Saturday, September 6, 2014

What is in a name?

I don't know how many of you went through the childhood phase of hating your name. I hated mine with such an intensity that everyday evening, I will harass my mother with tears of temper and frustration. "Why did you give me such a boring name? Why didn't you think of something interesting...Kavya! Maya! Mahathi...at least Sandhya." I will breathlessly rant the names of all my 4th standard classmates. I felt their names were more posh and glamorous than my oh so boring Sharadha.
 
But my mom took all my tantrums placidly. After all, her name was Meenakshi, and I thought she would have enacted similar scenes with her mother. I even once wailed "How did you think of such a boring name? Didn't you learn from Grandma's mistake?" This made her laugh till tears streamed down her cheeks. "Sharadhe, I love my name. You too will understand how special your name is." With this standard reply, she will pinch my cheeks and carry on with her work.
 
Things continued to proceed in pretty much the same manner for another 3 years. Life went on and I remained to be known as Sharadha for the world and the more irritating version of Sharadhe to my mom. My dad, the wise man that he is, called me Charu and I somehow liked that unrelated mangled version of my name better than Sharadha. By the way, when I first started pouting about my name, my dad disclosed that I was named by my mom and made it very clear that he had no role, whatsoever, in choosing that name. Didn't I tell you that he is a wise man.
 
During my 8th standard summer holidays, we all -me, my mom and my dad, went for a holiday in Karnataka. We travelled through the winding roads of Kudhremukh and saw a poignant sunset at Agumbe. But nothing prepared me for the serenity of Sringeri. The calm and gentle Tunga River, the lovely gardens at its banks, the majestic and enigmatic Vidhyasagar temple. But even the golden beauty of the main deity "Sharadamba" couldn't pacify the dull ache that I carried in me on account of my name.
 
"Did you name me after this Goddess mom?" I confronted my mom with whatever little sarcasm I could muster at that time. "Of course not. You are a pretty child, but not as beautiful as the Goddess." came her reply and she happily went on feeding the fat fishes that were wriggling on the banks of Tunga. "Then why did you give me this name? What made you regress back a 100 years and come up with such an OLD NAME?????" I wailed miserably. Yes, I was like a dog with the bone as far as my name was concerned. I did not grow up to like my name as my mom would have secretly hoped. I was expecting her standard reply of "I like that name, I named you that. Change your name if you want when you become and adult" from her. But this time, she surprised me.
 
"Do you want to know why I named you Sharadha? Well. As you rightly said, it is a name that was given to a girl a 100 years back. You are named after your great grandmother...my motherr's mother. Her name was Sharadha."

I couldn't help but roll my eyes. "You could have at least given me a different official name and continued to call me "Sharadeeee" at home. What was so special about her that you wanted name your ONLY daughter after her?"

"I am not going to tell that now. There will come a time when you can really appreciate her and her life. At that time, I will tell you. Now come and feed the fishes."

Sigh...no one can beat my mom when it comes to killing conversations. I resignedly threw the puffed rice to those ugly fat fishes and continued to shoot baleful looks at her, which sadly made no difference to her state of mind.

As I grew up, I started feeling that the name was not as bad as it sounded. It was even quite unique -Sharadha Srinivasan threw up only 6 search results in Facebook! How cool is that? If anybody asked me if I was on Facebook, I would shrug coolly and reply, "Yes. You will not find many Sharadha Srinivasans." Slowly other things started becoming a priority in my life -studies, friends, boys, job and not necessarily in that order. I had also come to a sort of truce with my name. But I was not beyond using it to throw some guilt on my mom's way when I wanted to evade curfews or shop for a couple of thousands more. "Yu can't have everything you want Mom!! I am still carrying that boring name that you are so fond of. Sometimes, I want things to happen my way. It is MY life afterall." I would huff. But moms being moms, she fell for the ploy only when it suited her. Ah well...no one can say I didn't put up a fight.

I fell in love with Ajay and married him. Me, being me, didn't change my name to Sharadha Ajay because it didn't have the same majestic ring as Sharadha Srinivasan...or so I deluded myself. On the second year of marriage, I conceived and my mom bullied us all to visit the family temple. So off we all went -Mom, dad, mil, fil, Ajay and a 3 month pregnant me- to a small village near Trichy to visit our family deity, a fiery goddess ensconced in a serene temple. We make it a point to visit this temple atleast once in 2 years and definitely to seek blessings for any big happenings in the family.

"When you stand here, think of all our ancestors Sharade. Our problems are not so different than what theirs were. Hopes, dreams, fears and ultimately, prayers remain the same across the millennium and across generations. So whatever be our troubles, remember that it has already been faced and that the solution for it already exists." Mom said. She is not a very philosophical person -atleast not with me. I was staring at the wisdom in her words with an open mouth. She just smiled and continued, "That is why I named you after my grandmother." I didn't expect her to finally open up about the long standing name war. I didn't want to open my mouth and interrupt her flow. so I let her continue.

" Your grandmother was one of the strongest woman I ever knew." Said the strongest woman I ever knew. Seriously. My mom can be scarily strong. A tough no nonsense woman who has never cracked even when our family went through some of the most testing times- my dad's near fatal accident in my 7th standard, the financial losses that we suffered due to a bad business phase in my UG days, the troubles we had convincing our relatives for my inter caste marriage -my mom was truly the super woman who handled all these situations with amazing faith and resilience. I was surprised when she said thus about my great grand mother.

