Thursday, October 23, 2008

It would always be - fidelity

She lay on her side in bed, a soft light filling the room. It was a little past midnight and he was still in the kitchen doing the dishes. Her hand absent-mindedly made slow but deliberate circles on the bedsheet - smoothening it, writing his name on it and smoothening it out again. She then closed her eyes and began reliving that day for what seemed like the millionth time.

They had gone on a vacation, just the two of them. A serene, isolated hill station; the area was so silent they could hear their own breathing. It was the third day and they had gone trekking over a small hillock, the snow slowing them doing a little. They had a really nice time - throwing snow balls at one another, holding hands, hugging when a chilly wind blew by and at one point, lying down on the ground and making snow angels - even though they were alone for nearly all the time.

When they were coming down the slope returning to the cottage, she slipped and tumbled down a few yards till she abruptly came to a halt. It was a boulder hidden in the snow. He raced down after her, fell on his knees and brought her to a sitting position. As they sat there in the snow waiting for her to regain her strength, she began to cry in pain. The cold did but little to ease the throbbing in her left shoulder.

He had, somehow, pulled her up to make her stand and supporting her weight on his sturdy frame, dragged all the way back to their room. The next day, the doctor did not have a very positive prognosis to give. When they were alone, he held her hand as she lay on the hospital bed and reminded her he was going to be with her for life - no matter what. A promise is a promise, he had said.

That was nearly three years ago.

Just then, she was disturbed from her dreamy state as he got into bed beside her. He cuddled as close to her as he could and held her lovingly around her stomach. That was all she needed to be assured he would hold true to his promise. Their hands met, fingers weaving in and out of the other's; things couldn't get any better. Sensing her thoughts, he whispered into her ear, "How you feeling?" "I'm all right", she said with a slight giggle that came so spontaneously, it made him laugh too. He knew she wasn't lying.

"Where do you find the strength to love me after all these years?" she asked, with the innocence of a child. He didn't know for sure himself; there had occurred no future to him other than one with her, and it was still that way. So what if things had changed - they were too small when put in contrast with the experiences they had had together. He would not trade this life for any other. He replied, "It's because you have been strong yourself, not allowing things to affect you; you've been yourself and that helps me remain me."

And saying that, he turned her around and kissed her. A complete kiss that conveyed more than a thousand words. They remained that way for a long time; eyes closed, holding on to each other. A quiet tear formed in her eye and rolled down her nose till it dropped and fell on his. He moved back slowly and looked at her face. It still looked as beautiful as the first time they kissed on the lips. She was overwhelmed with all the emotions that kept filling her heart. And wiping away the tear, she gave him a half smile - the paralysis holding back the left side.

Friday, August 15, 2008

That's what it is - fear

She went through the emotions with quick succession. At first, both of them stared at the black and white screen nervously, not knowing what to expect or what not to. The jelly on her belly felt cold; but colder still was her husband's hand unconsciously gripping hers till the veins popped out on the back of her palm. And then, as a small mass at one end of the screen was pointed out to them, they wept silently at the thought of a new life growing inside of her. It was joy no doubt, quite different from any other joy they had ever experienced before. Then came the guilt - the guilt of all this being unintentional, unprepared for. It would be too much to manage with all that was going on anyway. Finally, fear. Plain, black fear.

They hadn't planned this child and surely didn't want to have one. And when she had missed her monthly cycle for two consecutive months, it had brought the scariest scenarios right before their eyes. It wasn't about the finance or what the child would grow up into. They just weren't ready to be parents and had done all that was necessary.

She had recently landed a decent job which didn't look too kindly on employees taking leave, let alone a three month absence. He was still trying to juggle life, work and family while balancing on his own feet.

And then this. It felt as if someone had secretly left tennis balls lying around while he was at it.

There was little they could do but get on with life and be as normal as possible. Or that's what they thought they were doing. The dilemma hung over their heads like a dead rat; they could do nothing to take their attention off it. It was a different thing altogether that they were afraid to stop thinking about it. Neither of them was comfortable with the idea of taking away a life even before it was actually born or bringing it into the world and knowing deep down inside that it was all a big mistake. It was a lose-lose situation.

And so the date drew near until it was only a fortnight away. Things had gone from bad to worse with absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. It was in such desparation that she begged him to get rid of the child. Temporary pain, she felt, would be nothing when compared to a lifetime of regret. They agreed to get it done using physical trauma. That way, nobody would know and outside help would not be needed.

He made her lie on the bed and placed a pillow on her lower abdomen. This was the last chance to reconsider, but her mind had already been made up. He raised the rod and brought it down hard. It broke her heart.

The fear was still there - black and permanent. But as a small blot of red formed on the sheet, there was a sense of relief mixed with apprehension. They took all that was kept packed and left the house. The contractions set in on the way to the hospital; they were ready for it.

