Love among the Book Shelves

You can never be lonely at a bookstore, if you are a bibliophile. One may extend this fact and conclude that it’s true not just for books but also for other interests: a glutton will never mind dining at a lonely table at a restaurant, a movie buff will not find it unusual to go alone to the movies and watch the screening of a much-awaited movie.

I seldom eat alone. It is, as Paul Theroux puts, ‘one of the most depressing activities’. But there are times when I have to eat my lunch alone. And unlike most people at work, who are paid by the number of hours they work, I enjoy my ‘holy’ lunch hour; I must get out of work, got for a stroll. I love to walk on the streets by the side of restaurants and then make a choice as to where I will eat my lunch. I enjoy that freedom of having to make a choice – amongst Mediterranean, Indian, English, Continental; Vegan or Vegetarian; Healthy and lean or Rich and fried, and so on. I take my time, and, after much deliberation that a Libran is known for, I decide on what my lunch will be. It must never be a take-away. I either eat-in or never eat at all. I don’t like to walk my lunch. Eating is such a private affair, you don’t want to walk around and display to the world that you’re busy , you’re worried , you’re walking fast and eating your lunch, or that you have ham and lettuce and cheese, and tomato sandwiched between two thick slices of freshly baked multi-grain bread. The sight of a man, dressed for work, walking and drawing out a sandwich strangulated inside a transparent cling wrap from inside his trouser pockets appalls me.

The lowest common denominator of all needs of us humans – rich or poor, black or white, tall or short, Caucasian or African – is Food. If you exclude all the higher needs of a human, what remains at the dregs is: Food, besides of course clothing and shelter. Then, why not pay the food its dues by sitting in one place and eating it than make a public display of what you’re eating.

Anyway, if you think there is a disconnect between what I intended to start off in the first paragraph and the rest of this writing so far, then let me retract back to what I wanted to write about.

I often like to give my mind a therapeutic treatment of the sight of books in a good book store. After I eat my solitary lunch, I always visit Fuller’s Book Store on Collins Street in Hobart. It falls on the way back to work from where all restaurants are.

I love the sight of those neatly arranged books – new books, paperbacks, re-printed classics, hardbound; fiction and non-fiction; history and current affairs. I often delve around the fictional and classics section where I get to browse the magic of Orwell, Hemmingway, Albert Camus, Ulysses, Steinback and the likes – I don’t find my Indian favourites: RK Narayan and Ruskin Bond in this store, but that doesn’t disappoint me. As much I love the smell of fresh paper, I know I can’t afford the embarrassment of picking a book out from the shelf and smelling it. Yet with so many people reading from the new books, the air is filled with the typical whiff you get at a bookstore.

I see people around me sauntering around the shelves – some like me with no book in hand, some with one book, and others with two and few with more than two books. I never followed them beyond that point to see if they purchased those books but it did look to me that they intended to buy them. And me – I would simply walk slowly from one end of the shelf to another, and then back again, gazing at the same books as I did just a while ago. I’d pick up some books I have read in my Kindle. I’d read some lines from a page in between to see if they read the same in print as they did in pixels. There are some books of whose starting line I vividly remember – such as PG Wodehouse’s Thank You, Jeeves,and Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers. And it gives me a shot of queer happiness to read lines I knew of before as if I knew what the writer was going to write. Strange, I know, but I do this often. It’s just how books and I play with each other.

One strong reason for my frequenting the book store is that I have gone cold-turkey on purchasing more books for the past 2 years. Since I got a Kindle, I have resolved to not buy any printed books. There are two reasons for this. First, because I resist making any place home, and I keep travelling every 2 years, I cannot afford to lug my books around upon relocating. Baggage and cargo are expensive and I have given away all my books I had in my past travels simply because it was not practical to ship them. Second, Kindle books are cheaper. Therefore, I do a rather strange thing when at the bookstore. I decide upon a book I want to buy. Then I say to myself, ‘You won’t regret buying this book. Buy it. It feels good to hold; it’s an excellent story and what a great author! Classic piece. A must buy. Add to your collection.’ Then I turn to rear jacket and see the price tag. It may say somewhere between $19 and $50- average range! Then I pull out my mobile phone, key in the name of the book and check the Kindle price – it may say $8.99. I then put the book back and walk away from it. I seem to self-tantalize and then convince myself that I must not buy the print version for the two reasons I mentioned above.

