Tuesday, June 24, 2014

She got used to it

The first shared laugh
He laughed at her. After assuring him that she would talk to him later in the evening in her previous two SMSes, she had in her third SMS asked him if he was the same guy she was supposed to talk to.

Then, they had spoken. Like friends who had known each other all their lives but had just started the process of meeting each other. He had asked her what she did for a living. He pretended to understand and then after her long explanation called her a content writer because while snooping on the internet he had seen someone recommend her as a content writer on LinkedIn. They had laughed loud enough to put a lion’s roar to shame.

The Second Act: Chivalry
She travelled half way across the country to meet him. He was late. She refuses to admit that it was her fault just because she was unable to inform him on time to leave his house. The fact was that he was late. And he would listen to her accuse him of the sin to win any argument they were to have in the future.

Traveling meant that she was carrying a heavy bag. He offered to carry it. Twice. Out of politeness she refused. Twice. He did not insist or offer again. She put in one more point in her kitty to win any related or unrelated argument in the future.

He held all the doors they had to go through throughout the day. And there were many. She noticed and appreciated the gesture. Later, she would proudly tell all her friends how nice he was to do so.

He maneuvered himself and sometimes her to keep her on the left of the road. He was protective. That was new for her. She eventually liked it.

He chose the perfect setting for the perfect first date. He was funny and caring. He was chivalrous. Well, for the most part.

I’ll miss you; Thank you?
The train was about to leave. The signal for the train to leave the platform had turned to green from red. The wheels had started to chug towards Delhi. He had looked at her earnestly, her hand still in his, and said, ‘I’ll miss you.’ She had returned his gaze in kind and had in all earnest replied, ‘Thank you.’

The train left the platform. She went to her berth. He left the railway station. She hit herself on her head. Hard. And she thought to herself, ‘What’s wrong with me.’

Building a home in Uzbekistan
She went away; on a holiday with 24 other women. To a country which had been home to the man who had laid the foundation of the Mughal Dynasty in India. The holiday was everything she wanted it to be and then a little more.

She enjoyed with the girls all day long. Always making mental notes to share moments with him when she missed him the most. She sat in hotel lobbies texting him or talking to him over Skype. Wifii was their best friend, then.

Uzbekistan will always be a part of their lives. She bought the first things for ‘their home’ there.

She was not demanding. He asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She thought a lot. Then made a simple demand, ‘Write me a letter.’ He did. Even if the letter did not do the trick of winning her heart the fact that he wrote because she asked did turn her heart.

She carries his letter with her. Reads it once a while. Smiles.

She told him she had written to him several times. She had known him all her life. She had just met him now. And then she wrote to him again.

Get used to it
Their families met. The wedding was officially on the cards. They posed for an awkward photograph where they were smiling like idiots.

They met the next morning. He held her hand. She said, ‘It’s a little weird.’ He did not let go. He looked at her and said, ‘Get used to it.’ She stared back, ‘Hold it better.’ He adjusted his hold on her hand. They walked for sometime, hand in hand. He squeezed her hand while making a point. Or sometimes, just like that.  

She got used to it.

And she still smiles thinking about it all and all that is in store.

Saturday, May 03, 2014


The nightmare leaves me breathless. It is as if I have been punched, punched hard in the gut. I somehow manage to stealthily leave the comfort of the bed without disturbing my friends. As if, of their own accord, my feet take me outside of the house and towards the terrace.

I stand on the terrace of the eight-storey building. It is past mid-night. Surprisingly, the moon is rather bright tonight. It is surprising because the moon has successfully managed to dodge the dense cloud cover. On their part, the clouds provide ambient light to the night sky. I am alone. I stare at the other tall towers of the complex. All the houses in all the surrounding towers are shrouded in darkness. Only one window, as if a spotlight is being directed at it, catches my attention. I forget my manners and stare at the window. Then, squinting a little I take in the details of the room’s furnishing. I can see a bed covered with a clean, white bed sheet. At least it looks clean from where I am standing. My gaze travels a little and my eyes rest on a table adjacent to the huge window. There is a laptop sitting on it. It looks like a MacBook and I smile to myself remembering the machine that sits in my room. From this distance it looks as if the owner is working. Not Facebooking or Twittering for sure. A flickering on the wall on the extreme right hints at the TV. There is a bottle of water next to the laptop. And suddenly the human angle in the story intrigues me. I turn my head left and see a man’s legs. He is wearing a pair of blue check shorts. He is sitting on a chair, which I imagine is very comfortable. A mosquito bites me on the curve behind my knee and I bend down to give it a scratch.

In that split second I am afraid that all that I had seen and for the most part liked might vanish. I could just be sleepwalking or it could be an elaborate dream. After all, I live on the ground floor of a building in which access to the terrace is restricted to CPWD workers. What am I doing on the terrace of a building in the east of the city? I suddenly straighten up. The movement is so violent that I am almost certain that I have inflicted myself with a spine injury. Fortunately, I have no time to ponder over my injury. As soon as I get up my eyes rest on the open, large, window. And a fraction of a second later, I see the man.

He has a receding hairline. He is multi-tasking. He is talking to someone on the phone and working on the document open in front of him and he looks up at the TV at regular intervals. I realize I have not moved at all in the last 10 minutes. I feel like a stalker so I start strolling on the terrace enjoying the cool night breeze and the promise of rain in the air. Walking from one corner of the terrace to the other I have a clear view of his room. I walk to the starting point with my back to his room. I notice on the third round that I walk a little slowly when I can still see his room but my pace increases when my back is towards him.

