Category Archives: Unpublished

The nineteenth floor.

‘Paanch rupya.’ The dent in the kevlar was roughly the size and shape of a five rupee coin. It was also nearly a crack, and placed where it was, two inches inches below the heart, would be fatal if not for the added fortifications to the chest and rib areas. Even if the shell didn’t find its way past the midnight-shaded armor, the risk of trauma injury was too high. Through the frayed latex, he rubbed the almost-hole thoughtfully with a gloved finger while considering the plan of attack.
He was on the nineteenth floor, by the window. He couldn’t help looking outside, at the sea and the monument beside it. It would have been a lovely night, but for the stench of gunpowder and corpses, and a fog of despair cloaking the Gateway. He took a step inside, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. His boot immediately stepped into something wet, a macabre puddle splashing viscous fluid onto steel-toe.
He fished out a candle-sized stick and snapped it roughly with his teeth, even as his left hand undid a length of cord. The bright neon-yellow glow from the stick instantly illuminated the scene: first his teeth, and then the room. The first body lay two feet away from him, next to the writing desk, whole except for the head. He closed his eyes for a second. Not in silent prayer, but, his fingers flicking a button near his temple, to turn up the infra-red. There’s only that much neon can do, he thought wryly, tucking the yellow stick into his belt, alongside the oval buckle.
He stepped forward towards the bed and looked at the other body. Female, in her fifties. In the red tint of the eyewear, the neon of the stick and the pool of crimson she was lying in, her cotton nightgown was the colour of death: noone could tell what it originally used to be. Powder blue, he sighed, rebuking himself for watching all that sensationalist news coverage. ‘War,’ the bastards on TV called it, giving these nutjobs such a spotlight. An empty Kalashnikov shell clattered near his feet. And there were footsteps outside the door.
He stopped cold, as did the steps. The corridor was dark as tar, and in one swift jerk of the wrist, the yellow tube flew out of the window like a boomerang, right into the jaws of the ravenous city. There hadn’t been any firing for several minutes, making the prevailing silence a dominatingly still one. Convinced he heard a safety-catch being taken off, he crouched to the ground. His breathing slowed, as, he imagined, did his potential assailant’s. He let the cord slip out of his hand as he inched towards the door, slow as the blood seeping through the carpet. He reached near the door and calculated possible scenarios, all featuring the element of surprise. His hand crawled up to the doorknob, gloved fingers wrapping around the brass, when suddenly the door was thrown open, and his left hand pinned to the wall.
His right hand moved quickly towards a switchblade in the belt, but a boot caught him in the jaw. He looked up into the shaking nozzle of a machine gun held by a sweating young Sikh in black-cat outfit. He let out a sigh of relief even as the commando swallowed hard, looking in all the world like he’d seen a phantasm. ‘Who.. Who…?’ The lad stammered as he smiled and reassured him. ‘Yes. And I’m on your side,’ he said in broken Hindi. Usually it took more convincing, but here the soldier withdrew the gun and yanked him to his feet, giving him an awed once-over. He stopped the youngster from apologising, and shook his hand as the still-shaken boy briefed him on the current situation.
They stood in the corridor and waited. There had been sounds in the room five doors down from them, he was told. He handed the soldier his blades, explaining how much more effective than a gun they prove to be, in a compromised-space situation. Young Hartej listened intently, before suddenly glaring and hushing him. There was a crack behind him and he whirled around, barely in time to see a silhouette appear in the corridor unleashing white sparks of machinegun fire in their direction.
His jaw dislocated as soon as he hit the ground. The crack would have been loud in the silence instants ago, but was muted by the current crossfire. He’d been shoved roughly to the ground by Hartej, who was now literally on top of him, covering him on all fours as the firing got louder. He could feel the young man’s shoulder recoil shudderingly even as his arm stayed unwaveringly steady. The infra-red let him see another silhouette pop out behind the first one which was now falling, and he tried to warn the soldier. It was unnecessary, the youngster having already tossed a grenade with flawless accuracy.
It was over. He had never felt more helpless in combat. Or more relieved. Save for the crackle of walkie-talkies confirming the final target, silence resumed. Only this time, it didn’t feel like the air was holding its breath, but like it had finally exhaled.
He rubbed his paining chin as he stood alongside Hartej at the same nineteenth floor window. The soldier tried to stop him, but, ignoring many protestations, he stripped off his belt, gloves and the rest of his blades and handed them to the boy. Then he insisted young Hartej sign a slip of paper. ‘A reciept?’ the confused Sikh asked. ‘An autograph,’ he smiled. He told him that there would surely be more blood, and more sickening, cowardly attacks on the innocent, but that he wouldn’t be needed around. ‘You guys have it covered.’
He jumped even as Hartej gasped. He leaped from the nineteenth floor, eagerly ogling the magnificent, impossible city as he plummeted past the windows. He waited a good ten floors before unfolding his titanium-dipped fiber wings and gliding to a shadowy landing. Gotham needed him, India didn’t. And he really must come back in civvies sometime.

