Killing the Red God

A serialization of my novel, "Killing the Red God". | Copyright: Hari Kumar | website: | If this is your first visit, please start from the bottom (start of Chapter 1)

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Location: Singapore, Singapore

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Chapter 1 -- Part 6

"Aaah! The wonder woman is here!" a big pink man, in his late fifties, wearing a suit and a broad grin rushes with extended arms towards us.
He grabs Nisha, by the waist and plants a peck on her cheeks. He then looks at her unabashedly into her plunging cleavage and says in a sing-song voice, "Oooh! Are we sexy tonight!"
"Oh, stop it, Stan," Nisha says, tapping the big man's chest lightly. I note her face is slightly flushed.
"Stan, this is my husband, Dilip. And this, Dilip, is the great president of Drextel Dynamics, Stan Maclaurin,"
"O! I am really sorry," Stan's face acquires a reddish hue, "I didn't realise you were Nisha's husband," he takes my feeble hand with both of his and gives it a firm shake.
"That's all right," I mumble, turning on my business smile.
Then he says thrusting a stubby finger at my chest, "You must be a proud proud man! You have an amazing woman for a wife, here, do you know that?" And then turning to Nisha, he asks excitedly, "Nish, did you tell him the good news? Did you?"
Nisha nods, but adds, "He didn't seem so impressed, though."
"Not impressed? Why O why? Six months from Marketing Executive to Marketing Manager to Senior Marketing Manager to Marketing Director? That's three promotions in six months, for Christ's sake! If that isn't impressive, then what is? I tell you what, Dilip, like it or not, this babe of yours is going places."
"He's upset about Sahay… They were friends."
"Oh I see! You know the bottom line an' all that. We just couldn't help it…He is a good man…Very experienced… He'll have no problem finding work."
I nod my head understandingly.
"Any way, let's forget all that and celebrate the moment. We have two good reasons - your promotion, and the new president's arrival," Stan says. "So let's all get drunk and have some fun!" he says quickly and pulls Nisha towards him.
"Staaaan!" she feigns a scowl at him for my benefit.
Stan grabs her by the elbow, "Come, let's meet my wife, Mandy. The new president should be here in a few minutes. Quite a guy, young for a corporate president, very suave. I told him about you on our way from the airport…"
"And Dilip, do make yourself at home, will ya…there's lots of booze going around…"

(To be continued...)

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Chapter 1 -- Part 5

I had met Sahay around a year back during one of my official trips to L.A. He sat next to me in the return flight to Singapore. A wizened man, who looked very much out of place in a business suit, he regaled me with his gentle anecdotes and beautiful poetry. Learning of my keen interest in poetry, it was Sahay who proposed we set up a poetry club. Within days and after a flurry of emails, we had our first reading in Sahay's spacious living room. There were six of us, "The Lost Poets", as we called ourselves, sitting by the candle light, reciting our favourite poems (written by the greats and not-so-greats) in soft, serious voices, while the stereo played, ever so softly, evening ragas in the background. Shelly, Blake, Keats etc would possess our bodies and pour their emotions out through our voices. We would have three rounds of recitations, with light discussions after each round. And when the last discussions taper off, Mrs. Sahay, would gently announce from her wheelchair the pizza man's arrival. These sessions lasted around three hours, except for the first one, which had to tackle some administrative issues like the frequency of readings (decided to be monthly; every second Wednesday evening), and collection of funds.
The more we met, the more we began to look forward to our sessions when the six of us could escape the world and coast the rarefied spheres of literature. In that rectangular living room, sitting on soft cushions, each of us unwound ourselves; the tight ball of wool that we had unknowingly become, became slowly undone. From little seeds, we grew into magnificent trees, with a million branches breaking out of the boundaries of the room and conquering large unseen spaces of the cosmos. Yet with another leap, we plunged inwards, hurtling into our dust-laden depths, discovering treasures sleeping within us. Then the little voice of Mrs. Sahay brought us plummeting to the world of boundaries and boxes and limits.
Once, after our session, while I was preparing to leave, I had casually mentioned to Sahay, that my wife was an MBA desperately looking for work for over a year without much success. "Ask her to call me," he said instantly. Within a fortnight Nisha was singing praises of Sahay.
"What are you thinking?" Nisha invades my silence.
"Nothing…Old times."
(To be continued...)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Chapter 1 -- Part 4

