Category Archives: SHORT STORIES

non-personal, self-contained stories



            The woman watched while he carefully tamped down the soil around the seedling, firming the soil as tenderly as a gentle doctor might probe his patient’s delicate stomach. His movements were precise, efficient, yet his demeanour was unquestionably relaxed.

            Not a hair on his head was out of place, yet it appeared unbrushed; there was not a spare gram of flesh on his slender frame, though he was wiry rather than undernourished; his face bore few lines or wrinkles, but the blue-gray eyes suggested many years of living, probably hard rather than healthy. He clearly loved his trees. Continue reading THE TREE PLANTER




Perhaps it was the wiggle nails that did it. Anyway, they are my first memories of construction matters ín my young life. And my earliest association with a sense of ineptness over practical concerns.

Actually, the wiggle nail tag was attached to my father first, after he used them in a manner deemed to be extremely crude by my mother. Who, incidently, could never claim a title for possessing any special practicality. Continue reading WIGGLE NAILS AND SPIRITUAL LEVELS



Goanna blinked its leathery lidded eyes, keening its senses to the source of the noise as they had approached, and flicked a pink forked tongue at the air, trying to determine the identity of the intruder. The male he had already seen from a distance for a few years, now and then, but this colourful flower he brought with him was a new curiosity for the reptile.


“Take a look at that monster”, exclaimed the young woman, leaping back several steps, in case the advance of Goanna was a warning she should heed. Continue reading GOANNA

Paneer – he would have died for a drink


What a delightful young man Paneer was when I met him 23 years ago. Bright eyed, intelligent and personable, he seemed to be the kind of person one might identify as the “future of India”. He had joined the fledgling reforestation project I was involved with in Tamil Nadu, and had proven himself to be exactly the callibre of man needed: to take responsibility where it was given; to be trusted with any task required, and at the same time to have that gift to inspire those who worked with him to reach for their best potential too. What a find. Continue reading Paneer – he would have died for a drink

KAVERI – Another courageous Indian woman


She had the face that would have graced the pages of fashion magazines at various times, in the past and future. Depending, of course, on the whims of fashion czars and others who dictate the criteria of beauty at any given time.


Rather too dark, I’m afraid dear, but we could touch up a shade fairer with the right lighting and some makeup. And her body. No, that would never do. Bonily thin, yes, but those muscles, dear, and the feet and hands dear. No, no, they would never ever do. Too bony by far, veins protruding, hands disproportionately large on such tiny wrists, and feet too flat to grace any catwalk.


I am just playing with words though, for Kaveri never had the slightest inclination to grace the glossy pages of magazines. Probably no concept of such a frivolous concept, even here in Tamil Nadu where movies are a religion. She is a heroine, and not alone in her country, by a long shot. Continue reading KAVERI – Another courageous Indian woman

Hanuman’s Grace


The day started badly. The end of April, inland south India. Hot. Very hot. With the temperature shimmering around 40 degrees at nine in the morning, and likely to rise by another five degrees by early afternoon, staying home in the relative cool of my shady garden was definitely the activity of choice.


I had to go to town though, to attend to some unavoidable obligations. Accepting my fate, I jumped on the motorbike and kicked it into life. After riding five metres though, the rear wheel’s wobbling motion assured me I would not be covering the six kilometres to town on that machine. A flat tyre, and no puncture kit to remedy the situation. Oh well, my trusty bicycle would have to suffice. Not without effort, but better than nothing. It was in good condition and I always enjoyed the pedal, even in the sweltering heat. A bit of sweating does no harm after all, and actually is supposed to clean out accumulated toxins.

  Continue reading Hanuman’s Grace




Chikoos are a non-descript fruit; many foreigners would walk past the motley, brown-skinned food without a second thought. Not this gringo; I’d run a mile for a kilo of ripe chikoos.

Though it looks like an unappetising potato, appearances are deceptive. Beneath that thin skin is an exquisite taste sensation – like a cross between a perfect pear, and sweet brown sugar. No fruit salad has ever tasted quite up to scratch without chikoos since I first discovered them.

I may run a mile for chikoos, but I’d definitely think twice before buying a kilo in the midst of a religious procession again. It could cost lives. Continue reading SOME PEOPLE WOULD KILL FOR A CHIKOO



Must be getting soft in the head, old mate, he muttered to the kelpie at his feet. What would she want with a pair of rough diamonds like us?í


Jack tossled the dog’s floppy ears, smiling at the raucous laughter of a kookaburra further up the ridge. The dog, warming to the calloused hand’s ministrations, rolled back onto his master’s laceless boots and implored that the massage include his belly as well.

  Continue reading BROTHER’S WIDOW

Beggars Banquet


Broke in India! It would probably be high on many people’s list of don’t do’s, under any circumstances. But sometimes these things do happen, even to a seasoned traveller, through misfortune, or miscalculation, or a lapse of attention. I can’t pretend that my story had less than all three possibilities.


I was absolutely broke, in India. Well, to be more accurate, I had just four rupees and a few paise – around forty cents – in my wallet, although I had several thousand dollars in traveller’s cheques. My problem was really only temporary, since as soon as the banks would open, my insolvency would be past.

  Continue reading Beggars Banquet