As good as fiction

Every day I wake up to the hope of hearing from you. And you don’t even know.
In my mind, it involves us turning over a gigantic, blank page that holds umpteen possibilities and fresh starts. I can’t think of a plausible way how it will happen though, a text message maybe or (God forbid) a phone call. There is every likelihood that the phone would be flung out of the window in nervous anticipation of hearing your voice. And if I were to run into you someday, say on an ordinary day, I would most likely flee in the opposite direction or hide behind the plastic foliage of a tall potted plant. Your presence makes me giddy and regresses my mental capabilities and instincts to that of an awkward, lovestruck adolescent. But I love that love can still create in me that clumsy, good nervousness; the sudden paralysing inability to vocalize or saying more than I had intended to; looking everywhere but at you and resorting to sneaking shy glances; the joyous somersault and quick jig that my heart performs at every memory of yours; the inevitable turning back at the sound of your name; the way my eyes search and pick, like a magpie, pieces of ‘you‘ in the crowd, that intense gaze, the familiar walk, your smile; and the inconceivable but infinitesimal possibility how every ring of the phone or doorbell could have you on the other end.
But then it all happens in my mind, doesn’t it? In the real world, I lurk in the no longer accessible fringes of your memory. I won’t ever see or hear from you. And as I don’t want anyone to misinterpret and trivialize my feelings and consider me a burden or nuisance, I won’t ever reach out for you too. Some day (hopefully soon), I will let go of this impossible love that never existed beyond the confines of my mind. I will wake up without the hope of hearing from you. And you won’t even know.

(Note: this was written nearly a decade ago and remained forever in the drafts folder. No longer relevant and is as good as fiction, hence, reposting.)

Everyday Freedom: Vignettes

(This article was published in Fried Eye magazine on August, 2012.)
Freedom. Our ancestors fought for it. It is difficult to define in the humdrum of everyday life. It means different things to different people. It rescues some. It transforms others. We don’t value it enough. Sometimes we don’t perceive its absence. Or take for granted its presence. At times, we misuse it.

In my life, relatively short and thus lacking in experience, I had felt the sparks of freedom that has touched the lives of people I have known. These aren’t epiphanies or sudden bursts of life-altering moments. These are everyday stories of how people recognized the constraints that bound them, struggled for a way out and gradually let in a glorious trickle of freedom into their lives.

She was the one who started it on their first day together. She let him decide the evening movie, the dinner menu and even the songs they heard on the ride back home. He was glad to ease the burden of decision making off the woman in his life. They had a whirlwind romance, an elaborate wedding (he decided the venue, the guest list and the honeymoon destination; she decided the table centerpieces, the Mehendi artist and the honeymoon lingerie), and the dizzy highs of playing grown-ups and setting their own home and family. His family was very ‘liberal’, they let their new daughter-in-law keep her job and weren’t finicky about the hemlines of her dresses. She liked the role of a home-maker, smiling to herself every night as she laid out his dinner. He was so caring, always surprising her with gifts and vacations (that comfortably fit into his work schedule, not hers). She moved around the country with him, setting up new homes every time he got transferred. When she got a better job offer in another city, he calmly asked her why she bothered working so hard when he was earning enough for both of them. She shut up because the baby was due. His business trips increased. One parent should stay at home, and she did. The children grew up and no longer needed a mother, they needed ‘some space’. She took to writing. At the dinner table, her husband and children teased her about the Booker Prize winning novel that she was penning. She chuckled. Then she did the dishes. The caretaker can never afford to be tired. The children left the nest. The husband retired from his job. It was just him and her again, like old times. He suggested a tour of Europe. She declined; she was working on her book. He was surprised at her refusal, and then miffed. One night he read her manuscript while she slept. Her words-vibrant, agitated and alive-told him stories that populated her mind, thoughts he never knew existed in the woman he had been married to all these years. In the morning he told her she should write more. After lunch he helped her with the dishes; and later they went to watch a play instead of a movie. He learned that she preferred coffee but had quietly shared a cup of tea every morning with him all these years. He made sure she had a steaming cup of coffee on her desk as she wrote late into the night. They had conversations and not just about groceries and children and politics. She wonders how to describe her sudden lightness of being; rekindled love or freedom?

Five young sons, two precocious daughters, a home with mud floors and thatched roof, a rice field with erratic produce, two cows with drying udders and a school headmaster’s pension of fifty-six rupees; these were his life’s gatherings. In the evenings he stared at the clear and starry skies as he pondered about feeding his family of ten. Then the skies opened; floods washed away his home and his rice field. He avoided the expectant looks of his children. The provider had given up, defeated. Poverty was rife and so was hunger. It was a village where a single student passed the matriculation examination in a good year, the sons of farmers became farmers, and the sons of blacksmiths became blacksmiths. A vicious loop of poverty engulfed the whole village, and they resigned to their fates. The older two of the five sons saw the silver lining in the dark cloud that hovered over their lives. They studied;  in the evenings when they returned home after working in the fields, before taking the cows out to graze at dawn, and at the school they walked eight kilometers to reach every day. They kept going even on those nights when they had to sleep without food and the day their mother pawned her only pair of earrings to pay for their college admission fees. Their younger siblings followed their footsteps; education became as necessary as breathing to them. Years of struggle followed while trying to break into a society cushioned from the effects of poverty. A job came and with it the assurance of never having to go hungry again. A good house followed; then a car. The family dispersed, taking their roots in unknown soil, flourishing in their own territories. They escaped the destinies they were born with. Their next generation has a doctor, engineers, fashion designer, biotechnologists, MBAs. Education freed them.

Her life had chauffeurs and chaperones. Vacations had carefully planned itineraries.  She never travelled alone; her protective parents couldn’t pamper enough the miracle child born after seven long years of desperate wait.  She remembers the thrill she got when she got into a city bus with her friends, counting coins eagerly to pay the bus conductor, and holding on to the railings as the bus swerved through the city traffic. Her excitement amused her friends. They had always helped her cross busy roads. She panicked in a crowd, and cancelled movie plans if her friends were busy. In her mid-twenties now, she craved the freedom of movement, of getting around places, something that her peers took for granted. Last winter she had an exam in Delhi. Her father was worried; he would be tied up with work then. Who would accompany her now? She took a chance, of convincing her parents to let her go alone. She’s quite grown up now, in case they hadn’t noticed. They agreed after a while, and tearfully saw her off at the airport for the one week that she would be away! She fastened her seatbelt, and took a deep breath when the flight took off. She hailed a cab and reached the friend’s home where she would be staying. After the exam was over, she went exploring the city she had visited umpteen times earlier but never on her own. How different a place seems, baring a sea of possibilities when you have the time and freedom to explore it on your own! She ate street food, browsed for hours at book stores, shopped at flea markets, walked in a park, ate in quaint cafes in Khan Market, figured out the various metro routes; a week of doing little things without any restrictions. Each morning heralded new possibilities and independent decisions. At night, she went to bed, happy about a day well spent. She boarded the flight back home after a week. It was a noon flight, and the skies were clear. She noticed the sparkles of sunshine bouncing off her watch and dancing on the pages of the book on her lap. It delighted her, this glittering dance of sunshine. That’s how her heart had felt the past week. She still has restrictions at home, but they have loosened. She can eat in restaurants and go for movies alone, without feeling awkward. She gets around now, alone and free.


On a rare occasion when she was awake at three am, unable to decide whether to continue reading the novel or risk sleeping off only to wake up groggy for an early class, he crept into her mind. It was not him per se, having obliterated his existence from her life years ago with a determinedness that turned out to be self-perpetuating, but flashes of a period when it was impossible to categorize what they were, friends sounded inadequate and lovers petrifying.
She knew only what he wanted her to know. He remembered things she forgot she had told him. They had never ventured beyond apparently normal conversations and genial vibes. And eight springs ago, at 3am when the two insomniac quasi-friends had stumbled onto each other online, he suggested “Let’s play a game“. She snorted, but comforted that he couldn’t have heard it asked politely “Trivia?” “Hmm. Let’s talk like lovers. It’d be so funny“, he quipped. She could sense the fake spontaneity and forced (and negligible) humour of the sentence the moment he wrote it.
They had met a year ago and after some unsuccessful and awkward flirting, he gave in to her offer of platonic boundaries. She was eighteen and socially inept, he was twenty-four and an effortless conversationalist. They were strangers whose only mode of communications were infrequent chats on Yahoo messenger and the single text message that he sent everyday that unknown to both had become as essential and routine and taken for granted as breathing. “I watched this movie last night. And I died.”Sending you one of my favourite songs about love. Strangers in the Night by Sinatra. You might have already heard it. But I don’t care.” “There’s this book I read…” “I got a little drunk tonight and walking on the rail tracks with a few friends.