After some more sauntering and touching and rubbing books, feeling the edges of the crisp pages, checking the binding, the typesetting, comparing prices between print and pixel versions, making a list of books I must download, I look at my watch and I exit the book store. Yet another day goes by when I have entered a book store, loitered around for quarter of an hour and return without making a purchase. I wonder if someone watches me each time I do this, maybe the lady at the cash register, or someone manning the CCTV. They may well think I just come ‘to make love among the bookshelves’. The origin of this phrase, and the title of this piece, is attributed to one of all time favourite Indian authors – Ruskin Bond.

Looking up to the Self

I sometimes wish I had my own self from the future walk back into the past and become my teacher, my mentor. Oftentimes at work, and even otherwise generally in life, I have felt that I lacked that one insight into a problem, which I only gain after having battled through it. I only wish that I could have lived through life’s and work’s gauntlets in style, and I could have enjoyed the process more, had I know what I ought to have known.

For an educated person like me, who has had a decent college education, life’s quests are never about telling the right from the wrong, white from the black, yin from the yang, high from the lows. They are often about the decision of telling the more right from the less right, the more evil from the less evil, and the gray from the not-so-gray. When I look back at my life in the past eight to ten years, which is the whole of my work life, I feel the most tumultuous of times have been when I had to make such decisions – to see the one amongst the many cohorts of choices, or to see the many in that one.

It always feels like you walk several times into a stage called “life” to take a pick that will decide your fate forever or, if not forever, for the next few years, or months or weeks. You are being watched – watched by your bosses, your peers, your families, and strangers. You can hear whispers. You can’t tell if they’re telling “he will make a mistake”, or if they are praying for you to make the right choice, or if they are just gaining voyeuristic pleasure out of your helplessness and confusion. All you can hear is whispers, and sometimes nothing – just faces staring at you. You can’t say whether those expressionless faces are staring at you with a hope that you can make the right decision, or with a sense of trust and confidence that you will make the right decision, or with an unconfessed guilt that wants to admit, ‘I couldn’t make the right decision when I was in your place, I hope you too don’t and suffer the way I am suffering’.

How often have I lived the epiphany of having discovered the hidden simplicity of things around me? I laugh at my own futile attempts of over-trying and making things more difficult than they were. Life has taught me a lesson that if I am trying too hard to get something done then either I am doing it wrong or it’s just I who is doing it and no one else. Only that which is simple and ordered in its existence sustains the test of time and the wear-and-tear from human follies.

Life throws, and keeps throwing, newer challenges at me. It’s the same for everyone. And I often wonder the silliness of the utopian world I dreamt about as a boy, where I would imagine a teacher, a mentor, a guide showing you the path. I imagined that work will come disguised in many shapes, sizes, forms and lengths of time. That which appears on the outside is not what the work is about. The real nucleus, or crux, is that which the “work order” doesn’t state, or the timesheet won’t ask you to account for. It often takes a lot of demystification, analysis, disintegration, explosion, and dissection of a task to know ‘how it is to be done, and done once only so that you don’t have to do it again’. I dreamt that a mentor or teacher will show the path.

Well, much of what I imagined is true – that work does come disguised the way I have described above – but not entirely. Because there is a void in the place of the “mentor”.

If you encapsulate the entire time you spent working on a problem from the minute it was assigned to you, through the times you tried to read about it, understand it, talk to people about it, introspect, simulate it, make models of it to finally resolving it, you will realise how you have descended down a vortex of thought-webs. You traversed down all through not knowing the shortest route, but most importantly, the right route. Its only when you have finally managed to resolve it through disputes, quarrels, sweat, blood you realise something: that you were foolish. The tide has receded and you realise you have been swimming naked. Look back on your past, now. I can assure you no one is spared of this.

