Friday, September 27, 2013

Walking In The Rain


It rained really hard today, the way it did when we were together. That was the last time I got wet in the rain. I did it again today, it made me smile, it made me sing, it made me happy.

Our relationship has always been complicated, no one knows what it was, I doubt even you or I understood it. Yes, I thought I loved you and I knew you did not. It was like a silent understanding between the two of us, a promise that we shall never talk about it. It would have worked fine had you chosen to tell me about her.

When you eventually told me, I was happy for you, but I felt terribly betrayed by the person I trusted the most, that killed our relationship. I have no complaints however, what you gave me was much more than what you took away, in fact you took away nothing at all.

The few days spent with you were and will always be the best of my life, most cherished, most memorable and the happiest. I lived my dream and you did all you could to make it true. That was the last time I was really, really happy.

The walking in the rain, the talking in the bed, the smoking in the corridor and the drinking at the bar -- all mundane, everyday things had elevated to another level with you. I know it made you happy too, just being around, reading, sleeping and talking. You never had a woman for company other than me, no one so close. I'm glad we never made love, it would have spoilt everything.

I had seen your eyes just as I prepared to leave, like you, they were sad too. Perhaps you knew that we will not meet again. Knowing that would have made me sad then, but today I am happy that we did not. I would rather live with happy memories than sad realities.

When I miss you, I look you up on FB and your smile brings a smile to my face. It does not matter that you are with someone else - so long as you are happy, and you do look happy.

I just want to know, tell me if you can -- is that the tie that I gave you, the one that you wore for your graduation? I hope it was.




It was nice to hear from you after so long. It rains here quite often and sometimes, I too am reminded of you and how much you hated the gloom.

I know you always loved me and I never felt the same way but you were special and will always be. You were the only woman in my life for close to thirty years - that is a long time. I was never sure of what I felt for you, I still am not.

After you left, there was a vacuum. The rain, the bed, the corridor, the bar - all felt different and aloof. I had spent years alone at these very places but in two days they had totally transformed -- they reminded me of you -- all the time. I longed for you and you were way out of my reach. That is when I met her, she filled up the vacuum that you created. She even looked a little like you.

It was difficult to tell you about her, I was not sure of your reaction and I did not want to lose you. Had it not been for that emotional, semi-drunk outburst, you might not have known about her for many more months.

About making love, only I know how I resisted it. It would have complicated things further. But I wanted you -- badly.

You can at least look at me, I, on the other hand have to make do with the stuff that reminds me of you. When I miss you, I put on the black kurta and tuck in the red Sheaffer in the pocket - both old and worn out.

By the way, it was the same tie - I wore it for my wedding too.


Pblished in Femina Fast Fiction :

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


It happens with strange regularity and leaves me completely helpless; helplessness is a feeling that I detest from the deepest pits of my heart and its in these deep pits that my insecurities reside. They live in such obscure corners that I fail to reach them in conscious state, maybe that's why they are manifested in my dreams so tenaciously.

In my family, I am famous for being strong, sensible, practical and independent but that is a mask that I have successfully kept on for years now. Only a handful of people know that under that mask lies a silly, insecure woman.

I encountered death quite early in my life when one of my uncles passed away all of a sudden, I was not even seven but I could make out what was happening around me, he was newly married and not even thirty. As a family it was hard on us and I often saw my grandmother getting into fits and then passing out, there were conversations at home that I was not suppose to listen to, but even a child's brain instinctively picks up things that are forbidden.

Next was the person I was closest to - mama, his death was not so sudden, everyone knew he was sick, and getting worse but I never accepted it, just like I did not accept his death. It has been twelve years but I feel he would walk in any minute calling out for me. Somewhere I hold myself responsible for his death -- I had dreamt of it barely a few months before he passed.

Post that death became a reality, when there was no death, its shadows loomed large -- in form of my mothers sickness, my lost child and several others -- such nightmares constantly haunted me, when I shooed them away, they hid in the cracks and crevices of my mind. They often play hide and seek with me since. If you look closely, you will often find me standing next to my kids or parents - while they are in deep sleep - making sure that they are breathing. I just did it with Pakhi this morning.

