Hope

 (This is an old story which I think fit quite well with the new Weekly Writing Challenge on writing a Descriptive Piece)
There is something special about the morning today. The warm sun envelopes her like a soft blanket and discourages her from getting out of bed. The chirping of the birds sounds like a sweet lullaby to her sleepy ears. But she does not let this dampen her plans for the day. She soaks in the tub for a good hour or so, acknowledging the aromatic genius of the bath salts. The freshly laundered Turkish towel feels like cotton wool against her cheeks. Donning her favourite skirt and blouse, she is off to the beach for the ritualistic walk.

The air tastes salty. She can feel silken sand caressing her naked feet. The waves create a beautiful symphony as they crash along the shore. The gentle wind blows about; whispering sweet nothings in her ears. The seagulls call to one another in the far off sea. She imagines young couples walking hand in hand with slow lazy steps. There will be the older children making sand castles and the younger ones parading as sentinels to prevent the destruction of the castles. There is the sound of laughter and merriment coming from all directions – everyone seems to be reflecting her happy state of mind. A hot lemon tea reinvigorates her to the core and she gets back the zing in her step.

Wrapping a jacket tightly around her, she proceeds to her favourite restaurant at the end of the beach. The smell of roasted corn kernels wafts through her senses, creating a tantalizing effect. Without referring to the menu, she orders for the usual. The spluttering of the oil as the bacon rashers sizzle in the pan, the sound of the eggs being gently cracked to make a fluffy omelette, the smell of fresh scones being removed from the oven – all promise to deliver as well as always. She takes a moment to take a deep breath as the food is placed in front of her before digging into the gastronomic pleasure. As a celebration for the advent of this wonderful day, she decides to order a beer instead of the regular dose of raspberry and banana milkshake with extra cream and cherries. The beer tastes like drops of sweet poison sliding down her parched throat.

She is aware of everything going on around her but nothing is successful in perturbing her today. The cars seem to be honking in a weird sort of melody. The clashing of pots and pans, clinking of cutlery, water droplets from an open tap falling in perfect rhythm in the bare kitchen sink, the whirring sound of the radio being tuned, the drone of the ceiling fans, the constant bickering between the waiters and the kitchen staff, the well-timed snoring coming from the adjacent table and the occasional pop of a beer can being opened – all seem to be contributing to orchestrate a perfect harmony.

The way through the fields to the church is her favourite part of the town. The grass swishes under her feet, still wet from the dew last night. Many church goers wish her on her way to the church, and she politely returns the greetings. The church bell gongs and startles her for a moment. She thanks God for this wonderful day and the promise it brings to fulfill her hopes and desires. The sanctity among the church walls calms her, as if asking her to be patient for just a little while more.

She walks to the old age home that she visits every week and spends the afternoon with the elderly. No one fails to notice her excitement, flushed cheeks and the radiant smile. They all are extremely happy for her – she has been waiting too long for this day to arrive. A quick lunch follows and she is on her way back home, after a stopover at the bakery. She purposely takes a longer route across the bridge over the creek. The croaking of a lone frog indicates the arrival of monsoons. She bites into a delicious brioche, strolling through an apple orchard and over a small hillock, where she used to sit for long hours till her mother would come to pick her up after work. But she does not have the time to sit – there is good news waiting to be delivered to her and she does not wish to tarry. She wants to stand on this very hillock and scream out the news to one and all – it is going to be the most memorable day of her life.

On reaching home, she is so deliriously excited that she begins to shiver slightly and has to be helped by her mother to put on the seat belt in the car. Each minute of the drive stretches for what seems like hours. She continuously fidgets with the hem of her skirt as she waits for the verdict to be delivered. The long wait has been extremely excruciating and she knows she surely deserves this chance to happiness.

She can hear her mother’s voice whispering softly and the raspy voice of the other person, as she impatiently walks up and down the corridor; but nothing is audible. By the time she hears her mother approaching, she is shivering so badly that she has to hold on to a chair to steady herself.

“C’mon mom, spill the beans”, she blurts, unable to contain her excitement.

“I’m sorry honey, the doctor said there wasn’t a match. Probably there will be a donor next year……”.

