Humour Poetry

Nonsense Verse

By Vatsala Radhakeesoon

Dog of the Fog

Amidst the fog
lived Doodle the dog
When the sun wore
its golden attire
Doodle barked like thunder
“Burn, burn Green Island!”
Last Sunday, Owl the wise Seer
declared his behaviour as
“weird, undignified, and anti-cheer”


shouted Doodle in anger
wagging his tail in some way,
rather peculiar,
almost perpendicular
And off he flew
to some icy Penguin Land
in his roaring machine
The Grumpy Golden Retriever!


When Yaya the yak yawned
Marigolds and roses blew away
and were reduced to scattered pieces
So the Ministry of Flowers
enforced a law:
Yaya should wear  a gold-platted
yawn-mask in Petal Land
Yaya smiled and complied
as he loved all flowers
And his mask looked much like a
refined jewel to him
Afterwards whenever he yawned
Poise-fully stood all flowers
on the ground and in artistic pots
At times  they swirl in a dance all circular
At times merrily they sang till dusk
“ Yaya’s yawn is now gentle,
soft, soft is the breeze
Yaya, now is our friend, oh dear friend
and in harmony we shall all live
in this colourful no fear land”.


Biography: Vatsala Radhakeesoon Vatsala Radhakeesoon, born in Mauritius in 1977, is the author of 11 poetry books  including Tropical Temporariness (Transcendent Zero Press, USA, 2019),  Whirl the Colours (Gibbon Moon Books UK/Kenya, 2020) and नीली हंसिनी के गाने – Songs of the Blue Swan (Bilingual Hindi -English, Gloomy Seahorse Press, UK/Kenya,2020). She is one of the representatives of Immagine and Poesia, an Italy based literary movement uniting artists and poets’ works. Vatsala currently lives at Rose-Hill and is a literary translator, interviewer and artist.

Humour Poetry

Writer’s DUI

By Penny Wilkes

I grip the wheel stung

by consonants and vowels.

Nouns smudge the windshield.


As windows swarm with phrases

Verbs whine, bite and beg me

to pick up a pen at 65 mph.


“Write me. Me. Me. Me.”


Ideas flash and honk my horn,

they force swerves and street slaloms

as I sing to stay on the road.


When mind fireflies go incandescent,

I beg for red lights or stop signs.

Oh, let traffic slow.


On manic freeways

No stopping places

When the buzz heightens.


If I’m cuffed for DUI* when writing,

will the kind officer trade the ticket

for a signature on my poem?


*DUI – Driving Under Influence is punishable as it involves driving a car while impaired by alcohol or other drugs (including recreational drugs and those prescribed by physicians), to a level that renders the driver incapable of driving safely.

Penny Wilkes, MFA, served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist. Along with short stories, her features on humour and animal behaviour have appeared in a variety of publications. An award-winning writer and poet, she has published a collection of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her published poetry collections include: Whispers from the LandIn Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. Her Blog on The Write Life features life skills, creativity, and writing:



Humour Poetry

How to Kill a Poem

By Sambhu R.


It takes much time to kill a tree,

Not a simple jab of the knife- On Killing a Tree, Gieve Patel


It’s easy to kill a poem.


If it’s the flying kind,

rip off its wings already slick

with the oil spill of words

and slit its throat

with the blade of your pen

run like a bow across the jugular.

The frantic flapping you hear

is the nerves straining for a final burst of music.

Plug your ears with indifference,

pluck the feathers, and clean up the blood.


If the poem is Black in its epidermal garb,

you may choke it with your knee

pressed ruthlessly to the back of the neck*.

It takes some time for the oxygen

to be shut out of the door of the lungs.

Be patient. Wait for the last leap of breath,

roll the corpse onto a gurney,

and smile at the spectators sliding mobile phones

out of the scabbard of their pockets.


If the poem talks too much,

incarcerate it behind thick bars of sense.

Try every trick from bastinado

to waterboarding and force a confession

of its all-the-perfumes-of-Arabia-will-not-sweeten guilt.


And if the poem is too popular,

chances are that it is adulterous;

then it merits no ordinary death.

Stone it with words

stone it

stone it

stone it

till all its charms are ripped out of its flesh.


To let a poem live, you need eyes

that can see the space between the lines

as the poem’s right to breathe,

and not as Nazi death trains

into which words are squeezed.


Killing it is a lot easier, takes no particular skill.


