The Payphone

I was sitting in those red and yellow counters where police generally sits on a railway platform, sandwiched between an out of breath lady and a swarm of kids on the other side. Waiting for my train.

There was the usual mid-day lull. Clusters of people beneath every ceiling fan. Two girls chatting over something on their phone. Sunlight flushed through the right side.

A boy came out of it, his pace visibly off from the crowd. He was wearing a dull orange t-shirt with polo neck and brown pants folded over ankles. Dust settled on his face, slippers in feet. Around twelve years old. He picked up the receiver from the shining payphone. Held it to his ears in curiosity, dialed some random numbers. Saw the screen display but he couldnt understand it. So he kept it back and was on his way again.

Few minutes later he was back and happy. He tilted to one side and scraped out a coin from his pocket. Now more attentive to the whole process, he put the coin into the payphone and dialed. Waiting in half hope. He put down the receiver, coin clunked out. He tried again this time dialing the number first and then inserting the coin, no luck. The smile of anticipation had long given way to a natural curiosity on how would this payphone work. He tried couple of times again.

There was another spectator standing around three feet behind the boy. None of us knew when he entered and had been there. He had long hair tucked at the back of his ears, around 24 years old, wearing black shirt, collared up, gray jeans and a backpack with an expression of being flabbergasted. Probably new in the city. He was waiting for the boy to figure out the payphone. The boy gave up and began walking away, and the guy stepped ahead to try his luck. Seeing this the boy hopped back and observing the guy he realised the futility of his action. The boy took charge and dialed the number as the guy read it out of this hand. Clunk! The coin flung out. Both of them tried few more times, switching techniques but the payphone just wouldnt relent.

Finally they gave up and walked away smiling and talking about the phone. The guy put a brotherly hand on the boys shoulder and off they went with brighter smiles.


MARCH 16, 2016

Mickey Mouse

Huddled together in their crisp frocks, they sat munching and gossiping. Gossiping about Mickey Mouse coming to the party. Little Annie didnt understand how Mickey Mouse could come to this party. Just as she never understood how her class teacher could go shopping or the garden aunty could be her moms patient. She felt very nervous to talk to her class teacher at the shop.  She kept staring at the aunty in the dispensary. The teacher was no longer herself. She had a different smile, different eyes, different everything, which made Annie pretty nervous. The strict eyes, the downward frown, everything had vanished. She felt weird that the garden aunty was not in her garden. She was rather uneasy about Mickey Mouse being at this party if that would ever happen that is.

Annie picked the cherry on her pastry and plopped it into her mouth. She was extra careful not to spoil her frock- laced, light pink, gifted by her Grandpa. The birthday girl came out all dolled up. They chirped, cheered and cut the cake. Each making her own wish. TADA! A giant Mickey Mouse jumped near the cake. Everyone gasped but in a moment rushed towards him. Annie stood back, rolling the cherry in her mouth. Mickey Mouse is so huge. He doesnt blink at all. Why is he like a giant teddy bear. Not like the one on TV. This is not Mickey Mouse. He doesnt blink. As nervous she was, she had to stand beside him for a group photograph. As he stretched his arm around them, she looked up at him, gazing keenly, at his nose, his sewed up eyes, silent as rock. A surge of uneasiness crept through her, which did get frozen in the photograph.

After all the games, gifts and goodbyes, the party ended. Annies house was in the next building. Inquisitive as she was, she followed Mickey Mouse down the street. Few minutes passed when he started twisting his head. Annie gasped in horror. He pulled out his head and a small human head popped out. He went and sat at the bus stop bench. Annie was approaching him very stealthily. Then she saw him clear. An uncle, with gray hair, sulky cheeks, wrinkles piling under his eyes. Blinking eyes. Some of her uneasiness had gone, she went and sat beside him. Spanning her eyes through his face. He turned to face her, looking straight into her eyes. She felt a sudden spike, then a sinking feeling, a vacuum expanding in her chest. He blurted, I am no Mickey Mouse. Just an old man, in need of money.

And wrinkles appeared around his lips as they stretched into a rusted smile, while eyes narrowed and drooped on the edge. Annie reflected that smile, without her knowing it. A smile that appreciated the answer of a question never asked. He climbed into the bus with Mickey Mouses head dangling in his hand. Annie sat there gazing at the bus till it disappeared.


1 Comment

  1. VijayaOCTOBER 30, 2015 AT 12:28 AM


A cobbler

I used to see him from an auto on the road between my home and railway station. The same stall, same man with a pointy nose and chin. Adorning a gandhi topi, white dhoti on a blue sleeveless jacket, mending an umbrella or a sandal. Always in the same position. Towards the right corner of the hutch he had made. And he looked the same. Twenty years of sitting in the same spot. I bet he doesnt remember me. Why would he. It was when I was a little kid. I used to sit on his makeshift seat waiting for my bus to home after school. I dont remember talking to him ever. There are many could-have-beens. He could have repaired my sandal. I could have talked to him. But I have no solid memory. Just a smudge. Just a smudge where I remember sitting with a waterbottle on my lap. Looking at him work so skillfully. Applying a sticky paste, stitching in such adeptness. Fancy shoes decked his back wall, the kolhapuri ones. I dont remember passing a word.

