fiction politics Verse

Flower Writing

Being the second chapter of the Upper Balcony Sessions


Archer walked in as usual, the balcony floor which spoke only in the language of cleanliness now was covered with scraps of paper like a terribly dressed bride.

Archer never used think in imagery such as the above, in his previous employment as an assistant to one Mr. Abbot, a boring company man of yore who was needless to say; very very successful.

There Archer  was trained to approach with the directness of an archer, insights of a geographer and with the incisiveness of a diamond cutter from the farther provinces.

“Damn it, I’m doing this again, must stop” Archer muttered to himself.

The muddy puddle that was his mind settled to something like the soothing calm of the lake of reflection.

“In good time you have come, Archer” said the Sultan, still immersed in his paperwork like a….nevermind said Archer’s mind.

The sultan continued, “I am judging the annual poetry contest, and the entries this time have been more than encouraging, like a father who has just seen his firstborn smile, I go to work”

“But Sultan, your kingdom is at stake, your life is endangered, the poor people are restless; surely this not the time to judge the annual poetry contest” Archer pleaded but with a firmness in his tone that reflected his administrative capabilities.

Mr. Abbot would have been proud.

“But Archer, there is always time for poetry” saying so the Sultan started to look for one specific piece that had come in praise of himself and gave it to Archer for reading, but not before one more imagery.

“Read, my friend from the company, for a king and an elephant are alike, only others should speak of their greatness”

“But Jahanpanah, I do not understand, an elephant cannot really speak, even if wished to”

The Sultan’s stare alone was enough to silence poor Archer, he thought of how kind Mr. and Mrs. Abbot were before he read the poem.

“ I see your face in the sun,

For it is you who give us light

In the dark times though

You are the moon

A lion on the throne

An elephant on the battlefield

A crocodile to your enemies

A king among poets you are

A poet amidst kings

May your fame stand like a rock

While all others become dust”

Archer finished, his eyes widened in disbelief, his mind unable to come to terms with the situation.

“Wah! Wah!” said the Sultan, completely lost to the words.

“Surely, you are not going to give this piece the prize, are you Huzoor?” asked the bewildered Archer like a ….oh damn nevermind.

“Yes! This is a fine piece of flower writing, I recognize them at the instant, really your company men must be schooled in art and the aesthetics!” this was the Sultan.

Even before Archer could ask about this whole flower writing, the Sultan had started a recitation of sorts.

“like those soft petals

That adorn the heart

Words that come

Together like a garland

Those that please

The writer and the reader

Like a flower that smiles

With the light of the sun…..”

At this very moment, the assassin who was hiding in the nearby trees; obviously fed up with this recitation by the Sultan made the misstep of shooting an arrow much before his plan.

Obviously, the poisoned arrow, shrieking through the air like the yet to be discovered rocket, missed the Sultan by the breadth of a hair, panting for breath, the Sultan cried for help from below and God from above.

No one came.

It was Archer who took the Sultan to safety and sounded the alarm, the assassin who had managed to perch himself on the trees was later found to be an ex-poet of some repute, poverty had driven him to violence.

Sang the king in a high pitched voice much like a speaker of parliament trying to be heard.

“Why? This thirst for my blood?

Quietly flows the Yamuna

She who quences all our thirst..

She who….”

“Stop it! Oh King” this was the assassin (whose name has been withheld from history on request)

Archer was beginning to enjoy this final retort by the ex-poet now turned assassin

“Stop it! Oh King

The Yamuna is dark

As much as darkness can be

Made by the filth that fills this city

But not even the Yamuna can match

The darkness of our lives

The emptiness of our stomachs

The hopelessness of our children

Stop it! Oh King

For words may bring you the

Pleasure of flowers

But for us words are just words

Stop it! Oh King

Let not ‘art’ cloud your better judgement

Let not ‘poetry’ be your path to escapism

Let not ‘nature’ distance you from the people

Let not ‘words’ divert you from the message

Stop it! Oh king

Because not every time an arrow will miss”

Everyone in the royal court recognised the brilliance of this extempore performance by the ex-poet turned assassin, naturally no one applauded.

