Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Pop goes the squirrel

Story #3 set in the world in which all humans have suddenly vanished. Tadaa.
Nose wiggles. Sniff sniff.

One cannot of course know what goes on in the mind of an animal, let alone the tiny cuddly mind of a small squirrel (because his mind is indubitably as cuddly as his body is) but we can try to guess as we observe the last days in the life of Tito.

Come, let's try.

Tito chittered nervously, darting around the bottom of the tree.

This was usually the time Tall Human came to feed him during his walk, sometimes accompanied by Little Human. Tito hadn't seen them for 4 days now and he wondered where they'd gone, those closest things to friends he had (what a shame, a baby squirrel with only 2 humans as friends, shunned by his fellow squirrel-babies for being born with only one eye and a wonky tail. Clearly kids are cruel no matter what species they are, though human children in particular have turned cruelty into an art-form.)

Tito had grown to love his daily routine of hanging around the park entrance and playing hide and seek with the shadows until Tall Human came by in the evening, at which point Tito would run to his feet and nip at his shoelaces, or run up his trouser leg, or once in a while when everything was aligned just right, run up to his shoulder and nuzzle up against his ear. Sometimes, Little Human would put Tito on her shoulder too and clumsily pet him. Never before had Tito felt such love, and the popcorn they fed him was just a bonus smattering of affection with extra salt and butter. And now that almost a week had gone by with no sign of them, Tito was on edge. In fact, even the air felt different. It was fresher and freer, calmer but with a faint scent of confusion, of something big that had been misplaced (like an elephant trying to hide behind a shrub and actually managing to disappear surprisingly well). The breeze brought with it the scent of a world trying to reorient itself, confident that it would do a damn fine job of it too but give it some time to wrap its head around some big changes, please.

Tito couldn't take it anymore. He glanced this way and that, and ran out of the park to see what was up with the world, what was different, what perhaps kept his friends away from him. Across paths and over bridges went Tito, not quite sure of where he was headed,  but determined to find some purpose in a world that seemed otherwise empty of it. His route was surprisingly free of obstacles. Just some raccoons foraging in a garbage dump which he deftly avoided, and several large brightly coloured metal contraptions in the middle of wide paved roads, all placed askew, some rammed together. Tito was confused. He had always assumed the Outside World beyond the park gates was full of humans and their ways. He had heard tales of giant cruel creatures building servants belching smoke and tar to do their every terrible bidding. But nothing? Nada? Especially not his humans. Or any humans. Hmm.

As he explored, Tito ran up to a see-through wall that magically opened of its own accord. Interesting smells emanated from within and in Tito went, concern about his friends temporarily forgotten. Mmmm he could smell food, both fresh and fetid. He ran into one aisle and stopped, seeing a few giant rats feasting on some radishes. No, he wouldn't be welcome here. He backpedaled cautiously and took another route, towards some more pungent smells. No no no back away quickly, lots of large cats feasting on what smelt like... fish. As he tiptoed away and prepared to leave the Supermarket (because that's what this place was), Tito bumped into a large rectangular contraption, the smell of which filled him with joy. POPCORN. Perhaps which was where Tall Human got it - all piled up in the bright red paper cone - before he headed to the park! Tito bounded up the steel leg of the machine and looked at the heaping mounds of popcorn inside. Hey look, there was an opening! He stuck his head inside and then slid into the machine. He was swimming in a sea of popcorn, oh sweet squirrel Jesus. Until he found his friends again this magnificent mountain of popcorn would do just fine! He tumbled and slipped and slid in the salty snack, making little squirrel snow angels, diving in and out like Scrooge McDuck in his vault, stuffing his tiny face with popcorn, making nomnom noises with great relish. Concern for Tall and Litte Human were temporarily put on hold as he gorged on the golden snack, no matter that it was a bit stale and soggy.

And so it is that we bid goodbye to little Tito, neglected by his own kind, loved by the (still unnamed) human family, lover of movie-time snacks, who briefly found peace in a world that had taken away his only friends (and the entire human race with it) in the cavern of a popcorn machine, until his demise in that very machine. Cause of death - Overconsumption of popcorn. R.I.P my friend, we hope you find Tall and Little Human in the heaven they went to, and may you sit on their shoulders and nuzzle in their hair forevermore.

Friday, March 22, 2019

When Scrappy Doo is your role model

Lots of cheerful apocalypses around here these days. What a fun genre. I'll take a small break from that to talk about puppies.

Recently I met a shockingly tiny chihuahua puppy being walked by its owner. Like I do with most dogs, I bent down and said HELLO! to it. This puppy did not like polite happy greetings. It angrily jumped up at me, straining at its leash, yapping to high heaven, wishing upon me the wrath of all its wolf ancestors (mighty beasts, that would've had poops bigger than this silly dog). A bit surprised but exceedingly amused I squatted down next to him to persevere with my advances of friendship as the owner looked on, most amused at our exchange. 