*Reference to George Floyd’s killing which took place in Minneapolis on 25 May 2020.

Sambhu R. is a bilingual poet from Kerala. He is Assistant Professor of English at N.S.S. College, Pandalam and is also a doctoral candidate. He has published an anthology of poems in Malayalam titled “Vavval Manushyanum Komaliyum.”




Humour Poetry

Thank God!

By Saranyan BV

Thank God!

The world record for long jump is long,
Quite long, thank God,
Mike Powell is holding that record,
It was in Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan.
That was way back in 1991,
30th August to be precise, the jump was not wind aided
It was told, please google and check for yourself.

Before that Bob Beamon from US held that claim,
Bob, good old Mike’s compatriot at Mexico in 1968,
I didn’t check the date, excuse me.

The former jumped 8.95 feet,
The latter had cleared 8.9,
We saw Bob do the jump in the news reels in 68
And wondered how the ligaments never tore,
Ligaments connecting the legs; it’s a cruel to think of it.

By the time Mike came with spikes on, TVs were on,
The telecasts kept showing Mike,
Thank God, we came to know these things do not happen,
The tearing of ligaments.

For your records no one jumped that long since,
8.95, thank God my friend,
Not even virus,
They say Covid can jump mere 6 feet. At most!
Stay apart, thank God, thank God!
Stay apart is a better way to say than the boorish phrase,
Social distancing, how drab!
Covid doesn’t have running track that long,
Like athletes have in the run up to jump pit-
But beware, lungs muster that kind of force,
No changes in measuring tape or measurement unit since
Thank God

Saranyan BV is poet and short-story writer, now based out of Bangalore. He came into the realm of literature by mistake, but he loves being there. His works have been published in many Indian and Asian journals. He loves works of Raymond Carver.



Humour Poetry


By Vandita Dharni

     There once lived a frisky pesky lizard,

     Who eloped with her lover in a blizzard.

     They soon caught the flu

     And sneezed an entire zoo

     Until they were beaten blue by a wizard.

My stomach inflates like bubblegum

Leaving me in a strange conundrum.

It mutters and mumbles.

 It gripes and grumbles.

Like missiles bursting in a drum.

A fly sat upon my cherry round nose

It sunk its fangs and a red lump arose

I scratched and darted

I almost looked retarded

but where it bit me, I can’t disclose.

A vagabond wore a long beard

from the Alps to places unheard

as its length and fame grew

people from all corners flew

soon he became a saint revered.

Vandita Dharni is an acclaimed poet, scholar and a gold medalist from the University of Allahabad. Thereafter, she got a Ph.D.  degree in American Literature from the same University. Her articles, poems and stories have been published in journals like Criterion, Ruminations, GNOSIS, HellBound Publishing House and International magazines like Immagine and Poessia, Synchronised Chaos, Sipay, Fasihi and Guido Gozzano. She has published three anthologies.

Humour Poetry

The Heart of the Matter

By Penny Wilkes

Why does the heart always get credit

When pleasure or pain take the breath away?

“We do the work,” say the lungs.

“Breathe. Breathe. We fix it.”


The heart claims it doesn’t break,

“I don’t even wrinkle.”

Fingers create fists, “We feel, really feel.”

“We run from distress,” the feet say.


Liver and kidneys shout that they

deal with all bodily evils first.

The eyes widen to say,

“Tears wash away the chaos.”


“Hey, don’t forget us adenoids and tonsils,

 if you still have them.”

“Anyone home?” asks the spleen.“Appendix

can’t even pronounce vestigial.”


The navel chuckles, “Don’t ask the colon’s opinion.”

Throughout this chatter

the brain has remained complacent.

“Have fun without me,” it sings

as it flits out an ear.


Penny Wilkes, MFA served as a science editor, travel and nature writer and columnist.  Along with short stories, her features on humour and animal behaviour have appeared in a variety of publications. An award-winning writer and poet, she has published a collection of short stories, Seven Smooth Stones. Her published poetry collections include: Whispers from the LandIn Spite of War, and Flying Lessons. Her Blog on The Write Life features life skills, creativity, and writing:




Limericks: Of Donkeys & Corona

This section is dedicated to the memory of the Edward Lear (I812-1888) who laughed away life’s trials with nonsense verse and limericks.

The great erstwhile litterateur Edward Lear,

Popularised laughter and not a single tear.

