Expanding inside me like a mushroom cloud
Pouring out of my mouth, my ears, my eyes, my flesh.
Let me speak
Expanding inside me like a mushroom cloud
Pouring out of my mouth, my ears, my eyes, my flesh.
Let me speak
4: They Like You
Mita’s wedding entailed a long weekend in Pune. It panned out to be quite a pleasant waste of time rather than the embarrassing ordeal I’d anticipated. The foremost reason being that I was saved from an inevitable run in with Suraj.
“He had to fly back to the States since he had used up his paltry two weeks of vacation,” Mita informed me with a morose droop of her pristine painted lips. “I begged him to stay, after all I’m like a sister to him, but he wouldn’t. He said his job was at stake. He has a tough boss.”
Thank heavens for ruthless capitalism; I thought trying to maintain a straight face. But then another provoked renewed anxiety. “How about his mother. Is she still here?”
My almost cousin shook her head. “She too had to leave. Kokila aunty dreads flying alone.”
I engulfed Mita in a bear hug and bid Suraj and his mother a gleeful goodbye.
Now, feeling slightly more in control of my future, I settled down to entertain myself. The birds of paradise were out in full plumage, each one more resplendent than the next. The carnival that was the marriage venue was a perfect setting for them. I floated by with a chilled glass of kokum sherbet in my hand, and watched from what appeared like a safe distance. I caught snatches of conversation, exchange of news and gossip, punctuated by the tinkle of merry laughter. But when I attempted to look closer, I witnessed a different scene altogether. It was filled with envious, lonely and unhappy hearts that yearned forever in silence. I turned away disgusted with myself. My profession was making me feel like an intruder.
“The appointed day has come —the day appointed by destiny—and India sets forth again, after long slumber and struggle, awake, vital, free and independent.” Jawaharlal Nehru on the eve of India’s Independence, towards midnight on 15th August, 1947.
The above quote holds true even now, not just for India but the entire world.
3: Meet Him Please
Slaves we are, habitual slaves. Look around. You will see us everywhere. We are serfs. Originally of our invaders, the British and the Mughals. Then of our culture, our parents, teachers, and neighbors, our superstitions and our horoscopes. Independent thought doesn’t come naturally to us. We need a guideline, a common constitution. If there are rebels amongst us, they are scant.
It was a pleasantly cool Friday morning and the parrots were up and about screeching their morning ragas. Mita had made her exit and I was back on the living room couch, embracing sloth like a long lost friend which meant catching up on my reading and getting acquainted with our new maid. A thin and wiry young woman close to my age, Rani was married with three children, the youngest a mere babe in arms.
“How do you manage?” I asked more than a little curious.
Rani was kneeling before our small wornout display cabinet, dusting with care a collection of beautifully carved wooden folk musicians. A family relic, they had escorted my mother from her paternal home as a wedding gift.
Rani turned around with a bright smile. “As best as I can.”
Thank you for the wonderful comments. Here’s the next chapter.
2: The Inescapable Truth
A girl should be pretty, fair, demure,
Educated but not too much
Her only ambition should be to serve her family
And once she weds– her husband and his family
A divorced woman is a woman without morals
As for love–well leave it for the movies
It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the following few weeks were some of the worst of my life. While I occupied my days struggling to fill the void left by my favorite companion, my nights were spent chasing away visions of his naked body entwined with my double-crossing best friend’s in varying degrees of nauseating intimacy.
I found my mood vacillating between extremes—an all-consuming jealousy and a soul sapping depression. My ego was wrecked beyond salvation. I was done. I, me, myself—all of us were done. Finished. Kaput. It was a foolish notion yet very real. At last I could empathize with what many of my patients often told me—When it comes to matters of the heart, the mind simply loses it.
I believed I was ready to call it quits. I began attending keenly to the plans some of my more miserable patients had concocted so to do themselves in. It came as a surprise at how creative some of them were. And easy. Damn easy. But a couple of things barred me from taking the conclusive step. Fear for one. I hate to admit I am a coward. While the other was fulfilling my life’s greatest ambition of becoming a full-fledged doctor of medicine. I didn’t want to die without obtaining the rights for the title of ‘Dr.’ in front of my name. In the least that would give my parents something to speak about with pride and regret at my funeral. I couldn’t give that up. Not even for Rohan. Fortunately or unfortunately it’s a curse I have learned to live with. I abhor leaving anything half-done. My life revolves around a perennial check-list.
The finals were looming just around the corner. I aced my exams, secured my degree, then packed my bags and moved back to my gaon as they say in my land. Though gaon was no tiny hamlet rather it was a sheher; the biggest in the country—Mumbai.
One of the two stories I’m currently writing (trying to) is called Romance. And no it’s not what you think 😉
Here’s a teaser. I will continue depending on the response.
In a world where society defines everything, a woman seeks to define herself
I’m a woman
Not a heroine
Or a celebrity
Just a regular woman
From a regular family
With regular feelings
And this is my story
1: I thought I had it all
Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley:
The scene in the hotel room resembled the aftermath of a mini tornado. Fortunately the occupants had been left unscathed. Or had they? I sat on the king size bed in the few inches of space I could find and fidgeted with the pallu of my expensive sari. Spun from the finest silk, in the lightest shade of peach with a green and red wedding procession marching along the edge—it was undoubtedly a fine work of art. As I twisted and untwisted the richly embroidered fabric, I saw the men and women drift apart then come together, often in quite compromising positions. It was fascinating.
“Aanch, what are doing there? I thought you had pitched in to help me and give me advice. Come here, tell me how I look.”
I left my seat and gingerly picked my way through the obstacle course on the floor and went over to where my friend (my best friend) was preening herself in front of the lighted mirror.
“You are looking very pretty Rosh,” I admitted albeit reluctantly and readjusted her exquisite gem-studded jewelry; a slight tug here, a gentle nudge there. Her parents had spared no expense.
Rosh turned to me with a bright smile, “You think so Aanch? Thank you.”
Rihaan didn’t get one thing. He looked at Anna. “Can you tell me why everybody is wearing red or pink? Is there some kind of dress code you didn’t tell me about?”
“It’s Valentine’s day, silly.” She laughed giving his shoulder a playful shove.
“Is it?” he muttered under his breath.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! You should be with your wife. It completely slipped my mind!”
His lips drew into a thin line. “Never mind that. Get to the point. Why did you call me here?”
She hesitated, taking a sip of his unfinished drink. “The idea is to make my boyfriend shit in his pants with jealousy. He’s been taking me way too much for granted.”
“Hmm…” Rihaan looked at her, as if seeing her for the first time.
“Will that bother…uh…your wife?” she asked.
“My wife? No, absolutely not. She’s generous to a fault when it comes to matters of philanthropy.”
And while Anna wrinkled her forehead over his statement, he mused; Wonder how it’ll affect Naina if she sees me with Anna right now?
“Dr. Mehta…” Anna began.
“Call me Rihaan.” He grinned. “We’ve certainly been working together long enough for us to be casual with names. So, what did you tell your boyfriend?”
“I told him I was going out with my boss who’s a regular dish. He’s seen you so he knows I’m not lying.” She giggled. “I also texted him this club’s address.”
“You did. And what does he do, this gentleman friend of yours?”
“He’s an amateur boxer and a pretty good one at that.”
Rihaan wondered what mess he’d got himself in.
Right then he heard something which consigned everything else to oblivion. Her voice—Naina’s—as radiant and light as a summer breeze, that his ears were tuned to detect even in the noisiest of clubs. He swung around on his barstool.
Yes, there she was, looking unbelievably fetching in a crochet blush pink shift that admirably complemented her flawless complexion, and with her silky hair knotted casually at the base of her neck. She was sitting at a table, with a few other companions, but his eyes focused on only one, the villain of the piece, her lover, the buffoon who looked even more despicable at close quarters.
“Let’s dance,” Rihaan said, standing up abruptly and forcibly pulling Anna by the arm to the clearing in front of the small stage where the saxophonist had gone into a prolonged, flamboyant solo, egged on by a cheering crowd.
Keeping his mouth close to his partner’s ear, as if carrying on an intimate conversation, he swung deliberately close to where his wife was seated so Anna would brush against her arm. Naina glanced up, and her eyes widened with the shock of recognition. Then, as he looked on, her lovely face flushed red with indignation, including the tip of her pretty little nose. Rihaan felt a wonderful sense of achievement. He inclined his head slightly to acknowledge her presence before swinging away.
But the very next moment he saw her get up and walk away. He gave chase, after hurriedly transferring Anna over to a stocky young man, who’d been glowering silently at them for some time, and whom she nervously addressed as Ricky.
“Why did you leave?” he asked his wife, spotting her on the sidewalk. She looked frantic.
“I was just bored. And tired. It’s been a long day. So now if you’ll excuse me.” She stepped off the curb and waved at a taxi. It whizzed by.
“You left because you saw me dancing with Anna,” he snorted.
She pretended not to hear him and took off down a side street at a brisk pace.
He was equally quick to pursue. “You just couldn’t stomach it. You were hopping mad. Isn’t that right?”
“Why? Why should I feel anything?” she retorted over her shoulder. “You are free to do what you want…dance with whom you like…whenever you want.”
“Am I? But I’m sorry you are not!” he exclaimed, grabbing her arm and holding her back before she could cross the road. “That man…that buffoon whom I saw you invite into your apartment? Who’s he and what’s he doing with you?”
She seemed nonplussed for a moment. “What…? Oh…so that’s why you didn’t show up that night. I’d been wondering. By the way, his name is Farzad and he’s not a buffoon. He’s my mentor at work. A very nice and kind man who happened to let me rent his place for practically nothing, because he rarely gets to use it. He was there to pick up some stuff before leaving on his next tour, and he was so excited since he’d get to see his wife, who is in Cairo. But anyhow, I don’t think I owe you an explanation.” She glared fiercely at him. “When I know that you don’t care about what I do with my life or who I choose to spend it with.”
“I do care.” He gripped both her arms, compelling her to look into his eyes that burned with a flame she’d never encountered before. “I care because you’re my wife and you belong to no one else but me.” He jerked her closer. “Only me.”
And then his lips found hers.
She struggled, but when he didn’t let go, she gave up. Letting out a long relaxed sigh, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Naina leaned into him, keeping her body flush against his. He supported her weight, holding her in a snug embrace, as they continued to kiss while Anita Baker crooned out of hidden speakers on the sidewalk.
Their coming together seemed inevitable.
He whispered into her ear, “We are just two blocks from my place.”
— Want to read more? Get the book at the links below. HAPPY VALENTINES.