Category: Fiction


The mathematician sat at his desk – bearded, unkempt, exhausted and exhilarated. His eyes were focused on the proof he had just scribbled. They betrayed excitement. His fingers trembled as he went over each line of his proof again. They betrayed fear.  He put out his lamp in an uncharacteristic swift motion, drowning himself in absolute darkness.

“Do you see what you are about to do? Actually, the question is ‘Do you see what you are about to undo?’ ” He chuckled at his own joke. “And they thought I was wasting my time. This will change everything. It must. I am closer to the Truth now. We have suffered in the darkness long enough. We have been soiled by rote -”

His monologue was interrupted by a call for dinner.  It was time to interact with his family or as he called them, people who will love him, but not his thoughts. Oft times he had pondered on this question. How do you love someone without understanding his beliefs? When his body would be no more, will they be indifferent to him. If they did not understand his ideas while he was alive, they wouldn’t after his death. He had solved this dilemma by believing his family did not love him. They loved the image of him  they have in their heads. It didn’t matter to them if he wrote 2 + 2 = 5 and called himself a mathematician. They were still going to love him. That was the ultimate truth about love. It existed only inside the heads of people like characters from fairy tales or numbers. You wouldn’t have these god- forsaken numbers if you did not have a human mind to make them up.

But, what would he be if not for these imaginary devices? He wouldn’t question them if he did not know they existed and had not studied them for years together. And today, he was going to disprove the validity of those very numbers. Wouldn’t it have saved a lot of time if he had not been introduced to them years ago? After all, he was simply going to prove to the world that the foundation of mathematics was on very flimsy grounds. He did not have an alternative to give to the world. Merely, a proof of how everything was wrong if you cared to look very closely. May be the best thing he could do now was save someone else’s time. May be that someone else will provide the world with a solution. His peers would obviously be the first to gauge the repercussions of his work. But they were already biased. His work won’t be accepted without resistance. In fact, it would be offensive to him if it was. He needed an untainted mind, a tabula rasa. His grandson. He didn’t need to know that mathematics behind the truth of the shaky foundations of mathematics. All he needed to know was that the foundation was flimsy. Surely, as he grew up this inception would accelerate him closer to the Truth. He had to begin somewhere. He resolved to begin at the beginning. He decided to teach his grandson about one.

The two equations he needed to teach his grandson were:

0 = {}

1 = {0} = {{}}

He rose from his seat and dashed to his grandson, who was drawing in his notebook.

“What is one?” he demanded of the boy.

The almost three-year old lifted up his index finger and shouted out “one.”

“Why did normal people have to borrow one  from mathematicians? Or was it the other way round? They do have the word a.  That is one finger or a finger,” he kept blabbering as he lifted him up into his lap. “There is only one you and one me. But what is one? What does one mean?”

The boy simply stared blankly at him.

The mathematician showed him two fingers this time and asks him to describe what he saw again.

“Two,” said the boy.

“Great! You already know one plus one is equal to two like the rest of the world but you don’t know what one is? Rote learning will drive more people away from true mathematics than anything else. And they won’t even know what they are missing out on. Doesn’t it matter to you what one is? Listen carefully to what one is. What do you have in your right hand?”


“Make a fist of your right hand and put it in your left hand. Now make a fist of your left hand. What do you have in your left hand?”

“A hand with nothing”

“Wait! Did you just say ‘a’? You mean one. That was easier than I thought. It is strange how easily you interchange a and one. That is one right there. Beautif-”

“But a hand, that has a hand, that has nothing, has nothing,” blurted out the boy.

The mathematician was stunned. He placed his grandson at arm’s length. He looked at him with utmost suspicion.

“Damn it! You are going to be a realist! You will not care for what I am going to do. In fact, you are going to mock me. And I thought we could be co-conspirators. Not likely.”

He doodled a dragon eating its own tail in his grandson’s sketchbook before leaving.



Irked by the lack of mathematics above? Read more:
Foundational Crisis of Mathematics


Another Shade of Gray

Neha loved the rain. One of her many indulgences was to take her yellow umbrella, go outside and stand still as the rains poured down. It trapped her in a bubble, that alienated her from all the chaos in life. And that, she found, was a very liberating feeling. It captivated all her senses – the earthy petrichor was perfume to her, the pitter-patter sounds were like beats, the wetness of a ricocheted raindrop sent tingles down her spine and the silhouettes of people and dogs finding the nearest dry spot amused her and in her drunken stupors she has admitted to tasting the rain too. When questioned, she always replied these moments spent in the rain were quintessential  to her creative process and that was cue for people to not pry into the aspiring writer’s oddities.