Down I went sitting on my haunches as he rushed over to me shrilly scolding me for my impertinence at not scarpering immediately, a great  affront to his directives. How dare I? How dare I indeed? I must repent for my insolence and he would have me sentenced to a dire punishment, there would be consequences did I understand?! At which point I delightedly laughed out loud at this extremely tiny piece of nonsense, poked him gently on the bum and said "Hi baby!"

The rage, oh the burning rage of that little mutt. It did not go gently into the good night, in that little bylane of Bandra. It was a miniature whirlpool of fur and fury. A teacup sized storm that blew said crockery right off the beautiful high-tea table it was placed on, doilies and all. A veritable volley of very very vexed and vicious borks seeking vengeance. 

To the background noise of muffled laughs (mine and the owner's), I conceded defeat. I could not win against an opponent so determined, a foe so mighty. I waved the puppy a gracious farewell and melted away into the night, watching his little booty trot away. Maybe some day I will return to Bandra, find the enemy and befriend him against all odds, so I can finally put him in my pocket and give him occasional boops.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Who Me, Worry?

You're sad. You're worried. You're obsessing about your cheating boyfriend, your difficult boss, your merger that has suddenly developed complications and it's making you terribly worked up. You throw yourself onto your couch and click the TV on, looking for a brief reprieve from your choice of misery for the day. Pretty pretty pictures to escape into, rudely interrupted by... the answer to all your problems.

They're selling a dream, and packaging it in glossy blue wrapper.

WASH YOUR WORRIES AWAY, they say.  Now in an easy-squeezy tube.

A quick trip to the kiraana store later, you hold in your hand a pack of "Who Me, Worry?", the latest innovation of the FMCG industry.

You read the instructions.
  • Wash face thoroughly. Pat dry. Apply a thin coat of Who Me, Worry? on your face.
  • Sit in a quiet place and focus hard on the topic that is making you sad. Use audio or visual aids if needed.
  • Continue for 15 minutes, or until the coat dries, whichever is sooner. This will allow the product to pull all the thought-toxins to your skin.
  • Wash your face with warm water. Pat dry.
  • Follow up with a light moisturiser.
  • Your worries are now gone. Happy days to you!
  • Re-apply as needed. Recommended usage - Once a week.

As one would expect, the world is taken by storm. It starts with people raising an eyebrow and tentatively applying the goop on their dubious, incredulous faces, the more fragile masculine egos pooh-poohing the process all the way. They stare into the mirror in utter focus, being truly purposefully miserable as they watch the paste harden on the skin, in brand new unique hues (which they soon learn to recognise - pinkish for body image issues, a clich├ęd greenish for jealousy, a bright yellow for eating disorder related feelings, a sickly smoky grey for "I dunno why but i'm just sad"). And as advertised, they wash their worries away.

Who Me, Worry? is the new global phenomenon, one that would have you thinking fondly of the harlem shake or the dab. We see people rushing off to the bathroom in the middle of meetings, in the middle of sex, during dinner at gourmet restaurants. We see addicts walking around in corridors, on pavements, in train compartments faces frozen in grotesquely vivid pastel rictuses, using micellar water and hand sanitiser to wipe themselves clean before the all-too-soon next use.
We are now a people addicted to avoidance.

Got yourself a concern? That's tomorrow-you's problem!
Fixated on an issue? Wipe it off with a tissue!

Down the drain go everyone's fears and insecurities, nightmares and muddles, in a brief reprieve until they eventually resurface and must be dealt with. Later, later.

Who'd have thought the biggest epidemic drug would be peddled out of Big Bazaar?

While we revel in the temporarily chill LitAF life, our problems go places. Down into the sewers they're flushed, and pose an interestingly bizarre set of issues. Rats in the sewers sit still, immobilised and consumed with fears of never making it big, never being King Rat. Cockroaches skitter around, nervously shying away from their own kind, plagued by the fear of never finding a partner. As the effluents reach the sea, fish are plagued by lascivious impulses and desires to molest, attack, hurt their peers - and are torn between confusion about how to act on them and the inability to quell them. A lonely turtle crawls up on a beach to lay an egg, and lies there staring at it pondering the point of life before despondently destroying it and walking back into the vast ocean.

Lalit from Lokhandwala would never have imagined it, but his crippling agoraphobia affects a patch of trees in the Sundarbans as sapiens sentiments finally seep into the earth and its groundwater. A rare species of shrub gives up and never bothers sprouting (leaving a batch of biologists deeply disappointed, they travelled so far just to study it). Plants battle paranoia. Bacteria suffers boredom. Flowers are consumed by fury.

Our innermost issues, so toxic until we process them and excrete the thought-waste through our actions, slowly poison the earth. By the time we realise our folly, we're too late. We've destroyed the world with the power of our feels. When nature decides life isn't worth the weight of human problems, it slowly shuts down, taking us with it.

