Pardon Me, Your Slip Is Showing

She finished dinner in her room and buzzed for the plates to be cleared – after the meal, she did not want any smell of food lingering in the room.

A knock at the door – she opened to find a stranger in place of the room-service she had expected.

The stranger seemed no less surprised at seeing her.

Recovering quickly, ‘I’m sorry, I thought it was my room…’

Not waiting for a response, he swiftly turned away making to the bank of elevators at the far end.

She closed the door softly and returned pensively to the lounging sofa…shortly after she got up and called the front-desk.

If it wasn’t to follow up with room-service, what was it about?

End

 

13-year-old Aditi Krishnan had me scratching my head until she gave it out. My excuse: I had not had my mid-day coffee yet. If you had yours and still…look it up in the comments.

It’s Kodakandan And Vidakandan Again! A Story For Children

It’s unfortunate the lore of Kodakandan (the guy loathes parting with) and Vidakandan (the guy who never lets up) has not gained currency as much as Tenali Raman of Akbar Birbal stories. Nonetheless the stories are fun to read wherein the duo try outwitting each other and sometimes as in this piece…

Here we go:

Part 1

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‘Listen,’ Kodakandan looked around nervously if someone is overhearing them. ‘I learnt thru my sources the siddhar (1) has arrived. He would be in the cave only for a day or two before he disappears into the forest again. Not many know about it yet and even fewer know about his powers. I’m going to the hills to meet him carrying with me jack fruits and honey – for that’s what he loves to have. And when he’s sated and happy, I would get him to cast his grace on these stones.’ He opened his palm to reveal a few ‘stones’ that were like black pepper seeds, no larger. ‘If it’s like last year – no reason for it to be otherwise – they would turn into lustrous pebble-sized gem stones! And, man, we would be rich beyond wildest dreams.’

Vidakandan: ‘I’m glad this year you’re taking more stones with you unlike in the past when you brought back just one that still let us live in style for one whole year. With so many this time, I’m already seeing visions of us wallowing in unimaginable luxury and fun for all times to come.’

Kodakandan: ‘Yes, my friend. Don’t breathe a word about this to anyone, even to your own shadow. A stampede outside the cave is not very conducive to receiving favor from the siddhar. Take care of yourself while I’m gone for no more than a couple of days. Perhaps you could take shelter in the Shiva temple near the river.’

The conversation reached the ears of the rich man inside the house behind them as intended and drew him out of his house.

‘Hey strangers, you must pardon me for overhearing you, not that I really wanted to. Come inside, come inside…I may have a proposition mutually profitable to us.’

With appropriate expression of shock and surprise at a third person becoming privy to their well-guarded secret and with due reluctance, they allowed themselves to be invited into the house.

‘Permit me, please, to be your host, first. Fortunately, it’s time for breakfast. Join me – always, belly before business, I say, eh?’ He believed a full belly made one feel expansive and generous – it always worked for him in negotiations.

Holding Kodakandan by hand he led them to the dining place. Keeping with his social standing, the fare was sumptuous and finger-lickingly delicious, bringing out the hungriest hogs in them.

And then, the business.

‘Why do you trouble yourself climbing the hills alone? You don’t appear heavy. My men could easily carry you all the way to the cave without breaking sweat. And with you, a sack-full of jack fruits and honey that would be hard for the siddhar to grow tired of.’

Kodakandan: ‘Won’t work. I must do it alone. There’re certain niyamam’s and nishtai’s (prescribed do’s and don’ts) to be observed diligently while approaching a siddhar, even more than going to a temple. It’s not some tourist spot to visit. Also, any crowd and commotion at his cave-step – well, he might just pack up and go back to the forest.’

‘Okay, okay, so be it. I was merely trying to help. While you’re away, your colleague can be my guest in this house. You may not know this…the Shiva temple is locked up in nights to allow the spirits and snakes to pray in peace.’

Vidakandan went pale for a moment and felt relieved at the next. A narrow escape if ever: ‘Oh…we are grateful for your kindness; and what do we owe you…’

‘Well, nothing much…I’ve this pricey pebble-sized gem stone. If it could be made egg-sized or, even better, rock-sized…could be a small rock, you see. One can’t get too greedy. You’ll be rewarded well for your effort. A purse of gold coins, eh?’

Kodakandan thought about it, eyes crinkled, forehead furrowed.

‘We’ll do better than that to repay your kindness. I’ll carry two stones for you, if you have them.‘

‘You’re a large-hearted person, just as I thought. Two? I could spare two dozen, if you ask.’