‘Paanch rupya.’

The dent in the kevlar was roughly the size and shape of a five rupee coin. It was also nearly a crack, and placed where it was, two inches inches below the heart, would be fatal if not for the added fortifications to the chest and rib areas. Even if the shell didn’t find its way past the midnight-shaded armor, the risk of trauma injury was too high. Through the frayed latex, he rubbed the almost-hole thoughtfully with a gloved finger while considering the plan of attack.

He was on the nineteenth floor, by the window. He couldn’t help looking outside, at the sea and the monument beside it. It would have been a lovely night, but for the stench of gunpowder and corpses, and a fog of despair cloaking the Gateway. He took a step inside, his eyes adjusting to the darkness. His boot immediately stepped into something wet, a macabre puddle splashing viscous fluid onto steel-toe.

He fished out a candle-sized stick and snapped it roughly with his teeth, even as his left hand undid a length of cord. The bright neon-yellow glow from the stick instantly illuminated the scene: first his teeth, and then the room. The first body lay two feet away from him, next to the writing desk, whole except for the head. He closed his eyes for a second. Not in silent prayer, but, his fingers flicking a button near his temple, to turn up the infra-red. There’s only that much neon can do, he thought wryly, tucking the yellow stick into his belt, alongside the oval buckle.

He stepped forward towards the bed and looked at the other body. Female, in her fifties. In the red tint of the eyewear, the neon of the stick and the pool of crimson she was lying in, her cotton nightgown was the colour of death: noone could tell what it originally used to be. Powder blue, he sighed, rebuking himself for watching all that sensationalist news coverage. ‘War,’ the bastards on TV called it, giving these nutjobs such a spotlight. An empty Kalashnikov shell clattered near his feet. And there were footsteps outside the door.

He stopped cold, as did the steps. The corridor was dark as tar, and in one swift jerk of the wrist, the yellow tube flew out of the window like a boomerang, right into the jaws of the ravenous city. There hadn’t been any firing for several minutes, making the prevailing silence a dominatingly still one. Convinced he heard a safety-catch being taken off, he crouched to the ground. His breathing slowed, as, he imagined, did his potential assailant’s. He let the cord slip out of his hand as he inched towards the door, slow as the blood seeping through the carpet. He reached near the door and calculated possible scenarios, all featuring the element of surprise. His hand crawled up to the doorknob, gloved fingers wrapping around the brass, when suddenly the door was thrown open, and his left hand pinned to the wall.

His right hand moved quickly towards a switchblade in the belt, but a boot caught him in the jaw. He looked up into the shaking nozzle of a machine gun held by a sweating young Sikh in black-cat outfit. He let out a sigh of relief even as the commando swallowed hard, looking in all the world like he’d seen a phantasm. ‘Who.. Who…?’ The lad stammered as he smiled and reassured him. ‘Yes. And I’m on your side,’ he said in broken Hindi. Usually it took more convincing, but here the soldier withdrew the gun and yanked him to his feet, giving him an awed once-over. He stopped the youngster from apologising, and shook his hand as the still-shaken boy briefed him on the current situation.

They stood in the corridor and waited. There had been sounds in the room five doors down from them, he was told. He handed the soldier his blades, explaining how much more effective than a gun they prove to be, in a compromised-space situation. Young Hartej listened intently, before suddenly glaring and hushing him. There was a crack behind him and he whirled around, barely in time to see a silhouette appear in the corridor unleashing white sparks of machinegun fire in their direction.

