The Rainforest Unicorns- Mother of all proposals 2

“What?” Jaya seemed rattled once she heard the news. She shook her hands so hard that the chocolate top of her cone ice cream splattered on the ground. “Shit,” she said, looking at it, “I hate my hand tremor,” she said, caressing her arms, which are showing signs of trembling. “Do you know?” she asked. “Know what?” he asked back. “That too much of shocking news can kill me?” she asked. She proceeded to munch off the cone, as he starred at her silently. She looked at him with a mouthful, and suddenly remembered what they were talking about. “What were you saying again?” she asked. “Err, no, drop the idea,” he said and started walking. “You want another ice cream?” he asked. “No thanks sonny,” she replied. “One name, one name. Sonny, sunny, kiddo, baby, how many names do I have?” he asked back. Jaya just smiled. “I can call my son whatever names I want to call him with. And he starts earning by himself and the first thing he offers to buy for me is an ice cream cone,” she continued smiling. Anand looked dumbfounded. “The business isn’t going great, yet, can’t you be patient ma? You have to poke me at every chance you get,” he said. She was still smiling. “I know there is a reason for you to be spending time with me like this after a long time, so do tell me, what’s the catch?” she asked.

“No, I don’t want to tell you anything.”

“Why so?”

“Because I don’t want to be a murderer. What I have to say is sufficient not only to kill you, but to burn you into ashes and roll you off that Ganges river,” he said, continuing to walk and reaching the car. Both of them got into the car and started driving.

“So,” Jaya opened up after five minutes of complete silence. “You want to get married?” she added. Anand was taken aback. He did not know that his mom actually remembered what he had told her just now, for a moment it seemed as if she had forgotten the statement that made her drop her ice cream in shock. “You remember?” he asked back. “I have my ways of calming myself, to accept things slowly, diversion is one of them. As you saw for yourself, I’m good at it,” she said, smiling again. “Is she crazy?” she asked.

“Crazy?”

“Yeah, like the all over you kinda type?”

“Far from it, why?”

“Because you are only 23? And it doesn’t seem to be an age where you need to run left and right to get married.”

“Maybe she is possessive, wants you to be under her control, under check, so she persuaded you to marry her so fast?” Jaya added.

“No, no, no ma. Ma, i’m your son,” he said.

“So?”

“So what? So I won’t make such horrible choices.”

“I used to say the same thing when I was young son. And it was the very same me who ended up choosing your father,” she said. He sighed.

“And you don’t have to act like a good son. You did not tell me that you are in love at the first place. Now you show up, asking permission for marriage,” she took a swipe at him.

He opened his mouth to explain things, but she stopped him from saying anything.

“As I said, I need to take things slowly. I’ll ask questions, you answer,” she said.

“How long has it been?”

“A week,”

She starred at him for some time, without giving any sort of reactions.

“There can only be three reasons why we are having this conversation now, and you’ll get slapped by me for every one of those three reasons,” she said, and he braked so clumsily that the car jerked for a while. “Go back to home, and don’t open your mouth till we are there,” she said sternly. He looked everywhere else except at her. Slapped? It was his mistake in thinking that just because he had a cool mom who gave him plenty of freedom and guidance without nagging or ordering, she would just roll over and bless his intention to marry Geetha.

As he walked into the house, he was rubbing his cheeks lightly in anticipation for what might come. Once again, Jaya had the silent treatment to offer. She took time to settle herself, to change her clothes, and to settle herself on the sofa with the television turned on. “One- she is pregnant,” she started, while watching the television. “Two, she is an elderly woman,”

“Three, she is married?” she starred at him vociferously. “And the third one, is disgusting,” she said, as if warning him.

“Ma, it’s not the third one,” he said, took the remote and switched off the television. “It’s my life matter, don’t drag this on for 12 hours just because of your anxiety, quit fooling around with me,” he retorted.

“I might get a heart attack by the time you listen to the whole thing,” he added, and went silent.

Jaya looked at him. “Sulking?” she asked, while coming over to sit beside him. “Tell me then,” she said, with a broad smile, patting his back.

“It’s the second one,” he said.

“Elder?”

“Yes.”

She nodded slowly, calmly. She patted him again. “A couple of years don’t matter,” she said.

“11 years?” he asked. She clutched her chest.

“Ma!” he yelled. “I’m not dying yet you fool. But that could have easily killed me,” she said. “11? What the?” her facial reaction was one of a rainbow, full of expressions of disbelief and shock, and all Anand could do was to stare.

“She has this aura of boldness about her, an elegance, the way she carries herself,” she said, and he noticed that he had this smile on his face when he told her. His mother had crossed her legs, sitting on the sofa opposite, looking at his description. She had the whole lot of her medicines place on the glass table in front of them, including the injections that would be needed in case she succumbs to a heart attack or any mild complications due to her heart problem. “Such a drama queen,” he interrupted his own description, but this time he did not look irritated or annoyed, but was rather smiling.