When I start on something that presents itself to me for the first time, I have two views. One is clear while the other one is hazy or sometimes visually unimaginable. The first view is of its physical manifestation – the way it is in its present state, untouched and unaugmented by external influences of solution. The second view is that of the “crux” – what it will become when it’s down to the bone, after all the illusive flesh and flab is taken out. That is what everyone needs to see but no one will tell, no one will describe. A problem is but a dense cobweb of unwanted perceptions, viewpoints, views, figures, charts, emotions, tears, wrath, complaints camouflaging that which is the solution – the truth. Most problems, if not all, have the solution hidden in them. We – whatever our professions are: consultants, doctors, engineers, technicians, plumbers, beauticians, or even poets, writers – spend a lifetime unravelling through all the unwanted accumulation to seek that which ‘is’.

I trust my problem solving skills; it’s just that it comes hard and comes with time. I can’t jump to the future and grab myself, have a cup of coffee while discussing the problem with my future-self, get a ‘Eureka moment’ and appear silly and over excited of having learned from my ‘future-self’ on how he solved that problem in the past or what he thought about it while my future-self chooses to ignore the frivolity of my excitement, and then I travel back in time to apply the solution to the problem on hand. I wish this were possible. But it isn’t.

Life will be a lot simpler if I am able to find that one person who is “me” but a more “learned me”. And then I can ask him to show me the path, to show me how to do it once and do it right. Books, Wikipedia, Forums – none of these can equate the efficacy of having my own future-self as my personal valet.



Post Apocalyptic World

Nov 01, 2070. 10:33 pm
There are no countries anymore. The much dreaded Orwellian prophesy has seen light of the day. Political boundaries that existed earlier have been wiped off in the wake of the last 5 decades that saw birth of coalitions that spanned continents. The world has always been in s state of war for the past 30 years. It worries me that these words I had read in Orwell’s master fiction – 1984, as a boy, are today being penned down in my diary as reality. Bullets, Guns, marching soldiers are no longer the sight of a battle or war. War of the current day comes with no forewarning. It blinds you by surprise and you don’t live to realise that. At least most people don’t. The world is being nuked. There is no US, Russia, India or China but just nameless coalitions. Common people like me don’t know who is with whom, who the good is and who the evil is. I have lost my identity. Passport, Social security numbers are all just another piece of waste paper. The Internet has been banished from the face of the world. We have gone back in time a 100 years. Books are no longer published, and what remains in print have either defaced with age or have lost relevance. It is believed, from rumours, there exist 4 coalitions now warring against one another. We don’t know who they comprise of and which one does this land upon which I stand fall under. The future, if there is such a thing as future any longer, is….
Nov 12, 2070. 05:40 am
I can say its summer because it’s bright outside and my watch says 05:40: At least the Sun hasn’t turned away from this planet. I am writing after almost after a month. The night of my last diary entry had us under attack. I left my sentence incomplete as I had to take cover. A Nuclear bomb was dropped not far from where I live. Temperatures soared high, the roof badly damaged but I stayed put here in the bomb shelter built under my house. I have been living on canned soup and dehydrated vegetables – the only investment that made sense in the past 10 years was food stock and I stocked in abundance. Barter had come back into play and food sold for almost anything you wanted in exchange and it fed you too. The radiation monitor is Red, which means the air outside is highly toxic for direct exposure. I wonder how many more days I will live this way.

Dec 01, 2070. 02:00 pm
Just woke up from slumber. Canned soups, canned veggies, sprouting potatoes – Enough food left to last me an year. Radiation monitor shows Amber. Hopefully, it’s not too longer before I get to go out.

March 01, 2071, 08:00pm
I feel sick. Last night I heard another loud thud at a distance. I am hoping it’s not another Nuclear attack. The Radiation monitor shows Amber still. Had there been another Nuclear attach, it would have been Red. It’s a waiting game now. I wonder what the neighbourhood is up to – if there is still a neighbourhood.