“Wah!Wah!” said Archer’s mind, “finally someone who was worth the prize for poetry.”

The prize for an attempt assassination was of course, public execution.







In an unusually wet morning amidst the surprised citizens of Chennai who were looking up and thanking the various generous rain Gods, Vatsan stood stooped with luggage more importantly sad, hopeless and in pain. His round face showed sleeplessness of vigilant soldiers, while the expression on his face was that of a homeless dog.

“Respectfully kicked out by the legs of fate” was what Vatsan would go on to describe the event in later correspondence, for an artist keen on light melancholy, he would have been a perfect subject.

Vatsan represented one of the many million constituent bubbles which ultimately made the Indian IT Bubble, the same bubble which in a span of years had transformed the dried grass coastal plains of Shozinganallur into a flickering light of economy.

Vatsan had till the previous night shared a room with a couple of friends, of which one had orders to move abroad and the other somehow thought it was time for him to get married and headed south. Room sharing works in many ways, but for Vatsan it had been quite pressing to be pressed along with two strange men, and just about time when he was getting familiar, he was the single guy without a room on the road, in a rainy junction.


The room mate who had thought it was sensible to leave all this and marry also gave Vatsan a haphazardly folded visiting card, the cheapness of the paper echoed deep in Vatsan’s mind and the wordings also did not give him much confidence.




But since, Vatsan was a believer of the adage “something is better than nothing” and since it was not a Tuesday; Vatsan had no other choice.

“So many houses here, all vacant” was the first thing the house finder said to Vatsan as they both sipped tea; the tea shop was Rangan’s office/haunt. The tea master was probably his cousin or a distant relative, but no one ever knew. While introducing Vatsan to his ‘dosts’ there as ‘party’, Rangan made a mental note of all the houses that would fit his assessment of Vatsan.

The first house that was shown was on the edge of a shrinking swamp, the sight of it from afar made Vatsan request for something legal, relentless Rangan picked out houses from his bulk album like a seasoned gambler picking out cards. He had showed almost everything, but Vatsan was not satisfied.

Finally Rangan closed the bulky photo album with a THUD!

“Finally, what you want? Eh? What?” in serious high pitch that frightened Vatsan, but as he was a man not tired of choices, said thus “ I want something liveable and also with someone decent who will pay half”

“Ok, then u select” saying so Rangan threw the album onto Vatsan’s hands and continued “IT fellows want to see 400 houses before living in one”

“You are IT only no?” he asked again while Vatsan was busy leafing through.

“Umm..yes kindoff”

“This one!” Vatsan said pointing with his finger at picture showing a cavernous house, dark looking even under sufficient lighting.

“This one a? This is booked.”

Vatsan’s spirits fell to his intestines on hearing the only thing he liked in the album was booked.

“Wait, but I will ask him, if he can share. 2.5 BHK ok va?”

“What is 2.5 BHK?”

“Two bedrooms plus study” Rangan said as he held his primitive cell phone to his ear waiting for Vatsan’s future roommate to pick up the call.


The study in Scarlet, was more spacious and more darker than it had been in the picture, completely empty; it resembled an empty barrack with echoes.

“UK party, all family in UK. This house is investment, all ok? Rent ok? Ten months advance” Rangan who by then had lost his earlier business friendly nature and now spoke only in salient points.

“Why this house is called Scarlet?” vatsan asked as he looked around, he wouldn’t have cared if it had been called anything, but was just buying time, before the owner’s representative arrived.

“Oh! First builder built only Red,Yellow and Green; later Government sanctioned more waste land, so one by one all colors. See that is Cobalt Blue”, the house finder showed a distant house undergoing repairs. The colony of neat functional row houses was aptly called ‘MULTICOLOR COLONY’

Vatsan was satisfied and waited patiently for his roommate.


Rangan stood in the middle of the house and said “This is Sanjeevi, your roommate”. If there had been a fan hanging from the ceiling it would have scraped the well oiled hair of Sanjeevi.