He imagined everything about Geetha that appeals to him. “I like the way she makes decisions. Impulsive, yet with a reason. She never bragged about herself. She never shunned me away when she could have done so. She treated me like a man who deserves to be treated with due respect,” he explained further. She nodded. “You haven’t told me her name,” Jaya said, fiddling her fingers, looking at Anand as if she is set to judge him anytime soon. “It’s Geetha,” he said.

“And she’s 34?” she asked.

“And she’s a lawyer?” she added another question. And nodded again, and took a couple of pills and swallowed. Anand narrowed his eyes at her. “Ma..,” he warned her. She signalled him to continue. “Well, she’s good-looking and all, but above all, she is human and is ready to admit her flaws,” he added. “The fact that she is fighting Karthi’s case proves that she is non-judgemental as well,” he continued. Jaya listened to all of those descriptions intently.

Half-an-hour later, she walked into her room after her son had gone back to his house, having not told him an answer. She looked at the mirror, clenched her teeth, and let out a small shriek. “You gave me a husband who goes after every panties he could afford to, and now you gave me a son who loves someone who is old enough to be my younger sister,” she mumbled. “Iraiva,” she shrieked again, and laid on her bed. And then she called the taxi.

The Rainforest Unicorns- Mother of all proposals

It wasn’t until Geetha was packing her things the following the day that the thought of that young man named Anand who was supposedly interested in her came back to her mind. She sighed, but with nobody watching, she allowed herself to let go of a slight smile, before continuing to pack her belongings to make her way out of the office. She knows that this is nothing but a consolation prize. Nothing would come of it, she knows that much, at least she could brag about tha fact that a young man is interested in her. But he wouldn’t be interested anymore, if he thinks over the matter for a few hours, and knows everything about her rocky past, her current status, and the complications that such a marriage would bring.

She made her way out of the door slowly, her hands full with her bags and so on, and then she froze. Standing in front of her was a man who was staring at the signboard of the law firm. She turned around. Geetha and Associates. “You own the damn thing?” he asked. It was Anand, standing and asking a question as if he is a well-known friend who has just gone out of touch for a while. She did not know how to answer him, why he was here, and every other question related to his presence. She just froze. This was supposed to be a joke. If he is serious in pursuing her, he must be out of his mind. Why is he trying to defy nature? And she knew what that question meant. He is trying to do the very thing she thought he will never have the guts to do- to genuinely try and know more about her. He is treating this like its more than a physical crush. “Yeah I do,” she said, staring at him. “And that’s my name.”

“I know that much,” now he was looking at her, and he was smiling. “Can I walk you till your car?” he asked. The first thing that crossed Geetha’s mind, while nodding to his question, is that he will definitely give the same blurred, dumbfounded reaction when he sees her car later. And he did exactly that.

“You drive this? I thought Karthi was exaggerating,” he said, staring at her sports-edition Mercedes a little while. He allowed herself to chuckle a little this time. She found him cute. “It looks you need to deal with a lot of shock,” she said. “Listen,” she moved closer to him, “you seem like a very good person. It’ll be nice to be friends with you, to be your well-wisher. We can get to know each other, be friends, everything, but why don’t you just drop the big bang idea you have about me in your mind?” she asked.

His eyes were still wide open. “I’m not after your…whatever…lifestyle, wealth, if that’s what making you speak like this,” he said. “That idea, frankly, did not cross my mind, yet,” she replied. “Why can’t it happen?” he finally asked the question that was the main reason for him to come all the way to her office to meet her. “Why?’ he repeated.

“You know the numbers,” she said. “Yeah, they are just numbers,” he retorted. “I’ll get old much earlier than you will, you might find a new spark with someone else as soon as I turn 40, how on earth do I trust you?” she asked. “Wait, that’s another stage altogether. The question here is, I like you, and do you like me?” he asked back.

She sighed. “Okay, let’s talk,” she said, leaving her behind her car and starting to walk. He smiled in a sprout of excitement. She knew how he would have reacted though she did not see it. “Don’t get excited, I’m sure you’ll drop the idea after we talk,” she said. But his heart wouldn’t listen. He jogged behind her slightly and walked right beside her.

Geetha had never done this before, nor did she think the time would ever come for her to do something like this, at least not after everything that has happened in her life. Here she is, preparing to confide in a 23-year-old in a way she has never done, not even with her own brother, in hopes that he would shy away from her after this. His interest in her defies nature, logic and all comfort zones. How will she walk around telling people that her partner is 11 years younger to her? It would seem awkward and will attract even more attention, and unwittingly he will garner much much more attention if it happens. It might all break down as soon as it starts. This is as ridiculous as an idea gets.

“I know you think I’m strong, very verbal, straight to the point, professional, and you might have liked all this,” she said. “But you should understand that I am in my mid-30s, and that I have had so many years in my life in which anything could have happened. I can’t summarize my life, but if you think I’m all perfect, then you are wrong. If you think I never had relationships before, you are very wrong. If you think I don’t have fear and insecurities or wounds for that matter, all from my past, once again you are extremely wrong,” she explained. “I know it all sounds very disturbing, but that is how the truth sounds at times, and that’s what I’m prepared to tell you. If the idea of it itself sounds disturbing, how will the real thing sound? That is why I’m telling you, you are making a big mistake. At your age, it might seem that everything is possible, but from where I stand, I see things realistically,” she added.

