Holdup

coffee

You think you know me? I say. You see messy hair, slippers, shabby, oversized clothes and you think you’ve figured me out?

No, says the supervisor manning the counter.

I could be an heiress, a millionaire, a top-notch executive having a bad day, you know?

The man nods in understanding.

I could even look like her, I say, waving at the girl beside him. She has sharp, bright eyes and a smart, sexy haircut. If I cleaned up, I clarify.

Sure, he agrees, wiping his brow with the back of his hand.

It’s just baby fat, I add. Comes and goes. I can’t stop blabbering. It’s like I have verbal diarrhea, an undeniable need to explain. Wait till you have two kids, back to back, I say to the girl.

I was like her once. Young, pretty, going places. One coffee pour at a time at the most happening PR firm in town. I could have been someone. Not just a wife or a mother to two demented toddlers who never slept.

People lose a lot more than their looks, I say to her.

Obviously, she mutters and rolls her eyes.

I beg your pardon? I say. You think I have lost my marbles, do you?

She shrugs, despite her boss shaking his head at her to say no.

Well, yeah, she says with disgust. Otherwise, why would you be holding up the cafe with a toy gun? That’s bubble gum at the tip of the barrel. Not splattered brain.

It’s even in your hair.

I stare at her. At her boss who’s abandoned his fearful calm and is shaking his head in disbelief. I look around at the scattered line behind me coming together again. Emerging from under the tables. Behind pillars. Off the floor. Muttering, sneering, some even laughing with relief.

You know how a coffee can change your day? I half say, half implore. The supervisor doesn’t nod in understanding. And I lower the water pistol and sigh.

Just an hour back, I had been at the receiving end of the gun, fighting off two monsters hell bent on using me as a moving target, a punching bag. Before I stole the darn thing and ran out.

I just needed a caramel latte. Extra foam, extra fast.

Stopover

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She is always there at 8. At the bus stop next to the florist. She sits there tapping her foot, watching the open sky change hues over the vacant lot across the road. Sipping the coffee she brought from home. In a thermos. Softly humming a song. The air around her alive and full of promise. She sits there, not once checking her watch. Only pushing off when the first of the daily commuters arrive, when it’s time for the 8.45.

I ask her why she comes here. There’s a perfectly beautiful park two blocks down. Is she here to meet someone? Could I interest her in a bunch of fresh peonies or a freshly brewed cuppa from down the street?

Nah, she says. Gives an easy smile. A strand of hair swaying across her youthful face. Though she’s no beauty, there’s a brightness about her that’s hard to miss.

You can sit here a while though, she says, patting the empty space next to her. If you’re not in a hurry.

She gives me a once over. My attaché, the crisp business suit and tie, shiny shoes polished to perfection, reflecting my scrubbed clean face, hers if I move in any closer, are not doing me any favors.

Sure, I say and sidle over. But only for a while.

The bus comes and goes.

Toronto Whites

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You are a teenage girl in a man’s sports world. You can’t make a pass, you suck at volleyball, your backhand is lame, and the queen eludes you on the carrom board. But you love spectator sports. And you’re crazy about cricket and the Indian team. Even though you can’t follow the game very well, and the balling end changes send your mid-off orientation smashing through the window. You ask Dad why the batsman is out leg before wicket when his leg cannot be detached from his body and he as a whole has to stand in front of the wicket to avoid being bold. Or is it bolt?

You zap your brother a quizzical look embedded with what did he say?

A white ball? But isn’t the ball red?

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The Mist

mist

Two friends, backpacking across the Western Ghats, arrived by the early morning train at a small town station. It was a day like none other. As the train curved through another of the many moss-covered tunnels and emerged into the first rays of sunlight, they were embraced by a soft blanket of mist. It ran beside them, through the woods, and across the cabin, through the open window, like a mischievous ghost on wheels, making them laugh.

But when they disembarked, they were no longer laughing. No longer human. Much like the zombie-town that lay before them. In ruins under the mist.

Lines across the Universe

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Lines across the universe
Intertwine.
Those famous lines
That our hands define.
They make me yours
They make you mine.

And when these lines
Grow faint and stop,
And we find ourselves
Lost and without love,
Wondering what made us click
In the first place,

And we go like crazy
In search of ‘selves,
Our pieces scattered across space,
Blaming each other
For this messy state:
Our stupid hearts,
How could they have fooled us again?

It’s then we’ll catch a glimpse of “us”
Across the lines through the universe.
Across the trains, across the plains.
We’ll realize it wasn’t us, it was our pain.

These lines,
Through time and space
They’ll regrow.
The monsters we’ve made of each other
Will burn off in their afterglow.
The doubts we had, what tore us apart,
Won’t matter, struck out by the lines of our hearts.
For you and I, love,
We were made to last.

Rules

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Why aren’t toes called fingers?
Or fingers toes?
Who made these rules
I’d like to know.

The fish can’t read,
But they go to school.
The wind, yes, it blows,
But so does a balloon!

Why’s east on the left
and west on the right?
If we lived inside the mirror
From where would the sun rise?

I’d like to know
Who made these rules.
If I call a rule a neot
Would it still hold true?

Reboot

The world’s falling apart. My world, the world around me; going up in ravenous flames like the Californian woods, with the roar of Greenland’s glaciers crashing into widening oceans, with the rage of tornadoes ripping through the Midwest like angry gods settling their differences with crazy arm sweeps.

Towns are dying. Worlds unknown, cultures unheard of are fast turning into dust. Like Atlantis and Avalon and others before them — great giants brought to their knees by temperamental gods.

The earth’s cracking up, like my heart, releasing the spirits long trapped in its bosom. The rivers are no longer flowing, but are mere stagnant, withering pools.

The bogs are burning, the woods are burning, the air, the seas, our homes are burning. It’s only a matter of time when we will all go up flames. And the wars we rage within and with each other, over land, oil, food, water, over love even, would cease to matter. Or matter more, more intensely than before … For what else would be there but now?

The seasons have already lost their color. One long, dry spell of white, hot blaze. Blades brown and crisp like crackling crunch under trees naked with shame. Time, it seems, has given up on healing us as well.

Our atmosphere is a paradox. Thinning and bloating up at the same time, with foreign molecules worse that CFC fattening up on heat and the sun shredding away the ozone layer.

The preacher says there’s nothing like global warming. That climate change is God’s realm. Like life, like death. The scientists and leading thinkers disagree: how can you be so blind when it’s staring right in your face?

And I wonder if God has a kill switch, a restart button to reboot the whole damn world, my heart, and let them start all over again.

Writing Tip: How to Use “One of” Correctly

What should it be? One of the cars or car? One of the cars or car is or are?

Here are two tricks to help you remember how to use “one of” correctly.

Memory Trick 1

The “one of” phrase is always followed by a plural noun or pronoun.

An easy trick is to remember that you are talking about one subject out of many belonging to the same set/type.

One of the girls …
One of the towns …
One of your songs …
One of the concepts …
One of them …
One of those books …

Memory Trick 2

“One of” is always followed by a singular verb. Remembering that you are talking about one thing — singular — will help you to use the phrase correctly.

One of the boys is responsible for this mess.

One of those towns is hosting this year’s flower show.

Our patron is one of the biggest philanthropists.

Note:

The above trick works when “one of” is your subject.

You may come across cases where “one of the X” means “anyone”.

Ask one of the boys who hang out together after school. (Can be read as: Ask any one of the boys who hang out together after school.)