"Sharade was no ordinary woman. Do you know how conservative the society was in 1920s? Even now, in this modern society, it is considered a taboo to separate from your husband. But Sharade did that when she was 15 years old...with a one year old daughter in tow. My grandfather was an abusive alcoholic and Sharadhe was carrying her second child. In his drunken meanness, she beat her black and blue -a regular happening -but that night she lost her child.

"That loss must have stirred something in her...I don't know. She never liked to talk about those days...but the next day, she stepped out of her house and went back to her father's place. She was greeted with insults there. A daughter who has brought shame to the house by running away from her husband. Sharadhe just didn't care. I don't know how she could have managed to live there and eat their food. But she did. Barely literate, she started making pickles and appalams and started selling them for a meagre living. Once her father died, her brothers didn't want to support her and her growing daughter. Who will take up the marriage expenses? That was their worry.

"Thrown out of the house soon after her father's cremation, Sharadhe eked out a living selling home made pickles and appalams and cooking for other people. She ensured that her daughter received good education and was stubborn that she went to work. Sharadhe strongly believed in financial independence you know...she also managed to marry her daughter off to a good family, who were open to welcome a daughter in law who went to work.

"Sharadhe was alive when I was born and she named me Meenakshi after her favourite Goddess. She used to say that I should live like the princess that Meenakshi was..." My mom paused with tears choking her throat. She blinked them back and continued, "I was her pet. Paati doted upon me. Looking at her, you will never guess that she had such a past. She never liked to talk about it. Hard worker...till her death, she washed her own clothes and mine too...can you believe it? She was 78 when she passed away. Always full of good cheer. Nothing used to faze her.

"Whenever I had to face any tough situations in life, I just used to think about my paati...My problems are nothing compared to what she faced. I have her blood in me and I wanted to name my blood after her."

I was speechless. I never knew that the cute grandmother smiling out of the picture frame in our living room was such an iron lady. For a moment, I felt so proud to be her descendant -conveniently forgetting about my alcoholic abusive great grandfather roots. I don't know why my mother waited so long to tell me this story. Why not earlier...or why not later? But her timing was impeccable.

Soon after that temple trip, my mother fell sick. She was diagnosed with stage 4 blood cancer. The pregnancy passed in a haze of hospitals and tests and chemo and caring for my emotionally broken father. Even during all the mayhem, my mom was adamant that I didn't quit my job due to all these, insisting that I continue to work. "This too shall pass", she kept on saying. She passed away with my name on her lips, after braving 3 rounds of chemo.  I hardly had time to mourn for my mother's death when the labour pain sneaked up on me and squeezed out my baby -my beautiful little girl.

Karma is a bitch, and I now have to listen to my daughter cry everyday about her name. Yes, I named her Meenakshi, being fully aware of the consequences. But one day, I will tell her the story behind her name and I hope she will make her peace. Ultimately, nothing but these names tie us to our roots and keep the memories alive.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Miracle

// Based on a true story//

Neeraj, brother Neeraj to many, placed his hand upon the weeping woman kneeling in front of him. He closed his eyes and opened his heart to God. Love and warmth enveloped him and poured forth from his lips in a rapturous prayer. "Father I know you are feeling the pain your daughter is now feeling. Please father, bring her peace. Bless her and bless her womb. May her womb open and carry a child so blessed that all her worries and tears and sorrows melt away. My heavenly father, you say you are filled with love. You have told us that you have engraved us in your palm. Look at your daughter with compassion dada and bless her with a baby."
 
Neeraj poured all his heart and soul into his prayer and begged the lord on Ramya's behalf. Ramya, who has been longing for a child for more than 5 years now, felt her heart lighten and tears of sorrow turn into tears of gratitude and belief. "Amen", they both said in unison and fell silent for some time. Ramya dried her eyes and looked up to Neeraj with gratitude. "Don't worry sister. God is so kind. He is going to bless you with a child very soon", he said and smiled at her. Ramya nodded through her tears, thanked him and set off on her way.
 
Neeraj sighed, his heart still pulsing with the after effects of his prayer. He mentally added Ramya to his daily prayer list and started preparing for the prayer meeting that he hosts every Saturday morning in his house.
 
*********
 
Lydia put down her book and listened to her husband pray for Ramya. His beseeching voice carried over to her room. " Lord, I believe you and trust you the most. But then, why are you being so unfair to me?", she thought to herself. Married to an evangelist, Lydia has seen many miracles first hand. Sick getting healed, women becoming mothers after years of longing for a child, families getting back together -in short, things finally falling in place for many people whose life has been fragmented and filled with sorrow.
 
Inspite of all these, Lydia often wondered why God allowed her to make that fateful journey 3 years ago.
 
********
 
Neeraj was hastily throwing things into his bag in the last minute rush. Lydia stood by the doorway and watched her husband running around like a headless chicken with an indulgent smile on her lips. "We are so lucky. Thank you God." she thought to herself. This was the first time they were travelling out of Chennai after their honeymoon 3 months back. Even though it was an extended weekend work trip to Bangalore, Lydia was happy that they were stepping out of the day to day mundaneness that has slowly started creeping into their newly married cocoon of bliss.
 
Boarding the train, the anticipation of journey finally started sinking in. Neeraj could see the excitement in his wife's eyes and thanked God again for blessing him with such a wonderful life companion. He could not have asked for more. His gentle, loving and sweet Lydia filled his heart with peace and contentment. Putting the berths in place, they both settled for the night's sleep.
 