It was just clumsy sharing of everyday moments and occasional exchange of songs or stories that he thought she might like. She found his unpretentiousness charming. It was insomnia that bonded them over books, music, childhood memories, movies, dreams and hopes, innumerable infatuations, significant  individual banks of embarrassing stories and also acted as outlets of ideas and experiences they didn’t share with their friends. They were each other’s talking diaries. At the end of the day, it felt good to talk to someone whose thoughts were on a similar wavelength and with whom there was an undeniable emotional connect. It almost felt illicit to contact each other during the day when they are supposed to be relatively occupied with college, exams, family and the real friends that crowded their lives and barely left any room for interaction.They dared to do so mostly on the pretext of small but relevant queries. An inconsequential text during the busy mornings carried the subtext I am thinking of you but it’s awkward to say so, therefore sending a  lame joke even though we both abhor them.
They cautiously skirted around the word ‘love‘, it could only create complications. Yet there it was, out in the open, he had supposedly joked about talking like lovers; but the words had expanded abruptly in the two rooms separated by a thousand miles and flung them both against the walls.
In the cover of a mocking put-down and ‘😛‘ emoticon, she had fled. He too had retreated aware of crossing some invisible boundary. After two awkward months of dwindling conversations and nervousness, they could no longer ignore love. A good year followed. Then in the cover of a flimsy excuse, he had fled. She too had retreated unaware of the void that would show up unexpectedly seven years later, on a spring day at 3am.


Drowning in secretly nervous words,
inappropriately excessive and reckless,
I gasped for breath in a vast space
teeming with all things restless.
Your words- rationed and reluctant-
mocked my volubility; laughed softly
to test limits of patience and desire,
overlooking the unsaid quite firmly.
My utterances were often profuse.
I fear you eyed them with disdain;
I stuttered, fumbled, and went mute.
Laconic, my love continues to remain.

My Father’s Stories: The Last Jog

 He tells his stories in the afternoon while my head rests on his belly, bobbing rhythmically to his breathing and occasionally shaken by convulsive laughter. The anecdotes evade any chronology or pattern; they are just random, like all memories are, flitting from this to that, a decoration here, an omission there. These recounting of snippets from his life and of those around him aren’t always original, I’ve heard nearly all of them multiple times throughout the years, but it’s a testament to my father’s art of story-telling, the finer nuances of his hand gestures, the adequate peppering of inconsequential details, the gradual build-up of laughter and its patient wait at the threshold for just the correct time with pauses so befitting, and a sense of observation so keen that my mother can’t help feeling the suspense of how a story would end, despite hearing it umpteen times in their thirty three year old marriage!
My father is a funny man, he could always make me laugh with his quips; but I never fully appreciated the veritable treasure of his humour until I too started to look for it in the little incidents that populate our lives. One mundane morning, we were sitting in the verandah reading the newspaper when we heard a cuckoo bird’s call. Others might close their eyes to lose themselves in this melody, but I tell my father how the cuckoo bird lays their egg in the crow’s nest, and later the parasitic young cuckoo destroys the eggs of the very crow that had raised it as its own! My father listened to it and, without looking up from his paper, he replied, “Hoboi aru. Kauri’r mukh khon ebaar monot pelua sun, dekha tei burbok jen nalage janu?” (That’s expected. Try to recall a crow, hasn’t it always looked like an idiot?) His deadpan humour gets lost in translation here, but I can’t help my snorting laugh every time I spot a crow.
I’ll write a series of my father’s stories on my blog now. No linear chronology; not all of them are hilarious; some are too preposterous to be fabricated even; some are so daring, I shudder. These are just random tales I want to share, about my father’s childhood in a village near Jorhat, his college years, his ‘angry young man’ persona at the start of his career, carrying off astounding acts of rebellion to convention and authority, and mainly his detailed observations of the people around him. Today I begin this series with an incident that occurred to one of his friends. I won’t elaborate every detail. I just assume you will imagine it quite well from what I chose to tell.

The Last Jog
 My father’s friend, KD was mortified when the doctor pronounced that his paunch would lead him to an early grave. During an evening ‘adda’ session, this knowledge created uproar among his friends as the Jorhat (my hometown) of the early 70s was a clueless virgin of the fitness trend that swamps us today. After a volley of suggestions, they came to the conclusion that physical exertion was the answer. But how can one find means of sweating his brow while living in a town that excludes rigorous physical labour in the immediate vicinity, and working at a 9 to 5 job where the only exercise is when one stretches the hand to get the lunch box from under the table? In an age much preceding gyms, how can a grown man exercise without having to resort to borrowing his daughter’s skipping rope and how would he fit his ‘exercise session’ into a busy day? A wise soul, much ahead of his time, suggested getting up an hour early to go jogging. My father claims everyone applauded heartily at that moment.
So KD, a man given to as immaculate a planning as its execution, bought a new pair of sports shoes and an alarm clock. He continued to have the effusive enthusiasm and support of his friends all through out the selection of the said items. They didn’t want their friend to die. The thought touched him and brought a lone tear to his eye when he was alone.
On the night before his first jog, KD swears he had set the alarm clock for four am. After the shock of the first ring died down, the determined man sacrificed his sleep and tied his shoe laces in the dark, not wanting to wake up his wife. As he stepped out into the dark hours of early morning, he felt such jubilation at the thought of assured longevity that he didn’t quite mind the loss of sleep. The cold air hit his face as he started to jog. 
He found it curious that not a single person was out on the road, but reasoned that everyone were fit enough to indulge in precious sleep. He felt comforted by the distant whistle of the policeman on night patrol. After running for around twenty minutes he reached a crossroad with one road leading to the courthouse and a large ground adjoining it while the other continued into smaller by-lanes a little ahead. Now my father describes the area near the ‘Judge’s Field’ in Jorhat as quite eerie (‘joyal’ was the word he used) back in those years. There were stories about it being just the place to get clubby with the ghosts of those who were executed by public hanging under the British regime. Now KD wasn’t a brave soul, he was in fact on the opposite end of the courage spectrum. But emboldened by the surge of endorphins and the surety that early-risers would soon be thronging the roads, KD made for the Judge’s field.
He decidedly avoided looking at the century old courthouse and the thick grove of trees around it. He summoned all the Gods he knew as he entered the Judge’s field alone and continued to jog. Suddenly he was startled by a loud sound and cried out ‘Aiyyo Bupai! (‘Aiyyo Father!’ the translation kills it), but steadied his racing heart when he realized that it was the courthouse bell announcing the start of another hour. Four more strikes of the bell will soon follow to announce five am. He waited. And waited some more. 
A wild fear crept in the heart which he had steadied only a minute ago. The sun had not risen for so long, the roads were still empty and the bell had rang just once. Of all the places on earth, he was jogging all alone at the haunted Judge’s field at 1 am! Such realizations would have killed a weak heart, but KD survived despite being the possessor of a heart of questionable strength, as he emphasized in so many retellings of the incident to all the people that came into his life thereafter.
He was quick to gather his senses and run for his life at a pace that surprises him even today. Who knows, what supernatural object might have lurked amidst those dark trees and traumatized Jorhat the next morning with the spectacle of KD hanging from a tree, replicating the horrors of the past! This incident wiped all traces of any rigorous physical activity forever, with special emphasis to jogging, from KD’s life. He gave away his once-used shoes to a distant relative and stashed away the cursed alarm clock. He often had nightmares of that fateful night. He continues to have a paunch and still hates courthouses, especially the haunted ones.

november night

in a room with turquoise walls
the radio plays a syncopated hum
and sitting in low wicker chairs
he kisses long fingers and a palm
gazes, unsure and shy, form memories
of navy boots tapping on a wooden floor
of a black dress veiling soft white breasts
stubborn curls, open smiles, and more
mildewed curtains and hearts flutter
lips blow cool air into steaming cups of tea
the trivial, everything, makes them smile
and eyes crinkle in shared gaiety
the unsaid runs parallel to the said
each moment unmasks a vulnerability
will she, does he, when we, maybe
a november night rife with such possibility


Book Spine Poetry from My Library

The Waves,
French Lover;
A Moveable Feast.


