Coward’s Seige

2015-01-18-12-43-56A vast army is gathered along the forest edge; hot dust swirls around stomping, hobnailed leather boots, and a great din rises, scaring away finches and dingoes as spears are struck against iron breastplates, and the roll of drums and wail of bugles call the faithful to post.

I clench my hands into white fists and press them against my temple but the tempest within does not cease. The hand instinctively gropes for Rosa, but her side of the bed is empty, the dank pillow reminding me she is gone.

Pressing my burning cheek against her cold arm, or sliding an arm around her soft belly always quieted the mêlée inside, but as the fumes of alcohol lift, I realize she has left. She left me soon after I got fired. They said I didn’t have…what was it…a fire in my belly. Her things are still in the house – the studded dresses, the dribble-spotted underwear, the ointments and potions crowding a small vanity table: there is hope still.

With a groan I rise to visit the John. Damn – the door is jammed! Leaning my slender frame in doesn’t do the trick. I turn the knob – it is stuck – locked from inside!

“Rosa,” I softly call out, “Rosa?” In reply a missile is hurled against the door and the toilet seat is slammed a couple of times. As the object rolls away I realize it must be my canister of shaving foam. The only – just one thing I like since Rosa left is that I don’t have to raise the toilet seat. I move away from the door – just in case the man has a shotgun. I look around for a weapon – what good can a rubber hose of an unsold vacuum cleaner be against assailants armed to the teeth?

My hand trembles as I remove my size-6 slipper and shake it at the door. Yes – I do have small, dainty feet. Rosa loved to paint my big toenails a bright scarlet on Sundays, telling me how she wished she had my feet.

I press my ear against the door – I can hear the shower running. There is a patter of feet, some screeching and swoosh of water. I rush to get the main door – alas – it is unlocked. I forgot again, after drinking last night, to lock it.

A thief, or thieves have walked in the front door and locked themselves in my washroom and are taking a cold bath! And they have a thing about shaving foam cans and toilet seats. I rush to the bedroom door and lock it – at least I have one line of defense before my trench lines are stormed. I slam a chair against the door – just to make sure. I summon reinforcements, but the security blokes don’t answer the intercom – they must be snoring. The time now is 3:45 AM; an unearthly hour to expect any help from the neighbors. I debate on calling the police – they must have some law against unemployed, single men who are long due on their rent. Are they still conscripting young, healthy men, and sending them away to the cold front to die? I wouldn’t know; I stopped keeping up with the world once Rosa left. O Rosa, why did you leave?

I long to reach out to the nearly empty rum bottle from last night, but, with a major heave of the willpower, decide it may not smell nice on a dead battle hero being prepared for a martyr’s farewell. For the end is certain: for help is not at hand. Worrying wearies me, and I dose off. I slip into the usual nightmares, and just when I am about to lose a grip on Rosa who is slipping into an abyss, I wake up, sweaty and breathless from fear.

The intercom is buzzing in my head. I lunge toward it. “Yes? Neil Coward residence.”

“Sir: did you make any call?”

It’s 6 AM, thank god! I have survived the siege! “Please, help! There are armed robbers – I have managed to lock them in the toilet. Quickly!”

I must look the part – of the lone guardsman at the gates, holding off the romping marauders. Grabbing a broomstick, an olive raincoat, and my most terrifying expression, I collapse on the chair against the door; the effort is too much for a civilian not used to the cut and thrust of hand-to-hand combat.

Help, in the person of semi-clad housewives – some with sucklings at the breast, saxicoline uncles, and half-asleep guards with whistles at lips swells at my doorstep. Together, we remove the fortifications, namely the chair and frying pan atop it, and gingerly march toward the besieged bunker, brandishing our weapons high, some chanting hymns, others plain bellowing. Hurling shoulders, boots and abuses in unison, we manage to bring the door down, ready to whip the offending Adam out of the adversary.

Behold then, the astonishment of the liberators, as they witness a deserted battleground! My meager objects of conceited vanity lie spattered about the walls and floor, but the enemy is as scarce as toothpaste in the tube. All eyes search the nooks and corners, and pause at the open window high above, where the shutter is banging in the wind.

