Making Sense of Place


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Making Sense of Place: AR App for Landscape Design

User-experience design for a school project exploring possible applications of augmented reality. How can landscape designers test their ideas in real time and envision what the future site will look like?

Copyright©Allison McCulloh and Vaidehi Patil 2015

The Self-healing Robot


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self-repairing robot

The robot cut a slit in its own arm with its own metal fingernail, then pushed some buttons on its chest. The slit zipped itself up. All silicon–no metal visible.

‘See?’ said Annie with barely disguised smugness. ‘My robot can heal itself.’

Swar the robot nodded.

Kedar was not impressed. ‘So? I can do that too. I heal myself all the time.’

Swar the robot looked politely confused.

‘And how?’ asked Annie.

‘Well… I may not be able to heal that fast, but I do it all the time. Even you do it. Everyone does. When I scrape my knee, bruise my elbow, when I get an ulcer in the mouth… I kindasorta repair myself.’

Annie rolled her eyes.

‘What?’ Kedar smiled. ‘You know it’s true.’

Swar the robot nodded.

‘But you don’t do it yourself. Nature does it. Whereas, my robot repairs him—itself.’

Swar the robot nodded.

‘You don’t do it consciously, anyway,’ finished Annie.

Swar the robot blinked.

‘And your robot does?’ asked Kedar.

‘Well, it is programmed to do so.’

‘And who programmed it?’

Annie looked annoyed. ‘I did. You know that.’

‘And who programmed you?’

‘No one. I am a conscious, sentient being.’

‘And I am a robot?’ asked Kedar.

‘No. You too are a conscious, sentient, being. Also, you are annoying.’

‘Q.E.D. sister,’ said Kedar. ‘I heal myself. And, I also don’t cut myself simply to prove a point.’

Swar the robot nodded.

Vinci da Alien


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My brother and I love Ancient Aliens. We derive that same strange joy out of watching the show that we do from watching movies like Housefull and Singham with like-minded company.

While I do believe aliens exist, I do not like the narrow or no definition of ‘alien’ the show seems to suggest. They never really specify who or what they imply by the term. Sometimes, the aliens are angels. Sometimes, the Hindu gods are aliens. Sometimes, some of the prophets are aliens. Though I do not recall seeing it in an episode, I am sure some of our long-gone creatures must have been branded aliens too, or perhaps their going-away had something to do with aliens.

Always, the show talks of these entities from somewhere away from the three-dimensional earth, that have come to our planet, who the ancient people often mistook as Gods or their agents. Or these entities helped us build the pyramids and the Angkor Wat. The explanation of all historic mysteries is ‘aliens.’ They might as well be saying ‘because we don’t know the explanation, it must be the aliens,’ like this meme so aptly illustrates. I feel they equate ‘can’t be explained with all the known science and facts’ with ‘aliens.’

It is difficult to explain the unknown with the little-known, specially when ‘known’ isn’t as quantifiable as it parades itself.

An occasional episode here and there does provide food for thought, and one such idea had to do with Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Renaissance painter whose work is so familiar with all.

Imagine my excitement, when the opening segment of the show suggested that his paintings contained aliens and UFOs. Load of stuff to do with him being a messenger of aliens and it was they who inspired him to sketch out all those inventions we today take for granted. In the commercial break, I tried hard to remember whether I ever noticed these aliens before. Except that the Mona Lisa has a kind of odd face and that famous enigmatic smile, I couldn’t think of any other. Then just when I was about to place that episode into Rohit Shetty category, the second segment began. That is where they started mirror-imaging those paintings and then superimposing these mirror-images. Before my eyes, the screen was showing how Virgin of the Rocks became an archetypal alien. Then there was The Madonna with Saint Giovannino, and no way could the Unidentified Flying Object in it be hastily dismissed as a cloud or the moon (a moon isn’t ever a grey hexagon with yellow streaks emerging from it, is it?).

To summarize, about half a dozen paintings of the master could be superimposed on their own mirror-images to form what were obviously portraits of, well, aliens; and some paintings depicted UFOs without even having the need to mirror-image them or anything.

