Translator’s Foreword

October 22, 2020

Bangalore does not change in autumn; seasons are mere calendar distinctions in this city. The Vidhana Soudha still overlooks Cubbon Park and a regular throng still scurries to and fro on MG Road. I sit miles above the city, up here in the pervasive Namma Metro, crisscrossing over the streets as if I had been raised on my heels and set to roll. The city, sometimes a blur, sometimes a rhythmic stutter of mask-peppered rooftops, is spread out below us. Ayush sits beside me unchanged; like always, his gestures narrate a grand story as we roar past open skies.

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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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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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