Karma by Kaushik Viswanath

Bhaskar wakes up every morning when the sky is still a murky purple. He bathes quickly, filling a bucket with cold water and emptying it, mug by mug, over his head. He then walks out to his balcony, and stands facing east, his heels together, and his palms joined in front of his chest. He exhales then lifts his arms up, reaching for the sky, and draws in a large lungful of air as he slowly arches himself backwards, his spine cracking as it stretches for the first time after a night on the bare tiled floor of his bedroom. Then he bends forward, and the air comes out of his nostrils with an urgent whooshing sound, evacuating his lungs as he places his palms on the floor and touches his forehead to his unbent knees.


He goes through the rest of the twelve steps of the Suryanamaskar, feeling the life throb in his muscles, the first rays of the sun penetrate and course through his being. When he returns to his position at rest, standing with his hands joined in a Namaste to the sun, he starts again, repeating the entire cycle twenty-four times, until he finally stops, his heart pounding, and the sun’s lower lip clear of the horizon.


And every morning, when he goes back into the house, he hears sounds from the kitchen: the pressure cooker whistling, the loud buzz of the grinder. His mother is up, powdering spices, cooking rice, cutting vegetables. The rice is not for him (although on occasion he does eat a little); when the pressure cooker has whistled four times and cooled down, his mother scoops out the steaming rice and puts it in a large heap on the windowsill, for the neighbourhood crows who come flying from trees.


Bhaskar will not yet breakfast. Before that he has to do his pranayam and meditate, squatting on the floor, watching his breath and willing himself to transform. There is a lot of karma to be undone: the first twenty-six years of his life, plus god knows how many centuries of karma piled upon his shoulders by his ancestors – most of all his father – god rest his soul may he burn in hell.


Bhaskar feels his shoulders tense up. He tries to shut out these thoughts and just focus on his breathing (in-1-2-3-4-5-hold-1-2-out-1-2-3-4-hold-1-2), but he can hear his mother’s voice as she converses with the crows in the kitchen and it becomes hard for him to keep his thoughts from straying back to his father.


When he is done with his pranayam he sits for a few minutes, waiting for the blood to flow back into his legs, before he walks over to the dining table and sits down. His mother joins him at the table, bringing a bowl of upma and sprouts and two stainless steel plates. She goes back into the kitchen to get herself a tumbler of coffee. Bhaskar drinks only water.


On weekdays Bhaskar eats quickly and leaves for work. Today being Saturday, he takes his time, chewing slowly. They sit opposite each other, eating in silence. When Bhaskar is finished he gets up to put his plate in the sink.


‘Won’t you finish this?’ his mother asks, looking into the bowl at the remaining upma.


‘No, I’m done,’ Bhaskar says. ‘You eat it.’


‘I can’t eat anymore.’


‘Who asked you to make so much, then?’


She lowers her head, eats another mouthful from her plate. Her fingers linger near her mouth while she chews. When she lowers her hand to the plate, she says, softly, ‘Leave it, I’ll give it to the crows.’


Bhaskar stands there, holding his empty plate in one hand, and exhales loudly. ‘How much will the crows also eat? Stop feeding those creatures. Filthy pests.’


When she looks up again Bhaskar notices that the white roots of her hair are quite prominent now, the line from her last dye having drifted several inches from the red pottu she never stopped wearing. Her hair, tied back like this, looks like a silver crescent moon against a starless night sky.


‘You eat or let them eat,’ she says in her small voice, ‘I’m not throwing it away.’


Bhaskar takes his plate to the kitchen sink and rinses it. ‘I’m meeting a friend for lunch,’ he calls out as he scrubs dish soap over the plate. His mother says something in reply; when Bhaskar puts the washed plate back in the rack he has to go back to her and ask her to repeat herself.


‘But I’ve already made lunch, I said.’


‘I know,’ Bhaskar says. ‘I’ll eat and go.’


‘Who is this friend, a girl?’ she asks, her voice rising.


He sighs. ‘No, Amma. Prem, a friend from college.’


‘Why you don’t meet your girl friends anymore?’


Bhaskar doesn’t reply. His problem, he realises, is that he never feels the anger welling, bubbling in the pit of his stomach, rising before it explodes. It is a switch that turns itself on. One moment he is mildly irritated, the next, he is in a howling rage. It’s not as bad as it used to be, but he knows where this conversation will go from here if he allows it.


She knows it too; they’ve only had it a hundred times. And so they stare at each other in a wordless deadlock, Bhaskar daring her to ask him about marriage.


She breaks her gaze, shaking her head. ‘After you meet your friend, will you please drop in to see Raju chitappa? You said you would go this weekend.’


Raju chitappa, Bhaskar’s uncle, the policeman, his father’s youngest brother, recently married. Bhaskar had to miss the wedding; he scheduled his work trip to miss it. He avoids weddings in general: distant relatives marvelling at how Bhaskar has grown, aunties in silk saris furtively asking each other if they haven’t already found a bride for him. You are working in IT, no? Have you met my daughter, Lakshmi? Do you remember Sita, you used to play when you were children? And later his mother will join the chorus, reeling off names of the ready-to-wed.


‘Fine,’ Bhaskar says. His mother won’t pester him about marriage now; he will have to concede this visit.


‘Take something and go,’ she says.


They stay out of each other’s way for the rest of the morning. She watches Tamil soap operas while Bhaskar sits at the desk in his room and tries to read the Bhagavad Gita, a heavy tome with the English translation alongside the Sanskrit verses. He silently mouths the Sanskrit as his eyes scan the Devanagari text syllable by syllable. Then he reads the translation in English.


He hates it when his mother brings up the issue of marriage, or even broaches the topic, like she did today: first of all, it makes him lose his temper, and he can think of no person less deserving of his anger than his mother. All she wants for him, he reflects with guilt, is that he move on with his life. Second, it makes him think of why he doesn’t want to get married, why he tends to avoid women, why he has sworn himself to celibacy (although he dare not tell his mother that, he cannot imagine how she will take it).


And the memories come back, jostling against one another: Kamala, Shreya, Zeenat, Nandini, Sandhya, Christine. Their faces are still clear, distinct in Bhaskar’s mind’s eye. Their bodies, too, and their touch and smell. What blur together are the events, the settings (was it Zeenat or Nandini he got caught with behind the machine tools workshop?), even their personalities. One thing renders them all indistinct: they all yielded too easily, they all went further than they intended to, sooner than they intended to, because they could not resist Bhaskar’s good looks or his quiet charm. As he stares through the page open in front of him,

Never does the unreal exist, and the real never ceases to be;
of both these, surely, the end has been seen by seers of truth.1

he remembers one day in the eleventh standard, when he looked around his class, wondering how far any of the other boys had gone with a girl. They all struck him as gawky, diffident teenagers, stumbling awkwardly as they emerged this side of puberty. Popped collars, hair crudely spiked with water, loud and obnoxious attempts to draw attention. The shaky façade of confidence. Leaning back in his bench, Bhaskar swelled with a feeling he can never forget: the realisation that he was the only man in a sea of virgins. And he looked over at Kamala while she diligently took notes, quietly amazed at how he had barely had to try.


Bhaskar tries to draw his mind back to the text, but he reads the line three, four times, and it makes no sense to him. Maybe it’s the translation. Maybe it’s because he can’t stand Krishna, that blue devil, meddler, doublespeaker, womanizer. Whatever the reason, he’s never been able to get very far in the text. He slams the book shut. He gets the gist of it, he understands the principle: that all action must be detached, must be performed deliberately, and out of a sense of duty. He tries to live by it.


When he closes his eyes he sees himself entering his college hostel room after class to find Zeenat lying on his bed in her underwear, waiting for him.


Bhaskar picks up the book and drops it in his lap, hoping it will kill his erection.




It has been four years since Bhaskar last met Prem. At a burger joint facing the beach, they sit facing each other in the quiet roar of the ocean. They used to come to this place when they were classmates in college. They wouldn’t normally come around lunchtime, since on most days it’s too hot to sit outdoors, but today the weather is cloudy and pleasant.


As Prem takes a large bite out of his burger, Bhaskar watches a crooked trail of mayonnaise and mustard drip down from the corner of Prem’s mouth to the edge of his chin, clinging to the grains of his stubble on the way down. ‘You look in great shape, man,’ he says, chewing with his mouth open.


Bhaskar can’t say the same. The States have changed a couple of things about Prem. One: he is twice the size he was when he left, and no longer a vegetarian. Two: two years of living in New York has been enough to wipe away his Tamil accent and replace it with a confused American drawl.


‘Are you on some kind of diet? Why didn’t you order anything?’


‘I watch what I eat,’ is all he says.


Bhaskar is already finding Prem tiresome. The talkativeness, the unbridled enthusiasm that he once found endearing now grates on him. This will be their last meeting. There is nothing to be gained by keeping this friendship – if it was ever really that – alive.


‘So what are you plans later, man? Got any parties lined up?’


Bhaskar shakes his head.


‘Come on, man, Saturday night and you don’t know where the parties are? Never mind, we’ll have our own. What do you say we hit the TASMAC, grab some booze, and call some people over to my place?’


Bhaskar declines, but Prem doesn’t hear him and keeps talking. ‘What’s the chick scene like in Chennai now? Still lame as ever? Anyway, I’m sure you know all the hotties in town. Get them over to my place, we’ll have a sick party, man.’


‘No, Prem. I have to get back home tonight.’


Prem reaches across the table and punches Bhaskar in the arm. ‘What the fuck, man. Come on! Bhaskar the party animal can’t be home on a Saturday night.’


The switch comes on. Bhaskar feels the muscles in his shoulders tighten. Under the table, his fists clench. He takes a couple of deep breaths, forces his hands open. ‘I’ve stopped drinking,’ he says. ‘And honestly, I don’t know any girls.’


‘What? You can’t be serious.’


The disbelief, Bhaskar knows, will give way to a kind of resentful judgment. It’s happened with the other friends he’s lost in the last couple of years. They pile their own guilt on him, their envy at still being slaves to their compulsions while he has broken free of his own.


‘I’m sure you can break your rules for one night. For me? For old time’s sake,’ Prem says, and winks.


There it is. Bhaskar can’t stand it when people try to drag him down to participate in their sordid existences. ‘No,’ he says. ‘I really can’t.’


‘Fine, don’t drink then. But if I’m having a party tonight you have to be there. Everyone’s going to want to see you. And it’s not like I can’t get girls to the party myself. I’ve been getting really lucky lately. Started happening around the time I got into all this social welfare shit. I’m telling you, man, it’s karma.’


This sets Bhaskar on edge. ‘Khaar-muh?’ he bites, imitating Prem’s accent. ‘What’s that?’


‘Don’t tell me you don’t know what that is,’ Prem says, goggling at Bhaskar.


‘I know what karma is,’ Bhaskar says, saying it cur-ma.


‘Yeah, that’s what I meant. Same thing.’


‘No, what you’re talking about is drawing a line from something you did to something completely unrelated that happened to you.’


‘That’s what karma is, man. Law of the universe. Can’t help you if you don’t believe it.


‘No, it isn’t. What karma is,’ Bhaskar says, stressing his pronunciation of the word, ‘has nothing to do with belief. You keep wolfing down those burgers and one day before your fiftieth birthday your heart is going to give up on you. And every burger you eat makes it harder for you to stop eating burgers. That’s karma. It isn’t a law, it’s a simple fact of life.’


‘Jeez, man,’ Prem says, holding the burger up to his mouth, ‘I know this isn’t healthy, but wait until I’m finished to beat me up about it.’


‘That’s the point, isn’t it? You can’t stop eating right now.’


‘I’m hungry; I don’t want to stop eating.’ Prem says, irritated.


‘You tell yourself that,’ Bhaskar says, leaning back in his chair. He’s surprised at himself; he would have expected to be fighting his anger and annoyance at Prem. Instead, he feels strangely elated. ‘I challenge you to stop eating that now. Put down the burger and leave it where it is.’


The burger hovers in front of Prem’s face. ‘What’s in it for me?’


‘Only the proof that you can do it. Not even for me. Prove it to yourself.’


Prem hesitates. His eyes flit between Bhaskar and the burger. ‘I don’t have to prove anything,’ he says, and takes a bite.


Bhaskar stands, pulls a tissue out of the napkin stand and hands it to Prem. ‘You know what makes us different from animals? They’ve got nothing but their instincts, their primal urges. We have those too, but we have the choice not to obey them. That’s really all we have, free will. But when you think about it, you’re not that different from them, are you?’


Prem opens and closes his full mouth, unable to respond. Bhaskar puts a hand on Prem’s shoulder as he walks past. ‘Have fun at your party tonight. You won’t see me there.’


As Bhaskar walks away, he recognises the feeling. And while the reason is quite the opposite, it’s the same feeling that he had that day in school, when he looked around the room and realised that everyone but him was a bit pathetic. He’s ahead of the curve; been there, done that, and done with it. No one is going to tempt him back to his old life now.


His scooter is parked some hundred meters away, and he walks to it along the pavement facing the beach in long, confident strides. He sees something ahead of him on the pavement, and slows, unable to tell exactly what it is – a shapeless splotch of grey and red. He steps down from the pavement and walks on the road, continuing in the same direction, eyeing the splotch. A crow swoops down on it, followed by two more, and it suddenly becomes evident what it is: a rat, split open, its guts spilling out of its fuzzy grey belly onto the pavement. The crows peck and pull at it, squabbling over the carcass. Bhaskar grimaces at the sight and steps further away, tracing a wide arc around the dead rat to keep his distance.


One of the crows looks up from the rat at Bhaskar. ‘There goes Mr Holier-than-thou,’ the crow says in a guttural voice. ‘Don’t like what I’m eating? Pretty disgusting, isn’t it. It doesn’t matter. I’m only an animal. I’ve only got my instincts; my primal urges.’


Now the second crow looks up. ‘How many friends have you lost now? How many left?’


‘Leave him alone,’ the third one says to its companions. ‘He’s trying not to be like his father.’ It turns to Bhaskar. He hears in its croak an edge of sarcasm. ‘I applaud the effort. Just don’t go too far the other way.’


Bhaskar bites down on his lower lip, scowling, and picks up a stone lying by the side of the road. He roars and flings it at the crows, who see it coming and flap away casually. Around Bhaskar, beachgoers turn and stare. He is still shaking. That elated superiority has vanished, replaced by a maddening anger, now turned inward. He is furious at having lost his temper, his composure, right in the middle of the street, and worst of all, at a bunch of crows.


He relaxes his fists, breathes deep and walks away, all the while trying to quell the shaking. Behind him, he hears the gravelly laughter of crows.



Bhaskar has always wished he had more relatives on his mother’s side and wondered why his father’s parents had to spawn so many hideous offspring. Bhaskar reviles this uncle more than any of the others. His father’s youngest sibling, Raju chitappa is only ten years older than him. Bhaskar won’t forget being bullied by him as a child; it is unsurprising that he joined the police force. What is surprising is that he found a wife. Bhaskar can only expect her to be as loud-mouthed and ill-mannered as his uncle is, and match his looks wart for wart.


Bhaskar would have severed all ties with that side of the family more than two years ago, when his father died, but they offered support in that time of need and his mother would not let him forget it. Raju chitappa lived in a filthy little hole of an apartment then, far enough away not to have to visit him. But when the government changed after the last elections, his uncle’s political allegiances helped him climb a few ranks. Now he lives with his new wife in a better part of town, close to where Bhaskar works. He hopes they will not ask him to drop in more often.


‘Bloody Bhastard!’ his uncle exclaims when he opens the door, grinning like he always does when he calls Bhaskar that. He is in uniform. ‘Why didn’t you call and tell you were coming? I was just about to leave. Come in, come in. How are you?’


’Fine, Chitappa,’ Bhaskar says as he steps inside. His uncle, too, has grown since he last saw him, his paunch hanging over his belt, the buttons of his khaki shirt straining against it.


‘Anjana!’ his uncle calls. She comes out into the hall. ‘This is Bhaskar,’ his uncle says. ‘I told you, no, Anil’s son.’


Bhaskar would much rather be called his mother’s son. Even a bastard.


‘Hi Bhaskar,’ his aunt says, smiling, her upper lip curling to reveal a slightly crooked row of small, white teeth.


‘Hi, uh…’ she is his chitti, but he isn’t sure if he should call her that. He steps towards her, holding out the plastic bag in his hand with half a dozen ripe mangoes, bought from a pushcart at the end of the street. ‘Congratulations,’ he says as she takes it from him, and smiles sheepishly. A month and a half too late, and mangoes are no wedding present.


His uncle has to drive it in. ‘Won’t tell me also, aa? She alone didn’t get married. I also got,’ he says obnoxiously.


‘Congratulations, Chitappa,’ Bhaskar says.


‘Where is my gift?’


‘I, uh… that’s for both of you…’


‘I’m just kidding da,’ he says, and slaps Bhaskar on the back. ‘Sit, sit.’


‘Will you have coffee or tea?’ Anjana asks him, as Bhaskar sits on the sofa.


‘No thanks, I don’t drink either,’ he says.


‘What da, only whiskey nowadays?’ his uncle laughs. ‘I have that also if you want.’


Bhaskar can see that. Against one of the walls stands a wooden liquor cabinet, bottles full of dark gleaming liquid visible through the glass doors. He wonders if his uncle’s liver is as bad as his father’s was. And his beatings? Not yet, perhaps. The bruising only begins when the novelty wears off.


‘No, I don’t want anything, thanks.’


‘You have to have something,’ Anjana insists.


‘Just water will be fine,’ Bhaskar says.


She turns and walks into the kitchen, and Bhaskar watches her go. She is short, plump and pleasant – if a little plain – to look at, wearing a pink-and-white polyester sari.


His uncle makes a few seconds of small talk, inquiring after his health and his mother’s, and then gets up.


‘I really have to leave, da. I’m supposed to be somewhere. Drop in more often. Don’t you work nearby? Come after work, whenever you want.’


‘Okay,’ Bhaskar says.


When Anjana comes out of the kitchen with the water, his uncle tells her he’s leaving and closes the door behind him. She hands Bhaskar the glass of water, and sits down.


The conversation is awkward, stilted. She is not much older than Bhaskar and he is still unsure how to address her. His uncle has mentioned him to her but she doesn’t remember the little she has heard. In a moment of forgetfulness, she asks about his father like he is still alive. Bhaskar isn’t sure how to correct her, and as he hesitates she realises her mistake and flushes red.


‘I’m so sorry,’ she says. ‘I forgot – really – I’m so sorry.’


‘It’s okay,’ Bhaskar says. He feels an odd sense of pity for her. She seems nice enough – he tries to imagine what sad turn of events saddled her with his uncle (As his mother would put it, what sins did she commit in her last janma?). Did he rescue her from a gang of thugs? Too dramatic. Did politics find him a bride, like it found him a promotion? He catches himself feeling a twinge of envy.


After a few long seconds of silence, he says that he ought to leave, that he’ll come back at a better time, when his uncle is around.


‘You haven’t even had anything to eat or drink,’ she says.


‘That’s okay… Chitti,’ he says, calling her that for the first time.


‘Will you eat one of those mangoes?’


‘No, I brought them for you …’


‘No, no,’ she says, ‘I’ll cut one and we’ll share it, okay?’


Bhaskar agrees reluctantly, and she disappears again into the kitchen, emerging in a couple of minutes with a plate. She places it on the table between them.


‘Will you have the seed?’ she asks, pointing at the large fleshy seed in the centre of the plate, surrounded by the slices of mango.


‘No, you have it.’


She leaves the slices for him, and he picks at them with a fork while she holds the seed in her hands and scrapes the flesh off it with her teeth. In between bites she asks him about his work and he asks about hers. She is a maths teacher at a nearby school.


‘Which class do you teach?’ he asks.


‘Fifth to eighth standard,’ she says, and sucks on the seed. Mango juice trickles down the side of her hand. She raises her hand to her mouth and licks it off, her cherry-red tongue tracing a long, straight line from the base of her hand to the tip of her little finger.


Bhaskar cannot help it. It is inevitable that he sees visions of himself sucking on her tongue, licking her neck, imagining that she tastes like the mango in his mouth. He tries to shut them out, but they keep coming back to him, more graphic, more violent. So he entertains them. So long as they stay confined to his mind, he thinks, so long as they do not translate into action, there is no karma.


When they are finished eating, Bhaskar gets up to leave, but Anjana asks him if it is his first time to this house, it is, isn’t it, and says he should see it before he leaves. He mumbles an excuse, though now he is less reluctant to linger. She ignores it and pulls him by the hand; Bhaskar’s pulse quickens at the sudden contact. She takes him around the house, showing him the kitchen, the study, the master bedroom.


It is already happening; before Bhaskar knows it – no, he will not have it that way – he is kissing her lips, unravelling her sari, pulling apart the hooks on her blouse with the clarity of forethought and intention. It is not simply happening; he is now entering her with a calm sense of deliberation. She may be clawing at him, biting and kissing his neck in a frenzy fuelled by – hormones? frustration? nymphomania? – god knows what, but not Bhaskar. In the flurry of movement he may not remember how exactly they got here, whether it was he or she who made the first move, but so much is clear: he is not giving in to the compulsive ways of his youth. He is detached, he tells himself; so long as he is detached the karma will not stick to him.


‘Ploughing your aunt out of a sense of duty, then?’


Bhaskar lifts his face from hers and looks in the direction of the voice. Three crows are perched on the railing of the balcony, looking in through the open French windows, silhouetted against the slanting rays of sunset.


‘Go for it!’ caws the second.


Bhaskar wants to shoo them away, throw something at them, but they are too far and there is nothing within arm’s reach to throw. He thrusts harder instead. Anjana lets out a long, plaintive-sounding moan. To Bhaskar it sounds like a cow mooing.


‘You don’t understand,’ says the sarcastic crow. ‘What matters is the detachment of it. See how he makes love, so calm and dispassionate and thoughtful. No, making love should not be the term then, he barely knows her. It is just sex, why make a big deal out of it? There is no compulsion here.’


‘No contraception either,’ says the second one, and all three burst into cacophonous laughter.


Bhaskar fills with anger and shame but he only pushes faster. Anjana’s eyelids flutter deliriously.


‘Oh, look,’ says the first crow, breaking the laughter, ‘his uncle must have forgotten something.’


The crows go silent. Bhaskar does not notice. He feels the climb coming to a close, his member throbbing violently, peaking.


‘Did you not hear?’ the second crow caws loudly, ‘your uncle is coming back.’


Bhaskar panics. He pulls out and rolls on to his back, away from Anjana, and feels his semen struggling to burst forth, more than two years’ worth on the verge of erupting, almost there but still dammed.


He hears the key turn in the lock, the front door opening. ‘Anjana!’ he hears his uncle call.


Anjana jumps off the mattress, picking her sari up in a bundle, tossing it around her body thoughtlessly, forgetting her blouse. Bhaskar springs to the door and shuts it, locking it from the inside.


‘Anjana!’ his uncle calls again. ‘Where are you? Have you seen my phone?’


‘Wait, I’m changing!’ she yells back, a little more collected now, putting on her blouse and tying the sari around her waist. Bhaskar runs on his toes back to the bedside, jumps into his underwear and trousers and throws on his shirt.


There is a knock on the bedroom door. ‘I think my phone is in there,’ his uncle says.


Anjana looks around frantically. Bhaskar spots the phone on the dresser and tosses it to her. She catches it and gestures to Bhaskar, who runs to the other side of the room and stands against the wall. She opens the door a crack and thrusts her hand outside. ‘Here.’


‘Bhaskar left?’ his uncle asks.




‘Let me come in, no?’ he says, mock pleading.


‘Why? I’m still changing.’




She leans, peers through the gap. ‘No, you’re getting late. Go, go!’


‘It’s okay,’ he says, singsong, ‘what’s five more minutes? Let me in.’


‘No!’ she says, and tries to close the door, but he sticks his foot in the gap.


‘My daaarling,’ he sings, and pushes on the door.


Anjana can’t reasonably hold the door shut much longer. Bhaskar steps out through the French windows on to the balcony. He shoos away the still-perched crows and peers over the railing.


‘Jump, jump!’ one of them caws as they fly away.


It’s a two-story drop. Not too high, but enough to break his legs if he tries jumping. Bhaskar looks to the right and left. There is a narrow ledge he can climb on to, that runs for about fifteen-twenty meters. From there he can shimmy down the drainpipe. He turns, quickly checking to see that his uncle isn’t through the door yet, and climbs on to the ledge, his front to the wall, standing on his toes. A few steps sideways and Bhaskar begins to feel he might have been better off keeping his back to the wall. He can barely see anything like this and, most worryingly, can’t look down at his feet. And against the wall, his erection rages at him for being denied release.


He hears faint conversation from the bedroom. There are no raised voices, which is a good sign. Bhaskar only hopes his uncle doesn’t notice his chappals still near the front door before Anjana can do something about them.


And as his trousers slip from his waist he remembers his belt. Damn it, his belt is lying on the bedroom floor somewhere. With one hand Bhaskar pulls his trousers higher.


‘Ay! Who are you?! What are you doing? Get down from there!’ a man’s voice shouts from below in Tamil. The voice startles Bhaskar, and as his foot slips from the ledge, he silently curses his karma.


1 Srimad Bhagavad Gita: A Modern Translation, translation Ramesh Menon, Rupa 2007



Kaushik Viswanath is a writer from Chennai. He currently writes fiction as an MFA candidate at the University of Notre Dame. His fiction has appeared in Helter Skelter and Bewildering Stories, and his writing for children has appeared in Tinkle and anthologies from Scholastic India. He was shortlisted for the 2012 and 2013 Toto Awards in Creative Writing.