Are stories real?

This story was recently carried in Swarajya magazine and got over 150 shares online. Thrilled! Editing this a bit and resharing.


Of stories, Oh muse speak to me.

Some time ago, I took a friend and her nine-year-old daughter to Bull Temple in Bengaluru. It’s the place with one of the country’s largest monolith bull, in the shape of Nandi, the servant bull of Shiva. The majestic Nandi far surpasses the tiny Shiva here, who you almost miss in a small alcove behind the bull. He is spectacular in size, structure and sheer architecture. To excite her, I promised this little lady, who was still sleepy and not too thrilled with the idea of seeing a temple, with a true story after she had seen the Nandi.

Once she was dragged her feet around the bull inside the temple, we sat outside in the temple courtyard, the black sculpture of Nandi behind us and I began the true story I had heard from someone at the same spot the first time I had come to the Bull temple:

“Hundred of years ago, Nandi, one of Shiva’s bravest warriors, was invited to come to the city of Bangalore to save it from its enemies. With all fanfare, a small statue of Nandi, the bull, was placed on top of a hill so that he could protect the city. But there was something special about this bull. Every morning when the people living around the hill woke up, they would find that the Nandi’s sculpture had grown in size. So it kept on happening again and again. At first the statue became the size of a dog, then a bull, then an elephant, then a dinosaur. This caused fear in the masses. Politicians and the adminsitrators of Bengaluru became afraid that if the bull keeps growing and becoming bigger and bigger, it will destroy their entire city. That was when a poet suggested that they build a temple around Nandi. If he is indoors, the poet predicted, he wouldn’t be able to look at the sky and his desire to grow more and more will stop. That will save their city. And so it was done. A temple was built around this ambitious Nandi, the walls so close that the ceiling touches the Nandi’s golden horns and there’s barely space enough to for the Nandi to stand inside. And as soon as a structure was created around the Nandi, the dinosaur-sized bull stopped growing in size, content to remain at that size forever.”

‘Is the story real?’ asked the nine-year-old wisely. ‘Yes, I think it is,’ I answered, ‘the person who told me, told me it was a true story.’ ‘No, you’re making this up,’ she replied, looking up to her mother for confirmation. Her mother, in an equal mood to make her daughter believe answered, ‘It could be real.’ She looked back at the majestic monolith of Nandi, doubt in her eyes, but also a newfound interest. Her mother looked back at me and smiled, conspiratorially. We had done it. We had plotted magic in a child’s heart.

I came back home and started to wonder why more and more of the children I see are not ready to believe in things beyond their five senses, in anything beyond rationality. I ask this to all children I meet in the various workshops I conduct in schools. They call believing in anything other than what’s been proved by science as superstition.

To a four-year-old who I met at a party one evening, I asked if he knows why we don’t see stars in the morning. When he shook his head, I told him because every morning a monster called the Sun gobbles them up. So when you see Sun, you cannot see the Stars. For a second, I saw doubt in his eyes and then he shook his head. ‘Not possible,’ he answered. When with all the dignity of my adulthood I insisted that that was the truth, he went back to his parents to confirm.

We have become a rational, logical society. So much so that we explain to our children that myths and all stories they hear are not real, not factual, but lies and fiction. In our eagerness to divide and tag everything with ‘facts’ and ‘fiction’, somewhere we lose out on the magic and in many ways the emotional truths that stories carry in themselves. Stories can capture the truths of love, creativity, imagination, dreams, aspirations and emotions, the way facts never really can. They give us a glimpse into another world. A world which is beyond what we know or understand, can touch, see and feel. They bring a sense of wonderment, of mystery, of the unknown, of possibility. Stories make us dream, so that we don’t live by the rules and facts provided to us, but make new rules, new societies, new cultures. Stories make us creative, they make us look at ourselves in a new way and bring about change in our beings.

By telling us tales of other people, other creatures, other cultures, other beings and other societies stories show us a different point of view and make us more accepting of differences. They make troll less online and accept that there can be multiple perspectives to the same thing, with none of them being completely wrong and none of them being completely the truth too. They turn us into mature, accepting beings.