He was listening to her explanation quietly, with a small smile carved on his face. He seemed calm; he ahd thought about everything Geetha is explaining to her right now and he is prepared to listen, and now that she is prepared to tell, the signs are good for him. “Do tell, I would like to listen,” he said.

And then Geetha unfolded her life.

It was drizzling lightly, as Geetha sat on the pavement and stretched her muscles after a long day at work. She was expecting someone. Everything in life seemed good now, she had a stable rising in her career, and her personal life seemed to be in a good stead as well. He ran over and kissed her on the cheeks, his shirt half-wet in the drizzle. “I can’t find parking,” he said, trying to dry himself up a little. She looked at him, wearing a broad smile. With his shades, his branded watch, the bouquet of roses in his hands, he looked every bit like the macho hero every girl would dream of in their teenage-hood. He spoke English with a British slang, was UK-educated, and he was 27. She was 25. They were so in love that nothing else mattered. Not even religion. “Amir,” she said. “Do sit, it’s raining, it’s nice,” she said, pointing to a small space to sit beside her. He smiled, and he held her hands, and then sat beside her. “It’s nice isn’t it?” she asked. He looked at her. “You are nice,” he said. “Shut up,” she retorted. That was the perfect life, watching nature drizzle upon them with no pressure attached, nothing to chase after, a comfortable life where money was not going to be a problem. And that love was there, with all of its sweet-talking. They have been together for a year. He was in and out of UK, where he also has a home and has earmarked it to be their future home. He has a small business running there with his friends, while he lives a comfortable life back in Malaysia.

“I have good news,” he said, maintaining the smile he had on his face, while looking intently at her. “She said yes?” Geetha asked back. He nodded. She was surprised. She did not expect her life to be this good- to be too good to be true. There seemed to be so many obstacles she would need to face in order to make this work in the first place, but their journey has been anything but rocky. He flirted, wooed and coaxed her. She gave in. They were together for a year, and now they were at this pavement- with him telling that he has managed to convince his mother of all people to agree to their official union. There were cultural and religious borders that needed to be broken, but none of that seemed like a problem here. His mom has said yes. She needed her own mom to say yes now. To more of her surprise, she too said yes.

For all of the stern opposition she thought she would receive from her mom, her mom seemed convinced that Geetha was making the right decision. Geetha was so surprised that she asked her mom why she did not bother to offer even a little form of opposition. “Look Geetha, you chose your path all your life, you did good in all of them. True, we guided you, but you made choices, you were very stubborn, you had things your way, and it always served you good. You told me that you love him, you want to be with him; you are prepared to face the consequences, and you have good time together. It’s a little hard, but if you are sure, you would help assure us,” she said. Her father, in his usual sporty manner, allowed his child to make her own decision, a practice of his ever since both Geetha and Yuva were young.

It was that particular summer that Geetha had travelled with Amir to UK to see their so-called dream house. And then everything crumbled. They had arguments. He said he never had a relationship before because he was afraid of commitment. It was convenient for him to have a relationship from the far land, not to spend all the time together, to have that comfortable distance between each other. Not getting too personal. Geetha was the same. She was successful even at a young age, she had her dreams to pursue, and never seemed like the one who will be devoted to her loved one all the time. But deep inside, that was what she wanted. She gave in to his wooing because he had said things like she is the best thing that has ever happened to him. She felt important. It was vital because he wasn’t talking about seeing each other or keeping options open, he was talking about love. If he loves her so much, he would be worth being with, she thought. But that summer in UK she knew some men could woo all they want and never actually mean what they said. And once he urged that they should keep options open. He expressed frustration without trying to take care of her heart. She was independent in nature, but she was prepared to sacrifice things for love that she thought very few people in the world could afford to have. It was supposed to be a fairytale. She is prepared to break the borders to be with him, she was even prepared with all her conversion papers. Then one cold freezing morning, she packed her things.

She knew, after a whole week together, that a man like Amir is just as good as many men who woo her from time to time, only that those people don’t mince their words as good as Amir. She walked out of his country house, where Amir has hardly been home for the past two days. She could see everything that was wrong with the relationship- Amir never knew who he was. He never knew he was not the type of person who will stay in a country house for a whole year. He needed Geetha to find out that he isn’t as romantically inclined as he originally thought he was. “Amirul, I’m leaving,” she told him over the phone before switching it off. He wasn’t worth all those troubles she would have to go through just to be with him. Because he is just as normal as others, not a prince charming she thought he was. When she returned home, she wrote him a long letter as to why she felt she should end the relationship. She never went to UK after that.

Amir acknowledged her reasons, and three years later, got married. He came back in touch with her, wanting to be friends, claiming still that no-one saw his flaws the way she did. He expressed regret she did not bother trying to change, but rather shied away- that he would have listened. She argued that her heart should have been taken care of. He wanted her to stay around as a confidant, because she could best spot his troubles. She still does it till today. Amirul is 36, married, and has two kids. He still avoids bringing his wife whenever he sees her. Yet Geetha helps him make the most important decisions in his life.