Vatsan looked at himself and felt closer to the ground, even his urban work clothers looked dull to Sanjeevi’s brown long kurta that would best fit in the set of a Bengali art film. Sanjeevi held out his hand and said, “Straight from Shollinganallur junction, I think? So roommates from now”

Vatsan couldn’t detect whether the above line was relief or irritation, he responded what he thought was favourable and said hello.

It was only later that Vatsan came to know how Sanjeevi had drifted for year or so trying to buy time from his brother claiming he was preparing for the Indian Police Service, but immediately after Rangan’s departure Sanjeevi started snooping around Vatsan’s things asking in a friendly manner on the number of medical dictionaries and anatomy charts that made up the luggage.

“I’m a medical transcriptionist, I listen to prescriptions of doctors and sift through medical records and histories of patients, these have been quite my companions in the past few years and my previous roommates say I shout out disease names in the night; their idea of having fun was calling me a doctor and see my struggles to get the pronunciations right” said Vatsan not realising he was being more frank that he usually was, always a sign of comfort.

“Interesting…”Sanjeevi said, “but you wouldn’t mind me if I called you Doctor, would you?”

Thus finishing the open ended question Sanjeevi pushed himself back into the recliner and clutched his violin close to his chest, they seemed to be his only belongings.

“This, I think is going to be a long friendship” he said confidently, while doctor Vatsan unpacked.


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.


fiction short fiction Sketch






<DIRECTIONS: Three friends named Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Stewart and Ramabhadran walk into a restaurant which is just  about to be closed, few waiters are seen smoking and watching entertainment news while one was yelling at his wife as to how bad his life can ever be. Ramabhadran takes note of that particular waiter’s language. The three friends have just finished watching a spy thriller and all three of them had different views on the same. They take the middle table because it is the only one available. A Chinese flower vase with fake flowers is placed at the centre of the table.>

Narrator<arrange for Amitabh Bachchan to narrate, otherwise Kamal Haasan, do not even think about Gautham Menon. Please!>

Narrator: It was ten minutes to eleven, when the three friends sit down for dinner. Only nature, or if you believe in God would have brought these three people to forge this friendship.

< zoom at their faces as the narrator speaks a few lines on them>

Alfred Hitchcock, Hitch to his friends was a topper right from school. He does not like the number two and has made number one his own, topping classes, divisions,districts,cities,states and countries. He even orders first. His interests apart from coming first include paintings and foreign food. He will eventually become The President of the United States just because the aircraft is called Air Force One.

Jimmy Stewart, Jimmy to all was a topper in school, he then asked himself,” what’s the point?” and later was happy to come second. His other interests include quizzing and cycling. He currently heads a bio recycling company and dreams of taking pictures of penguins and tagging his friends on facebook. He will never become the president of the United States.

Ramabhadran, nothing to friends was never a topper in school. Till the 12th standard he thought topper was an energy drink. He currently sits on the obituary desk of once popular ladies magazine. He does not have other interests because the death rate is too high and most of the time is spent writing obituaries.

The relationship between them is cordial but not inclusive.

It is only moments later that Ramabhadran realizes that it is a high-end restaurant which steals extra money by levying multiple taxes like waiter’s daughter’s education fund tax. Ramabhadran realizes this only after seeing the menu card. The Menu card shaped like a chariot had been specifically designed by a Brazilian architect.

Hitch knows this architect very well, in fact he has dined with him during his last trip to Rio Di janerio where he had gone to conduct a school quiz on contemporary architecture and medieval paintings. So Hitch begins speaking about him.

Hitch: he is an amazing fellow; he has this abstract quality, the texture Oh wonderful.

<Narrator: while Jimmy is able to appreciate the opinion, Ramabhadran was trying to understand what abstract meant. When he gets the chance to view the menu card he is disappointed that none of the food items he knows is on the list>

Hitch: One Pasta alla Norma! <He says with gusto>

Jimmy: Oh! So you like Italian too. It is my favourite, let’s see what else they have<signals to the waiter>

<Jimmy later goes through a lot of names with the waiter and then arrives at what seems like a nice collection of local swear words to Ramabhadran>

Ramabhadran<to himself, quietly>: why didn’t I even look at the name boards before entering.

