Friday, August 18, 2006

The Bond Never Breaks

I couldn’t wait to come home today. Every 5 minutes my eyes wandered over to the system clock on my computer screen to check the time. Really, there is nothing as enigmatic in this world as Time! When you expect it to stand still, like when you are spending time with your girlfriend, it runs as fast as Jessie Owens! And when you want it to run as fast as Jessie Owens, like today, it chooses to take the pace of the slowest snail in the world!

I finished all my work in no time and came to the bus stop half an hour before the departure time of the first bus. Ignoring the half curious and half amused looks from the security and the bus drivers, I got into the bus that would take me to my destination. The driver took pity on me and switched on the radio, to while my time away till the bus started.

After many minutes of glancing at the watch, peeking outside the window and wondering why couldn’t people board the buses on time (here I chose to ignore the fact that most of the days I board my bus only at the last second!!!), the driver finally got into his seat and revved the engine.
The next hour and a half, I barely managed to keep myself from getting up from my seat and going to the driver and pleading him to drive more fast (notwithstanding the fact that he was already driving so fast as to give Narain a run for his title!)

Finally, my stop came, and I jumped off the steps even before the bus stopped, much to the shock and consternation of the driver and cleaner. My heartbeat started quickening as I walked towards my home, and with each step, I only increased my speed, until I almost broke into a run. When I reached my door and knocked, it was he who opened the door!

“Hey Sis, back home so soon!” My brother’s voice was almost choked in the bear hug I gave him!

He is studying at a college in a far off town, and comes down to Chennai only during holidays. Never did I think during all the fights we had in our childhood, that I would miss him so much! And yet, it is a fact now! I had been telling everyone I saw in office that my brother is coming home today! Even I did not know that I would have such unfathomable happiness in seeing him!

“Hey Sis, what the hell! Why did you remove Sachin’s poster from my room wall!”

Here it goes again! The fevicol behind our bond – fights!

“Buzz off! Your room?!?!?! FYI, that’s our room deary!” I yell as I start towards OUR room, fuelled with expectations for a good fight, all tiredness from work vanished and replaced with tons of enthusiasm, and waves of happiness sweeping through my heart!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006



The moments I spend with eyes closed,
Are the moments spent with you.
Yes, that’s is where we live in happiness,
Oh, Prince of my Dreams…

We skip through those green meadows,
Chasing butterflies, giggling in joy.
You my best friend, my great chum,
Hand in hand, in bliss we fly.
In my Dreams…

I become your kid and snuggle beside you,
Sleeping in your arms, with a smile on my lips.
You ruffle my hair, and kiss my forehead,
And drown me in the joy of your love.
In my Dreams….

You are the teddy in my room,
Whom I hug ‘n kiss all while.
You are that cute companion,
With whom I share tears ‘n smile.
In my Dreams…

But once I open my eyes I find,
You are nowhere in sight…
My open eyes keep searching for you,
Through the bright day and dark night.

My Dreams may never come true, my Wishes never fulfilled
But still I Dream, and I’ll continue to Dream.
Coz, no matter what happens in the world outside,
My Prince, My Dreams are all my own.

Once upon a night in Bangalore…

It is one of the unforgettable nights in my life. What happened that night has no logic. I still make futile attempts to give a reason for the incident that took place. Maybe Pooja was hallucinating… or maybe she was too drunk… or maybe…
I may never know…

I was in Bangalore for my training in Infosys. Being in the long cycle, and that too first time living at a place other than my home, obviously I was enjoying myself to the core. I had a great band of friends from my batch, Pooja and Seema staying with me in the PG*. Though our PG was centrally located, to reach a bus stop on the main road, we had to walk for around ten minutes. The connecting road to the main road is flanked with big bungalows on the left, from which I never saw a single soul coming out during the whole of my 4-months stay. On the right, there is a considerable stretch of grove, of which kind of tree, I do not know.