We drive in silence for a while.
“That loud-mouthed bitch, Sangeetha called while you were changing…” she lights a cigarette.
I give her a quick sideways glance.
“… to announce they’ve bought a new Beemer…”
I keep silent, my eyes fixed on the road. She knows I hate her smoking in the car. And I know she hates it when I ignore her. She started this annoying habit soon after she got this new job. Knowing her, I am sure it was to mingle with the big boys of the company, to be in their league.
“Aren’t you ashamed?” her tone is spiteful.
“Why should I… I have a car too,” I say softly.
“You call this a car?? A nineties Hyundai is not a car. It is a fucking rattletrap… And that too, bought with my money. Not yours… Don’t you have any ambition, man…? Her husband was your classmate, right? He is now a country manager of an MNC. And what are you? A useless Engineer of some two-bit company… I am just six months into my job and I am earning more than double your income.”
I don’t reply. She pulls at the cigarette and exhales through her nose. I imagine her looking like a fire breathing dragon.
“Mark my words…” she shakes her index finger. “Three months, and I am driving a Lexus.”
I knew she would. Somewhere within that tight skull of hers were plans. Short term, medium term, long term. People, like the plans, were mere instruments for her, to be used and discarded once they’ve outlived their purpose. I remember one morning, two years after Pooja was born, she announced the child must go. She had made a point that she was fertile (though immediately after the delivery she got herself sterilised), and that was enough. Within a week her mother flies in from Mumbai and wrenches that part of me away while I watch helplessly.
“I wonder why I am coming with you. It’s your company. Your party.” I say, trying to change the subject.
“Believe me, if I had a choice, I would have left without you,” she taps the ash on the ashtray.
“Stan insisted we bring our spouses.”
“At least Sahay will be there to keep me company,” I say trying to cheer up.
“I don’t think so,”
I glance at her quizzically. She avoids my eyes.
“Yesterday was his last day. The incompetent fool! He was given the pink slip… I will be taking over from him.”
“How could you…?”
“How could I what?” she snaps back.
“I mean, it was because of him you got this job in the first place…”
“No, it wasn’t, okay? I have an MBA, mind you. He just interviewed me, found me suitable… Put me as Marketing Executive instead of Manager for which I was well qualified.”
“He was a good man… harmless… he’s got two kids in college and an invalid wife,” I hear myself say.
“We don’t want good harmless men. We want Marketing Directors who know their job. Not blasted poets.”

(To be continued...)

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Chapter 1 -- Part 3

A few hours earlier...
"Jeans??" Nisha looks at me from the corner of her eye, her hand holding the maroon lipstick freezes.
She is wearing a dark, skin tight evening dress that barely covers her crotch. Her sculpted thighs look at me blankly, smoothly. Her breasts are pushed up by a special bra, enhancing the curves, deepening the generous cleavage.
"SUIT!" she shrieks, "Stan said gents must wear suit. How many times must I have to tell you that? I told you this is a formal dinner. Stan's leaving and the new president is taking over. Do you realise how important this is to me?"
"If it's a formal dinner, then how come you're dressed as a whore," I mutter under my breath, turning my back to her.
"What was that?" she asks sharply.
"Nothing," I reply, "I said I'll change."
(To be continued...)

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Chapter 1 -- Part 2

A magnificent penthouse apartment overlooking the Singapore River. I have no time to enjoy the view. I carry her inside. The living room is littered with big unopened cartons. Three or four large suitcases lie helter-skelter.
I carry her to a bedroom in the lower level of the duplex flat and gently lay her on the bed. In the bright light, I note she is very beautiful. Maybe in her mid twenties. I see a big patch of vomit on her sari. I don’t know what to do. She opens her eyes, her face sickly, she says: “bathroom.” I help her up.

