Ice Cubes on Desert Sands
- A Ladleful of Lilting Memories
A little sparrow is born and lives a full life before a tragedy cuts short his journey. It’s about hope that no matter what the stakes against, life means taking one more step, one more breath. What happens beyond is better left to the unknown. Ultimately, it’s a game beyond the qualifications of winning and losing. The sparrow is born, its parents die, so does its sibling. It takes its first flight to see a fraction of the big world outside. That fraction of the world is not ready to accommodate the new entrant. It sucks it into its innards where the bigger games are churning bigger stories.
- She is Cheaper than a Buffalo
She is picked up by the shifting sands of her poor destiny from a small rural hamlet in Bihar and is dumped hundreds of miles away. A purchased bride, she sets up her world in an alien land and moves around like a shadow. All this while she tries to keep holding onto her roots even as her present slips away from her hands.
- All that Woman is
A man might take rounds of earth to seek his destiny; a woman realizes hers just by being there with her love and care. Bhamti becomes the soul of Vachaspati’s efforts to write the biggest commentary on Vedas. He has gone into a trance. Bhamti stays around like a pair of protective hands around a tiny flicker of lamp to save it from the storms. Her love shines brighter than the masterwork of theology.
- Virtue in the Womb of Vice
She has perfect figure, finest curves, very charming features and flawless skin. But she has a past to wipe out. A famous porn star, she is fighting to enter the mainstream of the so called decent corridors of film-making with routine roles. She has tired herself out on her acting skills. The world but doesn’t want to forget. It’s addicted to her past. She but is even more determined to cross the barbed-wire fencing around her.
- Call Me Some Other Day
On a beautiful spring day, a famous courtesan feels the pangs of passion for a handsome monk. He feels her pain and suffering but assures her that he will be there when she will need him the most. She cannot believe that her invitation would be spurned by a man. Years later, the middle-aged monk returns to complete his journey in self-realisation and be with her when she needs him the most.
- Nameless Graffiti on the Wall
He survived partition-time slaughter in Pakistan and lives like a faceless, nameless entity on a railway platform. The bigger world hurtles past him. With his unassuming, rested self he picks up the broom to gather the scattered pieces of his broken, dusty identity to collect, piece together a shape, a name-able entity which can be noticed by the bigger world.
- Highway Murder
The mankind is at war with the nature and is cutting across without any resistance. The decades-old huge eucalyptus but decides to call a murderer a murderer. As the saws cut across its bloodless guts, the tree bears witness to its own murder, while still doing its duty to give oxygen to the murderous lungs. It continues on its duty till the last snapping sound deprives it of its small hold of land.
- A Drop of Love in the Poisonous Pond
Only love has the potential of performing alchemy, capable of turning rusty iron of hate into the gleaming gold of humanity. The princess is famous for her beauty. The prince is from an enemy kingdom. Drawn by her fabled beauty, he comes to her kingdom and gets caught to be beheaded. He is saved by the ray of love in the princess’s heart. The peace that could not have been ensured by thousands of swords is effectuated by two loving hearts.
- The Undying Flame of Love
The seasons change but the meditating sage hasn’t moved. Driven by lovely mischief, a fairy plays a prank and pays by turning into a thorny bush by his curse. Years later, he comes with his enlightened self, and prays at the altar of the lone flower among the thorns in that very bush. They meet as a man and a woman, of course, bonded by love.
- The Parrot and the Old Sparrow
The parrot is young but tired and dispirited. The sparrow is old but happy and contended. They spend a night together in the sparrow’s wooden hole. The parrot is told the wisdom of the ages to make happiness a precondition for one’s doings, not a poor outcome of efforts. Happiness is a state of being so, not the specific result of some hot pursuit. On a bright sunny morning, the parrot flies away, just being happy, not in pursuit of happiness.
- A Gram in the Heart and a Ton in the Mind
The old monk shuns her. The younger but helps her in crossing the stream. Down many miles on their path, she is still haunting the old monk’s mind. The younger one has forgotten the episode.
- A Soul’s Pyre
Hate, fury and violence burn to eat their own self. Only love survives and sustains. He realises it and wants to have his share of love and peace. His past, but, is too bloody to let him catch any iota of peace from the streams that seem to gurgle past him. He feels an outcast in the sea of tranquillity walloping around. He cries to invite others’ hate, but even that is denied to him.
- The Old Moon and the Imperilled Landscape
The moonlit landscape has its farms, flowers, weeds and bunchgrass, everything that entitles one to survive and be there. The moon is but setting. Mischievous twilight is peeking from behind a patch of cloud in the eastern horizon. It seems to sing a dirge, the song for the dead. This panorama will be lost to the wheels of urbanisation, in some months, as they will come with bulldozers to level things up.
