fiction short fiction



“Are you not going to the temple?” asked Amma as she saw the neighbor wheeling out his bicycle, yes it was the day before the examinations.

Agnostic Anandan took out his Hero cycle for a religious tour of local deities.

Anandan is not a part of the novel Raju was writing, he is not even a minor character and he(Raju) could honestly put hands on his clean chest and say that there had been no sly references to Agnostic Anandan and his pre-exam activities in the novel. But it somehow helps in the overall plotting atmosphere. Only Raju understands what that means.

This was quite a non-linear start, Raju never wrote any exams now, it was definitely a memory plunged deep back in Raju’s memory. A time of high school, a time when he thought he first met Hanuman Murali.

You can never really say the exact moment when you met a person, you can make up a realistic one, and so Raju in his hearts of hearts thinks that during one of these temple tours that he encountered Hanuman Murali in the garb of the monkey God mouthing Ram Bhajans. This was totally false. Hanuman Murali only features briefly in this story and his presence is almost ignored.

Anandan, on the other hand was a top ranking student; he sat in the first bench in class (even in 11th standard) and raised hands for every single question that any teacher might want to ask, many other students believed that he had some sort of secret notebook in which devised all the questions for him the questions these teachers might ask. This rumor had somehow reached the ears of glass-wearing teachers as well. But that is another matter.

Even being completely prepared was a very restless state, Raju who had been accustomed to only breaking the sealed pages in textbooks only days before the examination had the misfortune of having to hear Anandan’s grunts while he played table tennis with his bank managing but yet still at home father.

“Maths only, I’ve done every problem in the book thrice and can solve similar problems with the same logic” Anandan would say to any concerned onlooker.

But the day before the exam was a different one, it was the time even when elephants feel a slight chilling. Raju went to temples on most days, as learned men would say, “he was a man of faith” but the day before the examination was purely allotted to studying ninety percent of what was to be studied, he can’t go worshipping on that day.

But one does not simply ignore God for a day and expect to pass, even Agnostic Anandan had left room for things to go down wrongly and raised all hands above to the holy to realize the questions he had anticipated, for anything outside it; would be a humiliation for life, even his rational thought would not help him from his friends. “Logic”, as one wise man said “is hardly a weapon before a charging group of laughing schoolboys”

God goes by many names, only because he does not have a ration card in Chennai, so even a tour within the borders of our neighborhood would prove to be time consuming.

Raju suddenly did realize that this would be the perfect way for him to seek out facts from Anandan’s mythical notebook, maybe that would help him increase his chances in getting not only good scores, but also perhaps a smile from the girl who sat at the farthest corner when the names for the embarrassing parent call was announced. These were devious thoughts, this would never help Raju, not only getting grades and this was as far as the Atlantic Ocean to his novel.

This moral fact was well known to Hanuman Murali, who sat in full costume while a make-up assistant was adding final touches to his green paint. He had miraculously come to know of this sly idea which was germinating in Raju’s mind, in the otherwise innocent mind of Raju.

‘Hanuman’ Murali often wondered if he was God, not only because he got these flashes of insights while he was just about to sleep, as he was that late afternoon. But also because he had been widely praised in periodicals with substantial circulation and many of his friends often patted on his back and told him, ”Dei you were born to play this part”

God was kind. He knew these flashes of insight would only confuse our Murali, but being the kind God he was; he never removed these flashes but jettisoned them with thoughts of self indulgence, from which Murali could never come out of. Ok, at least till the drama bell began to ring. He barged into the scene and started to burn Lanka.

Meanwhile, but not far away.

Raju began to seriously doubt the result of his devious plan. Anandan had suddenly transformed into a shlokam muttering boy whose tightly closed eyes indicated that the existence of such a notebook was not only false but the topic of Anandan’s intelligence had been grossly overestimated. Why would he go to a temple otherwise? Maybe the notebook had stopped its magic or had Anandan forgot the chants which would invoke yellow writing in the book. There was no secret book, there will never be.

<As both desperate looking boys cycled over town in search for help from the eternal hand, their mothers’ hands deftly prepared dinner> (Unrelated booming voice over, can be used as pleased)

As evening passed into early night and when thoughts began to wander about the rooms where the question papers were stored; the boys returned home: pious but determination to brave the night and pass the tests.

The incident however had a haunting effect on Raju when decided to write a novel, the concept of an answer ready secret book appealed to him, it was the equivalent of a literary genius/assistant who would write for you, but reality depressed him. He missed a golden opportunity of making the story of the secret book into a novel.

Anandan however showed relief while writing the exams the next day and all exams henceforth. The secret book was still a talked about thing, the mythical book rumored to be  somewhere locked secretly, placed below heavy journals was story told by every senior to his junior. The story only gained prominence when Agnostic Anandan became the assistant controller of examinations in the local university.

It was at this point Anandan brought one blank note and hid it under the stack of others. A rush of excitement in the form of blood circled Anandan’s body. The secret book.



fiction short fiction


Episode 1: EYEWASH

OK Wait, we might have time for an introduction.

One Line: How Raju runs about in the city occupied in adventures which might or might not help him in writing his novel.

One line ends.