After my brain was bamboozled completely, I realized that I could see this for myself. Yes, I had that much time and curiosity. But to be fair, in the spirit of science and statistics, I also decided to do the mirror-bit with another Renaissance painter’s works, just to see whether the appearance of aliens had something to do with the style and approach towards painting back then. And also to see if every well-composed painting would result in a symmetry that bears likeness to a human-face that could be mistaken for… you guessed it right, an alien.

I am not sure whether I did exactly what the show did, but here are some of the edits anyway:

Virgin of the Rocks

Lady with an Ermine

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder
A detail from The Annunciation

Here are two of Raphael’s:R_01
The Nymph Galatea
Detail from The School of Athens

I can’t say whether there are any aliens in the last two, because I have never come across (in popular culture) any looking like the things in above.

To summarize, my photo-editing adventure resulted aliens in four out of the eight Vinci paintings I tested, and zero out of four for Raphael. Visual reference point for aliens was based on how ‘obvious’ the symmetry looked like alien-forms, rather than one having to struggle to see them. This brings us back to the point I earlier mentioned regarding the unknown and the known.


Here’s the said Ancient Aliens episode.

Block-printed Goodness


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Block-printed Goodness

Had we been mass-produced through purple screens and amethyst light, we would have been all alike. And faultless– to the point, that each, would be faulty of being so.
But the inconsistency of this block print– the overlaps, the mash-ups, the experimental, unexpected colours, even those pure bits that remain uncoloured and white– speak of how we were made. (Each with love, each with His own hands, each at a different point in time).
And that is why the inconsistency shouldn’t bother.
It’s unique.
For each.
Because that is how, together, we make a fabric so beautiful.

© Vaidehi Patil

Turkeys at Churchgate


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One morning, carrying a heavy, imbalanced handbag on my shoulder and with my mother in tow, I spotted two turkeys strutting outside the Churchgate station.

The turkeys are no metaphor– they really were there, the turkeys. Outside the garbage strewn back-gate of Western Line’s last point, the birds, males I presume, walked proudly in the lane full of early morning commuters.

Then my mother displayed typical Mumbai behaviour. ‘Oh that’s ok, she said, ‘they are here usually in the morning and disappear by evening.’ I watched them chase a female. A female turkey, that is. The third bird was almost inside the Stadium restaurant. I wished it safety. ‘Let’s go. We may not get a cab till CST and then we’ll miss the train and then how will we ever reach Pune,’ she said, hoping to take my mind off what must be a regular sight for her. All this she poured before I could mumble ‘Shivneri.’

And what those birds did through the day, she must not have ever spared a thought to. She must see them every day, then perhaps hear some train announcement coming from the station nearby, realize the time or rather the shortage of it, and rush into the busy day. So, wondered the non-Mumbaikar me, what could these birds that weren’t seen so commonly even in the jungles of India, be doing on a busy Monday in the middle of a Mumbai road? A little shudder reminded me of the heavy handbag as I thought whether my mother saw the same birds every day.

They were not led by any human. Or a dog too. I decided to scan the restaurant menus of South Mumbai the next time I happened to be in one.

How magnificently they walked, pecking at bins occasionally. There was always this other angle, a slight chance, and Georgio Tsoukalos would agree– what if the underworld was actually rife with shape-shifters and unfriendly aliens? The turkeys did seem to know their way well. Too well. And they hypnotized the public enough to not get themselves into anybody’s conscious thought.

Imagine– three gangsta turkeys, plumes shining and stuff, boarding a local from Virar early morning. The crowd dispersing, respectfully and not in their senses, letting them get in before the train moved. The birds standing at the door through the journey with élan, cluck-clucking through some secret conversation. Maybe I should pay close attention to their clucks. It could be in Morse. Because it’s extremely funny, funny in ‘this chicken tastes funny’ way, to spot foreign birds strutting on the roads of Mumbai. Or maybe, I just didn’t pause enough, like others around me, to discover the reality.

