By Neel Anil Panciker

Students come in all shapes and sizes and, might I add here, orientations, inclinations, and affiliations.

I first saw him in an English Class.

Well, spotted would be a better word.

It was Day One, Week Three of the mid-season batch, an early morning batch, a seven o’clock batch. The marketing whiz kids had in their greater wisdom even coined a word for such a batch___A HAPPY EARLY MORNING BATCH.

A wisecrack friend of mine, on hearing of this, had puked out a better word for this__he called it A LATE MIDNIGHT BATCH.
One full year of taking such batches and I was wondering whether the marketing guys had made a genuine error in christening it as such.

For, there was nothing happy about an early Happy Morning batch.

All the stakeholders involved were very unhappy.

First, the students.

Most of them I discovered, came from small towns and cities__Tier 2 and 3__, and hard pressed as they were for survival, stayed in hole in the wall four in a room sets. Here, closeted in such confined spaces they studied, at times even cooked, if the owner was magnanimous enough to allow them such a luxury, studied, and slept. The lucky ones even had an attached washroom sans any door or fittings.

This hell hole, roughly the kitchen size of a regular middle class home kitchen, was the universe of these starry eyed young twenty somethings who had made the metaphorically ardous decision to pluck themselves out of the comfy environs of back of beyond single school villages and moffusil towns and sleepy hamlocks that scatter through the length and breadth of this vast country.

After a spartan breakfast that more often than not would be the obligatory sattu washed down with what else but a glass of tap water, they would walk down to the centre after having taken the metro, rickshaw, or shared auto, and then, like ants following one another, troop into the classroom ready for a gruelling six hour classes.

So, as I said, for these students, there was nothing happy after all this to sit and listen and try to make sense of the English chatter that happens all around them and in front of them, on the white board as the suave English bred faculty tries to run them through the Greek, Latin, German, French, Scandinavian or what have you root derivatives of such fanciful words as blitzkrieg, gastronomic, and ignoramus.

Completely ignorant, and all at sea, these village boys would look at one another utterly nonplussed and imagine their plight when one of them would be asked to string together a sentence with one of the words in it being one of the above mentioned.

This after I had explained in detail, with more than a couple of example sentences, the meaning of  the words.

Imagine their plight as ten pairs of eyes___ eyes that belonged to another class of students, who also were part of the same class, but hailed from the metro hub that is Delhi, and whose parents were moneyed enough to ensure them quality English medium education__, bored into the hapless student, and the class erupted in half giggles and guffaws as the HMT (Hindi Medium Type) stood there and did nothing but scratch his three month old scrubby beard as if doing so would magically tickle his brain cells enough to generate the answer that all of us  expected of him.

And imagine my plight when, day in and day out, all through the year, I would be conducting such classes with clockwork regularity.

Trust me, it’s a lose-lose situation for all, there’s no happy outcome such polar opposites sit in the same class for how in the hell can you compare apples with oranges, and expect the same outcome from both.

Obviously, both the fruit types would rebel at some point, and that’s exactly what happened in less than a fortnight’s time.

#CLASS #655words


FOWC with Fandango — Beard

FOWC with Fandango — Beard

For today’s Three Things Challenge, the words are: clockwork, imagine, orange.





FOWC with Fandango — Game




By Neel Anil Panicker

Two minutes into the class, and boredom’s already set in.

I mean, tell me, whoever sits through a two hour class on English Grammar?

‘Preposition’ _ that’s what the bald as an eagle man who looks closer to my grandfather’s age,  and with a perpetually irritating smile on his deeply criss crossed visage grandly announces is the Topic of the day as if her the great Mr M himself rolling up his sleeves and announcing Round Two of ‘The Great Indian Musical Currency Game’.

Get that, Preposition! Hey, wake up buddy. Parts of Speech was what I did aeons ago when I was still trapped inside half pants and had the hots for our English teacher, the delectable Miss Esther, the mesmerizing apparition who when each time she opened that mouth of hers gobbled every one of our nubile hearts.