- An Ice Cube on Desert Sands
He has seen what fire means, so understands the meaning of water more than most of us do. Ice, just ice to us, is something more to him. He has seen fire in life, the fire that seeps into everyday life in the desert. He picks up ice cubes, away from the burning sands, closes his eyes. His cooled self tries to chuck away the swash of burning sand that entered his eyes, into his soul in fact.
- Gone with Colours and a Smile
There has been a weird, tragic coincidence of the colours of Holi casting dark shadows over her life. Holi is nothing more than a harbinger of doom to her. But then it’s the coloured smile on a child’s face that becomes her redemption and she goes away with a smile and colours on her face, on the day of Holi itself.
- Love More, Hate Less
He comes out of the tunnel and sees the light. He smiles, has a restful inhale of the fresh air, opens his arms and embraces the world, his world. It welcomes him back with a brotherly bear-hug. Well, all this happens because he has shifted a few perspectives in his mind. A very small task with world-changing effects.
- Pegs and Ropes of the Mind
There is no rope and no peg in the ground. The camel but doesn’t move thinking it’s tied like usual. All because the master playacted the process of taking the invisible rope around its neck and struck ground to drive home the wooden peg. Pegs and ropes exist in minds also. What else are our false assumptions, fears, anxieties and worries? They tame and condition the mind to a basic level, a very small plane given the unlimited potential of the human brain.
- The Rapist
Long before we see the flower, the process starts at the roots. Rapists aren’t born in a day. The evil build-up takes years. Then it bursts. The idea of woman and sex has mutated so strangely over the years in his mind that he wonders how can anyone just love a woman, especially when there are better uses like lust and sadistic violence. Years later, he is walking back carrying the scratches of her resistance on his skin. Another rapist is born. Whom to blame? Well, it’s a collective failure.
- The Point Where Duty Turns into Hate
A warrior’s master is slain by a foe. The disciple chases down the culprit and raises his sword to kill him, only to stop and turn back. He realizes that more than his duty, it’s the hate that is driving him. He is chasing his destiny of committing an act—carrying the same effect as an act performed under a spell of anger and hate—which is beyond the germs of ego, hate and rage. He knows it then becomes a duty.
- A Mouse on the Ground, A Lion in the Mind
It’s better to treat a mouse like a mouse only; spare the lion treatment for a lion only. A mouse under the misfitted conduct as that of a lion becomes more significant than a lion itself. It’s a moral story of how an over-calculated manoeuvre turns a disaster, how a simple task of just killing a mouse falls flat as if killing a lion. Well, all credit goes to the phantoms of the mind.
- The Hangman
Prominent, generous features on his plump, lined, old face don’t make him that clichéd hangman, but in his commitment to the job he can match any typically coarse-featured and thick-muscled monster of the trade. He fulfils his duty as if ordained by the God himself. Then his faith shakes. The law fumbles and an innocent is sent to the gallows. It rakes the firm foundations of justice in this cool giant and he crashes. More than his old body, it is the mind that lynches him hard and sucks him into the whirlpools of death.
- The Remnants of a Dream
He is having golden-hued childhood days in this fishing hamlet by the seaside. But then the life-giving sea turns a foe suddenly and chucks out everything. He is homeless with his little sister. Surrounded by the sea of tragedies, he salvages enough courage from his little self to keep doing his duty, taking care of his little sister. He stares into the chaos, to salvage some hope, to grab some more fragments of their past, to build a rope of better hope to reach their parents.
- Miracle Boy
In a sleepy mountain hamlet, there is an orphaned boy named—sorry nicknamed—Yamdoot, meaning the one who carries out the errands for the God of Death. Shunned by the society and spurned by almost everything around, he finds love at last. He dies but proves to be the luckiest icon for his beloved.
- The Dust around Her Feet
Her beautiful bluish eyes sparkle with reflections from the swift torrents of the Ganges. Even worthless destinies come to life. Her touch is healing, and people forget the circumstantial wrongs they have suffered. Even a cripple crawling on all fours and a lunatic smile and take a sip from the fleeting torrents of happiness.
- A Long Walk to Freedom
She falls in love, and love being a sea, a master in itself, deciding destinies on its whims and fancies, finds herself being pushed into prostitution. From the dustbin of her messed up destiny, she salvages a bit of pride, an iota of self-worth at the end of the journey.