That road could not be called very crowded, but had a one or two persons walking here and there every now and then. We used to travel that way when we had to reach that main road, to go to a restaurant there. That night too, we were returning from a sumptuous dinner in that restaurant…

One of our walks along that road, we once saw a mirror hanging from a tamarind tree on the right pavement. Pooja being a believer in things such as ghosts and unsatisfied souls, shivered as she wondered what might be the reason for that mirror to get atop a tamarind tree. At that time, we all laughed at her, even teased her saying that it was put there to ward off a ghost, and that the ghost was going to come and catch her! And to our utter amazement, she actually believed it and was scared out of her wits!!!
Maybe, Pooja’s fears were justified…

That night I had treated my friends to a wonderful dinner. After enjoying thoroughly, the guys left for their homes in their bikes. Seema was staying at her aunt’s place that night, leaving only Pooja and me to get back to the PG. We both started walking back through the road that is the centre point of this story. We were in high spirits and giggling thinking about the jokes cracked that evening. I was teasing Pooja about the mirror tree, as we had come to call it. But deep inside, we were also anxious to get back to the safe confines of our PG, so our walk was fairly fast.

We neared the tamarind tree with the mirror. I turned to Pooja to crack a joke and found her gazing intently towards the tree. When I shook her she turned towards me and said, “That oldie must be mad! Who is going to buy anything from her basket at this hour?” I turned around a full circle to see if there was anyone else in sight. There was no one! Who was she talking about? “Hey Poo! There’s no one here! Whom are you talking about?” “What Mini? Can’t you see that old lady sitting under the tamarind tree? Oh no, she is beckoning us! What do we do? It’s getting late right? Shall we go our way?” I had no inkling of what was going on. All I could see under the tree was an old battered basket filled with dry leaves and dirt. But something was wrong here, that much I could understand. So I caught hold of Pooja by hand and quickened our pace. But instead of walking, she sat on the pavement looking tired. “Mini, I think I need some rest. I am feeling old and tired.” Saying this, she closed her eyes. Now I was thoroughly perplexed.

I was just wondering whether to go in search of an auto or call up a friend to come over and help, when Pooja opened her eyes again. “Poo, how are you feeling dear?” the question made her look at me in a very strange manner. She gave me wide grin and spoke in a piping voice in Kannada, “Girl, I sell poo*, but my name is Lakshmamma!” What the heck! My head was reeling in confusion. I knew for sure that Pooja did not know that language. Or had she learnt it without our knowledge? Even if that was the case, her voice was not hers! Sorry to confuse you people, but I mean Pooja has a very sweet voice usually. But the voice coming out of her now sounded like a squeaking old rusty iron gate!

“Poo! Don’t play yaar! Let’s go, we have office tomorrow! Stop this Lakshmi something drama yaar!”

This seemed to irritate Pooja. She got up and started walking towards the tree, but that was not the usual Pooja’s walk. She hunched and wobbled and walked very slowly, muttering, “Girls of today! They have no sense at all! When I was small I was never used to call anyone like this. We only called people mama and mami! And today, no respect remains! Its true, today’s world is going to dogs!”

“Lakshmamma, where do you come from?” I don’t know why I asked this or any logic behind it, but just decided to follow my intuition.

“I am from Bangarahalli,” replied Pooja, sitting down on a root of the tree. “I come here everyday to sell the flowers we grow at my village. Your king here is very kind. He has given us permission to do business in his city!”

Bangarahalli??? Though I am not from Bangalore, I have a fair knowledge of the places around here. But never have I heard about this place! And what king? Was she talking about the Chief Minister? I decided she must be talking about some landlord kind of person. Again on intuition, I asked her age.

“I don’t know. My husband used to say I am beautiful even at 60.” She blushed at the thought. “But that was four years ago. Four years back he died due to some strange disease. I don’t know what sin we did that the Goddess decided to take him away.” She took the edge of her sari and wiped her tears.

“Four years from now?” I was employing every bit of my mathematical prowess to calculate her age. “Yes! What else do you think I am saying then! You are very inquisitive girl. Buy your flower if you want to and go your way. I have a business to look after. If my husband had been there I would not have to sit here. Oh Prabho*! Why did u take him and leave me alone behind!”

Enough of this nonsense, I decided it was time to act. “See Lakshmamma, you are not alive now. You are dead!”

For a moment she looked really taken aback. Then with a smirk, she replied, “I knew something was wrong! You are mad girl! How can I be dead if you are talking to me? Go, Go away!”