And God! Did she move! She had the thing and brought in the much needed zing to my adolescent life.

Anyways those were the times, and here I am, Circa 2018, and staring at the white board where Andy Sir, (though he goes by the street name Turtle, (and don’t ask me how the heck did he landed up with that), is explaining the pros of using ‘at’ over ‘in’. Also, the cons of not using both.

After sometime, turtle turns around and espouses, ” You can’t teach anyone Preposition. Either you know it or you don’t.”

Dammn’t!  Then why the fish is he here?

In exasperation I turn around and bingo__there’s ‘Miss Curves.’ Our eyes meet from two rows and a corner away.

I smile. She returns the favour with a ‘Priya Warrier wink’.

And lo! My heart sinks.

I mouth that I like the undulating folds of her crepe top. She protrudes her full lips__ I spell that as ‘creep’.

Unmindful, I volley back with another radio chatter__ our very own Morse Code.

The class move’s at a turtle’s pace; our lust quicker than Usain Bolt’s.

B-School or no B-School, I’ve seen the light, and oh boy, am I glad!!!






A CAT MASTERCLASS   (realistic fiction)

By Neel Anil Panicker

Professor Kumar was not a firm believer in the predictive powers of first impressions. Long years spent whizzing in and out of innumerable classrooms had wizened him up to the harsh reality that appearances could be, and usually are, deceptive.

And so it wasn’t a case of raised eyebrows when he commenced the morning Reading Comprehension class ritual for a batch of prospective B school students, all fresh graduates, mostly engineering, a few even post graduates.


His very first poser hit a wall. “So, how many of you are aware of Roman History.”?

Pin drop silence followed. There they were, some 40 odd young minds, their faces locked in incredulity, the eyes__two black holes staring into nothingness.

After what seemed like an interminably long wait, a wait long enough to put Waiting for Godot to shame, one smart alec, a shaggy long haired stud like persona with biceps that threatened to break free from the tiniest of Tees that one could ever imagine, (and also who looked as if he could do with an oil bath with an hour of vigorous scrubbing thrown in), cleared his croaking throat to grandly announce, “Sir, I am. I know everything about Rome and Roman History. I have seen the movie ‘A Roman Holiday three times’.

Instantly, Professor Kumar’s jaw dropped. Almost in tandem, the dynamics of the class changed too.


Umpteen feet began to shuffle and all eyeballs, as if by a strong gravitational pull, got sucked into the new epicentre of all action which lay somewhere in the extreme right corner of the rectangular air conditioned classroom.

Deciding to latch onto the sudden surge of interest amongst the students, the middle aged professor volleyed his next question, this time to the student at the centre of the unfolding drama, “Great, at least there’s one person who knows something about Rome, who can tell us about the great emperors, the pharaohs, the mummies, the masterfully written Greek Classics and the many tragedies that unfolded in Homer’s Illiad. And so, my dear friend, why don’t you enlighten the class about Athens, Sparta and Helen?”

As the seconds ticked by and as all eyes, which hitherto had shone bright, began to lose interest, came the reply, answered in a high pitched voice with a distinct nasal twang, a sound that by itself reeked of utter insouciance.

‘Sir, I don’t know about the others but I do know that Helen is Salman’s mother. I mean she’s the Bollywood star’s adopted mom.”

This rejoinder served to open the floodgates of crassness and crudity and thereafter, for the next couple of hours,  it was a free for all.

By the end of the class the teacher had become the taught and as   Professor Kumar bid adieu to the students, he thanked them, one boy in particular, for delivering a master class on Indian History, both Ancient and Modern, including a brief aside on culture, more specifically Bollywood culture.

#neelanilpanicker #CAT-ology #B-School #students #flash #ThreeThingsChallenge #realisticfiction #sarcasm #494words

Three Things Challenge, 29 August 2018

Today’s things are: Roman, Athens, Sparta





This week’s cue is SUSPEND…


By Neel Anil Panicker

“Listen, dear friend, trust me when I this and am saying this not out of my hat but out of my experience, a great many years of hard won experience.”