If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller
Lifting The Veil,
Great Expectations;
Girl With A Pearl Earring.


In Praise of Idleness
Speak, Memory;
More Great Stories,
The Age of Innocence.

Sentimental Reconconstructions

This summer Sameer is in love with Carol, and Ayush is in love with Priya. Last summer Sameer and Priya had gone on long drives, and Ayush had kissed Carol on a moonlit beach.
Sameer had etched in his memory the exact moment Carol had let her gaze linger on him, when they were in the arms of their respective lovers on a dance floor. He was seventeen and a purple skirt fluttering around honey-colored calves, delicate eyelids lined with kohl, and slow laughter rising in a throat had engulfed his young heart in the throes of passion. When the one in his arms knew, she had shed copious tears on his handkerchief but recovered surprisingly fast when she learned it was Carol. It took him a week to realize the swapping that had occurred that summer; he had seen Ayush’s arms around Priya on a night he was out with Carol, and wondered whether they had waited for him to confess first.
He has been in love with Carol for four years, two months and six days now. In between classes he waits on a mound of soft grass and waves to Carol as she squints against the sun. They share a strip of mint gum and sit with books on their laps. They go to the theater on Friday evenings and to the beach on Saturday afternoons. They have their Sunday brunch sitting at their favorite table in a dark bistro. They rent a movie on Sunday nights and on the couch she lets his hands roam. They read late into the weeknights over cups of coffee in the college library. He gifts her flowers and non-fiction, she gifts him records and fiction. He makes long phone calls at night; she sends short texts throughout the day. They are used to this predictable companionship, the effortless love devoid of jealousies and mind games and insecurities.
Graduation is over and jobs await them in different time zones. They are anxious about the separation and compare their schedules, install Skype and promise to write or call every day. Sameer watches her hair that falls neatly across her forehead and rests on her jaw replace the messy bun, and the three inch high pumps replace the ballerina shoes. He panics when Carol packs a black dress with sheer sleeves and a low back, pencil skirts and bright cardigans instead of her brown trousers, black sweaters and gray shirts. He doesn’t waste time and proposes marriage that weekend. She has a fit of nervous giggles and waits for him to join in the joke. She had never been able to resist petting stray dogs and babies in strollers; so she extends her hand to watch the rush of relief in his pleading eyes. A glint of a promise to fulfill rests on her finger when Carol boards her flight two days later.
She was browsing magazines at the newsstand when Ayush shouts her name. It makes her happy to see the familiar face from her past in a crowd of strangers. He is taller now, interned at an architecture firm and has an apartment fifteen minutes away from hers. Carol doesn’t want to fan any distance-induced insecurity and avoids mentioning the meeting when Sameer calls her at night. They have worked on re-establishing their predictable companionship across the time zone variance. He slept early and put an alarm for three am to call her up at her bedtime. She inquired about his lunch and the day so far as she flossed her teeth every morning. They used video chat and wrote long emails on weekends.
On evening Ayush invites her to a movie. She shows him the ring and feels stupid when he laughs and assures her that it was just for old time’s sake. They meet every Friday for a movie and later he takes her to eat at quaint little eateries. They talk incessantly about missing homemade food, the work they want to do, the books they read, the movie they just saw and occasionally they talked about love. Priya and his romance had lasted just a summer. She had invited him to her marriage a year ago; her husband is a businessman who looked twice her age. Ayush is dating someone from work and adds with a laugh that it isn’t anything serious. Carol rushes through her conversations with Sameer on Friday nights and wakes up with an inscrutable guilt the following morning.
Priya walks on Manolo Blahnik, lets Versace silhouette her curves and is forever finding her car keys in her pink rose Birkin. She travels abroad every season to attend fine art courses, film appreciation seminars, photography exhibitions, wine tasting events, shopping festivals, international fashion weeks and if she played her cards right, she could get away with spending less than three months every year with her husband who spent his time cooped up in boardrooms and conferences all over the world. She felt flattered by the unwavering love and attention he showered on her and felt affectionate towards him in her own way; she enjoyed the privileges of being his wife.
She had stepped out of her origami class when she sees him smile at her from the opposite sidewalk. He has a beard and wears glasses but she recognizes the boy who pursued her relentlessly for a single date five summers ago, and they hug. She tells him of her husband in a conference somewhere in Seoul now and congratulates him on his engagement to Carol, who she had talked to when she had called up Ayush a month ago. Sameer senses the sudden heaviness in his chest but keeps exchanging banalities with Priya. They promise to meet for dinner the following weekend. That night he confronts Carol about Ayush and couldn’t curb the accusatory tone; she hung up on him. She calls him two days later and explains that Ayush is just a friend who makes her feel at home in this new country. He apologizes and they laugh at their first major argument. He doesn’t mention the dinner he would have with Priya in less than five hours.
They are unsure who started it but in six months Priya’s clothes and shoes occupied three quarters of his wardrobe and an assortment of tubes and jars crowded the cabinet over his bathroom sink. He got used to waiting in a car outside the airport every time she could cook up a suitable excuse for leaving the country. She wore dark glasses and large hats when they went out for a stroll. They avoided restaurants and ordered in food; she was too popular for her own good. She talked to her husband when Sameer was at work, and he talked to Carol from the balcony as Priya slept on his bed. The obligatory night-time calls to Carol wearied him now; a part of him wanted her to detect the love he was faking, but he was scared of the aftermath too. They had been inseparable for six years; he was the one who had proposed marriage, he was the one who had sought constant re-assurance of her love and trust. It broke his heart that his Carol, with her warm smile and her good heart, wasn’t the one he envisioned a future with anymore. He rationalized that destiny had its own ways and meeting Priya after so many years had raked up a lot of dormant feelings. He watches the waif-like creature on his bed and her soft curls fanned out on his pillow and his lips brush the ivory arc of her shoulder. He has an intense desire to protect her from every hurt and sorrow. She had assured him that she would file for divorce soon, but she had to talk it over with her parents, who would be devastated by the news.
She didn’t go home that Christmas; he had sounded a little distant lately and she planned on a surprise visit to cheer up her fiancee. She had dismissed the sense of foreboding when she had heard a woman’s laughter during one of his late night calls. He explained that he had let out his spare room to accommodate his neighbor and his wife who got locked out of their apartment, and they were just enjoying a few drinks. Her worst fears were confirmed in Sameer’s startled eyes when he opened the door on Christmas Eve. She wanted to see the woman but couldn’t stop laughing at the absurdity of it all when she barged in on a flustered Priya sprawled on his bed. She didn’t speak another word, walked into the bathroom and flushed the engagement ring down the pot in front of her bewildered spectators.
On a walk in a moonlit beach seven summers since the day he had first kissed her, he slipped a ring on her finger. She was reluctant but he had persisted. Carol and Ayush got married in an intimate gathering of family and friends later that year. Two months later Priya had mailed him a photo announcing the birth of her baby; Carol noticed a large family huddled around her hospital bed and a bald man, Priya’s husband perhaps, proudly holding the baby.
Years later they meet Sameer in an airport lounge; he has a slight paunch and a wife with a hugely pregnant belly. They exchange few awkward pleasantries before he disappears behind a copy of Fortune. Ayush and their five year old daughter double up with laughter on seeing the enormous bouffant of a lady who sat beside them. As Carol watches them she wonders if Sameer knows about the child born with his dimpled chin and who must be tottering behind his mother’s Manolo Blahnik heels now.
(Note: I read the phrase ‘sentimental reconstruction’ in Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel, ‘The Bad Girl’, and it led me to weave the above story on the sentimental reconstructions of intolerant hearts, passionate hearts, forgetful hearts,malleable hearts and loving hearts.)

