Thursday, January 29, 2009

Of Prostates and Other Stuff

You guys make up your mind for once. Recently I read a report saying people who masturbate a lot are not likely to get prostate cancer when they grow old. Okay. Nobody complained. Yesterday there was this report that people who masturbate a lot and lead active sex lives in their youth are more prone to having prostate cancer at a later age.

Now, for once, give me the facts instead of doing numerous studies and coming up with different conclusions. I don't want to get prostate cancer. Is there any other way to ward off the possibility of getting it later? Do I stop being religious with the antidote or is that an antidote at all?

Newspapers confuse you. I will soon start skipping the health page.

Today I hit one Tata Safari with my jeep. My metal bumper got lodged into that SUV's rear bumper, and ripped it off. Apparently it costs quite a lot, while mine can be beaten back to shape for a nominal Rs 200. Am expecting that guy to give me a call any moment. Sudden expenses at the end of the month, especially when your otherwise healthy mental state has been challenged by a disturbing newspaper report, are very unwelcome to say the least.

And then there's this fever that came right in the middle of a conference call last night. That too on the slide that spoke about some revenue figures. I had also come to know yesterday that my wife's company is getting rid of a lot of people by the end of this month, so the general mood was not very rummy. A glass of rum was what I needed right then, but unfortunately, didn't have stock.

So I planned to take off tomorrow. Sitting at the desk with fever is not a great idea, and moreover m dad's leaving tomorrow, so I can spend some time with him, I thought. And just now received a meeting request for 11.45 a.m. tomorrow.

I want Charles Berlitz to write about Doomsday 2012 this time. That will give me something to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Twenty in Four Years

This year I have some resolutions. One of them is to try and publish some short stories. I was always under the impression that I have many of them in this blog, but after searching all the posts since 2005 I realized there are only 20 so far. How many of these are publishable? Of course not the one about sniffing panties or the one about pouring mustard oil into a little boy. That means 18. These 18 stories cover only 33 pages in Word, so I must think of some more stories to make it stretch to at least 50 (pages in Word), meaning another ten stories or so.

With 30 of them, I can have a paperback of around 190 pages, priced at Rs 99 and available at all the wheelers and airport bookstalls. Something a bored passenger can pick up. But again, considering a person is adventurous enough to pick up a book by a complete stranger, what will ensure he/she reads it at all? The stories have to have some stuff in them to keep them engaged, glued to the pages. Something tells me sniffing panties is not such a bad idea after all. Most of these passengers are single. Single men, if not women. Men are generally horny and kinky, and more so when single. A horny, married man, out on a business trip and desperate for a fuck, jerking off and starching all the hotel bedsheets is what I am banking on. And they are available aplenty. Pot bellied, mostly, craving for attention, trying to strike up a conversation with single women, these men can be kept happy only if I give them the opportunity to experience some kink. That means I can include the two bowdlerized ones. Come back, faded brown, come back my mustard oil. But, how much kink can I churn out, knowing my sources are limited?

I guess digging back into my memories will serve my purpose. More on that later. For now, let me think of a cover for the book. It cannot be blatantly sexy. That might even be considered vulgar. I have to make sure the new Hindu moral brigade doesn't get to understand what's inside from the cover. But the title should be catchy enough for the single, bored, married man to pick it up and read the blurb.

Will meet Sudeshna soon. Will jump the manuscript on her during one of her least unsuspecting moments. Will talk to some editor friends who have volunteered to help.

And will finish writing those ten more stories. I have them in my mind. Be prepared to be scandalized even more.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The same debate

Strangely, although not having been taught about gods or their absence altogether, Aaron has become a little skeptical.
Who is our creator?
Well, difficult question. Scientists say it was a Big Bang, and the latest experiment to understand what happened during the Big Bang is currently on somewhere in Europe. CERN. If you want to, I can find out more about it. So, I am not in a position to answer your question. But there is no evidence to corroborate the "who" part of your question. "Who" suggests the presence of a being, either human or superhuman, and that itself is misleading. Why do you assume it is "who" and not "what." "What" can encompass anything from a phenomenon to a living being, and is a broader term. So, ideally your question should be "What is our creator?"

Can I fly if I wear Batman's cape?
No. Many children died trying that. Do you want to jump out and see for yourself?
He didn't want to.