Throughout my first pregnancy, I felt unhappy, disturbed and unsettled, I consistantly had nightmares for those six months. I would wake up shaken in the middle of the night -- alone. It was just matter of time before I lost the baby. I did not mourn her as much as a mother is expected to, perhaps I was prepared. 

Not even a few months after that, before stepping out for dinner one evening, I casually told Debashish that I had a feeling about my grandfather not living very long - within minutes we got a call from my brother to inform us about his death. He passed away, just like that, he was not even sick. Premonition or plain co-incidence, I don't know.

Just as I have gotten used to the presence of the nightmares and the morbidity that enslaves me post that, people around me too have. They know that every now and then, I will wake up and wake them up. My husband is usually at the receiving end by the virtue of him being the closest. But he too, can not appreciate what I go through, like any logical person, he tells me that it's just a dream and I should not think too much about it. I have learnt to keep my nightmares to myself now.

Premonitions, Signs, intuitions whatever they are - they leave me uneasy, guilty and anxious. No sooner than the after affect of one wanes, the other one makes its way. It was just two days ago that I had a tryst with one of them - yet again. I try my best to shrug them off, not to think about them but they keep coming back - like a stubborn stalker.

I'm not sure what made me write this today. I realise that as a reader you should not be burdened by my fears and anxieties but as a I writer, I felt compelled to. I was actually working on a post about something else for the past three days but somehow its not falling in place, the sentences refuse to flow and thoughts are entangled. Its true that when you have many things to say, you fail to articulate them in a logical manner like it is also true that its easiest to talk about something close to your heart -- and death has been very close to my heart -- after all, I felt it in my womb.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Rape In My Backyard

Just yesterday I wrote about being settled and today my mind's back to its hyper-self. Since last night there suddenly seem to be too many things happening, and the mind, my mind in particular, absorbs all -- sounds, sights, feelings, the said and the unsaid -- quite effortlessly and starts to work overtime.

Upon his return from work last night, my husband told me that a resident of our society has been accused of rape by his maid and that policemen in plain clothes had been waiting for him at the gate. It was midnight and there was no sign of him yet, the wife and the child were at home while the maid -- the victim -- had been taken away by the police to ensure she's safe.

Every now and then we read about such instances in the newspapers and turn the page, watch it on breaking news and turn the TV off but what do we do when it happens in our backyard? Do we shut the door or simply look away?

A man who has a wife and a child, who lives in a decent area, in a decent house and in all probability works in a decent office and makes good money -- why would he rape a housemaid? What transpires a rape anyway? I really don't want to know.

What I'm concerned about is the wife. In such a situation, what would she have done, would she have called the husband to warn him of the police, or would she have helped the maid go to the police? Does she believe the maid or the husband -- I assume that the husband will plead innocence as in most cases. There is one more possibility though, that she was a party to it.

What would any wife do in such a situation? If she goes to the police, supports the victim and gets the husband punished -- what happens to her and her child? If she helps her husband, trusts that he is innocent, blames the maid for framing him, what happens to her then? Does she live with the doubt all her life? It is a tough question and as a wife I don't even want to think about it. As a woman though, I'd like to.

What would I do if something like this comes up? I am an educated and independent woman who has been brought up to be at par with men. If the need arises, I can take care of myself and my children, yet there is an insecurity -- about what I cannot say.

There are so many women like me and most of them, if not all, attach their worth to their husbands. The moment a woman gets married, it becomes her responsibility to prove how happy she is in the marriage, how wonderful her husband is, and how grateful she is to have him. Such women would also hold themselves responsible for the husbands faults. I have hardly seen husbands do that. The ones who praise their wives are labelled henpecked and are a butt of jokes not only among other men but even among women, and the ones who hold themselves responsible for the woman's fault, umm I don't think such men even exist.

So, who is to be blamed or should we blame anyone at all? I don't know. I also don't know why am I writing this today. What I do know is that we -- the women -- the wives -- need to love ourselves a little more and not attach our worth to anyone. We need to stop taking the responsibility for all that goes wrong in the lives of our family members and bask in the glory of what all we help them set right.