Three years later exactly his mom had used her failed love story to convince her that arranged marriage is the way to go, because there aren’t anything special is men. His name was Rajiv, was a good-looking, reasonable-doing man. He talked well when they first met, and seemed smitten by her. But then he stopped her from attending dinner with a client. Everything was fine as long as she was the temple girl wearing elegant sarees and Indian outfits, but arguments would crop up every time she switches to her professional mode. He asked her to stay working under her mentor when she was set to start her own law firm. She was taken aback. She was persuaded into accepting his decision. Then she stood back and analysed. With minimal things in common, it wasn’t worth sacrificing her social self and her career progress to satisfy his dominant needs. Two weeks away from marriage, she called it off. His family being an influential one, did as much damage as they could by spreading an image of her as a wild spoilt woman in the eyes of other extensive relatives and known people among the traditional Indian families. Nobody was much interested in considering her as a potential bride in any of their searches. She felt like a fish that was waiting to be picked out of the pond. She was much better than that. So she swam back in, and decided she would be herself. She asked her mom not to look grooms for her anymore.

“One did not like my personality and the other, I don’t know what to say,” she said. “There is no prince charming in this world,” she added, looking at Anand. She knew the question he was about to ask. “I don’t think I can fall in love, because I’ve lost faith,” she explained. Anand knew it all depended on him now.

“Look at our differences Anand, it’s the same. I have to make adjustments to be with you, so many things will be altered. Would it be worth that? What if it turns out just to be like the others?” she asked back. Anand got a little offended by that question. “I’m not saying you are like them, but you never actually know till you are there, you knew had a relationship before,” she explained. Anand felt vulnerable. He doubted if Geetha’s words might have truth in them. But above all, he knew one thing. He would be able to alter himself if he has insecurities that harm their relationships. Insecurities are meant to be diminished, not to be cultivated. “We can talk, worse come worse,” he insisted. “You will not give up, would you?” she asked back, sighing, half-smiling. “I haven’t seen a reason why I should. You told me I might to do so after your stories, but I still don’t,” he said.

“I have to make sacrifices in order to be with you as well. And I’m prepared.”

“But I can’t take another failed relationship.”

“You won’t know until you give it a chance.”

She sighed again. He is determined to break the wall that she had so carefully built around herself. “Fine, marry me then,” she said. He was sipping coffee and coughed so loud that he messed the whole table. “See?” she said, smiling. “Just to think about marrying me gives you a shock while it should be giving you delight,” she added.

“Fine, fine, ask me again,” he retorted.

“No, it doesn’t work that way,” she began walking away from the table to the counter. He stood dumbfounded as she paid both of their bills and walked out. And then, he did something he thought he will never do, run after a woman.

“Yes, yes, I will marry you,” he said, panting.

“Oh, will you then?” she asked sarcastically, hands on hips. “You think so?” she added.

“Yes yes,” she insisted.

“Well talk to your mom first of all,” she said. “Maybe while trying to convince her why you want to marry someone 11 years older to you, you would know what you are getting into,” she said, and continued walking.

“Fine,” he said.

She looked back at him in disbelief, chuckled, smiled, and brushed him off.

“Fine,” he repeated to himself. “Very fine.”

But at the bottom of his heart, he had no clue where this whole episode is heading to.

The Rainforest Unicorns- Leaf 11

Anand sat back quietly. His fingers rolled on the sofa, and he started pinching small pieces from the protruding cotton at the old sofa, he refused to look at both Sabhi, and Karthi who just walked in and put her bag on the couch. He blinked like a small kid.

“Why? You said something big happened?” Karthi asked Sabhi. Sabhi kept starring at Anand. “He’s out of his mind, I think,” Sabhi said. “Why, what he said?” Karthi asked.

Sabhi whispered into Karthi’s ears. “What the…,” Karthi was reeling in disbelief. “Do you know how ridiculous you sound?” she asked Anand. “I know,” he said, in a mellow voice. “But you are not going to drop the idea?” she asked. “Well, I don’t think I can help it,” he said. Karthi sighed. “Us being us, I think we will be hypocrite if we discourage him,” she added, looking at Sabhi.

“But he’s not gay,” Sabhi retorted, only to stop her argument halfway, realizing the point that Karthi was trying to make. “I have to go see her people,” Anand said. “You are talking as if you have an unwanted disease. You have to or you want to? Be clear,” Karthi said.

“I want to,” he finally explained.

“Go then,” Karthi said. “Since you are very interested in dating someone 11 years elder to you, go,” Karthi made sure she emphasized the point. Though she is shocked, there isn’t much she could do about it, and at the same time, she needed Anand to realize what he is getting into before he event starts. If the age factor will become a hindrance for Anand, he might as well not take any steps at all.

“You sure you don’t want to think it over?” Sabhi asked.

“How long will I think? I won’t find answers if I think, I’ll give it a shot,” he said.

“So, let’s go,” he continued.