His jaw dislocated as soon as he hit the ground. The crack would have been loud in the silence instants ago, but was muted by the current crossfire. He’d been shoved roughly to the ground by Hartej, who was now literally on top of him, covering him on all fours as the firing got louder. He could feel the young man’s shoulder recoil shudderingly even as his arm stayed unwaveringly steady. The infra-red let him see another silhouette pop out behind the first one which was now falling, and he tried to warn the soldier. It was unnecessary, the youngster having already tossed a grenade with flawless accuracy.

It was over. He had never felt more helpless in combat. Or more relieved. Save for the crackle of walkie-talkies confirming the final target, silence resumed. Only this time, it didn’t feel like the air was holding its breath, but like it had finally exhaled.

He rubbed his paining chin as he stood alongside Hartej at the same nineteenth floor window. The soldier tried to stop him, but, ignoring many protestations, he stripped off his belt, gloves and the rest of his blades and handed them to the boy. Then he insisted young Hartej sign a slip of paper. ‘A reciept?’ the confused Sikh asked. ‘An autograph,’ he smiled. He told him that there would surely be more blood, and more sickening, cowardly attacks on the innocent, but that he wouldn’t be needed around. ‘You guys have it covered.’

He jumped even as Hartej gasped. He leaped from the nineteenth floor, eagerly ogling the magnificent, impossible city as he plummeted past the windows. He waited a good ten floors before unfolding his titanium-dipped fiber wings and gliding to a shadowy landing. Gotham needed him, India didn’t. And he really must come back in civvies sometime.

~

Unpublished. Written November 29, 2008.

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The article that inadvertently got me into Rediff*

*A friend forwarded this blogpost to someone he knew at Rediff, and they mailed in asking if I would write for the sports section. I was incredulous, because they had the one and only Prem Panicker. I did scribble a couple of cricket pieces but became their F1 columnist.. and one thing, as they say, led to another.

~

The Mediocrity Of Being Out Of Range

Some people are just not destined for greatness.

There is a tremendous unbridgeable difference between the very good and the great. The Good, gripping all their vast reserves of natural talent and indomitable spirit, push forward, either impetuously or stoically, and grind on, doing absolutely everything it is humanly possible to do. Theirs is a quest it is hard to raise a finger toward, and nearly impossible to demand higher stakes from. They give their all, and we appreciate and applaud.

The Great, on the other hand, sometimes do not even cover all the above ground so comprehensively. Or, at least, visibly. What they bring to our everyday existences is sublime magic and jaw-slacking awe. And the realization that these are the people who live beyond the confines of normality, these are the supermen, albeit uncaped. And, as we understand this, we demand more. And more. And more. Relentless, unceasing. Nothing is ever good enough. At this, The Great smile, throw their heads back, and continue, stretching towards an ultimate perfection.

No matter what the achievement, The Great will be dissatisfied, incomplete. This is what spurs them on. Inevitably, they fail. And this final, unreal failure is what pulls the mantle of true excellence tighter, more permanently, around their shoulders. Lesser men would pale at the thought of living with it; greatness is not for us all.

dravid2

Thankfully, a certain Mr. Dravid will never have to worry about this. He will forever remain entrenched in being very very Good indeed. As said, there is no doubting his talent, the man is a masterful technician. As cameras zoom in on his helmeted head and the sweat drips down by the gallon, even as he hits it through the covers for four, we are reminded of how hard he works. And how important he is to us, how valuable.

Today, India made history. We beat Pakistan by an innings, and more. In Pakistan. This is the stuff of absolute folklore. Rahul Dravid happened to be captain. What will he be remembered for? His stellar contribution of six runs in the Indian innings? His magnificence in building a fabulous, new-look, young Indian side? No. He will be remembered for carving a new chapter in ridiculous personal insecurity, the ingrate.

We all know what happened: Tendulkar 194*. The declaration was apparently made in favour of giving us the best possible chances for a win. Sachin turned to the pavilion, and was visibly stunned. After having played the cautious foil to a superb innings, he had just begun to cut loose, to treat the world to an exhibition of inimitable batting. He seemed uncharacteristically pained by the decision, and this was not because he missed out on a double ton: it was because he felt let down. Et Tu, Rahul?