‘Do I have a choice? Go ahead, I am all ears’.


“So here it is straight off the horse’s mouth: If you want to take a wow class and win friends and influence people then you should suspend all judgement.”
‘Hmm…interesting, in this world there is no dearth of free idea floaters and now that I see you too have joined that ‘Entry By Invitation Only’ club why don’t you enlighten me as to how exactly do I go about this earth shattering path breaking pedagogical strategy that you so elegantly have euphemistically christened as SUSPEND ALL JUDGEMENT?’

“Well, first of all you should keep your eyes and ears open in the class to look around for any and all sorts of non-academic activity and that includes all sorts of shenanigans including coochie cooing into one another’s ears, engaging in near animated discussions about the morals or lack of it of neighbourhood street dogs, and even heatedly analysing threadbare the inverse correlation between the rising levels of global warming and the plunging necklines of Hollywood beauties.”

‘There it is, I got it, a bit paradoxical though it may be. First, I need to keep my eyes and ears open and then close them. A class act indeed’.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #six sentence stories #fiction #short story #237 words


Hosted by the fantabulous Reena at

Here is a character narrating different episodes from her life. You get an idea of the overall personality. Pick just one sentence from the story, and develop further on that.



By Neel Anil Panicker

I see the rage in my boss’s eyes and know that is time to quit. Or, more appropriately, that is time for me to be asked to quit.

There he is, sitting opposite me, in that favourite swivel chair of his, the chair, the specific make and colour that I helped him to chose, staring down at me, those limpid blue eyes now a raging red, its pupils trebly enlarged, the nerves threatening any moment to burst out.

I bravely refuse to give in and like a fool who rushes in where angels fear to tread, I lock eyes with him.

I see his head, bald as an eagle’s, the strobe lights streaking in through the translucent windows doodling all over his six foot gym toned frame, the hands, large and hairy, like a grizzly bear’s fiercely clutching onto a palm sized paper weight, furiously rotating it over the oblong sun mica topped teak wood table.

I see a melange of emotions, predominantly distaste, written all over his usually placid face, now a bundle of bumbling emotions.

I see a lot that I haven’t seen in the past six years, the years that I have known him since, the years that I have worked  under him, the years that he has been my boss, also the years that we have been lovers.

I know it is time for me to leave, allow for him to be alone so as to be able to process all that has happened.

I get up and calmly hand over an envelope. It contains my resignation letter addressed to Shiv Kumar Sharma, Director, COACHING TIME, New Delhi from Maya Talreja, General Manager- Planning.

‘I shall see you in the evening’, I say, and walk out of the cabin. I know he’s my man and I know together we’ll battle our way out of this storm too.


My name is Maya. Maya Mirchandani. I am a 30-year-old Sindhi, a divorced Gujarati born Sindhi to be precise. I stress on the divorced part because that’s was defined me, at least for the first five years since my marriage with Kunal, a regular parochial wife beating male chauvinist pig fell apart. Wait, fell apart did I say?

Shred to pieces, smashed to smithereens__these would be better descriptors of the hellish times I spent with Kunal whose favourite form of abuse was to strip me naked,   chain me to the window sill, and then beat me black and blue with a steel belt for hours together.

Of course, he did take power breaks in between, replenishing himself with whisky on the rocks and snorting cocaine, just one among many of his addictions.

One night soon after when he and the entire world were in deep slumber, I climbed down the bathroom pipe, walked barefoot upto to the nearest railway station, and took the first available train to my hometown.

My parents, saddled with typical middle class mores thought I had committed a crime  and did everything possible right from weeping and begging to cajoling and threatening to somehow force me to go back to Kunal, to give my marriage yet another try.

But I had resolved that enough was enough and would under no circumstances go back to marriage which I know equated with hell for short of a milder word.

That broke their dam of patience and I was subjected to another round of torture.

This time it was mental, and especially so by own parents, who feared that a daughter, beautiful and educated as she may be, had no life outside of marriage.