I end this blog with yet another story, which my Nani told me a few months ago, sitting in her bedroom. She’s 75 now. I am, well, have been an adult since quite a while. Still, she sat me down like I was the little kid I used to be, her rheumy eyes watery (she has acute cataract and can barely see) and her voice quavered as she told me this story. A true story, she insisted which she had heard from her brother who had been to Haridwar recently, who had heard it from someone who had in reality experienced this:

‘One day in Haridwar, there was a fat-fat lady. She was so fat, so fat, so fat (Nani’s hands spread wide) that her body could barely fit into a car’s backseat. She stood on a road, asking for a ride from a rickshaw-wallah to Hari-ki-paudi, the popular holy ghat on the banks of Ganga. Since the fat-fat lady was so fat, no rickshaw driver was ready to take her up to the ghat, which is a winding road that goes up and then down and up again. She seemed too heavy! She asked many rickshaw drivers, and all of them refused. Finally a thin, scrawny driver pitied her and agreed to take her. He helped her alight on the rickshaw and started to peddle. Surprisingly, though she was so fat, the driver could peddle the rickshaw as if it was empty. She felt weightless.

‘He kept on turning back to see if the fat-fat lady was still on the rickshaw. God forbid she should fall! It was an easy ride for him and he reached the steps of the ghat, the Hari-ki-paudi. The fat-fat lady stepped down and said, “Please wait and take me back. I will just take 15 minutes for a quick dip in the Ganga and come back. Till then, hold on to this. It’s for you.’ With that she took out a handkerchief which was tied into a small pouch from her fat bosom and gave it to the rickshaw-puller. He nodded and waited. Fifteen minutes passed, then thirty, then an hour and then an hour again. The driver started to worry. Had she drowned? Worried, he went to the ghat and inquired. A lot of bathers saw a fat-fat lady go into the Ganga to take a dip but no one saw her come out. One bather informed him that he saw her clothes, floating in the water, but no woman inside them. ‘Poor lady,’ cried the rickshaw driver, ‘she has drowned in the waters of Ganga! She was so fat!’ He finally remembered the little handkerchief that she had given him and opened it. The kerchief had precious emeralds and rubies and diamonds! He went back to the same road he had picked her up from and inquired about the fat-fat lady. Finally he found out that the fat-fat lady had lived in an ashram in Haridwar. She was a rich lady and had died there with a wish to take a dip in the Ganga on her lips. She had died a year before she had met the rickshaw driver! ‘She was a soul who needed to take a dip in the Ganga to be released,’ he thought, ‘and because I happened to help her that she gave me so much money.’ The precious stones had made him enough money to make sure that he and seven of his generations wouldn’t need to work. ‘This is the biggest tip anyone will ever get,’ he thought before giving his rickshaw away. He wouldn’t need it now. This is a true story. My brother heard it from a guy who had happened to meet the rickshaw driver.’

Thank you, Nani, for making my eyes go round with wonderment, even though I insisted after the story had ended that there was no way it could be a true story. Could it?

PS: I hope instead of facts in comment boxes below, everyone tells stories and tales that they heard in temples, roadsides and from grandparents that made their eyes pop out in wonder.

An auto driver’s story

198_Para_autorickshaw_thumb.jpgI don’t really know his name. Never needed it I guess. The conversation with him happens because we cannot find a parking spot. It is eight in the night on a road near Commercial Street. The shops are still open and cars fill the tiny road. Me and husband are hungry and want to buy a burger from a shop nearby. A rickshaw driver stands parked on the road, blocking the space our car can fit it. I get down, request him to back it a little and direct my car in triumphantly. While the burgers are being ordered, since I stand just outside the car and have nothing else to do, I ask the auto fellow about whether he had broken his Ramzan fast yet (he wears a skull cap, it is Ramzan month and he looks in his 60s, someone who would keep the fasts. I know I assume but in this case it works.). He nods and then begins to tell me his story.