The Years

Every morning she wrung the last drops of water out of her husband’s shirt and her daughter’s ink stained bed sheet and hung them on the common clothesline. She looked around at the wet clothes of her neighbors and became wary of the intimate glimpse into their lives through faint patches of vermillion on a white kurta or the hole in the blue sock of the professor downstairs; so she took to staring at the sky instead and thinking about the clear skies of her childhood, the myriad shades of brilliant blue interspersed with cottony clouds that seemed to follow her as she walked along the narrow path that snaked through tea gardens to reach her school. Life used to be simple and full of hope that the years will be kind to her.
She was given to bouts of incessant staring. In the mornings she watched the wobbly flesh on her husband’s thighs as he walked around the house in his over-stretched and over-starched shorts with tiny threads dangling from the fraying hem. During mealtimes she stared at the hair on his knuckles curling into rings as he dipped his hand in the dal and frenziedly mixed it with rice, the turmeric staining his palm. She watched the grain of rice sticking to the corner of his lips and the revolting sight of the half-chewed morsel of food in his mouth as he told her how tasty the biryani was. At night he burped aloud as he got into her bed and she watched his greasy hair roots, the large shiny forehead and his hands with the hairy knuckles.
She stared at her son’s collection of comic books and tried to remember the exact moment when he started stringing letters to form words. She noticed his long fingers strumming his father’s old guitar and sometimes struggling to create perfect spikes in his hair. One day he had flung at her the pants she had so lovingly chosen, in a time when he still needed her, because it now showed too much ankle. She stared at his “Trainspotting” poster while dusting his desk and the discomfort on his face when she opened the door to greet his friends.
She stared at her daughter’s thick-rimmed glasses obscuring the large dewy eyes that she used to trace with  a home-made kajal. She had felt a slight shiver when her daughter started braiding her own hair, shopped on her own  before Durga Puja, planned her birthday menu; the slow and steady snapping of the umbilical cord remnants. She stared and involuntarily mimicked the look of painful concentration on her daughter’s face as she painted her nails black every weekend, and the wince when she dabbed antiseptic on nicks and cuts after shaving the hair on her legs. She watched her daughter potter around the house on Sunday afternoons humming unknown tunes and she tried to re-create these in her mind when she strained the pulp from the orange juice for breakfast the next day. She gazed for long at the neat rows of books in her daughter’s small library, at few of the volumes to which she had devoted hours of her youth. She stared as her children typed rapid lines on the computer or twirled the telephone wire, folding and unfolding it, as they shared their lives with faceless strangers and dropped subtle hints of impatience if she lingered a tad too long in their rooms.
Once she had waited for her daughter outside a shopping mall and an old lady in a faded green saree had stared at her from across the glass walls. She had wondered why the woman seemed vaguely familiar. It was the shadow of someone from her past; calloused hands that might have been silken soft, unruly hair wrapped in a messy bun that might have been a thick black cascade, droopy breasts resting on a paunch that might have been an ample bosom over the slender curve of a waist, and a blur of a face that might have adorned a sharp nose and full lips. She managed a half-smile and the woman’s lips curved into a half-smile too. She didn’t sleep that night and she didn’t cry. 
It exhausted her that there was so much to mourn about-the small but earnest hopes, the taut flesh of her youth, the books that offered solace, the travels she never undertook, the blue skies of childhood, the laughter lost in her throat, the father that saw a spark in her and the mother that hid it like a disease, the hands that kneaded her fingers in promises that she naively believed, the hands that touch her now without permission, the disappointment and indifference in the eyes of the ones she brought to life, the lost years of her life. 
The years were not kind to her.

Who Died?

The birth is still vivid in her mind.

It was late on a summer afternoon; the room was dark and the window was open. A fan with yellowed blades and cobwebs droned over her head.  The nurse had yawned and dragged her noisy feet to disappear behind a tattered green curtain. Fragments of muted conversations from adjacent rooms and infrequent bouts of cough interrupted the languid hours. Her head was bent over a book when she had heard the footsteps. The adjacent chair was drawn and she had acknowledged the arrival with a polite smile and a brief nod.
A whirlpool surfaced in undisturbed waters. She hadn’t been aware of it growing inside her; the violent realization of its impending birth flushed her skin and numbed her feet. A fulminant throb arose in her temples. This didn’t belong in the future she had envisioned. It was ectopic, and it had a quiet birth. There were no witnesses. The one in the chair had looked away.
She found it illicit. She felt ashamed, she kept it hidden, she arrived late, she left early; she didn’t nurture it and prayed for its early death. A fear beset every waking moment of her life; they had known all along, had mocked her futile attempts to conceal it, were entertained by her fluster and forced cheer, had noticed the furtive looks and the sweat on her brow, had seen the bloodied aftermath of birth!
The ectopic was sly; it lurked in shadows and read between lines. Unknown to her it followed certain deft fingers, a furrowed brow, the insidious curve of a smile, the laughter rising in a throat, the voice uttering a name, the impatience in a stride, the defiant pride in every movement , a thinly veiled sarcasm, and a boldness that was almost offensive. The observations fueled the its desire to survive; and this appalled her. Each night she shut her ears to its whimpering cry for attention and ignored its stifling weight on her chest. Strange thoughts had begun to afflict her mind.
Fate chose to cause an unexpected breach; eyes had looked away and it caused her disproportionate agony. This was the creature’s moment! This was its chance to push away every deterrent and to finally belong. It was no longer ectopic; she reasoned its birth and existence beyond her control and accepted it. Emboldened by her attention the creature had grown by leaps and bounds, and told her things that made her heart sing. She decided to rear it away from prying eyes and nestled it in the warm cocoon of her heart. She felt determined that no one should ever know.
But then fate chose to mend the breach! By now creature was a part of her, and they shared the joy of following the insidious curve of a smile. She neither flaunted its existence nor concealed it. She knew the sharp eyes had sensed it; but feigned indifference. She found it hard to mask her delight on hearing the familiar footsteps. She longed to go back to the summer afternoon, and relive the inconspicuous birth, even declare it! The creature glorified the past for her, showed her signs that stoked flames of fanciful imaginations and drained her of reason. She was a torn leaf caught in the hurricane.
The creature pulled the strings now. It longed for approval, for assurance, and for acceptance. It needed to know. It told her to take a risk that could never be undone. She acted on the dreaded impulse. Time stopped and the heart beat wild. She had foreseen the never-ending wait, had steeled herself for it, but it embittered her all the same. Reason told her to wrench away the parasitic creature that clawed to her heart and bled her. But it had sprouted an umbilical cord, fragile yet firm. She could no longer destroy it; she began to ignore it. She had cloaked it well and it couldn’t surface even in moments of solitude. She avoided certain places. She relied on time to fade her from a memory, and was jarred by the delayed understanding that she had never been a part of it! The indifference had been real, not feigned.
The creature still clung to her. A chronic sore, a dead tooth. On most days it remained a frail yet unsightly vestige of disgrace and hurt. When sleep eluded her or familiar laugh lines danced around random eyes or she tread roads that were uncomfortably near; the creature tried to snake out its ugly head in a desperate attempt for revival. But she had honed her reflexes and thrashed it without a second thought.
She had waited more than a year for the fragile cord to fall off. It began yesterday. An ordinary conversation had surfaced names and words and facts; she had continued to smile and nod, while the creature howled in pain and angry fists beat wildly against her chest.  Questions that had hovered in mid-air had found closure, confirming what she had always known. The cord has started to detach, the creature is too feeble to stir anymore. She will mourn a little when the end comes. She will be the lone mourner, and bury it in a deep grave. It will be a quiet death. She will no longer question how, why and for what purpose was it born; when an early death had always been imminent.
The torn leaf would settle again on undisturbed waters. She will overlook its phantom stirrings on long summer afternoons.

