Me, the Performer

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “What have been the event horizons of your life – the moments from which there is no turning back?” 

Even when the costumes arrived, it hadn’t quite sunk in. We spent the evening like idiots, posing for silly photographs (it was, after all, a comedy). A stressful month had been spent on rehearsals that were only just beginning to turn into fun; we’d finally reached that sweet spot where our heads were so saturated with lines that they’d begun to colonize our jokes, our dreams… our lives.

It was only on opening night that the reality of all this struck me, as I listened to a shuffling and mumbling audience from behind the green room door. So this is what it feels like, I thought, as all of us backstage made our rounds mouthing BREAK A LEG!, to the cast and crew.

And then, the lights came on. The audience went silent in anticipation, and this energy of their silence percolated the room and made my head want to explode with adrenalin. This was it. I was hooked. From the moment I stepped on that stage, I felt like I owned that room, that this was my space in the world, that I was born to perform! And though there was some unhappiness after curtain call on the last show day, for all good things must come to an end, I knew that this was only the beginning… My beginning.

Thus began my sojourn into the magical world of theatre.


Thank you, Captain

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Write about a chance meeting that has stayed with you ever since.” 


Our parents had set us up. They’d given us the same old spiel; “Meet them first, how else will you know if you like them or not?” I guess I relented because I was tired of not having found love in all the places I’d looked until then.

We were seated on the diwan bed in the spare room, side by side. I was wearing my best salwar khameez that morning, a deep purple and blue number tailored in a style that I’d handpicked from a catalogue. I don’t remember what he wearing, but whatever it was, it was neat. He exuded casual in a military sort of way: hair slicked to one side, clean shaven, rimless glasses, shirt tucked into the slender waist of his jeans. He was neither slight nor well built, but muscular all the same. Although, what I remember most was that he had the darnedest, cutest smile that got my knees knocking together like ice cubes in our tall glasses of mango juice.

“Why do want to marry someone in the army?” he asked me.

They have great pensions and live in the lap of luxury; said my mother in my head.

“Um, I dunno, my great-uncle was in the army. It seemed kinda cool”, my 22-year old tongue blurted out. And then he smiled his wonderful smile that made me want to continue to say stupid things all day.

We had been chatting for the good part of an hour when he said, “I think I may be 60-40 about this”, he said of the set-up.

“60 for, or against?” I asked.

“For”, he smiled and fifteen minutes of conversation later he smiled again. “Maybe 70.”

I blushed. We’d decided to give it another meeting to figure out where we stood on the matter. I went through the day as if floating on a cloud.

“Did he hold your hand?” my brother peeped out of his blankets to ask.

“Shut up”, I murmured under the buzz of his smile in my head before I turned the lights out.

The next morning when I woke up, I sat up with a feeling that the day ahead was important for some reason, and when it dawned on me why, I smiled and brought back the memory of his smile to my head. But the magic had disappeared. I wracked my head in an attempt to remember the charming curl of his lips, but it was no longer there. Huh, I said to myself, that’s odd. I wonder if this is some sort of sign. But then I quickly brushed away the thought.

We did meet later that day, but as we walked past all the little shops at Spencer’s Plaza, I didn’t have a good feeling. And then he finally spelt it out while we had lunch at Noodle House.

“Hey, don’t take your anger out on the ice cream”, he joked after he’d shared his decision with me.

“I’m not”, I mumbled. What did you expect, I thought, I had had hopes about this. Now I have to go about being my own person until the next sucker comes along.

“You’re young… and bright and intelligent. Go out there and live your life. Please don’t waste it on a fauji (army man)”, he begged.

I went home, dejected. I had never taken rejection well, even though people thought I did. Over the years I continued to struggle with love, life and meaning, and I think back to his words from time to time. He’d really done me a favor by being brutally honest. We were never destined to be together, but my fate had meant for me to meet him only so I could chart my life ahead of me.

Thank you, Captain.

My Pindiyath Nose

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “What talent do you have that your usual blog readers don’t know about? Talk about a time when you showed it to its best advantage.” 