He’s been driving an autorickshaw on the roads of Bangalore since fifty years and lives in Shanti Nagar. His driving has paid for his children’s education and he has six of them, four daughters and two sons. A few of them, he informs me, have completed college and are now working at different places in the city. In fact, he is there at Commercial street to pick up his eldest daughter who works in a shop nearby. His mornings are busy too. He drops off one daughter to college and the second to this shop at Commercial street. In the middle, he plies the auto on the streets of Bangalore and earns for his family. He is happy, loves Bangalore and its people, though he feels that the politicians and the government don’t care two hoots about the city. But Bangalore is made of better people than Chennai. Tamilians, he says are grumpy people who fight a lot. I ask him what language he speaks at home. Urdu, he replies, though his children are much better with Kannada and English.

We have become friends now, though we were strangers ten minutes ago. I tell him my story. How I came to this city and love it here. He asks me whether I want to sit in the auto’s back seat and offers it like he would ask someone to sit on the sofa at his home (in spite of the fact that I am standing next to my car). When my burgers come, I bid him an unemotional bye. Story has been told and I am hungry enough to be distracted. But the old man cannot let me and husband go. He gets out of the rickshaw and stands next to the driver’s seat. My surprised husband looks up at this old fellow who keeps on blessing both of us and our relationship. He’s emotional, he’s happy, he waves and calls me his sister and then perhaps remembering his age, calls me his daughter.

I wonder what made him so happy. Was it because I listened to his story? Or because I from the privileged lot (who owns a car and wears modern clothes) stood there and chatted with him like an equal? Was it my age or my social standing as he perceived it? He was an eyeopener to me. Someone who has taken care of six children in Bangalore and made them study hard, all while driving an auto rickshaw. I know I could have never done it myself.

Image for representation only. Unfortunately, I just remember this man. I didn’t ask his name and neither did I take a picture of his.

Terror strikes back with Holi



It made me feel giddy and all ‘holi’ writer-like on Holi yesterday when a Blue Dart courier arrived at my door with a colourful book. Called Celebrate! Holi, the book is an anthology of fiction, activities and legends about the colourful festival of Holi by Hachette India. I have written one of them.

When the editor contacted me in November last year on her plans to make this anthology, I warned her that I can write on Holi but it has to have a supernatural angle to it. After all, I am ‘self-claimed’ fantasy author and it wouldn’t be proper of me to write anything without my ghosts in it. The editor agreed and so the story Terror Strikes Back which is about spring and water balloons was written in the December cold of Delhi. The story is about this meticulous boy who is a self-acclaimed water balloon expert in his colony. That is till he is challenged to target the mysterious Pagla Miyan, an old man who is never seen in daylight and is rumoured to be a vampire who might also like eating kids. I had a blast building this story and laughing while I typed away in a winter balcony.  You can buy a copy of Celebrate! Holi on Flipkart or contact me if you are curious about the story.

Sachin tattooed on my skin


Real life story of a ten-rupee note…



The note, recovering from the washing machine fiasco


Recently, a ten rupee note was discovered, dried, wrinkled, faded and folded in a washed jeans pocket by this writer. In exchange for the security of a dirty, almost-empty, much-travelled wallet, the ten rupee note revealed its yet untold story:

‘Atleast I would not die in a pocket, forgotten, slowly decaying into mulch,’ it says, thankful. For that is what it thought would be its end when it had been travelled from a sabzi-seller to a forgetful human hand who placed it in a rough, but a pocket of a pair of jeans.

‘That’s always a little dangerous, a pair of jeans. For you can be easily forgotten and then before you know, you are in the washing machine, screaming to be let out. But who will listen to you? The credit card receipt, the coins and the scribbled on notes, all are drowning too and too busy trying not to be shrunk and converted to mulch,’ it told this journalist.

Now lying in the comfort of a wallet, it hopes its next destination is someplace exotic.

‘You never know where you will land up,’ it says, ‘it’s not like I can control my exchange from one hand to another or in any way control  my destiny. Humans use us, millions of us, everyday, callously passing us on from one to another for things they don’t need. We don’t have a say in where we want to go. Did a note ever refuse to go into a rickshaw puller’s rough hands? Or a filthy hand of a garbage collector, his hand squeezing me so tight that I thought I would disintegrate? Or even a greedy, soft hand which keeps me under a mattress for years, without air or light? Sometimes we are even buried alive and forgotten until someone changes upon a treasure. No, we are nothing but things for humans.’

