Egg-Boy and his Friends

In a pale little jail with two huge roofs, there lived a family of bats with bright pink hooves. On the floor under the hooves lived an egg-faced boy, with a brain as wily as it was coy. He snuck pieces of chalk into the bags under his eyes, and dreamed of paintbrushes every time he cried. He was quiet, stealthy and quick, and knew how to disappear real swift. He escaped, and he escaped again, but he always got caught and got jailed in again.

He knew in his stomach that he would run away for good, so one day he woke up and went straight to a pool. He plunged in and swam deep towards the frogs, promising them his paintbrushes if they helped him across. The frogs and the boy swam and swam, swimming away until they met a girl in a jam. At the deep end of a moss-covered cave, she was only a pair of legs sticking out of the sand. Fearfully, they grabbed the legs and pulled. They pulled and they pulled until out came the girl, lying in a heap and looking quite dead. 

They knocked on her head to wake her up, rapping away in a tuneless tune. With a splutter after a minute the girl woke up, her eyes glassy and her hair standing on end. 

She said gulamulamo and gulamulamo and scratched her head, awake and alive and an escapee from the dead. Stupefied and zoned in another land, she sat there with her face in her hands.

Used to having no friends at all, Egg-boy was ecstatic to finally now have a friend. He broke out a balloon to cheer her up, except it burst in her face and swallowed her up.
He began to cry, mourning her loss, the loss of the lost lady from the dead. He cried and cried until his eyes swelled up, growing to the size of his old cough syrup.

His eyes fattened and flourished and fettered around his sockets, like cue balls inside pool table pockets. They grew and grew until they sunk his head in – like a mighty mountain did the boy then spin.

The frogs watched the show and laughed and ate, and abandoned the egg-boy alone to his fate.

A Useless Girl

Ria Ray was a girl of no use. She was so useless that her aunt called her A Great Big Handful O’ Nothing. A peculiar green moth, her trusted friend, had made a good snug home in her doorknob. Every few days, Ria, with messy hair and a face lined with grime, would track mud all over her house bringing her muddy insects to eat. Every time the ants in her walls attacked her caterpillar, she would withhold their snacks for two whole weeks.

Whenever Ria heard her aunt trudging up the stairs, she would climb onto her window-sill and pretend to be invisible. She dreaded and dreaded the Tasks she was handed. She would either get out of their clutches by falling asleep, or by running as fast as she could to the nearest train station, zipping vigilantly through the traffic. She would climb onto the first train pulling out, breathlessly asking for a ticket to Mount Doom, even though she had no money.

The conductor, Toffy, was not Ria’s friend. He would immediately ring up her aunt and tattle, inviting her to box her ears. Ria saw her ear becoming twice the size of her fists if her aunt kept pulling it the way she did. She would jerk her by her arms, clip her upside the ear, and Scream.

She once made a ladder out of shoeboxes all the way from her basement to her Wise Friend Scruffy’s terrace, and nearly broke her neck the first time she tried to use it. Her idiot friend had convinced her he’d strengthened it with magic.

Everyone always thought Ria was trapped in her world. No one could ever look at her too long; she always stared back so steadfastly that they would hurry and look at their shoes.

She would be locked up in her room most of the time, minding her own business. She’d be tearing her hair out over the monsters in her closet and running around stopping spidery bats from unscrewing her fan, when all of a sudden her blasted aunt would push open the door, allow daylight in, and make her world disappear. All in a second, she would be left alone, in an empty white room with stark white walls.

She hated it, so much that she took every chance she could get to escape to the cinema, or to the bookstore, or to Scruffy’s house. All her teachers said she had rabbit in her blood.

Ria’s hands had star-shaped markings on them, and the bats whispered that they’d been left as a symbol of a Great Upcoming Day. No one knew what the day was, or when it was going to come, but rumour spread that it was going to bring all of Ria’s Giant Book Friends to life.

