Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Confessions of a murderer

Maybe I wasn't destined to be a murderer, but I became one. We are told that sin sits like a boulder on your heart. We are made to believe that blood clots stain your hands, and your eyeballs turn into the dark, insomniac districts of big cities. We are told that grief and compunction lurk like a phobia in the silent hours of your existence. We are told that killing another is hard, that it’s a brutal act. They have announced that promiscuity is a burden, a disease, difficult to live with, to live for. It is nothing but a thick pile of lies. Each one of us has a murderer within us, and if we train ourselves well, killing is a pastime like none other. I am talking about killing humans. Killing as a hobby, as an art, as a science! I will now tell you why I am both an artist and a scientist.

This is my true story. I write this to denounce the myths associated with murder. I am not here to praise myself or my acts. My anonymous existence points to the fact that I don't care for your applause or comments. I want you to listen to me. Suspend your prejudices and listen to me. I may come after you and kill you too, but there is no hurry.

Killing for pleasure is my hobby. Like a prostitute who enjoys the variety and the range in her customer base, who works not just for material pleasure, whose loins are like ravenous hearths thirsting for more wood, I am always fantasizing about spurting blood, slashed veins and strips of flesh peeled out like onion skins. But murder is the end of ecstasy; the real pleasure is in the foreplay.

First kill is like losing virginity. It introduces you to a new realm of pleasures. I was only fifteen when I discovered the essence of this simile. Rashq, my mortal twin, consider himself as the stronger and the smarter one. Our mother, the bitch, never figured who our biological father was. Rashq had arrived a few seconds before I did. I arrived in anger, and unlike usual babies, I arrived with just a single tear on my cheek. One tear for losing the race to Rashq, one tear to be christened as Ashq!

I tolerated him for fifteen years. I let his six feet, stout frame tower a few inches above mine slim, bone and flesh, dilapidated body. I let his scores at primary school overrun mine; I let myself bear sores after every battle we fought. I resented him with a bitterness that I openly flaunted. I tolerated him till the day I saw him extract a smile and blush from Rashmi. She sealed his fate.

I think I was a little inexperienced then. I did not know human anatomy enough. I choked him with a pillow, and he struggled like a horse trying to swim across a swamp. He fought hard, but in the end, his despair, his astonishment swamped him. I was much weaker physically, but my intent was as taut as my grip. We lived next to Yamuna, in a slum basti. It took me only a few minutes to wrap him in a bed sheet and leave him for the fish to feast on. My sweaty self was strained to the limit, and yet I felt an exhilaration one feels after scaling a mountain. What followed in Rashmi's room was like jumping off a cliff for paragliding!

I did not know enough human anatomy then. I did not know how erotic pain is for woman, how injury urges them on, how darkness turns them into a force that contain pleasures that bleed as they proceed, that soar as they swing, that flatter as they fetter you. I approached Rashmi, who was only thirteen then. She bit me, punched me, hit me, and writhed in my grip like a snake, trying to escape from a mongoose's grip. I hurled her down on the floor, and held her breasts so tightly with my fingers digging deep into them, that I feared my fingers would start to crackle. Before my fingers could crackle, her fierceness began to exude a fire that I had never thought possible. We both burned like turpentine oil, screeching and spurting as we exhausted every drop of our intention. When we stopped an hour later with teeth marks and bites all over each other, I rose with a freshness one feels after an extended bath. Ashq, the man, was born.

Unfortunately, Rashmi had to die next. The only murder that brings a sigh to my lips was hers. The murder itself was a fascinating affair; I have no complaints about the act itself. In fact, it was my first masterpiece. The sigh is for the body that was first to anoint me as potent. The sigh is for the teeth that first roused the animals in my languid flesh. I killed her one evening, of course, after pounding her with my exploding ego. I killed her, just at the moment, when she closed her eyes, moaning as she climaxed. Blood sprinkled out of her veins, as it does when suddenly someone steps on a garden hose and it just bursts out. The red liquid rose like a fountain, and drops fell like rose petals on her face. As I walked out, unnoticed at the early dawn, I left a raging fire to gorge her, to finish her with the last rites a Hindu deserves. Then I took a plunge in the Yamuna to clean off the stains of my first romance.