Why does Durga have ten hands?
The same reason Ravana has ten heads.
Daddy, ten heads mean he has a lot of brain power.
Who told you? So you accept it is all symbolic? That Durga's ten hands carry ten different arms and symbolize her superhuman strength?

If Durga was created today, she would have been a superwoman, wearing a jetsuit and perhaps with blond hair.

Who brought me the gifts this Christmas?
Why, it was me, of course...I knew he knew.

No daddy, it was Santa.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

When did you lose your virginity?

(Disclaimer: The owner of this blog can't be held responsible for you being grossed out after reading this account. Please proceed at your own risk to read this partly fictional account that came up during lunch today. And for anybody who has doubts about me after reading it despite the warning, I still remain the same decent guy that I was till my last post.)

We have all come across this question some time or the other. Either from our girlfriends/boyfriends or later from spouses, or during guy or girl talk, when you want to appear smart among your peers. For a long time I held that I first lost my virginity to a girl called Prerana, whom I met in 92. She was waiting for her medical exams while we went for our service selection board exams (the four-day interview process to join the Indian Army). We were a bunch of 52 boys, and the first day our introductions happened in the nude, hurriedly soaping each other in a cramped bathroom accommodating three.

"Hi, I'm Virat."
"I'm Upamanyu."
"Are you from Nepal?"
"No, the Armenian pirates once raped my great grandmother in Chittagong (which is now in Bangladesh). Otherwise I would have looked like a Bengali."
The third guy was busy soaping my balls while I soaped Virat's hands. In that five-minute break for a bath, with 52 guys rushing into 10 cramped bathrooms, we had no other choice and we didn't mind that either.

Just don't bend to pick up the soap, was the only rule.

In the course of the four days we became thick as a group, already at the battle front, ready to lay our lives for each other and for our country. It is easy to get swayed in that collective jingoism, and I was only 21. All we were looking for was to don the bottle green uniform for India.

The evenings were different and mysterious, because some of us realized that there were six girls selected from the previous week's exams, waiting for their medical tests. The otherwise thick group that we were, we somehow used to get shifty every evening with some of us making up weird excuses to go near the canteen. Prerana was one of the girls, obviously a bold Punjabi woman, and very smart. I also remember Kalpana, who was like a mentor to all of them and was selected as a radio officer. Some of us got friendly with both of them and I could sense that Prerana liked me a little more than the others. So did Kalpana, but she was like this elder sister, counseling people around. Prerana started with why, being a Bong, I was here. Being a Punjabi she was under the misconception that the Army was Punjab's backyard, but I couldn't blame her. Bengalis usually love their rice and fish and big tummies. I, strangely, had a romantic dream of joining the Indian Army.

I never thought it would work out, and it finally didn't. The selectors realized that I had no clue about how to negotiate my battalion out of a tight spot, true to my Bengali genes. Sadly, the story of the Armenian pirate raping my great grandmom was not true. I also blurted out in the interview that if I don't get through, I will do my post graduation in French and go on to become a teacher. Of course they didn't hire me despite me scoring the highest marks in the physical exams. And I thought just jumping around from trees and climbing walls would get me into the Army!

The limited interactions with Prerana weren't enough for us to know each other, and the day I realized only 1 guy (ironically, another Bong named Shantanu) from our group got selected, I didn't have the guts to go say goodbye to her either. She was a cowgirl and I was shy. Never met her after that. On the way back in the train, I made up a fantasy about being seduced by her in one of the railway retiring rooms. Ajay Dharni (No. 7, Akbar Road, Cantt, Allahabad) was one friend I was in touch with for a long time, and I think he later joined the Indian Administrative Services. If you find him, ask him about Chang from CDS Bhopal.

Those were days when we wrote letters. Long ones, each one an article in its own right. Ajay moved from Allahabad and we lost touch after a couple of years.

At about that day I was walking with a classmate in front of Raj Bhavan in Calcutta, when she asked me if I were a virgin. When you are with a potential "maybe she will sleep with me" candidate, truth is the last thing on your lips. So out came Prerana from a wicker full of old laundry. Of course I wasn't a virgin, I boldly narrated my story.

I don't know if this sounds absurd, but if you toss around a lie in your mind for a long time, you eventually start believing it. The Nazis were the best in propaganda, and now the blatant untruth in some Palestinian and Pakistani history textbooks can make you shiver. My private untruth kept burgeoning into a big story that everyone started to believe. It does you a lot of good, this story of having lost your virginity. You are treated with respect by your peer group, some are jealous, and the juniors flock around you for some chance wisdom that may slip from your lips and open lucky doors for them. How, when, how was she, why you, how did it feel, the questions were unending. One guy, a fellow unvirginated being, asked me if I tried something strange (that I can't write about here) during the act. I mean, where do they make guys like that seeking empirical evidence from everything in life?