Everytime I passed on that road, I looked at him. Two feet of distance extending to six feet in a span of twenty years, but he never knew me. I used to wonder how many times I would see him more. He seemed ageless and had the same vigour and the same shine in his eyes.

I was back in my hometown after couple of years. Few visits on that road and he was not seen. That place seemed incomplete. Like when a vital part in an environment goes missing. The cabin still stood, with all its tools and fancy sandals, the old man had gone. I saw a young man in his place, in his thirties probably, all lost. Lacking that shine in his eyes. All the tools had rejected him, he just sat there like an alien. That hole was gaping back at both of us.

Few days went by and even the cabin had disappeared. There was a new milk shop, a new cabin, new faces of which I can read nothing. Feel nothing.


JULY 8, 2015

An old lady

She pulled my sleeve and asked something I couldn’t understand. An old lady with wrinkled skin, hunchback and light brown curly hair. She was muttering, hard to even guess the language. Through her gestures I figured she wanted to know where the next train would go. I answered, thrice, raising voice each time. She understood or gave up, I cannot say. I told her to sit, as there were still ten minutes for the train to arrive, which she promptly did.

I thought of asking her where she wanted to go. She was gazing at the floor and didn’t seem to want any interruption. Train arrived. She was still gazing down. I said, “Kaku, train aali (Aunty, train has arrived)”. She didn’t seem to hear. I patted on her shoulder and pointed towards the train. Her little piercing black eyes travelled their way towards mine. She got up with her small sack. I went ahead and she dragged herself behind me. As the train neared, my instinct kicked in, I forgot all about her and went inside. I knew she would get in, so I crawled my eyes and saw her curly crown in the next compartment moving away from me. I thought of calling her and offering my seat. Dropped the idea, partly because it would be difficult to make her understand.

Eventually, I was dozzing off on a window seat. Then I saw her again. She was trudging along the passage with one palm spread out. Begging. Mumbling something under her breath. I felt violated. Angry. For a reason I am yet to know. I looked out of the window as she passed by, having forgotten me I suppose.

Where does the self end and government begin?

Recently read a few sentences off a post shared on social media. A woman killing her own babies if they were born as female and one of the comments read: Government should arrest this woman. This is illegal. This incident triggered a chain of thoughts as to who really has the supreme authority to decide whether the babies should live? Their mother or the government? Assuming of course that the mother herself was the owner of her thoughts.

If someone roams naked on the streets, why should the government arrest that person? What harm is it to others. Why should you be punished for attempting to end your life? Why are such actions illegal even though they do not seem to affect anyone else (the opening case is a bit more complicated). Where on the spectrum of ownership, our self becomes inferior to the law. Is that limit being pushed in more? Is free will doomed to be a myth?

In the first case, when and why does the right to keep a baby get transferred from the bearer of the child to the government? Why is abortion legal then? Why shouldnt it be? Shouldnt the mother be the sole decision maker? Does she have a choice? Who should be killed and who should be protected under law, who decides that?

The only way to justify all this is to accept the fact that living in a society has made us sign invisible contracts of the community. Where our actions are not judged on the basis of ownership or their impact on fellow beings but primarily on their potential to provoke others. An action is illegal if imitating it may cause a disrupted society, more mildly put, a society deviating from the ideal, the norm. Who decides this ideal? The society obviously, the government. The deciding question now is: Will the emulation of this act cause a disorder in the society. If yes that action is illegal. The boundaries of ownership do not matter then(if they even exist).

APRIL 8, 2015



  1. _pMAY 30, 2015 AT 6:49 PM

    Interesting points, but abortion is legal only until a certain stage in pregnancy ( Before that, we dont considered it as a person so its different from the case you described. Its again debatable though who decided this time limit for considering someone a person .. difficult question to answer indeed. Killing already born babies is clearly criminal though, the mother could give up children to some organizations for taking care of them, no need to kill them! She doesnt own them, no one owns them.

  2. kishore jagtapJULY 2, 2015 AT 6:09 AM

    Apt analysis of the issue. Would like to add here that though society at large decides the customs, traditions, rituals, behavior,values, culture etc..What is important for an individual as well as a group or society is Morality.virtues against vice in every action..I think individual is only responsible for his action..he/she doesnt have any ownership of any individual even if it is the creator of that individual but he/she is the owner of his action and therefore fruits of his/her action is also only his/her.. good or bad depending whether the action is good or bad. ..Of all I think taking life of any living being is biggest sin Governments job is to govern, make policies, rules,enact law ( obviously as per constitution )etc to uphold morality in the society or country.

