Friday, March 11, 2011

All is well :)

If I had earned a little more, it would have been just perfect, though Sarfaraz as he drifted through his bank statement. Shekhar was buying a house, almost everyone else was too. The loan rates offered were high, yet the sheer joy of being a ‘home owner’ could not be matched. Sarfaraz looked around at his small one room studio apartment. In one corner was a washing machine with clothes overflowing from it. The bed could be described as a single cot temporarily acting as a dumpster. One fan could be seen in the ceiling with bundles of grit collected over it. The wall plaster was chipping and his posters had been ruined by the seepage of water. A small doormat lay recklessly near the entrance and on one side of it were his shoes – one formal, one sports, one casual and some chappals.
He went to the kitchen to make some tea to ease his early morning irritation. He didn’t mind the clutter and how the glasses lay around. He had stopped using utensils for eating, it meant too much of trouble washing everything. And he certainly disliked the stink when he left them unwashed. His cellphone flashed “Mom” and refused to stop. “Haan Mom” “Ya, I was just making tea” “Not again Mom, my life is very organized and I like it that way” “Ok, tea is done, I will call later. Bye.”
He felt his Mom was the most persistent person ever. He had always refused but she still insisted that he got married. Every week she e-mailed him the so called ‘finalized’ girls’ pictures and he promptly deleted it. “How was the first one?” his Mom had asked. “Which one Mom, what are you talking about?” “Arre, the one in the pink suit.” “Mom, she was terrible, ok! We are not talking about this.”
Nothing ever upset him or left wrinkles on his forehead. He was the typical happy-go-lucky, god-fearing guy who believed in making the most of everything he had. But there were times, he felt under privileged, as if God’s love was showered sparsely on him. It had been five years since he had moved to the city in search of a job. It had been a long time since then. He was now the team lead and respected well among colleagues.  He worked in a respectable company and his only problem was his Mom’s nagging – or maybe not, life would be incomplete without that as well!
He couldn’t help his feelings when newcomers, who worked in his team, drove past him in Honda City. He was a car enthusiast and buying an SUV was definitely on his wish list. But till now, he had always had the aerial view of them from the bus. He always relied on his feet and the public bus system. It was satirical when his colleagues flashed their latest smartphones. He liked reading up and researching about the latest gadgets, even if he could not afford it immediately. He had a list of the best smartphones, their features and his secret wish list, which he updated with each new release. Shekhar showed him the latest Android phone. “Allright, this is nice man.” And then Sarfaraz took thirty minutes to explain him the features  - in short, Shekhar learnt how to use his phone.
Sarfaraz was known for his quick wittedness, his sharp observation skills and most of all his dedication to work. He was the only guy in the team to have seen such a sharp rise in his career graph. But he never forgot the main reason he came to the city – his mother had sold her jewellery when his father had died. He had been in college. She had encouraged him to complete his graduation. Slowly, their funds had depleted and their house was mortgaged. He had asked his mother to leave the age old house and move to the city with him. But somehow, the emotional ties were too strong for her to leave. She would always say “This is where your father breathed his last, this is where I want to die as well.”
Every month, he paid a substantial amount towards the house debt, some towards savings and the rest for his rent and food. He could not believe how much he paid for a small place to live, where he barely stayed for a few hours of the day. He knew that getting his ancestral home was the priority, but five years of trying made him feel very worn out.
People took his opinion on everything, because he was the encyclopedia for everything. So all queries about buying cars, buying property, even electronic items – all requests came to him and he handled them all enthusiastically. But somewhere in his heart, he wanted a closure of things – he wanted a decent life, maybe a car, and maybe buy an apartment, and a smartphone – but he didn’t know in which order he would exercise his choices, if given a chance. Whether given a chance, or maybe never.
Sulking had never been the answer. He had encouraged his landlord’s daughter to take up fashion designing against the MBBS degree which the parents wanted. He had encouraged Shekhar to tell his mother about the girl he liked in office, and eventually got them married.
Seldom, when he sat down to sip his tea at his terrace, he opened his eyes wide to take in the view. He felt alive, and that was the best feeling, he felt a happiness within him, a sense of inexplicable euphoria. A sense of calmness which an SUV, an apartment, or a phone couldn’t have brought. His hand reached his small phone, where the key “5” was already broken and “3” had started dangling. He smiled, in fact, chuckled to himself. As the sun was setting, the whole terrace was showered with a golden glow of light. He dialed a number and waited. “Hello Mom, I love you a lot.” A tear trickled his eye and shone brightly along the setting sun. “I don’t want to get married, but can you please come to stay with me?”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Food for Thought...

The pan flew in rage, banged the ceiling and flattened on the floor. Small bits of egg white and yolk flew across the kitchen and created a symmetrical design on the walls. Varun looked the mess and sighed, he wished he would close his eyes and everything would return back to normal. Had it been yesterday he had spent three hours cleaning just the kitchen? And today again, he had no patience!

Living alone was fun, but cooking definitely was a nightmare. How did it sound so easy when they showed it on TV – “Just add some onions, a pinch of salt and let it simmer…” and boom, the dish was ready to relish as if having cooked itself. The show hosts chatted more than moving their fingers – and projected that cooking was the easiest art to master. But he sure was missing home now, and more so, his mum!
He had braved hostel life when he was eighteen, but the food was served in a platter there, even though it had been hard to gulp it down. After college, he had had a good placement – the first thing he did was to get his own house and set up a life – one very different from his hostel or from his parent’s home two thousand kilometers away! He had wanted a “free home” where he could be himself – wake up whenever, sleep whenever, watch tv all day, not bother a shower or change of clothes – devil may care! He had put in a lot of efforts to setup this new home – he had purchased a flat screen tv, some great speakers, a nice fridge to store lots of beer and ready to eat stuff, a huge mattress and some utensils.
The first week had been great – he had collected all phone numbers for food delivery. Mostly, he had ordered pizza and had beer. The TV had showed ftv all day and he was glued. But slowly, as cash ran out, he switched to tandoori chicken and beer, the channel changed to mtv and loud singing. Further, he switched to mini meals, and the tv showed star movies. When he couldn’t bear the taste of the food nor the expense, some beer stock in the fridge was replaced by eggs, bread, mayonnaise and cheese and the tv showed a cookery show!

Eggs had been the easiest to cook, a matter of 2 minutes – easier than maggi  noodles  which he had been eating in a routine.  He decided to go easy on the beer , his tummy had been signaling him for some time now. He decided to follow a regiment from Monday – woke up early, went for a jog, came back and had some juice, took a shower and toasted some bread from breakfast. He was ready to cook the eggs now – he had watched enough cookery shows and how they tossed the omlettes. And then the disaster occurred. He quietly ate the bread and shut the kitchen door.

Smoke had filled the house and was consuming him. He opened all windows and doors and went out of his apartment door. Till now, he had not explored beyond his house. He climbed the stairs and reached the terrace. It was a beautiful morning. His terrace had a small amphitheatre to sit and relax.

“Oh maa….” He heard a voice from behind. A lady in a yellow sari stood there, holding a pile of clothes and a hand on her back. “Let me help you.” He held the pile of clothes from her. She smiled. The lady must have been in her thirties, wearing a small red bindi on her forehead, hair tied in a bun and a small line of kohl in her eyes. She had a quiet calmness on her face and an angelic glow which he couldn’t decipher on the sunlight. “Thank you.” She said with a sweet smile.

“My back has been hurting since a few days. I live just downstairs, apartment 412.” “Great, I am in 414, just moved in last week. Let me carry these for you.”  He kept the pile of clothes on her sofa – it was a neatly decorated living room, not cluttered with heavy furniture. He noticed a number of paintings on the wall. “Yes, I paint sometimes. Haven’t been able to give it up.” “Wow, you are actually good.” He started at the oil painting with the small pond and lotus, the colours stood out brilliantly. There was another one of Ganesha done in gold and black and it shone, even in darkness. "My name is Aparna. I stay here with my husband." "Mine is Varun, I have never lived alone, so just trying to be civil. If you hear loud music or whatever, just knock my door."

“Oh, today is Lakshmi puja. I made some kheer and aloo puri. Would you like some?” His heart screamed “are you kidding me!” at the top of his lungs. “Sure.” It was too tempting to wait till he got home but obviously he could not hog in front of this kind lady. He took it in his hands and slowly walked out of the door. As soon as the door closed, he sprinted to his house, and not even bothering to find a spoon, started gobbling the food with his hands. It was delicious! Reminded him so much of his mum, maybe it was better than what he had eaten at home. It was god’s answer to his prayers and most of all – his inability to exist in the kitchen!

The loud doorbell surprised him. Wiping drops of kheer from his mouth and his stubble, he opened the door. “I had forgotten to put almonds in the kheer so brought you some. Put them in before you eat, it brings out a great taste.” Her smile widened when she noticed the empty bowls behind him. “Would you like some more for lunch?” And they both laughed.

Everyday, when he returned from office, he found a tiffin by the side of his door. And he so looked forward to it, that he refused a dinner with colleagues and friends. The food had been heavenly – nothing like he had ever eaten before. He was mesmerized with the aloo bhaji and pooris and kheer, till he got the raving biryanis and the delicious mutton curry. He could swear that he was her fan!

But each day, he felt like a burden growing upon him. He thought about the lady – who slaved all day and still made extra food for him everyday. Every morning, he rang the doorbell to return the tiffin and thanked her with all his heart. He could not make himself offer money for it, it was too awkward. Nor could he be like the nextdoor lady, offering some great meals in return.

Often, when he reached home early, they sat down and had tea. “You should paint more. You have a great talent.” “Thank you, but there’s hardly any time left after all the household work, and now I have a back problem.” “Don’t find reasons, you just have to make it work. Get up, go get your brushes this instant. From now on, everyday you will paint from 4 to 6. If you need a danda – I will give you one!”

Every evening, they sat in the amphitheatre and she painted. He even brought a new pack of oil paints for her. “Gosh, you are so creative. Have you tried to approach an art gallery for a show?” “No silly, my paintings are very average. Who would want to see them?” “I am telling you, I am no connoisseur, but I can tell. Why don’t you try atleast.”

“Come to my house for dinner tonight with your husband.” She smiled “Allright, he has been eager to meet you as well. The boy who banged his pan at the ceiling.” “You didn’t tell him that, did you?” “You bet!”

The night after the pizza party, apartment 412 had a visitor from Glances Art Gallery. He was impressed and appreciated Aparna’s work. They signed a deal that very day for an upcoming art show. The husband was overjoyed. And Aparna, who had never thought beyond her house and household work, finally found her niche. From that day, the tiffin stopped coming to Varun’s house. Instead, he joined his newfound friends for dinner at their dining table. Maybe, the regiment and family he wanted to break away from had found it’s way to his heart. He had found a reason to come home everyday at an earthly hour. The beer and ftv were still there, but they could wait till late night – couldn’t they?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mesmerizing love...

The music played louder than ever. It was well past 11 pm and Rashi couldn’t make herself leave the dance floor. Dressed in a pink lehenga and silver jewellery, her hair open like waves of music, her bow shaped lips shining with pink gloss and her long earrings dancing on her neck. She didn’t care about the four inch heels she was wearing, although they pinched her like crazy. Just when she decided to sit and rest, they played her favourite number.
Mukul had been observing Rashi for a while now – her beautiful eyes and her gorgeous smile. His eyes refused to part with her. Eventually, he went and joined his gang on the dance floor, but his gaze kept gliding onto her. How her long hair moved with the music, and her tiny waist moved to the beats, making her lehenga swirl around her. He wanted to go and hold her, to dance with her, to hear her speak and laugh - she was beautiful when she laughed!
The music slowed down and he found himself alone on the dance floor. She was nowhere to be seen. Quickly, he went looking for her. He saw her at the place where the bride and groom sat and she was getting her pictures taken with them.  She looked heavenly; it was like she outshone everyone around her, her luminous skin glowed in the stark lighting. He no longer had control over his senses. His feet took him right to the spot she was at. He watched her up close and wore the mesmerized look on his face. “Please come together for a picture.” The photographer said to him. He drifted closer to her and posed for a picture with the newlyweds. She smelled heavenly, and he wished the photographer’s camera would get stuck so he could linger a bit more.
 “Mukul, you look so lost today”, the groom said to him. He looked around to find her but she was gone.  He gazed around in the entire hall; she was nowhere to be seen. His heart sank deep and imprinted her images on his mind forever….the day he fell in love!
Mukul had never been the ‘girl chaser’ all his life. He had always been the sophisticated, quite and studious person. With a square spectacle frame resting on his nose, he was very tall – about six feet, not a very muscular frame but a sturdy one, his hair brushed neatly with a side parting. He had noticed the overly long glances made at him by the opposite sex, but he chose to be oblivious. It had been two years since he had seen Rashi and whenever he closed his eyes, he could see her bright cheery face and the pink dupatta. He had never been a fan of the movies, but the cliché happening to him made him aware of the substance in them.
It had been two years since the incident and he was a successful dentist now. He assisted Dr Dey at his clinic and had noticed the unusual increase in the number of female clients visiting him. He was overwhelmed by their charms, but always reacted politely. His mother had conveyed a few marriage proposals which he had been getting, but he didn’t seem to have any interest. But his ears were always open to hearing the word Rashi from her. He knew it was a long call and was never bound to happen.
He had glanced through the wedding album a number of times, whenever he visited the couple. He had even asked on one occasion, but they both seemed to not remember who she was. “I think her name was Rashi or something…” But no one seemed to remember. This had confused him, she did not look like the party-crasher, then why couldn’t he trace her? She had existed in the mist of that night and had vanished with the first rays of sunlight.
He kept listening to “Ajeeb daastan hai ye….” on his ipod over and over again. The more his mother pestered him for his wedding, the more he felt the urge to go and look for her.  But fate had decided to play hide and seek with him. So he just hung on to his patience levels which rose and fell like the stock market.
Dr Dey had noticed his restlessness and tried to talk to him about it. “It’s nothing, mom is pestering me to get married and I am not ready.” “Take it lightly boy, this will go on, mothers always do that! If there is anything else, let me know. Don’t walk around with such a long face the whole day.” Dr Dey gave him a pass to go and see a dance show – “a patient gave me this, it is supposed to be all sold out and this is the last one I got.”
With a Sunday full of looking at pictures of prospective brides, he was way beyond fed up. He walked out of the house and closed the door behind him. After walking a few paces in the park, he decided to go to the dance show, least expecting a break from his psychological chaos.
He sat in the second row from front, it was a good view. The dance was breathtaking – a ballet with beautiful costumes followed by a contemporary. The music was from a live orchestra and was very engaging. The dancers moved swiftly with every beat and the steps grew faster with the music.
“Wow papa, she is doing great.” He heard a familiar voice behind him. It couldn’t be her – was fate at its best ricks again or was his overwhelmed mood playing hallucinations with his mind? He couldn’t focus on the dance, nor could he hear any music anymore – he was entwined in his own thoughts, curbing his urge to look behind him. He didn’t know what to say to her after so many years. Many thoughts encircled his mind, but none fit the situation he was in. He waited patiently for the performance to finish and rose up to go. He turned slightly and looked at her – it was her, after so many years! More beautiful than ever, the same charming smile, the same luminous glow.
“Are you Mukul?” the man beside her spoke to him. “Ya, do I know you?” The man smiled. “Your mother had sent a picture of you to us, and we were interested, but your mother said you were not interested in marriage right now.” He couldn’t gather this own thoughts and put together the pieces. “Anyway, meet my daughter Rashi.” “Hi Mukul” he smiled and his face turned crimson. “Hi”
They started to move out of the auditorium. This was the time. “So what do you do?” He had to break the ice somehow! “I am a flower decorator. I mostly work at weddings. I love doing that.” He chuckled “I bet you do and you do a fantastic job” “How do you know?” “Well, let’s meet for coffee sometime and I will tell you how.” “You think I will go out with a guy who rejected me without even looking at my picture?” she smirked and naughtily teased him. “I think I can rationalize that as well.” And they both laughed and gazed at each other in an ever-locking gaze, with fate playing with their minds and teasing them with Cupid’s silent involvement.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Love is it...

She just couldn’t get over the song. Had played it over a hundred times already and yet, it sounded so fresh. Her roommate was on the verge of losing her nerves. But she understood. Why is it that she could instantly identity with the song – the tone, the music and especially the lyrics. To the extent that it became “her song”!
She was congruously hit by the identity bug and found herself surrounded by “her favourite book”, “her favourite dress”, her “favourite shoes”, her “favourite movie”, her “favourite episode of Gossip Girl” or “her favourite Blair dress”. She could not fathom to see herself beyond them, atleast after last year!
Ears plugged into her ipod, she was walking along the road when she saw him. Dark brown eyes, wind on his face, heavy breathing into the winter air, his hands tightly holding his overcoat, smooth backswept hair and a divine smile. She felt the bitter winter air cutting through her. She could not face him, and instantly turned around. She started walking as fast as she could, and curbing her body to run or shiver. “Hey, is that you.” The sound of his voice stopped her heart – as it was about to explode and beat with a rhythm she could no longer control. She turned around to look at him. She did not understand why after a year, she still missed him and the coldness within her was not due to the weather. She felt her emotions withering away as the last leaves on a tree. Yet, somehow meeting him had brought the most genuine smile on her face since the last twelve months.
“How have you been?” She just nodded and smiled, but could not help the flush on her cheeks and the tearing pain in her heart. She noticed he was wearing cufflinks today. She had never been able to convince him, buying them and pestering him all the time. “I don’t want to look like a suited up cold man. Let me be….I love my jeans.” And today, he was wearing a well creased suit, great shoes and cufflinks!
“What are you doing here?” They had parted, and assumed their own sides of the city. Not a strictly marked line of invasion, but precariously understood area of avoidance. “I just got promoted and my office is right here.” “Congratulations. Anyway, I have to go now.” “We will catch up again.” She didn’t reply back but just waved to him. Her feet started moving quickly and she left him far behind as she wanted her past to be..
The next morning was lovely and warmer; the sun was out bright cheering people into the Valentine’s Day. Red roses had always put her off, and she never understood the point – no one cared what happened to them after they exchanged hands from one lover to the other. If even one of them didn’t love the other – there was nothing a rose could do about it. But he had always found special ways to make her smile. Last year, just before they broke up, he had painted beautiful little roses on her stairs – so that she could always “walk on roses” when she stepped out. He had loved her immensely; maybe it had been too much for her. And now, she was afraid to admit to herself how much she missed him. How she had not been able to smile until today. How meeting him after a year made her feel like she wanted him back.
Had it all been a mistake? Breaking up with the most beautiful thing that had ever happened to her. She had always wanted her freedom, and now she had it. But just to wither away listening to songs or secretly sulking in the comfort of chocolate truffles! She had spent her entire saving buying her favourite shoes and clothes and even though her closet was cheery and full, she felt the opposite. Why was she searching so hard to find herself, when she had already found herself with him! Why did she choose late night parties and the dancing over a soft shoulder she could sleep peacefully on!
She had always hated Valentine’s Day and the over-agile depictions of it made her nauseous. But today, it was different. The feelings that lay dormant from the last twelve months were now enthralled. She chose her favourite lace dress and red pumps. All decked up and ready to go, she looked at herself in the mirror and smiled. The apartment door opened and her roommate stared in disbelief. She just laughed at her roommate “I want to be cliché today.” “Did I miss something?” “Will tell you everything when I come back. Happy Valentine’s day.” She rushed out the door and slammed it shut.
Outrageously opposite to her beliefs, but she was going to do it. She picked up a bunch of red roses, even if sold at a preposterous price – some things were worth it all! She remembered the building he had pointed to, and she knew her way well – yes, this was her side of the city! The frills of her dress flew with the gust of wind, but she didn’t care. She just smiled. Hope he understood her as well – if he truly loved her, he would. Why would he not, she was the one to leave him. How she remembered his pleadings and they played loudly in her ears. She would go and plead out her love to him today.
Hair in the wind, and overcoat barely on her, she did not care about the harshness of the winter air anymore! And that was the moment she saw him, when all her emotions lighted up again after a whole year. He was rushing to catch a cab, she rushed to surprise him. She suddenly stopped when she saw him kiss the lady who came in the taxi. She ushered behind a tree and watched. He planted on her the most passionate kiss she had ever known. She knew then, that he was never going to be her’s anymore. The girl smiled and handed him a small package wrapped in glittering paper. He held her in his arms and refused to let go. They both smiled and boarded the same taxi as she watched with the bunch of roses in her hand.
A tear trickled from her eye, and harshness melted. All along, she had been angry with herself and him, for letting go. Now she knew, he had truly moved on, while she had been stuck in the darkness of oblivion. Heartbroken and sad, she gave the roses to a beggar woman who was enthralled to see them, but failed to find a real use for flowers. Last light of the day took away with it all signs of hope and love. And lay beyond it was just another dark night and the day after Valentine’s Day – yet another day!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sun tiptoes...

A strand of hair played right above her cheek. With her hands full of clay, she twitched her cheek to stop it. But it didn’t, and neither did the wind do any favours. It was a cloudy day and she wondered when she would finish with the modeling. She wished there would be sunlight for it to dry out. A small dimple dug at her cheek as she smiled.
It had been two years at her job now, and the mundane schedule was fast getting to her. She remembered how she had enjoyed taking long walks by herself in the leisure time. She would love doing that now too. Two years ago, as she sat on her desk, she smiled and was delighted at her achievements. But now, she no longer felt the passion. She no longer relented to fixing herself behind that desk.
It had not been an affluent childhood. She would go ahead and save her pocket money when all other students had delicious candies in school. She couldn’t ask her parents for more as she knew they were doing their best to provide for her. It made her sad to see them struggle through their jobs each morning and night, doing double shifts. She knew they would buy fruits, but just for her. She never saw her parents consume any dairy products but always insisted she finish her glass of milk.
She had duly returned them her respect and obedience. She had never been caught cheating in exams, or speaking deceitful lies, or sharing goodies with her classmates. They called her weird, but she never retorted. She thought that sharing the lovely eatables with her classmates would shame her parents about not being able to buy them for her. So she knew God had a share of things kept away for her, so why ask for more!
She had finished shaping the pot now. It was a small one with a wide mouth. She had already decided the colour scheme for it. Pottery was a way of connecting the peace within. Her parents had always been preoccupied with earning the basic money; she had never seen them do anything leisurely. There were no books in her house, or music records, or an occasional dance. There was hardly any time for small talk. All they asked her was about homework and school. Every academic term, it was about her grades. They had always told her about white collar jobs, and how she would be perfect for them.

She washed her hands and removed the cool clay from her hands. Carefully, she took the sharp thread and looped it over the pot. Slowly, removing it from the wheel, she put it at her window sill. Suddenly, drops of rain splattered hard on the open window. She quickly latched the window. The sky started to roar and got all dark. “Maybe it is your fate”, she said it aloud to the pot. She wasn’t sure if she believed in luck, but she surely believed in fate. Or maybe so because her parents had already written one for her. She could never refuse them or argue with them. She felt indebted, and however she tried, she couldn’t change the feeling.
One evening, her decided fate had been announced to her. “We think you should be a Charted Accountant. You grades are good and we think you should apply to the prestigious schools. Don’t worry about the fee, your Ma has taken a loan for the forms and I will be taking one when you get in. I hear CAs are paid really well in today’s times.” She had just nodded. She never felt victimized, not that day, not today. She took life as it came to her. One lesson was absolutely certain, her parents had never smiled much, and she was determined to be happy – no matter the circumstances, no matter her profession, no matter what future withheld.
She stared at her pot at the window. The clay was still wet and could be moulded in any way required. And when she would colour it, it would determine its identity. It could be a fiery red, a passionate pink or a cheery orange. She could also make it a cool blue or a classic black. It was all in her hands. Just like she had been moulded to join the corporate world. The year she had graduated, she had started paying off her debts and taken an apartment on a huge loan, one where her parents could live in peace. They had often told her how proud they were, and she had felt gratified for being their daughter.
But other emotions, she found them hard to find. Now she knew the meaning of passion. She had taken up pottery with great interest over a year ago and had gone ahead to make some beautiful pieces. She had been asked to display it for a pottery show by one of her neighbours, who happened to appreciate them in her small garden. There was another show coming up, and she had been invited.
The more she fell in love with pottery, the more she resisted the desk in office. She had been a cage bird all her life, and it was time she found her wings. She had thought about it several times, but the EMIs and the loan swirled like a dagger in front of her. The pot was beginning to fuse at a few places, just like her emotions. “I wish the sun comes out soon and clears my dilemma.”
It was easy in the movies, where they took decisions and things turned out well. Nor was her life made of any bestselling novel, where after churning out of troubles, she reached her destination. She just wanted to be happy, to love what she did and never regret it. But would it be fair to her parents, who slaved all their lives to get her the white collar job? Maybe she had to be Santa all her life – she had the gifts but would never be gifted anything.
She sat down to eat her lunch at the small dining table. As she stirred her spaghetti, memories of childhood captured her. On Avik’s birthday, his mother had come to school to distribute pastries to all children. Everyone had eaten and wished him, and asked for more. She had just smiled and never asked for more. But the presence of a pastry in her hands had been delightful. Instead of eating it, she had carefully packed it in her lunch box. Very proudly, she had gone home and waited impatiently for her parents to arrive. They would all share it as a family. She was determined to see them smile that day.
When her parents arrived, she just passed on her lunch box to her mother, like every other day, for her to inspect whether lunch had been finished. “What on earth do you have here?” “It’s a pastry Ma”, she had smiled. As she looked into the lunch box, she could sense a foul smell. The icing had melted and was floating in the box. “Don’t get such things to the house, it smells so bad, I will have a tough time cleaning it.” She never did it again.
She could see the rain from her window, so beautiful and yet so forceful. It reminded her of her only wish - to be happy. Pottery was her passion, and not a desk job. Life would go on and people would always have complaints, but she did not want to grow old and look back apologetically.
The pottery exhibition was three weeks from now. If she worked hard, she could have a good number of display pieces there. She went to her handbag and took out the resignation letter from its front pocket. She signed on it and put the date. As she looked up, she realized that the sky had cleared and sun was out. She opened the window and let the pot get its due warmth. And the first time in her life, she felt the beam of exhilaration she had always longed for.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Twin bonding...