April 23 or 24, 2017. Unsure of the time.
The wall clock has stopped. Not sure of the date and time. Is it April 23rd or 24th today. If it had stopped 3 days ago, then it must be April 24th today. It’s not important anymore. Radiation Monitor still amber. A latent optimism within me tells me that it’s a lighter shade of Amber. But the practical self in me shouts out that it’s not calibrated for shades of amber.

Perhaps 2 months later.
Radiation monitor Still Amber. Only 12 cans of food left. If I have to die I might as well die of radiation than of hunger.
30 days later. Sometime in July.
30 days ago, I found an hour glass calibrated to record 12 hours. I have been using that to keep track of time. Its must be sometime in July. I have 5 more cans of food and some potatoes left which I can roast. Radiation monitor has started showing a tinge of Green. I hope to get out soon.

Sometime in August, 2017.
Food exhausted. Nothing left to eat. Radiation monitor is about 70% green. Its still unsafe to go out in the open. But I have resolved to step out today. It won’t be worse than rotting myself in a dark room this long.

Later that day.
I am back in my basement – perhaps, the only safest place in this land at the moment. I stepped out early today and what I saw outside sent shivers down my spine. It felt like I have been teleported to hell. It is barren, charred, not a sight of green. Carcasses lay all around. Bones scattered. I saw giant rats – almost the size of dogs – with terrifying blood soaked canines. It appears that there is animal or human life around upon which those giant rats were preying. I am not certain what they were or if I was hallucinating. My vision was blurred. I found a rabbit; its fur had gone black with soot. I took it with me and brought it here. There is very little water left so I won’t give it a bath. It sits on the cot, looking terrified. As terrified as I am but I can’t say if it’s terrified of becoming my food or of the world outside and looking at me with hope-filled eyes for solace. I am hungry and there is not a can of food left. What must I do? Where do I go? I stare at the rabbit and the rabbit back at me. The rabbit opens its mouth as if to yawn. It has canines? I saw canines. Who have I brought with me here?

Social-exile for finding oneself

This has been coming to my mind quite frequently now and has been quite unlike one of those random musings that reside in our mind momentarily and wither away in annals of memory. 10 years of work,travel and staying away from home and family has brought with it a sense of boredom and a sweet desire to break free: from mental drudgery, regular working hours, the periodic winding of key every Monday morning to live through the week and battle various onslaughts.

I lack the wherewithal to be able to quit my job on the drop of a hat. I have family to look after. But the desire to break free is becoming more pronounced by the day. It was when Shobha and I were strolling through David’s Park in Hobart last Saturday that it occurred to me that I do not have to quit my job to experience a break. I can go on a leave without pay for a few months for a sojourn in one of the hill stations of India.

Shimla is on my mind.I intend to take off from work for a few months and live in a homestay or a rented apartment on a moderate budget.

I will not plan on what I would like to do when I live there. I will wake up each day to the sounds of local life and live the day uncontested. I will go for walks, meet local people and observe daily lives in the neighbourhood.I intend to live a simple life.No, this isn’t my trying to become a hermit.I want to be anyone but a hermit.I am not renouncing the materialistic life. For the love of the science and passion to teach,I may take up teaching Mathematics and Physics in a nearby school for gratis, if such an opportunity arises. I just need a break. A break where I don’t have to look after my utility bills, tend to household repairs,have social obligations to fulfill.I will definitely use Internet and I will have with me my laptop and a mobile to stay connected with family and friends. I will want to check Facebook and read the news every day. I will want to have opinions and also write about them. I want to experience the freedom of owning my time and, with an undivided attention, writing about what I feel – be it an event, a current affair, a thought, remorse or complaint. I would like to defragment my day because it normally is split into slots: of meetings, coffee break,lunch break,personal time and other forced divisions. I want the full 24 hours of the day to be my personal time. I will watch what people do – around me, and on the social media. I will hear what people have to say. I will choose if I have to ignore or react.