    Civilizations that have high moral values or upholders of high moral values have sustained and progressed ..history is full of evidence of this fact..Our own very example is Emperor ASHOKA and his vast empire.high moral values .to instill the same values in our society we have Ashok Chakra in National FlagEmblem in National currency notes etc. ..I hope i have not gone too far from the subject..

Of a memory


There is that special moment(and many of these) which gets etched in our memory for the rest of our life. It carries no reason, no aftereffect for it to be remembered, but a quality beyond words. Such moment is by no means unusual, it can be as simple as our mom smiling at us. It is an extra dimension which makes that smile, though we might have seen her smile thousands of time, but that particular smile on that particular moment, catch something more than our eyes. When we recollect such a moment, it unravels itself slowly, like a melodious symphony, like a dawning sun, like it will be a sin to rush through its magnificence.

We are aware right when such a moment is enacting itself in front of us, more than aware. Be it listening to a song with college friends in a dorm or feeling the pulse of your ninety-six year old grandma or just observing a small snail on a fresh rainy day, there is an extravagance in such moments so unique that it glues them to our memory. This extravagance is a product of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement of its imperfect beauty, of its fragile existence, of the cold certainty that it will be wiped off from the face of the earth, this enchanting moment of which you are the sole spectator.


Sweet medley of dew drops, grass and mud engulfed us. We were cutting through the grass fields on a bike as chills were racing back through our veins. Grey grass ahead, grey grass behind. Moon shone above us like our watchdog. As if he was inherently involved in our secret. Like he had silently and proudly offered us his shelter. As if he will warn us if anyone attempts to poke and burst our perfect bubble as unreal as a beautiful dream.

As we plunged ahead, leaving our chains behind, I looked back. A magical scene beheld my eyes. Long blades of grass were closing on us. The small path we were bolting on was disappearing in those tall grey tresses.

He asked, “Why are you looking back?” I did not answer. This beauty of time unraveling before me was one of those moments. It was beautiful in its existence, never to resurrect.

My phone rang. It was a college senior. I thought how innocently has he intruded my memory which is and will be so close to my heart for the rest of my existence.



Human vs. Idea

There is this whole philosophical ride on the question: Who are you? What do you identify as being you? Your body? Your mind? What constitutes a mind? Your thoughts and actions? It boils down to we are our thoughts, preferences, views and actions. It is this that constitutes you. Not your physical body, not the clothes you wear or your money or status. We are our beliefs. What we believe in everyday is us.

Now there is a sense of security in being worthless. In the comfort of accepting that we can do nothing in the great scheme of the world. But if we are our thoughts and our actions, then we are the ones churning the great scheme around us. Once we see how influential we are, can we consciously analyse and refine our thoughts? Can we align our actions with our thoughts?

And if at any point we feel our egos blowing up, is death not a leveller? Death does not consider more or less brains, more or less wealth or skill or beauty. It just hits. So how do we even celebrate the grandeur of our mortal bodies. How and why do we even consider ourselves to be supreme in any way, how do we get closed up and pile up and praise and value our mortal assets. Why do we take pride in it. When we know these things can neither delay nor bargain with death. One thing we do possess that transcends death and that also is the thing that is truly us is our belief. Our thoughts, ideas and actions. We live them everyday, after we die thousands more live them over. An idea can surpass a human’s death.

For example, we need to earn lots of money and we perform this action of working to earn lots of money everyday. And hence we propagate this idea further that earning a lot of money is what we should do. We have and we will have generations slogging on to earn more money because we are doing it right now.

There was a time when earning money was not the main goal in people’s lives. We say times change, it is us who change it. All events in history were once in the present, churning on, which gave us our present world. They were churned by people. Our present is made up by actions by people. And hence our actions will make up the future.

Ideas are powerful. World we live today is shaped by ideas. We don’t see or hear about the people who designed these ideas but we are living these ideas every moment. For example, why are we using money today? It is because of certain chain of events throughout history which led us to use money today. Theses events were actions undertaken by people like you and me. We like to believe that world just happened to be like this, that isn’t true. Ideas are created by humans but are more powerful than humans because they are anonymous. When taken up by a large group and for a long time, they become a lifestyle.

An authority can be questioned because it has a face, an idea is invisible and hence difficult to question because many never see it.

How do we see an idea? By asking the question: Why does something exist? and How did it start existing? and digging into it till we have the most rudimentary reason. Answers are useless if they lie in the same zone as the question. To actually see, we need to pull out layers. Why does money exist? Since when did it exist? What was before that? What was it like? After this knowledge, we ask if this idea is acceptable to me. If not how do I change my behaviour? If yes how do I reinforce my behaviour? It is then that our actions match our thoughts and we create ripples towards change.

For the hopeless, a single particle going against the current is enough to make few think and fewer to change but it is still capable. Ideas are powerful. They need actions to realise them.


SEPTEMBER 23, 2016