To try and choose a particular talent of mine to blog about is not easy, although it would be pretentious of me to say that I have too many to choose from. In a way it is true, and I consider myself versatile: the Jack-of-all-trades sort. But to pick any one and describe it in details seems all the more pretentious to me, so I’ve decided to discuss my most unusual talent, something I’ve inherited from my father’s maternal family, the Pindiyaths.

I can touch my tongue to the tip of my nose.

Indeed, it is an unusual talent, and I have my ancestors to thank for bestowing upon my face the majesty of the Pindiyath nose, curved ever so slightly like a question mark punctuated by my cleft chin.

But I did not always think so highly of this nose. I disliked it immensely as it grew differently from the rest of my face, earning me names like: White Crow, Parrot, etc. Except of course, when it came to showing off my rather strange skill, because that was when I owned it completely. Facilitated by the smallish upper lip inherited from the same source, I would show off at dance class when still a middle school student, and watch in absolute amusement as the other girls tried their best to get their tongues to touch the tips of their noses, some even trying to push their chins upwards with their palms. As I grew older, my face filled out, but the distance between my nose and tongue has stayed about the same. The gross awesomeness of my little quirk, to me, beats ear wriggling, and cannot be mastered easily, like say, how I taught my eyebrows to be independent of each other. It is what makes me, me.

I’ll bet those of you reading this have tried it too.

And I just did it again.


The Day My Body Stopped Being Mine

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Being trapped in a confined environment can turn an ordinary experience into a powder keg. Write about a thing that happened to you while you were using transportation: from your first school bus ride, to a train or plane, to being in the backseat of a car on a family road trip.” 


47D was always the last route you wanted to take to get back to the university. It was notorious for pickpockets, lechers, molesters, and smelly people in general. But I was hard-pressed for choices at 8pm in the night, especially since curfew was in 40 minutes. When the bus in question stalled in front of me, I deliberated for a moment before the whirr of the engine forced me to clamber in without a second thought.

I glimpsed his face, this boy of not more than 16, and a gnawing intuition of destiny dawned on me. I shrugged it off. What part in my destiny could this scrawny youngster play?

I handed the money for my ticket to a fellow passenger to pass it on to the conductor and waited for my ticket and change to be passed back, a ritual common in crowded buses in Chennai. There was a tap on my shoulder and I turned to face this youngster again who handed me my ticket and change. “Thanks”, I said, and smiled politely. He regarded me with the black pupils that swam in the yellows of his eyes; chin tilted inwards as he nodded in response.

It wasn’t a long ride back to the university. But in the next three minutes, I found him inching closer to me, hand slightly raised away from his hip in the hope that the next bump the bus drove over would send it flying toward my crotch. I had a package in my hand, thankfully, that I instantly shoved in front of my zipper to discourage the young man from thinking I was just another naïve bus rider. I don’t know if he got the message or not, but the bus was nearing my stop, and I moved closer to the exit, glad that I didn’t have to deal anymore with this sort of behavior.

But the universe had other things planned for me. The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu happened to be passing by, and the police were in the process of closing all intersections to clear traffic for the grand entourage to pass through. Sadly enough, the bus couldn’t make it to the other side of the intersection before my stop, and we were stuck there, waiting in traffic for the good part of twenty minutes, a golden window of opportunity for my molester to push through the crowd and position himself right behind me, where he proceeded to push his stiffened masculinity against my backside.

I froze. I was frightened. This was the first time I was being attacked so blatantly and I stood there, waiting to see if somebody would come to my rescue and pull this creep off my back. I had, until then, only dealt with lechers and oglers, this was something entirely new to me. I looked around outside the bus. I couldn’t jump off just yet, some traffic was still finding its way to the intersection. I wanted to yell the words, “GET AWAY!”, but my tongue was stuck at the back of my throat, and I don’t know how long I stood there while he pushed and dug, but it seemed like hours.

And then, finally, I decided enough was enough. I jumped off the bus and began to walk back to the university, but not before I shot a dirty look in the direction of the bus as the yellows receded into an indifferent crowd. I hurried along, half-walking, half-running, still worried about the curfew. I was inside the university when I bumped into my good friend CB. She looked at my face and asked me if I was alright, and I stopped in my tracks and burst into tears. She put her arm around me while I choked and sobbed the story of my first molester as the hostel gates closed behind us.

