Stalemate

I would wonder what kept bringing them back to me. With their fists clenching and unclenching softly in unknown anticipation, they would look at me, their lips apart, panting as if to about to say something extremely exciting. But they would be silent just like my pursued lips as I shoved them away. I still remember the grime that they would be covered with. Was it their fault? Is not dirt and dust the rule of the world where there are no walls nor roofs?

Childhood is a fancy world to live in. Everything is important. You know everything and life is a wonderful story unfolding before your eyes. You are happy to believe that the world is a small place with a set of rules that you know well how to bend to your wishes. You have textbooks and goals. You have manners and ambitions. You know poetic verses by the heart and your imagination is vivid.

It is often at such an age that you believe you are going to change the world for good one day. You see problems and you see solutions. Simple solutions, believable, achievable, doable. And then you set out to make things right. There’s a fire within that burns, and you believe its insatiable till you make your journey right, and get the goal you aimed so hard at.

One morning, as I stepped out of the home to make my routine walk towards the playground, Neela broke her silent companionship, which I never realized when I was endowed with, by asking if they could play with us. I did not hesitate, I was not the one who would. I was rebellious, going against the dictates my parents had presented me with about staying away from them.

e4 … e5

We would play often after that day. On rainy days my friends would fail to show up. It was for the reason that their catching cold was an unsuitable proposition to their mothers. Who was I to complain, who had been branded unruly by his parents? And why would I complain, when I had another set of friends who would simply join my walk towards the park, springing out of nowhere with something interesting to share every day. They liked to ask about my day. I liked talking about my day.

Nf3 … Nf6

I once took a gift for them. It was not much, just a pack of Uncle Chips (yes, this story is of old days, and that brand was all rage back then). It was delicious, and it would crack on the tongue inside the closed mouth as the upper jaw pressed close on the lower. The tiny specks of salted potatoes was a bliss. I gave it to them when they appeared, while I was on the way to the park. Did they love it? Yes! Which kid does not love Uncle Chips? I promise myself to bring more for them in future. Not like I would get it every day myself, but 2-3 days of cajoling and good behaviour in the house did the trick.

One day Zimmidar asks out, enquiring the cost of the pack of Uncle Chips which we had devoured a few minutes back. I revert back with the 10 rupees price of the item. He is lost in thought for the rest of the evening, often missing the catch to my annoyance. Later at home, when I retrospect over the incident, I realize he must feel I was doing some sort of favour to them by sharing the chips with them. I decided not to do that again.

d4 … Nxe4

My regular ‘forgetting to bring’ the Uncle Chips must have made them suspicious. One day the first words Neela greets me with is if I can bring some Uncle Chips the next day. She goes on to describe how tasty it is and how they are missing it. She even says that she has had dreams of the Uncle on the green packet coming to life.

I ask her to bring one herself for a change if she was missing it so much. Her smile falters for a moment but then is back in a flash. Next day she carries a small tin tiffin box. I wonder if that contains Chips. To my delight it contains kheer. They refuse to have a share, saying their mother sent it especially for me. I am delighted, and the weight of the Uncle Chips lifts slowly, as the tiffin empties.

Bd3 … d5

But something had changed. I would carry the Uncle Chips less often now. Something coming from Neela and Zimmidar’s home was more frequent now. It was on a similar walk to the park when Zimmidar excitedly told me that his mother was getting a new child. That was thrilling, and I immediately expressed my interest in seeing the newcomer kid.

Neela looked less excited. Her face carried marks of weariness. I brought this up with the question of whether she didn’t want to have another sibling. She stayed mum. I joked that then they would have to share my Chips with another person. Maybe it would be better if I instead gave the entire pack to them. There was a momentary glint in Zimmidar’s eyes which I didn’t quite catch. It kept haunting me for the rest of the night. Was it happiness? Or jealousy? I decided to confront him about this the next day. He told me it was generous of me to think of giving the entire pack to them. I thought I registered some pain in his tone and asserted I was only joking. He said his life was full of jokes. I found it funny so we had a good laugh.

Nxe5 … Nd7
Nxf7 … Qe7

The innocence of childhood comes with the gift of forgetting. It was several days before I noticed Neela was very frequently absent from our playtime these days. I asked her about this the next time I met her. She asked me who takes care of me when I am sick. It was the mother, I replied. And who takes care of mother when she is sick, as asks. Father, I answered. And when both mother and father are sick? I told her that never happens but I thought about it for a long time. I concluded her parents were sick. I decided to visit them at goodwill.