In the midst of these observations, I may happen to find myself. I may see myself as one among the herd who will be my subjects of watch or I may see myself within me and be happy that I have been different from the rest. Living such a life will tell me if I like the temporary but quieter lifestyle I have chosen or if I become myself in the corporate work life that I have adjourned. Living through the self-imposed social-exile will let me find myself and appraise myself for the good and bad in me.

Christmas Encounter

I smell freedom. It’s in the air – Holidays, Christmas, and my birthday on Boxing day.

I vividly recollect my crying in anxiety and nervousness during my exams earlier this year. I had felt victimized by the length of time that separated me from the happier days of December and by the gauntlet of Semester exams I had to complete back then.

“I will be at Emmanuel’s, Mummy”, I shout as I leave the home. But then I realize, I am home alone for a couple of hours.

It’s chilly. -5 degree Celsius, reads the weather app on my mobile phone. I walk down the steps outside my block and, as I often like to do, I jump off the last but second step and to land on lawn path cutting across our driveway. It often left me satisfied to land my feet exactly on the two spots that bore my shoe-prints from my repeated jumps.

But today as I jump, I am thrown back after hitting myself against something that appeared to be a wall. The nose hurts. I try to feel my nose as it feels moist but there was no blood on my fingers. I could breathe, still, but the air smelled stale.

What was that? There is nothing ahead. It is as clear as daylight. I rise and move my jaw in circles to make myself feel better from the shock.

I stand on the last step and bend forward slightly and move my hands forward to feel the barrier, if there was any.

Yes, there is something. Feels like glass, but little squishy.

I press my hand into the barrier and it forms a depression and my hands enter in. I feel being pulled in. I try to withdraw myself by bending backwards but no sooner do I try to get myself out than I see a distorted image of a large hand from within the glass barrier clench me and my home.

I transcend down through a vortex into a time warp and I see familiar objects floating around – my home, the neighbourhood, parents, teacher, school, my bicycle….

And then, a familiar sight presents itself – Santa – but he is looking away from me. I see his big bulky back in Santa suit. I rejoice this special moment of being drawn into something so surreal. I inch closer towards him and cry out in excitement “Santa!” He turns back.

Terror stares at my face!

He has vampire fangs! Santa? I grasp for breath and feel my heart pounding hard against my chest. I feel every hair rising – Goosebumps of extreme fear.

Terrified, I yell out: “Wh..Who are you? Sa-Sa-Santa? Your face? And fangs?”

“I am not Santa. I am Krampus”, he replies in a loud, sinisterly voice.


“I go around with Nick this time of the year.” the devilish figure replies.

“Who is Nick?” I ask, still terrified.

I watch the face has grown bigger in the moments we spoke, and the surroundings darker and with every passing moment. I now only see the face and its scary features with unavoidable clarity.

“Nick? Ah, Nicholas! You know him as Santa Claus. I call him Nick. He gifts and I punish – punish the badly behaved children like you, Johny. This is time to read out your wrongdoings and improprieties to you.” And he continues with a litany of misdeeds, all of them reportedly mine –

“Sticking chewing gum underneath school desks, copying in exams, missing school, forging father’s signature on absence notes and faking false doctor’s certificates, doing all your assignments and homework by halves, refusing to work harder to improve your grades…. the list is, well, rather, long and I have to punish you for these and time is not on my side this year. You see, I have a long list of homes to visit this year. There isn’t much goodness around and so Nick’s got lesser to do and I have more.” Saying this, he takes out a rusty chain and remarks, “This shall do for now to punish you with.”

“But hang on, Cr-Cram-pus. How do you claim these are my misdeeds? What assurance do you have? I plead innocent. I have been at my best behaviour this year and have been really working hard in everything at school. My parents have been quite happy with my performance and behaviour. So what makes you think it’s me?”, I surprise myself by gathering enough courage to interrogate.

I think to myself,”I may have rung my death knell by making that inquiry.” On the contrary, it turns out differently.

“Isn’t this 52 Naivakananumi, Herlstone Park, 2454?”, he asks with a confused countenance and with  a GPS like device in his hand!

