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Excerpts: Dvarca by Madhav Mathur

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Chicken & Egg

Jyoti was fast asleep in their bedroom. Baba was out for his night-shift and the children lay still, contorted and bent away from each other like the hands of a clock. It was ten- to-five. Gandharva shut Mira’s mouth and stopped Nakul from sucking his thumb. He watched them for a moment, before carrying on.

He didn’t want to risk waking Jyoti by using the toilet attached to their room and decided to use the small common toilet next to the kitchen to clean up. Rain had found a way to bounce off the window-shutters and wet everything from the lights to the floor. He looked at himself in the mirror. He was still wrapped in the foul-smelling cloth from the street. It had saved his life. He took it off and flipped it around to fold it away. His face went deathly pale when he saw the other side of his new found vestment. Something was written on the cloth. He leaned in close and read the words. They looked like scratches after a desperate fight.

‘WHAT CAME FIRST? POLITICS OR RELIGION?’

How could he have been so careless? How did he end up with a cloth that clearly came from the pariahs? He crumpled it into a ball. He panicked and splashed his face with water to make sure it wasn’t some sort of lurid Vision. Had he been seen with it? Would they believe that he had nothing to do with it?

He tried to wash off the unholy letters but they were stitched on. He looked around frantically for a way to get rid of the cloth. He could not burn it on the stove, all gas supplies were switched off after 10:00 p.m. for energy conservation. He could not carry it out and throw it away; it was too risky. He tried to flush the ball down the toilet, but it was too big. There was nothing in the bathroom of use, just some of Baba’s toiletries.

Gandharva rushed out to the kitchen and found one of Jyoti’s scissors. He hurtled back into the bathroom and pulled the door shut. He lowered the toilet seat-cover and sat down to cut the cloth into smaller pieces. The scissors had thick, blunt blades. He made some headway with them and then decided to rip the cloth with his hands. He was no Nakul or Arjun, but he tried his best.

“DETECTION: ELEVATION IN VITAL RATES. PLEASE REPORT.”

The veins of his forehead popped out like new hill ranges after a deep seismic disturbance. He quickly responded with the first thing that came to his flustered mind.

“Stomach upset. Recovering.”

He sat atop the commode with the stinking shawl in his hands. There were words stitched all over it. Some portions of the writing were illegible because of the indelible grease stains. He read a sentence.

‘YOU’VE FALLEN FOR THE OLDEST TRICK. THEY KNOW WHAT YOU WILL DO, BEFORE YOU DO IT. THEY’VE DRAWN LINES IN THE SKY AND LINES IN THE SAND, TO MARK GOD AND COUNTRY.’

Who were they addressing? Who was speaking? Why?

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Book Review: The Jeera Packer by Prashant Yadav

By Manisha Lakhe

jeera-packerThe Great Indian Publishing Machine has been churning out Indian writing in English for years now. Most of it is culture-apologetic, where authors explain how idlis are “steamed rice dumplings”, and other “literary” novels are plain pretentious pomposity where the authors suffer from a colonial hangover, write paragraph after convoluted paragraph to show how clever Indians can be in writing a “foreign” language. But when you come across a story that casually embraces the English language to tell the story from gun country, which is completely Hindi centric, is a rare thing of joy.

The author Prashant Yadav is not just telling us a story in The Jeera Packer, he is telling it with love. Love for the language as well as for the characters.

“The car moved as slow as the thoughts in the professor’s head” followed by: “Why would he and his son be thrashed with chappals and thrown into jail?”

No apologies for using Indian colloquial English where people do tend to put “me” first as in Hindi (“main aur meri tanhaai” as an example). But you forget this and enjoy sentences that describe the traffic jams you have experienced in person.

The immediacy of the events in the book is remarkable. The author takes you to wherever the characters are. In the car with the “lal batti”, inside the politician’s den, and even to the workshop where the Bullet is treated like god.

If you’ve met a motorbike aficionado, or are one, you will love everything about the Bullet in the book. Not just Abdul and his passion, his philosophy (the motorbike lads don’t just drive with passion, but live the philosophy unique to each rider, and the author seems to knows that), but also how graciously the protagonist teaches his son to ride his Bullet when he realises that he may be going out in flames. The son Abhishek has to walk back with the bike… If you have ever attempted to ride that Bullet, that God of a bike, then you’d have complete sympathy with the son, who has to walk the beast back because it just won’t start for novices…

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