In a new column, 'Category Error', Amruta Patil marries news-triggered observation with fiction, history, philosophy, against the backdrop of an Indian high rise.

Read more from the series here.


1 | Ravi, Jeetu and Manish’s Body Temperature

The lean man in apartment B503 of Atlantis Cooperative Housing Society would have liked to spend this evening in the company of the gorgeous man he had met just before lockdown, but circumstances had been too world-altering for the spark between them to survive. Sparks between human beings are delicate phenomena that need time so a promising beginning can grow into a roaring fire.

All through the day, lean man saw performances of carefulness in a city stirring into wakefulness again: The disposable viscose booties and non-contact temperature measuring device at the dentist’s clinic. The hand sanitiser-wielding doormen outside stores, dystopian version of folks who stood with a silver attardaani to sprinkle rose water on invitees entering a wedding.

At night, to celebrate the opening up of the lockdown, the lean man ordered a meal from an “Asian” (i.e. cuisine-conglomerate of Thailand, Japan and China) restaurant. Despite the gloves and mask on the food delivery person, theirs was an exchange replete with intimate information:


The lean man casually made note of the temperature difference between Raju’s, Jeetu’s and Manish’s bodies, and wondered if such a difference was palpable to the touch. There was, of course, no place on the form for delivery person to write down the customer’s body temperature.

2 | Activist Types

Our ancestors programmed us for different sorts of certitudes.

For most people, the soundness of keeping one’s head low to survive a gale is the most important certitude of all.

The dentist couple in apartment A502 was at yet another impasse with their daughter who was charging into a metaphoric gale, texting away furiously with her two thumbs, making plans to join a protest against the miserable meals being served to still-stranded migrants.

Foolish heroics, thundered dentist-the-husband, attention hungry behaviour!

Who will bail you out when they throw you into prison?

Why would they throw me into prison? retorted the daughter, And if they did, more the reason people need to protest!

Dentist-the-wife piped in, Let activist types like Kashish and Sonali do what they do.

The daughter replied, Kashish and Sonali got laathi-charged for protesting a sneaky land grab last week. Do you expect them to fight all battles for everyone?

Dentist-the-husband could not bear it any longer: You want to ruin all our lives by going to prison! You’re a writer and artist…


3 | Beard-clippers and Bowl Cuts

In apartment C403, the IT couple was recovering from the haircuts they had given one another. Friends, colleagues (and their respective children) in various parts of the world had undertaken similar homegrown hair projects and now bore an uncanny resemblance to friars, vicars and philosophers from medieval European artwork. The most unfortunate wore beard-clipper hairstyles suited to dogs in summer. Slightly-less unfortunate ones wore versions of the bowl cut — a style that historically evolved from an actual bowl placed over the head of the unfortunate and hair being cut along its rim.

The IT couple had surprised each other during the exercise. Her hairstyle, a messy step cut, was refreshed with relative ease. His hairstyle, a nondescript short haircut, proved to be exhausting beyond belief. When her scissors went to work, it felt like he had five times the amount of hair on his head than he really did. And making any headway needed not just a steady hand, but an innate of volume under wet conditions, volume under dry conditions and an understanding of sculptural form.



Writer-painter Amruta Patil is the author of graphic novels Kari, Adi Parva: Churning of the Ocean, Sauptik: Blood and Flowers, and Aranyaka: Book of the Forest. On Instagram: @amruta_gauri