Meeting Melchizedek


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I think I met Melchizedek right outside the Nagpur airport one morning, after a short trip home this July. He was dressed like one of the security guards- in khaki, hiding boredom just like the guards did behind a strict, no-nonsense expression and ample moustache.

I handed him my ticket printout and the driving licence. He peered at it, then at me. At it. At me. At it. At me.

‘I know. That’s more than five years old. I looked different. The pic’s mine.’

I always over-explain, yes, often before the need arises to.

‘You have a lovely name.’ His eyes didn’t leave the driving licence.

What a creep.

I gave a half-smile that hardly thanked him, and pretended to observe a bawling baby on a cart in the parallel queue.

‘Do you know what it means, Vaidehi?’

I provided the automatic answer. ‘It’s one of the names of Goddess Sita. Derived from Videha. Her father.’

He smiled, handing me back the licence. At this point I noticed his eyes- brown, shiny and deep. To my shock-surprise, he patted my head. ‘That it is. But what does it mean?’ His gaze was penetrating and held a hint of mischief.

I knew the meaning but thought he would not understand it even if I told him. Prejudice born from growing up in an environment where engineers are considered more brainy than designers.

He spoke. ‘It means one who has risen above and beyond the body and self. Vi-deha. Vi = beyond. Deha = body. Transcending beyond the body. Remember that.’ I must have looked really dumb with my mouth open, because my hair was promptly tousled and I was asked with a smile to move into the lobby beyond.

The past few weeks had been bad in a number of ways. I was cribbing a great deal about the unfairness dealt out to me by fate. Most importantly, I had not asked for help, to myself or others. The daily meditation was not being practiced when I needed it most.

I must have attracted this reminder. Unlike Santiago in The Alchemist, I wasn’t handed any decision-making stones, but the reminder was good enough. The first thing I did on boarding the flight was meditate. The rest would follow.



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This Dussehra, like every year, Ram was to destroy the ten-headed villain Raavan again.

In Tarun Nagar neighbourhood, they had designated a resident politician’s young grandson as Ram. The demon Raavan, obviously, being the two-storey high effigy that was being erected on the grounds. Two days later, it would be burnt down while people watch with pride, bringing with some deliberation to their conscious minds that they are, indeed, celebrating the victory of good over evil. Ram over Raavan. Tarun Nagar over Gandhi Nagar. Everyone in the small neighbourhood boasted of how much grander, taller, more expensive their Tarun Nagar Raavan was.

The metaphor of the ten heads has not trickled down well through the three yugas that followed Lord Ram’s, which was when the Bull of Morality, as it says in The Laws of Manu, stood on three legs, which wasn’t nearly as bad as the present Kali yuga, when the said bull is pretty lame. The hero’s victory is celebrated as Dussehra- the day he killed the multi-headed demon who held captive the former’s wife, Sita, on the Lankan island. Today this is just a cool mythological tale, heard and enacted for entertainment; an excuse to allot a day for eating a grand traditional fare, including sweet, gram-flour stuffed puran-polis.

Tarun Nagar people were proud of their two-storey high Raavan. It rested in the middle of the ground- multicoloured, tethered to small posts that otherwise held up practice nets for cricket. Close to a hundred residents swarmed around, working on parts of the giant like Lilliputians around Gulliver. It was being stuffed with firecrackers. Elderly Mr. Khanna fashioned its painted hay moustache on his own. A handful of teenagers rested with newspaper scraps shielding their faces from the October sun. They had stayed up the previous night working on the effigy.


Mouth-open and eyes narrowed, Ved placed the last square of tinsel carefully on the Raavan’s crown.


He ignored the excess glue oozing from under the cardboard joinery, the badly cut paper on the Raavan’s clothing, the bad paper cuts on his own soft seven-year old’s fingers. He beamed at his creation. Paper scraps, sticks and vibrant material lay strewn all over the room and around him. There he stood picking at the dried glue on his chubby hands with satisfaction, putting an occasional bit into his mouth. Then, he gingerly lifted his masterpiece and brought it out into the hall, heart pounding. ‘Dad.’