This tenner was created some five years ago (it doesn’t remember its exact birthdate) and thrown into the overflowing (with its type) economy of India . It already looks like it had been through some rather rough times (other than the washing machine).

‘I am not a big number. There are millions of tenners like me out there. I am exchanged fast, without any hesitation. But it still hurts if someone abuses me and calls me chillard. I….’ the note stops, overwhelmed with feeling, ‘All the tenners want is some respect from humans. There was a time when my ancestors were put in iron safes by clean hands with a photo of goddess Lakshmi next to it. We were celebrated, we were worshipped. We had a festival to our name.’

But these are just stories that the ten-rupee note has heard from its elders, who have heard it from theirs. Now, times are quite different. Now, these stories have become myths, told to each other to provide comfort for one’s purpose-less, disrespected life. Tenners are nothing but short change now and that’s the dark reality that each of them face every day in their lives.

‘Not even the hundreds, no mam! It’s only the five-hundreds or the thousands who are coveted now and get the privilege of a pooja. Though I hear,’ he whispers, carefully looking around the wallet, in case there’s a big note lying around (There’s not. I am a writer, my wallet is always empty), ‘that the thousands might all be recalled you know.’ Recalling is the worse nightmare of any note, of any denomination and age. Something worse than death.

‘To be torn, burnt and destructed. To simply cease to exist,’ it shudders. Every year, thousands of notes of all denomination are recalled by the RBI, after they have been abused, become torn, unreadable and broken by rough, hungry exchanges between humans. Then they are burnt without any ceremony or prayer for peace for their services to humankind.

‘That’s the least your race can do! Respect us for our service,’ it shouts, angry, ‘Humans have a saying that money makes the world run around. Show me where I was ever running things around me?’

When I ask it about the scribble on its side, with faded ink, it smiles again. ‘It was in Kerala, it says, proud that it has travelled so far. (If you can’t read it in the photo, the writing says: ‘Sachin Tendulkar Fans Association, Kerala’) I was donated by a fan of Mr Sachin Tendulkar himself, to a diligent volunteer of the STFA who then tattooed this on me. It was my proudest moment. Tell me how many tenners you have seen, who can boast of a name of a celebrity on their skin?’

When I tell it no one, except for it, it says, its eyes glazed with memory, ‘Those were the days, madam. Those were the days.’ It entered the emptied wallet, glad for space for a while and waited, for a new adventure. In some ways, thankful that atleast travelling won’t stop, even when the economy tanks. It’s only a tenner after all.

Writer’s note: I have tried to quote the tenner as closely as possible. As promised to it, the ten-rupee note has been carefully ironed, as new, and sent off to a new travel. May it never be recalled.

PS: This post is dedicated to my brother, along with whom I have counted innumerable number of money for the temple that my grandfather was a treasurer for. And this post is dedicated to my darling grandfather. The note brought a smile, a tear and lots of memories. Over the years, I have seen many interesting scribbles on notes, from association markers, to life quotes, to love proposals, to messages to each other. I have always loved reading them and imagined their stories. This time around though, the story that came to me was this note’s. Fascinating!

Forest Tales: Little Loris

Little Loris lives on a bamboo tree far inside the green forest. Her eyes are like big saucers but she is as small as a coffee mug. Mama Loris thinks she has the most beautiful eyes. They are round and huge and bright. In the day, Little sleeps. At night, she wakes up and plays. She loves to find bright colourful little insects and eat them. She hits Mama with bamboo shoots and swings away, laughing as Mama comes to catch her.

One night, as she is eating a small shoot, there comes Big Man. He looks up high and sees Little Loris. Then he smiles and offers a thin long thing to her. Little Loris smiles too and offers Big Man a bamboo shoot. Then something sharp hits Little and she falls down.

When she wakes up, it’s dark but not as in the forest. It doesn’t smell like bamboo. It stinks of Death, like when her Uncle Loris fell from the trees. There are no sounds here. Everything is dead. The floor is hard and it hurts. Little is afraid. She tries to reach out to find a branch to cling to. But her hands are tied. She cannot move her hands. She cries and cries. She misses Mama and Papa Loris.

Some time later, a bright light shines. Little closes her eyes, scared. She opens them a little. Big Man looks down and smiles again. He gently takes her out and makes her sit on his palm.