A perfectly logical question from a perfectly illogical phenomenon! I caught hold of Pooja’s hand. It felt strangely cold. “See Amma. You have lived I think a century ago. These are not your times. You are not alive anymore”

She seemed to become very thoughtful at this. “That day I had finished my sales and was counting my earnings under the tree. That was when those men came up and beat me and took away my money. I did not give up without a fight! I confronted them like Jhansi Rani you know! Pricked them with my needle! My husband would have been proud had he been here!”
Her face lit up with pride as she fondly reminisced about her brave act.

“But they were too many for me! They hit me so much that I couldn’t get up for a long time. Then I got up and went home with my basket… but from that day, no one recognized me, until you today.”

“That is it! Those men murdered you Amma! You are dead! Now you must go to your husband!” I was sure I had become insane, but still, decided to follow my insanity.

“Husband? How will I find him? He is dead.”

“Just call out his name and think of him”, I don’t know till today what made me say that. I didn’t even want to think what would happen if it didn’t work!

Pooja closed her eyes and called out, “Kumarappa……” After a pause of few seconds, she cried aloud, “There he is! My husband has indeed come! Oh Kumarappa! How I missed you!” she ran forward with her arms stretched, made a dive, and fell back on the pavement, unconscious.

I looked around and ran towards the nearest gate and knocked it. I could here someone say inside, “Its come again. Go to sleep. It will knock for sometime and go away” I shouted aloud my name and that I wanted help. This made the gate open and the watchman inside gave me a scrutinizing look. I told him my friend was not feeling well, and he gave me some water. I ran back to Pooja and sprinkled water on her face.

She got up and looked around, and asked “Mini, what are we doing here! It’s so late! We have office tomorrow!”

A giant wave of relief swept over me. I told her that she had fallen down and become unconscious and made her stand up slowly. She told she was alright and would be able to walk, so I decided to go back and thank that watchman. After thanking, I asked him what was all that about the knocking.

“It lives on that tamarind tree madam. Potentially harmless, only disturbs us by knocking every now and then, or troubles any girl if they pass this way very late in the night. My grandfather said he saw it once when he worked here as watchman.”

On impulse, I told him it’s unlikely they’ll be troubled ever again, and started towards home with Pooja.

After training we were all posted here in Chennai. Last week, after nearly a year, I went to Bangalore for a function. I had to pass through that road again. The watchman was sitting out near the gate, and instantly recognized me. I was told that they had never again heard knocks after that night.

* poo – means flower in regional languages such as tamil, kannada etc.
* PG – Paying Guest house.
* Prabho – Lord

The Decision

The Decision

"Deepak, what are you doing standing near the window for half an hour now?" Asha's voice broke my reverie as I looked away from the heavy downpour outside. An imprint had formed where I had pressed my palm against the glass window. This imprint would dry off in no time, but not the one that had been made in my heart. No, that imprint was there to stay, to haunt me forever.

Today was my last day with the company. My decision had shocked many and earned loads of disapproval. Many senior members of the management had tried to talk me out of it. They did not want to lose an employee who had been instrumental for the company's growth from a small budding venture into an international entity. But nothing that anyone would say could shake me off my decision. I had to do it. Do it for Sweety. I knew Sweety would have jumped in joy if she knew of my decision. As this thought struck me, my eyes started brimming with tears.

"Appa, will you come early and play with me in rain at least today?" The innocence in that voice did something to my heart. I knew there was no other go but to tell a downright lie. "Sure my darling!!! Appa will come early and then we'll play to our hearts' content!" The 1000 watts smile on my daughter Sweety's face was worth the lie. But then, I had not known at that time that this would be the last lie I would be telling her.

After waiting in vain for her loving father to come and play with her, my darling motherless daughter had decided to step into the rain by herself. Prancing around, splashing in the puddles, she had unknowingly moved to the adjacent street. Neither had she noticed the increase in the level of water in that street, nor seen the small whirl in water a few feet away from where she was. The whirl of water being sucked inside an open manhole.

I had been in a meeting when an urgent phone call came. Call from my neighbor telling that my daughter had fallen into an open manhole. I had frozen. Even tears refused to come out of my eyes. My heart was tearing itself to pieces. My mind was shouting aloud, "If only you had been with her.... at least today."

