Do you know I am going to leave you?

Today. Maybe, tomorrow. One day I am going to leave you and wouldn’t give you a clue. I’m burning all the letters that ever passed between us, one at a time. The letters you sent that summer you were abroad boning that older woman while writing about how much you missed me. The letters you sent from college while you were still figuring out if you’d fallen in love with me. The letters you sent, while you were trying hard to be a kid at heart, from home where you were catching your breath mostly. I tore up all our pictures in half. I flushed down all the little trinkets you called ‘twinkly valentine gifts’ and shed one solid tear to go along. I’m making fast and steady progress, don’t you think? The kids, well, expired. I wonder if you remember how many there were. One sultry Sunday evening we gave birth to four, lying on our bare backs, under the stars. We squeezed in one more a little later that night, and you declared, “let’s have a glorious bundle of five, not four,” because there was still space for one more in the imaginary crib and the imaginary car and we were young enough to accommodate, if only in imagination. It’s not like I had to drown them in the bathtub or anything. I don’t think of them and they don’t exist therefore. One way or another, the physical objects and the imaginary ones are shown the exit door. What would I do with the memories though? They stick on to me like skin. Last Sunday the skin on my fingers got burnt by accident on a hot plate. It pained like hell that day. Over the last one week I couldn’t feel anything on those burnt parts of my hand. But, today when I woke up I saw the skin on those fingers started peeling off painlessly. How do I make the same happen to my memories of you, and your letters, and your trinkets and the babies?
I’m positive I’ll figure out a way soon and the day I do that I would leave you without giving you a clue, just the way you did.

Show me a good time!

That’s what I hear my inner voice screaming out to my inorganic exterior every time I go back into the ladies washroom (because it is seemingly private unlike any other space in the office) to check upon how my ‘rich, inner self’ is doing in the course of a workday. That, very often, and some times it repeatedly warns me with a nervous twitch, “Abhi meeting hain, aur leakage ki tension” where leakage is not as in a Whisper ad, but as in ’emotional leakage’. Yes, I need to be warned because I find it excruciatingly painful to have to conceal signs of revulsion – like nausea, shortness of breath, palpitations, shakiness, pins and needles, flushing – when I’m expected to watch a series of videos like this AND applaud AND be moved to tears like every other co-employee, as part of the ‘Office Day’ celebrations presided over by the CEO, once a month. Menstruation is not the worst part of the month anymore.

The CEO of the place I work at eats clichés for breakfast, packs clichés in a lunch-box and force-feeds everyone in office with clichés dipped in condescension. I hate him, much like I hate every one else I come into the slightest contact with at office and my hatred runs to the molecular level…that if you rub off some cells from the inside of my cheek onto a cotton swab while I’m at office and isolate the DNA and then check that DNA under a high-powered electron microscope, English translation of my DNA sequence would read different combinations of the letters H, A, T, E and not A, T, C, G running along the length of every strand. In a manner of speaking. That is extreme epigenetics at play.

As sour and plagued as I may sound by the idea of working a white-collar job, the fact is that I have only had to work for a mere three months minus seven days so far. I am a new yuppie on the bandwagon. I’d managed to squeeze in more weekend parties and reunions and girls’ night-outs than what I estimated I could under two months, given the work conditions. So, I am supposed to be having a good time right now in this new and exciting place but I am not. My soul is still screaming out to the universe to show it a good time. In the middle of a workday, in the middle of a meeting with the snob-stink CEO, in the middle of a regular weekend outing, in the middle of shopping for a good book, in the middle of running into an old friend, in the middle of a good short nap. Nothing I do on the weekend to placate my enraged inner self seems to make up for the A-class shit I have to put it through for the rest of the week.

While I’m spending my precious weekend time every week (of which I just get half because Saturday is a working day) cribbing and mentally reliving the cock-flavored working days of the week like this, every other person I know (in more or less the same situation as me) is enjoying the weekend hours with no thought or flying fuck spared to give to their respective offices/bosses. Why am I not able to do that? I have no logical answer to that but I pose that question to myself every now and then in order to keep up the good habit of introspection or psychological self-preservation.

Some of the statements that emanate out of the sparsely distributed, fleeting moments of my vague introspection: I lost my sparkle and my sense of humor and I know not where to look for those. I struggle to put my thoughts to paper. I am afraid of censure now more than ever. I am afraid of love and I ooze ghosts of my past lovers. I hate to get back in touch with my friends who are married (whether they married total strangers or long-time lovers.) More so if they married their lovers. I believe it is hypocritical and unnatural to marry someone you already love. It’s all over for me now. I enjoy drinking coffee only as much as I enjoy looking at it in pictures. With chocolate, the situation is much worse.

