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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Shorts 4

After a spell of being extremely partial to verse, I have, with the necessary discomfort of familiar change, returned to prose for a while, via another edition of the primarily crowdsourced cue-word based Shorts series. I went through the topics suggested by readers, and have written on two of them  -- these make the first and the third pieces in this post. The second piece in this post is, again, a cue-word I picked myself (Valor and Mystic may or may not follow).

Now, as per tradition, I introduce the contributors of, respectively, the first and third cue-words:
  • Aditya, an undergraduate student in CMI, a year my junior. A nondescript man from the nondescript town of Akola, Maharashtra, not much is known of this newcomer except for his unhealthy obsessions with certain (at least three) seniors. In the sphere of mundane details, one can confirm that he enjoys sports (like Volleyball!), likes certain foods (Domino's, Choco Pie, Milano, Amul Kool), and indulges in the mental and pseudo-physical challenges of, respectively, AoPS and Counterstrike.
  • Shriyank, of For Shark and Nushki fame, an important friend (and unpaid basketball coach) from my Hem Sheela days. An intelligent man who fought convention to study Humanities, Shriyank was my partner and/or opponent in many a debate, elocution, and schoolyard skirmish -- a tradition we now continue in keyboard wars. Shriyank has a keen taste in culture, literature, rhetoric and humour. He now enjoys growing success in MUNs, and in other Humanities things that the puny Mathematical mind struggles to comprehend.
The third piece is not short in the strictest sense, but I hope that the extra shortness of the first two will compensate.

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Almost

Your wins are no match for Providence. You would think that a step in the right direction would be worth something, but no. You would think that pretending to be strong, over and over and over again, would finally make you invincible, but no!
There were some who were supposed to live, over and over and over again, and inspire the disciples of metal and grease -- and yet, there they were, left laughing at how ironic the circumstances were. To think that death would come in the form of known loves, to think that the end would be in metal and grease, to think that that is how Paul would go...!

[To Paul Walker, 12/9/1973 - 30/11/2013]

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Instinct

In the stillness of night, O Master, the world is your picnic ground. The shade is your safe space; the wind is your blanket; and the beating of insects' wings, your music. The path of time that moves is hidden from you in the dark, and the marshland misted from your vision by the silver waters of kings. Far beyond present company, O Master, sacred ground is trodden in your name, and you know it -- and knowing it, you smile, all of ten years, you little angel, you...!

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Tampon

The time was evening, and the market streets of the small industrial town bustled under lamplight and feet. One pair of these belonged to our hero, who now shuffled along the alleyways purposefully. The streetlights occasionally illuminated his face and costume -- those of an office-goer in his late twenties, raised mundane (conservative?) and middle-class but hurled, gingerly but willingly, into liberalism and its oddities, which included his present task.
Thirty years ago, and perhaps even today to lesser (he felt) men, this task would be daunting and repulsive. He remembered his first time -- how he felt embarrassed and (this one the neo-liberal hated to admit) emasculated. But our hero had learnt that love conquers all, and fighting any residual inhibitions he had was now a labour of love.
This time, however, the task had altered just enough to be intriguing. Unlike the more old-fashioned subject (calling people objects is medieval, J.B.!) of his daily affection, this other devotee of the purple all-nighters was in the middle of attempting what she called The T-Switch -- a paradigm shift worthy of the strong independent woman that this little shit claimed to be. This infernal youngster, more than ten years junior to the girlfriend and him, had decided that she would throw off her apprehension, protest against superstition about virginity, avail herself of comfort in sport and uninhibited swimming... and all in all make both a personal journey and a political statement in her pants, once a month. Only this afternoon, this destroyer of his peace had arrived, and promptly informed the older sister of her monthly troubles (don't call them that, J.B., there's no shame in saying period!). Accordingly, the well-memorized thirty-character string was put on the way-back-home shopping list, only to be promptly removed and replaced by a whole new kind of product -- available, the older female somehow knew, at just one store in the vicinity, (conveniently?) closer to his return route than hers.
Hence our hero now strode, some ninety steps out of his usual way, past numerous shops lined with rainbows of pads, to that one store that stocked the needs of the slightly up-and-coming, in an attempt to woo the growing mall crowd back to the markets -- Hershey's syrup, Oreo cookies, mayonnaise and, in a shelf placed half-hidden in a corner (unlike the pads displayed in full view) five lonely, nondescript packs of tampons, all the same J&J-owned brand.
Now, as a man who bought pads, our hero was used to it all -- the usual vulgar provocations that his female friends knew all too well, plus off-handed comments due to his gender -- all about his perversion, the character of the woman who sent him out, and his speculated relationship with her. Yet, he thought as he walked home with 20 Regulars and 10 Supers, it had never been so much like a drug deal before. Moments after the shopkeeper had handed a pad pack in a brown bag to a woman beside him, our protagonist had walked up with practised ease and detachment, and discreetly pointed to the tampon shelf. To his surprise, the shopkeeper, all while speaking to other customers, had pushed a bag over to him and signalled him to help himself, and then to place the money on the counter and leave -- they had never exchanged a word!
For some reason, J.B., tampons are more scandalous than pads in a country that is slowly coming to terms with the naturalness of menstruation. Yes, somehow, he felt more judgement in buying them, a bigger accusation of perversion, a greater sense of dirt and wrong -- and the more he thought of it, the more he agreed with the young blot that her Switch was, if she wanted it to be, a very viable political statement. After all, you see J.B., they go inside -- and the worst thing a woman can do is put something inside. Inside, thought our hero as he walked home -- the inside we all came from, the inside to be constantly claimed by men and yet deemed tainted by the same men; the inside that allegedly changed so much under penetration that it was imperative to compare tampons and penises... he believed the brat now, actually. It was totally possible, in this country, for an 'educated' boy to have left her over tampons; believing, via an almost criminal amount of ignorance (our hero felt), that it diminished his masculinity and her 'purity' when 'his woman' puts something else up there. It was also possible, actually, for a mother to have slapped a daughter over wanting to try tampons, fearing she was 'knowing certain things' -- though this second one, he was relieved, was a story of her friend, and had not happened to the precious little sister... of his girlfriend, technically.
In his head, though, the young feminist's J.B. (gangsta for Jamaibabu... how did she come up with this stuff?), had dropped the '-in-law' a long time ago. Next time, he thought to himself, he'd ask for the tampons, in words. That'd be fun to watch, and he'd have a story for the blighted little bleeder...

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