Lost in Red Mist
Ordinary beings possess extraordinary potential to win against odds, to jump over hurdles, to smile over tears, and, most importantly, to be happy when there aren’t enough reasons to be. They are the faceless constituents of a massive commonality. They are surrounded by a swiping generality. They are coloured in the monochromes of mundane reality. Still they are special. We have to acknowledge and celebrate the extraordinary in the ordinary people. I see heroes and heroines in my simple characters. They fight, and oftentimes fail, but write a little passage in the infinite book of life: an ordinary life that was lived substantially. On the small stage of life, they live very intensely. Somehow, the world would not be the world that is still beautiful without their contribution. They heave humanity onwards in its march to some better destination.
She is a courtesan fighting for a respectable identity in the quagmire of degenerated nobility, wars, intrigues, debauchery, lust, and, last but not the least, love.
She is a foreign tourist in India—raped—picking up the fragments of her violated self, walking with bruised honour, her innate goodness intact, to reach the house of justice to salvage her identity, to redeem her pride.
A circumstantial pawn in the checker-work of sex trade, she passes much of her youth in the muck of lust and flesh trade, to finally redeem herself, to free herself in her forties, to begin a new life.
Kashmir is burning and in the bigger fire are smouldering little worlds of common hopes, mundane dreams, routine aspirations and regular cravings.
He is huge and lifts unthinkable weights for a living, goes on living and lifting weights only to be crushed by circumstances.
On a badly stomped platform, he gathers the nameless pieces of his dusted identity to have a name, a face, an identity of a common person belonging to the normal world.
In the Tsunami ravaged Andaman, she, an Australian anthropologist, survives and looks with hope at the remnants including the sole surviving Shompen tribal.
On the devastated eastern coast of India, he, a mere kid, takes the onerous task of caring for his still smaller sister, while the world around seethes in chaos.
He dreams big from his small village, only realizing later that the dreams which grow in disproportion to one’s circumstances are as good as nightmares.
He, an old man staying alone with a cat, patches up the holes in his present through tales of the past, to survive, expecting a painless end in the future.
She, a Western tourist at Rishikesh, opens her spirits, while a whole world drags around her feet.
A Half House
It’s a pickled, various flavoured, cross-genre pill of immediate taste. There are unforgivingly apolitical outpours of the helpless common man; there are magical realist traces of a pseudo-reality trying to portray a better, more convenient world; there are poetic outpours in prose through heart-touching little anecdotes; there are off-beat, unconventional attempts to lay bare a-bit-possible aspect of history; there are abstract thoughts that may capture any context as per the reader’s suitability; there are not-so-fictitious versions of the happenings that matter to the common man; there is flailing, browbeating tug of war among the religion, faith, belief and non-belief; there are large cynical pools, common collectivities of the common man’s helpless grudges against the larger forces…It is like T20 cricket, fast paced, expected, unexpected, unorthodox literary hits to the fence. It basks in convenient improvisations of style and substance. The creativity set free of the conventional genres and bound ideas. It captures the realities lying in dust at the mundane level, polishes the titbits of socio-historical facts with the crude, judgmental brush of a common man who is not bothered about the burden of his own name and identity.
As mentioned it’s a cross-genre experimentation equipoised between fiction and creative non-fiction. The narrative moves on the tightrope held between the poles of fiction and creative non-fiction. The work’s overall genre would still be fiction given the tantalizing twists of tiny plots having common and not-so-common characters telling their little stories and opinions born of their petty cynicism on the basis of little grudges, disappointments and failures where they deem themselves to be the victims at the hands of the ‘system’.
Across the smooth fictionalized pastures of fancy and tragedies, the reader will find the crags, the stony outcrops of cynical, small-time opinions about the larger world, a common man’s pot-shots at the so called bigger destiny-defining elements controlled by the mightier personalities. The non-fiction interjections are also not the typical non-fictitious assessments of the reality; these at least carry the charm of fiction in that they are almost unexpected versions of the convenient portrayal of the things that are important and that we are interested in.
To clearly tilt the work towards the genre of fiction, there are across the stories portrayals of easily recognized characters who act, behave and tell their stories at different places in the book. A common man always bats on a slippery wicket and takes to any hitting posture that will at least avoid his fall; he cannot expect to primarily hit the ball to the fence with a cemented conviction about something; he has to bat, but he has to avoid his fall primarily and then grab whatever the slip-shoddy, fall-avoiding swing of the bat might fetch him.
The characters, ideas, opinions, scenarios, and happenings cover a broad range of issues ranging from wage earners to farmers, professor, corporate high-fi’s, the politicians, young girls working to carve out their dreams in a rapidly changing India, lonely single retired persons, retired military people, frustrated youngsters coming to terms with the life’s uncontrollable elements, etc.