On a side note, some of the things that were waiting all these years to fall into my list of most-hated things ever AND finally did: touch-sensitive phones, friends who talk too much about themselves and not even bother asking what’s up with you, high-school friends who you had no respect for when in high school. There were reasons why you hated someone when in school and those reasons remain whether or not you remember them.

Blind Belief

AS odd as it seemed to her children, Mrs Sharma strongly stood by the beliefs and traditions that were passed on to her by her parents (who in turn inherited the baggage from their predecessors), despite being experienced enough to not find any logic in such practices. Her children and most likely their offsprings hadn’t believed in any of that antiquated stuff even notwithstanding her continuing authority over them. For instance, Mrs Sharma’s kids have each gone through a couple of divorces at least, much to her dismay. Not to veer off entirely from what their mother desired them to follow when she inculcated to them through her moral stories, “One man, one wife, one marriage”, they had given a simple extension to the rule, thus turning it on its head, in actual implementation, “One man, one wife, one marriage. Repeat.”

Mrs Sharma was then a gentle old woman of seventy years. She missed her late husband. His existence was probably the only thing she appreciated about him while he was, well, extant, not because she hated him but because there was nothing much else she could identify in his being that commanded anything equal to her acknowledgement, leave alone appreciation. Similar were his affections towards her, except that at times, like when he was too drunk(he drank without her knowledge), he didn’t even remember she existed, or the fact that he was married. They both blindly believed that marriages were made in heaven, when actually they were only as bounded by marriage as two blind fish shuffling their chaffed limbs in a vortex of dirty water going down the toilet hole.

Such was her marriage of forty odd years that sort of lasted until his death did them farther apart. But, Mrs Sharma always maintained that she had had a splendid married life, though whenever she commented on her successful marriage she only thought of the well-settled kids, the prospect of having at least one more grandchild in the near future, her assessment of her expertise at child-rearing abilities, and the invaluable sense of freedom her husband’s death had given her when she was sixty. Since that death she lived independently in a house that was gifted by her eldest son who knew how much she wanted one that was her own all through her life.

While the older grandchildren politely declined every weekend her invitation to visit her at her suburban home, the youngest of the lot, twelve year old Lakshmi, would force her parents to send her over to granny’s in case the invite failed to be conveyed to her for some reason. Such was the fascination that Mrs Sharma’s curious ways held in Lakshmi’s innocent and inquisitive little mind.

Mrs Sharma still believed in Gods and ghosts that were introduced to her in the stories told by her grandparents when she was young. Mrs Sharma chanted verses to ward off evil spirits; she cut lemons in half at the threshold of every door of her house and assessed each half to see the imprints of ghostly spirits; she applied turmeric paste to the edges of every saree to bring good luck when she wore it the first time; she would tie amulets around Lakshmi’s arms and add charms to her necklace whenever she sensed an aura of danger around her loving granddaughter; she even had secret recipes for effective potions for every kind of ailment that Lakshmi suffered yet; she believed in arranged marriages; she believed in bad luck attached to black cats, crows, spiders, lizards, scissors, and whatever else; also, she had named every tiny article in the household after a god or a goddess from Indian mythology, so that when she couldn’t find, say, some piece of cutlery she would call out to it and it would make a clinking sound by some curiously natural accident. It all seemed quite magical to little Lakshmi and she absorbed all this mysticism that lived and breathed in Mrs Sharma’s secluded house in the luxuriant outskirts of the big city.

Time passed thus and Lakshmi grew to be a beautiful young girl of twenty-four years. Mrs Sharma was hale and hearty too but was growing blind in her left eye.

One Saturday, Lakshmi visited grandma as usual but there was something conspicuously unusual about her manner, her appearance, and her behaviour. Mrs Sharma inquired into the evidently positive change but couldn’t get any satisfactory answers. So she left the matter at that and appeared to have not been bothered at all by it for the rest of the day. Not being able to bear such complete indifference in Mrs Sharma’s attitude, the following day Lakshmi came out with the truth that she was in love with a certain young man. Mrs Sharma was taken aback by such a drastic aberration, something she imagined would never happen to Lakshmi after all happened, love, such a poisonous idea!