“Go where?” Karthi asked.

“With me, where else,” he said.

“You go,” Karthi said sternly.

“Or take Sabhi,”

“Eh, hang on here, who is the one who actually knows Geetha better among us? Take Karthi,” Sabhi said.

Anand starred at both of them, and pointed a finger out, scanning between them, as if getting ready to randomly pick one of them. “Both of you are coming,” he said. “That’s final,” he added.

Karthi tried to raise an objection, but he interfered again. “Not a request, it’s an order,” he said, before scampering off to get ready. “I’ve never seen him this excited,” Sabhi said, blinking with her big round eyes, as if starring at something with disbelief. “11 years da, 11 years!” she added, as if murmuring to herself.

Karthi sighed and slapped her hand on her forehead. “Oh My God, what are we getting into?” she was murmuring to himself. Inside the room, Anand was looking at the mirror and murmuring to himself.

All three of them stood looking at the door of the firm. They were right outside of it, yet they were not entering yet. Anand was looking at the signage. Geetha and Associates.

“She owns the damn thing?” he asked, his mouth open with agape. “Didn’t I tell you?” Karthi asked. “That’s another reason why all of this sounds so ridiculous. You own a small computer shack,” she said, without suggesting anything. “Hey, hey, it’s a shop,” he retorted. “But compared to this and her Mercedes?” she asked back. “It’s a sports-car by the way,” she added. He blinked.

“Hello, she had 11 years head start. I just graduated last year,” he argued. “I’m starting to loathe the number 11, wherever I see that number I’ll be reminded of this,” Sabhi said all of a sudden. He starred at her. “So who’s going inside?” Anand asked.

“Oh God, we are not doing this time-wasting again,” Karthi sighed, grabbed Anand’s wrists and dragged him inside.

“Hi Karthi, you came in unannounced,” Geetha greeted them with her exuberant smile. Anand felt vulnerable being so close to her. “Who’s this?” she asked. “A friend,” Karthi said curtly. “You seem to be dragging him in here,” Geetha noted. “Oh, that’s nothing,” she said, letting go of his wrists. “I’ll explain to you inside, a short meet?” Karthi asked. “Sure, I can make time,” Geetha said, and both of them disappeared into Geetha’s office as Anand stood watching.

“Nervous eh?” Sabhi stalked from behind and patted him. “Too bad she didn’t have clients, you have to face it now,” she continued patting him. “Well, I think she has one client now,” he said, looking at Geetha and Karthi seemingly pondering over papers inside the office. “She’s talking about her case, isn’t she?” he asked.

“I think so,” Sabhi said.

“What a hype,” he said and sighed, disguised as disappointment, but deep down, its relief.

Karthi came out of the office sometime later, and smiled at them. “Well, the case seems to be going on well so far…,” she said, slightly hesitating. Geetha came out of the office, and walked in an opposite direction. Anand starred at Karthi. “This is what all the grabbing was about?” he asked, and all of a sudden he went speechless.

Geetha has just nudged Karthi aside, and hands on her hips, she stood starring at Sabhi and Anand. “I don’t want to be offensive, but not only you, but you friends are weirdos too,” she asked, and walked away, without an iota of emotional disturbance. No anger, nothing. Just a statement, and she was gone.

“You told her?” Sabhi asked. Karthi, still feeling shocked at being called ‘weirdo’ by her lawyer, nodded.

“I thought if anything, she’d sound me in the office, so it should be okay. But she did it here, in front of everyone, I guess this is not okay,” Karthi said.

“You are a sweetheart,” Anand smiled at Karthi.

“I guess we know something about her now,” Sabhi said.

“Yeah, she stings,” Anand was still smiling. Sabhi leaned forward and looked right into his face.

“Yeah, when she stings, you glow right, like this?” she asked sarcastically. He did not respond.

Shortly after, Geetha left the office in a hurry as they still stood there. “You told everything about me?” he asked Karthi.

“Yup, obviously that’s why you are weirdo now,” she said.

Anand did not expect a great reaction from her, so he wasn’t surprised. It seems weirdo isn’t that bad a start considering how impossible the whole thing sounds.

A Prince’s Tale- That small prince

“Let’s make ourselves as loud as possible,” The Elder Prince said, as he entertained the idea of having an intruder in the palace, who is probably trying a thief intent on stealing valuables in the palace. He has heard plenty of stories about what such thieves can do, and some of them can be very dangerous. He thought about the stories he heard, and told The Prince about how the thieves steal away hard-earned valuables even from normal people and leave the people in a lurch as their earnings are stolen without any kind of justification.

The idea was simple- make as much noise as they can possibly make to convey to the intruder that there are people in the house, and that he should leave after being aware of their presence. The thief probably has entered the palace thinking that everyone from the palace have left along with the king’s entourage, they reasoned.

But The Prince had a different urge, he wanted to thief to appear in front him, to be caught somewhere in the act, he wants to face the thief with the latter thinking that small princes can’t possibly do anything to him, and that they would be small fries, only to discover that they can, in fact, hurt him. The thief needs to learn a lesson, he thought. “We need to prepare,” The Prince said.