It is also bad captaincy. Ponting, Haq, Waugh, Miandad, Dev – a prolific list of captains felt outraged. For a second, forget that we are talking about Sachin. If one of your main batsmen had a particularly disastrous 2003, and is working himself back to form, with an undismissed rampage of runs against the world’s most feared bowlers, you let him take his second double ton on the trot, dammit. By the way, I’m curious: how many Indian batsmen have scored successive 200s, Rahul? [“The team is bigger than the individual,” was constantly parroted around on the day. “In this case”, said Dean Jones, “It’s hardly an accurate description.”]

Sachin, of course, is totally unfazed. The Great hardly ever need to even bounce back. It was heartbreaking to see him at the press conference that evening, looking visibly stirred, disappointed, surprised. He will go on, unabated, scoring his runs. O’Four, a year which is yet to see him dismissed, looks like it might be another of the unforgettable ones. His innings has been martyred into legend, like Gavaskar’s last innings 96, and is all the more memorable just because he was denied the last six runs.

dravid1Called to the dias, the winning captain today seemed to forget his was an extremely temporary, stand-in role. Kapil wrote about how the win should be dedicated to what he referred to as Sachin’s supreme sacrifice. Hah. The injured original leader stood, his black t-shirt visibly distancing him from the boys in their whites, his boys, and looked on as Rahul collected the accolades, and did not even credit Saurav. His is an arrogant, egoist heart, and it must have bled. Rahul might have to face consequences when the Prince returns. He deserves it, and I daresay it might provoke many a grin.

What really gets me is that I have always liked Dravid. He’s a good batsman, but that’s that: consistency redeems the lack of strokeplay, the sheer ordinariness of his shots salvaged by the man’s gritty doggedness. This match showed us who he was, as opposed to what he can do, and it was a disappointing awakening. Respect flew out of the window. Mediocrity of being an also-ran is going to hound this man forever. Greatness is something he can only dream of, and I would advise him not to.

The man has collected several epithets in his time – The Wall, Jammy, Mr. Dependable, and even, very recently, God. Let me do the deed and add the definitive:

Rahul Dravid, twat.

~

Blogged on April 1, 2004.

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If Quentin Tarantino made The Bible

Disclaimer: This work is not meant to offend Christians or the great Christian faith. If Monty Python’s Life Of Brian made you froth at the mouth, you might not want to scroll down. This is a light-hearted write-up waxing sarcastic on current cinematic mores. The central theme is the work of QT, and the piece spoofs his self-referential style. Followers of cinema may also recognize irreverential digs at high priests of film criticism like Ebert and Scott. The feature may seem, however, particularly merciless toward Mr. Gibson’s unforgivably awful film The Passion Of The Christ, and this it emphatically intends to be.

~

The Gospel according to Quentin

The credits set the tone for the film: classic, Cecil B DeMille titles: bright, gaudy, gold, larger than life; epic credits. The first credit is characteristically the directorial one, and it is this that at first shocks us and then explains the director’s vision, the scope of his universe. ‘The First Film By Quentin Tarantino’, it screams, in massive serif letters. While this momentarily confuses us, having lived through his last four/five (varies by degree of purism) films, most fans of the director will comprehend the ironic overstatement immediately.

Quentin’s is a parallel universe: a world where Mr. Blonde, Sidewinder, The DiVAS and Fox Force Five can, and do, coexist separated merely by the confines of space and time. Considering this, we realise that he is making a statement of chronological accuracy: set more than two thousand years ago, this film predates all his previous efforts. Brilliance thus begins in the very first frame of film.

mr_pinkWe open on The Last Supper, where, amid bread and wine and an enviable selection of main courses, the disciples are impassioned in debate. The topic under discussion is that of The Madonna being heralded “as a Virgin”, and what it ‘really means’. Evidently, conspiracy theories have been around for a while, and winks and nudges are exchanged across the table. Jesus (Steve Buscemi), for whom this ribaldry is an obviously awkward subject, decides to proceed with the momentous evening by breaking the ridiculously priced bread into small pieces and passing it around the table. The disciples graciously accept the pieces of loaf. All but one, that is.

“I don’t believe in sharing.” The camera moves towards one of the younger acolytes, with a straggly stubble and clad in long, flowing, orange robes. This is Judas, played masterfully by Tim Roth. His story – of betraying Jesus, lured by dreams of buying his own state-of-the-art chariot, a thundering Roman vehicle called a Chopperus, is told instantly, in quick, non-linear cuts, interspersed with shots of a sack of golden coins, the sestertii scattering onto him in super slow motion as thrown to him by the Romans.

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