‘I want Mama,’ Little tells Big Man. Big Man smiles again and takes her to Fat Man who sits next to Fire. She is afraid of Fire but trusts Big Man. He will take her back to her Mama, won’t he?

She hears the Fat Man smile.

‘Her eyes are huge,’ Fat Man says to Big Man. She remembers how Mama told her that her eyes are pretty. Fat Man is good too. He will take her back to the Forest.

Then Fat Man comes to her with a sharp knife. It glistens in the Fire. Big Man uses the knife to scoop out her big saucer shaped eyes. Her pretty eyes. She cries out as pain and blood shoot out. Then they peeled off her skin. There’s so much blood and so much pain.

He picks Little up and throws her in the Fire. She burns and burns. Then everything turns black and dead. She thinks she hears Big Man laugh.

Big Man sings with Fat Man

‘We will sell her skin to the Leather Man

To make pretty bags for rich women.

We will sell her eyes and meat to the Quack

To make magic medicine for the Unwise.

And then we will be rich, oh so rich

We smell the tempting bag of Money!’


Little Loris hopes she will meet Mama again. She wants to ask her what Money means.



Slender Loris is a small, nocturnal primate who lives in the Eastern Ghats. Native people believe that all parts of the Slender Loris have some medicinal or magical powers. Their body replaces voodoo dolls in black magic. Their skin is used to make expensive leather bags. This has contributed greatly to their decline in the state of Karnataka. Though it is illegal in India to catch a Slender Loris, the trade of catching them and using them for black magic, leather and pets is high. There is no counting of how many of these little primates have disappeared from the Ghats.

Forest Tales are a series of fiction loosely based on true stories I hear from wildlife conservationists. I am working on these to create awareness for a wildlife conservation NGO called Vanamitra ( based in Bangalore. Please do share these stories.

Tale of Hem Vayanattu Kulavan Theyyam, the toddy bhuta

Shruti and Smriti are two wise sisters. Smriti or Memory comes to you while you are reading things. You remember her wise lines long after she’s gone. Shruti or Listening comes to you anytime, on the road, in a movie, while you travel. She tells you secret things brought from the Wells of the Wise. After you hear them, she smiles and sprinkles the dust of Forgetfulness. So all you remember is that you heard something somewhere which changed something in you. The tale I try to tell you here, is of the latter kind. It was told to me while I was sitting somewhere, with hypnotic drums playing in the backdrop. It was told to me by a stranger. I don’t know if it’s true. I don’t know if this is how it was told to me. But something of it (which I try to retell) stayed with me. Don’t miss the videos in the end of this blogpost.


Sort of facts:

It is a festive night as people start to gather in front of a small temple in Kannur, Kerala. The drums are beating fast and slow. The occasion is a ritualistic dance of Theyyam, or bhuta-in-human form, which comes to the coastal Malabar area of Kerala every year from January to April. There are more than 500 bhutas in the district, all can solve (or bring) a particular type of a problem, disease, dosha. These bhutas have been there since a long, long time. They are mentioned in the Mahabharata. They have lived in these places since times immemorial, since people had problems. We are waiting for the bhuta-of-the-night, Hem Vayanattu, to come and retell his story, like he does every year.

I sit in a makeshift greenroom outside the temple. This is where a man who is about 40 years of age is dressing up in elaborate costumes. He has bright vermillion lips and dramatic eyes drawn with black charcoal. His whole body is green with bright white light-like dots on his slightly protruding stomach. He’s a mere man right now, being dressed up by his father (who is 60ish) and his son (who is in his 20s). In a few moments from now, he will become a host to the Bhuta. When he’s ready, he will become a vehicle for Hem Wayanada. He will become a source through which the spirit can retell its story, reenter the world of the living and talk to the people. He knows it will happen and so readies himself. There’s excitement in the camp. There’s also nervousness. Mere men are never comfortable when a spirit from another world is about to enter their world. He wears the heavy headgear and swathes of colourful clothes in the sweaty balmy night. He’s in the theyyam-becoming business so knows that this is his moment—when he becomes god-like, from the mere man he is. He’s sweating and looks tense. He takes a sip from something that looks like toddy. I am assured it’s a kind of ginger tea.