“We need a plan, and we need to prepare how we are going to face the situation if the thief manages to get up here and face us. The most valuables are here, so in all probability he would come here,” The Prince said. The other two princes blinked, and nodded. They could see reason and logic in his explanation; they felt that he made perfect sense. “But, how, we are just..small,” the Young Prince said. No matter if that statement made sense for the other two princes, it definitely made sense the The Prince’s case, because he was physically the smallest among all three of them, and if there was anyone who was small, it was him.

“So, we need something, something to hit him back with, something to fight with, something that will surprise him,” The Prince was continuously eager. He realized that the room which stores the palace equipments, most of the extra ones which are made but are kept in reserves, is near to the room they were in, and it wouldn’t require anyone to get down and face the thief in order to access the equipments.

The three of them rushed to the room, and began pondering over the equipments, trying to make the right choice and devise the right tactics. The Prince picked a metal rod, which is used to shape knives, swords, and shields. It was thick, and heavy. He knew, that if he could deliver one full-forced blow on the thief with this rod, especially on the thief’s head, the thief might never wake up again after that. He smiled slightly and made his choice. “I’ll beat him with this,” he said.

The Elder Prince was ahead of him in terms of devising a tactic. “Yeah, you can beat him, and I will tie him,” he said, already holding a thick rope that looks as good as any in his hands. The three of them walked back to the room, but realized they can’t rely on two weapons alone, they needed another one. “Go and take a knife, something you think is good enough,” The Prince told to the Young Prince. The Young Prince walked into the equipments room and went through whatever knives he could find. Finally, after sometime, he walked back into the room, and on his hand, he was holding an old, yet ferocious looking knife, one that butchers use to butcher meat from dead animals. “That’s how we get good meat,” The Elder Prince said. “You want to eat him?” The Elder Prince asked the Young Prince. The Young Prince starred at the knife. “But that’s a good choice,” The Prince said. He had a cynical smile on his face, so did the Elder Prince.

From then on, they waited until the moment the supposed thief would come barging up for more valuables, and face their wrath. But The Prince was getting impatient, as they could hear sounds from down below, suspicious sounds all around them- and it crossed his mind that maybe the thief is already getting what he wants from down, and might not come up afterall, and he would definitely get away with anything he’s getting from there.

He took hold of his wooden sword, and tested the edges; they are still sharp in spite of being made of wood. He carried the rod, which must have weighed at least quarter of The Prince’s own weight. He looked at the other two princes. It was almost as if they knew what he was thinking in his mind, and they nodded. Without much warming, in the deep night, The Prince descended down the stairs and disappeared into the pitch black castle.

He got down as fast as he could; the rod and the sword were giving him many problems, but he was intent on carrying on, he would see the thief anytime now, he is where the thief is, and he has to face him. But as The Prince went on searching he could not fight a thief anywhere in sight. He climbed back up, sweating. “Nowhere, nobody,” he said, panting, finally resting the rod on the stairs. The other two princes were appalled for a minute, and after that they laughed about it.

Two days later, when the other two princes have returned to their respective homes, The Prince’s palace was found burglared. The King woke up early that day and found that even before the sun greeted them, many valuables and gold kept down are now no more where they are supposed to be.

Frustrated that he could not catch the culprit earlier, whom he was sure he saw two days prior, The Prince walked past the palace gates, into the woods nearby all on his own, as the family were grieving the loss of valuables.

And as The King was starting to get worried about The Prince’s whereabouts, The Prince appeared from the jungle, having recovered three coins of gold from trailing through the forest. The King was relieved, but The Prince was disappointed that it was all he could do about the whole episode.

The thieves had committed burglary at a time when everyone was indeed in the palace. They are much more brave than he originally thought. He knew they were dangerous, and that it is not just one person. For all the rods and knives the princes carried, the thieves might have had much more than that. He stopped to think what could have happened if he had met the thief in his adventure two nights ago. He had a wry smile on his face.

The Elder Prince dropped by, patted his shoulders, and reminded the same. What would have happened? They did know, but they did know that The Prince, without much ado, went down to face the thief. He asked himself if he would do the same again given the chance. He could hear himself saying yes.

And from that moment, he stopped feeling small.

Diaries of a burning lamp

I have heard so many people talk and cite so many problems as to why Malaysia is still struggling to fulfill its potential as a nation. There’s always been some big promise somewhere; but end of the day it becomes half-baked, with its leftovers doing as much damage as it does good for the country.

Of course, we can go on an endless rant what is actually missing in this nation. All sorts of political statements can be dished out. Something about the system. Something about the people. Something, something…but what is it? We try our level best to set things right; we believe telling the truth would make a difference, some of us believe being non-prejudicial would make a world of difference. I was looking for this missing puzzle, like I believe many of us were as well; in short, we were soul-searching. There is a Malaysian essence, and we know it. An essence of Malaysia as a whole. There is a spirit there, an embodiment, an identity. But we don’t seem to be able to quite put our fingers on it; or maybe we are just clueless as to how we will go about to bring that essence out and make everyone feel it.