He wrote fun rhymes

And drew out his times.

His verses gave joy and brought good cheer.

— MC

There was a donkey who loved to bray. 

When they asked him why do you bray, pray ?

The mule obstinate 

His teeth did grate 

And with a vengeance started to bray.


This donkey one day fell in love.

He fell and he fell and how ! 

The besotted one 

Now wanted to run 

From this vicious virus of love.


I am Jennet said the dame.

My love for you I will loudly proclaim 

from the rooftops. 

To hell with the cops ! 

Said Jennet, eyes with love aflame !


There was a superstitious man from Surrey,

Who was extremely prone to worry.

When he heard a donkey bray,

It rather spoilt his day 

And made him quite swallow his fish curry.

— MM

There was a donkey who loved Ovid.

His songs warded off the Covid.

Each time he brayed,

The virus prayed —

Stop that noise or I’ll die atrophied. 


The donkeys danced on the road braying.

The cows sat chewing, meditating, praying.

The traffic jammed.

The horns rammed.

Corona from the confusion fled fraying.


Index of names:

SB: Santosh Bakaya

MM: Meenakshi Malhotra

MC: Mitali Chakravarty



Humour Slices from Life

Bugs of Life

By Sohana Manzoor

I could begin in the style of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, “Last night, I dreamed I went to Carbondale again.” It would surely seem literary and romantic. I owe this write-up, however, to a former colleague who is currently a graduate student in the US.  As we were chatting on a video call, I noticed some shining pots and pans on the wall behind her. It might seem strange to our Bengali sentiments, but I was immediately taken back to my graduate student days in Southern Illinois. I recalled the studio apartments at Southern Hills where the kitchen was not a separate establishment but just a counter in the room. And pots and pans needed to be scrubbed clean and shiny if I wanted to hang them on the wall. If they turned too black, I would hide them in the cupboard.

Looking back after more than ten years, I now can see that I probably landed there in quite a dramatic way. Carbondale is a very small town at the southernmost point of Illinois. There was a small community of Bangladeshi students and faculty members associated with the Southern Illinois University Carbondale. And it would have been only natural to contact some Bangladeshi there and stay with somebody for the first few days. But the overly independent dunderhead that I was, I contacted the English Department instead to figure out a way to get directly to the grad student apartment I had rented on campus.

I often wonder now how I could dare to go alone to an unknown country, virtually knowing nobody. And when the student worker from the International Student Office dropped me off at my apartment after collecting the keys from the office, apart from my luggage, I had only a burger, some fries and a tall glass of coke from McDonalds. I had no phone, no computer, no internet connection, and no immediate way of letting my family know of my whereabouts. And yet, I just tucked my stuff inside the closet and lay down on the couch of the furnished apartment for a long, peaceful sleep. I doubt I can ever do that again.

It did not take too long for me to get acquainted with the Bangladeshi community there. I will always remember Beena Apa, the kind and ever helpful big sister who virtually rescued me the next day from my apartment in Southern Hills. I had never met her before, did not know anything about her either. But when she arrived at my door-step introducing herself, just one look on her beaming face told me that I could trust her. She took me to her apartment in Evergreen Terrace, another grad student housing complex, and I came to meet the vibrant Bangladeshi community there. 

Evergreen Terrace was for grad students with families, and it was surely brighter and more cheerful than Southern Hills, where I had taken my abode. Mine was a rather run-down place, and that is where the bachelor and “half-bachelor” graduate students lived. “Half-bachelor” is a term I invented for the men who were married but had left their wives and children back home. I met one family who had come to live in Southern Hills first and shifted to the family housing within a few weeks. I don’t remember their names anymore even though I can recall their story.

“Babu Bhai helped us to get there, you know. And he warned, ‘Shabdhane thaiko. Bagh tagh ase. Dorja khola raikho na (Be careful. There are tigers around. Don’t keep your doors open.)'” The man with a merry twinkle in his eyes said, “I thought he must be joking, but when we saw the place, especially after dark, we were convinced of the tigers.”

“But there are no tigers!” I replied, thoroughly confused.

He howled with laughter. “Only bugs (bagh). That’s what he had meant.”

No. there were no tigers in Southern Hills. Nor did I come across any of the ghosts or supernatural beings people claimed to have seen there. But yes, the place was almost wild, running amok with creepers and moss.  Some would find it eerie, as my PhD supervisor had, “It seems so desolate, Sohana. Are you sure you’re safe there?”