The story retold:

An hour later, Hem Vayanattu comes. He hunches and sits down next to me. He spits. I turn to him and try to take a photo. He shakes his head. Listen, he whispers. His breath smells of toddy and his eyes glitter dangerously. I become a little wary. I have to be, being a female in today’s time. I smile hesitantly. He grins and begins.

A long, long time ago Hem used to be a mere man. He doesn’t remember when. All he remembers was that he lived in a village next to the Forbidden Forest, where no humans were allowed. Rumour was that the Forbidden Forests was the abode of Lord Shiva himself, who came there in the nights and made merry with his ganas, his hordes of bhuta and preta. Anyone who would go there would die. He never ventured close to the forest.

Then one day a sweet breeze from the Forbidden Forest ruffled his hair. A flame hit his heart. He became restless and angry and frustrated. He would catch himself walking to the end of the village everyday where the Forbidden Forest stood. He stood there for hours at the Edge, trying to peer inside the forests, to see what it was that made it forbidden. One night, as his family slept (did he tell you he had a family? A wife and two children) he stood up and left. He took a deep breath, and entered the Forbidden Forest. There was no trail to show him the way, since no one had entered the forests before. No human that is. He walked on. The forest thrummed with a rhythm. It grew dense and dark. So dark that even black kajal would shine like a lamp in there. He was scared, his heart thumped up and down rhythmically like a drumbeat from his stomach to the middle of his neck. The hair on his back and arms stood on attention, as if they were trying to guard him from evils around him. He knew that he was in danger. In those times, real tigers and poisonous snakes and other things roamed the forests. They weren’t afraid of people. They ruled the forests.  He walked and walked. He doesn’t really remember why.

Then he suddenly came across a clearing. Moonlight blinded his eyes as they became used to the light. He saw Lord Shiva dancing with his ganas. Bhutas, pretas, deformed creatures of the night were laughing, screeching, drinking and merry-making. But he wasn’t afraid. Lord Shiva turned to him, his eyes glittering. “Do you want to join us, Hem?” he asked kindly. Hem nodded, mesmerized. What else could he have said? So he became a Gana, a creature of the night. For a thousand years, he danced, drank and made merry. It was a happy time.

Then Lord Shiva left without saying a good-bye. The Ganas were devastated. Every night, they started to keep 108 pots of fresh toddy in earthen ware to call Lord Shiva back to the Forbidden Forests.

“Do anything but don’t drink from those pots, Hem,” warned a Gana as he was about to reach the pot, “They are a prasad for Lord Shiva.”

One thousand another years passed. Lord Shiva didn’t come. Every day, the ganas would keep those 108 pots of toddy reserved for him. Every night he wouldn’t come and the toddy would go waste. Meanwhile, the forest begin to change. It leaves turned yellow and brown spots appeared on its feet. It begun to die, being rhythmically cut by humans whose population was growing stronger. All the Ganas, except Hem, one by one left the Forests to go deeper into the lands of the Earth. But Hem didn’t leave. He sat in the clearing alone, under the moonlight, looking at the toddy that was going waste every night. He was so thirsty. He wanted a sip.

One night, as he sat alone in the forest, waiting for Lord Shiva, he felt so thirsty that he couldn’t resist. He wanted a drink, so he went and picked up a pot of toddy meant for Lord Shiva. Then he drank. He drank and drank till his sweat became stinky. He drank till his eyes dilated and he fell on the ground. He drank till his bloodstream and piss was full of toddy. That night, Lord Shiva came to the Forbidden Forest. He saw the empty pots and a dead-drunk Hem. He got angry and with a flash of thunder, tore out Hem’s eyes. For he had sinned and taken the toddy that belonged to Lord Shiva.

Blind and bleeding, Hem roared through the Forbidden Forest. He fell and tripped on branches. He was bitten by many insects. He couldn’t see. He was angry! What kind of a Lord is so wrathful that he cannot share a mere drink with his servants? As his anger softened, he felt remorse. He realised that he had done wrong. He prayed to Lord Shiva for forgiveness. He was after all a man, a spirit, not a god. He was prone to mistakes. A thousand years more he prayed and Lord Shiva came. He smiled and said:

“Hem Vayanattu (for that was the name of the Forbidden Forest), I will give you divine sight so you can see. Stay here and see what is Real. See into other men’s hearts and tell them what they want to know. Show them their deepest desires and fears and guide them.”