The Giant Book, Ria’s best friend, was a magical thing. Every time she opened it, she found it very easy to do nothing, and go nowhere. She would switch on a yellow lamp, settle into a tall stool just a smidge too high, and pore over her book until her eyelids started to droop. She would often loll over and fall asleep right there, trapped in her head just like everyone said, and wake up with great reluctance the next day to run from Tasks all over again.


Once Upon a Fine Time

Once upon a fine time, somewhere around 2008 – around the time when Lady Gaga dropped Poker Face, there lived a Scruffy Bearded Man. Scruffy had the ability to do everything life had to offer; except that it was never made to be offered to him.

He was an excellent cook, except hair from his Scruffy Beard fell into his food every time he cooked. It just did. Not only that – his nose smelled all the wrong smells. He’d smell a good smell as bad and a bad smell as good. That was just the way it worked.

He was an excellent hair stylist, but had six fingers on his right hand. Scissors just weren’t made keeping him in mind, just like a lot of things aren’t made keeping a lot of people in mind.

He was a skilled medic, too, except his patients always got put off by his beard. He seemed to have a haggard appearance – not because he was tired, it was just the way his face was. He scared people off.

One day crocodiles had chased him on their short legs and he’d run as fast as he could on his less short legs – except he could never use his legs quite as well after that because his knees wouldn’t agree to help. He once ate a raw goldfish on a dare.

He had a love for acquiring useless information, like what the earth would come to if it stopped rotating. He had the most accommodating taste in food; he only hated three things – Spinach, Beetroot, and Bitter Gourd. He was too compassionate, sometimes to the point where he wouldn’t see danger for what it was until it smacked him in the face. He even had a fascination with ponytails which were tied on top of the head.

For all his eccentricities, Scruffy was a common Everyday Man. He had a friend in his neighbor, a boy of twelve, who often slept over at his house and pulled his limbs tight around himself at night to keep monsters under the furniture from grabbing them. They were so close you could even call them best friends, or Best Friends.

Scruffy had wanted to become an artist someday. He’d also wanted to become an astronaut, a pilot, a forest ranger and a ninja. He had great memories of travelling on top of elephants with his Even Scruffier Uncle through forests when he was a boy of three, and he desperately wanted the forests back.

He’d ended up in a house behind a white picket-fence though, somehow, and he decided he’d never get bored. He simply resolved not to. He began devoting himself to learning one Thing per week. One day he memorized a hundred interesting facts about flags.

On Saturdays he held a barbecue, on every Sunday he learned a dance routine, and on every Thursday he invited all his neighbors over for a Game. He even taught the neighborhood kids how to row a boat, and how to never Think Too Much.

Although he couldn’t do much cooking or much hair styling and never flew an aircraft or a rocket or rode an elephant again, and didn’t have many friends thanks to his haggard appearance, he never allowed boredom in. He stayed busy, and stayed busy, and stayed busy, and became a man of such limitless skills and tricks that his Best Friend, who grew up to be a film-maker, made a movie on him that came to be called a Cinema for the Ages.

about magic

Mason: Dad, there’s no real magic in the world, right?

Dad: What do you mean?

Mason: You know, like elves and stuff. People just made that up.

Dad: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, what makes you think that elves are any more magical than something like a whale? You know what I mean? What if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean, there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that was pretty magical, right?

– Boyhood (2014), dir. Richard Linklater

#he’s right

Out of the window

A flash of neon green under dark boots, dark pants and a dark shirt – a fluorescent-lined silhouette traipsed in the dark. The engine was loud enough to drown out sounds outside; it stammered every now and then to let horns blaring after streaks of light come through.
The window-sill was unrelenting; it wouldn’t let my arm rest in peace. Every time it did, my brain rang warning bells – never stick your arm out of a moving vehicle, or you might lose it.

There must’ve been about four other people on the bus when I got on. That was rare. I was settled into the empty front seat (the bus’ huge windshield gives a nice wide view) when the conductor came for the ticket. He looked annoyed.