Things deteriorated from bad to worse and then one day, when unable to bear their near non-stop rebukes and emotional blackmails, I packed my bags and left home.

In less than 100 days I had hit road again, the only difference being this I had burnt all my bridges and there was no going back, anywhere whatsoever.

I decided to hit a new town and landed up in Delhi. The first few months were sheer hell, as armed with nothing more than a college degree I walked in and out of countless interviews without any luck.

It went like this for a month or so and soon things reached a point when I had no money to even pay the rent for my single room Paying Guest accommodation.

It was then that the landlord offered me a life a line: He would forfeit my dues if I agreed to sleep with him.

Disgusted I slammed the phone down and was about to smash it to the wall when it began to ring.

I picked it up and was about to hurl my choicest abuses when I heard a woman’s voice, soft though business-like over the phone, “Am I speaking to Miss Maya?”

“Yes, this is Maya”, I somehow managed to mumble.

“Congratulations,” the voice continued, “You have been selected. Please kindly collect your offer letter from Coaching Time”.

A melange of emotions swirled through my mind. One moment I was down and out and the other I was on top of the world. I was over, my ordeal, my quest, my struggle for survival. I had finally bagged a job.

The next day, my heart full of joy, I walked into my new office, and fell straight into the arms of my boss.

Well, it so happened that I had just left the HR Manager’s cabin, clutching in my hand an appointment letter that said my designation was Executive Secretary, Director, Coaching Time.

“Walk straight and turn left. Extreme corner is Kumar Sir’s cabin.”

I did as she had guided me, and found myself standing outside an impressive oak panelled cabin door that sported a gold embellished capital lettered name plate ‘DIRECTOR’.

I was wondering whether to knock or to simply step in, when the door opened all of a sudden and out stumbled a man and almost fell into my arms.  In fact if he hadn’t held himself against the wall, both of us would have come tumbling down like nine pins.

“I…I am sorry. ‘Am in a hurry.” was all he managed to blurt out as we pulled ourselves together.

I looked at him, half fearful, half embarrassed.

Pushing the wrong side of forty, the man had a shock of curly grey hair the sides of which fell over a square face that reeked of a childlike naughtiness.

“Sir, I am Maya…your new secr…”

“Sorry, got to go. Shall meet you in the evening. Make yourself comfortable” was all he said before he vanished down the corridor.

I shrugged off the awkwardness and stepped inside to find the room, a mid sized hall rather, a picture of disarray. Half opened books, files, stationery, even Coke cans were littered all over the place__ on the work table, under the chairs, on the mosaic floor, a few even near the attached washroom.

My womanly instincts came to fore and I set about putting everything in order, even at one point picking up the intercom and requisitioning the House Keeping Department.

And when Mr Kumar walked in through the door in the evening all he did was stand and stare in wonderment at the metamorphosis his cabin had undergone.

He rewarded me with a hesitant half smile.

In turn I extracted a cup of hot Nescafe from the Coffee Machine and placing it on his desk, said, “ Sir, I am Maya, your new Executive Secretary”.

He motioned me to the chair opposite him and apprised me of the tasks at hand.

I was to take care of his appointments, attend all his meetings, take down their minutes, prepare notes, and help him with the general functioning of his office.

The next few months I immersed myself fully in my job, voraciously lapping up each day and new experience as part of my learning curve, ever learning, at times faltering, at times making mistakes but never repeating them.

At the end of six months, I had learnt enough to make myself an indispensable part of the office, befriending one and all, helping all and sundry, ensuring the smooth and efficient running of the organisation.

The wheels of time spun and soon a year passed by and another and  then yet another.

I was happy, at peace with myself, had a job, a great one at that, one that I loved to the hilt, and most importantly was independent in all senses of the term.

By now I was promoted as General Manager-Operations and my salary was ten times over what I had started with.

And then I fell in love. Or, we fell in love. Shiv and I.