“Oh! No, Saint Crampus!”, I exclaim in anticipation of hope to send him away and by exhibiting my good behaviour by addressing the dastardly creature as ‘Saint’.

I added,“This is 52 Vaikananumi, Herston Park, 2545. You’re at the wrong address. Miles away but so sound so similar. Not entirely your fault, Sainth Crampus!”

“Damn! I had told Nick, I mean Santa, that I can’t operate these modern day inventions!”, he complains showing me his GPS device. “Fat fingers you see! I apologise for bothering you. I will key in the right address into this box and continue on my way. I have a lot of catching up to do.”

“Will you put me back where I came from?” I ask, again in anticipation of being released.

“Of course!” he says and disappears.

I find myself on the last step outside my home, back into my real world. I hurriedly run back into my home. I pause, turn back and laugh out by staring at my address plate that is erect on our driveway at such an angle that I can read “52 Naivakananumi, Herlstone Park!” It’s the laugh of deception. I smell freedom again. It’s in the air!






Ministry of Absolute Truth

“Ministry of Information and Broadcast”, reads the signboard at the entrance to the building.

I notice there is no sentry and so I walk in with curiosity.

This is my fourth day as tourist Udnishtan, the nation that has known to be democracy’s envy, and it is very rare to find a government establishment without an array of security.

Unlike other government buildings which are usually multi-storied, this one has only one level and unguarded too!

I enter the main foyer. There is a reception desk but unmanned. I look behind, up and down to warn myself of any approaching danger. Not one person around to question what my business is. This is strange, very strange I think to myself.

I look around and find a door that has “RAVESHPA” written on it in blue – meaning Entrance. Audacious that I was after having come this far without challenge, I resolve to open the door and go beyond.

Two more doors inside. On one I see – “ATYSA” written in green. It means “Truth” and on the other, “ARSAVA ATYSA” – meaning “Absolute Truth”, in Orange.

This is becoming like a quest for the unknown I had watched in movies and read in teenage detective novels. Without inhibitions, I open the Orange door of Absolute Truth.

There is a TARDIS like chamber inside, and that is all there is. I enter in. It is pitch dark. I move my hands forward and try to feel the space if there is danger. I stumble upon a chair that seems to have been kept facing me, and I happen to fall in such a way as to land myself on it to take a seat. No sooner do I sit on it than an oculus rift descends down to my eye level. There appear to be some rapidly changing visual scenes. I wear it and I see these visuals:

21/12/15 -09 am. The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around misappropriation of government’s coffers and promising strict action against those found to be guilty.

21/12/15 – 09:05 am. A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court for a ground breaking judgement that resonated with vox populi.

21/12/15 – 09.10am. The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of his state after a recent cyclone that affected the costal belts of the state.

21/12/15 – 09.20am. The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency by killing 5 terrorists hiding in an underground tunnel near the border; the video shows 5 slain and badly disfigured bodies laid in a row on the ground where the encounter happened.

I find it uninteresting to catch up any further on current affairs of the country I am touring. I detach the oculus rift.

I begin to summarize my experience as nothing more than a self-guided tour of current affairs of Udnishtan. I dismiss any further inclination to stay in there and emerge out of the room and start walking towards the entrance that led me into the chamber of absolute truth.

I turn around to close the door behind me and I read “ATYSA” – the green door. What is that for? How different can that be? Interest draws me towards it and I enter the chamber of Truth.

It’s the same inside – a TARDIS like chamber, pitch dark inside, a chair facing me, upon which I sit and an oculus rift drops to my head level which I wear and start seeing similar visual recordings as in the chamber of “Absolute truth” – almost a déjà vu?

The Prime Minister of Udnishtan addressing public grievances on a recent scam around ……….Except that video was dated early in January this year! The video ran its timestamp as 15/01/15 – 04:45am. The scam was only reported a month ago! Everything is scripted?staged?