Cobra Down

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind. Write about a time when you taught someone a lesson you didn’t want to teach.”. 


Cobra was one of those guys you really couldn’t avoid. He was big, burly and – oh God – loud. He was also student-in-charge of the computer lab. I think he took that title very seriously, too. At any given time you could walk in and find him either hunched over a keyboard completing a drawing or sprawled across two chairs, snoring with his mouth wide open.

We soon came to realize that he was the kind of guy who acted like he didn’t care you were a lady. Not in the good way, but more in the “I-know-you’re-a-chick-but-I’ll-pretend-you’re-not-but-I-really-know-you-are-and-it-gives-me-perverse-sense-of-power” kind of way. Also, I can’t say this enough – he was a big man. He thought he was coming off as playful at times, but he was capable of leaving strangle marks on your neck, even if it was for fun. You only cracked a joke at his expense if you could run like the wind after. I, unfortunately, discovered that fact after I found myself dangling upside-down by the feet while I struggled to keep the ends of my blouse modestly in place with one hand.

Now I’m the sort of person who never thinks to reprimand people invading my space until, say, it becomes really unbearable. I’m tolerant and appropriate, which unfortunately works against me in moments such as these. Cobra was dating my roommate, and after she moved in with him, I rarely got to see him, which worked fine for me.

One wintry day, our HOD brought an assignment for a couple of us to work on, and Cobra happened to be on the team. The deadline was in two days, so my three friends and I spent the night at the studio. The next morning, groggy-eyed, we stepped into the computer lab to resume our work. Cobra was at the far end of the lab, working alone.

Bear in mind, at this point, none of us had had our morning tea or a good night’s rest, so we were the bitchiest, smelliest, most unpleasant students you just didn’t want to know.

Cobra stretched and yawned for what seemed like a minute and a half, and I must have said something rather snide, because the next thing I knew, he’d grabbed onto my scarf with one hand and wound it tightly around my neck and started to pull.

I began to panic. “Cobra, no, no… You’re hurting me, Cobra, stop!” But as usual, he wasn’t listening. This was all a perverse game to him.

It was in that moment, that I saw everything so clearly. He had used the fingers of his left hand to prop himself against the table while his right hand was knotted in my scarf. It took me less than a second to raise my left fist up high and swiftly punch his fingernails on the table.


“You have NO idea how rough you can be, Cobra, I had to let you know that you were hurting me!” I yelled back.

“You fucking bitch, don’t you mess with me ever again!”

“No, YOU listen to me, Cobra, don’t YOU ever mess with ME again. I hope you’ve learnt your lesson.”

He muttered obscenities at me while exiting the computer lab. There was silence for about a minute, before my friends began to congratulate me for what I had done. I sat there, shaking, still trying to process what I had done before I could start to laugh it off. I had just reminded myself that I wasn’t a doormat anymore.

As for Cobra, he never bothered me again.

What To Do When Perverts Come Knocking at Your Dormitory Door (Or Window)

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Tell the story about something interesting (anything!) that happened to you, but tell it in the form of an instruction manual (Step 1, Step 2, Step 3….)”. Here goes!


I have so many wonderful stories from my 5 years as an undergraduate student in a girls’ hostel in Chennai, India. There was hardly ever a dreary moment. Gossip abounded because some women were always trying to steal other women’s money, or books, or food… or sometimes underwear. Sometimes they were just trying to get in another person’s underwear. There were women of every kind in my hostel: different shapes, sizes, colors. You didn’t have to do much to watch drama unfold over something as trivial as a misplaced toothbrush.

But some of the best stories I have are of perverts hiding in the bushes trying to sneak a peek of the ladies through their window. It didn’t take much to get the female student body to unite over a matter as ‘serious’ as this.

Here’s what to do when on a perv-alert in the dormitory:

STEP 1: Determine the distance between yourself and said pervert. Continue to Step 2 if the lecherous bastard is at least 20 feet away from your window on the other side of the fence or compound wall. If, however, the monster is right outside your window, call the warden. If, God forbid, he’s knocking on your door, stay calm and CALL THE POLICE.