The story grew with me as memories of Prerana faded. It was time to lose it for real and we had no prom nights in India. Maybe still don't. Later I had to confess to one of my subsequent girlfriends that this was a made up story. And someday I lost it for real. Strangely, (or not so strangely as I later discovered in the movie American Pie) I didn't talk about it to anybody when it happened for real. Until I realized much later (when gay rights were being talked about) that having sex with boys is considered losing your virginity as well. Memories of a little boy running around my house with his ass on fire came back vividly to me. In the absence of a proper lubricant, I had poured mustard oil in him. I don't remember the date. I was a little boy myself too.

Don't ask me the question. I don't know exactly when I lost my virginity.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"...and for non-believers"

so said our 44th prez. In a country that tried to hide from the world that Kennedy is a Catholic... in a country that has refused Bertrand Russell an NYU chair of philosophy because he openly proclaimed he is NOT a a country which has on its bank notes "In God We Trust"... we hear someone say... this country is also for non-believers! I mean, THANKS, man... you are benevolent, aren't you? You allow the non-believers to stay!

did I hear right? you mean someone has acknowledged that there ARE non-believers? like aliens? a handful of people being suffocated to death in the midst of the blind millions who spread blindness in the name of religious superstition?

religious minority? i'll tell you who're minority in this world. the atheists.

if one of our new political leaders had the guts to accept that there are atheists even in india, instead of meekly breaking coconuts to make everything "auspicious," we could have asked for some special status too, huh? Some 3 % reservation in government jobs?

Too much to ask for?

But then, if America is coming of age, India is still infested with... i tell you... indians. someday, even if in my dreams, I will shove a bloody coconut up some auspicious asses and garland them.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Burden of Buying a Bike

So, it was decided that I will buy a bike. Which one? I asked Abhi of and he promptly suggested Hero Thunder.

I went to Commercial Street to check out Hero Thunder, but liked something much more beautiful from Hercules. How much? I asked, knowing it will be around Rs 5,000 or more.

"This is eighteen."

So, I promptly scaled down my tastes to settle for something that didn't look all that good, but still managed to have a lot of drool value. That was around seven thousand.

With my mind set for this cycle, I came back and started doing the calculations. A spare-wheel rack for two bikes (to mount the bikes on my jeep) will set me back by another 10,000. (image courtesy

It is made by Thule of Sweden, and adds some character to your jeep. Okay, so 10,000 plus 7,000 make 17,000. Easy math. A pair of saddlebags for the bike will be around Rs 700. Plus a helmet for me for around Rs 800.

How much? Not much.

Called up the guy who sells spare wheel racks. Hey, so what's the weight that your carrier can manage to hold?

Sir, it is meant for foreign bikes made of aluminum. Ah. So I want to buy a Hercules blah blah for myself. Will that do?
No sir, you better buy that Rs 18,000 model to be able to carry it in this rack.

How much? 18,000 plus 10,000 plus 1500?

I am NOT buying a bike. Decided. Aju is selling his bike for Rs 1500. I am not buying, didn't I say?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My first million

For the last couple of months I've been rather worried about Aaron's fascination with money. He keeps asking whether something is expensive or affordable, about how much each thing costs, and when he will be able to make millions of dollars. At the age of six, it is a pretty disturbing development in a kid who was born in a household of erstwhile, disillusioned commies. The mention of dollars (not rupees, he wants dollars, mind you) didn't help things much and I could realize my brow and that of my folks going into this thinking knot. Everybody was worried but I could sense that the blame was being directed at me. Somehow. Bengalis would know how difficult it has been for one Mr Nondo Ghosh, who has been blamed squarely for every little mishap in West Bengal. The saying goes: "Joto dosh, Nondo Ghosh."
And despite my name not being Nondo, the Ghosh kind of attracts at least half of Nondo's share of blames. The fact that Nondo is nowhere to be located these days makes it even more difficult for the Ghoshes of the world.
So, people at home suspected me for having inculcated these absolutely capitalistic trends in a kid who was supposed to grow up and study philosophy or history and possibly teach in China if not sacrifice his entire life for the upliftment of the downtrodden. "All this is because of you" lamented some aunt. "You taught him about money."