Ask Kodakandan did, though it was something else: ‘And make it two purses, one for each of us. Now if you can get those stones, I’ll be on my way – must reach up there before noon.’

A little disappointed at the cost escalation, he went in and returned presently with a small leather pouch and the stones in hand. What the duo saw before them was absolutely eye-popping – two of the finest specimens they had ever set their eyes on, goose-berry sized, flawless and brilliant blue in color.

‘I still have a question before we proceed…are you guys close?’

‘Close? We’re like brothers…only born to different parents. Thicker than thieves. Once for me it was a zamindar’s daughter in marriage or him. What do you think I did?’

‘Okay, that’s settled. Now, be careful with these gems…they cost a king’s money. I’m trusting you with them. And quit worrying about your friend here. Until you return, he’ll be my guest, I insist.’

Hostage would be more apt, Vidakandan thought. And there was always this element of risk: Would his mate now with gems in his possession return to get his friend released? Of course, he would – they were in it together – unless he veered off their plans.

Kodakandan: ‘Lay all your doubts to rest, Sir. Instead, get busy filling up the purses to bursting. Will be back by tomorrow noon. For the last day in your life you’re a millionaire…from tomorrow you’ll be a multi-millionaire!’

To Vidakandan, ‘Don’t worry, my friend, I won’t be a minute later than necessary. Meanwhile enjoy the hospitality of out generous host.’

So, he took off not forgetting to procure from his host a couple of jack fruits and a pot of honey, its mouth closed by a piece of cloth.

Part 2

Following day, beyond noon, the rich man was getting increasingly restless with each passing hour. What if the siddhar did not like the jack fruits or he no longer dispensed favors or worse, he was ‘over the hill’ with his tricks. Could it be that Kodakandan lost his way in the hills? The fool had insisted on it doing it alone. Or, was it all a scam? With all these thoughts swirling in his head, the rich man was losing his congeniality like water hissing away on a hot tava.  As the shadows grew longer, he turned downright hostile. He had Vidakandan bound to a pillar with ropes. A search team was assembled to be sent up the hills to hound Kodakandan out of his hiding if he ever was and another to scour the neighboring villages if he had taken to his heels.

Just when the ‘dogs’ were ready to be unleashed, Kodakandan was sighted rounding the corner on his way to the rich man’s house.

Quickly Vidakandan was freed with profuse apologies and made comfortable. The rich man went half-way out with open arms to welcome Kodakandan. Once inside and seated, an attendant rushed to his side to fan him, another fetched him a glass of refreshing nimbu pani

Business is never crass, business never waits.

‘So, man, honestly, we were all quite worried if you’ll return at all. I’m sure you’ll not blame a man for having anxious moments after he had parted with his riches without any commensurate collateral.’

If Vidakandan was cut to the quick with this assessment of his worth as abysmal, neither the rich man nor Kodakandan seemed to take note.

‘My good friend, I’m all ready to receive…you may unload the goodies now and restore my cheer.’

A somber faced Kodakandan made no move.

The rich man’s ardor cooled down by a few notches on noticing a distinct lack of spirit on the part of Kodakandan.

‘What happened? Where are my gems? The siddhar didn’t work on them?’

‘Well, he did. There’s good news and bad news for you.’

‘Don’t talk in riddles. I’m in no mood to…’

‘The bad news first: Your gems were in fact germs afflicting you…they’re gone…they just turned into ashes in siddhar’s hands.’

‘What did you say?’

‘Yes, I saw it happen right before my eyes.’

‘I can’t believe this…’

‘Now to the good news: Siddhar said these stones of yours would have brought you untold misery in the days ahead. It was good riddance – those were his words to be precise. Your run of bad days is behind you and things will look up now, he assured.’

The rich man struggled in his mind if he should be happy or sad at this. What was he blabbering about bad days? He enjoyed sanguine health, his business flourishing…wait a minute…but then the harvest failed for the first time only after he appropriated the stones – the tenant had died on him before repaying the loan in full; a couple of months ago his prized cows perished from some unknown ailment. To cap it all, the king turned cold after a jealous neighbor had filled his ears about him – falling out of the king’s favor would have far more deleterious consequences for him…mmm…He had so far not connected these dots. Only now it all seemed to make sense…

On the other hand, these two guys might just be conning him out of his priceless gems.

How was he to figure out what it was?  Maybe he should lock them up and give them a sound thrashing to see if they change their siddhar story and come clean.