In the days that followed, I mechanically completed all the rites. But the voice in my mind had only grown stronger. Sweety had loved me so much. She had always wanted me to spend time with her. But I had been to busy with my work. I had left her with the old servant maid when I should have been there for her. And the irony was, I had felt good about it. Felt good that I am earning for my child. I had thought I am doing this for her good. Only, I had been too wrong. And Sweety had chosen to make me realize it in a fatal manner.

"What are your further plans Deepak?" Asha had been asking me for I don’t know how many number of times now. I decided today was the day to tell her. And I did. "I have joined an orphanage Asha. I am going to be with those children full time. As their father, their teacher, guide, playmate or whatever they want me to be. And this way I will forever stay near my Sweety."

Monday, August 07, 2006

So What!

So what if eyes shy away from its dazzling brightness,
Does the Sun stop shining down on us?
So what if Fire simply burns them alive,
Do the Fireflies stop going near its fiery tongues?
So what if you don’t want anything to do with me,
Does my heart shove you away from its expanse?

My head will always want to lie on your shoulders,
So what if you can find no room for my head there?
My hands will always want to hold you tight,
So what if you find the grip, a bit too tight?
My life will always be entwined with yours,
So what if you can’t be around for me forever?

So what if you don’t want my romance,
So what if you don’t want my warmth,
So what if you don’t want my feelings,
I’ll never let you know these even exist.
Only, don’t tell me to erase you out of my life,
‘Coz then, I’ll cease to exist.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Until Death Takes Us Apart

I put my cell phone down with exasperation. It had been mom, and for the umpteenth time I had to reassure her that I would return home early. Mom had been reluctant to even send me to office today, but then she did, just to humor me, lest I change my decision again. A decision, which had required months of persuasions by both mom and dad, heated arguments and tears shed at nights, before it was finally taken. Decision, to get married.

I looked at the monitor. I had just compiled a code and now was running a job for testing it. What was I feeling now? What was I supposed to feel now? Happy? Ecstatic? No, I didn’t feel a thing. My mind was now expressionless to the point of numbness. I looked at my watch. 11.00 AM. It struck me that I better complete this code today before going. Then my team would be good to deliver this next week. With this thought, I put all other thoughts into the back burner and got to work.

I don’t remember how much time passed before Krishma walked up to my cubicle and exclaimed, “Hey! What are you doing here? Didn’t you take leave today?” I looked up from my screen and smiled, “I am leaving by 4 o’clock bus.” “What! For Christ sake Mini! Your prospective husband is coming to see you today! It’s your ‘Girl seeing ceremony’!”

I laughed at her literal Tamil to English translation. “So what! Those people are coming only at 7 in the evening. I would reach home by 5 and would still have plenty of time left to get ready.”

“Uh! How utterly unromantic! If only this had been for me, I would have spent my half day dreaming about that guy and the other half in beauty parlor, getting ready!” Kris was always like this. Die hard romantic.

It was 3.30 PM now. Finally I had caught the culprit variable that had been causing the S0C7 abend for the larger part of the last 2 hours. I finally decided it was time to wind up and started for the food court to grab a sandwich, to compensate for the forgotten lunch.

Half an hour later I settled comfortably near the window behind the driver. He had started to rev the engine. I remembered Kris’s accusation in the morning. Me, an unromantic. A wry smile spread on my lips, as my thoughts flew backwards, 2 years behind.

One of my friends had introduced me to him. At that time I didn’t know that this face was going to be carved in my very existence, forever. From acquaintances, to friends, to something more than that, we grew close quite fast. I used to be overawed by his personality. Those eyes, their piercing quality! I didn’t want anything else in my life except to keep seeing them forever.

Advait. Even his name is fascinating. He used to be a quiet personality, but a man of substance. Everything he did, he did with style. And the more time I spent with him, the more I got attracted to him.

How he sensed my thoughts, I do not know till today. May be it was too conspicuous. He asked me one day about it, and I could not deny. I had never been able to lie to him. It still remains so. I told him all that I felt for him. It sure took a lot of courage from my side to do that. I had never been so bold until that point in my life. He didn’t say anything for a while, and then slowly confessed that he felt the same for me too. Did this love spring up from my confession, just as reciprocation? I asked him. He told that was partly true. But for the most part, it was his attraction towards me too.