She was wheeled into the Emergency Room without any delay as she had already entered labour. The last he saw was of her clentching her stomach and her face contorted in pain. The beautiful, angelic face he kissed after saying 'I do'. The minutes dragged on like days as he waited outside, not allowed to be by her side due to complications. At last, the doctor called him aside and spoke to him for a few moments. All that he could hear over the loud thumping of his heart in his ears was something about it being a girl, that the doctors tried their best but couldn't prevent the death. He stumbled towards the Emergency Room and shoved the door open, not sure what to feel at that moment.

Tears fell as he looked at his daughter while the nurses wiped off the blood and tissue. She too had a beautiful face, just like her mother who lay dead beside her.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Death, how you doin'?

Construction work on for the Mumbai Metro project. Bid won by Reliance Infrastructure; contractor begins work in the middle of the road outside Bhavan's campus, Andheri. A sixty tonne rig is brought in for some work. Driver takes the rig over soft soil (maybe no support under the asphalt surface). Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. It's worth mentioning Mr.Humpty is thirty five feet in height. He comes crashing down on one side of the road. One lamp-post flattened, a section of the campus wall broken, a tree split in half. Similar fate of a highly unfortunate rickshaw going that route. Driver in serious condition but passenger doesn't make it. He happens to be from the neighbouring lane.

Reeves. Popularly known as DJ Reeva. More popularly remembered as Supandi for obvious reasons. Stays in a cottage three buildings away. Came second in the War of the DJs in Dubai about five years ago. At the age of twenty one. Had gone to Gorai beach with some friends. Tiff with girlfriend's father, bit of partying and a dip in the sea. Last dip in the sea.

A trip to Goa with a couple of friends. Coming back by the highway. Quick tea stop in the morning. Seven or eight of them youngsters, excluding driver. One of them is a bubbly, enthusiastic girl named Vilma. Teaches children in the parish Sunday School. On continuing after tea, she feels the driver is going a bit heavy on the accelerator. After all, home is just two hours away. She's not wrong. But she's engaged; her fiance's in the group too. The SUV plows into a tree. All except one escape alive. Vilma.

In coma for four months. Results from a stroke which in turn, results from high emotional stress. Has a daughter named Wimla who is my godmother. Real godmother. The mother passes away unable to hold on to life.

IIM Ahmedabad graduate. Just back from a visit to Vietnam - vacation after completing the course. My brother's good friend's close friend. Returned to India and was on his way to somewhere in Gurgaon. Driving a car. One tyre bursts and Vivek loses control. And then his life. The pole he rams into comes crashing down on him.

A close friend's family acquaintance. In the US. Pretty young chap; about twenty five years of age. Meets with an accident. Or actually, the accident meets with him. Falls off the motorcycle. Doesn't make it.

On his annual vacation in Mangalore with wife and daughter. Paul's wife - my paternal cousin. Has a liking for the strong stuff. People worried about his liver. Dies prematurely at about forty five. Of a massive heart attack.

Grand. That was his style. More importantly, short for 'Grandpa'. Everybody's grandpa though he has only two grandchildren. Staying in the flat above mine. One fine day, doesn't open his eyes. Family panics and admits him to a hospital. Revives and later jokes with people. But the gleam in his eye is gone. Passes away peacefully in his sleep.

My sister's friend's mother. Working at her office. Suddenly suffers a stroke and slumps. Goes into a coma. Doesn't survive even a day. Result of a split nerve. Cause of broken hearts.

Nine year old girl. One of my mom's old acquaintances, her grandparents. Have been to her parents' marriage. Long battle with cancer, pain. Even longer battle with her beliefs. Wonders why God doesn't take her away or her pain. Bleeds from the mouth and nose for two days. Bleeding stops yesterday. Breathing stops today.

Twenty five days and ten deaths; five of them youngsters. And blunt or insensitive as it may sound, I won't be surprised if the number of deaths goes higher. All of a sudden, it seems like I directly or indirectly know a lot of people who passed away. It makes me stop and wonder: what exactly am I here for? What if I get added to the list the very next moment; have I played my part of the play called life and have I played it well? No, reply. And I have this unsettling feeling that I'm not ready to go as yet.

What exactly do we strive for? Maybe to be remembered by family and friends as a good person; or for something extraordinary we did in a moment of brilliance - and then live off that till the memory fades away. Or, if we really lack or have lost motivation and ambition, to keep doing what we are doing till the heart can no longer stand the monotonous job of pumping blood through our veins.

And then, looking back, do the things we do and the plans we make agree with the big picture? One moment you're here, the next moment you're gone. Nobody, not even you yourself can do anything about it. At the most, it can be delayed but not forever. It's a good thing we don't know when death will come or what comes after it - or everything we do and everyone we know would be highly disappointing and unsatisfactory.

Most things lose their hype and importance the minute they are contrasted against such a scenario. And many more issues that we ignore or take for granted suddenly become . For example, health; or loved ones and friends. It's true, life is short. Just like the four letters that form it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008



What exactly are you,
Striking terror big and small?
Oh fear, you are double faced:
Paralysing the bravest of hearts
Or filling the faint with a sudden surge of power.