So Lord Shiva left and Hem Vayanattu was left behind to handhold the people living beyond the Forbidden Forests.

Hem lights up a beedi and smiles with his crooked teeth, “I am not a man or a god. I am just someone who has to do Lord Shiva’s work. I am just someone who crossed a line, twice and lived to tell the tale. And now I come here to guide my people. What do I know about choosing the right path? I just like to come here and drink toddy that is offered to me.”

His eyes are sharp. They hit my heart like daggers. His powdery lips bend like a bow into a frozen smile. He gets up, rubs off the dust and hollers. The audience shivers as the drums start to beat faster and faster. He dances and dances as the night falls darker and darker.


I am willing to bet that I have got this story wrong somehow, but then, I am a storyteller and forget and make up with other things. If Hem Vayanattu Kulavan Theyyam (or someone who knows his story) has a different tale to tell, I would love to listen.

Keeping it short and sweet

A friend tweeted about her company’s requirement of mobile content creators. Now the term is understandable if rather pretentious (like using sales executive rather than the obvious salesman). But what I want to talk about here is what these content creators are actually doing and getting paid oodles of money for. What does a person who writes for mobile phones actually write? So I search and found it out: The mobile content creators write SMSes, one-liners for blogs or websites. Basically single liners which intrigue the reader, catch her attention and make her click and read. It means someone who can provide catchy one-liners which fit into the browser space of a small mobile screen and incite the user to click on it. For most of us, with our Tweet-long attention span, we give only a nano second to an SMS or tweet. In than time, we want someone to goad us with interesting headlines or single line sum ups of stories.

With more people getting hooked to this mobiles for content, I think this is here to stay. Easy money you think? Try writing one SMS with a 140 character limit and you will know. It does takes sheer creativity and ingenious to write that one liner; to sum up a whole story in a single line. It’s the same as writing a novel, which btw I think is fast becoming a dinosaur. I hear less and less people talking about reading novels. Especially the younger ‘uns.

Wonder if I should try my hand at a tweet-novel. Bet someone out there is doing it. Lemme find out.

An obituary to my ghosts

It’s painful to sacrifice ghosts. I don’t mean it allegorically in a past baggage sort of a way but rather literally. Let me begin in the beginning. I have been working on a kids’ story for the past eight months trying to get it approved with a publisher. The story, which I was very excited about started out as a ghost story and now has converted into a kids’ detective story. This is a result of about eight back and forths between me and the editor. Now, the editor has quit and I am working with a new one. This results in another series of back and forth. But this post is not about the shaping. It’s about my ghosts.

My pretty, enthusiastic ghosts who were the ones who coloured the story with their pale sights. They were funny, sarcastic and made the story their own. I loved writing about them. They owned the story from Day 1. On Day 154th, they are being chopped out of the story. First it was just rendering them in the second half of the book, then they appeared only in the climax, now they are being completely chucked out. It’s a simple case of the camel taking over the tent and pushing the poor owner out in a cold desert night. Sigh.

I, their creator and the one who loves them the most, is kicking them out of the ‘real world’ created in my fiction story. Making them story-less. Killing them off in cold blood. In other words, I am selling my ghosts to the suggestions by a series of editors who claim to know more about their ‘audience’, ie, the children.

So this is a post to give them a hug and bid them goodbye. Today is the day they die and are forgotten. But only by the story, not by me. I will bide time and create another story – this time exclusively for them. A story where they are the heroines. Till then, I know they have enough space in my imagination. At least they have no choice.

This post is my exploration of the pain of killing characters you have grown to love and associate with a story. It hurts. It’s as bad as taking out a thorn from your hand. Or cutting your own limb, without anesthetic. I am emotional over this today.

My poor ghosts are quiet. They don’t blame me. They just stand there in a corner, waiting. Biding their time. Another time. Another world. Another story. I owe it to them.

Now back to my story for the final kill.