Updated: Jun 22


-

Image@r1g

Rasa → Peace (shānta), with wonder (adbūtha) as secondary.

Archetype → Utopian

-

-

A car and a house to himself. It was all he wanted ten years ago, at nineteen. Ananda couldn’t help but smile at how, now that he had them, it meant nothing. Life was a strange river to swim in, he thought.

Ananda walked past his grandmother’s Mercedes-Benz and into her old house. The monthly cleaner had kept it relatively clean but, the house had that dense blanket of quiet found only in places unlived. Ananda stopped for a second to marvel at the golden tubes of sunlight streaming in through the tall, narrow windows that his grandmother had installed facing east. Although the house had been closed after her death, Ananda still felt her aura of gentle warmth. She had left the entire estate to him knowing how far a property like that would go for a young man like Ananda. He was always her favourite, Ananda remembered fondly. He was certain of her presence when he spent nights alone in the house, that year when the wound of her loss was fresh. It is then that Ananda started working on his manifesto to heal this broken world. But eventually, after each of his ideas shattered against the brutality of life, he stopped visiting the old house to dream alone. Ananda’s father had sporadically called him from his travels with advice to sell the property or lease it out to one of his many friends in hospitality. But, Ananda could never look at something function-first like his father did. Ananda saw feelings first. He watched all the opportunities that the immense property presented free-floating many and meaningless—like the dust caught in the beams of light streaming through the windows.

Ananda caught his reflection on a mirror—warped a fraction through the thin mist of dust on the surface, made oddly unfamiliar. How different of a man he was just a few years ago when joining his father’s political campaign, Ananda mused. He was convinced that they could build utopia. But, the years that followed showed Ananda that paradise was a very personal thing; Each to their own version; The older he got, the more alone Ananda felt in his version.

Ananda followed the trail of dampness on the wall. His father’s warnings about not attending to the old house had grown increasingly dire over the months—gathering gravity like a grey cloud in Ananda’s mind-sky. But, it felt small compared to the large monsoon cloud looming over his entire existence—that one question. Where is paradise? If paradise is just another figment in the mind of the perceptor, what was he doing here like a madman trying to keep sand from the sea? Ananda had no answer.

At the turn of the damp wall, Ananda spotted a young banyan plant. It had sprouted from a root creeping in from the door crack. He stared at the deep green leaves and the uppermost new leaf tinged red like a crowning flame. Found sanctuary, the plant stood perfectly at peace within that crisp morning inside the house. Banyans devour buildings with their persisting roots, Ananda knew. But, the sacredness of a quietly lived life spread through the air, taking hold like soundless music. In that contentment resting between life and consciousness, Ananda finally had the answer. He stepped outside the door leaving the house to the banyan.


Ananda turned the key in the lock and decided to hand it over to his father personally. Instead of driving back the old Mercedes-Benz like he’s been asked, Anada left it behind to take the train. He thought it’d be nice to sit by the window and watch the ocean, instead of sitting by the wheel and watching the road. Ananda knew that his father would eventually understand his decision to become an ascetic. Maybe not today, but someday. Trees that grow from the same root can belong to different gardens.

As he started walking towards the gate, Ananda heard a voice calling “sir, sir”. A middle-aged man with a familiar air hurried up to him. This must be Jagath—the village contractor that his father had asked Ananda to meet regarding renovations. Jagath’s initial confusion on hearing that his services are no longer required melted away instantly when Ananda handed him a one-thousand note; He left, beaming over making a thousand for just turning up.

Ananda took one last look at the old house. The window of the room that he used to sleep in as a little boy looked back at him. It was a beautiful morning. Ananda suddenly realised that he now had all the mornings of paradise. He couldn’t help smiling as he set off walking down the quiet shady street lined with the tall māra trees.


Updated: Jun 22


-

Image → @jaydenyoonzk

Rasa → (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma. Colour: yellow. Hāsyam (हास्यं): Laughter, mirth, comedy. Presiding deity: Shiva. Colour: white

Archetype → Hero

-

-

Jagath interrupted Alles’ story; He had a better one. Alles was talking about some girl who drowned herself in the lagoon from supposed possession by the demon Kalu Kumāra. “Oh, but you know who Kalu Kumāraya is?,” Jagath asked loudly, thrusting his palm inches from Alles’ face. Jagath looked at the three tipsy men sitting in front of him at the bar, eleven am on a Sunday; each shaking slightly in his view, like frail leaves in the wind. Six bloodshot eyes stared back at him. Jagath knew he had to give them something better. “Did you know that he was a man killed by some very hungry ladies?” Jagath asked, lowering his voice. He savoured his words slowly, tauntingly. He saw eyebrows furrow ever so slightly. They were curious. He was in. Jagath jumped in through that slight crack of opportunity before the doors closed again.