I couldn't deny it altogether either. I have had to dissuade him from making me buy big toys by explaining how these are expensive and thus unaffordable. "Your dad can't buy a Scorpio, okay? You have to make do with a cheaper jeep? Is that okay?" And he has listened. He has also gone ahead and claimed to his friends that the cheaper jeep was superior than a Scorpio. After realizing that his dad has a limited buying potential, he has even stopped asking me to buy all the toys from one particular shop at The Forum. Yes, so I have taught him about money in a different manner, and was really happy at how this knowledge was received by him.

"Yes I have taught him about money, but about how one should value money. Not to splurge. Haven't you seen the numerous articles in the newspapers about the need to teach children about savings from an early age?" I tried to defend myself. But frustrated communists are difficult to convince. And all communists are frustrated anyway.

But I was worried too. I didn't want my son to keep talking about money all the time. After a point he procured a piggy bank from somewhere and went around asking money from everybody. My dad, usually a little careful in the matters of money, somehow showed him a lot of generosity and started giving him a five-rupee coin every day for his piggy bank. He would roam all around the house with that tin can and tell us how much he has. Soon he lost count. The tin started getting heavier. We all contributed. And our worries touched the cieling. What if he starts demanding money for the services he renders, we all started thinking. He cleans my motorcycle as a pleasurable activity at times, but the moment he realizes it can fetch him money, he might revolt, right? What if he demands money every time we ask him to get water from the kitchen? Or even worse, every time he craps because we ask him to?

This worry kept the entire household awake till the wee hours every night. Sleep-deprived denizens of the Ghosh household could be seen walking around at three in the morning, making a paan for themselves, or going for a late night walk. A house that is filled with various scales and timbres of snoring at night started becoming unusually calm save the slight rasp of blankets brushing against agonized bedspreads.

A few days back he learned to ride his bicycle. It happened by accident, almost. Let me explain. During our recent trip to Calcutta we met the kids of our classmates for the first time. A six-year old girl we met was found to be almost ten inches taller than Aaron. Again all eyes fell on me. "You don't make him ride a bicycle. That's why he hasn't grown at all." An urban myth, I tried to convince them. Look at this picture of the girl's mom with me in school. She was taller by almost a foot when we were children. But communists don't listen to scientific reasoning either, unless written in their Quran, Das Kapital. Some of them promptly referred to a dog-eared copy and some other leather-bound books and informed after a while that Marx and Engels never mentioned that girls grow faster than boys. Hence, it is a myth. And obviously my fault that Aaron hasn't grown beyond 3.5 ft at the age of 6. Ray Manzarek was the shortest in his class for a long time. So was Satyajit Ray. They both turned out to be rather tall later in life, I reasoned. now my shoulders got used to being perpetually drooped.

So last week I cleaned the cycle, filled air in the deflated tyres, and made it ready for him. I also removed the support wheel. And he learned to ride in a few seconds. This sudden discovery of the joys of riding made him so delirious, that he couldn't think of anything but riding. I noticed, however, that I never got any appreciation for passing on my riding genes to him. He was hailed as a champ by everybody, and in the general excitement that followed, the fear of his "capitalist" dreams got buried.

"I will buy a bike too, to ride with you to the tennis club."
"When, daddy? When will you buy yours?"
"Next month, beta. This month I don't have any money."
"I will give you all my money, daddy. I have a million dollars in my piggy bank. You can take it. But please buy your bike today."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Mazhab ki larai?

Ashish'da used to come over once a month, and every time he came, I was advised to go to the other room. We had only two rooms, so Ashish'da and dad talked late into the night discussing something serious, while I would spend a curious time in the other room, wondering why I was kept away. I was allowed to meet every other friend of my dad but those late night visits by Ashish'da meant we had to switch off all the lights and pretend to be asleep.

Much later my dad told me that he was a guerrilla fighter who fought for some ultra leftist ideologies. He was a student of the regional engineering college in Durgapur, and they had a group of people engaged in extremist activities. My dad befriended him when they had come to burn the library of the A-Zone Boys' School, where my dad was a librarian. Somehow he convinced them against it, and sold them the idea that anarchism that cuts off your own limbs will serve you no purpose and eventually paralyse you. A library is a repository of knowledge, and no matter which ideology you belong to, you cannot act like the Romans. Remember when they burnt to ashes the entire Greek effort at ancient science? That took us back a thousand years. In your fight against the corrupt system of governance, where every government official from a peon to a policeman is corrupt, go ahead and kill those guys, but don't destroy schools and libraries and public property. If you ever come to power, you will have to build everything from scratch again.