Meanwhile, I wonder what that poor wife must be going through. I am assuming she is not a party to the crime, I am also assuming there is some truth in the maid's charge, and I pray she lives happily ever after. Somehow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Settling in

So now its regulated, the posts are not as frequent, hopefully a little less irrelevant and a little more substantial.

Beginning a new activity/job/vocation is like falling in love, when you are newly in love, you want to revel in it all the time. According to something I read in the papers yesterday, falling in love releases oxytocin and serotonin, the combination of the two hormones make you more social and happy, it makes your skin glow and your eyes twinkle (the last two are my own observations). Maybe that's why new brides glow. Maybe that's also why people change both jobs and partners so often. But what happens after the love settles, when you are no longer on a high, when its a part of your being?

Most of my adult life I have been looking for something -- what I do not know yet. Imagine being in  a huge departmental store full of alluring stuff and not knowing what you want - I have been in this situation for almost half my life. Though I am yet to know what I have been looking for, my quest for the unknown has led me into many interesting discoveries and a little bit of self discovery too.
In our training sessions, we use the analogy of Alice and the Cheshire cat to bring out the importance of having a goal in our careers and lives in general. The story goes like this: One day Alice reaches a forked road and finds the cat perched on a tree she asks her for directions. This is the conversation that takes place between them --

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where –" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"– so long as I get
somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."

I have preached the concept for a very long time but I myself have never been able to practice it. How can I decide what I want to do ten years from now when I don't know about what I would want a year hence? In the last few weeks however, the quest seems to have paused -- at least for now. Whether it is due to writing or getting older, or just being tired of looking for the unknown, or just giving up, I don't know.

There is no longer an urgency to write either, to blurt out the first thing that comes to my mind. As I make a slow but steady progress towards savouring every moment of discovering myself through reading, writing and just being, the optimist in me says "this is what settling in is all about" and the sceptic in me replies "but for how long?"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sex and sensibility

Last night while chatting with an ex team member, we happened to talk about my blog. She is one of my very few fans, she is also one of the reasons this blog exists. Anyway, I told her that one month into writing and I am already bored. She suggested some boring things to write about but since I wanted to write something interesting tonight, so here you go.

Sometime ago, I read a post where the blogger applauded a woman he knows for having sex unabashedly with someone other than her husband, just for the fun of it. He had his reasons. It made an interesting read but what caught my attention were the comments posted by the readers. They ranged from 'been there, done that' to 'how could she' to 'how could you applaud such a shameful act'. I wanted to read all of them but somewhere I lost my attention. The post got me thinking though.

Sex is indeed a bad word, you can not use it with family, with siblings, with parents and at times even with friends. If you use it at work, you risk being charged with sexual harassment. If you use it with your lover, you are a pervert. People always want to do it but never want to talk about it. So much for a three letter word!

Being a small town, middle class woman, I have always had my reservations about it. Over the years, I have come to accept many things people do, sex just for the heck of it, being one such thing. I have seen many people at work and otherwise who hook up just for fun. To me however, sex is what animals do, love making is what humans are made for, and to do that, you need to be connected in mind at least, if not in heart. I maybe right, maybe wrong.

Coming back to unabashed sex. What makes us think that this is a new phenomenon I do not know. I have seen cousins making out. I have seen sisters in law seducing their brothers in law and getting all they want and many such so called relatives continue doing it all their lives. The point is that such things always existed, they were just never discussed. I don't know if they still exist, maybe not as much since now people have options outside their homes too. Also, I have not heard anyone talking about them in the last ten years. 

There however is a significant part of the population who would consider sleeping around a sin, most of them are and will be very happy being with their respective partners always. They are also among the people who read this blog diligently. They will dislike my generalisation of jijas and bhabhis and they will admonish my being cool with such low moral standards. Until a few years ago, I would have done the same, not anymore.

It's a pity however that no one has ever confessed any such thing to me. Should someone ever confide in me about his/her 'act", I would surely ask them a few questions. How do they manage to do it without being caught? How does it feel? Do they prepare for it or is it impromptu? And most important where the hell do they do it?