Rashq and Rashmi must have united in hell, for all I care. I was sending them more company. I worked at a garage owned by a Bengali family who had risen in fortune, through a series of shrewd real estate investments. They still kept the garage, as they believed it was their Kaamdhenu, the holy cow who ushered in all blessings and prosperity for them. I was sixteen, and the Maalkin, the Memsahib, the Mistress of the house was nearly forty. Some itch induced her to take a liking for me, and she started to insist that I learn a few things from her. She made me take Class X board exams, and ensured I spent enough time on my lessons to get through a five year gap in my education.

It was on the day my results arrived that I got my first chance to teach her a few things. I don't know what beast I roused in her, but she began to obsess about me. I patiently played in her hands for three months, then one day plunged her into her own bath tub; she shat into it as she screamed under water and left the world floating in her own mess. A servant, the only person who suspected me, for he knew of the hours I had spent in a closed room with the Mistress, found out a few days later, that his death was to receive him tongueless, armless and headless.

The Bengali babu fled to the banks of Hooglie in distress. I went with him. New language moaned at my advances, new bodies arrived at my table, to disappear like dreamt ideas do when the poet finally picks his tool. I learnt every means of dissection, I procured the cadavers I needed for this study by hunting them, I honed my knowledge of anatomy by practicing my touch, my bite, my thump on every specimen who interested me. Like a good experimentalist, I learnt from my every mistake and moved on.

This isn't Dostoevsky folks, so there is only Crime and no Punishment. Pardon me, for using the language of fools in calling murder a crime. It is a hobby. A hobby must be retained as a hobby, and then your pleasure is guilt-free. I became a homicide artist. Bodies would appear in drains, in Hooglie, in bathtubs, on rooftops, in heaps of rubbish. Bodies captured in their own state of ugliness, released from the slavery of breath! There is an erotic element to how the last breath oozes out of a writhing, alive being, from the same being, who minutes back, was writhing in sensual drunkenness as your master strokes filled her with color. But as I said before, murder is the end of the ecstasy; the real pleasure is in the foreplay.

You need to decide on how long the foreplay needs to be. Your start must be measured, slow. Did you ever watch how a tiger hunts? Prancing like a true hunter, noiseless and focused, you must pounce on your prey, and no matter what horns and what muscles embattle you, you need to hold on the neck of the prey in your ever hungry incisors, till you are victorious. No half measures. No sentimentality. Plane, simple act! Execution. Perfection is another name for carrying out a task to completion. Folks, I have sought and wrought perfection!

Here I stand before you, without face, anonymously. My lips are being licked by new desires, my hands are as eager for fondling you as they are for dismantling your intestines. I am as natural with the knife as I am with assuming the character of a weakling, a man of no importance, trying to fight big and small torments of life to survive the system. I am a Van Gogh, unknown to the mankind, a Picasso you haven't yet learnt to appreciate. I am a Casanova, who incarnates as Jack, The Ripper, and walks the nights as Dracula, without the flourish of the Count. No Gods bother me, I bother with none. We ignore each other. I don't subscribe to any cannibalistic tribe. I am a pure vegetarian (can you beat that?). I am no devil worshipper. I am just a simple man, with simple needs and a great panache for killing. I kill so elegantly that you will never suspect me as the killer.

Try it. The ecstasy of destruction, the ecstasy of death! Death is more profound than life. All men and women are born with a specter of death within them. We all can be Gladiators, the executioners, the Hangmen, the Knights who kill in name of God or country or dreamt up romances. Isn't it the ritual of survival that leads a man and a beast to invent all daily habits of existence? All this existential angst, and a lone warrior, a craftsman, Me, to release and relinquish it! A messiah is the one who leads you to nirvana. Am I not your new, anonymous messiah? I won't disclose who I am, for I have no urge to climb a cross, and be worshipped when I am gone. I do not speak to anyone, I mean no angels or demons exist for me. I will not be an identified prophet; I won't work my miracles in public. I will just do my public service; lead you to your demise, your freedom. In any case, I don't care about fame much. I don't believe in sinners and saints or Messiahs either. I do as I please. I reign supreme in my craft.