I can't imagine how he managed to brainwash a group of charged, young boys away from that day's destruction, but he sure earned the status of mentor to these isolated bunch. He used to lend Ashish'da some books, and also tried convincing him that mainstream politics was the only way to come and fight the cancer that had gripped our country. The guerrillas, naxals as they were known then, most of them brilliant students, died a lonely death, and perhaps Ashish'da too, killed mercilessly by the West Bengal police.

That was then. Discontent about various issues have ensured that the world has always had extremists fighting for something or the other. The fighters of this generation, however, seem to have lost their reason. The advocates of pan-islamism today tell their cadres that they will go to jannat if they kill innocent people in another country. The operatives themselves are brainless today as opposed to the naxals of yore. They have lost their faculty of independent thought and operate on weird propaganda created by their mentors. Pan-islamism. A term very few countries are ready to utter. There's oil and there are friendly Islamic countries, so tread softly. Call them jihadis, terrorists, extremists, whatever, but do not utter that word. It is going to be the fight for the next few centuries, and any sociologist worth his/her salt will tell you where we are headed: Islam versus the rest of the world. A particular violent streak of Islam, which has otherwise seen great spiritual heights during the sufi movement, or has been the seat of learning for many centuries when Europe was plunged in sheer darkness. We haven't forgotten the Baghdad where scientific text was preserved in Arabic and later translated into Latin to pass on to Europe, hailed to be the continent of modern science. We haven't forgotten the Mirza Ghalibs and the Saahir Ludhianvis. We still love Gulzarsaab and Javed Akhtar's lyrics. We expect Aamir Khan to create magic in every new film. But somewhere, somehow, today's extremists want us to remember only WTC, the Bamiyan destruction, the killing of Daniel Pearl, or the latest Mumbai carnage. Every time a Muslim name is uttered, your first reaction is of doubt.

Who has to fight it? Definitely not MJ Akbar, who is busy lambasting the people in power from an almost overt soft corner for the jihadis and their "cause." After every attack or dastardly act by the Muslim terrorists, he has, instead of directly condemning it, somehow tried to find another viewpoint. We definitely do not need him in this fight. And we cannot fight this fight. It is for the Muslims to come forward and fight this fight for themselves. Muslims who consider themselves as Indian as any Indian. Who don't hoist Pakistani flags inside India. The normal, everyday Muslim who has come out of the ghetto and the burqa. Who, when they delve into their deep rooted culture of music, art, and architecture, can put to shame many wannabes today. Where are they? Why is it that the Kasabs have come to the fore and the Naseeruddin Shahs and Shabana Azmis have taken a back seat? Why can't Ghulam Ali come to India any more and why can't so many of us Hindus, Christians, Sikhs fall at his feet again?

Naseer saab's powerful performance in A Wednesday was so realistic, I can say with conviction that he acted the role of the angry common man from his heart. It almost came across as a scream from a person who is on the wrong side by mistake. And I don't know what the script writer had in mind, but the character there is definitely an irritated common Muslim man. He says "mazhab" for religion, and that gives him away. When he says cockroaches are infesting my home, he means both India and his religion.

Only a common Muslim man who looks like anybody else, eats what we all eat, listens to the same music as others, and is living in constant fear as any other Indian can help us overcome this new menace. We cannot push them away by constant racial profiling everywhere. A pious Muslim with a long beard entering a mall with a backpack isn't carrying a gun. Don't make him feel like a terrorist by stripping him naked and emptying his bag in full public view. Don't push further away the only people who can help you in this fight. The clean-shaved man that you allowed to pass, can be another Kasab or Ismail Khan. He can also be an LTTE bomber, a ULFA operative, or one of these newbie Maoists from Andhra who is clueless about where Karl Marx or Mao Dze Dong advocated bombing people shopping in a mall.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Aadi Sutripti

After a hard and frustrating day at work, at the end of which you aren't sure if you will be able to meet the month's target, a cup of tea can stem your suicidal thoughts. But at Aadi Sutripti, you can let your first cup linger for a maximum of 30 minutes, after which the waiter is gonna hound you. What else? Is that all? Are you gonna leave now? Do you wanna order something else? In 96, even an extra cup of tea pinched. But we had to spend some more time, to have futile discussions about how to get into better paid jobs, about how to save enough for a life together. Not a big, fat Indian wedding, but something good enough to convince our parents that we can survive on our own. Right then, we couldn't. The next cups of tea came, but the waiter was not gonna allow us another 30 minutes. Scheme. Sacrifice the next day's money today and buy some more time. To hear each other's frustrations reflect off square cups and saucers.