It had drizzled today and Neha had spent a good half an hour outside in the rain. She knew she had to get it written today anyhow. There was a deadline she had to adhere to and that is almost always a good thing for a writer with writer’s block. Of late she had become certain that the weird combination of beer and Mozart was the only sure-shot way to come up with new storylines. But her mother was visiting her today and she couldn’t risk giving her a stroke. That was the reason she had reverted to her more innocent method of getting ideas.

The cursor on her Macbook kept blinking, mocking her more with every blink. She just couldn’t start typing. There was nothing on her mind. And her mother shuffling through her closet was not helping either.

“Is this your new laptop?” asked her mother.


“It seems really expensive. And shiny. What’s this? This handbag seems expensive. It doesn’t seem to be from India either,” she said.

“No. It is from Paris,” replied Neha with a tone of finality.

“And how did you buy something from Paris?”

“You can order everything online nowadays. They will ship anything you want from any corner of the wor-”

“What is this? Where are the shoulders on this dress? It is like the ones you see actresses wearing. How do you have this? Why do you have this?”

“Sometimes we go for parties and you need to dress up like this. But I wear a jacket with this dress always,” she lied.

“So your roommate also wears-”

“Yes she does. We all do. Can you stop disturbing me?”

“I didn’t mean to. Only the clothes and handbags you have seem so expensive. You don’t ask us for money all that much. How come – ”

“I told you I had that writing job. It pays me a lot. I just need to write some stories and send them to this online magazine. They pay me by the number of words I write. And I need to write one such story today. So, can you stop disturbing me?”

“Wow. People read my daughter’s stories online. What do you write about?”

“This and that. Not about lawyers and criminals. Just boring things for which some people are willing to pay me lots.”

“That is what is bugging me. I asked Priya. She also has a online magazine for which she writes. She said she got Rs.2000 for three months work and she works harder than you.”

“What do you mean by “harder than me”? She writes questions for students, not stories. Can you stop investigating my life?”

“I am just worried that you might be doing something wrong.”

“Wrong? What does that word even mean? Right and wrong are constructs humans came up with to keep their kids safe long enough till they start understanding the world around them. Once you grow up nothing is just right or wrong. There are just shades of gray. Isn’t that the definition of growing up? Realizing not everything is either black or white.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about.”

“In simple words, there is nothing to worry about. Can you stop disturbing me now?”

Her mother was worried that she might be on the verge of a fight with her daughter. That was not the way she had imagined her visit to start. Setting aside all her doubts for the night, she made her way to the bed to sleep. But Neha couldn’t focus with her mother in the same room as her. She kept staring blankly at the blank screen.

Just then she received an email.

I am eagerly waiting for today’s story. Your words have begun replacing certain needs in my life. The stories you write evoke more passion than the other stories I publish. There is a certain rawness and fearlessness in your writing. May be it is the anonymity. But if you weren’t anonymous I would gladly publish your first book myself. Obviously, the book will have to be about something else. I hope you liked the handbag I sent you. May be today’s story will be worth the shoes you picked out. No pressures!

Neha felt a lot of pressure now. She needed to start writing this erotica. Those shoes weren’t going to magically appear in her closet. But she couldn’t type a word. The same old question cornered her again. Was all of this wrong? A voice in her head said,”The object of any writing is to impact a person’s mind. You are a philanthropist because you give people pleasure. And …” The voice went on. The other voice was silent today. She began typing.


It was swelteringly hot and five more people stood in front of us in the line at the Vigyan Nagar Post Office. The line was static. Why? The man at the counter said whatever may be the case they won’t take letters or parcel during his lunch hours even if he just sat and chat with his colleagues.

Just then three ladies entered the scene.

“Oh My God! What a long line ! ,” said Lady A.
“Don’t Worry,” said Lady B. “There must be a separate line for women. Since there is none now , we will make one.”