Is it going to be you next?

Books: Novels and Poetry I read in 2006

Read in 2006 (89=45+44):

TRANSLATIONS (13) Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, Identity by Milan Kundera, Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, Chronicles of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Alamut by Vladimir Bartol, Parineeta by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Nymphs of the Valley by Khalil Gibran,!!!!!, Mottled Dawn by Saadat Hasan Manto, Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev.

NOVELS (26): Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, We The Living by Ayn Rand, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemmingway, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald,!!!!!, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Two Lives by Vikram Seth, The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene,!!!!!, The Kiterunner by Khaled Hosseini, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul, Shalimar, the Clown by Salman Rushdie, A Passage to India by E. M. Forster, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

POETRY (39): Call me Ishmael Tonight (A book of ghazals) by Agha Shahid Ali, The Art of Drowning, The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems, Poetry 180: A turning back to poetry, Sailing along around the room and Nine Horses by Billy Collins, Twenty Love Poems and A Song of Despair, The Separate Rose and 100 Love Sonnets by Pablo Neruda, Hamlet by William Shakespeare,!!!!!, Intimate Kisses ed. by Wendy Maltz, A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Love letters in Sand by Khalil Gibran, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot, Rumi The book of love: Poems of Ecstasy and Longing trans. by Coleman Barks, Random House Treasury of Favorite Love Poems, First Ed., Favorite Poems by William Wordsworth, 100 Selected Poems by E. E. Cummings, Sharp Golden Thorn by Chard DeNiord, The Unsubscriber by Bill Knott,!!!!!, A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver, Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski, Ariel by Sylvia Plath, The Selected Poems of Federico Garcia Lorca by Lorca, Songs of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake, Delights and Shadows and Flight at Night: 1965-1985 by Ted Kooser, The Insistence of Beauty by Stephen Dunn, Chicago Poems by Carl Sandburg, The Singing by C. K. Williams,!!!!!, A Haiku Menagerie by Stephen Addiss, Homeland Security by Miles Coon, Geetanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, Rhyme's Reason and Committed to Memory by John Hollander, The Western Wind by John Fredrick Nims, Music like dirt and Desires by Frank Bidart, Howl and other poems by Alan Ginsberg.

Hindi/ Urdu(7): Urvashi, Rashmirathi and Parshuram ki Prateeksha by Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Madhushaala by Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Masterpieces of Urdu Rubaiyat by KC Kanda, Maila Aanchal by Phanishwernath Renu, Nav Bharti (Modern Hindi Poems).

POPULAR SCIENCE (4): On the Six-Cornered Snowflakes by Kepler, Liquid Crystals: Nature's Delicate Phases of Matter by Peter J. Collings, Polymers: The Origins and Growth of a Science by H. Morawitz, Cohesion: A Scientific History of Intermolecular Forces by J. S. Rowlinson

* Underlined are unfinished yet

Complete list @

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This is not a story of how things are, but of how things were. I feel I am forgetting the time I had spent with you. Even the colors of curtains that I raised to see the spectacle of your memories have faded and when I get to that room, I find that no purpose can drive me to those windows. It is, as if, a room in me, for I am a house in some ways, has decided to become abandoned. The neglect does not nag me anymore. I think I know now why grandmothers cease to bother about the propriety after a certain age. The music that once forced my feet onto a dance floor is a background score, that by overplaying, has lost its splendor. Yet this is not a story of how things are, but of how things were.

The first snow had brought out a bunch of Indians to the street. The hilarity greeting the crumbling powder, as cameras clicked what was going to be a momentous album for this bunch. After spending twenty-four summer years in Mumbai, for even Mumbai winters qualify as summers by Western standards, you had arrived at the ceremony of snow, dressed in a JC Penny jacket that you had preferred over the cheaper Burlington Coat Factory one. Of course, I was to find this out later in the day, when I was driving you to the Emergency Ward of our University Hospital. The blackness of ice, the sheer, transparent hypocrisy of it, had floored you. Your roommate had reasoned that an ancestor like me was going to be the perfect choice to look after you. I arrived at the scene, and your introduction appealed like a snowflake on my hand, a melting voice send a thrilling note through to my spine. "Himadri*," you cautioned.