The apartment buildings stood apart, separated by tall trees, bushes and thickets. I had seen rabbits, deer and even skunks many times in the vicinity. One evening, as I was coming back from a walk and I thought I spotted a cat running down the stairs. I called out but it ran faster. Two days later, to my chagrin, I realized that the damn thing was not a cat at all, but a raccoon.

Friends advised me to move away to Evergreen Terrace. But somehow, by that time, I had fallen in love with Southern Hills. I remember surprising a deer family when a friend dropped me off late at night; the moonlight had caught the antlers of the male deer and he stood still trying to assess if I was a danger to his babies. The scene is etched in my memory as something magical. I watched the snow falling and draping the ground and the trees with white coverlets and curtains. The large magnolia tree with its wax-like flowers emitted a balmy fragrance that seemed very soothing. Squirrels ran up and down the trees and there was something very peaceful around that place. Every evening, when I returned from school, I looked forward to a quiet dinner with a book. I had no television and honestly, I had grown to detest them. I still do.

But living by oneself has its negative points too. I once discovered a large black crawling insect inside my laundry basket. I hate creepy-crawly things and rainy days in Carbondale were problematic for me because footlong earthworms used to take over the streets. Many of my friends had reported seeing me striding in boots through the rain water and cursing at the top of my lungs. Hence the moment I saw the crawling monster, I yelped and jumped on to my bed. But there was no Prince Charming to the rescue and I had to get it out myself. I surely was not going to sleep in the same room with that wriggly bug. Gritting my teeth, I put on gloves and got a pair of tongs from the kitchen cupboard and pulled it out from the basket. I dumped the thing in the commode and flushed it down, and then threw the tongs out too. To this date I am not sure what that horrendous creature was.

After two years at Southern Hills life there ended kind of abruptly. There were talks of demolishing the place as many of the buildings were old, leaky and not very comfortable. I could clearly see a decline in the population too. I also saw that rather than regular graduate students, there were strange looking people moving in.

A crazy pair took up the apartment next to mine and they were quite rowdy. Then one resident on the ground floor of another building was evicted because he was smoking pot inside his apartment and causing trouble for his two neighbours. I felt that safety might become an issue soon. At the same time, I could not help thinking that it was not the wild beasts, nor the supernatural beings, but the human bugs that were chasing me out of my heaven. Marie, a close friend of mine, asked if I wanted to take up a studio in her building. It was very close to the university, smaller in size than the place I had, and somewhat sparsely furnished. But it was way cheaper. So, finally, after two years, I gave up my blissful abode in Southern Hills and moved to the down town area.

Sohana Manzoor is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh.


Humour Poetry

Nonsense Verses

By Vatsala Radhakeesoon

Birthday Party

Daf the centaur
and his friend Wi-Wi the pink lizard
share the same birth-day
Each mid-October
they unwrap a newly-designed
scales-shaped sofa
bounce on it
drum their Pringles cans
then relax sipping
strong Cappuccino coffee
reading the Libra horoscope
through their bluish specs
on Witty Sapphire website.

My Friend from Wales

I have a friend
who lives in Wales
He often says
he has a boat-whale
I remind him
“but it’s only a whale”
He emphasizes
“Indeed it’s a boat
that can perfectly sail.”

The Lady from Hectic City

There was a lady
who left Hectic City
and went to live in Forest-Greeny
But when she felt nostalgic,
she called Grizzly, the energetic
They both tap-danced till midnight
and metamorphosed the crescent moon
into a starry kite
Thus she won over nostalgia,
This lady from Hectic City.

Vatsala Radhakeesoon was born in Mauritius in 1977. She is the author of 8 poetry books  including When Solitude Speaks (Ministry of Arts and Culture Mauritius, 2013), Unconditional Thread ( Alien Buddha Press, USA,2019), and Tropical Temporariness(Transcendent Zero Press, USA, 2019). She is one of the representatives of Immagine and Poesia, an Italy based literary movement uniting artists and poets’ works. She has been selected as one of the poets for Guido Gozzano Poetry contest from 2016 to 2019.  Vatsala currently lives at Rose-Hill and is a    literary translator, interviewer and artist.