But the next few words by her mother fall on deaf ears as she tries to make sense of the situation. For six years she had looked forward to receive a favourable news, but the unfair world comes crashing down on her head. She wants to scream and wake up from this awful dream. But a sudden hush sweeps over her and she regains her composure. “Yes mom, I’ll get a donor next year”, is what she manages to feebly say.

Once again she is left to fight this darkness alone. Dejected, she steps out of the hospital wearing her large black sunglasses and back to where she was…

The Corner Guy

(Written for #FWF Free Write Friday)

walmart-man

I am John. Also known as ‘The corner guy’.

If you’ve been here long enough, you know who I am.

And if you don’t know me, let me clarify that I am not in-sane. I am in-love.

I still remember that day, 21 autumns back, when my dear Jenny turned around this very corner and never came back. I yelled after her despite my sore throat,

“I’ll wait for you forever”.

I’m still here as promised, but she never came back. There hasn’t been a day when I haven’t sat on this very piece of concrete waiting for her. My apartment window sits facing me grimly, but I have no intention of going back home, lest she comes back looking for me and I miss seeing her.

I regret giving her no choice other than leaving me. I was a broken man then. I am a shattered man now. With every breath I try to piece together my heart which broke into a million pieces, with the hope that when she sees me again, I shall be whole.

Maybe they’ll write a book about me someday. Maybe they’ll make a movie. Maybe they laugh at me for being the weird guy who writes and sings love songs on his guitar. Maybe they think I am an epitome of true love.

There are a lot of maybes. But just one you.  

Jen darling, if you are out there, you know where to find me. Just around our favourite corner.

Let’s give love another chance.

.

Food for the Soul

(Written for Weekly Writing Challenge)

It was a cold day.

Little children shivered to the bone as their fragile mothers held them to their bosom, in an unsuccessful endeavour to keep them warm. It had just been two days since the fire had broken out in a Mumbai suburb – killing, plundering and destroying thousands of innocent lives. Two days – but it felt like a lifetime ago. Firemen and locals tried in vain to save the cotton mill, but all in vain. All that was left were burning timbers and ashen faces. Set aglow by the blazing memories of the fire, two nights ago, which caught the fancy of the mill and spread its tentacles across the neighbouring hutments. A merciless orange-red devil which destroyed everything in its wake, sparing no mercy for the kind old blind lady or the wailing child. Nobody knew what had set off the fire. Maybe a naked wire or a heated generator.

Through this ruckus walked Gustav. Untouched by the fire which had taken places on the other side of town, he silently said a prayer for the unfortunate and made his way to the restaurant. ‘Please God, not my restaurant. Not my restaurant!’, he thought. Two nights ago, news of the fire had broken out and Gustav had broken into sweat. What if his restaurant had been destroyed? How would he rebuild his dream of owning the finest Italian restaurant in Mumbai – the land of dreams, aspirations and Bollywood? Would this foreign city be kind enough to give him a second chance? The entire area had been cordoned off and he had no access to his restaurant till today.

All morbid thoughts were laid to rest as he stood in front of “D’ Angelo”. The restaurant was now the only vertical structure in the area which stood untouched. A stark comparison to the dreary surroundings. It’s bright red walls presented a horrible contrast to the sea of burnt grey that swam around. An eye sore. A happy smile escaped his lips – and was immediately killed by the guilt of his selfish thoughts while so many sat listless.

He shut the doors of the restaurant and some of his guilt remained on the porch. He was welcomed by a babble of his staff members, mostly foreigners with a smattering of locals. He tried shutting his mind to the occasional groan that would slip through his panelled windows. But the groan remained. Louder and louder it grew till he could bear it no more.

“We should help those wretched people out there. Get on your aprons to whip some of the finest pizzas and pastas we’ve ever made. We’ve got more than 500 people out there. Let no one go hungry tonight.”

Everyone looked at Gustav blankly. Was he out of his mind – thought most of the staff. He wanted to feed a throng of people who have been hungry for 2 days straight? That would require truckloads of food! After confirming that Gustav was in no mood to answer questions, the group set about the task for preparing the food.

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Photograph by Michelle Weber

Three hours later, the first batch of food to serve 70-75 people had been laid out. Several trips were made to and fro till every last bit of the pizza had been served. As the team got together to make the next batch of food, there was a faint knock on the window. A ragged looking boy having a tear stained face stood with a plastic bowl full of pasta in his hand.