Post script: I am tempted to write a disclaimer saying that I in no way mean to glorify one night stands or adultery and disrespect relations. Also, should the author of the original post be reading it, he should not be offended. But I will let the urge pass.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Music and I

In the last one month, I have spent considerable time in the company of an old friend, we had lost touch over the last few years. It was all my fault actually, I was too busy climbing up the ladder,making babies and then turning them into lovely young ladies. When I met him, after many years, we hugged each other like we were never away. He has always been generous to me, even when I saw him for just a few minutes, once in a while. We go back several years, twenty five at least. He's been my closest friend during my childhood, teenage and adulthood. Oh! and his name, he's called Music. My earliest memories of him are that of weekly Chitrahaar and that of the music player that we had at home, a handsome Philips system with beautiful grey speakers.

I owe my relationship with music to three people. They hand-held me into the world of music, it's with them that the foundation of this lifelong relationship was laid.

My father -  My father is particularly fond of ghazals, so we played Ghulam Ali, Jagjit Singh, Talat Aziz, Farida Khanum and Mehendi Hassan at home. I was hardly ten but I knew all their ghazals. Long before Kishore Kumar came to my life, I had Ghulam Ali singing to me almost every evening, often accompanied by Mehendi Hassan and Farida Khanum. An occasional Umrao Jaan would also entertain us. It's been twenty five years and I still remember each and every ghazal each and every word.

My Uncle - Mama's no more but the lessons I learnt from him have made me what I am today. Music is just one of them. He's the one who introduced me to all the old Hindi film music. It is on his player that I got introduced to the "Paying guest" and "Tere ghar ke saamne", from "Parinda" to "Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar". I remember listening to these albums in loop to learn the songs. He was a great singer, a great man and my favorite person in the whole world.

My Husband - Most of the things I learnt have come from him, some music too. Only after I met him did I realise what passion for music meant. He introduced me to the music of the eighties, the best according to me and the closest to my heart since. Though I grew up in the eighties, I missed most of it while growing up, maybe because I was too young. He introduced me to the Kishore Kumar I had never paid attention to, to the Asha Bhonsle who was just another voice, to R D Burman, who just meant "1942 A love story" and to his lady love, Alisha Chinoy - though I could do without her (pun intended). He played songs to me that I never knew existed. I remember him calling me on the cell phone one day so that I could hear a song on radio, this is when calls cost as much as a cola. I think music was one reason I fell in love with him. I am yet to meet someone as passionate about music.

Though these three men are the architects of my relationship with music, there a few others who have contributed significantly. a) Purani Jeans - Saima introduced me to some very, very beautiful music, long before it became fashionable for radio stations to play the eighties music. It is through her that I got to know "Jeeva", "Rocky" and "Sitamgar". On my way back from work, I immersed my tired self into these soulful songs, into the depth of Amit Kumar's voice and the highs of Asha bhonsle's surs. b) Sumbul and Akanksha - I have not met Sumbul, a school friend, in over fifteen years but she sang some songs for us in school which we had never heard, they haunt me till date,"kali palak piya mori" being one of them. Akanksha, has been a friend since day one of my work life, she introduced me to "libas", "thodi si bewafai" and more such songs. c) A new acquaintance - He has more passion for music than all of us put together, he has shared some beautiful songs with me and that has made me hungry for more. If I am not wrong, music would be his greatest passion.
So, I am back with music and after many years we are alone, only him and I. We spend lonely afternoons together and sometimes quiet nights too. It's comforting to be in his familiar embrace day after day, night after night. After so many years, I have become a little possessive about him. I hope we don't have to part ways. Ever.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

and that has made all the difference

I could not believe my luck, you were sitting next to me, your shoulders touched mine and your arms were cold as always. We did not talk, in fact there was no sound other than the chugging of the train and an occasional whistle.

As soon as the clock struck twelve, you wished me, with a peck on my cheek.Your mouth was cold.I had never expected anything like this from you, I often dreamt about it but never expected it to turn into reality.