Humour Stories

The Return of the Dead

By Gita Viswanath

For the first time in the history of the universe, God and the devil were on the same page. Their domains were getting filled up with an influx of souls tarnished by a virus. To maintain social distance, they decided it was time to throw all inhabitants back on earth. God had it easier. Gravity helped him in ejecting his inmates. The devil had to shoot them upwards and that was tough on him.

“What’s your worry? We are dead now; we can no longer spread disease.” The souls chorused in a last-ditch attempt to stay back.

God in his wisdom said, “This virus has flummoxed me. It’s a never-before situation. So, let me play safe. My ministers and I can’t take a risk.”

“You can’t risk us, can you? Won’t we fall ill? Haven’t we had our fair share of pain and suffering? Won’t we overcrowd the planet and create chaos? We were always taught God is a kind and benevolent being. Trust in him.” 

The infallible God had no answer. He was forced to think. God condescended to consult with the devil and both decided that only those who had died in the past twenty-five years would be ejected. The rest had attained salvation; so, they were not a threat. Ultimately, being the almighty, he had his way with his herd. The devil in his turn entertained no questions. He simply kicked them out or rather up.

The souls of the animal Heaven were tickled at the sight of the exodus. “Our time has come! Down below, our compatriots have been restored to their spaces; they roam like emperors of all they survey, and our enemies are finally locked up. And here, we rest in peace,” the animal souls sang delightedly. 

The day arrived. Hundreds of souls were released. As per the decrees of God and the devil (they seem to work in tandem for once), they landed in the places from where they had last departed. As a result, those who died in road accidents were found loitering on the streets of places as far apart as New York and Nagpur or Los Angeles and Latur.

They were promptly arrested by the police and kept in custody for not maintaining social distance and on top of it, not wearing masks. When they were questioned, they honestly replied that they were thrown out of heaven or hell as was the case.

The situation at Versova police station in Mumbai turned bizarre. The poor cast-outs were laughed at and branded as pagal – mad. At the same time, most were so lucid that the police were totally confused. They gave their home addresses and phone numbers without any hesitation. The ones who died several decades ago gave their landline numbers which were now defunct. Some of them said they were homeless but were able to name the localities where they used to sleep on footpaths. One even tried to appease the police by saying, “Call my family immediately. They can give you chai paani and even samosa* right away.” He had, after all, died while over speeding in his BMW, no less. At this, the homeless ones got enraged and lunged at him.

“Hey, we’ll handcuff you,” yelled the police while trying to prevent a bloodbath.

“Sir, he’s the one who drove over us,” two of the homeless defended themselves.

At this, the inspector on duty called his senior and requested him to come over as soon as possible. Or else, there were bright chances that he would need to be rushed to a psychiatric ward. 

Hospitals, which were as it is bursting at the seams, suddenly saw new patients arguing with the existing ones that it was their bed. One patient suffered a heart attack as soon as he saw a woman appear out of nowhere in front of his bed. She was trying to pull out the intravenous drip and insert it into her arm. At that point, the patient passed out. Hearing the thud of a human body on the floor, a nurse rushed in only to pass out herself on seeing a stranger fitting the drip on her own. The dead woman calmly completed her task and lay on the bed wondering why the staff looked like figures from outer space. When the nurse did not return to her bay for some time, a doctor walked in to see her collapsed on top of the patient on the floor and an unknown woman resting on the bed. She rushed out screaming as if bitten by a rabid dog. 

Mammaaa, Papaaa, bhaiyya ka bhoot*,” Aastha began crying. The family was barely recovering from the suicide of their son, a sixteen-year-old teenager who hanged himself a week ago in his room because his father scolded him for spending too much time on his cell phone. The father, still fuming with rage, rushed out of his bedroom on hearing Aastha and stood there as though struck by lightning. “Oye, what’s happening?” he stammered.

The mother, who followed, began shouting in joy, “My son is back, my son is back.”

The father went out to get a broomstick saying, “Bhoots go away when beaten with a jhaadu*.” Finally, the dead teenager, a little amused, a little embarrassed, spoke: “I’m back. Even God didn’t want me. Where else could I think of going?”

Aastha and her parents fainted one after the other and the dead-living living-dead boy got into his bed and fell into a deep sleep; not before posting a picture of himself on Facebook and Instagram, with the caption, ‘Thrown out by God’.

In Vadodara, in Gujarat, an electrician landed on a light pole and was sent back to God immediately. God was stunned and looked at him furiously.

“What can I do? When you sent us, you said we would land at the spot where we died. That damn pole is still unrepaired and I died instantly.”

