A wedding and a sweet revenge

It’s an Indian wedding and more importantly a South Indian wedding. The groom and the bride stand on a stage, behind them two gaudy thrones, on which no one’s been seated for the whole evening. Gaudy thrones, gaudy couple and we the minion guests who mill around in an endless queue to wish the couple good luck and get on with the evening. Where did this peculiar practice start? Stand in a queue to shake hands with the groom and bride one hardly knows, exchange forced smiles from pursed lips and mumble something inaudible, face the camera, flash! and the photographer gestures you to move on, if you linger awhile to probably tell the groom that his cheap off-the-shelf suit looks like a gunny sack, the photographer gets impatient and tells you to get the hell off the stage. I didn’t get shooed off, I kept it short, went straight to the groom, shook hands, pushed the envelope containing a hundred bucks, contribution for the meal am going to eat, smile at the camera and walk away to the dining hall. Yet another queue at the buffet.It’s gonna be a long sultry evening.

The dinner buffet is a mess, the children at each other’s throat for the ice cream and the adults making a killing of the fruit salad. We live in flourishing times, no famine in the recent past, the trees full of fruit, boatload of fish, fields of sheep and goats to be devoured. The plates always full and no guilty pangs when half of the food finds its way to the dump. So, it’s difficult to assess the rush, hard to imagine the beeline and shoving for a measly looking papaya and overcooked paneer.

I don’t want to be here, but I need to. Friendly obligations from a long past, it is required that all don’t find out what a rogue of a son the gentleman had. True, am not my father’s reflection of being the most humble, respected person the town had seen, I try to be, but it’s a hard job to fill into my father’s boots and it is harder not to be quirky and slapstick to certain individuals. There was a gentleman once, a close friend and an aid of my father’s. He didn’t see it unusual to pick on a kid 30 years his junior and call me funny names just because I was real tall and lanky. There were comparisons to a tall Indian actor, lampposts, ladders, all the gentleman could conjure up were comparisons, so much for being 30 years older. No imagination. It wasn’t that I was sharp-witted, but I grew up among classmates who called each other flies, flies buzzing over a rotting corpse or a big fat house fly on a pile of dung. They went further and back-slapped each other when they referenced the stain on a toilet bowl to someone’s face. Full marks for the imagination there. So, being called a lamppost felt silly, I was too thick-skinned by now. That didn’t mean I didn’t sledge this guy, but calling him a pile-of-dung-with-a-fly just didn’t cut it. He never understood. I saw my game of calling him interesting nicknames fall flat on its face. So I had to stoop down to his level and give him a beating without my father extending the same courtesy to me.

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Diving Old Man

He sat there on the edge of the boat, his feet dangling in the water. His hands gripped the edge to balance the tank holstered to his back, this would be a dive to remember. The island rose gradually from the ocean, sea-bed to corals, rocks to sand, gradual till the beach and then rose fast to loom like a giant shadow of a fist. In the afternoon light the island and its hillock was a gentle fold of green in the ocean of blue but as the sun set, the island seemed to swallow the last of the fading light to turn from a shade of green to pitch black, just as quick as the eel that went back into it’s hiding hole when the torch shone on it.
The boat bobbed gently on the ocean surface, each passing wave lapping its sides and moving on. From afar it looked like the old man was on a see-saw in a park with the island on the other end, bobbing gently up and down. He liked the quite of the evening, he would have loved to have the boat to himself but for the boatman who sat snuggled at the other end of the boat. He would have loved to have an oar and paddle himself across the ocean, see the oar make ripples in the water as he rowed, they wouldn’t give him one, also he was too weak to row himself to the middle of nowhere. In another life, in another adventure he would have had an oar to himself, a telescope and a compass that showed true north; for today he had to do with the diesel fumes of the engine and the rickety boat, all things apart he liked the lapping of the warm water on his feet, warm water turning cold with the setting sun.
It was time. The sky ablaze in sunset colours, the orange disc making a splash of colours as it went down. He just had enough time until the ocean turned ink blue and black soon. He heaved, swinging his legs and feet back onboard, the tank hung precariously over the edge. He dug into his pockets and pulled out a zippo and from the other pulled out a joint. The boatman shook his head in disapproval, the old man lit the tip, inhaled hard and held his breath, his lips turned up in a smile and he exhaled. The white cloud hung to the low boat roof. He took another deep breath from the joint, it crackled and glowed orange in the dark, small embers flew about like fireflies in the white smoke. One more hard puff and the fireflies slowly fly down from the skies, flow over his feet and spread across the floor. Stars on the floor and stars in the greying sky. He stomped down hard on the wooden floor and the stars rose in a dust, some fell back, some flew out to the sea, some flew again, circling the old man’s head in a little shiny halo.
Then he sat there, the tank tugging him towards the ocean, he sat there bent over, waiting for the strength to leave him, when his feet would rise and he’d take a tumble into the ocean tank first. He tries to let go, trying to calm down and trying to hide the tears that swell up. It would pass he knew, the first jab of pain that always surged through him, then the colours would line up and light up. He slipped on his flippers and they were yellow, he sat and kept looking at the flippers on both his feet, they were a distinct yellow, two yellows, then slowly the pattern emerged, the webbing were blue, blue webbing and yellow flippers, he stared with an amused smile, he stared at his feet donning the flippers, and slowly the flippers appeared to merge, merge into a giant tail, the blue webbing turn into blue shiny scales, scales that climbed up his ankles and shins, climbing and thickening around his waist, him feeling like a giant fish. Then he flipped the ocean, tank first, head and then the shiny tail.

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