In A Perfect World, On A Perfect Day

The curls dance on her forehead, wild and untamed, to the rhythm of an autumn zephyr. She spreads the blanket and sits down leaning against a rugose pine tree. The earth is still soggy from last night’s rain; she sinks her palm into the dewy grass and her short red nails sparkle in the sunshine. She sees him in the distance walking towards her, carrying the lunch basket from the car. She tries to remember the last time they were alone, undisturbed and with ample time.
It was two months ago when he got a day off from work and had ordered lunch from the Chinese eatery near his home, eating spoonfuls of oily noodles from each other’s plates, and they had let the sauce dry on the dishes as they talked for hours comparing notes on their childhood, travels and books. Later they sat cross-legged on the rug watching Woody Allen’s “The Purple Rose of Cairo”, and at dusk he had kissed her for the first time, as they stood on the balcony and watched the sun go down in the distant hills. They talk on the phone every night, pass each other in the hospital corridors, share rushed lunches in the canteen, strain to hear each other’s voices in crowded cafes on weekends, and feel the quiet assurance of interlinked fingers as he drives her home after long days at work.
He suggested the picnic two weeks ago but had to wait for their work leaves to coincide. He picked her up at five in the morning and had stood grinning as her father shouted a list of ‘dos and don’ts’  from the second floor balcony. They rolled down the windows, fought about the choice of car music, bought bottles of water from a shop on the highway, sneaked sidelong glances at each other when they were overcome with sudden bouts of coyness and tried to mask the shiver of excitement on their first outing together. He swerved the car through the narrow hill roads and after a few hours stopped near a forest resplendent with dappled autumn foliage.
He flops down on the blanket and she takes the basket from him. She notices with some amusement the work he has put into planning this picnic; carefully folded napkins, sandwiches with neatly removed crusts, snacks with hummus dip, cream puffs, three apples, a pulp fiction novella, an iPod dock, a camera, two wine glasses and a bottle of red. She plucks twigs of grass, aware of his eyes on her. He laughs at her discomfiture, stops the assault on the grass and takes her hands into his.
They laugh at the awkwardness of being a new couple, and decide not to let it mar their day. They explore the nearby woods; run their fingers over moss-covered tree trunks, photograph leafy canopies, soak in the sunshine and dip their bare feet in a stream that runs through the woods. On the walk back they come upon a pair of brown puppies curled up on a rock and sunning themselves. He picks one up for her and she recoils in fear; and it is then he learns about the day when she stepped on the tail of a neighbour’s dog with hitherto unused fangs! With mock solemnity he speaks of discarding his plans of rearing eight full-grown Alsatian dogs in their home. She blushes at this offhand remark of setting up a home together, in a future of yet unspoken promises and possibilities.
At brunch they are ravenous and the sandwiches, cream puffs and apples disappear fast. He puts on some music and they read out passages from the 1930s hard-boiled detective story populated with ‘moustache-twirling, cat-loving, trigger-happy’ gangsters and sly, buxom molls who are secret agents in disguise! The racy narrative and the absurd characters delight them, and their laughter scares away a pair of birds from the tree under which they lay sprawled. His fingers brushes away the curls that hide her eyes from him and they watch in companionable solitude the blue shards of skies through a cover of pine leaves.
He tells her about his dog, his first car, his old school, his brother and a predictable Star Wars obsession. She tells him about her total lack of cooking skills, early morning swims and her fascination for Pamuk and Nabokov. Later, her cheeks are flushed, and she can’t tell if it is the jubilation bubbling in her heart or the wine. 
They pack up the blanket in the basket and walk towards the car. She doesn’t want the day to end, and trails behind him. He turns back to look at her and she knows he feels the same, and her heart overflows with endearment. On the drive back home they park the car on the side of a busy road and watch the sun go down behind a grove of trees and the birds returning home in the evening sky.

The Corner Lamp Post

The creases on the paper, from reading too much,
From hands running over the familiar slant of letters.
A night by the window, remembering and reading,
Feverish declarations of love in black ink;
A date and time as post-script, six hours away.
Crimson suffused indigo skies, the soft twilight of winter;
A dark silhouette languidly walks the empty streets.
Heart aflutter! The face in the window, aglow!
Frenzied fingers tame hair and lips redden in anticipation;
A hurried flight down creaky stairs, as the world sleeps.

Cocooned in an embrace, drunk on unspoken promises,
The joy of knowing that he chose her and she chose him.
A wave of shyness as eyes meet, lower and look again;
Yellow light floods the young faces, breath fogs up,
And fingers entwine around the corner lamp post.


A watchman’s whistle clocks four,
I wake up on the familiar cue;
Flickers of consciousness stream in:
A dark room, the whirr of the fan,
A soft pillow, a book underneath,
The comfort of knowing-I’m Me.
Like a monk, reveling in solitude,
I sit at my desk, my nest;
Wrapped in an old, powdery quilt.
Impatient thoughts spill over,
A page fills, and then another,
In the light of a yellow lamp.
An hour passes, the ink dries;
I sit on the window ledge,
Damp from last night’s rain.
The first light enters my room,
A Monet Sky, A Van Gogh sky,
Crimson arteries of the sun.
The petrichor seduces, I give in;
Gypsy toes wriggle into shoes,
Steps into the mellow morning.
A dewy blanket leaks sunshine,
Breeze, birds, feet on cobbled path:
The dawn chorus greets me.
Mossy tree trunks, bamboo thicket,
A lazy dog, birds on electric wires,
Ripples of a pebble on a pond,
A leafy canopy sheltering anthills;
I watch  them as legs defy fatigue,
A meditative stride, a content mind.
I live from morning to morning,
Waking up to the delights of spring,
Where happiness is a bougainvillea.
The world awakes, solitude threatened;
And I walk on the road to home,
Coffee and conversations await me.

Haiku & Sumi Ink

 Slice of moon
The dew-laden leaves shimmer
Are they black opals?

 Sweaty fingers link
Clumsy feet tread on hers
First dance of love

 Cocoon of wisdom
Myriad tales of love and loss
Grandmother’s bun

Sleepless nights
I wait by my window
Silvered shadows walk

 Scent of jasmine
Raven black tresses fan out
The pillow tangles them

 Fleeting thoughts
An old kiss comes to mind
I forget the year

 Smoky wooden oven
Cheese melts into thin crust
A slice of heaven

 A veil of icicles
Bejeweled the naked tree
Winter delight

 She will write
In vermillion stained pages
A story of love

 I wait for the sun,
My room will glow orange,
Like the brewing tea.

 The words come slowly
Waiting at the end of each page
The ink is not yet dry

 Her bare shoulder
Finesse of an ivory arc
Like tonight’s moon

Evening breeze
The frail leaves rustle
Like a cobra’s hood

 Woods in winter
Squirrels peep from burrows
A couple reads

 Pack a little bag
Soar across cottony skies
Gypsy at heart

 A lone maple leaf,
Orange in a sea of grey,
You caught my eye.

Swirling caramel hues
Wispy steam warms the face
My morning coffee

 An old love letter
Papery petal to rich plum
The kisses revive

 In the old room
An oblong patch of sunbeam
I sat there often

Winter morning
A bare tree watches over me
I read Dickens


 In old library
Read Dante by candlelight,
As moths ate words.

A pregnant red bus
The faces unnerve you,
An old friend waves.


I draw the curtains,
Killing a patch of sunbeam,
A peeping neighbour.

I watch silvered shadows walk
On a moonlit path.

A mute observer
Veiled in leafy vines,
Chameleon of a door.

Old tales revive
As one combs a sister’s hair,
Time halts to smile.


(Photo courtesy:,,,

She defined it

The morning rush of patients was over; monitoring vitals, sending laboratory investigations, prescribing medicines and all the relatively small yet hectic duties that internship brought were done with for the day. The patients were in their beds and that provided her some rare quiet moments. She pored over the books that would enable her to cross yet another threshold of her medical career, a postgraduate degree. She concentrated on the questions, mentally eliminating choices and zeroing on a single answer. Confidence surged and ebbed with every guess.

Two hours passed by. Apart from a casual chat with the nurse on duty, there was nothing to interrupt her studies. Few seniors came by later in the evening, and she updated them about any changes in the patients’ conditions. Her duties lessened and she closed her book and waited for nine pm when she could finally go home. Everything seemed dull. She looked at the clock, the minute hand mockingly refused to budge even after what seemed like an eon.

Then he walked in, a confident stride. He had come for his evening shift. Suddenly she became aware of how heavy and awkward her hands felt; and not knowing what to do with them she picked up the book in front of her. Emoting a bilaterally equivalent expression became impossible and she was stuck with the right side of her face trying a hesitant smile, while the left eyelid drooped and the nostril flared. She took in furtive glimpses of him without being too obvious. She was acutely aware of the fact that he stood a few inches away from her and that was her cue to freeze. The simple task of handing over a patient file to him made her sweat glands go into an overdrive. He was totally oblivious of what his presence was doing to her, he probably didn’t even notice that she existed. Time seemed to gallop now, and soon it was time for her to go home. She cursed this relativity of time!

He used to be just another face, another acquaintance. The words that came to her mind when she had first seen him were, “Oh My God! What Acne!” It might have been sudden or gradual, it’s a blur now, but she had looked flustered every time he looked at her or the rare times he talked to her. He hardly knew her, nor did she. And there was no use of harboring any romantic notions for him as it wouldn’t have led to anything. Be reasonable, she chided herself repeatedly. But the heart had stopped taking orders from the reason-seeing-logical-thinking brain. There was a visible disconnect between what she thought and what she felt.

So here she was, acting like an over-enthusiastic teenager, feeling elated every time she caught a glimpse of him or saw him smile; when she had firmly decided that falling in love wasn’t a consideration in the near future.

What was it?

It wasn’t love, it’s too deep a word to assign to her feelings for someone she hardly knew. It wasn’t lust, she didn’t obsess or fantasize about him. It wasn’t an infatuation, he was not the most eligible guy around. It wasn’t the want to be in a relationship, she knew and accepted that he would never reciprocate her feelings. She didn’t feel the urge to see him, or be with him constantly.

She was just happy that there was this boy out there who made her smile every time he crossed her mind. And that’s that.

4am Haiku

A lone maple leaf,

Orange in a sea of grey,
He caught my eye.

I wait for the sun,
My room will glow orange,
Like the brewing tea.
Long winter night,
A tear soaked pillow,
Dry by morning.
An empty inbox,
With a thousand mails;
 I wait yet again.
To a day in June,
Wind back all the clocks,
He sat beside me.

A withering past,
Turns a fresh page of life, 
I draw a rainbow.
Pine tree woodlet,
A home in the hills,
Love has an address.

A sunlit fjord,
Eyes alight with laughter;
Many drowned.


As the starry sky slowly shelters us,
I want the moonbeams to shine on you;
Reminding you of a love in utopia.
Thoughts fleet across the evening sky,
Like fireflies, aglow with love;
I wonder whether you think of me too.
An echo of you saying my name,
A shared laugh, a walk with you;
Nostalgia thrives, and I’m near you again.
Giving up on hope is never easy,
I surrender to its futility;
Even love seems near in this evening air.
I watch the evening drift into night;
Ending this indefinite wait, come,
Just hold my hand; words can come later.


A brown shirt,
Laugh lines,
Impish gaze,
Beautiful hands,
The way my heart stopped,
A much loved voice,
Vivid images,
Memories nonetheless.

Took a chance,
Said out loud;
Vulnerability exposed,
Bruised and abused.
Numbness prevailed,
Hope died a slow death.
Past lessons reviewed,
Same mistake, yet again.

Fell in love,
Gave my heart;
Unasked for,
Unwanted, a pesky burden,
Tossed away ever so far.
Cumulative hurt,
Bottled away again,
As busy life awaits.

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A Simple Question

Do you see me?
Do you sense my eyes on you?
Do you appreciate my caring for you?
Do you know I go out of my way to help you?
Do you fathom the long waits I endure just to catch a glimpse of you?
Do you observe how clumsy, apprehensive and nervous I am around you?
Do you notice the smile I can’t hide each time we meet?
Do you detect my avoiding you at times just to calm my pounding heart?
Do you understand how scared I am about trusting you with my life?
Do you perceive my eagerness to know you like I know myself?
Do you realize how hard it is for me not knowing what you feel about me?
Do you know I love you?
Do you?

The Last Day of August

They shake their heads grimly

Eight stern eyes follow her heaving chest,
A hand shoots forward to feel her feeble pulse,
She’s barely there, a wretched existence;
Plagued with a disease the poor can’t afford,
She peeps at us through her half-closed lids,
And attempts a weak smile for her saviors.
Her knight in shining armor had left at fifteen,
Impregnating her with a son at thirteen,
The son abandoned her at twenty-eight.
Mere numbers became agonizing milestones.
Her wrinkled mother seated at her side,
Pats the hand of a daughter without a youth.
The rush in the general medicine ward,
Masks their sighs and silent tears.
I look away; it is just another ‘case’,
One I can afford to allot ten minutes everyday,

Ten minutes that haunts me the rest of the day,

Her mother searching a sign of hope in my eyes.
The doctors pronounce their verdict,
A day till she leaves covered in a shroud.

I knew it would happen, but it breaks me,

5:45am, 31st August, 2010;
I check her death certificate,
She died an old woman of 30.


Flawed can he be?

When he unfailingly corrects my mistakes,
Even the ones I never knew of.
‘You can never do anything right’,
A pitying smile across his face,
He reminded me ever so.
Disrespectful can he be?
When politeness exudes from his every pore;
As he instructs how I should behave,
And the millionth time I should touch his parents’ feet.
After all one can never be too well-mannered,
He reminded me ever so.
A pervert can he be?
Calmly explaining that true love yields to groping hands,
How eye fucking every passing female is a male right.
Describing his past in uncalled for sexual detail,
Explaining how my prudery can’t be true love
He reminded me ever so.
A liar can he be?
When there’s a reason behind every mistake,
Reasons that put the wildest imagination to shame,
Fully sure of acceptance by a loving heart.
‘I never lied, I never lie, and I will never lie’,
He reminded me ever so.
Fake can he be?
As his self-proclaimed virtues become never-ending,
Every detail about him gets shady each day.
But he knows a foolish heart would overlook it,
Dare he lie to my heart about his whole existence?
He reminded me ever so.
Excruciating shame,
Unparalleled anger,
When my foolish heart finally saw through,
How I’d loved a scum,
How I’d hurt my family,
How precious years were wasted,
How self-respect was belittled,
How I fled too late,
His memories reminded me ever so.
Let go of the dirt,
Uncluttered my mind,
Snipped off memories,
Of mistakes, wrong choices,
Healed, Healed, Healed.

The Walk Between Sunset and Moonrise

I halt at sunset, forever it seems;
The darkness unsettling,
Mirroring the shadows I take refuge in.
Caught in a tiring dilemma;
The day I cannot return to,
A night I dread to enter.
Past failures, present indecisiveness,
Future unpredictability haunts me.
Time is past, the battle lost;
And I must never emerge from my shell.

And then a brave new hope…

I walk towards the moonrise,
Stepping on, are those past failures?
Emboldened each moment,
I take small steps, surer steps.
Something brings hope,
Blows away uncertainties.
I search for my old self,
Perhaps looming in the distant horizon;
But a better self is mirrored back,
Now, this moment; I am she.
Unburdening the inferiority and pessimism,
I break into a run.

Is that a brighter light I see?

I run towards the dawn.
Time’s ticking away;
No use mourning the moments lost,
I would lose some more.
To catch up would be tough,
To surpass, euphoric.
I see it now, my goal, definite and clear;
The remoteness doesn’t scare me,
Nor will that darkest hour before dawn,
The one with wagging tongues, critical stares,
Deadly impatience and relapses into self-pity.
Translating this strong self-belief into action,
I shape my destiny;
And I run, like never before,
Towards the inviting new day.

Photo Courtesy:

Well Wisher

Wake up my dreams,
Envision them; revel in the pictures they paint.
Lost in infinity, a billion lives intermingle;
Lurking among them, don’t remain.

Witness my life, each moment,
In you, a mentor, a protector I search;
Shield the blows, cushioning me so,
Hold my hand, steady my stumbling steps,
Encourage my ventures into the unknown,
Remain forever, if you will, my well wisher.

P.S: This is for my well-wishers who have always believed in me, encouraged me and saw me through many a difficult time. Thanks a ton. I will always be grateful to you all.

The Misunderstood Insomniac

She noticed the whirl of the ceiling fan in the faint glow of the light streaming through her window. If she peered closely she could distinguish the individual blades of the fan; and resembled a spinning top when she half-shut her eyes. She checked the time. Eleven pm. For the next half an hour she tossed and turned in bed, but sleep eluded her.

She checked the bedside stool for a bottle of water. Empty. Reluctantly, she got out of bed and walked towards the kitchen. The icy gulps of water felt blissful. Humidity made the night unbearable. She felt sweat trickling down her neck and headed for the shower. A refreshing shower might help her sleep better. Once in the bathroom, she took off her sweat drenched t-shirt and examined it. The colors were fast fading; the material over-stretched yet soft, and a clumsily stitched patch of cloth on the sleeve was quite distinct. It was a decade old but she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of it. Every night she slipped into it; the soft feel and the faint, powdery smell of the fabric was a source of comfort. Her mother teased her about it, called her a pack-rat. She smiled thinking about it as she stood under the shower, briefly shivering as the first drops of the cold water fell on her. Drying herself off, she stood in front of the mirror and checked her reflection; she loved being curvaceous, but resolved to shed the few extra pounds off her waistline. Chuckling at how often she made this resolve and its earlier feebleness, she slipped into the first t-shirt she could lay her hands on. It was bubble gum pink, a color she wouldn’t be caught dead in. But with no one around, she put it on and cursed her sister for gifting it a couple of years ago. Her mother is right; she is a pack-rat hoarding even the stuff with the least sentimental value. She checked the time again. Midnight.

She knew she had to leave for work at six in the morning for a 24-hour shift at the hospital, but sleep still eluded her. Maybe she can utilize the time she is awake to surf the net and gather information about the obstetric procedures she might get a chance to assist. An hour of peering closely into the computer screen and scribbling tiny notes on her obstetric and gynaecology text followed. She even updated her blog and checked her mail. One a.m.

She hurriedly got into bed, and desperately wished for a meagre four hours of sleep! Lights dimmed, pillows fluffed up, fan on full speed, few drops of lavender oil on the pillow, a glass of warm milk; she didn’t want to miss a single trick in the book. After half an hour of eyes tightly shut, she sat up wearily on the bed. There wasn’t any use pretending, she wasn’t feeling the least bit sleepy.

Her stomach grumbled. That wasn’t the sound she wanted to hear. She wanted to hear a yawn! Maybe she would sleep better on a full stomach; noodles for dinner are hardly filling. She made a mental note to strike off Maggi from next month’s grocery list. A frantic search for mustard sauce to make her favorite sandwich followed. Plopping down the couch with sandwiches in hand, she thought about the sleepless ordeal before her. The professor who would be on the rounds was infamous for terrorizing the interns; and tomorrow would be no exception. No sleep and a tough taskmaster prodding all day would literally be a lethal combination! She checked the time again. Two a.m.

She picked up the TV guide; and was torn with indecisiveness about whether to watch “American Graffiti” or “Annie Hall”. Never being good with decisions she alternately surfed both the channels watching bits and pieces of both the movies. Woody Allen isn’t half as amusing when one is struggling to sleep. She thought of how closely the gum-chewing dude, driving around town in the first movie, resembled her first crush in high school. And instantly fell into reminiscing those days. Bliss! She was snapped out of her fantasies by the ZooZoos giggling in the new Vodafone ads; and she burst into a fit off giggles to how these egg-headed characters resembled her next door neighbor. Drawing resemblances is something that comes to her instinctively, a secret pleasure that delights her often.

She walked into the balcony to watch the sunrise two and half hours later; basking in the first rays of the day and also enjoying the slight chill of the morning breeze. She dashed into the kitchen for a quick cup of green tea and sat on the balcony again, enjoying the calmness and serenity of this part of the day. A few people were out on the streets…the joggers heading for the nearby park, the vendors on the way to the market, and even few teenagers grudgingly setting off to early morning tuition (the gawky, tall one slouching all the way resembled a character from “The Corpse Bride”).

Five a.m. She had bath again, breakfasted on milk and cereals, and then got dressed for work.

Five-thirty a.m. She lied down on the couch, waiting for her colleague to pick her up at six. A thirty minute long wait.

*Rrrrrrrrrrring Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrring*

She rubbed her sleepy eyes, picked up the phone and mumbled groggily, “Hello”.

“Wake up you sleepyhead! We’ll be late. I’ve been waiting for you downstairs for the past ten minutes.”

“Oh sorry! I must have dozed off.”

“No surprises there. You ALWAYS oversleep!”

“But I…”


“Nothing. I’ll be downstairs in two minutes.”

Photo Courtesy:

TaT Contest # 1: My Childhood Dream

A true story.

Five sons, two daughters, a tiny hut, some land, and a salary of Rs.48 per month. That’s all he had in life. He brooded day in and day out about where he went wrong, while his children were left to fend for themselves. His children were extraordinarily hard-working and slogged for many hours everyday ploughing the fields, selling vegetables, doing odd jobs for neighbors; somehow gathering two meals a day for the entire family. They were overworked, perpetually exhausted; but they never ceased to dream about a way out of the drudgery of their daily lives. They thrived on this single hope.

And one day, the elder two sons joined school on their father’s insistence. They braved the opposition from the rest of village about two boys from the “untouchable caste” mingling with the higher caste students. On the first day of school, they woke up at three in the morning and went about doing their routine chore of ploughing the field so that they can attend school on time. The school was at a distance of sixteen kilometers from their home, but they were too excited to notice the long way ahead of them. They took their slates and pencils for the first time in hand and nervously copied the letters the teacher penned on the blackboard. They learnt to count. And suddenly a new world of infinite possibilities opened before them. A world where nothing was impossible. Despite being the poorest of poor in a remote village, they can now dream of being high officials, lawyers, teachers and even Prime Minister of India! They realized for the first time their capacity to think, to mould their own futures. So, for the rest of the decade and half they diligently studied; and even enrolled the younger siblings in school. They worked day and night to earn money but somehow fitted few hours of school every day.

The eldest son was more academically inclined than the rest. So, the second son took over himself all the responsibility of running the household at the tender age of 15. He attended school and college about twice or thrice a week, and rest of the days he slogged to somehow make ends meet so that the rest of his siblings’ education doesn’t get hampered. Even though his own future seemed bleak, he still nursed his childhood dream of becoming a high official, earning a decent salary, buying a good house and a car. Simple dreams, but way out of his reach.

He was 28 years old by the time his siblings completed their education. He had a commerce degree at hand and no job. And still the responsibility of running the household, as his siblings went for higher studies or on job hunts. One day a girl he had met and befriended in college forced him to appear for a job interview. He refused as he had no time to waste job hunting as his daily income runs his family. But she was adamant, and he finally relented. He got a clerical job in an insurance company. And by dint of hard work over the years he not only overcame his poverty but rose to the position of a high-ranking official in the insurance company. He married the girl, who changed his entire life through a little coaxing. He built not one but two houses, and bought two cars. He surpassed what he dreamt of as a child during the daily sixteen kilometer walk to school. But his greatest satisfaction was that his siblings too had broken the chains of poverty and were all well-placed in life. There was a bank manager, an engineer, a high-ranking government official, and a professor. He had the satisfaction of knowing that his years of sacrifice for his siblings didn’t go to waste. And nothing could surpass the smiles he had put on his parents’ faces. Theirs were the first family from that remote village to have dreamt big, worked continually towards it, and finally achieving it. Others followed their example, having understood the value of education, sheer determination and hard work.

No childhood dream is unattainable. That’s what I had learnt from this story. That’s what I’d learnt from the story of my father’s life, the second son in the story. And he’s the biggest inspiration in my life. And I too am halfway through of attaining my childhood dream of becoming a doctor.

Once again, nothing is impossible! So, dream big!

Pure Delight

Pulsating through her very being
Untamed, fervent, inexplicable…a feeling so strong,
Riveting is its course, unyielding to fluid;
Erupting in unison, the euphoric tremors.

Desires escalated, feverish fantasies reigned,
Emboldened by this new power, and exploring;
Lust and love osmosed into one,
Infusing each moment with warmth;
Gripping was the journey, and the union,
He is in her arms now, finally;
Taming, enticing, loving, espousing this man…pure delight!

(First attempt at poetry after six years. I have a major writer’s block when it comes to expressing emotions through poetry. But anyways, here it is…)

Photo Courtesy

Interpreting the silence

Tell a Tale prompt for Week 7: Silence

She smiled imagining Arjun’s delight on hearing the news of her pregnancy, and had a sudden desire to be near him. Cuddling up in the couch, running her fingers through his hair, a quick kiss by him and although secretly delighted, she always feigned anger at this. She longed to be with him; recreating images of their last meeting repeatedly, relishing his presence as if he were actually there. Her mind was full of his thoughts when she felt an arm around her waist, “Don’t, Arjun”, she cried out in mock anger, the words slipping out of her mouth even before she realized she was in her home, not Arjun’s. She turned; and although she had imagined this moment of truth and confrontation a million times in her mind, nothing prepared her for the look of sheer disbelief and hurt on her husband’s face.

She was at a loss of words. What can she say to soften the blow, and ease his pain? A gamut of emotions engulfed her. Shame, guilt, defiance, anger, fear, impatience, grief. Guilt predominated. The gut wrenching silence that followed her words seemed to shake her very existence, the existence of their marriage of seven years. The tension prevailed, and she didn’t have the courage to break it. He left the bed to wait by the window. The seconds ticked by and all she could do was wait. Life never seemed so uncertain.