Some days, when I could sell, we treated ourselves to Moglai Parotas. But the waiter still had the same disdain on his face as if we were unwanted filth on borrowed time.

I went back this time with a good mind to order ten Moglai Parotas and nibble a little from each...and perhaps spend the entire day just giving back all that disdain to the waiter.

He just wasn't there after 13 years and nobody could recollect him from my description. I didn't have his name. Thinking how much he earned then and what could have happened to him now, the acerbity suddenly vanished and gave way to a strange worry for an unknown man.

Was it Kolkata, or am I being dramatic? Someday, we have to give back that city all that we stole from it.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


Samyak stood by the window, looking out. You couldn't see much from the window save other houses and a slice of the sky, but he stood still, awestruck, like someone facing the sea for the first time. Actually he was lost in his thoughts, like most Bengali men of his age are. Samyak was waiting for the sound of a car down below.

At 32, Samyak has done decently for himself and earned himself quite some name as a percussionist. He plays the tabla, and has recently been invited by Dr L. Subramanium to perform with him at Bangalore. If you ask him how he feels about it, he will tell you it is like having achieved something beyond his dreams. From his initial days of learning tabla from Manibabu, the tall, dark teacher who used to come riding a bicycle wearing a white dhoti, to playing with Dr. Zakir Hussain at Banaras, Samyak has come a long way. He has even made a statement by refusing to play at the Sankatmochan music conference in Banaras, thus creating quite a stir. He had his reasons, he said on national television. But critics say he refused because non-Hindus are not allowed to perform at the Sankatmochan temple. And he feels, like all musicians do, that music is created to spread the word of peace and break barriers created by religions and races. Despite having come this distance, Samyak didn't forget about Manibabu. He died of a mysterious disease. His family didn't allow anyone to visit him the last few months. Not even Samyak.

He has even been approached by a couple of producers from Tollygunge to act in some Bengali movies, but he refused. He doesn't have the time. Apart from being immersed in practising, studying, and experimenting with music, he now has a new occupation. A little disturbing, you can say. Samyak is falling in love. And that is keeping him busy.

Samyak is not traditionally goodlooking, but his long wavy hair and his tall, sinewy physique make him a rather desirable date for most young women of Calcutta. Once, just after a performance at Kala Mandir, a crazed fan begged for his silk kurta drenched in sweat. And he has not pushed away this attention either. He has loved it like Cristiano Ronaldo would, and while some have looked away, most prude Bengalis have raised a questioning doesn't give you the licence to...ahem.

So Samyak is falling in love. And the world doesn't know about it. Yet. He denied it to himself all this while, but when Gayatri gets off her sleek, black Civic and walks to him, he momentarily wants to forget that she is married with a kid. They met when he was a struggling prodigy, trying to get a slot in the local Doordarshan studio. Most of the producers were a little wary of his talent, and the local singers weren't too happy when he pointed out how off-rhythm they were, so the going was generally tough. Normal tabla players were in demand, not prodigies. That's when he met Gayatri, a city-based lawyer, married to a businessman in New Delhi.

Gayatri had heard him perform, and probably even took a personal interest in him because she herself arranged for him to meet her dad, who helped Samyak bring out his first solo cassette. It was a series of jazz percussion compositions, using absolutely unmusical objects to create heady, crazy, and sometimes eerie sounds. Although the local Bengali magazines pooh-poohed his attempts, a critic from the Downbeat magazine came across a copy of his album and lauded his efforts. There was no looking back since then. It was 1999. The year he met Gayatri.

Samyak stood in front of the window, knowing Gayatri wouldn't come. But his ears were trained on every sound that they could capture. Nothing much was happening in his locality that afternoon. It was sleepy, soundless, with the lazy crow soaking in the winter sun and letting out an occassional kah as if in thanks. Do crows pray? Samyak thought for a while, but then brought himself back. This new streak of absurdity is either a fallout of too much work or of going crazy altogether. A few days back he caught himself in a delirious bout of thinking about elephants flying and covering the sun.