His father looked up from the garland of orange marigold and mango leaves he was making. Finally, he thought with pride and relief, happy for the shine in Ved’s eyes. ‘Much better than the giant on the ground.’


‘What do you think?’

Ved giggled. Dussehra, celebrated ten days before Diwali, held more charm for him than Diwali itself. Ramayana fascinated him. Not the hero God Ram as much as the villain with ten heads. Ved was an unwanted volunteer on the neighbourhood ground, where the cool boys ruled. ‘Cool’ meant you either owned a bicycle, or had progressed from being a mere fielder in the neighbourhood cricket gang to a batsman. Ved was neither. Tired of being told not to interfere in the making of the community effigy, he had decided to make one of his own in a burst of emotion.

And now, his father’s praise was a merit badge on his small chest. Mother scolding him for cutting up one of his notebooks for the demon’s clothing also proved worth the trouble. She hugged him and said she was proud to have their personal Raavan to set fire to, that Dussehra.

Ved had a field day. His circle of friends loved the small Raavan. No one else had made one. He couldn’t wait for his grandma, aunt and cousins to see it. The wait was hard. Evening stood hours away.

Then around lunch-time, Ved decided not to burn the Raavan because it was so pretty and he had worked so hard on it.

A little later, he decided to burn it when Grandma, Auntie Gauri and a handful of cousins would turn up in the evening to celebrate with them. Afterall, it was meant to be burnt.

The very next minute he reconsidered it.


The evening before on the community ground, Mohit Joshi, a love-struck teen on the grounds had held a giggly Prachi’s hand, behind the Raavan’s third head. Ved, preening the giant’s many eyebrows could not hear what the bully told the girl with his nose in her oily hair. Ved found this both disgusting and stupid-


They sprang apart. Mohit jumped up and grabbed Ved’s ear.

‘Out. Out of here, now.’

‘But why, Mohit dada?’

‘Because I saw you ruin the Raavan.’


‘I saw you stick the wrong coloured paper on the giant’s hem. It’s not supposed to have an amber border. Don’t you know? And I think you stole some firecrackers from his crown.’

‘That wasn’t me! Must have been Janak.’

Mohit watched Prachi walk away in a huff. He bent down to look into Ved’s large, unblinking eyes.

‘We don’t need useless, meddlesome volunteers like you.’ Ved winced as Mohit gripped his arm hard. ‘Don’t want to see you around here, get it? Go away.’


So Ved had asked Mr. Khanna, while he smoothed his abundant moustache, if he needed assistance with the Raavan’s.

‘But of course not. You think I can’t do it? Go stick paper on the hem, now.’

‘But Mohit dada said…’

‘Go away.’

He approached Nirmala auntie, while she painted the giant papier-mache feet. She told him to go home and thank you, because he was such a sweet child to have offered help.

‘I won’t spoil anything. Really. I am good at craft. At school, Miss Gautam says…’

She waved the paintbrush, and Ved got speckled with skin-toned paint that smelled of acetone. ‘Go home, kid. Don’t you have homework?’


It was barely past lunchtime on the day of the festival when the hooligans turned up. Ved was halfway through a ghee-coated puran-poli when a gang disturbed the neighbourhood with loud honking on speeding bikes. Some said they were from Gandhi Nagar and were here because some boys from their own neighbourhood had probably fought with the rowdy lot. Whatever the reason, by the time the vandals left, shocked Tarun Nagar residents were closing their ears to an unexpected din magnified by the afternoon’s silence.

A rider on a Thunderbird, the last in the long line of supposed Gandhi Nagar vandals, had hurled a flaming torch in the middle of the ground. Only that morning, the Raavan had been pulled up to stand- a two-storey giant, decked in paper finery, stuffed with firecrackers for the evening’s celebrations.


The Unofficial Tarun Nagar Circle of Important People summoned a representative from Gandhi Nagar.

‘Why would we do it? Are you aware that some of us actually donated money for the Tarun Nagar Raavan?’

The host party was stunned. ‘But who asked people from your locality donations for oureffigy?’ asked Nirmala auntie.

