October 25th, 2011
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Madras eye

Short story/ Shiyas

I wake up with a Madras eye (1). I look at the mirror and see my left eye reddened. I walk towards the tea shop. The tea master’s eyes are visibly red but the tea drinkers there haven’t spotted it yet. The tea master feels with his right hand the black sunglasses in the fold of his lungi (2) but he won’t dare to wear it, for if he does, it will become an obvious fact and would lose a minimum of two day’s business. He hands me the tea with a smile of solidarity.

Madras eyeIn the room, the TV is still on from last night. I switch it off and throw the remote under the sofa. Meanwhile my pen falls down from the pocket, I open it and slash it on the white floor. The ink drops in single file has an inviting look. With my fingers I connect them and make a circle. My palm is red. I run my fingers on my right cheek and a cheek forms inside the red circle. I stain my eyes, nose, lips and forehead. There is a face which looks like me on the floor. I go close to him. I look at his eyes. It’s red and there is a knock on the door. I don’t answer. I lie, my face touching his.

In the afternoon, I walk to Ibrahim’s Cell City. When I saw him last time he was telling his Madras eye –affected- customer the origin of the disease but I hardly paid attention to it then. I asked him outright “Why is it called Madras eye?”

He looked at my eye and asked me to sit. He came back with his laptop and told me he googled it. “Fuck you” I don’t want a bloody Medical description. Tell me as a Madrasee (3) what you know about it, damn it”. He began, “it originated in Madras and hence the name Madras eye. It happens due to the kind of climate we have here; a mixture of extreme heat coupled with humidity and dust, and your eyes become the perfect breeding ground for the bacteria to have sex”. There he took a pause and in between laughs told me about the brother of the person who immolated himself during the Anti-Hindi agitation. “He calls it the Bombay eye. I knew that everyone is so afraid and running away from it but it’s catching them slowly one after the other.

An sms from my friend reads: there’s a seminar happening at 5.p.m


I switch off the phone and continue walking. The streets are red, a red woman walk past me, the red cooum (4), red temples and red idols.

I keep my eyes inside the freezer and lean on the door of the refrigerator and fall asleep. In my dream I’m marooned on an afternoon island. I know I’m waiting for someone. A speckle of a man is running towards me. It looked like Ibrahim but as he came closer his beard disappeared. I haven’t seen him before. He gasps for breath and introduces himself as Mersault (5). His eyes, like mine, are red. He hands me a pistol and tells me that it was on this island he killed the Arab. “Today the sun is just the same as on that fateful day. Shoot me”. All of a sudden his face grows a beard back and Ibrahim hollers MADRAS EYE- YOU HAVE MADRAS EYE, laughing out loud. There is somebody pounding at the door and I know it could only be Ibrahim.

From the corner of the wall in front of me, the red color slowly fades. Pale yellow paints over red. The red chair, the red switchboard, retains their old color.

I run to the door and as I open the latch, I notice something written on my right palm. GOD IS A CAMERA. DON’T FUCK WITH HIM ANYMORE.


Hey you…. Open Up!

The End



1. Madras Eye  – Conjunctivitis

2. lungi            – a south Indian casual wear.(dhothi)

3. madrasee    –  one who belongs to Madras (slang)

4. Cooum         – A highly polluted river in chennai

5. Mersault     – Protagonist of Albert Camus’ novel , The Stranger.



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