They were not ready to take me with them. I figured out they probably needed to get to know me better so I invited them to my place. I could go to theirs once they realized I was worth the trust. Mother would not like it at all if they floor were dirtied by their grime-covered feet, so I brought them two pair of my footwear – an old pair of shoe for Zimmidar who was nearly a foot shorter than me, and my bathroom slippers for Neela, who was the same height as me. I remember the china clay plate mother threw at Zimmidar when she saw him entering the house. The plate and my faith in my mother shattered with the same chime of destruction. Zimmidar and Neela broke into a run and me into a quickly defeated fight with my originator.

Nxh8 … Nc3+

I broke my piggy bank that night. With the clinking of coins in my plams I determined to make my amends to the relationship that had undergone a hard blow. The following day no one followed me to the park. I had 3 packets of Uncle Chips in my hand. This repeated for a few days, till the packets started thinning and I was worried they would get damaged. I decided to make a trip in the direction in which Zimmidar and Neela would disappear. I must have walked some 15 mins when Zimmidar came running up to me and asked me to turn back. I told him I had brought Chips. He refused them and insisted on me turning back. I was stubborn. But he had aimed a rock at me with a determined expression and I retreated.

Kd2 … Nxd1

My house then saw a few tense days, with me on an indefinite hunger strike. The perpetrators of crimes would have to make their penance. When mother made kheer and put it into a neat plastic tiffin box, I kept my part of the deal and acquitted her from the charges I had pressed against her. But Zimmidar had again held a rock at me, and I returned more defeated than my mother.

Re1 … Nxf2

That was almost everything I was going to try. The Uncle Chips packets were eaten in the comforting privacy of my room, and going to the park was a lonely affair. For a few days, this did feel good. I was free to do or to not do. What drew me towards the route to Neela’s house was the excitement of seeing the newborn baby.

I spotted Neela first. She was laughing, sitting on a very low stool beside a makeshift stove made from bricks, burning cow dung. She was talking to her mother, who lay on a cot dangerously near the burning stove. She had a huge bump on her belly, which I realized was the upcoming guest to the home. If that is what we could term the yellow plastic sheet in the shape of two-sided sloping roofs, with sticks propped up on either side holding it up.

Bxh7 … Ne4+

Neela spotted me a while later. She smiled weakly, looking more worn out than the last time I had seen her. She leaned towards her mother and murmured what I assumed was my introduction. Her mother motioned me to come closer, asked what was it that brought me there. I replied I was there to see the baby. She sighed and looked at her belly, then looked up at me and smiled, asked me to be patient as it would take a few more days. We talked for some time, mostly about how the baby could become a doctor or an engineer one day. And then I left for home.

Rxe4 … dxe4

A few days later which I thought would be enough to have a baby I went over to Neela’s place with a fresh set of 3 Uncle Chips packets. The cot was missing. And so was the occupant. Besides the brick stove lay Neela nursing a baby on a sheet of plastic taken from some soft drink commercial banner. The newborn too was grimy. It was a girl. Neela did not get up when I sat down beside her. Her eyes had sunk in and she looked like she had lost weight. I asked her where was Zimmidar. Runaway, she replies. Will most likely come back soon she improvises, reading my startled face. Father? Walked out some 3-4 years ago. And the mother? She cries.

Bg6+ … Kd8

I return home in agony. Life had been cruel to Neela. What would become of the baby? My mother declined the idea of adoption without a moment lost in thought. I tried to reason with her, I made promises of being good. I went to my friends’ places on rainy days to convince their parents. I tried collecting money. I did raise some but Neela was no more at her home. The brick stove was broken and the yellow roof sheet is gone.

Nf7+ … Ke8

Neela and Zimmidar turn up every now and then, in the faces of these kids who come clinging to my now grown pair of legs. Sometimes I even find the newborn. They keep coming back in some anticipation. I do not know what I could give to them. I can no longer buy them meals at the cost of an Uncle Chips packet.

Nd6+

Whatever fire had burned inside me about making a difference, about being a harbinger of change has died away. Or maybe simply buried in the layers of ‘understanding’ of the world I had developed. I no longer walk to the park, no one accompanies either. The Uncle Chips packets too are a rare sight. I have dreams now, ambitions and friends who can come out to me on rainy days. Every yellow sheet beside the rail tracks reminds me of a home in which lived a Zimmidar with no land and Neela who played mother when I was only learning to colour mountains green and rivers blue.

I let things be as they were. It was a stalemate of my today and past.

Quirrellmort

Quirinus Quirrell thought hard, his wand in his outstretched hand shivering like a withered twig. He knew, from the wisdom passed down by the thousands of great witches and wizards before him, defending another spell was not in the list of his options. Death was, on the very next move of his enemy but the next move would be soon and it pained him to go before he had brought to life all his dreams of glory, reverence and importance.

He stared into the vicious black infinity of the Albanian forest. Lighting a light would mean instant death. He could hear the stillness of the wind and the beating of his own heart. Making the slightest noise would mean instant death.