You feed off lack of faith
Knowledge or trust,
The dark unknown strengthens you
Beyond the capability of our minds to see through.

It's like an invisible stronghold -
Your grip on the subconscious.
A permanent resident uninvited
Yet stealthily you work, unawares.

If only we could let go; let go
Of our apprehensions, inhibitions
And take a leap of faith
Or submit wholly to fate,
You would cease to exist, oh fear,
Be but an illusion of distant memory.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The study of emerging social networks and their impact on human relationships

'Ssup dawg?'

I haven't seen him in five years and here he is acting like I'm his langoti yaar. His online album reveals he has now grown a layer of fat and a mustache or two, pierced himself in all the wrong regions of the anatomy and has unbelievably gorgeous female friends (at least that's the picture their albums paint). Boy, he even declared himself as my latest 'fan'. The point being he was never so pally with me when he had the chance to, we didn't hang out or kill time together ever and (damn it) I can’t even remember his real name.

To top it off, I really don't like people calling me dawg.

What's the sudden craze with all this networking? Every single day brings with it a minimum of half a dozen invites to sites that always have a member in someone I know. Either I have too many friends (no jokes, it's a big possibility; alright, alright, that was counting acquaintances) or no two friends like the same network. The funniest part being these sites later send me a warning that my invites are about to expire and I may lose the opportunity to get closer to someone I most probably don't like. As if surfing the net but not joining the latest network was the new age sin.

Don't get me wrong. There is a lot of good to all this. We meet old friends, make new ones, find a thousand things in common with people we've never met (and there's a high possibility we never will), connect with acquaintances and relatives across continents and so on. When the world is getting smaller but spaced out (ironic, isn't it? As someone put it, the world is becoming a global village), it would be foolish to stand back and not become a part of it. But it is when we start using this often, as a substitute to personal conversation, that warning bells begin to ring. There is a particular charm in talking to people in person that will never go out of fashion. I think an example would make matters clear. There was this group of guys who used to hang out in the neighbouring building every evening after playing football (man, did they hate cricket). But as soon as the cable guy started providing internet connections, they preferred to sit at home and chat on LAN. What happened to good old group chats? Leaving one old fellow who resides on the first floor, everybody else misses the sound of their hysterical laughter. For heaven's sake, it even takes longer to type than talk; but that's what they prefer - brb, lol, wazza, hehe, sos.


Then there was this young cousin of mine who mentioned that some of his friends are in a race to get maximum number of online contacts. One of them tried to add me on and I didn’t even know he existed. When I mentioned this, he got pretty upset with my cousin for not putting in a word for him. I remember the time I fought over trump cards, G.I. Joe's, stamps and coins, slam books, (playing) gotis, even papaya and cotton seeds in one case; not over strangers and virtual friends. But the one thing that has gotten me really concerned is the way marriages are being marketed by online match makers (isn’t it amusing that nearly everything the average Indian does or could use is thought of in context to marriage?). If not anything else, they prefer to categorise by race; it’s not entirely their fault because that is what the candidates are searching for. And we got a huge problem if someone calls us coloured. But hey, we can call each other a (female) dog, red-butt monkey, sloth or whatever we want. Hypocrisy, I tell you.

It set me thinking - has technology gone so beyond us that nearly everything we do is now either simulated, replicated, degraded in value or, most disturbingly, farcical? The only reason individuals such as the aforementioned cool dude can be so blissfully ignorant about relationships, for instance, is because of the safety blanket it provides. Not that technology is bad, mind you; it cannot and never will be, so don't get me wrong. It is how we, the commoner, choose to use it in this dawg eat dawg world.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Seeing with my heart


The joyful squeals of children fill the air
As they run around me
Not that they realise I'm there.

Their happy voices, innocent hearts
Faces filled with laughter,
Being themselves in the feeling of security.

I can imagine them chasing each other,
Kicking a ball about,
Having tiffins prepared by loving mothers.

My world of darkness cannot stop me.
Though my eyes can't see, my heart feels.
It is devoid of prejudice that comes with sight.
I'm all ears when spoken to,
Reaching out my hand in trust and faith.

O life, if seeing was everything,
The sighted would have been alive.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Inhale, exhale.... exhale


Cool, serene morn; leaves swaying to the breeze
A lone bird clears its throat.
The mist lingers just a bit
Delaying the arrival of the sun.

Far away from a world of noise
Into one of silence and service.

People walk past; some in, some out
Some ill, most healthy.
Like a breathing, sleeping organism,
This place is quiet, yet alive.

Just then a couple rushes in.
Their child - the fruit of their union
Is in the jaws of death.

Barely four years old, small little boy
He was with them in the fields.
Innocent play, preoccupied parents.
They didn't see him fall,
Face down. And drown.
In a pool of stagnant water.

Just a foot deep.

Life, if you are so precious,
Then why so delicate?
If nothing is let to chance,
Then is this meant to be?

Sobs break out. Slowly growing into wails.
Another breath extinguished.
A lifeless, limp body to hug,
Two hearts ripped open.

Nobody hears the bird sing.