A Room For Death

(Inspired from the lives of a few real people)

In April evenings, when the skies dimmed and sprinkled stars on our grassy cricket fields, we dropped our playthings and our concerns to lie down awhile. We had known our entire lives that these stars immortalized people long dead. To us, they were peepholes into the afterlife of those we were taught to love. Abhi would often point out one that was his grandfather. I knew of one which was my birth mother. If only I ever learnt how she died, she would become less a star and more a human. I turned sixteen in the moist months of twenty-twelve, the year Mr. Remarkable last caught me her star.

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The Romantic Mr. Remarkable

— Dedicated to a friend

(Inspired from the lives of a few real people)

An amorphous rain stifled the city, wetting us with pixie dust of an otherworldly romance. A few cars slid past in the wake of an earlier torrent. The streets were mottled with the vestiges of withdrawing umbrellas and blurred neon lights. The dying notes of Für Elise closed behind us. She smiled one last time, started to say again that it was nobody’s fault, but stopped when the departing bus caught up. Then a flash of light signaled another impending downpour and I was left alone on the kerb for a long time.

I remember sitting at Mr. Remarkable’s oblong dinner table as a child, my legs swinging like twin pendulums under the wooden tabletop. Not long after, Maa had whispered to me that I needed to stop that annoying habit, and everybody had whispered to one another that it was not okay for Mr. Remarkable to marry someone at his age.

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Touching The Stars

(Inspired from the lives of a few real people)

Every November evening, Mr. Remarkable donned his glazed off-white kurta over his casual white pajamas, strutted down the street, cane in hand, to the municipal park, and touched the stars. Every evening, a throng of credulous pre-teens from our locality followed him down the brick avenue, bickering and laughing, as children do when they see a madman. Each child wishes to be amazed, even if by a man who claims to snare a star in front of their eyes. Poor kids! The adults knew that Mr. Remarkable was pulling off a cheap trick, with fireflies or with bright bulbs, but they could never be as certain of his deceit as the children were of his magic. No one dared say anything to Mr. Remarkable however, because old though he was, he had a sharp tongue that could outwit and outrage the most belligerent of us all.

This did not stop the rumours. Just the other day, Twinkle Maashi and Maa were talking from across the Hall, the two entrance doors facing each other. ‘You know, Mithu, ‘ Maashi began, with an expression that combined contempt and amazement in a way that only she could manage, ‘Mr. Remarkable was at it again yesterday. All these little rascals followed him to the park, and he pulled out his cheap jar of fireflies. If you ask me, he is not a good influence on the kids. I have heard that he curses out loud while he shows them the stars.’

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