Hitch<in a more serious tone, something akin to that of an explaining principal> The Pasta Alla Norma was invented in the famed kitchens of Sicily and takes its name from an Opera, you know?

Jimmy: Oh, I know opera. You really require a higher frame of mind to appreciate them, I never get to here good Opera here in Madras.


<Ramabhadran looks at both of them, although he did not know what an Opera was, judging from the conversation that just ended he decided that it was something he could never understand. He was also under social pressure because he had not ordered anything>

Hitch<to Ramabhadran>: why don’t you try the Macaroni salad.

<Hitch said like ‘sa-laad’ and not ‘salud’ as how Ramabhadran knew it>

<Ramabhadran smiled politely and continued to look into the unfathomable menu card, he knew about salads to some extent; it was what prescribed to old men who could not control their diet and additionally he had attended a DIY fruit salad class in his fifth standard and it had tasted quite sweet. But he did not want to have any such thing, in two more minutes he would hit upon an idea>


<Hitch and Jimmy are discussing a small painting on the opposite wall, if not for their over indulgence on the project they would have realised that the painting was done as summer project by the three year old son of the restaurant’s owner. The son was now five and still continued to pursue the arts>

Hitch: Picasso, definitely!<he says with utmost confidence, so much so that if Picasso had been there, he would have been proud>

Jimmy: Are you sure?

<Makes an irritated face at Hitch> Just look at those curves on the edge, too scratchy and look<points a brown patch in the center> Look, so uncharacteristic of him.>

<Hitch looks closely, all along he had taken Jimmy to be not so knowledgeable and was sure Ramabhadran didn’t know a thing, he realised that it would be better to play it say>

Hitch: Hmmm, Jimmy I see your point but it could have been from a very early period. You know he was very productive.

<just at the moment an idea strikes Ramabhadran, zoom to show bright smiling face>

Ramabhadran: Waiter! Waiter!<calls with a sense of urgency>

Waiter<silently sneering>: yes sir, I see that you have made up your mind.

Ramabhadran: One La Dose Vita please and that will be all.

Waiter: Sir<alarmed> could you please repeat that?

Ramabhadran:<irritated> La Dose Vita!!! Now don’t tell me you don’t have them.

Waiter: But sir…

Ramabhadran: Kindly checks with your kitchens please, do not waste my time.

<waiter walks away slowly, something unbelievable had just happened. Meanwhile Hitch and Jimmy suspend their discussion on Picasso to see what was really happening>

Hitch: What did you just order?

Ramabhadran: How many times do I have to say it, La Dose Vita. Now don’t tell me you haven’t had it.

Hitch: Oh of course I have, I lived six months in Italy if you remember. My employers said that I could speak Latin as good as the classical masters. Of course I have tasted La Dose Vita, nice taste you have.

<Jimmy had no option but to agree, but he had bought Hitch’s reply to about 80% and was already happy that he was able to impress Hitch on the Picasso discussion>

Jimmy: yes yes, very fine selection indeed. It is so full that you would not need anything more to eat.

Ramabhadran<to some relief>: Exactly why i ordered it, even the most basic of Italian restaurants should have it.

<Waiter returns at exactly the same moment>

Waiter: Sorry sir, we do not have La…umm the dish u ordered.

Ramabhadran<bursting out like an Italian volcano>: What! I cannot take this embarrassment, an Italian restaurant which does not even have the most basic of choices…..

<Ramabhadran continues on his rant, while the waiter interrupts intermittently by saying sorry>

Ramabhadran: I’ll have nothing of this, I refuse to eat at such a place.

<Walks out furiously, but not quickly so that everybody looks at him. Hitch and Jimmy have no other option but to look at each other’s faces and complete their dinner>

<Setting changes, it is an empty parking lot and its darkness is dispelled by the small blinking light coming from Ramabhadran’s mobile phone>

Ramabhadran: Amma!Do you have any leftover dosa maavu from today morning?, I couldn’t eat dinner here.

Amma: Yes yes, come home son.

<Ramabhadran walks slowly out of the building into the night, he walks slowly because he is afraid dogs might chase him. Scene ends>


<’the end’ flashes like this: THE END>