I was as happy as I had ever been in my life. And the days and months that followed were heavenly, to say the least. There was nothing unsaid, unshared between us. I was glad, almost proud to be the one to whom this secretive personality opened up. I am now too.

Days passed, it soon it was time to think of the next step. What were we going to do with our relationship? Surely we could not go on like this forever. All this while, it had been just the two of us. Now it was time to think of the wider picture. Parents. Would they agree to this relationship? We both knew we would have a hard time convincing them. Even if they did get convinced in the end, they would still be hurt at our decision. We asked ourselves, do we want to hurt them? What were our priorities?

Though our outlook on life was very different from each other, one thing we both agreed upon was that come what may, we would never be the cause of even a minutest agony to our parents. And that principle obviously was the biggest obstacle for the continuance of our relationship. We both knew that, but we also knew we could not do anything about it. Coming to think of it now, maybe we could have given ourselves at least a chance. But no, back then we knew that there was no way we could be together without making our parents shed even a single tear.

And so, one day, we decided to end it all. We might remain friends, but we had to drift apart from each other. Forcefully, if need be. We both promised to each other to get married, have children, and write to each other occasionally, meet up with our families sometimes.

I remembered the day when my dreams had died. And suddenly I realized, with a stab in my heart, that it was the same day, last year.

My dreams had died, but it took a long time for me to bury them. When my parents started looking out for a suitable match for me, I tried putting them off. Many offers were rejected on various accounts. It was not that I still believed I could reunite with Advait. But I felt I was not ready for marriage yet. I needed time.

One full year had passed this way, and here I was today, finally relenting to the inevitable.

As I stepping into the house I could sense the excitement. Seeing my mom’s face, lit with expectation, tense and happy at the same time, I knew that our decision was cent percent correct. I forced Advait out of my mind and quickly went off to my room to shower and get ready.

The guests arrived promptly at 7. Pleasantries were exchanged, introductions were made and everyone was seated. I was inside my room, touching up my make up. I looked at my mirror and said, “Goodbye, Advait.” And forced a smile into my lips, and a tear, into my eyes. Something seemed strange, but I could not figure what.

After about fifteen minutes, my mom walked into the room and said, “Come out dear. Take this coffee tray and serve them.”

I had been instructed to walk with my eyes down. I walked so till I neared them and then looked up at the sari clad woman, expecting to see my prospective mother-in-law.

It was Lakshmi Aunty! Advait’s mother! I did not understand. Puzzled, I looked around. Mani Uncle, Advait’s dad was smiling at me. My eyes looked around quickly as my heart beats quickened a trillion times. But they didn’t find what they were looking for. Were Advait’s parents, friends or relatives of the boy? Had they come on behalf of his parents? Or…? Now I understood why I had felt that strange feeling. It was the familiar voice of Aunty. I was about to turn to my mom for an explanation, when my brain beeped the ‘object found’ signal! My heart really skipped a beat! It was Advait, walking into the room, completing a call on his cell phone!

He looked up and smiled, and I nearly swooned. He came near me and took my hands into his. “I could not just go away from you Mini. I tried; I tried my best, but failed. For the first time in my life I failed girl. Then I decided to do what you always wanted us to, to give ourselves a chance. Just this time, I was determined, not just to try, but to succeed. I talked to my mom and dad. Convinced them. Then we talked to your mom and dad. Well, it was not easy, but then, it was not too difficult too! I was honest with them. I told them everything about us, including our decision to separate. I persisted and here we are today!”

Now how can I describe how I felt then! I was still unsure if this was real, and turned towards my mom. She came near me and put her arms around my shoulders. “Mini, it’s alright! We are your parents, child, not strangers. We would always want the best for you. Maybe that is why we are a bit overcautious. We need to be so sometimes. But we know Advait is just perfect for you! We are happy for you. Not hurt in the least. We could not have found a better match for you,” she said with a smile.

“Now dear lady, if I could have a minute of your time, can I ask you, if you would like to spend your lifetime, with me?” Advait asked my hand in his, looking straight inside my eyes, into my soul. Tears of joy poured out copiously, and amidst them, I told him, “Idiot! Don’t copy dialogs from Rang De Basanti!”