She throws up into the toilet. She wipes her mouth with the tip of the sari. She looks relieved and walks unsteadily towards the bed.
“Your sari is filthy.”
She undresses in front of me as if I didn’t exist. She is slim, small breasts, soft curves, a slight belly. I note the signs of a C-section in her abdomen. Her nipples are large like the eyes of a surprised man. She slips into bed and is asleep in no time, curled up like a shrimp. I look at her for a moment. I cover her nakedness with a blanket. I take out my business card and write my mobile number behind it. “Call me…” I scribble. For a moment my pen hesitates, makes a rough oval in the air above the card, and then writes with a flourish: “…when love is done.”
(To be continued...)

Monday, February 07, 2005

CHAPTER 1 - The Night of a Thousand Eyes

Part 1
I am on my third whiskey (or my fourth, I am not sure), when I see her. She is at one of the poolside umbrellas; alone, aloof. I can hear the party warming up in the nearby function hall of this magnificent condominium. Bursts of laughter occasionally drown the soft swish of the pool waters. The dull light from the full moon lies shattered in the pool, making quivering shapes on her face. As I approach her, I note the striking ovalness of her face, an almost perfect symmetry. Her hair is thick, long lustrous swirls that one can drown in. I place my whiskey on her table and sink into a chair beside her. She ignores me, still gazing at the unusually starry Singapore night. I follow her gaze. The words of Francis William Bourdillon rise in me unexpectedly:
“The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun…”
She looks at me, the broken moon sparkling in her eyes, and whispers softly where I left off:
“The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done.”
She smiles. “Kavitha,” she says, extending a delicate hand. “Dilip,” I say, taking it.
“Dilip… Dil for short,” she says, “Dil meaning heart.”
“Kavitha…” I say in return, relishing the feel of the word forming in my tongue, “meaning poetry”
“Does Bourdillon possess you on starry nights, or was it the whiskey?”
I laugh. “You surprised me,” I say, meaning it. I note her accent is American. Not the fake ones people who spend two months in the US return with.
I then notice a glass in her hand resting on her lap, partly hidden by the folds of her sari.
“It’s only my third… The night of a thousand eyes is still young,” she keeps the glass on the table.
“The night of a thousand eyes is still young. But the blind world has banished us,” I raise my chin towards the noises emerging from the hall.
“Not banished,” she corrects me, “Liberated…” and adds quickly, “No, no. Reprieved…” then looks at me questioningly, “from our spouses?”
“From our spouses,” I agree.
“Tell me, Kavitha, do you write kavithas as well as you recite them?”
“I write…” her eyes shift to the pool, “for myself, mostly.”
She empties her glass in one quick gulp and places it on the table. I drain mine too. The night takes on a soft haze. Edges blur. The world swims.
“Dil,” she asks lifting the glass, her voice like a child’s, “get me shum more? Pleeesh”
“Come with me,”
She shakes her head, points to the water, “I wanna drown in whishkey. Not water.”
“Get me shum food too.”
There were at least a hundred people in the hall. Strange faces. Foggy, featureless. None I could recognise. The men, stiff suited like penguins. Something in me looks for Nisha. I spot her dancing with some guy whose hands are all over her buttocks. Our eyes meet. We both ignore each other.
I tell one of the bow-tied attendants to serve the drinks at the poolside. I heap food on to two plates and stagger out.

Kavitha eats with relish, taking short sips of the whiskey in between. We talk senseless things. We laugh senselessly. She says absurd jokes that don’t mean anything. We still laugh out loud and gracelessly.
“I feel sick,” she says suddenly and vomits into the pool. I hold her back so she does not fall.
“Take me to my flat, pleesh,” she gives me a key.
The key-chain tag says: “The Quayview Penthouse, 15th Floor”
I carry her. She is light, petite, almost like a child. I find my way to the lobby of the condominium. I ignore the wide-open stares of the receptionist and push the key-chain towards him. “Where is this?” I think I asked.
He points to a door at one end of the lift lobby, “The private lift. ‘She all right? Need help, Sir?”
I shake my head. “Had one too many,” I wink.

(To be continued...)