A twinge here and a cramp there...Lydia woke up with a start. The dreaded monthly has arrived. Irritated at being awaken in the middle of the night and wrinkling her nose at the thought of using the stinky loo of the train for sanitary purpose, she armed herself with the necessary supplies and headed to the restroom. Coming back, she settled in her berth and tried to fall asleep. In another hour, they will reach their destination. Pulling her dupatta closer around her, Lydia tried to fall asleep to the gentle rhythm of the swaying train.
 
Her eyes flew open with a cry chocked back at her throat. She felt as if an invisible hand had snaked inside her belly and was violently squeezing her uterus. Sweat quickly beaded on her forehead and another cramp started seizing her. Shaken by the intensity of this unusual pain, Lydia started prodding Neeraj, who was sleeping in the opposite berth.
 
***********
 
Since that fateful day 3 years back, their life has been constantly overshadowed by the dreaded "When are you going to have a baby?" question. They didn't know at that time that Lydia was carrying a child and was also loosing one. When the doctors rushed her into the emergency room and performed D&C, they didn't realise that they would mourn so much for a life that they never knew was there in the first place. After that miscarriage, they have not managed to conceive again.

Every time they heard a news of pregnancy, every time when some one asked them about having babies, every time when they prayed for some one's conception, Lydia started feeling such a strong sense of helplessness and sorrow. Every month, when her periods arrived, she went into a state of depression. Getting through the first day was always a nightmare for her. Hormones, the memory of the night in train, the sense of isolation and helplessness bogged her down. She started questioning her purpose of existence and often soaked the shirt of Neeraj with her tears of helplessness and frustration. Depression, something she always thought that people could just snap out of, caught her by the throat and clouded her brain.

This shook Neeraj to a great extent. Being a man of God, he never lost his faith. " A beggar cannot bless another beggar. God will give us a child soon Lydia. Please don't cry", he would comfort her and himself. But he also was able to grasp to some extent how much different it is for a woman. It is in her body that the changes are anticipated. She is the one who hopes and hopes that atleast this month would be the month. It is she who is questioned the most by family and relatives and friends. It is she who lives with the dread of an approaching period. The hope when the period gets delayed by a few days and the disappointment when it arrives, the feeling of isolation when all her friends talk  about nothing but pregnancy and babies, the unwarranted and unexpected tears that suddenly start flowing because of this.... It is really not fair that some couples have to go through the nightmare of infertility while everyone else are so easily blessed with babies.

***********

"Do you remember Ramya? I just got a call from her. She is pregnant and is so happy. God is great." Neeraj beamed to Lydia. "God is great and kind to all but me." She said. The smile in Neeraj's face crumpled. "Why do you always have to be like this? Why cant you just snap out of it? You are letting this affect you too much. So what if we don't have a child? We are so blessed. God has given us everything. You just don't know how to be content and satisfied. You always want to feel sad thinking about what you don't have. Cha....people like you can never be happy." Neeraj shouted and started packing for his impending 10 day Sri Lankan trip.

Lydia's face crumpled. She ran into the bathroom to cry her heart out. These days, she could share her feelings with no one...not even her Neeraj. He no longer had patience for her tears. Neither did he want to get himself tested. "I don't think I can bear to know if something was wrong with me", he told her. "But not knowing is killing me Neeraj. Why cant you understand? It is just a simple test. These days they have a cure for everything. Please da...I want to have a baby. I want to experience pregnancy. I want to know what it is to carry a child inside me. You cannot deny me of that." she cried. "Lydia, you just talk of suicide. If I know something is wrong with me, I will not talk. I will just not be there to talk about it." Neeraj turned to is side of the bed and slept, oblivious to her tears.

********
"I am going to heal her and bless her with a child." Neeraj woke up with a start. Did God really say those words in his dream? Isn't it an oxymoron to use real and dream in the same sentence? The cellphone showed the time as 2 am and as usual, it had no signal. He and his team were in the middle of some remote village in Sri Lanka, spreading God's word for the past 8 days. It was a truly uplifting trip where many had unburdened their sorrows to God and sought his blessing. Sleep eluded him after that and Neeraj went down on his knees to pray to God.

********

"But why is God so unfair to me? Why is he putting me through so much pain?" cried Anjana. Neeraj looked at her and smiled. He could now answer this question with more confidence.

"There can be no testament without a test, right? God is testing you sister. Do you know something? Me and my wife were trying to have a baby for more than 3 years. She used to ask me -you pray for everybody and God answers their prayers. But why he is not answering ours? But you know what, I had a miracle...We had a miracle. I was able to experience the miracle first hand. I was away on a missionary trip to Sri Lanka for 10 days when God came in my dream and told me that he is going to bless my wife with a child. After I came back, we went to the doctor and the blood test results came back as positive. To this day, I don't know how this happened. I was there in Sri Lanka and she was here in Chennai. Now we are going to have our blessed baby in another 2 months.

"You know why God is making you wait? Some day, some one is going to come and cry to you about this. At that time, you will make a difference in their life with your empathy and experience of having gone through the same pain. Trust me sister, God has always given the couple who waits the most blessed children. Even in your religion, all great people were born to those who wait...am I right? Aadhi Shankarar, Lord Ram, Meenakshi...

"Have faith and believe in God sister. Come, let us pray. God is going to give you your blessed child very soon."