“They have run away!” Mr. Dogberry, our President, raises a broom-toast and proudly exclaims, “ Victory!” People hug, pat each other, and start to file away.

Suddenly the twigs of the gnarled Bunyan outside the window rustle and lurch violently. Amid the howls and gasps, the hairy intruder, with a baby riding on its back, swings adroitly onto a branch, and then strides away, leaving us gaping at two huge, orange-crimson bollocks swaying majestically in the monkey’s wake!

At the doorstep pretty Miss Butterworth from next-door pauses. “Rosa’s gone forever. I miss her as much as you do. Would you care to talk about it sometime? Over a cup of coffee perhaps?”

I struggle for words. A tear escapes my eye.

“I’ll be here by eight. I’ll drive you,” she says, tenderly squeezing my hand before walking away.


The Bulgarian Blunder


Whatever plans we had of visiting Bulgaria, of which we had none in the first place, were scuttled on watching this scary movie about crime, Russian mafia, police corruption, and child trafficking in Bulgaria.

Bulgaria, the poorest EU member state, which sits on the cusp of the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, seems a primitive, developing country, just like any in Asia or Africa. One feels rather at home in its potholed, animal cart-filled, aggressive, honking traffic, and poor infrastructure: just like our own. Bulgaria remains the No. one source in Europe for human trafficking and card skimming fraud. That’s something I can vouch for, for when I was admitted in a Romanian hospital in Africa, my telephone card was busted of all money within the few minutes I’d left it on the bedside during a visit to the washroom; and all calls had been made to Romania, Bulgaria’s equally talented and poor East European neighbor.

That said, Shivaay, a Himalayan mountaineer with pretenses to the Supreme deity Siva: with his body tattoos; his smoldering hash pipe, his ascetic and erotic nature; his celibate status; his exulting in romantic dalliance with his Bulgarian paramour in the snow-clad mountains; his trident; his conch with overtones of cosmic vibration Aum; and his naming of his daughter Gaura – meaning one begotten of Gauri; all point toward subtle incantations of his reincarnation of the Destroyer; of his being a Superman: a force that transcends human archetype. He is indestructible, he is balanced, and when immersed in his Tandav dance, he can destroy the world: it is only the soft glances of Shakti, his consort, and her languorous footsteps that can becalm his tempest.

Our desi version of ‘Taken,’ mixed with fair skin, Hindu mythology, dollops of melodrama, and impossible midair stunts: this movie has roared to the box-office with a whopping 70 CR in its opening week. The movie is three hours too long with a pinch of a story – a foreign woman leaves Shivaay after begetting him a daughter, who on growing up wishes to meet her mother, ends up getting kidnapped by the Russian mafia; leading to her rescue by the aforesaid father in defiance of all authority, science and logic – which is quite all right – for people visit cinema only to be mollycoddled and served a beautiful lie. Don’t tell me its otherwise – for what charm in reliving sordid reality lies?

The title song is nice, with a thundering beat epitomizing Siva’s calamitous temperament. The action is a bit over the top – bullets never seem to find Shivaay, no matter how many of them are dispatched his way. I haven’t come across many leather-jacketed mountaineers in jeans, with beer bottles and hash pipes et al, kissing and making love in little tents suspended midair – at least not the ones who take their job seriously. Rajnikanth’s bedlam seems to pale, nay fade…nay evaporate in comparison with the mayhem wrought by Devgn here.

The actors, a bunch of new, inexperienced lot, have as much repertoire of emotions as Tabasco’s pepper sauce. Hence they do not come across as well-rounded, developed personalities, and their expressions seem disturbingly insouciant and incongruous with the situation at hand. One has to do their bit in reading a character’s emotion from their blank looks. I have a lurking suspicion that they made Ajay Devgn’s daughter, Gaura, mute because they couldn’t train her to speak Hindi! They didn’t even teach her sign language – she just whines all the while annoyingly – her ultimate gems of emoting are when she badgers the poor father for no apparent reason.

It’s hard work done here; some like the mix of action and emotion; it’s never been done before, so I would say, give the movie a shot.