“So this bugger was the King’s top man. His name was Nīla. Tall, strong, blue-black skin—like a rock. Thinks fast and kills faster—like a leopard. No one could touch him. No one ever beat Nīla in a fight,” Jagath quickly weaved the story, using fragments of memory pulled laboriously through the volumes of arrack that his brain was swimming in. “This is no bullshit. This is history. Okay?” he assured.

“The king was Jayabāhu….or was it Vijayabāhu?... anyway, doesn’t matter,” Jagath continued. “When the king went to free six-hundred of our buggers imprisoned in South India, Nīla was the one who delivered the game. He not only brought those six-hundred prisoners back home but also brought back thousand-two-hundred South Indian buggers for the king; two for each of our ones that they took. How’s that? No one doubted Nīla after that. They called him Nīla Mahā Yōdayā—Nīla the great giant. This is where Nīla went wrong,” Jagath shook his head.

“Nīla got too into it. He became a cocky bastard…”, Jagath paused. He saw Vāsu from the next table turn to listen. So did Hilmi from across. Jagath smiled a little corner smile. Arrack swished around his brain in happy little circles.

“Then…,” Jagath said, lifting one eyebrow. “Nīla heard about a strange village. A village full of women, and women only…,” Jagath paused knowing more heads would turn now. He was right. Ranjit, Devro, Lalith and Punchi all turned.

“No man ever dared to visit it because they were no ordinary women—but a bunch of bloodthirsty warriors,” Jagath paused and racked his brain for some more information. He struggled to pull any more memories from that evening a long time ago when he sat by his grandfather’s feet listening to this tale. Everything was lost to time and arrack. So, Jagath decided to add some salt of his own. “The only men who ever made it there were the ones those women captured when the moon was waxing and their ovaries were tingling; When they wanted some poor fool to ravish and finish,” Jagath said with a fluid head-movement that harmonized perfectly with the sweet ebb and flow of alcohol in everyone’s bodies.

“So, of course, Nīla wanted to be the one man who visits this lady village and lives to tell the tale. He went in. But, it was the wrong time of the month. The moon was waxing. The women were hungry. So….,” Jagath paused and watched triumphantly at the puffed faces listening captivated, drinks forgotten on tables and hands. He sipped some arrack slowly, leaving them hanging. He had them.

“All the women wanted Nīla. They wanted him so bad, that they fought over him in a frenzy,” Jagath told the engrossed faces. “And, they tore him apart, alive,” he whispered, looking dead in their red eyes. “To this day he haunts women as Kalu Kumāraya, resenting their desire,” Jagath said. Someone inhaled and exhaled loudly.

“And that, my friends, is why you don’t become a cocky bastard,” said Jagath, leaning back to light a victory smoke. For a quiet second, he waited; eyes on the cigarette but ears pricked for remarks. But, all he heard was Alles clicking his tongue. Jagath looked up to see him turn away with a dismissive wave of a hand. “Ego. It gets the best of us...,” Jagath said quickly, trying to recapture the attention before others followed suit. But, it was too late. Alles had already announced another story; “Do you know how the King discovered his queen’s affair? It involved a birthmark…,” Alles said to a cackle of laughter. Now it was Jagath’s turn to click his tongue and turn away.

Turning his gaze to the door, Jagath saw a dog—that looked suspiciously like his brother’s pesky pomeranian—running past the bar with a slipper in its mouth. Jagath looked back at his former audience as they laughed loudly at something Alles said. “You’re all just dogs looking for another slipper to chew!” said Jagath, flicking his hand at their backs. But, no one was listening.


Jagath got up to leave. The bar’s floor and roof had started doing their dangerous dance again. He decided to stay a little longer until the arrack cleared from his veins. Besides, it’s Sunday.



Updated: Jun 22


-

Image → @ekrulila

Rasa → Śṛṅgāraḥ (शृङ्गारः): Romance, Love, attractiveness. Presiding deity: Vishnu. → Adbhutam (अद्भुतं): Wonder, amazement. Presiding deity: Brahma

