|The Woman On Platform No. 8|
The Room On The Roof
|The Man Who Was Kipling|
The Eyes Have It
|A Guardian Angel|
A Case For Inspector Lal
THE WOMAN ON PLATFORM NO. 8
IT WAS MY SECOND YEAR at boarding-school, and I was sitting on platform No. 8 at Ambala station, waiting for the northern bound train. I think I was about twelve at the time. My parents considered me old enough to travel alone, and I had arrived by bus at Ambala early in the evening: now there was a wait till midnight before my train arrived. Most of the time I had been pacing up and down the platform, browsing at the bookstall, or feeding broken biscuits to stray dogs; trains came and went, and the platform would be quiet for a while and then, when a train arrived, it would be an inferno of heaving, shouting, agitated bodies. As the carriage doors opened, a tide of people would sweep downupon the nervous little ticket-collector at the gate; and everytime this happened I would be caught in the rush and swept outside the station. Now tired of this game and of ambling about the platform, I sat down on my suitcase and gazed dismally across the railway tracks. ...
CHACHI DIED AT 6 P.M. on Wednesday the 5th of April, and came to life again exactly twenty minutes later. This is how it happened.
Chachi was, as a rule, a fairly tolerant, easy-going person, who waddled about the house without paying much attention to the swarms of small sons, daughters, nephews and nieces who poured in and out of the rooms. But she had taken a particular aversion to her ten year old nephew, Sunil. She was a simple woman and could not understand Sunil. He was a little brighter than her own sons, more sensitive, and inclined to resent a scolding or a cuff across the head. He was better looking than her own children. All this, in addition to the fact that she resented having to cook for the boy while both his parents went out to office jobs, led her to grumble at him a little more than was really necessary. ...
THE CORAL TREE
THE NIGHT HAD BEEN HOT, the rain frequent, and I slept on the veranda instead of in the house. I was in my twenties and I had begun to earn a living and felt I had certain responsibilities. In a short while a tonga would take me to a railway station, and from there a train would take me to Bombay, and then a ship would take me to England. There would be work, interviews, a job, a different kind of life; so many things, that this small bungalow of my grandfather's would be remembered fitfully, in rare moments of reflection.
When I awoke on the verandah I saw a grey morning, smelt the rain on the red earth, and remembered that I had to go away. A girl was standing in the verandah porch, looking at me very seriously. When I saw her, I sat up in bed with a start. ...
THE ROOM ON THE ROOF
THE LIGHT SPRING RODE on the wind, into the trees, down the road; it brought an exhilarating freshness to the air, a smell of earth, a scent of flowers; it brought a smily to the eyes of he boy on the road.
The long road wound round the hills, rose and fell and twisted down to Dehra; the road came from the mountains and passed through the jungle and valley and, after passing through Dehra, ended somewhere in the bazaar. But just where it ended no one knew, for the bazaar was a baffling place, where roads were easily lost. ...
I WAS TEN YEARS OLD. My grand mother sat on the string bed under the mango tree. It was late summer and there were sunflowers in the garden and a warm wind in the trees. My grandmother was knitting a woollen scarf for winter months. She was very old, dressed in a plain white sari. Her eyes were not very strong now but her fingers moved quickly with the needles and the needles kept clicking all afternoon. Grandmother had white hair but there were very few wrinkles on her skin.
I had come home after playing cricket on the maidan. I had taken my meal and now I was rummaging in a box of old books and family heirlooms that had just that day been brought out of the attic by my mother. Nothing in the box interested me very much except for a book with colourful pictures of birds and butterflies. I was going through the book, looking at the pictures, when I found a small photograph between the pages. It was a faded picture, a little yellow and foggy. It was the picture of a girl standing against a wall and behind the wall there was nothing but sky. But from the other side a pair of hands reached up, as though someone was going to climb the wall. There were flowers growing near the girl but I couldn't tell what they were. There was a creeper too but it was just a creeper. ...
I CAME IN THE SPRING, and took the room on the roof. It was a long low building which housed several families; the roof was flat, except for my room and a chimney. I don't know whose room owned the chimney, but my room owned the roof. And from window of my room I owned the world.
But only from the window.
The banyan tree, just opposite, was mine, and its inhabitants my subjects. They were a few squirels, a mina, a crow, and at night, a pair of flying-foxes. The squirels were busy in the afternoons, the birds in the mornings and evenings, the foxes at night. I wasn't very busy that year; not as busy as the inhabitants of the banyan tree. ...