Mrs Sharma felt deceived by Nature. She cursed every known God. She upset Lakshmi by waving her hands in all directions hysterically and chanting some new prayers. Lakshmi was equally surprised by Mrs Sharma’s reaction and said helplessly, “At least, won’t you ask me who this Daniel is?” She received no answer. She continued, “Daniel is the writer whose stories I read to you last month, remember? You said you liked them very much. He is a lovely person, Grandma, won’t you please listen to me.” Mrs Sharma refused to listen by shaking her head sideways and all the time praying under her breath. The last thing Mrs Sharma said to her in the midst of this frenetic upheaval, “You are young and foolish. So is the young fellow who lured you into this abominal scheme of things. Either that or this man must be struck by your money and beauty. You utterly disappointed me.”

Lakshmi left instantly after promising to return with the young man the following weekend to seek Mrs Sharma’s approval for marriage. Lakshmi hoped that her granny might like the lad after all if she met him in person.

The next weekend Mrs Sharma stood at her bedroom window overlooking the frontyard, waiting for Lakshmi to arrive alone. Very soon Lakshmi’s car appeared and from it emerged a strikingly handsome young man followed by Lakshmi. Mrs Sharma could see through her blurring vision that they both glowed with joy as they walked towards her door, hand-in-hand, and she muttered to herself, “I spoilt her. It’s all my fault. I was blinded by my love for her; I could’ve taught her better.” She didn’t budge from her bedroom. Unable to get the door to open, they returned to their car holding hands lovingly and left.

Lakshmi called her granny many times on phone, wrote scores of letters, visited her unforgiving front door several times, sent people over to talk to her, but nothing helped. The wedding took place eventually in a month’s time with the approval and good wishes and gracious presence of every member of the family except Lakshmi’s most beloved grandma. The young couple
relocated to the United States soon after.

After some weeks the old lady thought back in time to see if there were any omens that she carelessly ignored. She could remember the crow cawing interminably at her window the day that wicked boy came here with Lakshmi. She remembered the scissors lying on the table with its blades open when Lakshmi first told her about her love. She also remembered that it was a Friday when Lakshmi read out a story from his book – the story was about a man who cheats on a woman. So many bad omens that she was too careless to notice. They all invariably pointed towards the young man’s ill-will, she thought. A bad marriage. They gave into physical attraction and nothing better. But she regretted not having opened her door to Lakshmi that day.

In a couple of months, news arrived back home that the couple died in a tragic plane accident. The whole family was distraught. News was conveyed to Mrs Sharma too. Mrs Sharma lost perspective. She just couldn’t believe that Lakshmi was never going to come knocking on her door again. She had been waiting for her to come back after all. When the shock of this news subsided a little, Mrs Sharma made a transition into a different state of mind where she held herself responsible for Lakshmi’s death. She thought that it was her curses, her bad wishes that brought about this accident.

Some weeks later, she wished she could hug her grandkid for one last time, though she still disapproved of her marrying Daniel. She knew it was he who brought bad luck upon her baby despite all her efforts to protect her in every way possible over the years.

When Mrs Sharma recovered enough to recount all the happy moments she shared with Lakshmi, she got reminded of the letters Lakshmi had written her pleading for her approval. The first letter that she opened was written the day Lakshmi left her house promising to come back with Daniel. It went like this: “Dear Grandma, I know you’re angry with me because you always told me
how inauspicious and foolish love marriages are. I respect your beliefs and know you speak from experience. But I want you to know that I’m confident it is nothing like what you think. And, it hurt me when you said that he loved me for money and beauty. Daniel is a great guy who loves me very much.  I have been his lawyer all these years. I love him a lot too. I want you to meet him next week.  Now that you’re going to meet him next week when I bring him over, I want you to know beforehand, so that Daniel is spared from hearing any hurtful words, and also since Daniel will never come upto saying it himself, that Daniel is a very rich man himself, apart from being the son of one of the richest persons of the world, and also, Daniel is born blind…..”

The letter dropped to the floor from a loosened grip, along with the old woman’s traditional beliefs. She forgot all the bad omens that she diligently listed out earlier, as if she did not believe in any of them or known them before. All she could recollect now with tears blinding her eyes completely, was a blurring vision of how the beautiful couple walked upto her door one morning, glowing like angels, holding hands lovingly. She wished for nothing more anymore.

——————————————————————————————–

(P.S. Dedicated to those people who are no more, including my grandfather and grandmother whose death anniversary falls on March 14 and March 15, respectively. I’m sorry if I’ve ever hurt them when they were there.)