On the edge of the sidewalk outside, a man clad in a puckered dhoti was sitting with one leg crossed over the other, one of his hands flitting constantly between his calf and his foot. It took me a second to realize he was tapping out a rhythm. Silent music. A tall boy in a snapback passing behind him stumbled upon a loose rock and flailed to keep balance, his head immediately snapping up a second later to check whether anyone saw his gracefulness.

There was a schoolgirl in two neat plaits and a maroon pinafore zipping between the traffic like she was cutting through a crowd of old people instead of heavy, lumbering vehicles. She crossed the road and jumped into my bus, hurrying lest the light turned green and it started moving, and slid in beside me. I shot her a smile. I didn’t even have to think about it. Some faces feel familiar, like a romanticized piece of the past.

She smiled back – instantaneous, dark-complexioned, beautiful. A bus comrade.

There were lives and vehicles and people and stray animals inter-crossing, threads twisting expeditiously, and there was absolute stillness too. There’s always some nook or the other somewhere that cuts itself off and becomes an entity of its own. A baby slept in a lap on the footpath, where no light entered to disturb, no sound rang through.

A few meters away, a boy in a school-uniform walked along a graffiti covered wall. There was a comical outline on his forehead where the dirt contrasted against his pale skin, just where his hairline began. Like there hadn’t been enough to spread further. His uniform appeared close to a rag stitched from a washcloth at first sight; creases and folds at all the right places quickly made themselves seen as if to reassure that it had recently been ironed.  He trudged down the alley with heavy footsteps, a hand dropping down now and then to support his drooping frame on bent knees. Bright yellow light from the streetlamp above filtered through his lashes directly into his eyes, making him squint as he looked towards either side of the intersection back and forth as if trying to make up his mind about which way to go. He couldn’t seem to decide right then. Or maybe his feet refused to carry him further, because the span of a couple of minutes found him closely nestled against the wall, staring listlessly towards the traffic.

We moved on. I don’t know why I wasn’t staring into space as usual, even though the music grinding out through my earphones was still doing its job of making me play out a movie about myself as a singer rocking the stage every now and then. I looked away from another person I made eye-contact with every time we stopped across from people waiting at bus stops. It was different every time. I could feel a gaze still on me a lot of times after I’d looked away, and I wondered what it was looking at every time.

I was shocked to find the aisle completely crowded when I looked back in and registered the rest of the bus for the first time since I’d gotten in. A wrinkled old lady was leaning on the handle; I got up to give her my seat. I couldn’t believe no one had done that already; it’s one of the easiest ways to feel like a nice person.

The walk back home was slow, with Nirvana and cool air and dried leaves. The road was empty except for me and quiet parked vehicles, splattered with tiny, crushed green fruit and tiny yellow flowers. It was picturesque – the only thing missing was rain.

After years

People meet after years in a dim-lit house
Conversations continue,
Night looks in,
Hours slip by.
Shadows play
Words fall
A dining table, round, sits in the middle.
Cadences rise and fall
Faces – open
Re-learn each other.
It’s dark outside
Air going cooler,
Still outside their quiet bubble.
It’s nearing morning when they part
Voids in their hearts filled –
The spaces that hadn’t announced they were empty.


Some stories start and end with one glance, a chance meeting between a stage actor on the roadside and a player in a moving bus. Some lay dormant for years, with the characters around each other the entire time, until flared into existence by a chance occurrence; then continue to grow with each participant feeding the best of themselves into each other for years. Some are born in the purest of ways – between two timid school children who happen to sit together, and continue to do so for months or years until one or both move away with the knowledge of the other’s being clear as the back of their hand. Ten years later, even without the same characters, the story is still alive.