It was not one of those Slam, Bam, Thank You Ma’m kind of puerile, lust filled entanglements that you hear of but quite on the contrary, a slow brewing, deep stirring, meaningful heart enriching, life affirming love between two mature fully responsible consenting adults.

As such we resolved that our love, romance, relationship, affection or whatever one may choose to call it, would in no way interfere with our official duties. We turned increasingly discreet, making sure that not one soul got a whiff of it.

But then as they say such things have a dirty habit of leaking out and soon someone somehow poisoned the ears of the powers that be at the Head Office.

Soon enough Shiv received a terse one line note from the head honchos asking for my scalp.

And that’s where things stand now as I sit in my cabin wondering over the dilemma that stares Shiv, my boss cum lover.


The intercom buzzes; I pick up the phone.

“Maya. We’re in this together. I’ve put in my papers. Now, either we swim or sink.

Are you with me?”

“Forever, my sweetheart”.

I kiss him over the phone.

I am happy, elated, over the moon.
I have finally found love.

I have a man, a man who’s man enough to take on the world.

For me, for him, for us.

©neelanilpanciker2017 #fiction #shortstory #CATolgy #BSchool #MBA

#reena’sexplorationchallengeweek#16 #1670words


December 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 7 Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

In 99 words (no more, no less) write that features a performance. You can interpret what is a performance any way the prompt leads you.

Hosted by


By Neel Anil Panicker

Two days, seven hours, thirty-one minutes and still counting. There’s no signs of the torture  ever coming to an end. From his secluded perch in the far right hand corner, I watch with eyes as dead as of a dodo’s at the ‘actors’ and their ‘performances’.

The powers that be had even thought out a name for this form of extreme sadism, grandly christening it as ‘ANNUAL SKILL UPLIFTMENT SESSION’.

My foot! The only skill upliftment was that the hapless trainees had by now learnt how to fall into deep slumber with their eyes split wide open.

©neelanilpanicker2017 #fiction #flashfiction #99words #training


Hosted by the ever dependable, super resourceful Reena at



By Neel Anil Panicker

As the Master of Ceremonies (MC) announced the winner of the COACHING TIME Best Faculty Award 2017, thunderous rounds of applause swept through the audience as every single person was up on his or feet, clapping, cheering lustily, quite a few even, especially among the women, shedding more than a tear.

These were no ordinary tears; instead they were tears of joy, tears of supreme happiness and a silent prayer in honour and recognition of the insurmountable spirit displayed by one of their own, one who with her actions had become an inspirational beacon of hope for all.

Daintily adjusting the folds of her exquisitely ornate gold embroidered Kancheevaram silk saree, Dr Lavanya got up from her chair in the corner third row and worked her way towards stage acknowledging the compliments that came her way.

Joining his colleagues and co-workers in expressing their extreme happiness was Mohandas Pai, the Director of ‘Coaching Time’ who too stood up, his hands clapping in chorus with the rapturous crowd.

Amidst thunderous ear deafening applause Sr Lavanya acceded to the request of the MC to speak a few words.

First of all I request you all to kindly sit down. It makes me feel a wee bit awkward to receive so much love and attention from my dear colleagues, well wishers, respectful Director Sir__ all who have known me in the past decade or so to ten years.

If an outsider were to inadvertently gate crash into this evening’s conference, he would assume me to be a hot shot Bollywood celebrity, in town for one or the other charity event.

Speaking of charity, I will say that charity begins at home.

And here I must thank, besides my dear parents, my dear colleagues without whose unstinted support and encouragement I wouldn’t have been here, standing before all of you, holding in my hands this glittering trophy that has my name engraved on it, acknowledging and honouring me with the award for the BEST FACULTY- VERBAL 2017.

And now I must get on with the task at hand, a promise that Pai Sir had extracted from me.

It was a promise that I will tell my story from every single stage, that I will narrate at every opportune moment and occasion the story of my life, that is my life battling cancer.

So here it is, the no holds barred, bare boned story of my life.

My name is Lavanya. I had a surname. But life and circumstances have forced nee enabled me to drop my surname.