Gayatri had moved to Delhi in 2001. But she used to come over once a year. Once she came with her daughter, about whom Samyak had no news.
"Whoa! How come you never told me about her?"
"So I haven't told you about so many other things too."

Gayatri was always at an arm's distance, but just beyond his reach. Samyak never thought about her much, but when she came with her daughter to Calcutta, he was a little shaken. Somehow, perhaps because she helped him of her own will, or because she listened to most of his whims, Samyak felt she was his. She wasn't after all. She went and had a kid with another man. Her husband, yes, but another man. All his flirtatious attempts at taking her to bed were in vain, but because he always had someone or the other to come home with, he didn't realize when simply missing Gayatri had turned into something serious.

He turned back after a long time and felt the wrinkles on the blue bedspread. He brought it out after two years, to make Gayatri's visit today special, reminiscent of their last meeting in 2007. That day Gayatri wasn't in her black business suit as always. She always wears black or steel grey business suits and Armani glasses, looking stunning. But that day she wore a white tee above a pair of blue jeans. She threw herself on the sofa, something very unlike her, but placed the flowers carefully next to her.

"Come and sit next to me, Sam" she patted the sofa and beckoned.
" look so different in a t-shirt."
There was a questioning look in her eyes.
"I mean, even more beautiful. Almost human. Like I can reach out and touch you."

"And you couldn't all this while?"
There was a whirlwind working its way through his mind. Before he knew it, they were engaged in a kiss that seemed to last longer than he could hold his breath. "Gayatri..." he managed to gasp, but she pulled him deeper and deeper into her.

Samyak had tried to remember their lovemaking later in many of his late night fantasies, but couldn't find anything special in it. Sex with Anindita is always more experimental and vast. She manages to surprise him everytime. But despite being vast, it is devoid of something essential in making love. Something Samyak hadn't known before Gayatri. He had finally fallen in love. And he could chuck a thousand Aninditas and their Saharas for one little boring oasis for the water in it.

"Why were you so generous today?"
"I always wanted to give you this. All these eight years."
"But why now? Why not before?"
"You weren't ready."
"Didn't you want to kiss me that night we ran inside Nandan from the rain?"
"Not that I can think of," there was a glint of mystery in Gayatri's eyes. She was smiling, and he knew she won't tell. Despite having made love to her, he realized how far she still remained from him.

"Marry me, gee."
"I will, Sam. I will, the day you mean what you say."

Since then till today, Samyak has changed. He has waited for her, saved the blue bedspread they made love on as it was, and put it in the closet. And memories of the Aninditas and Sahanas have been taken over by memories of that one afternoon. Even his harshest critic, Sagarika Ghose, has mentioned in her latest article about a newfound element in his music: feeling. According to her, Samyak Basu has graduated from being just a technically brilliant composer to a musician from his heart.

Gayatri hasn't given him her number and isn't calling up either. She prefers to stay the mystery that she always has been. Incommunicado, just out of his reach. But today she will come. Has she left her husband? How old is her daughter now? Samyak started getting fidgety. He plugged in his iron and tried smoothing out the wrinkled bedspread. What will she think? If it is wrinkled? Will she not want to marry him thinking he is incapable of looking after himself? But isn't that too far fetched? Why would a woman take that as a sign of his incapability! Absurd. He wasn't incapable. She had closed her eyes when they kissed. She had kept moaning when he slowly entered her. She cannot think he is incapable. She hadn't made love in a long while. Or had she? But wasn't he thinking of his abilities as a husband? As a homemaker husband? What is the term for them? But will he look after the home? Her daughter, her daughter...where is she now? How old? Five, six? Will she come with her? Will Samyak be a father? Will the wrinkles on a blue bedspread, which has been spread out to rekindle memories of a blissfull afternoon, be held against him? Samyak kept ironing the ends vigorously. And then the phone announced a message.

Gayatri will not come. Ever. "Have a good life, Sam" was staring at him from the screen. He called up the unknown number but it was just that: unknown.

You can see Samyak in silhouette now. He waited all afternoon, standing in front of the window facing west. And now he is back there, facing an orange sun, wondering if he should turn back and crumple the ends of the bedspread to keep intact the memories as they were. He couldn't remember if Manibabu was his father. The flying elephants had started covering up his orange, setting sun.