Sometimes a person starts and finishes a story without knowing it. A school girl does it when she laughs under pouring rain with her books getting drenched, and someone else denying themselves the pleasure for the sake of a phone or a watch or a project watches and notices her.
We participate in a plethora of such stories everyday. More often than not we don’t know when one starts. Those of us who are lucky and observant file away the most intriguing characters we come across in our memories. Some of them we hold on to, some we remember in flashes of images, some we stay aware of and love from a distance without contacting them again, and they might be a completely different version of the person we knew if we do see them again. We are made up of stories, those that we are a part of and those that we hear, every big or small chapter adding to us without our noticing.


Scruffier the Elefriend

Scruffier the Elefriend was a very hungry man. He always ate well and downed his food with rich pomegranate juice, so much that his cheeks became Perpetually Pink.

Legend has it that Scruffier was born without an ear, and his mother immediately decided to leave him with the Elephants, big-eared Giants whose ears were said to be magical. In the summer, when leaves stuck to skin and dirt stuck to everything, they would fan their Ears gently into their lover’s face, instantly cooling down the breeze.

Scruffier’s mother believed that it was around these Magical Ears that her son’s ear would grow.

She visited him and nursed him every day, but the ear did not appear. As he grew older, he learnt the language of the elephants. He walked, slept, bathed, and played like an elephant, and he ate all day. For all his eating, though, he remained as skinny as the long, stiff bamboos the hunters made bows with.

Over time, Scruffier grew and grew, and became stronger and stronger, until he came to be known as the Strongest of Elefriends. He could always feel what the elephants felt, and turned out to be a great listener, even though his ear never grew.

At the ripe young age of twenty, he left the jungle to make a living in a town at the forest-edge. He looked like a wild beggar among civilized people, but he could carry a hat brilliantly. No one could say he couldn’t. He drew eyes everywhere he went. No one cared what he carried in his pouch – it could be a gun, a flower, a scissor, anything. No, all they ever cared about was how fancy a wild beggar looked wearing a hat, and anyone different-looking seemingly merited their staring.

His hair was soon going to grow past his toenails, and his nails were going to grow past his balcony. If he ever wanted to jump from a building, all he’d have to do was somersault while balancing on his nails, and he’d land on the opposite side of the road like a ninja.

His roommate, who hated to cook, wanted to practice witchcraft. She couldn’t light a stove, but she got a fire running before he could finish turning his head. He just knew she was going to burn his hair and nails in his sleep.

Ember, his pet rat, had a disgusting habit of killing bugs and presenting them to him as presents. They were never where he left them the next day. He knew they could fly; bugs could always fly, dead or alive.
Out on the edge of the forest, fireflies were his only friends. Yellow-bodied and bulb-shaped, the little shimmering creepers never lost their way. They never let Scruffier get lost either.

Scrounging for non-poisonous food was a piece of cake. You could say what you would about the rest of the beggars – but this one never went to bed hungry. And what a delightful cook he was, too. It was a pity his roommate didn’t share his talents. Didn’t share his gorgeous hair, either. His was long, thick and curly where hers was straight, stringy and sparse.

Whenever he sank down in despair, defeated by civilized life, he always ran back to his old forest home. Forest nymphs would swarm around him, and braid his hair and fashion his clothes, until he looked smart enough to pass for a Nymph Prince himself. His sorrows would be forgotten, his pride restored, and he would be back to eating and drinking in bliss for a few hours more

– Written by Aparna Kumar and myself

Waking Life (2001): Richard Linklater

“Hey, are you a dreamer? I haven’t seen too many around lately. Things have been tough lately for dreamers. They say dreaming is dead, no one does it anymore. It’s not dead it’s just that it’s been forgotten, removed from our language.

Nobody teaches it so nobody knows it exists. The dreamer is banished to obscurity. Well, I’m trying to change all that, and I hope you are too. By dreaming, every day. Dreaming with our hands and dreaming with our minds.

Our planet is facing the greatest problems it’s ever faced, ever. So whatever you do, don’t be bored, this is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive and things are just starting.”