But lest we always seem to forget an important fact- it all starts with a little reflection. The answers lies within the image you see in the mirror every day. At least I realized that. What is this country missing? Forget the politicians, the corruptions, the so-called racisms, the you-don’t-talk-shits, and everything else associated with it. Because I look in the mirror and I know, for a fact, I have something to offer. I do matter. As a citizen of this ‘visionary’ country, I have something to offer. I have a potential. Me as a person and my abilities. But I’m missing.

You look into the history of so-called great countries, and you find embedded in them, a persona of art, someone who dared lift stories from a daily baking oven to the pages of a book, or with the weave of a brush on a canvas, an ink feather on a citrus paper, a hand strumming a guitar, a picture captured through a wonderful lens. My Malaysia is not made up of people who do not know where and when to make a statement, or a lawyer who strongly believes a person can commit self-strangulation. It is made up of things such as that small hawker stall, a warm smile on a hot day, a breeze of wind in early morning, a descending mist on your car window as dawn approaches- the things that actually matter.

Art is no small matter. For those who have it will know the velocity of having something so mystic brewing inside you but not being able to express it out. Am I the first person in this country to have this eye, an eye for depth, an eye for invisible connections? Definitely not. There are many who have preceded me, for sure. But lights die out when nobody takes enough care to let the fire burning. You let the wind blow it off, and the light fades. There have been many who have faded before me. And this country keeps losing the every grain of chance it has to finally find some soul. People don’t listen to you when you look back one day and say this is the land of the great KLCC or Pavilion or billion-dollar investments. Heads will turn back when you say this is the land which produced human beings of exceptional qualities rather than buildings of exceptional qualities. Art is an universal language. All heads will turn upon you when you manage to ruffle a peacock’s feather and find the beauty of it. I am a dreamer, but I am ignored.

A sense of belonging gets deprived somewhere along the way as these chain of events continue. When a lifelong Malaysian comes back to his country one day and says he couldn’t care less anymore about the so-called progress the country is aping to capture; that he misses being in Vietnam rather than being in the mighty Kuala Lumpur, that is already a big slap on any Tom, Dick and Harry who thinks they know how to make this country progress.

Does Hanoi have more developments than this country? In our obsession to race heading to the goal posts of economy, we are losing our souls. People like me, like him, like many others, can form the Malaysian soul. But when the country has very little regard for these souls; we are better appreciated in other lands.

And I sit and think again: Why of all places, Malaysia? Why did YOU choose me to be born in this country?

And my question is someone else’s big failure. Or maybe we all should take collective responsibility for my questions.

For we have been busy thinking legends are made anywhere else but in Malaysia.

This country’s biggest sinking ship is not its submarines or billions of ringgits, but rather this soul. You’d be forgiven for thinking I have given up. No, I have not. The lamp is still burning, hope is still there. But I have to say this; this lamp will burn somewhere else one day if not here.

The last thing I’ll do is let my lamp be blown by the wind in this country. But till then, I’ll still fight.

A Reality Without a Shadow- Stars.

Yuva hates crowds. And he despises himself for he had gotten into this mess by his own will, not due to anyone forcing him to do so. “You wanted entertainment, and you got it,” Naresh said, noticing the beleaguered look on Yuva’s face as he starred at the gate with utter discomfort. Naresh’s smile was bordering on sarcasm. Yuva reached out for a bunch of papers he almost left behind in the car- they were his treasure. He did not entertain Naresh’s teases; he proceeded slowly ahead to fulfill his task.

Are, the door!” Naresh shouted as Yuva began to walk. “The door, who’s going to close it, your grandfather?” he continued, louder. “I don’t have one,” Yuva replied nonchalantly and disappeared into the crowd parked right outside that one big gate that nests under a humungous sign- AVM. Yuva could still hear Naresh uttering profanity as he had to get out of his driver’s seat to close the backdoor, and drove away. Yuva knew it’ll be a very long time before Naresh would volunteer to give him a ride again.

The crowd was Yuva’s biggest nightmare, something that he utterly hates- but being in his profession, he doesn’t have a gun anymore, to just show the people that they have to make way for him, but now he is someone who is after information just as much as many other in the crowd- to win his bread and butter. Why did he insist that he wants to cover an entertainment news for today? All these went in his head, as he, like a hero diving into a pool of mud, nose closed, in order to retain a diamond or a pearl dropped at the bed of the lake, instinctively ‘dived’ into the crowd, pushing and shoving his way through, but all the time making sure his grip on the stack of notes in his hands remain strong- not a single paper he could afford to drop.

And as if the gates of heaven open when you start knocking on it, the gate opened, right at the moment when Yuva was about to reach to front end of the crowd, he finally slowed down and took a breather as the swoosh of crowd left him behind. He panted. “Damn Aishwarya Rai,” he muttered himself, feeling lucky that he was not assigned to be part of this incessant madness and obsession with India’s most popular female face. He made his way around the studio, wondering as to how much a significance this studio is for local Indians. Having spent almost his entire livelihood as an American, in a somewhat experimental capacity- he does not understand the essence of this place, yet. Thinking back, he feels he does not understand the essence of neither India or America. He was India’s child who was given away to America so that he become a guinea pig for someone’s smart idea of solving police inefficiency issues in India; and while he was raised in America, he was never the American son- he was always the Indian son under temporary American shelter. A shelter that lasted 21 years.