Some ministers burst out laughing. “Hmm …” God scratched his head while thinking deeply about a condition such as this. For the first time, he doubted his efficiency.

“Fine, this is no excuse for you to return. You will now land at the spot you were last seen before you climbed that goddamn (oops!) pole.”

As God finished his sentence, the electrician felt himself going down in a free fall like a skydiver. He landed on his Hero bicycle which he had parked next to a tea stall on the road before climbing the pole. The stall was closed. There was an eerie silence. Not a vehicle, not a human anywhere in sight.

Seeing him appear out of the blue, a frightened dog came up towards him. The dog looked so weak with ribs poking out that he could barely bark, let alone bite. Thanking God for providing him with transport to reach his home, he mounted his cycle and pedalled his way feeling elated to be back.

He kept thinking about how happy his family would be to have him in their midst. After all, he had died so tragically just a month before his second baby was to be born and his first child, a girl, was just three years old. He wondered if the second was a boy. He wished it was. At least his mother would stop taunting his poor wife. Whistling his favourite song, he kept cycling, finding the way a little confusing. He was returning after eleven years.

An old woman who could barely walk struggled to find her way. So much had changed in the twenty-five years since she left; she could hardly recognise a single house. Suddenly, she heard a whirring sound up in the sky and as she looked up, a shower of red rose petals fell from the skies. Rows of men with little children on their shoulders and women with bundles of belongings on their heads were the only denizens of the streets. They all had masks on their mouths like Jain munis*, the old woman thought. They rushed to gather the petals, tried to squeeze some juice into their dry throats, and made the children nibble the petals. The old woman joined these masked men and women. When she told them, she had come back from the land of the dead, they thought they were hallucinating. Since she didn’t look threatening, they let her walk along with them. After walking for eternity, they found some people distributing poori bhaaji* and pouches of water. They let the old woman join the queue.

The news broke out on television. Excited reporters screeched into their microphones. Some enterprising ones even managed to reach the dead and interview them. Some went a step further and visited the homes of ones who were receiving their dead, some happily, others not so. Amid a pandemic, the reporters created a virtual pandemonium.

Anup Gohain, who headed the channel that could get an award for the most hysterical of them all, chose his flavour of the day — conspiracy. The dead couldn’t return; he shrieked, this is nothing but a conspiracy of our enemies from within and without. Pakistan, China, the opposition, leftists, pseudo-secularists, the tit-bit gang, Anup Gohain enumerated in rising intonation. And then for dramatic effect, he lowered his voice to a whisper. Tell me, all you so-called scientific people, what else is this if not a conspiracy? They have been sent out to contaminate millions of Indians and destroy this glorious land of ours. All this and more in Debate Number One, once again he screamed. During the debate, he yelled out to the participants on the other side of the fence, “the nation wants to know. Today, you have to give them an answer.”

The police inspector rushed to the station after receiving his constable’s call. He had heard the news. He took charge of the situation that was turning chaotic by the second. Calmly, he ordered that all addresses and telephone numbers be noted down. Then, he personally oversaw the despatch of all those held in the lockup to their homes. The homeless were dropped off at the pavements which were deserted now. They slept peacefully. No hafta* to the police, not even to the local don.

The screams of the doctor echoed down the corridors of the hospital just as the day duty staff was handing over charge to the night duty staff. The television was on in the recreation room of the medical staff and they were staring at it open-mouthed. Of course, they had heard of ghosts and unusual movements in mortuaries but beyond laughing, had never given it a thought.  Could they now dismiss something that was happening on a global scale?

All channels — Indian and foreign — were reporting bizarre episodes of the return of the dead. The screaming doctor barged into the room, huffing and puffing, “Come with me, look at what I just saw.” When they reached the ICU, they revived the nurse first and then questioned the woman who had displaced the patient. She was able to even recall the names of doctors who had attended on her. So eloquent was she, she even told them that she was admitted for a hysterectomy. “Such a routine procedure for women my age – why did you have to kill me?” She asked them indignantly.

The truth was a rookie anaesthesiologist had given her an overdose; resulting in the tragic and untimely death of an otherwise healthy woman. She went on to plead with the doctors to set right their mistake and send her back home to her loved ones who were surely missing her. In response, the two doctors and the nurse passed out! The dead woman pressed her hand to her mouth trying hard to suppress a laugh.