“What’s up buddy? You want some more of that pasta, eh?”, called out a sous chef.

The boy shook his head, placed the bowl on the window sill and walked away without a word. Gustav peeped out of the window and saw several of the homeless people ignoring the food.

“What’s wrong with these people?”, he fumed. “Ungrateful people, is this how they thank us for the food? Look over there – that entire group is sitting with their back towards the pizzas. What is wrong with these people?”

“Sir, may I say something?”, called out the voice of a non-descript  local commis. “These guys haven’t eaten for two days. Their homes have been devasted and it will take a long while before they are able to rebuild their lives. Do you remember what your mother did everytime you felt low?”

“She would make my favourite chocolate pudding”, reminisced Gustav, not knowing where this discussion was heading.

“That’s right sir. Food. When you feel happy you celebrate with delicious food, when you are low, you eat the get-well-soon food. What these people need right now is the kind of food that reminds them of home.”

“What do you mean?”

“What I mean is they need dal (lentils), chawal (rice) sabji  (vegetable preparation) and maybe some roti (Indian bread). Food that reminds them of home. Of a time that they once spent happily as a family. Food for the soul. Not some food that is alien to their culture. Look at those people out there – living life below the poverty line. They’ve probably never tasted pasta in their life. You need to feed them with what they want to eat.”

Gustav got the point. He immediately ordered his team to prepare the required meal under the guidance of the Indian commis.

Next day the newspaper headlines exclaimed “Humanity prevails: Italian chef and his team serves Indian meal to 500 homeless people”

Gustav did not remember the accolades. He did not remember the recipes. All he remembered were the 500 smiling eyes. His day had been made.

The Thin Line Between Two Ends

Bright bright light. Hurts my eyes suddenly. I try to close my eyelids but they refuse to close. As if they are stapled to my forehead. The bright light. The light so bright.


I want to turn away from the glare. Turn away. Close my eyes and sleep to the soothing sound of water dropping in the distance. Tip-tap-tip-tap. But I can do neither. The neck feels stiff. Unmovable. As though crucified to the cross. My arms and legs feel like lead. Heavy branches hanging from a dying tree. I can’t flay my arms like a rockstar or run my way out. I am the running rockstar. But now a sleeping rock. It’s a strange feeling – no pain and no movement. Like I have woken up from a deep slumber but my body hasn’t.

I feel like a vegetable. Non-expressive, non-communicative. Just a mere vegetable with a thumping heart and beating brain. Vegetable reminds me of my favourite curry that Ma makes. Culinary magic. Ma’s a magician. 


I don’t know how long I have slept. I feel a slight pressure on my hand. Fleeting, but present. My heart leaps – I could Feel. I had felt like I would never feel again. My ever open eyes catch a glimpse of a draped kanjeevaram. I see Ma. Beautiful Ma. Dressed in her best to cheer me up. She always dressed up when she was low- said it made her look at the brighter side of life. Baba and I found it funny. But today I felt cheerful. I tried to catch as many colours as I possibly could.


Baba. I see him sitting listlessly by the window. Crying eyes full of water. But the man he is- he won’t allow a single drop to fall. As though they are his cherished memories that he doesn’t want to let go of. That laughing smile is fixed upside down. Sunlight streaks his face. He looks a decade younger than the last time he gave me a bear hug. Baba. My superman. Now fighting with reality, not the demons of my nightmares. But he is a strong man- my Baba.


Suddenly a revived energy flushes through me. I blink. Move my arms. Wriggle my toes. Stand up and stretch my back. I feel the breath of fresh air. “Independence from the wretched bed”, I want to scream. My reverie is broken by a loud wail. Ma. And a heart wrenching cry that chills me. Baba. It kills me to see my superhero broken.


But I smile now. “I can feel my body now Ma”, I silently scream. “I am free now Baba”, I silently implore. I turn back one last time before leaving- as they crowd a forever static me.


In Coma. A Comma. A Full-stop.


I fly away with the angels.



More Than Words


He saw her first. Her skin glistened with sweat droplets on the hot afternoon – like illuminated diamonds against her wheatish skin. They sat next to each other at the bus stop. 

His musky smell is what made her look at him. A stray lock of hair flopped on his forehead – giving a boyish charm to his strong masculine jaw. Aware of the bustling traffic, loud honking, jostling crowds, screaming kids and screeching tires – yet unaware.