Saying this she had started a line for women. There was a protest from a person ( obviously bearing a different set of chromosomes) but that was snubbed down easily by the threesome.Other ladies also followed suit as in a game of hearts. My friend Rudra and me were left flabbergasted.

“It is such a waste of time for students when they have to come by themselves to post their forms. I wish the Institute would do something for these students. It would save a lot of time and…” Lady C did not seem to think it proper to keep her conversation private or short.

Suddenly an idea clicked. I went up to Lady B ( the most vulnerable looking) and said ,”Aunty , Can you post the form for me when you are posting yours. A lot of time would be saved. Please Aunty,” in my most flattering voice.

“Son, it would be injustice on others standing here if I did this for you. It would be wrong and you are…”

I cut her short. “Thanks a lot, Aunty, anyways” with a lot of stress on the word Aunty.Hypocrites. She had a chance to save my time but no… justice, truth and what not to cover up.

Five minutes later when the counter opened there was some confusion there. Lady B came out of line, in her hand she held half a twenty-rupee note. I say half cause it had so dexterously torn into two halves(one of which she held) that it seemed that it was a note that was folded in half.

See you can’t tell whether its folded in half or cut into two halves till you feel which our lady here was too preoccupied to

“That potato-vendor. I will kill him today. Look at the rascal…., ” said Lady B although she was using language that forbade the use of the title.

Serves her right for being so obsessed with justice.

“Thank God, it was not a hundred rupee note,” said Lady A as the trio left the post-office.

Now just look at the economics involved. The potato vendor if he got away with the other half he gets away with a total of twenty plus twenty forty rupees. So a profit of twenty rupees if that note was his and a profit of forty rupees if he had found it and also the idea of not discarding it.




CCD(Cafe Coffee Day) is definitely not my usual place to hang out because:

  1. You need to order something to be eligible to occupy a seat.
  2. You can’t even just sit for a glass of water because you need to pay for that as well.

Still this Friday I was there waiting for a friend whom I had not met for a couple of years. I had ordered the cheapest coffee worth Rs. 22 and was waiting.

That’s when my eyes drifted towards this really beautiful girl sitting in the corner with her friends. And her eyes met mine and they locked for a moment more than what might have been considered coincidental. She obviously broke out of that ‘eye-lock’ first and started talking in an over-excited tone with her friends.

Dude, that’s just an arbitrary event. Nothing to make a meaning out of. Maurya, hurry up or God knows what I might end up thinking? Again as my eyes started to explore the geography of the cafe I don’t know why they got stuck with this girl. This time around I noticed that she was not that fair but she was very gorgeous. I decided this time to purposely avoid looking that side. Who knows if she has noticed me watching, what she might have thought? It was already 6 o. clock. How long did I have to wait in this place like this? I did not even have a uber-cool phone to kill boredom nor the patience to wait longer.

Okay if Maurya does not come in the next five minutes I leave.

Well Maurya did not come. So guess I had to leave. I paid the bill and decided to leave. I guess it would be of no harm to have another look at that girl before leaving. So near the door, I turned around(stylishly I thought) and my eyes browsed the corner for that angel. Hey where’s the girl?

I really wanted to look at her one time more before leaving. But guess fate had decided against it.

Just as I went out, I saw her. She was talking with someone on the phone. As soon as she saw me, she cut short her conversation.

She came up to me and asked ,”You leaving so early. Care for a cup of coffee together.”

That left me speechless.

I managed to mumble a yes before opening the door for her.


As I followed her back to the seat I had previously occupied I tried to get in ‘form’. Now ‘form’ for a guy/girl caught in a situation like this is the ability to impress that you are smart and that at one shot. In fact let’s have a score-board for both me and her and let’s see who has got the ‘form’.


5 bonus points to her for being so beautiful.

So what should I do first then?I went ahead and drew the chair out for her and then came over and took the seat in front.That would be like 5 points for gentleman behaviour.


I asked,”So what’s your name?”

She said,” Shruti. And yours?”

Shruti. Hmmm…. Nice name then.

“It’s Debi,”I said.

“Isn’t that a little girlish? I don’t mean to hurt but…”

5 marks cut. Now thats rude on her part.


“Actually thats short for Debidatta as it’s a tongue twister for some people.”

“You are the same guy. ICSE topper-types na. Yeah, you definitely have this padhakhu(studious) aura now that I am beginning to notice.”