I sat beside the phone, waiting endlessly for it to ring. I would have made the call myself, but they probably had not got a connection yet. I went to the balcony again and looked at the adjoining house. The grass was still green but had overgrown since yesterday. The door of the house still had the imprint of the nameplate as dust was urging forward to cover it. The garden seats looked dull and the parking space missed the grey Volvo sedan. The emptiness stretched all the way from the closed garage door to the terrace and the black cast iron gate.

My whole life had been about this neighborhood. Ever since I can remember, me and the twins used to ride our bicycles on the golf course road. As we approached the downhill slope, we used to let go of the pedals and the handle and let gravity win the race for us. Whoever lost used to buy the ice candies for the other two. Then we used to sit at the golf lawns and tear the grass apart till the keeper came and shooed us away.

School was just a mile away from our houses and we used to walk together each day. Arpita and Anandita always wore the same clothes as each other, the same shoes and even the same ribbons.  No one in school could tell them apart, but I always knew. Arpita had a smaller left eye and Anandita had a mark near her eyebrow. But even if my eyes were closed, I could tell from their voices.

They always got away with homework trouble, as they used to start blaming each other in class and start a huge fight. The teacher gave up after twenty minutes of shrieking and wailing. They had mastered the art when we were in first standard. But when they actually fought, they kicked off their shoes and messed with each other’s hair. But the best part was they never used to fight around me. I was the mediator, but secretly I thought I was the queen and they were my two clergies.
They hated their home food and always hopped into my house for dinner. They refused to go until their mother came and dragged them back. We were inseparable for life!

When we were twelve, we tried to drive their father’s car once. Arpi had got the key and we all slipped in together. “Press on the accelerator” “No, changed the gear first” “Oh god, put it in key at least” And she had pressed on the accelerator so hard that we had almost banged into the tree. We had been grounded for a week, no outing and no meeting each other. But in the afternoons I sneaked up to the terrace and climbed over to the terrace next door. Then I sneaked into their room and we all used to eat chips and fries. Those were some lovely afternoons.

I always knew we all would be separated when we had to go to college. Arpi wanted to do a course in Psycology and Anny and me were hell bent on becoming Engineers. We had decided the colleges which we would go to and charted out a plan how we all would meet once a week. We had made pacts on how we would write to each other every week if we went far away and how we would always buy 3 souvenirs from whichever place we were in so that we always had identical pieces from around the world.

And now, they had to leave so suddenly. Even before college started and even before we got our first dates together…
A month passed since they moved, and not even one call! Mom sat me down and explained to me an hour over how people forget and we remain just people they once knew. I did not want to agree, and I still kept waiting. School was not the same anymore and my life certainly wasn’t. I sat down to fill my college forms and I thought of them, I would still apply to the same places we had decided, no matter what. 

And as I went to the post office, little did I know a parcel awaited me. I opened my post box and in it was a blue envelope and a small box. In the box was a tiny replica of a bicycle and in the letter they had written – ‘We got three of these as soon as we reached here. You cannot imagine how much we miss you. Getting a telephone connection here is a nightmare; they say it will take another 3 weeks. We are going nuts here…why don’t you come down for a vacation? We will fill our college forms together. Come soon, as without you we will pull each other’s hair out. I had no idea Arpi was so annoying around you. I feel she is turning more devilish every day. Take care yaar, we miss you tonnes…’

A tear trickled my eye and made an impression on the envelope. As I walked home, I could sense how different life was going to be without them, but the essence was to keep them close to my heart, always! I looked at their house, where wild bushes had started growing now. The door was open, I stopped to look inside. A little girl rushed out screaming “I love the house. Let’s move in Mamma.” She turned around and smiled at me and I smiled back.