Fingers gripping the railing- a breath of fresh wind humming through their hair. Not a word passed between them for a long while. But it felt like the best conversation two strangers could ever have.

“You are something else you know”, he said to her as she walked towards the bus. And she knew. Many had called her different, mysterious and one-of-a-kind – but she could never figure what they meant. But she knew the meaning this time. She climbed into the bus, and smiled for the first time in days.



It Just Takes A Moment



She knew it had ended.
Like a simple switch which was turned off.
No regrets. No sadness. No jealousy. No remorse. No guilt. No longing.

Hoping for years together to get out of this mess – going away from people, into unknown corners of a bruised heart.
And just one singular moment which took it all away.
One moment when her life went by in a flash and she heaved a sigh of relief.

It was one thing to convince herself that she was ok.
But another ball game to truly know that circumstances would no longer affect her as they did earlier .

A sudden lull came over her.
Like a heavy load lifted off. Like finding a stream of clear spring water while walking in a parched desert. Like finding the end to a long, dark, snaking tunnel.

So giddy headed with happiness, she began to laugh uncontrollably. And everything around seemed to join in the mirth.
Trees shook with renewed vigour, the earth emanated a hidden warmth, the stars danced in the dizzying sky – as she basked in the hazy glow that surrounded her.

There was no looking back now.
A feeling of elation clouded her mind. A feeling of satisfaction found place in her heart. A feeling of freedom embraced her soul.

Liberation. Emancipation. Redemption. 



The Call

“Come back”, she heard a voice.
She turned back to see who it was, but the road lay empty behind her.
She continued walking aimlessly.
Lost. Disoriented.
Watching her world crumble around her. Bit by bit, fading away.
“Come back”, she heard again.
Still no one around.
Panicked, her steps gathered speed.
Away from the call.
“It’s alright. Come back to where you belong.”
A persistent beckoning.
Eerily familiar. Oddly personal. Invoking déjà vu.
And so she knew who it belonged to.
Someone she had known all her life.
Through ups and downs, smiles and frowns.
It was her own voice.
A faint ghost of the person she once was.
Of a person she wanted to be.
Of a person she was looking for in this chaos around her.
Piercing through the remnant sanctity of her mind.
It came from within her, yet seemed miles afar.
A ray of hope to move towards.
A survivor’s rope to hold on to.

“Come back.”

The Man He Is..


He stands tall and proud as a man self-made.  
The advancing of years is a witness to his gradually stooping back, 
But with a head held high, he never once loses his poise. 
He is reduced to a mere vegetable, but the dignity he commands belies all other prelusions.



Unbeknown to all, he gently glides into the deep black corridor. 
Not knowing what he is leaving behind, not knowing what he’ll find ahead.
A thrilling excitement of adventures is to come or an underlying fear of the unknown lies in his wait?



It is a rough road to traverse.
The winds seem stronger and the sun seems harsher.
But there is an unnatural calm inside.
An answer found to all of life’s worries.
The only stable factor in an unstable universe. 


The Homecoming

There’s something about today. The cool winds seem soothing, carrying with them faint strains of music being played by people all over; to celebrate the homecoming of their favourite God. I join in the festivities too– putting up decorations, making yummy modaks with mom and beautifying the entire house. Inspite of the hustle, there is a certain sense of calm that has spread across. I find it difficult to identify with this new feeling challenging my soul.

As we enter the idol maker’s chamber to take our idol home, I am amazed at the reverence with which he is treated by all. People, young and old alike, flock around to take his blessings for the version of God that he has created for them. He is like an artist who gives form to their pious thoughts. The humble abode feels nothing short of a temple – with hundreds of idols, big and small, sitting serenely on the shelves – looking at me with the same angelic eyes, which seem to come playfully alive in the shifting candle light.

Dimmed lights, the occasional sounds of fire crackers in the distance, soft classical music playing in the background – all contribute to giving an ethereal radiance to the room. The chants of “Ganpati Bappa Morya” resonate in the room and add rhythm to the tranquility. The atmosphere is so pure that it makes me highly aware of my surroundings and more importantly, about my inner environment. I don’t know if it is the unparalleled reverence which I see on everyone’s face or the belief and unbridled joy with which they welcome the Gods home – there’s something there that makes me unlock a hitherto unknown doorway in my heart. It’s a place where I identify with the moist eyes and serene smiles on the faces of the devotees.

As we walk out with our idol, it begins to rain. I smile at the thought that the Gods themselves seem to be showering their blessings on us. It is a day when the agnostic in me has accepted a certain heavenly presence in my life..It is a day when we all join to welcome Lord Ganesha with open arms and an open hearts..

The Ex-Factor

A wise person once said (read: Wise person = Me, in one of those pristine philosophical “moments” which more often than not, happen in hindsight) –


Every exclusive person you meet brings about a different experience. Two people can never be exact replicas of each other. Some are exciting, some are extraordinary, some are exceptional, and some others exasperating. When a person exits from your life, you may exhaust yourself in trying to examine the situation. Remember that most relations come with an expiry date. You may not be explicit in expressing your feelings, but extinguish all doubt and be sure that in the end, it all turns out OK!

“Nonsense”, She exclaimed. What She read was –

Every ‘EX’clusive person you meet brings about a different ‘EX’perience. Two people can never be ‘EX’act replicas of each other. Some are ‘EX’citing, some are ‘EX’traordinary, some are ‘EX’ceptional, and some others ‘EX’asperating. When a person ‘EX’its from your life, you may ‘EX’haust yourself in trying to ‘EX’amine the situation. Remember that many relations come with an ‘EX’piry date. You may not be ‘EX’plicit in ‘EX’pressing your feelings, but ‘EX’tinguish all doubt and be sure that in the end, it all turns out OK!

Darn, here goes another one to join the Jilted Lovers’ Club. Anything anyone does will remind Her of the Ex. The way Tom mows the lawn, the way Dick twitches his nose and even the way Harry walks his dog. Yes, the JLC members are spread everywhere. Learn to read between the lines and analyze body language, and you will figure out the Do’s and Don’ts of dealing with this species.

There are sure fire ways of identifying the JLC members (females only, men have yet to be researched), some of which are – 


1)  Puffy eyes – Usually seen in girls who have been crying their hearts out into the pillow (men hate to admit that they have been crying – blame a stray tear on the miscreant shaving brush bristles or something equally blasé). Hidden behind dollops of make-up. You don’t have to be Einstein to know the law of relativity – “The more make-up you wear, the more insecure you are”. Never admit you have noticed the dramatic change in Her. Ever.


2)  Vulnerability – The slightest hint of pity and you become the Go-To person. Tears become more dispensable than toilet rolls. A detailed description of the relationship follows – you are told how amazing the relationship was, how jealous Her best friend was, how He danced like John Travolta, how Red was His favourite colour and Black was His favourite movie; Good Heavens you are even told how Jimmy loved the hem of Her skirt (psst..Was Jimmy the boyfriend or the dog? I’m sorry, She lost me at  Travolta.)

3)  Get filmy – They say “There is a song for every single occasion which may or may not occur in your life – right from your conception, birth and naming ceremony, to death, after life and teddy bears”. Scan through Her iPod and you can surely guess what her playlist sounds like. She drowns herself in the sadistic comfort that music has to offer.  You take Her out to watch Transformers 3 and return frustrated, having faced 3 hours of wailing, complaining and Emotional Atyachaar. 

4)  Vacations – Untimely vacations are questionable, more so when you know that She is not the kind of person to say “Hey Girlies, let’s have an All-Girls Holiday in Goa”. So when She does, you are happy for Her. May be She is ready to forget Him. Of course vacations are good – BUT NOT WHEN GOA IS THE PLACE WHERE SHE FIRST MET HIM AND A YEAR LATER CELEBRATED AN ANNIVERSARY THERE.


5)  Obsessive Compulsive Disorders – If not checked, can get seriously out of hand and backfire. What’s with the sudden love for yellow? Yellow curtains for the house, yellow dresses in the closet, yellow flowers adorning the side table, even yellow bathroom slippers. You need not bother asking why every visible thing in Her room is sunshined up. It is a feeble attempt at a comeback.You know He hated yellow.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are a lot more telltale signs such as random talks on unfairness that life offers, sudden hatred for anything male, swearing against having another relationship, etc. Sure each one has her own period of Lament…but get done with it as soon as possible missy. 


Axe The Ex – and you’ll get along just fine!