‘We didn’t know it until yesterday. We are a large colony. Not everyone knows everyone. This teenager- a tall chap, curly haired, came around last month, ringing bells for money. Most of us gladly complied, assuming it was one of our volunteers.’

The Circle looked at each other. Who?

‘Then, when the total from receipts did not match the amount on our account book, we discovered this. A schoolmate of his lives in my block. The boy can confirm who the curly-haired culprit is, if you like. But not today. The festivities are about to start.’

‘Oh yes. Thanks to the crooks your locality harbours,’ said Mr. Khanna. ‘We aren’t even left with anything to feel festive about.’

‘See, we are not too pleased either. And, we are livid for the unethical money collection that happened from your side. But that does not mean we burnt down your Raavan.’ He rose. ‘Though Ram knows, we had the right to.’

There happened to be two teenage, tall chaps sporting curls in Tarun Nagar. Both accused the other of being the thief. Mohit Joshi versus Kiran Gokhale, Kiran Gokhale versus Mohit Joshi. Residents watched as the families joined in to exchange choicest Marathi abuses, some unheard of, perhaps invented on the spot. Joshis told the Gokhales that their children were not raised right. Gokhales pointed out the Joshis as a blight on the Konkanastha Brahmin community.

Tarun Nagar watched the referee-less match on the ground until the sun settled on the charred bunch of bamboo poles. Their Raavan’s skeleton.


Custom demands the exchange of gold leaves, along with good wishes. Thousands of Apatitrees go naked every Dussehra, sources of the said leaves which, when held at a certain angle, shine an ethereal gold in the sun.

Poeple carried sulky expressions along with the leaves that evening, spoke less of good wishes and more of the unfortunate event.

By eight, autumn stars dotted the sky. Faint cries of ‘Jai Sri Ram’ preceded pops of firecrackers from the Gandhi Nagar direction. A rumble of applause followed. The colourful fireworks could even be seen from Tarun Nagar.

Mr. Khanna, for one, did not believe the Gandhi Nagar diplomat. Whether over an unfair act of obtaining donations from a different neighbourhood or not, it was still an anti-social act. He called in people from the local paper.

The local politician whose young grandson was to burn the effigy had thrown a grand tantrum.

Meanwhile, Nirmala auntie had a brainwave on one of the leaf-exchange visits.

‘That sweet boy of yours,’ she told Ved’s mother at the latter’s home. ‘He tried to help us so much. Alas…’ She eyed the tiny effigy planted in their front yard again next to the holy basil. ‘Oh, now when did he craft that wee demon?’


 The decision was no longer Ved’s.

‘I don’t want to burn my Raavan.’

‘Well it was going to be burnt anyway, wasn’t it?’ asked his visiting cousin.


‘What do you mean no?’

‘No!’ Ved burst into tears, running to his room.

His father knew the neighbourhood wanted to burn the tiny Raavan for the sake of showing fake goodwill, for putting up a show of being brave in spite of having such unfairness thrown at them. Everyone wanted to put Ved’s labour of love high up on a pedestal in the middle of the ground, next to the burnt Raavan. A hurriedly organized ceremony would state how they were not affected.

‘Gandhi Nagar people may have a grand Raavan, but Tarun Nagar folks will have something more meaningful,’ said young Mr. Fadke.

‘Even if it’s minisc– small,’ Mr. Garge added from next to Ved’s Raavan. The entire Unofficial Circle was in Ved’s house, trying to convince the small boy and his adamant parents. Grandma occasionally interrupted the cacophony with ‘don’t force him,’ and ‘leave my poor boy alone.’

‘Not daunted by the act of vandalism, we aren’t,’ recited the resident politician to the news people. The grandson prince now wanted to set fire to Ved’s Raavan himself. He bawled, ruining his blue make-up and blue Ram costume. Meanwhile, the news people tried to convince Ved, and all they managed was ample footage of a seven-year old crying, sitting on his cot cross-legged, throwing cushions at the camera.