Archetype → Everyperson

-

-

Anura shuffled the newspaper, disgruntled at the sound of high-pitched laughter coming from his daughter Nimali’s room. Nimali was having friends from her hairstyling course over. Their shrieking rang through the hallway, almost visibly jarring the tranquil incense smoke from Anura’s Buddha shrine, and scratched his usually smooth Sunday morning. Anura had to answer the doorbell thrice that morning, while the Sunday radio sermon was on, admitting girl after girl—each with more extravagant hair—into his house. So, when the bell rang for the fourth time that morning, a very cross Anura walked out muttering under his breath. As soon as he opened the door, Nimali’s feisty pomeranian Minchi hurled itself at him delightedly. He called Nimali while trying to contain the frenzied animal, but she didn’t come. The bell rang again. Holding the dog down, Anura called his wife. But, the dog leapt up to his chest, making two streaks of mud on his crisp white, ironed shirt. The bell rang again. Within the span of the fifteen seconds that it took Anura to make it to the gate while fighting off the dog, the bell rang twice more. Uncharacteristically angered, Anura shouted at whoever was outside the gate; his voice sounded oddly like the young girls’ high-pitched shrieking. When he finally flung the gate open, with two distinct lines of dirt down his shirt and an excited dog bouncing on his side, Anura was taken aback. Instead of an extravagant haired girl, there stood two monks.


Anura had never seen these monks before; He was the chief-donor of the village temple and knew each monk personally, and even had some on Whatsapp. Who were these two? One monk was round with a beaming face. The other monk was thin and tall, with an expressionless face. The round monk politely asked if they could come in. Anura distantly felt his brain switch on an automated programme for the code of conduct when dealing with monks—it was practised to perfection in his lifetime as the third generational link of a family that proudly held on to the village temple’s chief donorship. His hands came together unthinkingly in the worship gesture, and his mouth blurted out courtesy words. He backed into the garden, giving way to the monks to come, and picked up the dog to keep it from snapping at the trailing orange robes. Anura slowly backed into the house, careful to not turn his back to the monks (which is disrespectful, as his grandfather taught).

Anura let the monks in, threw the dog unceremoniously into Nimali’s room and closed the door. He asked the monks to spare him a second and started backing towards the linen cabinet for two white sheets. It was customary to cover seats in clean fabric before offering them to a monk. But, there were two white sheets already hanging off a living room chair. Anura grabbed them, relieved at the unexpected convenience. He covered the chairs while making courteous chit-chat. The monks said they travelled from a rural monastery past Kirinda. Anura told the monks how their village temple was built by his grandfather. As the monks took their seats, Anura realised that the two white sheets were, in fact, covered in hairs—probably used by Nimali and friends for trimming. Watching the orange robes pick up tufts of brown and bleached blonde hair, Anura could only squeeze his hands into anxious fists. But, the monks seemed oblivious. The round, smiling monk explained how it cost them a lot to develop their rural monastery. His voice was sweet and melodic—what you call a sing-song voice perfect for sermons, Anura observed. The thin, expressionless monk explained how supporting those who walk the path of truth, like themselves, is a merit transcending lifetimes. Anura nodded, impressed at how the monk displayed absolutely no emotion—a mark of a man in control of the mind, he thought. Eager to make up for the sin of blonde hairs on orange robes, Anura pulled out two five-thousand rupee notes from his wallet. Just as he handed the money to the beaming round monk, a raucous hoot of laughter erupted through the cracks of Nimali’s door. Anura backed into Nimali’s room, opened her door and hissed at the girls. They were applying blue eyeshadow on Minchi the pomeranian and had braided its long fur into neat rows. Sensing its chance to escape, the dog scurried between Anura’s legs and dashed out through the front door.

Seeing the monks get up to leave, Anura felt determined to reaffirm his good Buddhist lineage. He handed the monks his business card, volunteering to crowdsource at least a hundred thousand rupees to develop their monastery. Outside the door, one and a half pairs of monks’ slippers waited with teeth marks all over. Anura knew exactly what had happened to the missing one. He walked back into the house wordlessly and returned with another five thousand rupee note; He offered it and his own rubber flip-flops so that one monk wouldn’t have to go slipper-shopping barefoot. The thin, expressionless monk put on Anura’s slippers, blessing him. The round, smiling monk took the money saying that they wouldn’t have accepted it if it wasn’t for having to take the bus all the way back to Gampaha.

‘Gampaha? Didn’t they say they’re from Kirinda?’Anura heard a voice—that sounded a lot like his wife’s—asking in his head.


Anura watched the monks leave through the gate which had been left open all this time, forgotten. He stared at the gate hanging wide open, moving slightly in the wind. After a few quiet seconds alone, Anura walked slowly across the garden. He stepped over the open gate. Priyani—his neighbour returning from the corner store with some laundry powder—nodded her head quizzically at Anura. She laughingly asked why he looked as if he ate something very sour. Anura smiled a faint smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Turning his gaze to the street, Anura saw the monks get into a taxi, and take off. Anura’s slipperless feet burnt from the heat of the tropic sun on asphalt. As the taxi disappeared at the bend, Minchi the pomeranian appeared running down the street with eyeshadow, braids and carrying a slipper in its mouth.