While he was weighing his options, there was commotion outside his house. To his great trepidation, it was a man from the royal court bringing him a message.  It was a personal invitation from the king for him to attend a pooja in the palace clearly pointing to his reinstatement in the king’s good books, a happy augury for the times ahead! How did this happen? Perhaps the king finally saw thru the web of lies about him? Not of an inquiring disposition, he let it be. Anyway, all is well as they say that ends well.

His thoughts went back to the siddhar – his prophecy was indeed playing out right!

And on the debit side, the stones were never his in the first place. The hapless tenant had almost paid back the loan in full before his untimely death. A loss, if any, was amply compensated many times over by his regaining of the king’s favor.

Overjoyed at the turn of events, the rich man expressed his gratitude in good measure by presenting them with their purses of gold coins and much more.

The duo took leave and headed away as fast as their legs could carry.

Part 3

On reaching a big city far removed the rich man’s place, they would sell the pebble-sized blue stone to a merchant not wanting to know about its provenance. Should fetch them a good deal though not the market price. If you are wondering, yes, it was one of the two stones that the rich man had parted with.

What had happened to the other stone? Well, to keep the story short: the king was immensely pleased to receive a rare and precious gem as a present from the rich man so discreetly sent thru his personal emissary, Kodakandan, and promised never to discuss or divulge the source to anyone, as requested by the rich man.

Now you know why Kodakandan asked the rich man for giving two stones in place of one, if he really went up the hills, where did he go instead and how the rich man made it back to the king’s good books!!!

Later one day when Kodakandan was changing his clothes for taking bath, Vidakandan noticed a thick gold chain with a pendant bearing royal insignia swinging from his neck.

Vidakandan: ‘Anna, namakulla ippadi saiyalama? (Brother, between us, how could you?). You didn’t tell me about and give me my share of the gifts you received from the king.’ He was referring to their code of conduct of sharing the booty equally in any joint endeavor,.

Isn’t something said about a tiger and its stripes?

End

 

Notes: (1) Siddhar is a venerable spiritual person who has gained power over natural forces thru yoga and other esoteric practices. There were many siddhar’s chronicled in the past. It is believed by many some of these siddhar’s are still alive today.

 

Image from ruchiskitchen.co

You’re Not Alone!

About This And That

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End

Source: Buzzfeed.com

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Cat Within by R.K Narayan

Cat Within is a delightfully light, funny tale about exorcism and its varied practitioners who feed on people’s fears and imagination of the paranormal. Often the affected are no innocent babes and it becomes a case of who gets the better of whom at that point of time.

The story runs for 26 minutes with never a dull moment. Sit back and enjoy. The finish is brilliant as only RK can pull off!

Here it is: ‘Cat Within’.

In case you need a plot summary:

The tale takes place in Vinayak Mudali street in Malgudi around a sethji and a guruji (exorcist). The former is both a landlord who denies basic amenities to his tenants under constant threat of eviction and a shopkeeper selling provisions marked up substantially. The guruji is an established exorcist with a regular flow of clients handing out esoteric prescriptions for curing illnesses. Fearing burglary, the landlord cum shopkeeper sleeps at night in front of his shop.  He even rigs up an ‘alarm’ system of empty tins and cans strewn about to alert him of any intruder. One night he hears noises from inside the shop and peers in through a porthole. Sees vessels tumbling and one of them actually flying about! He calls guruji for help besides waking up the entire neighborhood. The guruji instantly ‘recognizes’ it as the handiwork of an evil spirit given to occupying up-turned empty vessels. He uses the occasion to trick sethji into confessing his wrong deeds. At a point sethji sees through guruji’s tricks, gets angry and forces him into the shop bidding him to drive the sprit away and locks the door from outside.

Inside the shop, the guruji freezes in fear as he sees the vessel flying through the air knocking down things. Eventually to everyone’s relief it’s only a cat – it frees itself from the vessel and flees. Sethji mocks at guruji: ’The cat is out. Where’s your vessel-residing evil spirit now?’ In a brilliant finish, guruji has the last word!

End

Source: writersasylum.in/2014/02/uncategorized/cat-within-by-r-k-narayan/

The Man I Never Knew

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By Kecia Sparlin

Keith drove me to the station. He carried my bags, bought my ticket, and waited with me for the bus.

“Give Emily my love.”

I’d stay a while with our daughter while I looked for a place of my own nearby.

“I’ll tell her.”

The bus rolled, and I turned to find Keith through the window. Twenty-five years of marriage, I thought I should wave goodbye to the heartless bastard even if he felt nothing.

The brakes shrieked. Passengers screamed. My head hit the seat.

“A man,” a woman shouted. “He ran in front of the bus!”

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The Haunt (A Spooky Story For Children)

‘Send him in,’ manthreekan tells his assistant.