Oxygen levels drop. Pollution soars. The earth bakes in a little oven formed of its own misplaced misery.

Tsk. Well at least now you don't have to worry about that messed up merger.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

You were born in a zoo

There's a bubble floating above the world crammed with the unfulfilled birthday wishes made by kids at their parties.

Candles go snuff.
Wishes are wished very hard indeed.
People eat cake.
Parents sigh at the mess and clean up slowly, wondering if this is their life now (it is.)

The depletion of the ozone layer also corrodes this bubble, an unforeseen effect of climate change that scientists could not have warned you about.

One day in 2024, this bubble goes pop.

Nobody can quite explain the things that happened that year.

Many many grown adults discover boxes full of barbie dolls and old-school handheld video games in their cupboards.
A few old men and women are puzzled to find they have become very popular (albeit very wrinkled) rockstars, instead of the lawyers, accountants, artists, or homeless bums they thought they were.
The corpses of long deceased divorced parents are uprooted and are found in the same grave.
A shocking number of people drop dead of no cause whatsoever.

Make a wish darling. But if you tell anyone it'll never come true.
Happy birthday!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

A very clean slate

​The last story was set in a fun little world, one in which all humans had just vanished without a trace. This is a continuation of the smaller, less documentable events that follow.


D​ue to unforseen circumstances, a jet black mid-range roomba finds itself in the lobby of a large office building in Connecticut. It was brought down from the storage closet by the night manager who was feeling a bit lonely during his shift and wanted to see the cute robot whizz around and clean things but the lonesomeness is now all Ted's, which is what the manager had named the Roomba.

Ted has cleaned the entire lobby 42 times since the humans vanished. On round 43, its battery gives off a matter of fact half-over beep and as per the standard-issue glitch in the system, Ted veers a few degrees off course and wanders out towards the main entrance, where it putters into the empty space between 2 panes of a revolving door and gets sucked into its perpetual slipstream.

In that tiny, constant, yet constantly changing triangular slice of life, Ted faces a crisis. It can't move ahead, it'd bump into a pane of glass. It can't retreat - more glass. It can't stand still, it's not programmed to do that unless instructed accordingly. As its little infrared sensors struggle to reconcile the conflicting signals it's getting, the follow through pane of glass makes the decision for Ted and sweeps it right along. Round and round and round Ted goes, giving off the occasional beep of contact, supplemented soon by beeps that sound increasingly confused, beeps that indicate power saver mode, beeps that indicate low battery, beeps that indicate byebye.

In a world slowly dying before it can come back to life and flourish, human-free, Ted beeps one final shutdown beep and fades into black. And still it keeps getting slowly whirled around and about by the door mechanism that also dies 4 days later.

Death by battery-over, death by lack of ability to make a decision, death by revolving door - all perfectly valid and largely human ways to die.

​And so it goes...
RIP Ted.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

They won't be Bach

​I felt like writing a thing but I didn't know what. I peeked into my brain and there seemed to be a lot of tumbleweed blowing around in there so that was a lost cause, so I went to a random word generator, picked 3 words and wrote something around that. 

In honour of Valentine's day being.. here, I'll call this series Those Three Words and try to write a bit more.

Those Thee Words #1 - ​multiply | melodic | ants

​Plunk plunk plunk
Plunkety plunk​

​​In a land where the humans have all dropped dead, industry grinds to a halt. Pollution drops drastically. Electricity goes on the fritz and then goes out, plunging the world into darkness for the first time in centuries. The earth rejoices. Nature ponders about how to adjust to this new development, and takes a left turn from her current course to rewire the world. Soon, the food chain will be reset. Cities will crumble. The wild will roam the streets. Evolution goes "HM?" and continues its little dance with minor adjustments. And the world wonders what to do with the detritus and spoils left behind.

Plunk ta da dan ta da dannnnn
Da da dunnn da da dunnnn

​While the more violent of the animals have chosen to batter at the buildings and try to remove any trace of the humans that wreaked havoc upon their lands, the ant population in Sicily has decided to adopt a more que-sera-sera, carpe diem, you-go-girl mindset. Emerging from the cracks, pouring into the music room in the basement of one long dead decrepit Mrs. Fernandez, we see harmony in groups like we never saw in the great civilisations.

One baby grand piano, being played by thousands (millions? billions? how does one even quantify so many minds working as one?) of ants. Pressing down on keys, pushing down on pedals, filling the dead-dead-dying-but-freshly-alive-air with the music of the ages.

Before people are relegated to the fossil department of the world so angry with them, some animals enjoy the little good that came from humanity. Before the instruments crumble, before the earth's music returns to its natural rumble-swish-chirp state, the ants play one final hurrah to the great homo sapiens.

Plink plink.

Take a bow.