‘Your son is a spoilsport. Where is the good, giving nature you should have instilled in him by now?’ Nirmala auntie asked Ved’s parents. Grandma asked her to leave in a tone not too polite. The news people had already left. The small crowd of Tarun Nagar people that had accumulated to convince Ved dispersed. The politician’s grandchild was promised a new bicycle and that stopped his tears.


The metaphor has not trickled down well through the yugas. First, there’s ego- the biggest, most central, most domineering. Then there’s pride, the first of the other nine, the first step towards them. Ego and pride together prod us to become infatuated with infatuation, fall in lust with lust, be overly passionate about passion. But they do not make us hate hatred, become angry with anger or be envious of envy. They feed greed to selfishness. Ego, the pivot, arranges them all in one neat row. The ten heads glower down at us ever more oppressively.

‘All those people have left, son. You can now set fire to your Raavan all by yourself. Come. Grandma is waiting for you. She is proud of the little demon!’

‘I am not a little demon!’

‘I said the little demon. Your Raavan. And she is proud of you for making such a beautiful paper statue. Now come out, your mother has cooked some more puran-polis. Just for you.



‘Dad, I don’t want to burn it. It took me two days to make it.’ He buried his face in the tear-soaked pillow.

‘That’s the point. See, that’s why we should burn it. So next year, you make a bigger, better one.’

Ved frowned. ‘And burn that one too?’

‘Yes. So the year after that, a bigger one can follow. And a bigger one after that. All the way till you make one as great as the one that was on our ground. Who knows, maybe yours will even be taller than two-storeys. I’m sure you can make one. I’m sure you will.’

‘And what happens after I make the tallest Raavan ever?’

‘The day you make a Raavan as tall as you possibly can and burn it, you will have truly conquered it.’

Ved considered this. ‘Like Lord Ram?’

‘Like Lord Ram.’


The family stood around the holy basil. Ved approached the Raavan carefully with Grandma, a sparkler alight in his hand.

Everyone cheered when the hem caught flame. Ved stepped back, holding Grandma’s hand. His cousins clapped.

A handful of neighbours joined in on hearing the peppery sound of small crackers that Ved had diligently planted inside the giant’s cloak. The group watched the fire creep up the villain from the inside. Soon the Raavan’s furrowed face lit up with a final raging glow against the surrounding darkness.

In less than ten minutes, it was gone.


© vaidehi

Weird searches – I


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…that led folks to my blog. (And according to me, which posts they might have ended up on).

1. meerkat with burnt roses picture
Um, why?
Post: Had I been a meerkat

2. 10 examples of speech bubbles about of grandfather
I’ve no clue. Maybe because this post has the word ‘grandfather.’

3. graphic design planet earth
Wow, looks like I might just be contacted by a Pleiadian client.
Posts: Design

4. human lookalike meerkat
Um, what were they trying to breed?
Post: Had I been a meerkat

5. biting junction logo
Sorry, no vampire stories here.
Posts: Identities

6. horrid humans
I really hope the one who searched for this did not end up on my About page.
Posts: The murder of Aral: now we have another ‘Dead sea’ , Sublime

7. is mukhwas good for you.
Of course it is.
Post: The Joy of Churan    

8. лавразия
Can’t read Cyrillic. But Googling suggests it’s got something to do with tectonic
Post: Plate tectonics: far-apart continents

9. my son only draws distorted shapes
Is he a toddler?
Post: The distorted rickshaw

10. punjabi drawing on scooter
Like, a Punjabi sitting on a scooter and drawing or a Punjabi’s drawing on a
Post: Wincing in the Rain

Thank you, stats.



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I visited Pinnawala during a trip to Sri Lanka last year. At this elephant orphanage near Kegalle, there live all kinds of pachyderms:

Shy ones…

Those who jump and skip in the rain…

Black and gold ones.

Itchy-eyed adolescents…

Those whose idol is Ganesha at the end of the festivities

^^ Snorkels


Jumbos and mumbos…

Submerged ones.


Gold ones

…and of course there are the mahouts too…

and also bag-o-bones…

and tired-looking mammas…


Hungry babies…

There’s also this mottled-y crew…

and happy ones…

…with skins larger than they have frames for.