I was born a boy, the only child of typical middle class Maharashtrian parents who were both bank employees.

Life was blissful as I grew up into my teens but sometime around when I had crossed seventeen I realised I was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.

When, after much hesitation and quite a lot of trepidation, I disclosed my fears to my parents they were devastated. Quite understandably so. I mean who wouldn’t? Their only child, bright and cheerful, a crowd puller, was now telling them, literally out of the blue that he was a she. That their only offspring, that too a son, the much sought after male homosapien, was a daughter.

Barring the initial shock, my mother, as all mothers are wont to, took it in her chin and embraced me. She had a daughter now instead of what she believed earlier to be a son. Just a switch of genders.

But my father was made differently. He felt insulted, cheated, humiliated, his elephantine male ego couldn’t the fathom the idea of fathering a boy who had now cruelly turned into a girl.

He ranted and raved, threw things around, began binge drinking and chain smoking, and when one day my mother suggested that it was time to heed the doctor’s advice and help initiate the medical process that would transform my body from male into female he put his foot down. He simply refused to sign the consent form, refused to put his signature on the medical form without which no hospital or doctor could carry out the medical interventions my body so very urgently needed.

And when my mother questioned him over this reluctance, he slapped her and threw us, both mother and I out of the house, our house that parents had jointly built.

The next day and the week after we stayed at a relative’s place and the months following that we moved into a single room rented accommodation.

The day we moved in was when we received the court notice. My father had filed for divorce.

Our cup of woes filleth over.

I will cut short the horrific days and nights and the several years that followed thereafter, suffice to say it took all of ten years, five ‘eight-hour-long’ surgeries and a ten lakh rupees bank loan to help me transform fully from a boy to girl.

In between my mother worked at the bank, toiled as an independent single mother, bravely fighting the not so veiled barbs and insults and slights of a highly myopic misogynistic society to enable me pick up a graduate degree and a prized MBA thereafter.

She died last year, a happy and contented soul, ever in live with life, ever a fighter, ever positive and left me with her message of peace and love. A true fighter she was and made me one too.

My mother was stronger than I ever could be.

I remember she never ever dropping that smile off her face, never ever saying or feeling one bit of despondency, never ever indulging in self pity or wallowing in the deep bottomless well of despair and negativity.

Friends who have visit my house have seen my bookshelf chock o block with self help books and autobiographies of great men and women.

In one of the walls is a huge white board imprinted with the words, “Trauma is about being stuck. Sometimes a holding pattern becomes habitual, causing tension and ill health. We understand our lives backward, but must live them forward”.

These are the words of the great 20th century Danish philosopher Soren Kiregaard, considered the ‘Father of Existentialism’ on whose works I have done Doctorate.

Thanks to my in depth research into his teachings and philosophies was I able understand the concept of choice that besets every human being and thereby lead myself from pitch black darkness into blinding light.

It was he who helped me move from my earlier stage of dreadful existence to another beautiful stage, an act of will, a leap of choice.

I slowly moved from apathy to sympathetic antipathy to finally antipathetic sympathy.

I realised it’s not the traumas and setbacks that come our way that defeat us, that hold us back, that lead us to failures. I realised that is it is our own mental blocks towards them, our own deep rooted self serving narrow mindsets and attitudes towards these temporary but all so natural mishaps that beset every human being on this planet that we need to smash, come out of, and overcome. And that’s what I did. I smashed and broke through all these artificial walls to carve my own space on this Earth.

And that’s the message that I want give all.

I am no doctor but today I help heal minds, heal human minds caught in a time warp, a vicious self defeating circle of bigotry, obscurantism, patriarchy and gender subjugation.

This beautiful award and recognition will always stay embedded in my heart for ever, for it shows your love and respect for both of us, my mother and me__for my mother Lalitha, and for me, Vanya.

And that, my dear friends and colleagues, is my story, Lavanya’s story, the story of a  girl who was once a boy but will always remain a human being, and strive to be a good one. Thanks You and God bless all of you.”