Hey how can you do this? At least give me a chance. You can’t cut me out just because I did well in my tenth. That’s injustice to me and the other geeks in this world.

“Well you don’t know me yet do you. I guess you can judge all that later…,” and I thought for a while and added ,” when we know each other better.”

She smiled and that took me off. I was getting a great feeling apart from 5 points for such a timely statement that drew such a beautiful smile from her. Yeah let’s give her 5 points as well for the smile.


“So what do you do apart from hanging out here?” I asked.
“Nothing much actually. I simply hate studies and love almost everything else that is supposed to take me away from them. As such I am a Commerce student. So you know….,” and I guess she would have told something else if this waiter would not have appeared.”One latte. And what do you want?” I asked her.”I would have a Submarine. And please order at that table in the corner. Thank You.”Hey, what’s a submarine? It sounded huge.

“So where were we then? So what do you do apart from studying, studying and just studying,” she said.

“Well that’s an accusation which I face from lots of people. I enjoy whatever I do, nevertheless.”

“Hey, that’s the issue. You do only one thing-studying.”

5 points to her. What shall I attack next with?

“Well don’t you think that makes it all the more difficult to enjoy it. Still I do.”

Thats nice. At least it kept me alive in competition. 3 points for quick response then to me.


“Okay so you a Kutian?” shot Shruti.

My brain carried out a quick operation.
Search: Kutian.
Results: No results in Debi’s Vocabulary
Nearest results: Kutta,Kuttia.

Bad vocabs, Debi. Minus 5 for that then.

“So what’s a Kutian?” I ventured to ask.

“Guys on Orkut are called Kutians. But guess I need to introduce you…”

“No I do have an account there but I wasn’t aware of this little nomenclature.”

“Nomen–what? I just know Nauman from Roadies. But you toh ….”

Minus two for her as well.


“Hey, I watch Roadies. And I know Nauman. This is nomenclature- science of naming and classifying things.Leave so you had noticed me looking at you.”

“Well, frankly my whole group had. I don’t know why I sort of — you know—- kind of liked it.”

I did not ask what ‘it’ was and why she liked it. What matters is that she liked ‘it’. Good we were finally coming to the point.

“Well you are so beautiful that I just kept looking.”

And after this for the first time did she look at me directly eye to eye. Just as I was getting myself ready to drown in the depth of her lovely eyes she broke connection. Guys this is bad now. Just imagine you are going to dive in this pool and you have made your jump and someone has drained the water.

Actually her friends had started to leave, so she even had to hurry up.

“So you have to go then, I guess,” I said “What about the submarine?”

I really wanted to see one without ordering.

“That was for my friend. Got to go now,” she said and scribbled something on the napkin and left.

I wanted her to turn once before going but she was too busy giggling with her friends.

On the napkin she had written her phone number!

What an idiot I was ? I had not even asked for her phone number!

She deserved lots of points for that.


(This scoreboard thing is from some movie. I forget which. So don’t accuse me for plagiarizing later)
EPISODE 3Later that night at my house.”It can’t be so simple,”said Maurya. “No girl is so easy. It’s quite filmy and this napkin is not proof enough of her love.”

“You are just pissed off because you came late or else all this might have never happened. It happened dude.I can’t tell …”

“Call her then. Call now,” he said.

“I can’t just call her. I have to prepare myself for that. You know rehearse and get into ‘form’.Or for a change. Let’s just be myself this time. No rehearsal. Whatsay Maurya?”

“Just call. Why do you think so much?”

I called.

“Hey, it’s ringing,” I said.

“Wow. What were you expecting? You would call and the phone would turn into Shruti. It’s ringing. What’s the world coming to?”

I said,”Hello, Shruti?”

Shruti from the other side,” Yeah and you are?”

“Debi. We met today.”

“Yeah. Debi I have to tel you something,” she said.

I love you obviously.


“Well, my friends had challenged me to spend 10 minutes with a stranger in CCD. So you seemed to have wanted to talk. That’s why I had come to your table. Don’t feel bad. I am really sorry if I have hurt you. But I had hundred bucks at stake. Hey, are you there? Debi…”

I hung up. Shocking. Mind-numbing.I felt a vacuum in my chest and this very odd feeling of desperation.

“Maurya I am going to sleep.” He did not stop me or ask me anything.