 Brother Neeraj placed his hand upon the weeping woman kneeling in front of him. He closed his eyes and opened his heart to God. Love and warmth and enveloped him and poured forth from his lips in a rapturous prayer.

Monday, March 11, 2013

WASTED


Arul couldn’t quite understand what he was feeling. It was 12 am in the night. He felt so light. Relieved, rather. All the sorrows and embarrassments and disappointments and hopelessness that were weighing him down seemed to have been plucked away from his soul like a miracle.

He felt all the agony that had wrecked havoc in his life for the past 6 months, since the news of Vidya's impending marriage, was wiped away like a clean slate. It was as if he had obtained a new perspective on the all consuming sorrow and melodrama of a love failure. He mentally winced at the memory of how he had humiliated his family by bursting into Vidya's home and demanding her to marry her -for he had loved his distant cousin dearly for the past 5 years. She had no clue of his affections and was joyously getting ready to marry the guy her parents had chosen for her.

Now, looking back at his actions that have caused his mild clinical depression, he felt sorry that he had thrown away so much of his time and energy on a silly crush. Sigh! You live and you learn. It was now time to put it all behind him and think of fresh beginnings. Arul, unsure of how to deal with all this relief drifted to the window and stared at the winking stars. His lips spread into a small smile. "How befitting to start over right at the stroke of midnight" he mused.

As he wandered to the balcony he saw his friend Kumar below, sitting on his bike and smoking. He was surprised to see Kumar Anna at this midnight hour. Kumar and Arul met every weekend. They played cricket for the same team. Kumar stays close to Arul's house and is 7 years his senior. He often comes and picks up Kumar when they go for match as Arul, a college student, does not own a bike yet. Like now, Kumar will wait beneath Arul's balcony and wordlessly, Arul will climb onto Kumar's pillion.

 As he sat behind Kumar Anna in the thumping bullet, he felt so happy that to be with Anna - a familiar figure with whom he can share his new found happiness. The midnight has lulled all the souls of the street into sleep. The roads were empty and the streetlights – at least, those that were not bust, cast eerie golden pools of shadow. Even the dogs and cats, that usually dart here and there were curled cozily into their own warmth and dozed. This would be Arul’s first visit to Kumar Anna’s place, even though they knew each other for more than a year now. He felt a little odd that his first visit is at this ungodly hour. But since Kumar had no issues about it, Arul rode wordlessly with him and they arrived at the gates of Kumar’s residence.

 As Arul was about to get down from the bike, two dogs pounced at them out of the blue. With their teeth bared and a low menacing growl rumbling from their throat, the guys felt as if were dropped right in the middle of a scary movie. The ferocious black dog was looking at Kumar and barking furiously. Its barks echoed eerily in the cold deserted night air. In the ghostly moonlight, Arul could feel the shock and fear that was coursing through him reverberate in Kumar. They did not know how to tackle this beast and escape with all their flesh intact on their legs. To make matters worse, the black beast latched its paws onto Kumar's leg. Scared out of his pants, Kumar tried to scare the dog away by revving up his engine. This made the other dog to leap in front of the bullet. With its front legs planted solidly on the wheel, the second dog started barking angrily -not budging even an inch when Kumar tried to move his bike forward.

 Arul could see that they were literally trapped between two crazed, frantically barking monster dogs. Arul, who is already scared of dogs, was at his wit's end. The barking continued unabated and the black dog, which was clinging on to the trembling legs of Kumar, turned towards Arul and started snapping at him. Arul could handle it no more. He jumped out of his seat and took off -running like a madman down the street.

To his great horror, the dogs ditched Kumar and started chasing him.
 

 To his great relief, Kumar watched the two crazy dogs take off like rocket and disappear round the corner of his street. He was perplexed and still shaky from his midnight adventure with the dogs. “I have come home numerous times at this hour, sometimes even later. What made these dogs –that too the familiar street dogs that I see everyday - behave as if they were possessed?” wondered Kumar.

 He quickly opened the gates and let himself inside. He felt too nervous to venture again into the dark to lock the main gates behind him. He dashed into his home and jumped into his bed, quickly discarding his clothes and changing into comfortable shorts. As he lay, staring at the ceiling, he felt his heart rate return to normalcy. “Thank God I escaped without any scratches or bites” he murmured.

He then set the alarm for 6 am and drifted off into a dreamless, uncomfortable sleep.

 

Even before the alarm could irritatingly wake him up, Kumar got up - wide awake. The mistress of sleep ditched him even without the final caress of the state between sleep and wakefulness. The time was 5.30 am and he didn’t have the usual urge to burrow into the bed and doze for another 30 minutes. Instead, he started thinking about today’s match. They were playing against their rival team –from the other end of the city. He started strategizing and plotting about the 15 over match.

 Brushed and dressed, Kumar slipped on his shoes and pocketed his wallet. Swinging his bat on his shoulders, he snatched the mobile from the table and checked for messages.

“Today’s match cancelled. Reasons later” flashed the message from another team mate, Sashi. Frustrated and irritated over waking up this early for a wasted cause, Kumar called up Sashi.

 “Dai, what the F*&% da? We are playing our rivals. If we cancel the match now, they will think we have chickened out!” Kumar shouted.

 “Macha, listen to me da…our Arul…he is no more.” Sashi said quietly.