Unspoken

Simi rushed upstairs, in a fit of anger and agitation, and fainted all of a sudden as she reached the upper landing in front  of her bedroom door.

After twenty minutes…

“How do you feel now?” asked Kevin, placing a pillow under her head.

“I’m feeling fine. Thank you,” said Simi, with a weak smile. She felt extremely delighted by his earnest gestures and concern but was careful not to show it on her face.

“Okay, sleep and I’ll come back tomorrow. Same time,” said Kevin and left the house. Within no time Simi dozed off to sleep under the effect of her sleeping pills.

Simi woke up after a few hours expecting to see Kevin reading a book in the living room, or fixing something in the garden. But he wasn’t there. She then remembered that he had left in the morning and had promised to be there the next day. She bit her lip in disappointment. She looked around at the room, the empty couch, the piano, the recliner that he bought her, and the soft beige carpet under her feet. The emptiness was overpowering. For her, like many, loneliness was something she could never get used to no matter how many years she lived with it. But, unlike many, she could not even get used to simple human interactions such as social visits from friends or family;  solitude was  precious. She watered the houseplants and cooked some  pasta for dinner.

After eating, she picked the phone to call Kevin but declined on second thoughts. She wondered where he was. She went upstairs to her bedroom, sat by her writing table and tried to add a chapter to her new novel. It was snowing outside her window and there were cars passing on the street below. She noticed snow flakes randomly choosing to settle on her window sill, one by one, accumulating, as if to bury her alive in an icy grave, unnoticed by the world outside. She pondered some  more and it made her dizzy. She could hardly add a sentence to her book; she was too tired that day to meet the demands – of  high wit, active dialogue, new emotions – of the characters she herself created so fondly for her novel. She switched the lights off  and slipped under the warm quilt.

The next day Kevin appeared at her front door as he promised, looking dashing as ever. She could smell the cologne that she was getting addicted to. He got her flowers too. Yellow and white roses, her favorite. Simi felt suddenly conscious of her disheveled hair, her puffy eyes and her shabby appearance. She excused herself to freshen up and get dressed. She put on a  nice new cardigan and jeans; they had breakfast together.

He asked, “How is the novel coming along?”.

“Fine,” she said, looking at the collar of his white cotton shirt.

“You deserve a better, bigger publisher this time.” She didn’t respond to his suggestion. Her face started showing signs of worry.

“I found one to save you the trouble. He agrees to all your terms too. Talk to him when he calls,” said Kevin with a warm smile, as always solving all her problems as his own.

Her face brightened at once. She looked towards him and before she could thank him he nodded his head sideways and said, “I’m your friend, darling. Eat your breakfast in peace now.” After breakfast he cleared the table and she went upstairs to get her writing pad and ink.

He sat at the piano by the time she came down. He started playing music on the instrument; a song she hadn’t heard before.

His music filled her with new emotions, new sentiments, new character. She fulfilled the demands of all her characters, effortlessly. Her pen danced on the paper to the tune of his passionate song. She penned down a good number of pages before he reached the end of his musical exercise.

“Read it out for us, please…” she requested, blushing her cheeks as he took the sheets of paper from her. He abided. Her freshly concocted love scene, being read in his melodious voice, was like a lullaby to her…she drifted into a dreamless sleep. By the time she had woken up, he was making lunch and on the table beside her was a chocolate box. She had opened it quickly as she felt quite hungry. There were no chocolates, only a diamond ring.

She slowly walked into the kitchen, with  the ring in one hand, and stood before him with tears in her eyes. He got down on his knees, held her right hand and asked her the question, for the third time, guessing her answer. This time, unlike the last two times, she hadn’t fainted at his proposal. She pulled her hand back as she was too shy of his touch, she just dropped the ring in his pocket, and said, “Don’t.” He understood her, he understood everything then; he just needed to hear her speak – anything – when she was calm, unagitated. He said, “I know what you want. Preserve the ring.  It belongs to you, only you…” , showing that he understood her. Her heart leapt in joy but she only smiled at him and took the ring from him.

After lunch Kevin left. Both of them were at ease again, after the awkwardness that prevailed in varying degrees over the last two months – ever since he first popped the question.

She eventually finished her book, and many other books in the subsequent years, and dedicated all of them to Kevin. Kevin had her at all his concerts as the chief guest. They often talked of love, but only in the context of characters in books and films. They attended weddings, parties, award ceremonies together. The ring was safe in her possession all those years. They spent even more time together in their old age. She wrote him short stories, love stories, bedtime stories…while he sang to her in his beautiful voice everyday.