I think you sensed it, you smiled and began to talk, you talked about life - philosophy came naturally to you. I remember just listening, I was too numb to even respond. Moreover you hardly spoke about such things, all you talked about was formula one races, sci-fi novels and your favorite DD's comedy show.

Your hand around my shoulders, my body touching yours, your fingers entwined with mine, I sure was dreaming. I wanted to soak in every second, every detail, every word. You said how life was not a bed of roses, how there's so much to be done and that there was no time for stupid things like love. I just listened.

There was, in fact, hardly any talking. I remember asking you if I could put my head in your lap, you obliged, you even stroked my cheeks and my hair with affection. I felt so complete.

Then you left - abruptly; as if running away from something - from giving in - from falling in love - from us.

That night, I learnt two important lessons ; one - if you really want something with all your heart, you will get it, no matter how; two - we were not meant to be together.

And that has made all the difference.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Road not taken

I borrowed the title for this post from one of my favorite poems, I read it in class nine or ten, I would have been fifteen then, I am almost thirty five today, and the poem is as much a favorite as it is relevant to my life.  

It's amazing how you can be hooked to the most mundane things, writing for example. Since the time I started to write, less than a month ago, my mind's always having a conversation with itself about what to write, how to write. It does not  matter anymore if people read it or not, if they like it or not, if they comment or not. For once, I write for myself. I write to talk to some imaginary -- and some real -- people who have the time and inclination to talk to me, listen to me. 

I have also been reading some posts from a blog lately, some of these take me back in time -- fifteen years to be precise. This is when I had just passed out of school and had no idea what I wanted from life. I knew only two things, one: I wanted to be independent; two: I did not want to be a doctor or an engineer like everyone else around me wanted to or at least pretended to. 

Well meaning relatives, family friends and parents of friends kept pestering me with questions that made me utterly uncomfortable. The most common being, "so you have opted for biology, you want to be a doctor?". It was difficult to explain to people that studying biology does not make you a doctor and that my parents and I were perfectly all right with me not having a career choice. 

Then one day, I saw an advertisement in the newspapers, they wanted some inputs and write ups on various hot topics of those times. I think, for the first time, I really wanted to do something. I wrote and posted or may be handed over the write up to the TOI office and it was selected. Gradually, it became a routine. Reading my write ups in the newspaper was such a high! That is when I decided I wanted to write, I wanted to be a journalist. Everyday, while driving to college, I would look at the newly constructed white building of Hindustan Times and promised myself  that this is where I will be, soon.

But as they say, "Destiny grants us our wishes, but in its own way; in order to give us something beyond our wishes" I was in Delhi for a holiday, when my father chanced upon some openings. It spoke about needing people who can talk well. He asked me to talk to them. Now, talking is something I could never do, I never could muster courage to even talk in front of my class mates, how could I attempt to go in for a job that required me to talk? I ignored. Next day, I was ordered to make that call. Since I did not have an option, I called. Surprisingly they selected me and I was called for an interview. I was selected there too. 

That is when reality struck. On one hand was a dream: finding stories, reporting them, writing them. On the other was reality: a swank office, good money, the works. It is then that I chose. I chose what I had,  instead of what I wished for. I had my reasons. I had not been selected in IIMC and I would not go to a second grade school. I have always believed in excelling in what I do, however insignificant the task might be and that is what I lived by all in the nine years that I worked, when I could not, I quit.

In retrospect, I don't think I made a mistake. I might not have done half as good as a journalist as I eventually did. I loved every minute of my work. I toiled day and night. There were times I worked for fifteen hours at a stretch often for days at end. My bosses loved me, my teams admired me, my clients ate out of my hands. My work gave me everything, and now that its gone, I often feel lost, sometimes suffocated and always incomplete. 

If work was like a well thought of marriage, writing was like the first love, often irrational and unrealistic. While you might be absolutely happy in your marriage, there are times you yearn to be in the arms of your lover.

Maybe now I can go back to my love, my dream -- of writing. So what if no one reads it, so what if it is never printed, so what if my name will never be in the papers. I can still write for myself.

Oh! by the way, the poem:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;       
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,       
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.       
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference