Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Half Written Pages

It was when I observed her half lit face in the full moon night that I realized. No one looks more depressingly lost in dreams than a person looking through the window of a moving car. The moonlight chased on her skin interrupted abysmally by the lime street lights.

We passed the snaking streets in its deep sleep, the silent houses in their evanescence, the swaying trees in their waltz, in a heavy silence. A silent conversation engulfed us in its broad wings. We said nothing and yet a thousand words rallied between us.

I stole a quick glance at her from the corner of my eyes. I could see her looking into the nothingness, barely concerned about her hair as they danced about her. She kept biting her lips and twitching her nose from time to time. I remembered that she wore the same yellow top with cup cake graphics atop the same brown trousers when we went to shop for a sofa together. I hated the combination. She loved it.

“Is something the matter?” I finally broke the silence.

“Oh!” She spoke retreating from her reverie. “It’s nothing.”

We both knew what was caving into us bit by bit but for some reason unknown, neither of us could bring the subject to the table. When she sensed an uneasy silence creeping between us she spoke again.

“Neerav.” She said. Although I kept my eyes on the road I could feel her stare warming my heart. “I know I should have told you this before. I know it’s too late. But you have to understand.” She said as if there really was no other alternative. “I wanted to tell you earlier.”

“Then why didn’t you?” I asked barely refraining from giving in to my feelings.

“I just…” her voice broke, and then she composed herself, “I just couldn’t muster the courage. I always had this feeling that it would be too hard to convince you. To make you understand.”

“Understand what, Vedika?” I squeezed the steering in my suppressed anger, “You… you kept me in dark. All this time.”

“I am sorry, Neerav.” She said in a voice which vaguely resembled a whisper. “It was too hard for me then. It’s too hard now. But we have to do this. It is the best for us. You’ll understand”

“Oh, I understand.” I gently maneuvered the car into a well lit alley. A group of teenagers were playing cricket and just as I honked at them they dispersed with their bat, ball and a broken wooden chair which substituted for the wickets. We were nearly there.

“What’s his name?”

“Raza.” She spoke with a gentle smile that stretched beyond her cheekbones.

“Is he a…?” I asked an obvious question which needed no mentioning.


I stopped the car and looked at her twinkling eyes, “Vedika. I know that you have made up your mind but I still need you to think this through. There is nothing wrong with us, baby. We could make it work. There is nothing wrong with me. Lets’ talk sense here. I don’t know what gave you this absurd idea but I don’t think this is a good one. Are you really… really sure about this?”

“I am, yes.” She said in a tender voice. “And I never said there was anything wrong with you. You are perfect.”

“If you have already made the decision yourself with no participation of mine whatsoever, then why did you want me to accompany you?”

“I know that I have made the right decision but I wanted to see your reaction when you see him yourself. Then I’ll be certain that I indeed made the right decision.”

“Hey!” yelled a skinny fellow clad in shorts and tee too loose for his composure, with the bat resting on his shoulder, “Move your car off our field. There is parking lot back there. You are delaying the game!”

Vedika chuckled as I hit the engine and our car advanced.
“I just hope you don’t regret this.”

I met Vedika in an almost uncertain circumstance. It was the late summers and I was home during my college holidays. I opened the door to my father and saw her standing behind him carrying the grocery bags. Before I could acknowledge her presence, she pounded the bags at me and extended a gentle smile. Before I could ascertain the situation she was gone down the elevator. I followed my Dad to his room. “A gentle lady”, he remarked.

He explained how she offered to help him carry the bags regardless of his protests. “Such a young gentle lady.” He remarked again.

Our second meeting was a tad longer and meaningful than the earlier one. Apparently she was a cashier in the departmental store of our society. That time I went along with my dad to carry the grocery bags and avoid another bag pounding from a stranger. In reality however, I wanted to meet her.

Even though she noticed my approaching I doubted that she recognized me from our previous, almost non-existent meeting. I let out a few conversation starters and before I knew it we were indulged in an actual conversation. I thanked her for the other day before we checked out and my father said, “Until our next visit, gentle lady.”

She had moderately olive skin and her hair was abandoned for the greater part of the time. Her wide smile was persistent below her round nose and above her barely-there chin. She was not beautiful, but she was placid and enigmatic like a drowning sun.

My father didn’t have to go grocery shopping after that. Our brief meetings near the counter enhanced into a few substantial trysts eventually and before we knew it, we fell in love.

We got married, few months after my dad passed.

“We’re here.” She exclaimed.

I pulled over and we both got out of the car. I stood looking at the white board with black writings:

Child Welfare and Adoption Agency.

Vedika walked towards me and slid her arms across mine.

“Trust me.” She whispered in my ear.

“Vedika, I told you before and I am telling you again. There is nothing wrong with me. With us.” I explored her moist eyes, “We could make our own. Our own child.”

“Why do we need to create a new blank page when we could consummate an existent half filled one?” said her obnoxiously compelling wisdom.

“Vedika…” I fumbled. “At the cost of sounding rude, I have to ask. Do you really think that this boy will blend in our lifestyle? Let’s have a moment of consideration here dear. He has not been with his parents for a greater part of his life and…”

“Neerav.” She interrupted me. “I had spent my childhood in poverty. My father passed away before I could even call him my dad. My mother raised me all by herself. I had not toys so I either played with my friends’ toys or I just played with the kitchen utensils. Their clinkering amused me.” The memory carved a gentle smile on her face.

“One day my mother brought me a discarded toy when she was fed up of the commotion in her kitchen. It was a doll. A broken, dirty, and a rather ugly doll. I was overjoyed nevertheless. However, my joy lasted only a day as when I brought it to play with my friends they laughed at me and made fun of my doll. They mocked my doll as it was broken. In other words, it was an invalid. I ran back home crying.”

“My mother, she gently caressed my head while I explained what happened. ‘It’s a useless toy’ I said and threw it away. My mother picked it and gently whispered in my ears. I could still hear those words stark as a day. ‘But my child, the doll that the others have in ever so ordinary. And what you have is a rather special one.’ She looked at my frowned and puzzled face and continued. ‘You see all those other dolls are neat and tidy and well dressed as because they are still na├»ve. They lack the knowledge of what the world has to offer. This one here? She is special because she has been through worse. She has been through worse, and she survived.’”

“The next day I told this to my friends. And you won’t believe. No one wanted to play with their dolls anymore. Everyone wanted to play with mine.”

“You see Neerav, it’s not what you appears to be what matters, but the story that you carry with you is what matters the most. My mother indeed had a false story for my doll, but we Neerav, we could help our child to create a grand story of this own.”

Her words perfumed my mind with a sweet delirium. I witnessed her disappearing behind the shadows of her past. It is true, I believe, that you can walk away from your past, but the past never walks away from you. It lurks in the depth of your soul, locked away in a fortress you barely visit.

She could see, I imagine, a glimpse of her past in the boy. She could see a boy deprived of his childhood. She could imagine that his mind was like a sinking ship and the feelings and emotions that reside in the mind of a child had long abandoned its vessel, like the crew abandons a sinking ship. A vessel which she was certain she could fill with love and affection.

I wanted to believe in her fairytale but my conviction pulled behind me like an anchor. I was not convinced. Not until we entered the property through the old brown wooden door with large oval grooves and blunt edges.

“Welcome back, Miss Vedika.” Exclaimed the overjoyed lady, with vague wrinkles and heavy glasses, behind the reception, “And welcome Mr. Neeraj.”

“Uh… It’s Neerav.” I corrected.

“Vashi!!” She yelled, barely concerned about my name. “Could you please fetch Raza? Tell him his new parents are here.”

“Right away, Ma’am!” emerged a soft feminine voice from inside.

“He has been awaiting your arrival since early morning.” She said with a wide grin, “All dressed and combed up, that sweet child.”

“Why don’t you two take a seat? Vedika? Mr. Neeraj?”

“It’s…” I started, “Oh forget it.” I said, more to myself than to her.

Few minutes after we took our seats, our attention invited us to a child walking towards us with uneasy and yet firm steps through the foyer. His khaki shorts below were yanked up to his chest and his navy polo was tugged beneath the shorts and buttoned to his neck. His hair was greasy with oil and combed sideways. His brows were barely visible above his brown, slim eyes. He chased a glimpse at us and smiled making his slender lips stretch slenderer.

I pulled myself off the chair and walked towards him. Vedika couldn’t be more right. I looked at him and realized that the child that stood before me had long abandoned his childhood. His mind searched for a home, in a hope to discover something new. Something meaningful. I rested my hands on his shoulder and felt his soul trembling. The boy wandered his eyes through the room until it met mine. He looked at me, as if asking for acceptance.

I sensed that Vedika was looking at us. I sensed that there were tears in her eyes and warmth in her heart. I sensed that she knew she indeed made the right decision.

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Wednesday, 22 February 2017


A young, starving, disheveled, foul-smelling, penny-less bloke; with unkempt hair, sunken eyes, and dry mouth, was seconds away to take a leap from the ledge and put an end to his misery, once and for all, when his eyes blinked looking at the most beautiful painting of his life, twenty feet below. Its creator stood tall admiring the marvel he created, regardless of his amputated arms.

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Fool's love

Sitting paces away from her, I realized that the only thing that hurt more than her apathy towards my love, was her laughter. Not her laughter precisely- which was poisoned with the holy water from the lakes of the kingdom come- but the fact that someone else could make her happier than me. It is selfishness, I admit, but it is also an assurance that she could live a better life without me.

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Sunday, 24 April 2016

If Only...

“I am sorry”, she said out of the blue, cutting through the noise of metal clashing brutally against each other as the train rocked in its rhythm. A raw scent of grease, garbage, and leftovers lingered in the cold air.  Arvind looked at her reflection through the dusty mirror while washing his hands in the basin. Clad in a yellow kurta atop green leggings she looked down as if apologizing to her heels for putting too much weight on them. How very tender of her.

“Sorry. I don’t understand”, he lied, remarking upon her emerald eyes behind the frameless glasses. 

He saw that her eyelashes were strangely glued to each other and it took him a brief moment to realize, they were moist. Her shoulder length hairs swayed gallantly with each gust of wind that ambushed the corridor.

She looked at him and then motioned her gaze towards the door which led into the compartment. The piercing sound of snoring still reverberated in his ears. Even at the distance with a door in between, the noise was so loud that he could almost feel it running through his veins, banging against his skull. Almost an hour he struggled to sleep, failing to which he had walked to the corridor and stood at the corner near the wash basin, to have a smoke. A hawker opened the door all of a sudden. Balancing the tea container on one hand and a minaret of clay cups on the other, he toddled past them stealing a brief gaze at them. As the door gently sprung back, Arvind caught a brief glimpse of a senile man cozily stuffed in his bed.

“Your father?” he asked as if he had a doubt. She nodded with a gentle stretch on her lips, “Not getting any sleep?” he turned against the washbasin to face her, patting his wet hands on his hanky.

“No, and my father isn’t helping much,” she let out a frisk laugh and then her face colored back with embarrassment again. The same face he had been noticing for the past couple of hours.

Ever since she occupied her side lower and upper berth along with her father, they had become people of interest. All credit goes solely to her father. His arrogance and stubbornness added extra toppings to his rudeness when he rebuked an elderly lady who asked politely to trade seats with him. She was too old to climb up the upper berth. The girl sat adjacent to the lady, helplessly looking out of the window pane with an unmistakable hint of dismay. A man, probably in his mid thirties, kindly offered the lady to take his seat instead. He then munched rowdily on groundnuts and threw the shells on the floor while complaining about his brother at the top of his voice. In a fraction of minutes, everybody in the vicinity knew that his baby brother was a dim-witted fellow who had no respect for his elder brother, and that he didn’t even came to see them off. A few of them shifted uncomfortably in their seats when he spat a few curse words for his sister-in-law who gave him one chapatti lesser than usual, and to add to his flames, his brother didn’t even scold her. Had his daughter not changed the conversation, everyone around probably would have known a little more about their family history than one should. The coach attender returned with the fourth pair of bed sheets and blankets and the old fellow still found it dirty. The soup vendor never dared to stop near their seats after he was denied his money for the soup being too sour.     

“Lady”, he said “Don’t put it too hard on you. You don’t have to apologize for anything, at least not on behalf of your father.”

“Yeah, I guess”, she carried her gaze towards the door and stared at the dark aisle “He wasn’t like this when I was young. I still have some of my best memories with him. He wasn’t like this at all.”
A gentle vibe of disheartening sensation escaped her eyes which held tales of teenage jollity, “Not everything changes for the better.”    

“Absolutely not. We just have to accept it as it is.” He took a brief pause “You must be too close?”

“Inseparable,” she replied and turned towards the partially open door.

They held a heavy slab of silence between them for much longer than they could recall. It was hours since his watch struck midnight. He stood patiently looking at her while she fixed her eyes at her father through smudgy glass of the door. He knew that he could bid adieu and head for his not so cozy bed and lay idle until sleep falls upon him. But, something made him reluctant. Somehow, he felt himself relate to her condition. The thin air around him whispered that she wanted him to listen to her. A stranger who he barely met a minute ago told him so much through her silence. Circumstances play strange games in their leisure hours.

“Actually,” he broke the silence, “it was just the opposite in my case.”

“How so?” she turned to him. He almost laughed at the way her eyes widened in a start as if she was shook off a dream.

“When I was young, I didn’t like my father much. In fact I used to despise him for what he put me through on some occasions. To be honest, he had absolutely no sense of judgment when to behave and in what manner. I was a kid, and that too an introverted one. To me, everything, everyone, every thought mattered. I still remember one day when my father dropped me for my music class. Although I don’t remember the reason for which he was mad, yet I can still recall the embarrassment I felt when he yelled at me in front of the whole crowd. The parents looked at us in awe and the children giggled. I felt as if I was under a spotlight dressed as a clown.”

“I know the feeling. It seems we had our own period of faux pas.” she pressed her lips to stretch a cold smile.

“What is your favorite memory, if you don’t mind sharing?” Arvind asked carefully.

She pressed her lips again and rolled her eyes as if to look inside her mind. She tried to recollect the fragments of broken memories as they conjured up in a form of delusional motion pictures. She turned back to the door, cracking knuckles absent mindedly. Arvind stood vigilant looking at her and occasionally checking for RPFs on either side of the compartment. It was not a good sign to stand near the door past mid night, and that too with a girl. It was considered unethical for some reasons which are too weird to explain. He knew that it would be almost impossible to avoid them if they bust in from the other side of the coach, but he considered himself a maven in thinking on his feet. 
Her eyes glowed with a divine aura when she spoke, “I was eleven. I remember because it was my birthday the day before and I received my first love letter that very day. Eleven red roses too,” she chuckled, “I was busy doing my homework in resentment. I don’t actually recall if it was my mother’s scolding or one of those devastating battles with my brother. A soft chime caught my ears, one of those which every bicycle had for horns. Our house was on the corner of the street so it was not an unusual event.” Arvind bore down on his waist and stretched. She stole a quick glance at her father, “Then he called my name. I walked to the door of our veranda. He stood there, my father, wide eager eyes and a smile stretched so drawn out that it contrasted his wrinkled face. I’d never seen him more happy and anxious. I cupped my mouth in astonishment. I wasn’t accustomed to surprises then.” Arvind noticed as a subtle smile creased on her face “After all those years, it is still fresh in my memory, right before my eyes. I don’t remember if he asked whether I liked it or not, but I am sure I loved it. Five years later, something terrible happened. He lost his mind. He has recovered a lot ever since, but he is not the same anymore.”

The train slowed down, and gradually halted at a small station. No one got in or out, at least not from their compartment. The eerie stillness of the night was broken occasionally by the door of compartments and toilets when they were pulled and released to spring back. They noticed a few people unsheltered in the ruthless cold, covered in thin blankets, sleeping on the platform floor. Children in rags running about while their mothers called on them. A cry of a child roared through the silence all of a sudden. An old disheveled man, barely clothed, held himself tightly while he shivered in the cold, his hands dug in his arm pits. A small living being enveloped in warm heavy blankets flapped its tiny hands while resting on his lap. He was trying to shush the child. Maybe he was singing a lullaby, or simply revealing his helplessness to her/him. After a brief stop, the train advanced again, making a peculiar noise as if it was pelted upon by stones. The cry persisted, diminishing gradually as the train moved ahead.

He caught a glimpse of her. He noticed that although her face was bright as day, yet there was a dark film behind it. A layer of memories which one yearns to replicate. A layer which held thousands of tales, blended with expectations, sorrows, and regrets. It flashes in the conscience constantly and reminds of the times which were much better than the present. Not everyone has the capability to move on, and even if one did, sometime, for a brief moment, even for a second, it returns.

“My name is Jyoti, by the way,” she held out her hand.

“By the way, I am Arvind,” he smirked and obliged.

And that’s when three constables of the RPF stepped in. Right on the cue. They looked at them as if they found a pair of masked thieves working their hands on an ATM machine. Jyoti broke their handshake and stood against the door as the trio inched towards them. They stood still for a moment switching their gaze from Arvind to her and back.

“What time is it Tiwari ji?” asked the senior constable to the one on his left.

“Two ‘o’ clock, Sir,” responded Tiwari ji.

“Morning two ‘o’ clock?” he asked again.

“No sir, at night. Past mid-night, when almost everyone falls asleep, sir.”

 “Why do you think would two people of opposite gender elope out of their seats when everybody is asleep, Mishra Ji?” he asked to the one on his far left putting extra weight on the words ‘opposite gender’.

“I have no idea sir. Why on earth would someone do that?” responded Mishra Ji.

“Maybe, they weren’t getting any sleep and decided to have some fresh air,” Arvind clarified.

“And the air conditioned air isn’t fresh enough for you?” Mishra Ji shot back.

“Sir, we want no trouble. It is my father; he is snoring loudly, due to which we weren’t getting any sleep. We would get back to our seats right away.” Pleaded Jyoti.

“If that’s the case then why can’t we see anyone else from the compartment rendezvousing with you two? Or is it that you two have the most susceptible ears here? What is it, huh?” he eyed at Jyoti. She lowered her gaze, Arvind could clearly tell that she was shaken, terrified. He was about to step up to them when suddenly their walkie-talkie spoke in an indistinct voice. The trio exchanged a frustrated look at each other as if the walkie destroyed their fun.

“I wonder how you sleep at home, if you can’t tolerate your father snoring,” said Sharma Ji as he left.

“When I come back, make sure I don’t find you two here, or else you might fall into trouble. Go back to your seats and sleep.” Said the senior one as he left and the door slid behind him. 

“Aren’t we supposed to feel secure in their presence?” she remarked wryly.

“I think we should better get back now,” said Arvind. Jyoti nodded, her face still blue. She was about to turn to head to her seat when Arvind interrupted, “Before we leave, there is one important thing that I would like you to know.”

She stopped short and faced him. The train blew the horn which reached out far away and resonated in the dark. A mid-aged lady passed past them and entered the toilet only after looking at them with keen eyes.

“I know exactly how you must be feeling due to you fathers behavior, and perhaps you know that. But what you don’t know is that, it doesn’t matter. The people around you, me, anybody else; their opinions and thoughts doesn’t matter a penny. In a matter of hours you will reach your destination and you will leave behind all of these. They too will forget about you, except for a few of them who would need a topic to gossip later on. But your father, he will be the one who will stick to you, and that’s the only thing that should matter. I was like you once. I was always mad at him for his behavior towards me. That minute annoyance started as a spark which accumulated and turned into an enraged fire in form of hatred. But then a thought struck me. What about those times when I used to cry like anything on top of my voice. He rocked me patiently on his arms. He was never bothered about the crowd around him. When I so stubbornly asked him to buy something which he can’t afford, he had to pull me all the way through the market while I wailed and yelled regardless of the people around us. I asked myself, hasn’t he done a lot for me? How could I of all people forget his little sacrifices in order to provide for his family?”Arvind noticed that her face was illuminated again, just the way it did when she reminisced about her favorite moment. “Now when he grows old it should be my turn to return the favor. The least I could do is to understand him, patiently. To elicit what little battles he is going through and be a part of it.”  A delicate smile carved on her face like the final stroke of brush of an artist.

“Now, we really should get going,” he smiled back, “Can’t risk getting caught again.”

“We should, yes.” She chuckled behind her cupped palm. Her eyes dazzled with a glare while she considered for an apt manner to extend her gratitude “Thank you, Arvind. I am really glad we met. I never saw him the way you made me see. Your father is a lucky man. Not every father gets to have such a son, who not only honors him tremendously but also forms a foundation of inspiration for others.” She turned to the door again, peeking through the same smudgy door and found her father asleep, shifting beneath the preferably clean blanket. “Thank you,” she whispered.  

He looked at her as she walked past the door and climbed up her seat. He turned back to the mirror and saw his dusty reflection. He fished out a cigarette from his pocket and lit it. With each puff of smoke her words echoed in his mind- your father is a lucky man. A father whom he despised, abused in his thoughts, wished he were dead. He recalled the night when his father was scolding him over some matter too vague to recall. An overwhelming cloud of guilt engulfed his soul when he saw the picture of how he lost his cool and stood up against his own father. A heavy lump formed in his throat filled with guilt and regret, of the words unsaid, actions undone, apologies unexpressed.

He had been so straightforward to Jyoti that he was bemused at his uncanny courage. He had told her an appalling truth; however it was only a partial truth. A thought did strike him as he had told her, but only too late. Too late to apologize, too late to make amends. It struck him while he sat helplessly by his father’s death bed, while his father lay still with numerous IV injected on his shrunken body as the countdown closed in. Arvind talked to him occasionally, but on realizing that he was just talking to himself, he buried his face behind his palms and sobbed, in silence. Tears fled his eyes, assimilating within it a huge pile of remorse and guilt. Just like Jyoti, he also had a memory so vivid as if it were right before his eyes. But it was not of an unexpected gift he got from his father on his birthday, but of the time when he was in his deep sleep. He remembered how he had prayed for him. A sea of tears erupted from his eyes while his hands were joined in prayer. He begged for his father’s life, but in reality he begged for his own emancipation, his absolution. The greatest hurt in the world as someone said, is the failure to bid a proper farewell.  

If only he had met someone like she did. If only that someone would have made him to see his father like he did. He saw his bright face in the mirror; and behind it, the dark film of remorse was unmistakable. He took a last puff and threw the stub into the dark abyss outside. Not every father gets to have such a son, who not only honors him tremendously but also forms a foundation of inspiration for others.

 Picture Courtesy: Ideas Wu

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Friday, 5 February 2016

A Quarter Short

He looked contently at her plum tender hands. Adjusting her half moon glasses she lifted the spoon filled with floating corn flakes. He could sense an intense aura of compassion for him in her, something which was completely alien to his otherwise pale soul. His trembling lips parted. He almost giggled when she pushed the spoon through his mouth. She parted her own lips as if to induce a sense to him to open his mouth. Like a mother does to her child. Although he never got to experience any such circumstances when he was a child, he could conjure a vivid picture of how he would’ve have felt. The thought made him feel sorry for him. Not for the numerous memories he failed to produce, but for the great horror he inflicted upon his parents unwillingly. No parents deserve the fate that his parents were given. No parents deserve to be offered a child with depravity, defacement or abnormality. No parents deserved a child with amputated arms.
With his mouth filled, he mumbled something in vowels. The lady leaned herself to decipher, failing to which she gave a confused look.
“Water”, he said swallowing the partially chewed food.
“Just a second, dear.”
He loved it when she called him that. He had grown up listening to all kinds of names conjured up to make him realize how different he was. Some of them were too weird to discard off his memory. He could never blame them though. It wasn’t their fault they found his condition funny. A bystander cannot be blamed to scorn at the product of a potter. If they dislike it, they have every right to let it out.
But, she was different. She never felt disgusted, nor did she ever show any sign of pity for him. At least not in front of him. He had never felt so normal his entire life behind him. Ever gleeful, she greeted him every morning, helped him out of his bed, fetched newspaper for him, and sometimes even read it for him. He never felt that she got tired of doing what she did, every single day. He couldn’t bring himself to believe that years from now, he was thinking of rejecting the offer from an NGO to help him. If he did, he would never have met Elina. And that was, ten years ago.       
“Here”, she returned with a glass of water.
While he gulped the water he looked at her eyes. Two emerald crystals radiated something holy from within. Two distinct vessels filled with love, warmth, affection, and various promises. He often wondered what made her so different, why wasn’t anybody like that towards him.
The thought made him repulse back to the days when he was at Safe home, an orphanage where his parents left him when he was five. Apparently they must have thought that where they found themselves incapable of looking at their own son, some other messiah might find some charm in him. They were wrong, unfortunately. He felt guilty for shattering their dreams. The dreams of a mother to see her son walk for the first time, to cheerfully throw his fluffy little hands in the air, and most of all, the touch of a new born babe. His father never got a chance to see his son pedal away in his bicycle in a false belief that his father was still holding him, while in reality he stood far away smiling, his heart heavy with joy.
He did to their dreams what a hurricane does to a sparrows nest. He was dazzled to absorb the thought that they tolerated him for such a long span of full five years. Though their image had blurred form his memory but he remembered Joy, their dog, as stark as reality. He never minded the fact his curator was arm-less. He recalled the days when he hugged Joy between his legs and he dragged him through the house.  
Elina placed the glass on the table and picked the corn flakes bowl again.
“I am full, Elina, thanks”, he smiled at her complete veracity.
“No you are not,” she slid the spoon past his lips anyway and smiled at his innocence.
“Why have you been doing this Elina?” he saw her smile fade away gradually.
“I don’t understand”, she did understand. She always suspected some day or the other the question might surface “Doing what?”
“This. You could’ve done anything. I mean, I know it’s your job but I also know that you could’ve abandoned me anytime,” he caught her looking at her slender fingers as if it held some answers “Ten years Elina. What made you stay with me when even my mother couldn’t?”
He waited for her response impatiently, which was not long. She took her time to decide where to start from.
“You know,” she paused “when you were born, there was complete stillness in the room except for your cry, which was usual. What was not usual was the fact that it took courage for your father to take you in his arms. However, your mother never took you in her arms that day. Not in front of me she didn’t.” She witnessed his face wrinkled with a confused frown “I was the one who brought you into this world my dear and nursed you throughout your stay at the hospital. I was there in the room, I held you by my chest dearly when your father finally realized that you won’t bite. I could’ve adopted you that very instant. But it took them five full years to do what they should have done that very day.” 

Picture Courtesy - @dokkan
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Monday, 29 June 2015

The Baton of Love

Her mind was agitated as a stone hit pond. In her lonely hours she thinks of all painless methods to ease herself by putting an end to her life. It all started when her father died of an accident when she was twenty. He was the only man who listened to all her dilemma and guided her path. There was a time when she laughed till her belly cracked, when she ate till her stomach ached. She strolled on a rusted bicycle with him and her younger brother, mostly walking the bicycle than riding it. She shrieked like a juvenile child when she heard the noise of his loud scooter approaching. She danced in the rain like a carefree bird. She felt overjoyed when every time he took her side whenever she had a fight with her younger brother but then also felt bad for him afterward.

It has been four years and although his face had blurred from her memories, his voice was still sound, thoughts were still alive. She found herself talking to him in many of her sleepless nights. Afraid of her frequent mood swings. Afraid of hurting everybody around her. 

When she needed a shoulder, she got one. He appeared to be an angel at first, one who would rescue her from the gravest pit. He cared for her, took liberty in making her happy when she least expected it. The things, little things, which he did for her made her feel special. But her happiness ended like an unseasoned rain. A single text message ripped her apart from the very depth of her soul. She was alone, again. She got support from where she expected the least, her family. After a long tenure of unbearable pain she told her elder sister everything. The love and pampering she received could have filled the wound but it kept stuck like a stubborn ink stain. Her world had already fallen apart. The damage was done which could never be undone.

Owing to her unfair past she was afraid this time. She stared at the text message which she received lately from her colleague. Three distinct words kept flashing on the bright background,

"I love you", it said.

 It was another of her sleepless nights when she was talking to her father,

"I don’t know pa, everyone seem like a good person initially. I cannot let myself get hurt again. I've had enough", she wiped her wet cheek and took a peek at the message again, "I don’t know how to respond and what to say. He is a good person and I like him, but I am broken now pa, I am lost from the path of happiness. I don’t know what happiness even means anymore".

It was raining heavily and the loud thunder broke the stillness around her every few minutes. Once she used to get thrilled just by the sight of dark cloud gathering around the vast blue sky. She used to lay her palm forward in a hope to catch the very first droplet of rain. In the utter dark shadow of the night she could hear the pleasant music of the droplets as they struck the window pane. Recalling her old days she put her palm against the cold window pane and traced the droplets as they made their way downward. Her mind enlightened her of the time when she sat with her father on the terrace with an umbrella against the heavy rain. That was the time when they exchanged their hearts and told each other about their days, their sorrows, and their treasures. That was the time when they were closest among themselves.

The rain would never be the same, she thought. How wrong she was she didn’t realize then.

She made a decision, to confront him and to tell him that she was nothing like the fake costume she wore everyday she leaves her house. Deep beneath, she was already dead. She decided to lie, to tell him that she didn’t love him and all she saw in him was a good friend. She had to wear a new costume tomorrow, a costume of hatred full of lies where there was no space of love and sentiments. In the long span of her life if she has learned anything from life, it has to be the art of caging her emotions.

She texted him that she needed some time to think and it would be in their best interest if they meet each other in person and talk about it.

It was one fine day of summer which could easily be mistaken for monsoon owing to the cloudy skies and cold mesmerizing wind. It didn’t take her long to identify him among the others in the crowded restaurant because of his tall and well built physique. He appeared to be talking to himself. She figured out that he was staging the manner in which he would introduce himself to her. Her observation was exact. A well measured tuxedo with the dark shades of brown enveloped the creamy white shirt with linked cuffs. The masculine aroma of his perfume was addictive.

"Hi", she proclaimed in the very way she rehearsed hours ago.
"Hey, hello there", he said. Only after she faced him did she notice his almond eyes, the eyes to die for. A pulse ran through her veins, calling out to tell him what her heart wants. But she shut her emotions out.
"Sorry to keep you waiting so long", her eyes met his, full of spark and life, while hers was dead, lifeless.
"Not a problem. I am accustomed to waiting, especially when it is you.” he wanted to jump to the topic right in. The butterflies in his stomach were getting violent than ever.

"Aarav, about that text which I received yesterday", she cleared her throat and switched her focus from his eager eyes to the coffee table, "I am sorry Aarav, I cannot be in a relationship right now. I have a lot of responsibilities and stuffs to take care of and commitment to any person is the last thing that I would prefer to go into."

Her words failed to break his aspiration "Okay, then, when will be a good time for you?"

She gave him a puzzled look and took a discreet sigh "You don’t understand, I can’t think about it right now, right now..."
"Yeah I get it, not now then when? I can wait." He interrupted.
"Never?", this time her rudeness did some play, "Okay, I understand that you've got some issues that you want to sort out and I don’t mind waiting till you do that because for you I can wait a lifetime if you promise to be mine in the next. But, why never? Don’t just cut me off, maybe I can help you out. I want to be a part of whatever you are...