STEP 2: If you have ascertained a safe enough distance between yourself and the pervert, keep a watchful, but discreet, eye on the creep. You may skip to Step 8 if he walks away within five minutes. In the event that he stays put, move on the Step 3. If he comes back again, or begins to issue projectiles (not the kind explained in Step 2a below), skip to Step 4.

STEP 2a: If, while keeping any eye on above-mentioned pervert, his hands begin to stray to unmentionable regions, do not panic. STARE HARDER. If it doesn’t shame the bastard into stopping, and you think you may be seconds away from watching him spurt his sap, call out to friends at the top of your voice until Pervy Numbnuts gets the message. You may even point and laugh if it so pleases you. If he walks off with his shame tucked in his pants and his tail between his legs, skip to Step 8. If you, and your out-of-breath friends, have just witnessed the gut-churning scene of his ugly climax, say a quick prayer for the wasted sperm, and you may proceed to Step 3. NOTE: Remember to always keep puke receptacles handy.

STEP 3: Turn off the lights. This is usually the most effective step to drive away unwanted perverts. You know what they say: out of sight, out of mind. Also, it is highly likely the jerk thinks you’ve been enjoying the show until now. You really don’t want that.

Now, if all goes well and Creepy Boy doesn’t come back to his point of surveillance, go ahead and skip to Step 8. But if he comes back within the space of 24 hours, or tries to bombard your room with projectiles like stones, mud, foreign objects, etc., continue to Step 4.

STEP 4: If you’ve come as far as this step, you’re pretty much at war with Horny Man now. Get a good glimpse of your perpetrator, run to the intercom and call out to your homeys to join you in battle. Get the Warden involved too, even if it’s 2am in the morning. Chances are this is the most action she’s seen in a long, long time.

STEP 5: Split your army into teams: Frontline assaults, surveillance, yell team and runners are a few good examples. Instruct frontline assaults team to arm themselves with the heaviest and sharpest objects they can find, Surveillance to position themselves on the terrace watches, Yell team to convey the message the old fashioned way, and Runners to… well… run. Because the chances are Douchebag wasn’t thinking too clearly before arriving without reinforcements.

STEP 6: Do whatever it takes to nail the bastard, even if it means jumping the gate. Oh, and yes, if you live in a ‘gated community’, you may need to use the choicest words to wake the watchman up. In all probability, his blissful snoring is the only thing lying between you and your visions of kicking Mr. Perverson in his nuts. If after all this you manage to nab him, continue to Step 7, and if not, skip to Step 8.

STEP 7: If you’ve come this far… congratulations! Now leave your perpetrator’s fate to the Executive Warden or the Vice Chancellor. But it is always better to forgive. Only, memorize his face like a road map before you do that, and watch him whimper every time you bump into him on campus.

STEP 8: Now go to sleep. If he comes back within the space of 24 hours… lather, rinse, repeat. But don’t sacrifice your sleep.

At the end of the day, this exercise is futile because somebody in the future will probably accuse you of having enticed him… like the boy who genuinely cried wolf, but nobody cared because the boy who cried wolf when there was none ruined it for him… only the second boy is fictional.

But I digress. Just have fun, and treasure the mental image of hockey stick-wielding women rolling up their sleeves and crying out slogans, because maybe you’ll never see quite something like that again.

How I Created Three Commandments of Drinking Party Etiquette, and How I Broke Them All

Today’s Scintilla Project prompt that inspired my story is “Tell a story about a time you got drunk before you were legally old enough to do so.”

The thing is, even today, I wouldn’t be able to tell you the minimum age to drink legally in India, because they’re always changing the limit when some kid’s night on the town goes horribly wrong. I never really drank underage myself, but I couldn’t resist this prompt either. This piece I’ve written today is about another form of illegal drinking. 


My experimentative years were offset into my mid-20s, having spent the major part of college night life, begrudgingly, behind closed hostel doors. So when I moved to Ahmedabad, I was relieved to find that grad school was a lot freer. No curfews, no patrols. Heck, even the terrace floor had no parapet walls, and you could sit by the edge, if your heart allowed it, and dangle your legs over the 30 foot drop onto the concrete catwalk below.

