It was late evening. The sky was about to sleep. The night in its wake was halted by this gorgeous woman.
3 years back, she was in a similar room, a similar French Window, but in Paris. She had been waiting for him to come home. His paintings were losing their charm. They lacked soul. They were too colourful. All they had was body. Stark and Ugly. And that was showing in his character. She was having a tiff with irony. In a place where romance blossomed, hers was wilting. Paris was showing its true colours. She did not want to make that call, but she was left with no choice.
That day, standing at the French Window, she said goodbye.
Today, she said hello.

(This was a piece written impulsively in office after watching a lovely woman donning the GM’s cabin, talking on the phone. An image spurred me to write this. This is pure fiction. She read it and liked it. And fyi, she was talking to her mom. Imagination and its worm. Eh!)

Strangely & Cashew

One born of fire and other plays phoenix. Within an unrelated base, taking a semantic alibi, the two crab claws took the bait. And walked side by side.

Summer:

With friction not being open to moot, the inevitable monster was set to strike soon. He did. And faffed around to look for a weak link. His impatience was met by a resolute strength, an indomitable spirit. The monster walked off.

Monsoon:

The rains came along. The romance blossomed. Dripping under the weeping sky, two mortals looked up and laughed. At the joy that had drenched them. Life was beautiful around. The skies roared in thunder. The fire players had taken shade in water.

Winter:

The winds were cold. They were not. Quilts came out and hid them under for days. The patios loved their company. The beverages happily brewed themselves. Snowflakes played welcome. Warm clothing came in the form of skin. And they completed a year.

It was the start of something beautiful.