Seven years ago:
Her family fixed a suitable match for her; and after meeting him a few times in company of numerous relatives, they were married. As she sat on her new bed awaiting the man, whose preference of reading old English classics is the only personal detail she overheard apart from his name; and to whom she’s married now. He came into the room and sat next to her. She could sense his nervousness, the silence punctuated with occasional clearing of his throat. He was waiting for appropriate words or moves to initiate their first interaction alone. She smiled at this endearing cautiousness on his part not to ruin the moment for her. Emboldened by the shared nervousness and indecisiveness, she put her hand over his and looked at him. They smiled. Shyly at first, and then burst into peals of laughter sensing each other’s nervousness on their wedding night. And then they talked. Sharing bits and pieces of their lives, sowing the first seeds of love. They talked into the wee hours of morning. Then they made love, collapsing into each other’s arms. They laid there in a warm, companionable silence; embracing each other; contemplating this new start, the future, and the delightful promises and hopes it held now. Marriage was a plunge into the unknown for them, and they were ecstatic at their good fortune of finding each other. Love, laughter, passion tinctured their days. Life was blissful.

Four years ago:
He explored new ventures at work; frequent travels became a part of his life, and the heavy work load began eating into his time with her. She tried to be understanding, vainly convincing herself that this phase won’t last long. But she was wrong. As time went by, the tenderness and love that marked the initial years of their relationship vanished. He seemed like a man possessed to achieve the heights of success at any cost, even his marriage. She tried to talk it out with him, remind him of his responsibility towards her; but to no avail. She expressed her desire of having a baby, but he didn’t have time to take care of a child at this stage in life. He called it nagging and said she was too insecure and dependent on him. He considered her lack of ambition a shame, and ridiculed her for being “just a housewife”, nagging and creating obstacles at her husband’s work. The insensitiveness that marked his remarks that day convinced her of how much he has changed; the man she had grown to love so deeply seemed to have disappeared all of a sudden. She got a job, and started working to fill the void in her life. She worked at a pace that defied fatigue and time, because the deafening silence that prevailed at home, even in the company of her husband filled her with the dread of her life passing away in such horrible monotony, and devoid of the love of the man whose bed she continued to share. Life became stagnant.

A year ago:
She had met Arjun at work, the new trainee under her. He was a couple of years younger than her, but she couldn’t help blush each time he set his impish gaze on her. He was attracted to her and he didn’t try to conceal it, which made her more resolute to avoid familiarity with him. But the more you try to resist something, the more it plagues your every waking moment. She found herself charmed by his youthful enthusiasm, infectious laughter, and his eagerness to listen to her. They talked for long at work, and slowly the meetings shifted to venues outside of work. And even though they shared a platonic relationship, she found herself concealing these meetings from her husband. Friendship serendipitously transitioned into love and soon they were inseparable. He cherished her, and it awakened new emotions and passions in her. Soon the dual lives she led with her husband and Arjun became a burden. She wondered why she was holding onto a marriage when her husband considered her as a piece of furniture, and refused to acknowledge that she harbored dormant feelings of love and care towards him. But as Arjun lay sleeping in her arms, the silence of the night breathed a new whiff of love in her dreary life. She decided to leave her husband. Life was about to change soon.

The present:

She waited for her husband to say something. Nothing came. She tried to justify to herself the circumstances that led to her infidelity. This time it didn’t sound convincing to even her. The hurt in her husband’s eyes seemed to have erased her former convictions about her relationship with Arjun. It was the longest night of her life, and in the morning her husband left for work. She packed her bags and drove off to Arjun’s home. Cocooned in his arms, she told him about the previous night and then about her pregnancy. The way his body tensed on this bit of news, made her instantly realize that the worst is far from over, it is yet to come. The numbing silence that greeted her this time didn’t shock her. It was as if deep in her heart she always knew and feared this possibility. After what seemed like ages, Arjun tried to calmly explain to her how he wasn’t ready to start a family, or even get married. She nodded and left his home. This can’t be happening to her, this is not how her life was supposed to turn out. She didn’t know where she was driving, and when she finally stopped the car; she saw that she had driven herself home, the only place she had associated with love and comfort. When her husband lied next to her that night, she turned towards him. No one spoke a word. And then the tears came, as the unspoken apologies poured out of their hearts, the regret of the years lost, mourning the setback their love suffered. She waited, wondering whether he could ever love her again; and this time he put his hand over hers and smiled. They embraced, remembering and renewing their love. This time the silence of the night spoke of realization, and an unspoken promise.

In My Perfect World, On My Perfect Date

Brisk Wind not Warm Breeze

Break of Dawn not Darkness of Dusk

Long Walk not Fancy Wheels

Uplifting Melody not Syrupy Love Song

Companionable Silence not Constant Chatter

Finger Food Platter not French Cuisine

Open Sky not Suffocating Spaces

Exploring Places not Candlelit Dinner

Loud Laughter not Forced Humor

Spontaneity not Calculated Moves

Quality of Time not Quantity of Time

Entwined Fingers not Groping Hands

The Kid in Him not The Macho Male

Creating Exhilarating Moments not Anticipating Sensual Moments

Genuine Words not Deceptive Promises

Shy Glances not Incessant Staring

Goofy not Grave

Genial, Never-ending Conversations not Frigid, Formal Talks

Lingering Contentment not Lingering Regrets


There are times in our life when we bump into a stranger with whom we want to make a connection, share a word or two, but with the frenzied pace of the world we live in, it’s nearly impossible. Who has the time to stop by and chat when there are more important things going on…money to earn, exams to give, travels to take, family to raise. And then God plays a mischievous trick, adding some flavour to our boring, routine lives. And we’ve one of those bluemonic experiences that’s called “serendipity”, a fortunate accident. One of those incidents least expected but leaving us with a lingering feeling of contentment long after it’s over.

I remember the first time I met him. He was my cousin’s friend and my cousin introduced me to him as a spoiled brat of a sister. He grinned at the remark. And the smile…it started my serendipity! It was on an autumn morning; warm, cozy atmosphere due to hustle and bustle going on in our home for my cousin sister’s upcoming wedding. People jostling about running wedding errands…but strangely they had a smile while they carried out their tasks. Maybe it was the festive mood or maybe it was my imagination because I had started seeing everything through rose-colored glasses!

I was a confused kid of fifteen then (it’s a different issue that I’m still confused about most things)…looking at the hectic activity all around me. Amidst all the frenzy, I saw him. A feeling, as never before, took hold of me. I have a porous soul and he osmosed into me. Every nerve, every sense reached out towards him.

And ever since that moment for the rest of the days till the wedding, I carried him with me. Always. “Is this love?” I wondered. I couldn’t define it. Because I along with every other human being, can only feel it. He devoured my every waking moment and reined my dreams. But the weight of this intangible, invisible thing called love didn’t weigh me down. In fact, it uplifted me…every time I thought about him. I was scared that X-Rays can detect his 6 feet frame wrapped in 6 inches of my heart! I didn’t want anyone to know. He was mine, my own treasure. He was so much a part of me, I was becoming him. Dreamy-eyed, stupid grin…I was a sight!

My cousins sensed something was amiss. Maybe it was the idiotic grin plastered on my face 24/7 that gave away the state of my mind. But all those feelings faded into nothingness. He never knew. It was a wordless first meeting. Perhaps, back then he didn’t even acknowledge my existence. I’m one of those persons who tend to blend into the crowd quite well and go unnoticed. And my emotions when it came to love had always been controlled, very controlled. I walked past him, stood next to him, gave him a bored look without a trace of him knowing what he was doing to me. I could never take the risk of him knowing it ever. I would be doomed. Ridiculed in his eyes. I wasn’t afraid he would hate me. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. And I wouldn’t have been able to tolerate his indifference.

A week went by. The wedding was over. My cousin left for her honeymoon. And here I was experiencing the first brush of love or infatuation, whatever it was! He never knew how happy he had made me unknowingly. The shy glances, the knowing smile, laughing uncontrollably at my “not so funny” jokes. I loved everything about him. I must have been so obvious at times. And even if he had sensed it, he didn’t show it.

We met again, long after my crush sank into oblivion and my world no longer revolved around his smile! We talked a lot, met often. He read voraciously and that created a bond between us. A friendship had begun. He got a job, moved to another city. I got busy with my studies. We kept in touch through the occasional phone call or email. Few months back, he called me to share the news that he’s getting married. I’m writing this on the eve of his wedding thinking about the “fortunate accident” that had occurred in another wedding few years back. Strange are the ways of God bringing us reasons to smile, memories to cherish in ways we least expect. So, be open to every little experience of life. I’ve an ear-to-ear grin now reminiscing about something.

FICTION: Written in December,2006 for the college fest literary event