"You can’t be a part of it Aarav!” she yelled.

 She covered her face behind her sweating palm to submerge her annoyance. When she replaced her palm and opened her eyes she found him looking at her, wide eyed. A tiny droplet of tear emerged from the corner of her eyes, "You don’t know me Aarav, all you know about me is my name and the fake persona of mine that I put up every day to hide my vulnerability. I've had a dark past and an utter unfair life. I am just alive because I am too cowardly to end my life by myself but I swear by my heart that not a day passes by when I had not wished for my life to end the next moment."

"I know Sonali. I know that you re the most beautiful girl tha I’ve ever come across and I know that I love you. Ever since I saw you I wanted to be with you, to meet you, to know you and to know the reason behind the face which had such a gleeful smile but equally sad eyes". He followed her gaze while she switched it from the table to his eyes again, "You can lie all you want but your eyes says it all. And you have eyes that tell a different tale than what you do every day. I know you had a rough past but I want to be a part of your present and future. I want to fill your eyes with joy and let you see the brightness which life has to offer"

"That is what I am afraid of. These things which you keep telling. I am afraid of all the right things which you keep telling, inducing me to fall in love with you. And I am terrified that you are doing it well. The hint of assurance that indicates that you are going to take care of me and my feelings. The promise of a shoulder when I need it the most. I've heard it all before, and I had let my guard down. But guess where it got me? Into the hands of some self centered jerk who used me, cheated me and dumped me like a discarded toy. Is that what love is supposed to bring you?"

"But how does that imply that every person would do the same to you. Just because some fool failed to understand your worth doesnt mean that everyone would do the same. Even god gives second chances Sonali, why can’t you"

"Because god wasn’t the one who suffered what I did Aarav, he was the one who inflicted it upon me. He was the one who allowed him to come to my life and let him do what he did to me. He was the one who took away my father and he is the one who thinks that I am the most unsuitable person to get any kind of happiness in my life."

"Oh then you’ve waged a war against god as well?" he chuckled.
"I am sorry Aarav, I have to leave now", she slipped her bag over her shoulder and carefully wiped her tears to avoid spoiling her mascara.

"Hey, wait. Just tell me..."
"Please Aarav; I don’t want to be here anymore. Let us meet some other time and talk about something else and never bring this topic again", he kept seated as he watched her leave.

She walked along the aisle and reached the door. An invisible force pulled her behind. She stopped at once and looked behind over her shoulder. Aarav was already walking towards her with a pink smile on his face. He motioned her to sit in the nearby table and she did.

“Sonali, I am sorry for what happened to you, I really am. I realize how hard it must be for you. You have no reason to believe in anything that I say. I don’t know how to appease you and what to do to make you believe and realize how much I am in love with you. I have never been in love before, never felt this for anyone. But once I did, I realized its essence and its gift. You only feel alive when you are in love; you feel every breath of air you inhale. Each day passes by like a new chapter, much different from the old common days. You feel alive and you feel life like you never did. These things aren’t something which happens to everyone Sonali. It has to be love. It is love and it is only for you.”

As usual she lay on her bed but her mind was elsewhere for a change, drowned in his voice, in his words, cleansed with burdens and anxiety. Her lips had stretched a curve without her consent thinking about his appearance and his gentle nature. She clenched the sheets tighter. His words were dissolved in her memory and resonated like an unending echo.
 It has to be love. It is love and it is only for you.
The more she though the more she smiled. For the moment she forgot the very reason for which she put on the wall. But then she remembered, and it washed away the smile off her face like pebbles at the sea shore. Suddenly, all the forgotten memories rose from dead. She was reminded of the times when she was happy like she is now, when she thought about someone like she is now and when she fell in love like she did now. Her conscious gave her a glimpse of the bitter past which she thought was long sunk. A hundred questions piled up in her mind.
“What if it happens again?”
“Do I know him that profoundly to trust him?”
“Am I ready to trust this person?” 
Questions were many and answers were few, or worse, none.

 Her life was sunshine when Raghav found his way into her heart. Not only he had a face to die for or a merciless physique, but an unsullied nature, which took away her heart and made her vulnerable. He cared for her. He made every small effort to make her feel special, to make her see what she means to him. She saw herself through his vision and she found herself beautiful, special and loved. No matter what she did for him, her efforts were often overshadowed by his. But then arrived the dusk. Gradually, she started feeling ignored. The calls were less frequent and text messages were almost dead. She thought that he would have been busy in his work lately. She didn’t want to impose just because she was his girlfriend. And then arrived the night, a single text message erased all her misunderstandings.

It’s over. I am sorry.

Then she saw her through his real vision- ugly, unwanted and a plaything. She tried to contact him but to no avail. He changed his number, blocked her from social media and was nowhere to be found in his address. Her daydreaming was interrupted by a splash of cold water. Her world fell apart and was demolished to the last brick. And he was sorry for that.

Her reminisce was broken by a sudden vibration of her phone underneath somewhere. It was Aarav’s message.

