We need to breathe

She told me this story when we were walking by a lake. It was not a special lake – just a lot of dull water in a hole. We were not holding hands and I thought that made the walk more intimate. If I had taken her hand in mine, it’d have had a sweaty, pulpy texture because we’d been walking for a long time and it was hot.

She said: “When I was younger, I once stepped on a crab while hiking. We were walking through a forest – it was one of those forests within the city, you know, a protected park thing, but really once you were inside it, it was a forest and the city didn’t matter. We’d been walking for a while and it was raining – a thin, fine rain that cleans you but doesn’t soak you. I had a blue rain-jacket on and when I bit into its collar, it tasted of tired plastic. We were climbing up a small pathway and there were these crabs scuttling along the ground in front of us. They were small and brown and had a polished look about them. I took great care not to step on them. Continue reading ‘We need to breathe’

A First

My first story to be published by someone other than myself.



Sachin Tendulkar savours reaching his double century (c) Associated Press

Sachin Tendulkar savours reaching his double century

What can you say? What can you really say?

The Night We Saw Shehenshah

This is what I remember about that night:

I was twelve and lived in a house that had one bedroom and one living room; a narrow passage connecting the two which I would string with the staccato rhythm of my growing legs while furiously reading for some upcoming exam; a kitchen that was impossibly small but allowed for mock-sparring with a sibling (one point for every jab that lands, no knock-outs allowed); and a bathroom and a toilet facing off with each other, not backing down, separated by a conciliatory wash-basin that in my memory is powder blue ceramic but might have been porcelain white. Or grey. Continue reading ‘The Night We Saw Shehenshah’

Swimming Lessons

What she remembers from when she was ten years old, when she went to learn swimming, is this.

The pool was a murky green shade, as if the water had been filtered through a moss-sieve. Five feet deep at one end and twenty two feet at the other. Was the slope gradual or were there steps? The idea of steps under water flashed an unbidden image of a giant shark wearing swimming trunks, walking on its tail, carefully making its way across the length of the pool.  She loved water and she couldn’t wait to learn swimming.

Continue reading ‘Swimming Lessons’


He was a small boy but a strong boy, was Velu.  When he was eight, his arms were cords of steel and his fingers had the grips of ancient hooks. He climbed trees as if they were vertical roads and he split open coconuts with his hands (and sometimes cracked them with his teeth). He was a strong boy, was Velu.

His mind was a million tiny fireflies and they buzzed and flitted about with easy electricity. And yet, because they were in his head, and you couldn’t see into his head, even when it was dark, they didn’t know his head was full of fire-flies. So they told him he better get ready to join the army because that’s where it was at, for him. After all, not everybody could split coconuts with their hands. Continue reading ‘Peace-keeping’


Her preferred post-coital activity is to pant, to suck in air with urgent greed. He wonders whether her mouth is open with her tongue hanging out. But he is glad to not have to know what she looks like right now – they only make love in the dark. Thankfully, she’s not one for cuddling.

He rolls over to his end, reaches out for the more traditional dessert, a cigarette. He does not un-roll back fully, leaving a little more space between them than when he started.

The freshly created strip of bedding between them is the border fence that protects him. This column of thick, white, springy comfort is what keeps this marriage secure.


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All posts at 'If I Sang Out of Tune' by Ajay Nair are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.


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