When I woke up the next day I got this sms on my phone:
sry for ystrday. but truly u r nice lets meet. today 4pm CCD.
sry again.

This girl always leaves me speechless, always.

So I am going now to meet her. Pray for me brother.


Summers in Orissa are marked by erratic cuts in electricity; often disrupting normal life. It sure did disrupt mine this morning when I had to miss out on the repeat telecast of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. which I had missed out on yesterday. That’s like missing the missed.

I was feeling extremely bored and then…….

“How could you do this without asking me?”

That voice seemed to belong to Mr. Misra, a usually cool campaigner, who was now attempting to exercise his vocal chords at maximum amplitude.

Normally I would not have done this but since I was also getting bored to the max I decided to check it out.

The scene in front of Mr. Misra’s house was as follows:

Mr. Misra was balking at two government workers who I presumed belonged to the electricity department because of the loop of thick wire that one of them hung by his arm and pointing again and again to a branch of a tree and a big jack-fruit adorning it. Mr. Misra was quoting from the Gita and the Constitution simultaneously about justice, truth and possession. Any gaps in his little speech were appropriately punctuated by counter-arguments from both the workers. And spectators to this debate were about ten people including Mr. Bhandari ,another aged neighbour, a beggar on a wheelchair and myself. Judging by the noise (and publicity) that was being created more on-lookers were on the cards also.

Mr. Mishra: How can you cut a branch of a tree that grows on my garden without asking me?

Worker 1: You were not there. So we cut it. Anyways you should thank us for not cutting the entire tree down.

Worker 2: Your tree was hindering this wire. Plus the little branch had begun twining about these wires and we were getting regular complaints of short circuiting.

Worker 1: We even cut down other things if people come in between our job and us.

Mr. Misra: Like what? You will cut us down someday!

Worker 2: No just the mains wire that gives you current. That should suffice.

Worker 1: Sir, we can’t bicker with you the whole day now? We have many wirings to examine and you can see it’s not getting any cooler.

Worker 2: Yeah, Shambhu carry this jack-fruit along. It belongs to us now that we have cut it. And also the branch. We will make some fundings out of that branch.

Mr. Misra: No one takes anything away from here. That tree is mine and whatever it bears is mine. You scoundrels had no right to touch it. Now you want to take the fruit away?

Worker 1: Okay then you pay us and keep the branch. But the jack-fruit is definitely ours. You can take a little piece if you want.

Mr. Misra had had enough of this. He did not say anything this time and went into the house. And he came back smiling. He said,”Let’s go inside and settle this out over a cup of tea.”

Wow! Now that was a paradigm shift. What had caused him to undergo this benevolent transformation? Some Gandhigiri trick or what?

The workers went inside after looking slightly disconcerted though. I guess the show was over. It would be impolite for anyone of us to go in just to witness the deal.

Just then Mr. Misra came out and told Mr. Bhandari, “I have called my friend. He is a Senior Officer in Electricity Department. I will strip these scoundrels of their jobs for sure today.”

Having revealed this bit of information he ran inwards.Then Mr. Bhandari and I both started to leave.

“Isn’t that the branch and fruit that these people were quarreling about?” , said Mr. Bhandari.

Near the end of the lane, the lame beggar wheeled on as fast as he could with the branch that held the jack-fruit attached to the support of his chair. And then he turned into another lane and out of our sight. I guess it’s his now.


Location:Somewhere near Sagar
Characters: Robin, Satwik, Amit and ******

11 PM

Robin said, “Well, let’s go somewhere, yaar.”

Satwik said, “Let me take you to this really cool place. Me and my friends discovered it last year during our board exams. We got all the confidence with which we gave our exams from this place.”

“Let’s hit the road then. And yeah let’s pick up Amit on the way. He had sms-ed he was getting bored”, said Robin putting on his jacket.

11.30 PM

Robin shouted,”This gave you confidence. It’s giving me the creeps.”

Amit told,”A graveyard should give you the creeps. Why did you bring us here?”

Satwik said, “Well you were getting bored and he wanted to go somewhere. Oh chill man nothing happens the ghosts are dead. If thats what is scaring you Amit then no need to come in .”

Amit said,”You are going in?”

Satwik replied,”Ya IGI: I’m Going In and even Robin is. Aren’t you coming in Robin?”