“Sonali, you must be asleep by now. I hope you get this in your worst mood so that if I succeed in making you smile then I’ll understand that I deserve you. There are few things in life which make us hate everything in its proximity. I could only but imagine the pain which you would have gone through. But hey, life is all about walking forward isn’t it? I don’t suppose I could promise you that life from now on would be very pleasant for you because that would be a lie. But what I do promise is that wherever you go, whatever you face, there will be at least one person walking beside you. I just don’t want to share your bed or hugs and kisses, but also your sorrows, your failures and your tears. I love you Sonali and I have always loved you, since the day I saw you walk into my office with a pile of unattended files. I witnessed a flavor of sweetens in your anger while you complained about the unpunctuality of your subordinates. Your face turned crimson and your soft lips kept spilling all the nasty words for them. The second day when I saw you, you barely looked at me. I didn’t mind as I saw you were busy in your work but what I found funny was that you were looking for your pen which you kept stuck behind your head clutching your hairs. The third day you spilled your coffee on my shirt. I lied when I told you that I had just arrived to have a coffee for myself. I was standing there for almost fifteen minutes and I came there just for you. I hate coffee. I lied when I called you one night at two 'o' clock and asked about the missing file. I was actually thinking about you and wanted to hear your voice. I slept like a baby, smiling, after I hung up the phone. There are so many things that I want to tell you, but not like this, on a text message. I want to lie beside you with your head on my chest and your heart near mine. I want you to be mine Sonali, will you marry me?”    

She was unsure and yet she was sure. She was unsure of her destiny as to where it would lead to if she decided to hold his hand, and yet she was sure that wherever it would, it would be a place much beautiful and peaceful than she could imagine. Suddenly she felt the same sensation in her body that she did some time ago. She felt weightless and relieved. She trusted him. Every word that she read in the message, she felt it to be true, emerged right from the heart. She had met him and somehow she sensed an impression of honesty in him. His words were unbound, and she knew that it was meant for her. His gaze was focused on her, as if to know the person hidden within her. His gentle touched assured her that he would hold his hand in every walk of her life. She was no more in any dilemma. She had already made up her mind. She decided to take a risk she knew she wouldn’t regret. And she definitely didn’t.

It was raining heavily when they were returning from a late night show. That was when he made her realize that the rain would ever be the same for her- special, memorable and imaginative. She looked puzzled when he suddenly stopped short, drenched in rain. Then at once she felt a sensation over her finger. She looked in awe when he slid a ring into it. He couldn’t recognize her tears from the raindrops. An obvious understanding dawned upon her, she was his, forever.

It was an auspicious day according to the elders when they decided to tie their knots. The preparation was almost complete and the family was taking care of the remaining proceedings. Aarav looked at his watch. There was still time. There was one last thing which needed to be done.  

“Where are you going, now?” she asked in her amusement.
“I will be back in no time, I promise”, he said, “I have to visit someone”
“Someone, who?”
“An old friend”, he didn’t wait for her response.
His boot ran through dirt and dying weeds when it finally found concrete path. He took a sharp right and walked forward passing plentiful of people who maintained their numbness. He never found a quieter place inhabited by so many people. He then took another right and reached his destination a few steps ahead. His old friend, right there where he left him.           

“Hey, brother. Guess what? Today I’ll be a married man. Yeah. And just so you know I am going to be the luckiest husband alive. Ever since I met her, I have felt a change in me. I am not that person anymore who gets annoyed at every trivial matter. I am a changed man now and that’s just because every second I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have found her. And that’s all because of you. I wish I could find a way to repay you for what you have bestowed upon me. You were right about her, she is an angel. Her mere presence makes me forget all my problems. You told me to fall in love with her but all I did was just to look at her, and I fell in love. I…I don’t know what else to say. I promised you to keep her happy, to give her the love and affection which she deserves, to make her laugh and to wipe her tears. I will, till I catch my last breath. I will do everything that a man can do, for his love. I will love her, with all my heart.”

 He wiped his sleeve against his cheek and ran his finger across the name engraved in the plaque,

Raghav Goyal
1988- 2014    

“I think, in one of these days I’ll have to break a promise. I’ll have to tell her about you. Tell her that you never left her, you loved her. I am sorry, but I can’t fathom to see the hatred in her eyes for the very person who sacrificed his happiness for hers. She had stopped talking about you in front of me like she used to. But, I had caught her weeping silently and even a fool can tell those tears are for no one else but you. She has to know that you loved her and the only reason you stayed away was so that she didn’t have to see you die. It won’t be easy that’s right. But, I have to do it and I will do It.”, he took a quick glance at his watch, “I guess I have to go now. I don’t want to keep her waiting for me. Sleep in peace, buddy. And… one more thing. Thank you.”

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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Few Godly People

Today I knew what it is like to have an Indian mother.

I woke up early but it took me a while to get myself up from bed. I had my exams a week ahead of me. Consequently, the first thing I did was to gather notes from my friends and rush for the Xerox centres. I had an empty stomach and the scorching heat of Nagpur's signature summer added to the flavour. After a couple hours of tiresome adventure I returned to my dorm. Laying down in front of the cooler I exhilarated my mind and reached for my phone to dial my mom. And after few well wishing and concern making this was what she said,

"Go and have something to eat, Beta(Son). Have your lunch if it has arrived yet. You sound starving"

Yes, I do was starving. And she sensed it. An Indian mother with her hidden sixth sense of sensing her child's dilemma even before they do realise it themselves. I love you mom, you are among the best things that ever happened to me.

A wise man once said, " God could not be everywhere, and therefore he made mothers "

P.S. Its not me in her arms, its my nephew, her grandson.
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