A ligament was torn. A swollen foot, a torn ligament, sub-zero temperature, plaster, the hunger that arrived like a mood swing, a hurried drive-thru lunch, warm ginger tea at my house, followed by an evening with Amol Palekar movies and your floating into a deep sleep on the couch had arrived like a symphony score. Each movement had arrived at a pre-destined moment, as if each tinkle of your laughter was in response to an invisible conductor, and it was only the fear of waking you up that prevented me from giving you a standing ovation for the evening. I woke up next morning to find you in the same position, sound asleep. You gave me only few minutes to live my assumption and breathe in your beauty, when your lips curled up into a smile and forced your eyes to open. Wide open. Your express wish was to finish watching the comedy that had consoled you into repose.

Here I was a stranger offering room service, frying an omelette while I heard you crack up at Utpal Dutt's dialogues. Here I was smiling to myself as I stirred sugar in your Microwaved coffee cup. Here you were thanking me beautifully as you matched my courtship (I christened it that just now) with an appetite that commanded at least my awe. I figured that your roommate had too much trust in me, or maybe she had herself suffered a disaster which prevented her from even caring to inquire after you. When I left for teaching a class at noon, you expressed the desire to be woken up whenever I returned. When I called your roommate on my way to school, I found out that she had gone away for a week, leaving you to my care, or whoever you wished to be cared for by. I never thought of myself as a Nurse, and watching Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents told me I never should, but I found myself indeed perfectly incapable of not looking after you. Your incessant talks introduced me to everyone you had ever known, a plethora of interesting episodes, recipes of Pao Bhaji and Varra, music of Jal, Fuzon and Audioslave, and eclipsed every thought I required to progress on my research.

I ignored the nudges of my friends. Only a select few hadn't evaporated by the hiring spree in this summer; most had left years ago. For last two years, I had avoided new students, knowing that a Bohemian like me, already thirty then, with endless PhD years rolling before me like the plains of Ganga, could be of no interest to their gaiety or them. A freak accident that happened years ago had gulped my fiancee and I had risen from dead six months later, with several iron and steel beams in my bones, only to enter a year or so of depression. I had spent three months at my parents house in Punjab, where a stream of visitors marred the hours that I so willed to pass in silence and sorrow. Then I retired to three months of stay in a Tibentian monastery in Kinnaur, a district in the hinterlands of Himalayas, in Himachal Pradesh. When these failed to cure me, my zealous uncle had taken me to work with him in the slums of Delhi, where it took a few months for me to recuperate. It took me those months to repent for living like an afterthought while my love had become a faded diary entry. I then returned to the United States to resume my research work, though all I had wanted to do, was published and buried by now. I had started afresh. Himadri was spreading her own mist over the lake of my past.

This is not a story of how things are, but of how things were. You were spreading your mist over the lake of my past. I started to feel like a bulb, buried in a flowerbed somewhere, who carries in itself the blossoms of spring. In your aroma, my old smells were getting ransacked; on your flesh, my old mole counts appeared like constellations that had ceased to exist. My emotions announced themselves without the fervor of yore, my emotions arrived not like the monsoon showers but like the cool sea breeze that enters an overcrowded room, when a window is thrown open, unsuspected, unannounced by an unknown hand. Perhaps you were too overwhelmed by my affection, my kindness, for in your incessant talk, you missed out every mention of him.You spoke to him everyday, but in my absence. You had him as a consoler and a confident in my absence. You never ceased to love him in my absence. The day your roommate returned, she returned with the talk of him, who she had met during the week of her conference in a sunny California city. The mist off the lake cleared out. I recognized the lost houseboats again.

*Himadri: Snow Capped hills (refers to the highest mountain range of Himalayas)