…and that is why, perhaps, they take frequent mud-baths.

There are reds, there are golds… all depends on the spa treatment they choose.

I even found one tired old grandmama…

…and an ancient blind grandpa with bad knees.

And this scenic elephantorama pretty much has them all 🙂

In a fight…


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Are you the bull
following wild flaying
dancing in your short-sightedness,
unthinking of what crushes under
and what your horns could gore?

Are you the mad red patch
not in your control
shiny, new, and dangerous,
annoying a beast
while being controlled by another?

Are you the one decked-up,
the puppeteer pepped with applause,
teasing trouble, flinching invisible strings
at unimagined risk
for the safely distanced applauders?



So Flew Dodo


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So Flew Dodo

Once a shiny moon in 1681, a flock of gulls flew across the inky sky. Dodo watched in awe from her perch on the barge slip’s edge. Streamlined silhouettes cut across the orb.

‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. What lucky things. Such pretty wings,’ Dodo gushed, panning her bucked and beaked head from west to east in slow motion. When the flock vanished, she hopped down from the splintery post and waddled to her nest under the leafless tree.

‘Whoa. Gone are the leaves again. Gone is the grass. And my eggs in plain sight too…’

Dodo blinked.

‘Whoa. Gone are my eggs again.’

She hopped around the collection of twigs and straw, disappointed.

‘Scarce, these days, they are. But I must find a–’

A lead ball zoomed from behind towards her grey bulk.

‘—mate. Glug.

And so flew Dodo.



The Ink Blots


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I don’t need this. Perhaps I’ve become a little weird, as my friends say, after the brewery caught fire. All those nights spent concocting recipes– completely wasted. They say I need stability, an anchor. Something to look forward to. They are mad. I have no problems, none at all, nope. No problems. So what am I supposed to see in these stupid ink blots?

“Don’t think too much,” said the young psychiatrist, a scrawny fellow with an oversized Adam’s apple and no chin. “Say what comes to you first.” His hand shook a little as he held the card. I observed the round swirls.

“I certainly don’t see you.”

“Be spontaneous.” His voice was low.

“That was spontaneous”

“It will help us if you say what you see, not what you don’t,” he said.

“A pair of arms. Definitely not yours.”

He held out another card.

“Two heads, kissing.”


“Two singing blackbirds.”

He frowned and displayed another print. He’d said ten. Seven more to go.

Then, a chance glance through the glass window revealed a beacon of hope: the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen, sitting outside, awaiting her appointment. She caught me staring and smiled. My mouth went dry. I fell in love in that glorious moment, when the dimples appeared. I made a quick song about them. I also made a plan that began with acquiring her number and ended at possible honeymoon destinations.

The shrink coughed.

“I see a tree reflected by a river,” I blurted. He fumbled with the cards, displaying another.

“A drunk old man on a merry-go-round. Hence the blurry lines? Bingo!” I was happy.

“There’s no wrong or a right answer.”

“Then what’s the point of this exercise, wise guy?”

He looked like he didn’t remember and simply took some notes. Is this how they planned to save the likes of me? With ten random ink blots? My eyes wandered. The girl seemed happy. I took in her bizarre dress made from what looked like jute. Boy, she did need a shrink. But I didn’t care: she reminded me of a woodcut seen years ago of the hot Sumerian brewer priestess Ninkasi, in The Pale Ale magazine. My memory was fine, at least. It was the shrink who needed some tests.

I returned to the swirls.

“Looks like a gasoline explosion,” I said, “electronic configuration of the gold molecule; the Bluebird hill in the neighbourhood; a medieval witch-burning.”

The last card was up. Phew.

“Two men brawling,” I said, “over a woman.”

He stacked the cards neatly and sighed. “Come back tomorrow for another session,” he said, after minutes of scribbling notes. I proceeded towards the door with the intention of eavesdropping till my jute-clad, dimpled beauty was through. She walked past me. I turned at the exit. She hugged the psychiatrist. Then she held his nonexistent chin.

“So how was your first session with a patient, love?” she asked.

I thought she suited him perfectly.