“When I say love, the sound comes out of my mouth and it hits the other person’s ear, travels through this byzantine conduit in their brain through their memories of love or lack of love, and they register what I’m saying and they say yes, they understand. But how do I know they understand? Because words are inert. They’re just symbols. They’re dead, you know? And so much of our experience is intangible. So much of what we perceive cannot be expressed. It’s unspeakable. And yet you know, when we communicate with one another and we feel that we have connected and we think that we’re understood I think we have a feeling of almost spiritual communion. And that feeling might be transient, but I think it’s what we live for.”

“We are the authors of ourselves, co-authoring a gigantic Dostoevsky novel, starring clowns.”

“It’s up to me. I’m the dreamer.”

“I know we haven’t met, but I don’t want to be an ant, you know? I mean, it’s like we go through life with our antennas bouncing off one another, continuously on ant auto-pilot with nothing really human required of us. Stop. Go. Walk here. Drive there. All action basically for survival. All communication simply to keep this ant colony buzzing along in an efficient polite manner. “Here’s your change.” “Paper or plastic?” “Credit or debit?” “You want ketchup with that?” I don’t want a straw, I want real human moments. I want to see you. I want you to see me. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to be an ant, you know?”

“I would say that life understood is life lived. But, the paradoxes bug me, and I can learn to love and make love to the paradoxes that bug me, and on really romantic evenings of self, I go salsa dancing with my confusion.”

“Well, sometimes I feel kind of isolated, but most of the time, I feel really connected, really, like, engaged in this active process. Which is kind of weird because most of the time, I’ve just been really passive and not really responding, except for now, I guess.
I’m just kind of letting the information wash over me.”

“The powers that be want us to be passive observers… And they haven’t given us any other options outside the occasional, purely symbolic, participatory act of voting. “You want the puppet on the right, or the puppet on the left?”

“You haven’t met yourself yet. But the advantage to meeting others in the meantime is that one of them may present you to yourself.”

Hey, are you a dreamer? Things have been tough for us lately, haven’t they.
Whatever you do, don’t be bored. This is absolutely the most exciting time we could have possibly hoped to be alive, and we should try really hard to remember that things are just starting.

“The idea is to remain in a state of constant departure, while always arriving.”

Old Bones

This morning
The smell of bacon
Brought me downstairs
But before I reached
The open kitchen door
A voice stopped me
My mother telling
Her old, arthritic dog,
“I know sweetness
You’ve been carrying those bones
For a long time.”
I leaned unseen
On the mildeweed
Window Sill
Watching her
Sip coffee
Fry Bacon
Her old dog
Pressing at her knee.

– Written by Misha Collins


Eyes struggling to stay open against beating rain, head ducked under interlocked fingers, she walked as briskly as possible seeking refuge under a narrow canopy ahead. Once safely sheltered, she raised one hand against her brow and looked upward, shielding her eyes against the dim streetlight, at the black sky above. She stood staring for a minute before letting out a resigned sigh and leaning back, gravel rubbing against her back through her dress, and proceeded to pluck out leaves and straw from her hair. The only break into her rhythmic motions came when the streetlight went off after a sudden flash of lightning.
It was better that way, anyhow. Darkness suits most people well. She closed her eyes and opened them again, reassuring herself against the persistent blackness. Bright flashes stopped being surprising after the fourth or fifth time. Her ears accustomed to the constant splattering of water against earth by then, she felt almost as though she was at peace, in silence. It was easy during times like these for her brain to finally shut off. All that occupied space in her thoughts was the silence, the darkness, the consistency of an uninterrupted rhythm. It was rare – for dreams of the next minute or the next day not to plague her, for the unfinished arguments and unsaid words of yesterday not to resound in her head. It wouldn’t last, and it never did.
The first threads of conscious thought were already beginning to form in her head. She would try not to register them yet. Instead, she waited as the night drew on like a large, irenic, empty space, tendrils of thought from the sleeping recesses of her subconscious lazily reaching out towards an end that eluded them as tirelessly as they roved.