He had now reached where he wanted to go. He cared less about Aishwarya Rai, and more about this debutant actress who happens to be performing for a song in this very same studio. Away from all the hype, if that actress had even felt a pint of jealousy that ‘Ash’ is stealing all the attention away from her; Yuva will be her compensation package for the day. Yuva knew, when he walked in to interview her, that he would never volunteer to cover an entertainment news again. Navigating through a crowd during a political or social matter that does have significance to the bread and butter of the people does make sense, but doing the same to just get a glimpse of a film star doesn’t.

The studio was almost empty, except for the few dancers, the directors and all the what-nots that are needed to make a song in this industry. The actress was about to perform, so Yuva had to wait. He took a seat after much hesitation, as the seat very much looked like a seat that belonged to a director, a producer or someone important for the film- maybe the actress herself. But he was tired for the hassle he went through at the front gate. An office boy (Yuva could identify this seeing a white cloth draped on his shoulder, with an empty tiffin plate on his hands- obviously having just served someone in the set) turned around and looked curiously at him. “Are..” he started, obviously pointing in Yuva’s direction. But Yuva had a wonderful memoir that he managed to sneak years ago; and occasionally uses it just for the knack of it. He produces his badge, puts up a stern face, and utters, “Police, go do your work.” The boy scrambles off without much ado. The respect policemen get sometimes, heaven. The boy stopped at the door, turned around and looked at Yuva. He was apparently waiting silently until Yuva would glance towards him so that he can say something. Once Yuva did, the boy pointed out his thumb, towards his mouth, nodding mildly. Yuva knew what he was asking about, and nodded. He had gotten a tea without much hassle.

It was about an hour or so that Yuva was sitting there and watching these individuals dance, and Yuva was prepared to do all the waiting that he has been doing. The started scribbling on his papers, after making sure not even one of them is missing. He glanced up occasionally, ogled at the skimpily dressed actress and dancers, and went back to his paperwork. Peculiarly, he found himself not ogling at the actress as he generally thought should be the case, but found his eyes rather locked on one back-up dancer; she was strewn among the crowd of dancers, somewhere in the middle, insignificant. She wasn’t the perfect dancer. She made an odd mistake here and there, obviously why she was placed somewhere beyond the most visible dancers of them all.

She was insignificant, yet she caught his eyes. A tanned skin, sweating profusely as she came walking down once the director called for a break, her hair all messed up; nevertheless she seems to be good friends with the choreographer and also the actress. Yuva can’t stop glancing at her. She had a strong South Indian accent, and Yuva could figure that she was a local Tamil. A benign smile sprouted on his face. He had taken to her.

Priyanka quickly draped her scarf over the shoulders and took hastening steps outside the studio. She is sweating, and feeling sticky within her body. A shower is what she desperately needs. Not a journalist who is suddenly after her autograph. “Why are you after me anyway?” she asked out aloud, panting as she stopped. “Are you like running away from me?” he asked, with a small smile on his face. He had an accent that resembles a foreigner. Priya hates foreigners who think they are too good for this country and that they are entitled to few things just because of who they are and where they come from. She threw him an unimpressed look.

“I just want to talk,” he added quickly. Yuva wasn’t about to give up. Her reaction is only proving to be even more intriguing for him. Here is an Indian woman with an ideology, with an opinion about something. “About? The development of dance culture in India or something? Or the lives of backup dancers? I see you writing something,” she asked, crossing her hands. She sounded ignorant enough for Yuva to know that even if he was going to use such a valid excuse to sit and talk to her, she wouldn’t come. She obviously finds such reasons to be of no interest to her. “You don’t read such books, I got it,” he said. She is smart. He had to catch up, and he likes this.

Ore meal, Pucca Madras food. Any stall would do. Hawkers? I’m on. I can walk and talk. No problem. Just a few minutes,” he added. She was quick again. “Date? Is that what this is all about?” she asked. Yuva nodded without any hesitation. “So convenient for you huh? Fresh off the plane I suppose, with the accent of yours; if you are someone whose idea of date ends at your house’s bed, then I’m not in,” she clasped at his advances one more time.

“I’d say that’s not my idea, and I’d say give me a chance,” he said. She sighed. “If I say okay, you’ll let me go peacefully?” she asked. “That’s the plan.”

“Tomorrow, 4 pm. You’ll have half an hour only, come here and I’ll tell you where. And add it that I don’t like coconuts like you generally, and don’t have to try to floor me, woo me, seduce me. Anything flattering uttered, and I’m walking right out, shoving it in your face.”

Yuva stood perplexed. This is much tougher than he originally thought. It took him two years to get attracted to a woman in India and he found quite a ferocious one for a first date. He realized he still can’t erase that smile from his face.

To be continued…