The shock blocked further words escaping from Kumar’s lips. Kumar remembered last night, and he just could not believe that someone so young could just die.

 “Macha?? You there da? Am now at his home. They have taken the body for post mortem. Why don’t you come over?”

 “Sure…sure…I will be there soon. What is the need of post mortem? Was he murdered? When will they release the body?” Kumar couldn’t stop himself from shooting questions to Sashi.

 “These government procedures…I think we can count ourselves lucky if we get the body in another 5 hours.”

“Okay da. Will see you at Arul’s place soon” Kumar replied and kept the phone down.

 

 Kumar sat down heavily on his bed. Even last night he remembered taking his last fag outside Arul’s place. Everything was as normal as they could be. How come he died? That too so suddenly? Kumar’s thoughts kept circling round and round Arul.

He then dragged himself to the death house. His heart clutched at the sight of Arul’s parents. Their grief –so intense and so apparent –felt like an icy blow to his heart. The house was packed with friends and relatives. The crowed spilled on to the street, where the mourners were gathered in clumps under the shade of Shamiyana. Kumar managed to locate Sashi and his other cronies and walked towards them.

 “Sashi, what happened da? How did it die? Even last night I was here and everything was normal. When did you get the news of his death? Infact, today morning I was about to leave my home to pick him up for our match. I was so shocked to see your message.” Words tumbled out of Kumar.

 Before Sashi could answer, there was a commotion at the gate. Two policemen were escorting a body bag, which was placed in the freeze box by two health workers. The police handed over some documents to Arul’s father –who wordlessly passed it on to Sashi. The police turned to us and said“Get these documents photocopied. They are the post mortem report”

 Sashi was looking at the body bag in a stunned state and he was not responding to the police. Arul's face was swollen and blue. The face barely held any resemblance to the young and smiling Arul. When the police prompted Sashi again, Kumar nodded to them and dragged Sashi out of the house to his bike. Sashi climbed wordlessly and they went to the nearest“Xerox” shop. Kumar went to the shop and ordered for 3 copies, collected it, paid and came back to his bike.

As he was about to start the bike, Kumar glanced at the report.

Deceased Name: Arul Prakash
 
Deceased Age: 20 years
 
Date of death: 21st Aug
 
 
Cause of death: Choking due to intense pressure on the windpipe caused by self strangulation
 
Time of death: 00.00 to 00.15 hrs
 

 

PS: Based on a true story. Credits for Prasanna for sharing this story with me and planting the seeds of WASTED.

 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Storm

It was a night of insanity...a night of anticipation. The storm that was approaching the land was softly unburdening its heavy dark clouds with a monotonous cry of agony. The water pouring down from the clouds fell straight down on the earth, as if their path was marked by a ruler. The air was heavy and absolutely still with not even a whisper of wind to tempt the rain to deviate from their narrow straight path or stir the leaves of the wet trees

The street was completely deserted. The road –a shiny black slick stretch of tar –stretched sinuously. The raindrops that fell on this deceptively smooth surface were given no opportunity to burst into tiny spray. They were just falling down and flowing into the drains, like water from an open tap. The occasional vehicles which glide through the street even in the wee hours were now absent. The looming trees were soaked black monstrosities, with water dripping down their branches. The entire scene, which was bathed in the gloomy golden light of the sodium vapour street lamps, was like a picture taken sometime somewhere in monsoon, with only the steady motion of the rain noisily proclaiming that the scene is being witnessed by a living, breathing human life.

The damp chill sensuously caressed the body of the silent witness of the impending storm. Her eyes were seeing this sight unseen through a window frame –the frame perfectly limiting the breadth of the vision. The view, that was framed by the solid brown wooden frame and marred by rigid black iron grills, comprised of a 2 storied flat right in front, a small box shop flanking its right and a house enclosed by a high walled compound in the left. The road was a still, black, shiny stream between the window and the other side.

She lifted a hand and gripped the grill –the chillness imbibed by the iron sending a jolt down her system. Craving for more, she pressed her cheek against it and savoured the anticipated coolness. Beyond her was the room –the bed rumpled in a fight with sleep. Her body was warm from the cocoon of blanket she had climbed out from. The restlessness, as against the content cozy feeling that the mind and body craves for in weather such as this, was the reason that sleep eluded her at this unholy hour of 2 am.

Her mind was blank...hovering on the grey area before sleep engulfs you. Like a flash of impulsive desire that a child gets on seeing a candy, the idea to don a coat and walk into the wet stillness that was just beyond her grasp struck her out of the blue. She smiled dreamily and whispered “when was the last time you did something for the first time?” The desire soon snowballed into a yearning so powerful she felt as if she was choking with the need to go out. The idea made her feel reckless, brave, adventurous and wild –all that she was not in her life. “It is just a simple matter of opening the door and stepping out” she felt. But was it really that simple? Her mind warred with the unacknowledged fear of the unknown waiting for her beyond the door.

She gave herself a small shake –an attempt to get rid of the urge. She ground her teeth and reminded herself that stepping out of the house in the middle of the night without any valid purpose... that too in a storm, was not something sane people do. “But then, what is the definition of sanity?” she felt her mind asking. “Is it simply confined to doing things that people and the society expect you to do and not doing things that people generally avoid doing? If it is so, then is being sane all about confining yourself to narrow thoughts and beliefs? Is being sane means denying and quenching your urges just because the whole society does the same? As long as my actions and thoughts hurt no one, then will I still be labeled insane for doing what I want to do?”

As if reflecting her state of mind, the storm that was in the bay slowly started moving in. The wind came first, by slowly teasing the leaves into a flutter. But as the might of the storm grew, the wind transformed into a mighty force and howled out its strength...wrecking havoc in the stillness. The trees swayed and bent and the rain, which was previously a straight line, was now almost parallel to the ground.
The world beyond her window, to which she was till now a merely a witness, invaded into her world and started drenching her face with ice cold drops that slapped her with stinging force. The slaps were as if all her repressed desires and wasted opportunities transcended from the immaterial, metaphysical plane to the physical realm...taunting her with a condescending smirk.

“Wimp! Never did you dare to reach out. Always living in a world of what ifs. Just look at you! Peering out like a prisoner while all that is holding you back is just yourself.” laughed the wind.

She could bear it no longer. Her 45 years of existence flashed past her. The could haves and would haves and if onlys –the fight that she should have put up for her education, the stand that she must have taken for her lover, the words and abuses that she swallowed from the spineless excuse of a husband she married, the children she must not have had, the jobs she could have taken, the things she could have done to prevent her life from becoming a pathetic excuse of living...society, parents, relatives, the show that she had put up to prove the world that everything was normal...the irony of not believing that her fate was in her hand but all the while, she was grasping the wheel that steered it.

A lightning flashed, briefly illuminating the eerie scene of the storm. The storm would soon pass and familiarity will soon return. She could take comfort in the breakfast, lunch, dinner routine...a routine she was resigned to. The sleeping form in the bed stirred. A stream of expletives flowed from him, accusing her of being a fool to have opened the window in the middle of the storm and disturbing his sleep.
She moved away from the window, paying no heed to him. She turned the key in the lock. Through the open door, the storm beckoned her –a dark seductive temptation. She basked in the primitive power lashing wildly in the atmosphere.

She stepped out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Premonition

He saw her walking down the street. She was dressed in her favoured attire of jeans and a kurti. Her white kurti stood out in the dark street. She was nearing home. Her strides were long and relaxed, with a slight spring in her steps. He was familiar with this walk of hers. He instinctively realised that she was feeling happy and relaxed and pleased with her day. She was humming a tune under her breath, swinging her handbag rhythmically. Her long legged strides were bringing her closer to the place where she stays.

Looking at her walking down the long street made him realise how much he missed her. His house no longer felt like home without her in it. He missed her happy greetings when he returned home from work. He missed seeing her frowning with concentration at her laptop. He missed goofing around with her over trivial things. He missed her nagging him to buy shampoo for her on Sunday mornings. Now, looking at her walking towards him, his spirits lifted. He started feeling happy that she is coming back...back home and back to him. But then, a distant chime brought him back to the present and made him furious all of a sudden. He frowned with displeasure. It was getting late. Why is she coming back home only now? She must be safe in her bed by this time. He felt like shouting some sense into her with a good measure of ‘this is why I don’t want you to stay alone’ thrown in.

He stood there, waiting for her...watching her. She was coming closer and closer, near to the door of her apartment. His skin suddenly prickled with unease. Danger! Yes! Acute danger was lurking in the dark – waiting her...awaiting his baby. He can see her pushing the door open. He tries to warn her, save her. He starts calling out to her, but no sound emerges from his throat. Frustration and fear grips hold of him. She pushes the door open and a figure leaps at her out of the dark. It smothers her scream with a rough calloused hand. He could smell the alcohol reeking out of the nightmare that was pressing itself against his precious baby. The scream that died in her throat rose in his.

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He woke up with a scream on his lips...gasping for breath. It was a dream...again. with his baby in danger. His wife peered down at him, a bemused smile on her face. “She is safe. What was it this time? Accident?” He scowled at his wife. “This is precisely why I didn't want her to go stay alone in another city. Why did you let her go?” Now she started laughing. “Why you didn't want her to go? so that you won’t have bad dreams? Understand this clearly now! She is no longer a baby. She has to live her own life, make her choices. At this stage, it is essential for her to lay a good base for her career and that is precisely why she has gone there. Now go sleep!” With that, his wife – the mother, pulled the covers over her head and turn to her side.

The wife smiled beneath her covers. “You miss her a lot don’t you? So do I, but from now on, it is her life and it will not be fair to have her tied down to us.” she thought to herself. Their daughter became the centre of his universe the moment he held her in his arms 22 years ago. And in his mind, she had always remained that baby. If he had had his way, he would have always kept her within his sight, his domain and always with him. But now, her work has taken her to another city and the separation was making him very – to put it mildly, pouty. The wife remembered all the silly reasons that her husband gave to their daughter in an attempt to dissuade her from moving to another city. It ranged from ‘you don’t know how to cross the streets properly’ to ‘you are irresponsible’. From ‘you will stay out with friends’ to ‘you wont get good food’. The daughter had just smiled at all these, hugged him tight and happily went about making preparations for the travel. The mother had watched this all with a kind of patient amusement. It had been a lot easier for her to understand her daughter’s ambition to make it big, the need to be alone, the excitement to explore a new city and ultimately, respect her choice and decision. But, it has not been that easy for the father and his irrational fears about the safety of his baby often took the shape of nightmares and tormented him.

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The last vestiges of the nightmare were still clinging on to him. He reached out for his cell phone and looked at the time. 11 pm. He speed dialed his daughter and held his breath. “Why the hell is it taking her so long to pick the phone?” he muttered under his breath. “She must be sleeping”, called out his wife. He just glared at her and dialed the number again and heaved a sigh of relief when she answered. “Where are you? Why didn't you pick up the phone?” he asked. “I was watching a movie in the laptop dad. Didn't hear the mobile ringing.” She answered. “Oh...ok ok. Go sleep now. It is getting late. I just called up to check if everything was ok.” He said. She laughed and said “Am fine dad. Go sleep now. Good night!”

She ended the call and rolled her eyes. But then, she couldn’t stop the slow smile spreading on her face. She felt that she was the luckiest daughter in the world, to have such a loving father. She continued walking her way home. She was returning back after having dinner with her friends. Ofcourse, she couldn’t tell this to her dad. That will only make him worried.

She was dressed in her most favoured attire of jeans, and her white kurti stood out against the darkness. There was a slight spring in her steps. She was feeling happy and relaxed and pleased with her day. She was humming a tune under her breath, swinging her handbag rhythmically. Her long legged strides were bringing her closer to the place where she stays...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Indulgence

You pass through the same streets every day. But on some days, you are struck by an indescribable feeling that makes you indulge in all the nuances and the trifle things.

The patch of golden sunlight quivering on the street, filtered down by the trees. The very slight dazzle of the same sunbeam reflected by the earring of a woman passing by, that catches your eye. The elongated shadow of yourself, cast by the slanting sun, making you look slimmer and taller. The beautiful hue of your skin, painted a glorious gold by the sun’s loving caress. The way the ordinary greens of the leaves shimmers with a life of their own, in tune with the teasing breeze that is flirting with them. The slowly sinking golden globe playing hide and seek with buildings and trees, making you pause at every break in the skyline to catch a glimpse of the deliciously sensual warmth that he radiates with an explosion of colours.

The uplifted face of a three year old, welcoming the rushing wind as he enjoys a bike ride with his father. A group of college girls gossiping their way back home. Women returning from work munching on scalding hot bajjis just out of the frying pans. The busy juice stall where people are indulging in a refreshing drink. Young men in fitting jeans riding away to glory in their bikes. A sulky teenager pedalling lazily to his tuition. Aunties clad in silk saris waddling their way to the bus stop, may be to attend some wedding, the oh so white and soft jasmine leaving a beguiling scent behind them. Kids weaving back and forth, across the streets unfazed by the irritating shrieks of horns that the drivers blow at them. An unexpected ‘manja’ line, ready to slice your throat and the skinny boy in shorts apologetically wounding the string into a ball, a torn kite tucked safely in his armpit. A young woman hugging her lover and happily distracting him from driving the bike. A sudden smile that blooms when you catch the eye of the mother struggling with the antics of her 2 year old.

The deep breath that people take involuntarily as they pass under the blooming parijatham tree, which had woven a beautiful carpet of orange and white beneath its awning branches. The startling gush of air as a speeding bike whizzes past you. The abandoned car covered with bird droppings. The way your heart swells as the beauty intoxicated blood infuses an indescribable sense of well being within you. The spring that automatically creeps into your step, with every other triviality that stretches your lips into a smile. The very slight sneer of superiority that you acquire – the byproduct of the general apathy displayed by the multitude around you, to all the glories that lay scattered around them. The slight tilt of the head which make you look down your nose on the other less appreciative passerbys.

And of course, a gleam in the eye of a fellow pedestrian, who in that brief microsecond, understands and nods back to you...making you realize that you are not the only one capable of appreciating all the simple wonders. And that instant when the smile sheds its sneer and becomes indulgent again...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