About not doing Nothing and Goodbyes and ‘whatever happens’

“Come on, Pooh,” Christopher Robin said, and walked off quickly.
“Where are we going?” said Pooh, hurrying after him, and wondering whether it was to be an Explore or a What-shall-I-do-about-you-know-what.
“Nowhere,” said Christopher Robin.
So they began going there, and after they had walked a little way Christopher Robin said:
“What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?”
“Well,” said Pooh, “what I like best?” and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn’t know what it was called. And then he thought that being with Christopher Robin was a very good thing to do, and having Piglet near was a very friendly thing to have: and so, when he had thought it all out, he said, “What I like best in the whole world is Me and Piglet going to see You, and You saying ‘What about a little something?’ and Me saying,’ Well, I shouldn’t mind a little something, should you, Piglet,’ and it being a hummy sort of day outside, and birds singing.”
“I like that too,” said Christopher Robin, “but what I like doing best is Nothing.”
“How do you do Nothing?” asked Pooh, after he had wondered for a long time.
“Well, it’s when people call out at you just as you’re going off to do it ‘What are you going to do, Christopher Robin?’ and you say ‘Oh, nothing,’ and then you go and do it.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh.
“This is a nothing sort of thing that we’re doing now.”
“Oh, I see,” said Pooh again.
“It means just going along, listening to all the things you can’t hear, and not bothering.”
“Oh!” said Pooh.

They walked on, thinking of This and That, and by-and-by they came to an enchanted place on the very top of the Forest called Galleons Lap, which is sixty-something trees in a circle; and Christopher Robin knew that it was enchanted because nobody had ever been able to count whether it was sixty-three or sixty-four, not even when he tied a piece of string round each tree after he had counted it. Being enchanted, its floor was not like the floor the Forest, gorse and bracken and heather, but close-set grass, quiet and smooth and green. It was the only place in the Forest where you could sit down carelessly, without getting up again almost at once and looking for somewhere else. Sitting there they could see the whole world spread out until it reached the sky, and whatever there was all the world over was with them in Galleons Lap.

Suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world with his chin in his hands, called out:
“Yes?” said Pooh.
“When I’m – when – Pooh!”
“Yes, Christopher Robin?”
“I’m not going to do Nothing any more.”
“Never again?”
“Well, not so much. They don’t let you.”
Pooh waited for him to go on, but he was silent again.
“Yes, Christopher Robin?” said Pooh helpfully.
“Pooh, when I’m – you know – when I’m not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?”
“Just Me?”
“Yes, Pooh.”
“Will you be here too?”
“Yes, Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be, Pooh.”
“That’s good,” said Pooh.
“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”
Pooh thought for a little.
“How old shall I be then?”
Pooh nodded.
“I promise,” he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.
“Pooh,” said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I – if I’m not quite,” he stopped and tried again –
“Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?”
“Understand what?”
“Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!”
“Where?” said Pooh.
“Anywhere,” said Christopher Robin.

we couldn’t figure out why

When we were kids, sitting around in clusters, we used to put our heads together and begin in earnest voices to discuss life – we used to discuss dreams and plan the way we would deal with the end of the present.

Then we grew up, and the present had ended a lifetime ago. We were in the future, on the very first day of it – except the first day never seemed to end, maybe because each day was the same or maybe our hearts and minds were stuck, the ability to live in the present forgotten.
We were in search of any one of the several things that we naively conjured when we were sitting around in clusters, our hearts beating in anticipation and our minds conceiving.

We sometimes became overwhelmed with bitterness right in the middle of momentary happiness, and we couldn’t figure out why.

We couldn’t sit around in clusters anymore; we were lying awake late at night in beds surrounded by walls in separate dimensions with relentlessly beating hearts and directionless minds.

Some days we ended up jealous of everything that was past.