Robin said,”Well let’s come back tomorrow. Let’s go back home today and muster up all courage we have say good bye to our girl-friends and parents and then come here tomorrow, ok.It’s a promise. I hope that’s ok with you Amit?”

Amit okayed , Satwik grunted and the graveyard plan was discarded.

They came out onto the highway. Satwik went straight to the middle of the road and …… well he laid himself on the road.Robin followed.

Satwik said,”It’s quite warm. Come on Amit feel the heat. Anyways it’s quite cold out here”

“Don’t you think a truck might come and crush all of us if we sleep there,”said Amit .

“Come on don’t be such a cheapo. We can know whether a truck, a bus or a cycle is coming when it is 2 to 3 kms away,” said Satwik

“No leave me alone.Okay let me click photos of you guys to put on orkut,”said Amit

He turned his bike on and lighted the entire road. So there they had a photo-shoot for half an hour or so. They shot photos in almost every pose that each one could offer.

Finally as everyone had had enough of this and were about to leave a jeep came along. No one understood why it stopped: guess it was odd for 3 young guys to hang out at midnight on a public highway.

4 00 AM

Satwik said, “Dad, can you come to the police station now? No i have been arrested for taking drugs. No obviously I did not. Please ……

PS: ****** – POLICE

Location: Dusshera Mela, Kota
Characters:Apu, Rahul, Rudra and myself

We had just reached the Dusshera Grounds and the enormity of the fair this year left us stunned. People seemed to be rushing in from all directions. Everyone around us seemed to have put on their best clothes for this occasion. In fact for the localites this is a huge event something like Christmas: it comes once a year but it surely is the best time. We caught sight of a newly married couple(most probably) who were thinking that they were a part and parcel of the crowd and their public display of affection would go unnoticed, then came along an aunty who seemed to have put on all her gold on herself (for unrestricted public exhibition)that she had accumulated till that day( why do these people think that there would be others who would notice that in all that crowd. I mean who cares?) and then came along this girl who had successfully transformed herself into an albino(How? Talc obviously) : she was having a little difficulty to walk with grace with those stilettos but she managed somehow and so on. I mean everybody there seemed to want attention: well they did catch my eye .

Just at the entrance to the fair, there was this man with a stall: there was a gun and balloons to shoot at. The prospect of using a gun really got some hormones activated but then when I saw the muzzle of the gun was inches away from the balloons I guess whatever feeling had been aroused by those chemicals subsided and I decided not to have a shot. But Rahul, Apu and Rudra were quite excited and started shooting. They shot one bullet, the man opened the barrel filled it up and again they shot. This went on for quite some time and finally they had had enough and even I had had enough of waiting.

Apu asked the man, “So how much did it cost?”

The man replied,”Fifty rupees.”

What the — Fifty rupees for shooting at balloons from a distance less than their diameter. That was too much.

Apu asked,”So how many shots did you both shoot?”

Rudra and Rahul had not counted. Neither had Apu nor had I counted.

Apu concluded,”That guy was a lootera, man.”

So we had no option but to pay fifty bucks and leave. Guys beware of such looteras. For example with the golgappa/gupchup vendors do keep a count or you might be losing out on some free fund.

Location: Dusshera Mela, Kota

I hope you all have seen a boat that does a sort of periodic motion in a vertical circle in amusement parks or in local melas. The boat in this mela was overloaded by say 20 to 40 extra people. I say ‘extra’ because these people were not even sitting . They stood on the side-rails and held onto the bars of the boat as it swung to and fro. I find just sitting on that boat a ride my mind and body can just survive but standing on that was out of question.

Just as I was thinking how scary a ride it was being for these people one brave-heart let go of his bar, stretched his hands , got carried away with the cacophonous music and did a Titanic( i mean he just spread his arms) and this time when the boat was going down the man did not go down. He went up: thrown tangentially out into nothingness. And just like a ball thrown he flew out and then BANG. He was lucky enough to just miss the ride that was beside it. He was not bleeding but he was obviously in pain.

Now in such places there is usually no first aid available. A young boy came running from God knows where and started slapping the person into his senses. Well, that was the only first aid he got. Few men came and took him away to a tent nearby.No one else on the boat noticed his absence. The show must go on and it did.

Next time you go to a mela just be careful.