special moments

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“On the surface, everything looks fine. Perfect, for that matter. I have a good job, decent bank balance, family, friends... I am doing what I want, living my life the way I want to...but still. Something is missing. Nothing INTERESTING is happening in my life. Everything is just, you know, the same old same old. Nothing new is happening. I am just not able to differentiate between the days. Each work day is exactly similar to the other, and the weekends are more or less the same too. Its like as if I am being suffocated with disinterest and discontent. I don’t even know how to explain this feeling. I just want to ... it is all just so...aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!
“Are you getting the drift Suja? I really don’t know how to explain it. Can you understand how frustrated I am? I have no time at all, yet I feel so bored. I just feel like pulling my hair out and running away somewhere.”
Suddenly I realized that the cafe has hushed up. OMG! Was I screaming? I wearily look around me. Other patrons quickly glance away, with this I don’t know how to describe look in their eyes.
“Relax Meenu. Just cool down. I understand what you are going through. We all go through this phase. But, are you sure that it’s not your PMS? Are you stressed out?”
I just glared at Suja. GOD! She says she understands, but ha! She is not even near the U of understanding. “No. Just forget it ok? Am perfectly alright.”
“Hahaha..Meenu. Listen. I was just kidding. And yes, I perfectly understand. We all feel this way at some point of time or the other...this indescribable feeling of discontent and disinterest, the feeling that nothing at all is happening in our lives and to live itself has no purpose. Let me suggest you something. Just jot down, at the end of each day, those happenings that didn’t fall into the ‘mundane’ category. It will help.” said Suja, with an air of certainty and conviction.
“You mean a DIARY?”
“No idiot. Not a diary. Just write down...how to say...maybe—yeah! Just make a note of the special moments of the day. Give it a try Meenu. Hmmm?”
Suja is definitely crazy. How the hell is this going to help me? I just nod my head sceptically and change the topic. Fat chance I am going to do something as silly and stupid like jotting down the ‘special moments’. Bleah, the sound of it turns my stomach. Too sugary for my liking.
Day 1
What a stupid idea! Why am I even doing this? The day was just the same as yesterday, the day before yesterday and the other countless ones before that. What the hell should I fill up here?
Yeah! I got it. Today’s special moment is that am ACTUALLY WRITING THIS THING!
Ok, job done. Good night.
Day 2
PAYDAY!! Now, this is the best day of the month. No doubt. And another thing is, this day comes only ONCE a month. So some relief from the routine. But hey, even this day is so similar to the payday the previous month, the month before that and the month before that....
Whatever, I have filled up the page today also. If this is the way my days are going to be..god help me.
Day 3
Ah...er... now what was special today? I blew up 2000 bucks on this absolutely gorgeous party wear salwar. But this is usually the way it is on every ‘the next day of payday’. Only the item that I purchase is different.
Looks like I have to start making something special to happen to fill up this stupid thing.
Day 4
Ha! Eat your heart out you stupid diary or whatever that is I am writing. Today I DID something just to fill this page. Today, I broke the routine and had lunch at a restaurant near my office.
Every day, I just go to the cafeteria and have the ‘today’s special’. Monday-idli, Tuesday-dosa, wenesdsay-naan with paneer, Thursday-fried rice, Friday-bisibelebath. And ofcourse, I skip the dessert-the sugary, gooey stuff that they serve there everyday. The only way I can differentiate between the different desserts is by their colour. They taste exactly the same. They just LOOK different, thanks to the food colours.
So, coming back to the point, I had yummy south Indian meals today.
Well...now that I have written it down, I feel so silly. Having south Indian meals for lunch-what is so special about that? Ok, let me not think about this too much. After all, I have given myself around 15 to 20 pats on my back for venturing out of the office building for lunch. And yeah, this is the first time I have stepped out for lunch in all these 2 years.
Day 10
(Well, if you are wondering what happened to the days in between, I would say ‘nothing much’. But I did the page filling religiously. I skipped to this day to make the reading more interesting for you. From now on, am just going to let you read only those pages where I feel a turning point has occurred. Ok now, read on. )
Today, something really heart warming occurred. I actually WHACKED a bloody perverted eve teaser today. I had to go to Kavi’s place today and I ended up going by bus. Yeah..I know. Total bleah. But anyways, that’s what I did. The bus was filled...not crowded though. Asusaul, I didn’t get any seat(yeah, my luck. Did I tell you about it? No? Good, because it is so nonexistent that it is not even worth mentioning.) So there I was, standing in the bus when this middle aged guy did something unmentionable..not once, but twice. Now, that certainly is no accident right? So I turned to him, and with all the force that I could muster, I slapped him and gave an earful of all the bad words that I knew. Both in English and Tamil. The passengers were smart enough to understand what happened and pitched in to beat the shit out of that guy. He deserved this and more for what he did to me and all those other nameless females.
Even thinking about this incident is making me grin with satisfaction. Of course, I received a lot of appreciation for my courage and boldness. But apart from all these, it is basically a sense of satisfaction and self respect that I felt today that made this day truly special.
Day 17
My cousin delivered a beautiful baby girl today. How perfect she is!! Just looking at that tiny form made me feel so happy and elated and a hoard of other mushy stuff. My little niece made my day!
Day 30
Hey hey hey!!!! I feel like as if I am back to the Meenu of college days. It feels so good to do a lot of things just because you feel like doing it. I wonder what made me pack up my impulsiveness and send it away to Antarctica. Thank god that it is back and thawing....er, excuse that pun.
So today I did nothing clich├ęd like dancing in the rain with a Popsicle in my hand as you would have probably imagined once I started talking about impulsiveness. Nor did I hug my best friend and smother her with kisses and declare how much she means to me.
I just took the phone, called up the guy I have a crush on, and I told him that I like him. Just like that. Of course, the guy backed out. But hey! It was not love anyway. And I felt so happy that I did it. I have to admit that I do feel slightly (actually, a lot) embarrassed thinking about it. But then...sigh...am feeling great. Now, before my ear to ear grin starts becoming painful, let me just go sleep.
Day 45
What was special today? Hmmmm...
The perfectly hot and sweet morning coffee. Parking the car without any hassles. My new business suit! The hum drum of job. The day’s work well done. The admiring look from a hot guy in the car next to me while caught in the traffic on the way back home. Mint chutney with dosa. My favourite song in the radio. A call from a friend. A sweet forward message in my mailbox having loads of cute puppy pictures in it. Oh boy oh boy...where shall I begin and where shall I end?
Day 63
When the foremost thought on your mind when you wake up each day is ‘what special thing is going to happen today?’ your perspective takes a dramatic shift. You end up realizing that the greatest mystery is the next minute. It is dawning upon me that life is so very unpredictable and this is what makes it so interesting.
And with that, you start realizing that each moment is special. So let me not waste anymore of my special moments by writing it down. Instead, let me just go and live it. After all, recording down the special moments will become too tedious when every minute is indeed special. Ha, imagine me running around with a paper and pen in my hand, furiously jotting down things which I feel are special. Ugh! Don’t even think about it.
So before I get philosophical or sentimental or preachy, let me place the full stop HERE.
Don’t wait. Just live!