Fancy dress competitions would have been the most interesting form of entertainment for citizens of this planet; if only the poor school kids weren’t made to portray the same personalities again and again. It was the advent of the summer holidays, when my one of my relative’s daughter was playing the part of Mother Theresa; I was naturally called to be part of the gathering and cheer the young girl.

I used the word naturally because, Raju is the first name which comes to their mind whenever they think of an unemployed relative who says yes to almost everything. There are few such specimens in our family, like my elder cousin Vaidi; but since he argues with the whole lot; he is avoided or is sent word in the last moment as a replacement.

The school auditorium was packed, twelve of the crowd was contributed by members of my family, and it was quite a get-together. The older members blessed me, while the younger ones asked me what salary I was drawing writing inspirational columns for a weekly woman’s magazine, the middle aged members however ignored me, as they had business to attend to and because  they believed that writing was not in any form a profession. Vaidi was absent, for the whole evening.

As I was saying before, fancy dress competitions should be made more interesting; this one was exactly the same as the millions held before it with the theme of Freedom Fighters.

Then in the moments that followed, we were treated to three Gandhis, two Nehrus and two Subash Chandra Boses and one poor fellow who was supposed to have been the third Bose came dressed as Nehru(without the rose) because of an acute shortage of Nehru attire, most of them spoke on similar lines prepared specifically for this occasion by over enthusiastic parents, whose zeal was infinite compared to their kids, whenever one would walk nervously over to the stage ; the parents would stand up and clapping and saying things reserved for only football teams contending for big titles, which would make the children more tense. When the children forgot their lines, parents would mouth them semi secretly, like when one of the Gandhis forgot a keyword; the father stood up and shouted, “Quit India, Quit India”. But the boy playing Gandhi showed calmness like the one who he was impersonating and spoke into the microphone with crystal water clarity, “No Appa, Quit India comes only later”.

A teacher, probably having a thing for timing broke in, “we didn’t expect such non co-operation from the parents”

Then our moment had arrived, a tiny Mother Theresa slowly walked towards the center of the stage, the half open windows brought in air which made it difficult for her to walk in a saree that was three times her size.

“See, she is really walking like an old woman; my wife did all the training” the relative whose name was Kashinath boasted into my ears.

“But Kashi…Mother Theresa isn’t a freedom fighter, she was a social worker” I said, breaking all tenets of social decency and depriving myself of any more festival dinner invites.

The pride on my relative’s face vanished, he gave me the ‘why do you care?’ expression. But I was not a person not to be bogged by these expressions, so I persisted with my question. Kashinath motioned with his fingers that he will explain everything after the show finishes.

Mother Theresa made quite a long speech about helping others, the girl tried a little too much to get an old woman accent. Then it was announced by one good looking high school girl that the competition had come to an end and the spirit of independence had prevailed throughout the evening and the judges would announce the retails after a Bharatanatyam recital by sisters Muktha-Brindha.

The judges comprised of two secondary school teachers and one celebrity. I eagerly waited for I wanted to know who the celebrity was; after minutes of building up the tension, the high school presenter announced it was ‘Hanuman’ Murali, the famous TV artiste who was popular as the face of Hanuman on the screen and stage. The choice didn’t surprise me, Murali lived three houses awa from my house; he had been acting in  plays from then and got his major breakthrough as the monkey god in the epic TV series. He later told me that he had gone through seven rounds of rigorous selection till he was given the nod.

All the participants were asked to assemble on stage, Murali having the apt frame for playing Hanuman occupied most of it. Microphone in hand, he was a complete professional. Singling each contestant and praising their pros and joking about their shortcomings in a way which made the children laugh and their parents red with shame and sometimes anger, he also gave away the prizes. Theresa was given a consolation prize for make-up while one Mr. Gandhi was given the first prize.

After, all this the auditorium was emptying gradually, a fuming Kashinath with his daughter, now only a partial Mother Theresa came towards me and said, “Cheaters, my girl was the best there on stage, look they gave it to the boy who played Gandhi, surely Esha was better”

“Kashi…I told you before, Mother Theresa was not a freedom fighter, and you should have stuck to the overall theme…” he didn’t let me finish.

“see Raju, she was supposed to have played Rani of Jhansi; but the teacher who was in-charge of all these things, said the Rani should ride a horse on stage and that another boy can play the horse, but you see I did not agree…”


“See Raju, if there is a horse and Esha wins the first prize, she is supposed to share with the boy who played the horse. What nonsense I said and made last minute changes and asked my wife to train this girl as Mother Theresa…”

“Appa…Vincent only won the first prize, it’s Ok” said the sporting little girl, I commended her on her spirit; but her father was more inquisitive who Vincent was. The girl with her make-up smeared fingers pointed one thin boy around whom a small crowd had gathered.

“That boy! That boy won the first place?!!” exclaimed Kashinath, he then placed himself in the nearby seat like a statue speechless.

When I asked his wife, why Kashi was so affected by Vincent’s win, she replied while trying to regain her husband, “Vincent was the boy supposed to play the horse, now he has won. Such is life Kashi, it’s Ok Esha also won something, it’s ok if it’s not the first place.”

But the girl’s father gazed at the victory lap by the winner’s parents and all that laughing and said in a very mystical way with an undercurrent of anger, “Politics, school politics. Eyewash, the whole thing complete eyewash”

I congratulated that boy, Vincent after my folks left and continued on my journey home to start writing my novel.