Through different narratives, involving characters drawn from different walks of life, there is an effort to put the common man of India with his slipping footholds against the face of varied bouncers and fluctuations at the public level during the crucial two years before Modi’s emergence at the national level. It depicts the helpless swayings of the common man against the gusts of strong buffeting winds striking their knowing, unknowing, struggling selves, ultimately taking them into the folds where majority of them eventually land up.
This cocktail involving fiction and creative non-fiction will definitely give the readers a literary high.
Beyond and Beneath
It is a long story, slowly moving like a broad river in its journey through the plains. It is just an effort to highlight some sober facts like the true meaning of nationalism, religion, politics and humanism. The work has very sharp political connotations. But I would like to clarify that while espousing the cause of clean politics, I have taken very dagger-sharp cuts at certain political forces whose brand of politics results in reversing the basic meanings of religion and nationalism. Also, it is for sure that all such literary efforts from my side are just a battle cry against bad politics, rather than going against any particular political stream. By having creative cuts at the razor-sharp edges of most of the political blocks in India, I have tried to carve out a straight-faced deity whom people have in mind when they envision their interests in the safe hands of the state.
One of the characters is a beautiful girl named Phulva, the gypsy girl. Through the trials and tribulations of her beautiful path through the society of the settlers, I have tried to depict how these almost stateless, religionless people come into friction with the sedentary society to create sometimes ecstatic and oftentimes tragic episodes. She smiles like a lotus in the perilous waters of a muddy pond. Also accompanied is the pleasantly sweet-sour path of the now-vanishing nomadic culture that once caressed the settled society with the suddenness of a fresh and fragrant gust of wind. When the gypsies pitch up their campsite on the fringe of settled—and the so-called civilized society—always there are showers and sparkles as the merging fronts of two different entities rub past each other.
The main protagonist is a lame Hindu religioner. Well so much for his Villainy! But there are reasons for badness. After detailing the circumstantial forces, which put him on the path of selfishness—and ultimately his brand of utilitarian Hinduism—I have tried to depict him under the light of multifaceted sun of faith. Through the testing admixture of religion, spirituality, blind faith and superstition, I have tried to churn out substantive meanings, which have eluded the mankind puzzled by conflicting dilemmas of faith, superstition, ritualism, or the religiondom overall. At the other end is his guru, the man with the real, selfless, utility-less mission of spiritual awakening. Through this contrasting set of religious personalities, I have made a humble effort to point out a little arc along the infinitely drawn out compassionate folds and contours of Hinduism.
Heartily mixed up in the silent pace of the tale is the old Muslim fisherman. The silently brooding—and expertly following the principals of humanism—frail man plays a far-far weightier role in the tale with his effortless manoeuvres instigated by a heart lit by the unsung lore of true humanity. The man from Bengal, a direct victim of the partition-time butcheries, carries along the seemingly insignificant path with firm, humanistic strides.
Then there are smaller players: the disciples, good and bad dogs, stoically suffering animals like donkeys in the caravans, and plainly villainous bunch of thugs who can always put their foul smell in any fragrant orchard—all jutted against the exciting admixture of fate and human deeds.
It is a highly literary work. The target audience is all those who love real humanism devoid of all misinterpretations and miscalculations.
Chimp, Champ and Chops
These are the heart-felt songs which in fact have been my companions during the toughest phase in my life. Most of these have been written in the charming countryside of my native place at a small village in northern India. The poems try to capture the softest nuances of perceptible and imperceptible naturalities against the background of human trials and tribulations. The verses chime with an enamouring softness of the heart which sound Godsent against present time’s viciously self-obsessed noise. The poems are exceptionally laced with silent spiritual reflections over the comforting quietude and teasing tranquillity of the countryside. These simple swathes of aesthetics take the reader to a slow-paced world…far, far away from the ‘maddening crowd’!
Without poetic seed there won’t be prose. The elaborate network of trunks, branches, twigs, flowers, fruits and leaves is nothing but a commentary on the small poetic seed. So all ye wannabe writers, nurture the poet in you, who understands the value of pause in life, who moves slowly to watch everything, sight and smell everything. Brushstrokes of poetry softly touch the soul without disrupting its restful muse and bring out the nuggets of love, compassion, harmony and peace.
It’s my monumental work delving into the deeper meanings of religion, spirituality, faith, superstition and many more. Along with the main axis are the oiling elements of nationality, humanism, nomadic culture and many more. To enjoy the unrestrained beauty of this work, I advise the visitors to start with Chapter 1 from the bottom of the posting list and them move up to reach the higher hierarchy of larger perspectives. Sandeep Dahiya alias Sufi