I soon learnt that bootleggers lurking in the college parking lot were not an uncommon sight. The state of Gujarat is one of the few in India where prohibition is still enforced. Not exactly the best scenario when you’re a grad student in desperate need of an outlet.  What’s that thing about people only wanting that which they cannot have? We soon came to rely on a classmate as our bootleg liaison. Of course, this also meant we were at his mercy. And so, in spite of my father having introduced me early to the ‘finer’ things in life with a glass of apple cider, within months I’d moved way past cider and, I’d imagine, also way past ‘fine’.

At the beginning of the program, parties were innocent enough. A few plastic glasses and some soda always accompanied the beverage in question, and light banter and raucous laughter was exchanged over the crunch-munch of Lays and Kurkure until the surly, mustachioed watchman would come by to lock up. And if we weren’t ready to go home, a hushed conversation over an extra plastic glass was always enough to buy us time.

The semesters went by and the parties became more rowdy, ‘outlets’ in the true sense of the term, and one evening I watched varying degrees of drama unfold in a smoky, crowded hostel room before our last assignment. When finally the host of that particular party flew into a tantrum on not being allowed one last drink (or so he said), and collapsed on the floor in a fitful of sobs, my three commandments of drinking party etiquette were born.

COMMANDMENT 1: Thou shalt not drink and dial.

Drunk-dialing, IMHO, is the most annoying thing anybody could do at a party. It’s just rude. It’s also very embarrassing. Especially if you’re the one who has to point out to your friend that while she thought she was whispering sweet nothings to her boyfriend the night before, it was really some other guy. And the only way you knew this was because you grabbed the phone in between to call the boyfriend a damn loser. I mean, if everybody goes about drunk dialing, where the %&!# is the party?

I suppose that’s why this was the easiest for me to break. It was an intimate gathering, three girls in a hostel room, one of them knocking down neat scotch for the very first time, the other a serial drunk dialer, and the third one… well, me. In two hours, the first one was flat on the bed, moaning into the phone by her ear, the second one was outside, needless to tell you what she was doing. As I sat there wondering what happened to old-fashioned conversation, I picked up my cellphone and made an international call to an old friend.

COMMANDMENT 2: Thou shalt not drink and bawl.

That last thing you want when you’re having a good time is for the party to disintegrate into a Greek tragedy. But unfortunately, this happened very often.

The truth is that I had a really rough time in grad school. I was always up against the odds, and if anybody should’ve been going home swimming in their own tears after every party, it should’ve been me. But I preferred to cry on my own time. Until my graduation day that is. After the ceremony, a couple of us gathered at a friend’s house. Whoever the bartender was, he wasn’t doing any of us a favor with the stiff drinks he poured. Pretty soon, most of us were reduced to blithering likenesses of our sober selves, which isn’t the bad part… really. That started when somebody thought this was a good time to get some 3-star hotel coffee.

I still do not remember what the name of that hotel was, or what it looked like. Nevertheless, we placed our orders. The conversation shifted to grades and I don’t even remember what the trigger was at this point, but I knew I was thinking to myself how much I’d busted my ass to graduate and that there was no recognition of my effort outside of the degree that was handed to me. I remember thinking how unfair it was because some others had it easier than I did. And that’s when the waterworks began.

I’m really thankful that my good friend Pailu was there that night. She took me outside for some fresh air and helped me get the whole thing out of my system. That’s the only time I’ve ever drunk-bawled, but I always think, that if I hadn’t  I would’ve never set my mind free from all that pain.

COMMANDMENT 3: Thou shalt not drink and hurl.

99% of the time, I’ve had the ability to know my limits when it comes to alcohol. I guess I inherited it from my father who knows to enjoy his drink without ever getting drunk.

This was the last commandment, and the most surprising one, that I broke. I was long out of grad school when a few test tube shots of Romanov at a birthday party (never again, never again!) proved to be my undoing. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. And again, it was the first, and the last.


Grad school is now a distant memory. I have asked the God of Silly Things for forgiveness since breaking each of these above mentioned commandments. I still try to abide by my self-laid rules, but I don’t drink that much, save for a glass of wine now and then. It turns out I’m always the designated driver. Ah. Shame really for someone so well-versed in keeping it together.