A juvenile convicted of brutally raping a 23 year old woman sentenced to life imprisonment and the public hailing honours on the country’s highest court…….. Immediately after this, an internal courtroom video shows the Judge’s acceptance of bribery and a promise to the defendant’s party that the sentence will be no more than 3 years of incarceration. Lies and Betrayal at the supreme court of justice?

The state minister of a state in Udnishtan visiting the deluge affected areas of…..The camera zooms out and the minister steps out from a studio that imitated a flood affected section of the village the minister was shown to visit. False sympathy propaganda?

The Udnishtan Army proudly claiming to counter insurgency………..The video further shows the army chief distastefully expressing the inadequacies of his regiment,” The next time I want to show the media real terrorists not these unclaimed bodies from local hospitals. The public will believe we killed terrorists, but for once find ‘em real terroists and slain ‘em.”

The video blanks out. But it starts again, and this time it shows me. I am watching myself.

It shows me walking into the building, my looking up and down at the reception in a confused state of mind, my entering the chamber of absolute truth and watching the visuals, my exiting the chamber of absolute truth and then entering the chamber of truth. I see myself sit down.

I see someone standing right behind me with an axe in his hand.It was dark all the while and it still is. But there is someone with me in the chamber of truth.

I am scared for my life. I detach the oculus rift and dash out as quickly as I can. But I can’t open the door leading to the main foyer. Suddenly, the chamber of absolute truth behind me lights up and flashes images of an unidentified dead body found near the Ministry of Information and Broadcast.

The reporter states, “The victim appears to have been a tourist as his passport states, but no clues on what led to this death. Police suspects it could have been a stroke or a heart attack.”

The man with the axe emerges out from the Ministry of Truth and stares at me.

Ivory Gregory

Ivory Gregory! That’s what people called me. All but a few of the molars were false fits. At 55, which was when I got my twenty eight tooth replaced with ivory denture replica, I could have well been a small time poacher’s target. I took great pride in the pristine whiteness that flashed from my ivory dentures every time I smiled, although I smiled rarely.

I am 65 now and happy that I am alive now and not least bothered about my ivory dentures.

10 years ago…

The train jerked heavily and I became conscious of my existence. I struggled to open my eyes as I used to in mid-weeks during my working days in thirties. In the narrow slit of light my eyes received, I saw an old rusty train yard. Perhaps the jerk could have been from shunting. I found it difficult to move my limbs. I felt numb but was finally able to stir and sit upright. I finally opened my eyes and saw a man right in front of me. He pointed a gun at me, standing two feet away.

The pain in my mouth was excruciating. What was I doing there? How did I get there? The latest memory I had had was at Dr. Kevin’s dental engine and the smell of Fisherman’s Friend mint from his breath as he perched down upon me injecting me with the usual anaesthesia, except that that time the injection looked longer, bigger.

Why was I in the train? I moved my hand to relax my brow and felt my hand was heavy. A briefcase was handcuffed to my left hand. Why?

I struggled to speak from nervousness. The air was filled with the smell of rusty iron and sounds of iron works from the yard.

“Stay put and bring your hand to me. Don’t move!” The man with the gun spoke.

Wilted as I was, I chose to obey in the hope of help. He had a key and opened the handcuff. He took the briefcase and shook it as he held it close to his ears trying to feel the sound of contents inside. It sounded like it had only a few pebbles or stones. He opened it slightly and walked away.

“This better be a dream.” I spoke to myself, but it wasn’t. I helped myself, looked around to find no body. I alighted from the coach I was in. A few welders watched me in surprise. Was it my dishevelled condition or my swollen cheeks? I made it back home safely to get some rest, still puzzled over the strange incident. I went into my bathroom to gargle with Dentolisterine lotion to ease the pain from my dental operation. I opened my mouth. I saw something unusual. Awestruck, I did not want to close it again.


Dr. Kevin is missing since that day. So are my ivory teeth. All replaced with resin. The ivories went to the man with the gun with the suitcase. Well, I indeed got targeted by an ivory poacher – Dr. Kevin, himself!

[submitted as a fictional short story]