The Astrologer’s Assistant – 1

I’m not going to begin with the usual “OMG I haven’t blogged in forever I’m going to start blogging everyday from now mother promise!” preface. Every month would do.

Phew. And with that out of the way – here’s the beginning of a short story I’m currently working on for my fiction writing class.

“That’s my seat.”

I looked up from my copy of Stardust (mostly embarrassed that someone had caught me with a copy of Stardust, but that was the least cringeworthy publication the newspaper stand nearby carried). A wizened old man with a bristly, unapologetic beard shaped much like the Indian peninsula was staring down at me. Air conditioning had done nothing to stop his perspiration.

“Could you remove your bag from my seat please?”

At least he was polite. I looked around at the rest of the compartment; a perfectly normal collection of pilgrims aboard the best coach the Indian Railways was willing to offer for the Chennai-Tirupati Express. Nothing extraordinary here – except for the sheer number of unoccupied seats separating these individuals.

“The compartment is pretty empty,” I ventured, hoping the man would take a hint.

“But this is my seat.”

I accepted defeat and dutifully transferred the burden of my backpack from his seat to the overhead rack the Indian Railways commendably provided for this purpose.

The man sat down next to me, and promptly expanded his sphere of influence to the solitary elbow rest that separated our seats (shame on you, Indian Railways!). I distracted myself with the Stardust cover story, a piece of particularly fine journalism: a popular new actress recognized emerging from an abortion clinic claimed she was only visiting her childhood friend, a nurse; however, the enterprising journalist had an inside source who claimed that she’d been a little too friendly with an actor whose name rhymed with…

“She’s lying, you know,” interrupted the old man.


Write Like West Wing 1

My newest hobby: writing down West Wing-style dialogues during a boring class. My notebook page was overflowing with these scrawls beside some actual note-taking, so I decided to preserve them for posterity. You don’t need to know the show’s actual characters, but if you do, imagine them traversing the corridors with more important things on their mind while engaging in these ditties.

I started off with a simple:
“It’s gonna be tedious, Josh.”
“Yes it is. But if tedium were a problem, you wouldn’t work for the government, would you Donna?”
“I don’t work for the government, I work for you.”
“Good, I’ll expect it on my desk by 5 then.”

…and moved on to a slightly more complex:
Donna: “I’m going to a Yanni concert.”
“What are you, 50?!”
“Josh! That man is legendary -”
“For being bad, yes. Anyway, have fun with your grandmother.”
“I’m not going with my grandmother.”
“You have friends over 50?”
“You know why I can’t go with my grandmother? She died 10 years ago.”
Pause. “This is the part where I buy flowers to make it up to you, right?”

…and then the big one:
(Josh is walking to the vending machine, with Donna following)
“Josh, you wanna hear a moving story?”
“You know me, I’m always in the mood for a good tearjerker, Donna.”
“That’s what wakes me up in the mornings, the thought of narrating a touching tale to you.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s what wakes me up in the middle of the night.”
“Go on.”
“There was this homeless man who camped outside my apartment.”
“This isn’t a tale of love, is it?”
“And one day, I went up and offered him a dollar. And he said, ‘Missy, I will gladly exchange the dollar for a hug from you.’” (she’s choking up)
“So you hugged him?”
“Was this today?”
“Please tell me you took a shower.”
“Joshua, you have a cold heart.”
“I’m sure yours is nice and warm under all those layers of dirt. Listen, did you get your dollar back?”

I tried moving away from Josh-Donna the next day, but it was a lot harder that time around. But that’s for another post.

The Musical Sheikh

The royal family was delighted when the Queen gave birth to her fifteenth son. The Persian royalty were not averse to girl children, but they had to preserve the family name. Now there was no chance of it passing into oblivion.


The old Sheikh (who will remain unnamed for political reasons) looked proudly at his baby, which didn’t care to return his gaze. “Fifteen should do it,” he thought to himself happily. “He’ll never be King, but it’s always good to have standbys. Just in case.” He was so sure that this son would never be called upon to serve his country that he decided to be innovative with the child’s name. “I shall call him Vell,” he decided.


The young sheikh had a happy childhood, growing up being bullied and kicked around by his fourteen elder brothers and one younger sister. By the time he was twenty, only seven of them had died in inter-family disputes and civil wars. Clearly, his father had been overcautious.


The kingdom was not destined to be his. He would not be allowed to strike fear into the hearts of his subjects, imprison his uncles and cousins or sleep with a knife under the pillow to deal with potential assassinators. But the young sheikh craved such things. With politics being a closed door, he knew that the shortest routes to an exciting career lay in acting or music.


He figured that he had a natural affinity for acting, judging by the excellent reception his portrayal of an old tree had received back in the third grade (in truth, the audience was too scared of the royal family to boo). Moving to Lahore, he tried to get the film world to accept him as a new star. But his royal name did not go too far in this country – the producers at Lollywood Lol’ed at the sight of him. But Vell would not accept failure.


With the world of cinema failing to perceive his obvious talent, he took to music. After playing around with some Arabic pop, classic rock and club music, he decided that his talents lay in pure gangsta rap. Once his creative juices ran amok and revealed enough songs to put together an album, he placed all of his energy into landing a concert performance contract. The (by now not-so-young) Sheikh was not a crazy idealist – as a relative unknown, he knew that his only chance lay in opening for another relatively unknown band.


His relatively unknown agent tried hard to find the least relatively unknown band that would agree. Finally, a rock band called United State of Electronica, or USE, heard his music and were convinced enough that they were better than him to sign him on as an opener.


The Sheikh thought about his father, mother, and siblings and laughed quietly. Soon, he would be a famous man, eclipsing everything they had ever expected of him. Back home, royalty-obsessed local newspapers ran large headlines about the upcoming concert:


“Sheikh Vell Before USE”


Yes, I wrote this whole story just so that I could throw that last sentence in there. Sorry.