A man enters, wrapping himself up head to toe in a shawl, looking like a man on the streets of Delhi on a December night. He is led to stand before a cloth screen. Manthreekan doesn’t see anyone face-to-face during these sessions to conserve his shakti.

‘Tell me.’

Mantra

In a soft voice, ‘Sami, until a week ago, it was very peaceful where I live. In fact, I haven’t seen anyone else in the tenement house ever since I moved in. Suddenly one night I hear this woman from a room across the corridor…she whines and wails all night like someone in her family has died.’

‘Well, you can’t expect your landlord to keep the rooms vacant. He has found a tenant. So, go and tell the woman to shut up. If she doesn’t listen, tell the landlord.’

‘I did, Sami. On the second night, when she was in full cry. Could bear no more. I decided to confront her…’

‘And?’

‘Well, I went in…it was not locked from inside…strangely the light was switched on…the room was bare of any furniture and fixtures. Only a cloying fragrance of jasmine in the air. And no woman!’

‘Ah, this gets interesting…’

‘Sami, I immediately recognized it is a woman’s spirit that has made it its home.’

‘And then?’

‘I also knew what would drive her out. With great difficulty and by some means, I got laid out in her room cloves of garlic and neem leaves in a generous spread, though I’m severely allergic to them myself. A near-death task for me, but sure to fix her.’

‘You did right. I too would’ve done as much. So why have you come here? You seem to know…’

’But this woman proved to be a tough nut. There was no wailing for an hour and then it resumed like before. Next day morning I saw the garlic cloves and neem leaves crushed and left in a dump nearby.

‘I said to myself, ‘Lady, if that’s what you want, a war of attrition, I’m ready.’ So, I somehow managed to have the antidote arranged again and again for four successive nights. No dice – she is made of stronger stuff. Now I’m here to seek your help.’

‘Well, you’ve come to the right place. I’ve handled more stubborn spirits.’

‘I’ve heard about it, Sami. My methods are not working. That’s why…’

‘This is not for amateurs…It’ll cost you money.’

‘Look at me, Sami. Have mercy. Please…’

‘God, why must I draw such impecunious folks…Okay, I’ll take it up for free just this once. Don’t ever show your face again without moola. You think I can live on fresh air…my shakti doesn’t go that far yet.’

‘I’m indebted, Sami…’

‘Okay, okay…quiet now.’

Sounds and smell of herbs and grains being ground with a pestle emerge from behind the curtain followed by chants of some esoteric invocations.

A little later, the assistant is summoned. The visitor receives an amber colored bottle from him.

‘Sprinkle this all over in her room. Remember this, it must be done before sunset.’

‘Sami, it would work, no?’

Manthreekan is offended: ‘How dare you doubt my shakti! Not just the woman, her entire family if resident would be thrown out…not merely from the tenement house, but from whole of this town.’

‘Excellent, just what I wanted…just one more thing, would it hurt me too, Sami, if I touch or spill?’

‘Why should it, eh? It’s specially targeted at her. It won’t harm anyone else. Now go.’

The visitor is mighty pleased. He would now have a free run of the house as before.

As he steps out on the street, a gust of wind blows lifting the shawl up.

The assistant isn’t sure of what he is seeing.

Mantreekan is right asking him sternly to abstain forthwith before it is too late. These days he sees things that aren’t and sees not things that are. It would only make the matter worse if he tells them he saw a man walk on no legs!

End

PS: Manthreekan is one proficient in manthra’s to engage with gods and spirits.

Source: Inspired by a one-pager in Kumudam, image from energymuse.com.

Knock, Knock…Who Is It? (150 Words)

door-knocker-1221804 freeimages com

A man knocked on the door of the old woman’s house.
“Who is it?” a squeaky voice inquired from inside.
“It’s the butcher,” he said.
“Who is it?” repeated the voice.
“It’s the butcher,” said the man.
“Who is it?”
“It’s the butcher!!,” said the man angrily.
To draw on his first call a stone deaf customer with a cracked voice…phew.
“Who is it?”
“It’s the butcher!!!!”, he screamed.
“Who is it?”
“It’s the butcher, the butcher, the butch…”
Suddenly the butcher fell to the floor his hands cluthching at his chest.
A little later the old woman came home and found a man lying on her doorstep foaming at the mouth.
‘Who could it be?’ she mumbled to herself as she rushed inside to call for help.
There’ll be no more taunts. Proud at learning a second sentence in her life, “It’s the butcher!” replied her pet parrot.
End

Source: eflclassroom.com and freeimages.com