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Updated: Jun 22, 2022


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, 2022


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.

Updated: Jun 22, 2022


Image → St. Denis' feet in the Nautch" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1906 - 1908.

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

Archetype → Lover



Priyani waved at her husband and son leaving for work and school. She turned back into the empty house. It looked and felt like a fresh battlefield. Bringing the laundry out, she sighed impatiently at the sky. This was the third grey day. With no sun to dry the clothes, Priyani’s laundry was piling up. She decided to take a chance and do the laundry anyway.

She washed and scrubbed, shaking her head at the unreasonable dirt on the collars and cuffs. Her hands moved skillfully in a half-conscious, half-autopilot melodic routine between the dirty pile, soap, water bucket and the clean pile. But, when Priyani’s hand pulled out an orange fabric, her heart gasped open and shut like a fish out of water. She let go of it as if burnt. In the next two seconds, as the laundry dance stood motionless in abrupt suspension, Priyani realised that it was just her husband’s new sarong dampened to a darker shade, taking on the distinct orange of monks’ robes. She stared at the orange fabric and felt her skin tingling a memory awake. Flustered, Priyani washed the orange sarong in a hurry and threw it into the clean pile.

Soon, school uniforms, chintz dresses, plain pants, and striped shirts hung row after row. Priyani felt a prickling of the hairs on the back of her neck. Her skin tingled in response to a sensation of being watched. The corner of her eyes picked up the robe-orange sarong hanging, dripping slowly in the breeze. Priyani swallowed the ball forming in her throat. She found herself returning to the day that she went to offer a handful of betel leaves to the temple head-monk Gunasāra. Priyani had just won a dancing competition in Colombo. After seeing her perform at the temple’s perahera ritual, Gunasāra gathered the help of his donors to sponsor Priyani’s costumes and competition entry. Priyani tried not to think about that evening. But, the memory was now rushing in, like a smell escaping through the cracks of a closed door.

It was just after sundown, and a little late to visit a monk. Priyani remembered how Gunasāra sat at his desk illuminated by the glow of the lamp, as she stood in front of him. He spoke at length about her talent and how it could lead her to great things. He promised to continue her patronage. Priyani remembered that strange feeling in her lower stomach when Gunasāra’s eyes lingered a little on her hips as he lowered his gaze to the cash slip that he was starting to sign. The world suddenly grew silent. Only the faint sound of Gunasāra’s pen on paper scratched the quiet. Although Gunasāra had his head bent and his eyes averted, Priyani couldn’t shake off the feeling that something of his was continuing to watch her. Skin tingling, Priyani lowered her own gaze. A thrill that had the same foreboding of August currents in the south seas—the kind that secretly sweeps you away somewhere dangerous—took over. When Gunasāra held the cash slip out, looking directly at her, Priyani neared him cautiously to accept. As she stepped into the glow of the lamp, she felt his eyes take all of her in. Priyani’s skin glimmered jubilantly.

Aghast, Priyani abandoned the laundry and hurried inside. Hands shaking, she poured a glass of water and drank it all in one gulp. Outside, the monsoon thunder drummed a dull, distant beat. Priyani tried to disremember the events that followed her meeting with Gunasāra. But, the deeper she pushed them in, the harder they fought to come out. Chest heaving up and down, Priyani walked into her bedroom and opened the almirah doors. The drumming in the sky drew nearer. She reached for the box in the bottom drawer under the special occasion sarees. Inside it was her wedding necklace, puberty gold, and the old performance jewellery. Priyani looked at the dancers’ anklets with bells. It thundered again. The drums were calling. She put them on. Watching herself in the mirror hanging inside the open almirah door, Priyani stepped into its full view. A low, rolling chorus of thunder welcomed her. The almirah mirror watched Priyani, flooding her with a secret thrill. She felt it drinking her in. Her skin tingled all over. The rain started to patter against the asbestos sheets. But, Priyani didn’t listen to the tame voice that reminded her to bring the laundry in. Instead, she let herself get swept in the August currents.

Priyani started to dance. Her hands and feet moved in strange synchronicity with everything in wild abandonment—like the rain, the sea, the wind, the beast. Her steps followed the pitter-patter on the roof in perfect timing. The thunder crashed right above the roof as Priyani dipped her head down in dance. Her hair clip broke with the oblique weight of her tresses that it wasn’t designed to hold. Priyani felt the memories and emotions she hid behind the closed doors dancing free in the warm glow of the lamp where all of her was seen. She felt how her perfect movements, watched in secret by the averted mirror of the half-open almirah door, were made too divine to behold. It poured and poured. Priyani danced and danced.

When the sky finally finished releasing its shame, Priyani fell breathless. She was temporarily freed until the doors would break open again. She sat up on the floor, glimmers of sweat running content rivers down her skin. Outside, the storm had died and noon was breaking.

Priyani got up and took off her anklets. She put them back in the box carefully, and slid it under her wedding saree in the bottom drawer—where she knew it would remain, waiting.

Priyani cleaned the house, mopped up the leaked water, and opened the windows. Priyani hummed while she showered, soaping her skin in gentle strokes—it was appeased. She put on the blue dress that her husband liked, and went to make herself a tea.

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