Friday, May 29, 2009

Get this!

Here are a few pieces of conversations.

X and Y have just finished breakfast and there are crumbs on the floor. X looks around, and sees that the room is dirty.

X: Y, please sweep the room.
Y: I will, X, just after I finish reading the newspaper.
X: No, clean it first, and then read the newspaper.
Y: No, I won't. Please don't bother me.
X: Now! Do it now!
Y: Don't force me! It's my life! (But gets up anyway to sweep the room.)

****

Y comes out dressed in a salwar-kurta.

X: Where is the dupatta?
Y: This dress doesn't have a dupatta.
X: Wear a dupatta.
Y: No, I won't. This dress doesn't need a dupatta, see?
X: Wear a dupatta! Wear a dupatta! Wear it!!!

****

Y goes out of the room without switching off the light.

X: Ohhooo, you haven't switched off the light, Y!

****

Y gets up to go out of the room, and leaves the cushion crooked.

X: Again you left your cushion crooked. It's alright. I will set it right for you.

****

Ok. Now get this. X is Puttachi, and I am Y. Honest.

I have my very own Moral Police and Mother Hen - rolled into one small, authoritative human.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The First Sketch?



Puttachi called out to me to show me what she had drawn, and said, "Nodu Amma, Chandamama!" [Look, Amma, Moon Uncle!]

And for the first time, what she had drawn did look like what she said she had drawn ;)

Now what I am not sure of is - whether she did intend to draw a moon and succeeded, or whether she just did a squiggle and realized that it looked like the moon. I tried to get her to draw it again, but she was not interested. She had moved on to other important matters.
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Monday, May 25, 2009

Two

This comes two days too late. Puttachi turned two on Saturday.

My sweet Puttachi,

Happy Birthday to you!

Even as I wistfully bid goodbye to the last traces of the baby in you, I welcome with open arms the little girl that you now are, bright, bubbly, energetic, enthusiastic, full of life, itching to share her joys with us.

On one hand, I wait everyday to be pleasantly surprised by the things you say, and on the other hand, I wish I could tape your little mouth shut so that I can have a moment of peace.

On one hand, I watch with amazement at your levels of energy, and on the other hand, I wish some of that energy would rub off on me, enough to tie your hands and legs up.

On one hand, I wake up every morning and miss your antics until you wake up, and on the other hand, I can't wait for you to go to bed at night so that I can catch a few quiet moments.

You are fascinating. You are exasperating.

You amaze me. You exhaust me.

I love the way you do everything with abandonment. Laugh. Dance. Love. Live.

Puttachi, my wish for you on this birthday is that you live the rest of your life with the same kind of joy and fullness with which you have lived these two years.

Puttachi, Thank you for you.

I love you.

Amma.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Evening Snacks in Mumbai

When I was working in Mumbai, I lived as a PG. PG Aunty gave us breakfast and dinner, and packed lunch for us to take to office. That accounted for three square meals a day.

But what about hungry evenings? I always get hungry in the evenings. Even now. Mumbai was no different.

If I spent the evening working in office, I would either order a sandwich from the coffee guy in the pantry, made to exact specifications (only one layer of butter, no onion, no toasting - only roasting, etc.), or if I had the time, I would go out to one of the two canteens in the SEZ in which my office was, and have a high-calorie snack. My favourite was the Sabudana Vada, which only used to be available on the usual fasting days of the typical Maharashtrian.

But when I left office early, I would come back to a near empty PG. Sometimes I would buy a packet of Maggi, cook it up and have it with tea. Or sometimes I would buy a 100 g pack of Amul Shrikhand and eat it all up at one go, unabashedly scooping it up with my hands and licking my fingers.

But most often, I had Dabeli. There was this little stall outside this awesome shop that sold the most head-whirringly fascinating foodstuff, called - Parry's (??) near where I lived. I would get down from the office bus, walk straight to the Dabeli man, and order a Dabeli. It was a small snack - peanuts and pomegranate seeds and masala sandwiched between two half-pieces of pav. It was just the right size - enough to quieten my hunger pangs, but not large enough to fill my stomach so much that I couldn't eat PG aunty's usually delicious dinner. I had Dabeli nearly every evening. I have never eaten Dabeli ever since I left Mumbai, though I have heard of it being sold around here. I once decided to make it myself, and even got Dabeli masala from my aunt in Pune, but I never got around to it.

I have a suspicion that I don't want to eat it again for fear that it will not reach the high standard that my brain remembers. But everytime I hear about Dabelis, my salivary glands start working overtime, I remember the smell, taste and look of the Dabeli, and the simple pleasure of my biting into the delicious snack, standing outside the shop overlooking the Gurudwara.

If my hunger was too large to be fed by a small Dabeli, I would have a Frankie further down the road. But Frankies dug too deep a hole in my pocket without giving me the requisite satisfaction in my stomach or my mind - so this was rare.

But what did provide immense Shanti to both stomach and mind was the peerless Lassi that was available in the Punjabi dairy shops on the same road. This Lassi came in a tall glass, and was thick, sweet and rich. The lassi man usually asked for your permission before he topped the lassi with a dollop of Malai. Thick cream. So thick that you could cut it with a knife. And so delicious that tears of joy would sting my eyes.

And this glass of heaven was available for just 12 rupees - or was it 15? Just one glass and it quenched my thirst, satisfied my hunger and energized me immediately. If you caught me at that point and asked me for anything, I would do it for you without hesitation.

Some things, I tell you - they make life more beautiful than it already is.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Games Puttachi plays

If only I could remember and note down all the games that Puttachi has played over the months.... But then, here are a few from recent times.

***

Puttachi is eating raisins from a bowl. One raisin drops to the floor. She pushes the bowl aside, takes off her pyjamas, and starts whipping the poor raisin that is lying on the floor. She whips it with all her might, causing it to jump from one end of the room to another, but she continues her relentless whipping. When the raisin rolls under the table or the sofa, she bends down, retrieves it, places it carefully on the floor, like footballers do at kick-off time, and then resumes whipping the raisin.

***

Puttachi finds a piece of thermocol. She breaks off little round balls of thermocol, and places about ten or so of the tiny, light, white balls in her cupped hands. She blows on it hard, causing the little balls to fly out and land all around her. Then she patiently picks each one of them, puts it back in her palm, and blows again. Repeats endlessly.

***

Puttachi finds one of her small, soft handkerchiefs, and proceeds to throw it in the air, and catch it - and throw it, and catch it - and throw it, and catch it - and - you get the picture.

***

Her crib (one end of which is open and is attached to our cot) has a tiny mosquito net. She places an object, like a small toy, over the mosquito net. She gets into the mosquito net and then from within, she starts hitting the object, making it bounce on top of the net. If it falls off the crib, onto the ground, she gets down carefully, brings it back and continues.

***

I keep all her hair clips in a box. I don't know what it is about those hair clips - but she takes them out, puts them back in, plays with them for hours and hours.

***

Puttachi loves to sweep the house. Give her a broom and a dustpan, and to her, it is equivalent to bliss of the highest order. A couple of days ago, I was totally exhausted, and needed a cup of tea and five minutes to myself. All I did was thrust a broom and dustpan into Puttachi's hands, and that was it. I got my five peaceful minutes - but if anybody had just looked in through the window at that time, it would have been a great sight. I, sitting on the sofa, book in hand, taking sipfuls of glorious tea, and a little girl at my feet, sweeping away with utmost seriousness. I just hope I won't be hauled away for using child labour.

***

Her all time favourite game is to catch hold of a stuffed toy and pretend to put it to bed. It is unbelievable how she never tires of this.

***

One more favourite is to carry on pretend conversations on her toy phone with everybody she knows.

***

Last evening, S~, Puttachi and I went for a walk in the quiet bylanes near our house. Throughout the walk, and I mean, throughout the half an hour or more that we were outside, Puttachi assumed this half-bent posture (have you seen ancient grandmas with bent backs? Like that), and walked about, saying all the while, "Mummum elli? Illi idya? Alli idya? Naanu pranigalu thara mummum hudukta iddini." [Where is food? Is it here? Is it there? I am looking for food like animals do.] Not only did she walk the entire way like that, but she kept up this endless litany of "Where is food?"

Kids live in their own, wonderful world.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Five Things I love about being a mother.

Tagged by Anitha. The tag originated here.

1) I have gained a healthy respect and admiration for myself. I didn't know I was capable of so much love and tenderness, patience and forbearance, strength and magnanimity, tolerance and fortitude - you get the drift. Besides, I have met a new me. The un-lazy, determined, multitasking person I am now is a far cry from what I was. Even if I say so myself, I have become a better person.

2) I have discovered the value of our lives. My life, my child's life, S~'s life, the lives of everybody around me. I am not sure how this happened, and why, but it did. This may not exactly a good thing - it has made me more nervous and anxious than I used to be. But I'll still take it as a good thing - I at least make an attempt to live a full life.

3) Motherhood makes one see everything like a miracle. Conception, birth, growth of a child - each is a huge miracle in itself. And when you look at the world through your child's eyes - each day is a miracle, each thing is wonderful, each occurence is fascinating. You rediscover childhood, you rediscover life, you see everything in a new light - everything is different, everything is brighter. Life itself is more joyful.

4) I have seen the people I love in a new and much better light.
My mother - I know that I was not a very easy child - stubborn, lazy, and yes, rude too. Yet, I can count on my fingers the number of times my mother has lost her temper with me. With all her work, even with the kind of suffering she was undergoing, the fact that she has always been gentle and patient and understanding with us, and the fact that she has always been there for us, at any time of the nychthemeron, and has sustained that kind of love and patience for 30 years - that is incredible. I cannot even begin to fathom the kind of sacrifices she has made for us - and with a steely determination, has seen us through all the ups and downs of life - I am in awe of her. I really don't think I would have been as good a mother had I been in the situation that she was in. I credit motherhood for making me see all these things so clearly.
And not forgetting my father - I know that though his direct involvement in our upbringing has been considerably less than that of my mother, the fact that he has always been around, patient, rock-like, strong and unshakeable - I realize now how important that has been, and how difficult it is, too.
S~ - I have rediscovered the man I married. He is a fabulous father, and is incredibly supportive. I have seen an entirely new side of him after Puttachi was born - and that has exceeded my wildest imaginations. Parenthood has taken our relationship to a different level altogether.

5) I love the love that exists between my child and me. It is pure, complete, unconditional, exuberant, joyous, full of trust and just so perfect. It makes my heart soar just to think about it. Sometimes, Puttachi leaves whatever she is doing, comes to me, places a small palm on my cheek, and says, "This is Amma. This is Puttachi's Amma. This is MY Amma (patting her chest)." And then she as quickly goes back to her work. This, for me, encompasses everything that motherhood means.

Ok, now I am getting all teary-eyed. Passing on tags takes too much time - I'll come back to it later - or if you like it (believe me, you will), please take up the tag!

Monday, May 04, 2009

The moment of truth.

Well, I couldn't think of a better title. Finally, here is my prizewinning story. It was published in yesterday's Sunday Herald.

Feedback and criticism welcome - either in the comments section or to shruthi DOT hallucinations AT gmail DOT com. Thank you!

Update: DH has revamped its site and the above link doesn't work any more. Until I find the time to find the new link, here is the story.

Update 2: The link is working now, but the story is here anyway.

************

THE GUIDE

Vivek threw his backpack down on the rock, flexed his shoulders, and put his hands on his hips. "We are lost", he announced with an air of finality. Aditi didn't answer. She had known that for the last one hour.
They were on a trek to Mailari hills with an adventure group. Raghav, a veteran trekker, was leading. Right at the beginning, Raghav had warned them of the confusing foliage of Mailari hills and had asked everybody to stick together at all times. It had been going well, until Vivek and Aditi, who were trailing, stopped to photograph some pretty yellow flowers peeping shyly from behind a rock.

When they looked up, the others were nowhere in sight. It had happened so suddenly that they were taken by surprise. They could still hear the others, and they called out loudly. But the wind was blowing towards them, and their voices just died in the wind. They ran up the track they had been following, but they reached nowhere.

They pulled out their mobile phones. No signal. This place was miles from any town. Nevertheless they fiddled with their phones for sometime, hoping that miraculously, they would catch the signal from some nearby tower, but to no avail.

The plan had been to stay at the rooms at the Mailareshwara temple at the summit of Mailari hills. So, Vivek reasoned, if they just followed the incline upwards, they would reach the top at some point, from where they would surely catch sight of the temple.

Accordingly, they had trudged up the incline, but the track had suddenly dipped, then curved and forked, and they seemed to be going in circles. Aditi was sure that they had passed the same creeper-covered tree at least thrice.

They then reached a small clearing in the foliage, where there was a broad, flat rock. It was here that they now sat, contemplating their next move.

It was almost six in the evening, and was getting dark. They ought to have been at the temple premises by now. The others had probably already reached.

"I still don't believe it", Aditi said. "Haven't they realized we have been left behind?”

"We were trailing, remember?" Vivek said. "It would have taken some time before they discovered that we weren't with them. I am sure Raghav will come looking for us once they find us missing."

"He had better. I am not very comfortable with the thought of spending the night in the jungle."

"There aren't any wild animals in these hills."

"So? Wild animals or not, do you really want to spend the night on this rock? There might be snakes – or poisonous insects."

"We might not have a choice."

"Raghav will come for us." Aditi's tone was final.

They sat on the rock, looking out at the stunning landscape that was fading rapidly in the receding sunlight. A sudden gust of wind ruffled their hair and rustled the leaves in the trees. Aditi shivered.

"Maybe we should try to find a way to the temple, one last time", ventured Vivek.

"No", said Aditi, "It's getting very dark. Besides, if they come looking for us, they have a better chance of finding us if we are in one place."

Vivek didn't argue with that logic. For all his bravado, he was getting jittery.

The sun had gone down. They could barely see anything even a few feet away. Unfamiliar noises punctuated the silence, and unseen insects called out intermittently.

The whispering sounds of the shadowy forests set Aditi quivering with terror. She drew her legs close to her body, and hugged them tight. Vivek drew closer to Aditi, and put a comforting arm around her.

"I can't hear anything, and I can't see anything", Aditi said, miserably. "Perhaps we should light a fire.”

"Raghav has explicitly warned us against it, Aditi. A lot of dry leaves in this area. And winds too. There are high chances of a forest fire."

"But I can't bear it, Vivek - "

"Look!"

Aditi looked in the direction Vivek was pointing. Through the trees, they could see a faint light bobbing up and down.

A spasm of fear shot up through her spine before she realized what it could be.

"They have come! They found us!" Aditi exclaimed. She stood up and waved her arms, jumping. "Here! We are here!"

The light came closer. Out of the trees emerged a man, holding a lantern. It was not anybody they knew.

He was a middle-aged man, cleanshaven, greying slightly around his temples. He had a large mole on his nose. He was dressed in a brown jubba of a coarse fabric, and was wearing a faded white dhoti.

"Lost?" He asked.

"Yes", said Vivek, "We got separated from the rest of our group. We are supposed to stay at the Mailareshwara temple premises tonight. Can you tell us how to reach the place?"

The man nodded. "I'll take you there. Follow me."

It was as if someone had infused new life into Aditi and Vivek. They stood up quickly and picked up their things. The man had already started off through the trees, and they walked swiftly to catch up with him.

"This is not an easy forest to navigate if you are new to it", said the man. "But it is gorgeous, don't you think?" He looked over his shoulder. "The Western Ghats are home to some of the most beautiful and rare species of plants in the world."

Vivek and Aditi struggled to keep pace with him.

"Do you live in these forests?" Vivek asked.

"Yes".

"Where?"

"Oh, close by", said the man with a vague wave of his free hand. "Watch your step. That stretch is slippery."

The man turned, and held the lantern high in the air to light up their way. The light from the lantern fell on his sharp features, casting deep shadows on his face. It gave his features an unearthly look.

He resumed walking, soundlessly and effortlessly. He strode through the bushes and rocks and trees as comfortably as if he were walking in his home, amidst familiar furniture.

“Have you lived here a long time?" Aditi asked.

"Yes."

They continued the night-time trek. Leaves and branches brushed against them from time to time, startling them. The walk seemed endless. Aditi started getting apprehensive.

"How are you sure he is taking us to the temple? " She whispered to Vivek. "What if he takes us somewhere else and robs us?"

"You watch too many movies. Don't worry." Vivek was hurrying to keep the man in sight.

The man continued to glide along, pointing out shrubs and trees in the darkness.

"This is a silk-cotton tree", he said, indicating a massive, dark figure. "It has sharp thorns on its trunk. According to mythology, a Rakshasa, running away from his pursuers, climbed the tree, and as he did so, plucked off his teeth and stuck them on the trunk of the tree so that they couldn't climb up after him."

"Interesting!" Vivek exclaimed.

"That is a very old tamarind tree. You know what they say about tamarind trees, don't you?"

"That ghosts live in it?" Aditi said.

"Yes!" The man said. "Have you met any ghosts in your life?"

"No."

"Hmmm. Well, there is always a first time."

Aditi looked at Vivek questioningly. But it was too dark to make out his expression.

The man glanced over his shoulder. "Don't you believe in ghosts?"

"No."

"That's good. It wouldn't have been easy sitting all alone in the darkness if you did."

They didn't answer. Aditi had taken Vivek's arm. She was feeling uneasy. Her heart was thudding, whether with the effort of walking or with panic, she couldn't say.

It was pitch dark by now. A cicada called out persistently from somewhere. The man slowed down, holding the lantern aloft. It cast terrifying shadows in the murky jungle, and Vivek and Aditi walked close together, slowly, and guardedly.

The moon was a tiny sliver in the night sky. The thick forest seemed to press in upon them in the darkness.

“I can't bear it any more.” Aditi was in tears.

"Is it a long way off?" Vivek asked. He was also restless now.

"Nearly there."

They stepped out into a large clearing. They could see the indistinct form of a temple gopura, silhouetted against the night sky. A path led from where they stood to a low parapet, which seemed to form the boundary of the temple premises.

The man stopped. "There it is."

Aditi felt a flood of relief wash over her. She couldn't wait to get to the predictability of a man-made structure.

Vivek turned to the man. "I don't know how to thank you. If not for you....."

The man smiled. "Not a big deal. Your companions would have rescued you anyway. Now hurry. They will be waiting for you."

"And you?"

"Back home!" The man's eyes twinkled, and he waved them away.

Aditi and Vivek stepped out on to the path that led to the temple, and nearly ran towards the reassuring structure.

They jumped over the waist-high parapet. About fifty feet away was the back of the temple. From behind that came the sound of voices, and a vague, hazy, glow of light.

Vivek turned back to see if the man was still there. He wasn't, and neither could he see the light of the lantern. Vivek shuddered.

They went round the temple, the walls of which were carved with large, grotesque figures that seemed to look down upon them in disapproval. Aditi felt an uncomfortable tingling at the back of her neck, and fear was still stuck in her throat. They hurried past the crude figures. It was clear that this temple wasn't famed for its architectural beauty, but for the setting it was in. It was obvious that, come morning, the sights from there would be a wonder to behold.

They arrived at a courtyard, flanked on one side by the temple, and open to the hills on the opposite side. The other two sides had large buildings built in the style of old homes, with a raised platform supported by pillars, covered with a tiled, sloping roof. From the platform, small doors opened out into shadowy little rooms. These were probably the rooms they would stay in that night, Vivek thought.

There was activity, and the sound of vessels from one of the rooms nearby. A heavenly aroma of freshly cooked food wafted towards them, and they realized how hungry they were.

A couple of string cots and mats were spread out in the middle of the courtyard, and some lanterns lent a pale glow to the atmosphere. Their friends were sitting there, talking animatedly. Aditi felt a sudden pang. Hadn't they thought of going in search of their lost companions?

On the raised platform, leaning against a pillar, sat a very old man. He was dressed in a white dhoti, and a beige shawl covered his upper torso. His yellowing hair was tied up in a small knot at the back of his head. A moustache nearly covered his mouth, and his beard reached his chest. He was deeply engrossed in a book.

Vivek and Aditi walked up to their group, relief written all over their faces. Someone in the group looked up and exclaimed loudly. The next moment, a few had clambered to their feet, and a couple of them trotted up to the them, welcoming them warmly.

There was a flurry of voices.

"Where were you? We turned and you were gone!"

"How did you find your way back?"

Raghav spoke. "I went back along the track as soon as I realized that you were missing. You seemed to have disappeared without a trace."

Vivek said, "We were trying to find our way. We must have been somewhere in the trees when you came looking for us."

"Oh", said Raghav. "Anyway, I dropped the others here, and then went back immediately with Vasant. I couldn't find my way. It was getting dark, and so I came back for stronger torches or lanterns. Shastrigalu --" He pointed to the old man sitting against the pillar. "The priest, Shastrigalu, said that there was no need for us to go looking for you – that you would come back on your own."

"I didn't really believe him.” Raghav continued softly. “At this very moment, I was making plans of going back into the forest in search of you."

He resumed in his normal voice. "We were worried. Great to see you back safe. Not a very pleasant place, this. Unnerving, don't you think? Anyway, how did you find your way back?"

Aditi answered. "We met a man who led us here."

"Who-"

"A man, quite creepy, I should say. He had a mole on his nose, he said he lived in the forest."

"I knew he wouldn't fail you.” Shastrigalu spoke suddenly.

The voice was very strong for such an old man. Everybody turned and looked at the priest.

He spoke again. "I knew he would find you and bring you here, safe. That is why I asked this young man not to take the trouble of going back to look for you."

"Oh, do you know that man?" Vivek asked.

"Everybody knows him", said the priest, paused, and then added mysteriously, "And yet, nobody really knows him."

"What do you mean? Have you met him?" Vivek pressed.

"Oh yes, I meet him all the time. The first time I met him was many years ago, when I was a boy of eight or so. My father was the priest of this temple then. I had gone to the jungle looking for Kaulikayi, and had got lost. This man showed me the way back."

Vivek laughed. "Oh, then it cannot be the same person, Shastrigale! This was a middle-aged man, much younger than you are!"

Shastrigalu smiled. His mouth appeared from behind the yellow beard. There were spaces where his teeth used to be.

His voice dropped to a chilling whisper. He enunciated each word slowly and deliberately. "It is the same man", he said. "He was middle-aged then, he is middle-aged now. He will be middle-aged long after you and I are gone."

The night suddenly seemed to grow cold. His words hung uncomfortably in the air, thick with silence. A breeze rustled the leaves in the trees. Cicadas chirped from somewhere, and the hissing kerosene stoves from the kitchen were not heard any longer.

Aditi's heart throbbed.

"Is he... is he a ghost?"

Shastrigalu smiled. "Call him what you want. A ghost, a guiding spirit – how does it matter?"

There was a hush. Vivek and Aditi looked at each other. Nobody spoke.

"You don't believe me, do you?" Shastrigalu asked. He smiled and shut the book.

Vivek had trouble finding his voice. “Are you.... quite sure that he is the same man that you met when you were a boy? Perhaps you had met this man's father?"

"You youngsters ask too many questions."

Shastrigalu got up with some effort. He picked up the walking stick which was leaning against the pillar.

"There need not be an explanation for everything, you know."

He shuffled through the corridor. "Now, go and have dinner." He paused and looked sidelong at them. "You have a long night ahead of you. A very..... long...... night."

Everybody looked on uncertainly as Shastrigalu continued on his way.

At the far end of the dark corridor, there was a movement. A figure seemed to appear out of the darkness. It approached Shastrigalu noiselessly. As it came nearer, they discerned it to be the figure of a man. As the man drew closer, they caught a glimpse of his face by the light of the lanterns.

The man had a large mole on his nose.

Aditi gasped and clutched Vivek's arm. There was a sharp intake of breath from someone in the gathering.

The activity from the kitchen had ceased.

The man came closer. Everybody seemed to be rooted to the ground.

Shastrigalu, who had been walking away unsteadily, stopped and turned around. "Hmmm. I didn't mention that he lives here, did I? I hope this will not change your plans for the night. Not that you have anywhere else to go."

There was a deafening silence, for what seemed like an eternity.

A sudden and dramatic laughter rang out, breaking the silence. It was the man with the mole.

“Appa, just look at their faces!” He said.

There was confusion. Everybody turned to look at Shastrigalu. He was shaking with noiseless laughter.

“Appa, now they probably think you are a ghost too! A father-son ghost duo!” The man with the mole laughed even louder.

The priest's laughter turned into a spasm of coughing. When it subsided, he spoke in a hoarse voice. "This is Bhaskara. My son. Knows the forest like the back of his hand. I sent him to bring the two of you back."

He continued. "You youngsters claim to have modern views, analytical thinking. You claim not to believe in the supernatural." He paused. "Got frightened anyway, didn't you?"

Shastrigalu shook his head slowly, turned again, leaned on his cane and started hobbling away. He looked over his shoulder. The group was still standing there, looking after him, open-mouthed.

His toothless mouth appeared again from behind his beard.

"What are you looking at me like that for? Aren't old people allowed to have a sense of humour?"

Bhaskara was now laughing so much that he had to hold on to a pillar to support himself.

"It never fails to work!" He said, wiping the tears from his eyes. "Just trying to add a little spice to a lonely life, you see. You must excuse our little joke. Now come, the dinner is getting cold!"
- -