She wished to be buried with the ring when her time came.  He was laid to rest next to her. They were devoted to each other. He loved her and she loved him, in popular language. Their love was unspoken, not unrequited.

(Photo courtesy: http://fourlettersword.blogspot.com/2010/04/why.html)

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Susanna’s Seven Husbands

Susanna, sixteen and sweet as honey
loved a boy in her Spanish class.
Cute he was, hadn’t much money,
but soon exchanged rings of brass.
Features fine, manners he lacked many;
soon into his grave she let him pass!

A pleasant gentleman made her stop
at his backyard daily where his roses grew.
He too watched, shyly, at her coffee shop
pretty Susanna who was nearly twenty-two.
Married when, in a letter, the question popp’d
but his laconic love made poison bid him adieu!

Touring the world, she met a rich man;
talkative, humorous, a handsome Dutch.
A man of many hobbies – he wrote,swam,ran…
He loved to talk – of his hobbies and such;
She wedded him when they visited Japan;
also, aptly silenced him as he talked too much!

Thirty, lovelier, more mature,
took to poetry in her idle evening hours;
would read and relish lines so pure
by tranquil poets of love, nature, stars…
So married she, out of innocent allure;
a poet, infidel – soon pushed up daisy flowers!

Forty and pretty, love she did crave;
found a doctor, her suitor, lovable for sure.
After marriage, more and more love he gave,
said often, “For my sadness, it’s the cure…”
till the day she plonked him into his grave.
She thought his love too selfish to endure!

For a very brief period, she married a professor
-a scientist, genius, unselfish, naive-
for he said, “Marry me now,” in a puerile manner
and waited very long, from husband one to five.
At the end of a month, she, with an electric driller,
bored him to death – as he did, in a way, when alive!

The last of her husbands, but not the least-
he loved her in a way she hadn’t known before…
Sixty, as old as she, handsome, was a holy priest;
Prince Charming was he, the stuff of folklore.
Not a day into wedlock he was among the deceased…
because true love they finally got; and so, she too was no more!

P.S. The inspiration to write on this particular subject came from the title of one of Ruskin Bond’s short stories, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’, on which the yet to be released Bollywood flick, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ is supposedly based. Though I don’t know a single detail further about the short story as such, I picked up hints from the promos of the film (of it being a dark comedy, of  there being murders of husbands etc. ) to conjure up this amateurish play of words to convey my own imagination of a dark story about Susanna’s seven husbands.

P.P.S. Happy Valentine’s Day. This is the primary inspiration to write about love. It had to be dark because it’s my blog and today I celebrate the first anniversary of my blog.

On a single piece of creative writing..

The following is my entry into the ‘Seven Samurai’ contest conducted by the English Literary Society, IIT-K, in the summer vacation, year 2009. [‘Seven Samurai’ challenge: To write a 100 word story. 7 words are already given. The story should be written in 93, or less than 93 words of choice AND the 7 given words as they are, without changing form (eg. noun remains noun) and without removing context (eg. “Stegophilist is a word I do not like.” is not allowed). The 7 words and their meanings are: stegophilist = n. One who likes to climb buildings; cruciverbalist = n. One who loves crosswords; dactylion = n. The tip of the middle finger; alopecia = n. Hair loss; defenestration = n. An act of throwing someone or something out of a window; exophagy = n. The practice, amongst cannibals, of not eating one’s relatives or members of one’s tribe; gossypiboma = n. A surgical sponge accidently left inside a patient’s body]

I’m Jack, stegophilist by passion;
bound in marriage by parental exertion
to a cruciverbalist, Jill, without option.

We were fine, no doubt about it,
until each discovered the other’s deficit.
A missing dactylion wouldn’t have mattered a bit,
but what’s missing’s her right tit.

Likewise she intensely loathes my alopecia.
I tried everything- aloe to acacia;
travelled to the deserts of Central Asia…
…found no cure; couldn’t stop causing her constant nausea

Affection long discarded mutually by mental defenestration,
we’re like cannibals following exophagy by tradition.
Disgust’s perpetuating like cancerous cardiac gossypiboma
Friends, marriage between strangers can be ultimate trauma!

 This story is exactly 100 words long. The contest was open for about 45 days. I guess the entries never reached the judges, or received prizes or any form of acknowledgement. Nonetheless, it is the only thing I attempted to write that summer and managed to.