When Aastha and her parents came to in the wee hours of the morning, they found the sixteen-year-old in deep sleep. Still reeling under shock, they stepped forward gingerly to check if he was for real. “Bhaiyya, Bhaiyya,” Aastha called out gently. No response. The mother, who was convinced about the return of her son, sat beside him on the bed, stroking his head, pushing back the lock of hair from the forehead. Standing by the bed, the father wondered aloud, “Yeh kaisa ho sakta hai – how can this happen?” The boy stirred. The mother shushed the father and pretended that the cremation and the besna* never happened. They all shouted excitedly, “Welcome back!” With no one entering their home and they not going out, the return of their dead son needed no explanation. They all lived happily ever after until …

The electrician reached his home. He left the cycle leaning on the wall and entered through the tiny gate which was the same after eleven years except for a louder creak. His wife was swabbing the room. She looked through the half-open door, left the pail and the duster on the floor, stood up, smiled, and said, “Ahh, it’s been a long time.” The electrician was stunned. Here he was, returning from the land of the dead after eleven years and this woman, his wife and the mother of his children was inhumanly calm. On the wall, he noticed his framed photo with a plastic garland with dust in the folds of the petals.

“Salma, aren’t you shocked to see me?” he asked her.

“Why should I be? You were always with me. You think you could go away so easily?”

“But you used to not see me, hear me, you couldn’t touch me, see, see,” he grabbed her hand saying, “You are not dreaming, Salma, I am really here in front of you.”

“Who said so? I used to see you, hear you, feel you, all the time.”

The electrician was flabbergasted. What could he say to her?

“Where are our children?”

“Sleeping. Come inside, see …”

The electrician was surprised to see four. Disturbed by the sounds, they woke up. The youngest of them, four years old, was the first to speak, “He looks like Abba.”  When the electrician died on the pole, his parents got the widow married off to his younger brother, Ahmed. In a short while, Ahmed returned with a basket of vegetables, took off his mask, and stood rooted to the ground on seeing his brother.

Bhai, have I lost my senses?”

“No, you haven’t, take a bath and come. I’ll explain,” said Salma in a soothing voice.

Ahmed went in never to return (he exited through the back door) and the electrician was restored to his home and family. Salma laid out all the vegetables next to the sink and began washing them with soap.

“What are you doing?” asked the stupefied electrician.

Han, that’s how it is now.”

Shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head from right to left, left to right, the electrician replied, “Chalo, kuch tho badla — okay, something has changed at least.”

The old woman found it extremely hard to find her way home. She walked endlessly in the scorching sun with one group of workers only to realise she was on the wrong route. Then she turned at a fork to join another group. After three days of repeatedly joining different groups, she finally reached what she remembered as her home. Alas! The people who now lived there were not her family. They wouldn’t let her in. Once again, she was stranded. Totally exhausted and unable to walk anymore, she settled down under a neem tree, cursing God for harassing her, and set up her home with a snake and a monkey as her neighbours.

For almost a year, the dead and the living blended seamlessly. They lived, loved, fought, cast out, oppressed, forgave, made up like humans always did. In the meanwhile, the invisible virus continued having a field day in the world, upsetting many apple carts. God and the devil began missing their flock. They realised the stupidity of their thoughts and actions. By dying and returning to them, the souls had completed a journey. Why then were they made to resume their earthly voyages?

God addressed his ministers in a cloud meeting, “My creations respect death and the dead. Never speak ill of the dead, they say. They keep them forever in their memories. They equate the dead with me. They offer flowers and incense to them the way they do to me. They tell children that the dead go to God.” The ministers nodded gravely in agreement. “Then, why have I betrayed their trust in me?” God asked shamefacedly. “Who am I without my flock? How can I erase the ultimate truth of life, that is death?”

God and the devil summoned back their herd. As suddenly as the dead had appeared, they disappeared.

*chai paani… samosa — tea, water… savoury snack

*Bhaiyya ka bhoot — Brother’s ghost.

*Bhoot — ghost

*munis — sages

*Poori Bhajji — food.

Gita Viswanath is a Baroda-based writer. Her novel, Twice it Happened, was published last year by Vishwakarma Publications, Pune. She is also the author of a children’s book, Chidiya. Her poems have been published in Kavyabharati No 28 and Coldnoon. Her short story, Paper Gods, was published in the May 2020 issue of Muse India.