Quirrell felt like crying out. He wanted to laugh at the moment he thought he could tame the Dark Lord in his weakened state. His venture could not have gone more wrong. Continue reading Quirrellmort

In The Auto

In the final year of my schooling, I decided to join a ‘coaching’. The only decent coaching I, along with my friends, could find was about 8km away from where we lived. So we decided to commute to the coaching by the cheapest means of transport we could find – auto. It’s basically an Indian transportation trademark for people and has the capacity to carry 4 people excluding the driver as per specs. But coming to the ground level where things happen for real, the autos that carry less than 11 people excluding the driver are termed as ‘vacant’. Anyway, my discussing it here won’t change the fact nor will it greatly change your perception of the ‘Indian-jugaad’ system, so I will continue with my story.

When you travel a mile, your mind travels a hundred. It was during this travel to the Coaching to study my most dreaded subject – Chemistry that I let my mind wander far from the incomprehensible reactions in the Chemistry book.

There are some little moments in your life which you can’t ever forget –


What’s on the Indian roads? Cars, pedestrians, bikes, trucks, buses, autos, cycles, traffic lights, policemen, holes and cows. Now, of these all, the only one entity you can’t regulate are the cows. And there are a lot of them.Our auto sped towards the Civil Lines, Allahabad.

The weather was pleasant, just the way I loved it. I watched the grey clouds coming together as a cool wind blew at my face to my immense delight while I half-hung from the back of the auto. Suddenly, I was thrown inside and managed to crash with all my might into my friend sitting beside me.

The auto had come to a screeching halt. Fearing an accident the passengers craned their necks to see what lay ahead. The sedan before us blocked the view and the panic increased. The auto driver got out and went ahead while my friends and I speculated about what could have happened. The auto driver returned in a few seconds, laughing. We inquired but he only started up the auto as the sedan before us had moved towards left and sped off. Our auto followed and then we finally saw what had caused a break in the traffic of the city.
A new-born calf, probably not more than a few days old, stood paralyzed with fear in the middle of the road staring at the vehicles around it and emptying its bowels.


If you’ve ever been on the road you simply can’t not hate traffic lights. Now, let’s not being a debate here. I know they are the great saviors of humankind who could otherwise have wiped off a half of themselves merely by road accidents and all the other good they do which I do not care about as long as they do not stop annoying people who are in a hurry. But they won’t, you know it, and thus, no debate.
No we were not getting late to Coaching. But it’s a pre-installed feature in the Indian folk that they want to reach their destination fast and we were not grown enough to have removed that feature from us. So, we cursed our luck when suddenly as we approached the crossing, the light went red. Now for 90 seconds we would be without the constant wind which came when the auto would run. A curse in the 40 degrees plus summer afternoon of Allahabad, it can easily blow the lid off any decent man’s kettle.

But we couldn’t do anything about it since the authorities had not found it debatable while putting on the traffic lights. So, we waited.It was only when I got bored with staring at the long stream of vehicles behind our auto, who were trying to overtake as many vehicles as possible before the light went green, when I felt that it was time we moved. I turned and looked at the timer, a few seconds to go, and it was an instant relief. The light turned green.

No vehicle moved till the old couple had crossed the road.


Sitting at the back of the auto is a most delightful experience if you can ignore the bumpy ride. You get to watch people and vehicles falling behind and the road that keeps extending from underneath the auto tires like a carpet which refuses to cease. And then, you can also look into the eye of the people driving behind you till they creep out. And the icing on the cake is when you can hang at the back of the auto and enjoy the winds and scenery rushing by. Much fun!

Well, I’ve always been a back-bencher and it feels rewarding to read something like, ‘the classroom is dumb till the back-benchers join in’ on the social sites.We were at Alopibagh, famous for the temple of goddess Alopi. Once upon a time it was on the bank of river Ganga but now is the major auto and bus stop after crossing the Ganga. The autos will stop here even if you don’t ask them to. And people will get down even if none had asked the driver to stop the auto.

Our auto stopped. And the back seat gave a perfect view of the approaching vehicles, the people moving around, the auto drivers beckoning potential passengers to their auto and cows moving about between the stationary autos.It was then that an Ambulance came to a brief halt behind our auto which was blocking its way.

It didn’t honk, maybe because it wasn’t in a hurry. Our auto driver lazily moved the auto to a side while I observed the ambulance. Beside the driver sat a tired looking man, possibly a doctor by the looks, slumped in the seat with his shirt wet with sweat. The ambulance was one of the government emergency service ambulances which one could avail at a short notice.

Clearly, this one was returning after a job done.

I stared at the man beside the driver. He stared at me, too tired for an expression. Our auto started speeding and realizing the essence of time, I put a thumb up with a big smile to the man. He grinned happily and waved me a goodbye.