It is a refreshing exercise I realise. I could get used to walking on the terrace past midnight looking at the man who multi-tasks. Away from the daylight when I feel burdened by the responsibilities I shoulder, night, it seems, envelops me in a much needed hug. His presence, albeit just a shadow at a distance, is comforting. I start talking to myself. I imagine a conversation between us. At the start, the conversation is light and casual, maybe, even a little flirtatious in nature. Then we connect while I continue to have this imaginary conversation. I tell him about my favourite books, actors I cannot stand and tales of my travel. He continues to sit on his comfortable chair. He fidgets a little and then reaches for the bottle of water. Meanwhile, in my mind, our conversation progresses. He tells me about life in another city away from his home, his love for his car and how he still misses pulling his sister’s long hair just to tease her. I smile. I increase my pace. My back has turned towards his window. I glance quickly at my watch. It is close to two o’clock now.

He is irritated with the attention I am giving to my watch. I look at him indulgently. He realises we don’t have much time so he forgives me quickly. He regales me with stories about college, the music he loves and the fictional characters he loves to hate. He makes me laugh. On my part, I tell him about my bad singing and how I sing despite everyone, really everyone, I know discouraging me to even hum. He laughs loudly at this and promises to never stop me from singling. I tell him I’ll hold him to his promise one day.

I turn, looking forward to resting my eyes on his window and his bed with the clean sheets. I see he has stood up now. I stop on my tracks. Concentrating all my energies in mentally willing him to look my way I realize belatedly that I was holding my breath. I start coughing a little as I take deep breaths to compensate. He clearly has no idea that I exist. He yawns and stretches his arms. Then I see him slowly walk towards the wall. He switches the lights off. He hasn’t closed the window or drawn the curtains. So, I can still see him thanks to the ambient light. He walks to his bed. Picks up the remote control and switches off the TV. I see him take off his slippers and he lies on the bed and rests his head on the pillow.

I wish him a goodnight and hope from the deepest centre of my heart that he has a restful sleep. Even though I know that I won’t be able to recognise him if I saw him the next morning, I am grateful to him for his company after the nightmare.

I call it a night myself. I climb down the stairs to my friend’s house where I am a guest for the weekend. I open the door, almost stealthily, and chuckle to myself as at past three it dawns on me that I was a creepy stalker for nearly three hours.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Place

Everywhere I look I see people leading complicated lives. Some are battling what life throws their way; others are creating a whirlpool of mess around themselves just to feel challenged. I travel. Sometimes I take trains, buses, boats, autorickshaws, airplane etc. to reach my destination. On other occasions I let my mind wander and I visit places while sitting in front of my laptop in office or while cooking in the morning before leaving for office. My travels, real or imaginary (I don’t really care for that word too much), take me to places where I am happy.

I am right now in a village. The comforts I am enjoying here are more in number than those I have experienced in big cities. But I am not here for comforts. Nor can my happiness be attributed to the comforts alone. I am happy because I am free. Free of responsibility, worries, the mundane life I sometimes feel bogged down by, and the expectations that people around me load on me. Can you believe no one has asked me when I plan to marry in the last 5 days. This is the longest that I have escaped that question since I crossed the age of 25.

I am sitting in what should in a clichéd manner be called the lap of the Himalayas. There is a fire roaring in the fire-place. The peaks surrounding our cottage are covered with snow and low-lying clouds are rolling all over them since the afternoon. I can constantly hear the gurgling sound the stream is making somewhere in the vicinity. For most part the only other sound is that of me typing on the keyboard. I need no music. This is music.

My hands are cold. After all the walking I did on the snow-covered mountain roads that were dripping wet with the snow-melt, I am sure it will take a few days for sensation to return to my feet. But my heart is warm.

My friends are sitting on different sofas in the living room. Everyone is doing his or her own thing. But even in doing our own thing we are together. The silence interrupted only when one hums to herself, or one chuckles while reading something, or one just says ‘wow, amazing!’ is golden because of the interruptions.

This is my happy place.

Monday, January 20, 2014

How She met Him

While waiting for Him, She read in a book She had picked up, ‘Every broken relationship turns into a story.’ This should have been the first sign. She was too busy laughing and chatting as Delhi glowed in the golden glow of the winter sun to notice any signs. They had met for lunch. Her eyes had widened when He had said, ‘Eating is a waste of time.’ Her first reaction was to scan the room for hidden cameras. Her first thought, ‘Is this a prank? I keep saying the exact same sentence to my friends.’ Before She had gathered her wit He had said something else. And She had replied with more laughter, interspersed with a few words. The waiter had already visited their table twice to remind them that food needed to be ordered. Reluctantly, they had paused the entertaining conversation and ordered small portions of Chinese food. They spoke about school, family, and friends. They shared stories of car accidents. She grudgingly admitted to herself, His story was more entertaining.

He spoke of his love for driving. She could not stop herself from talking about books and movies. Each bragged a little and at other times tried to come across as humble. The waiting staff at the restaurant hovered around at their table. The table was an embarrassment for the chef I guess. Their plates had hardly any food and the serving dishes looked like they had hardly been touched. After nearly half and an hour later, they were ready to leave the restaurant. They did the ‘cheque dance’. She insisted that She would like to pay. It was after all only fair since He had travelled for more than 18 hours just to meet Her for lunch. But He had scored more points by arguing that paying for lunch was the only chivalrous act He was capable of. He had won among more laughter and the staff at the restaurant seemed more than happy to see them leave.

Following their lunch, they walked around Connaught Place, one of Her happy places. The nip in the air even as the sun shone brightly after what seemed like months but was just a few days ensured that the walk was pleasant. They continued to talk and laugh. She was amused with the fact that there had not been a single moment of awkward silence or nervous laughter. However, there was no dearth of hearty laughter. They had teased each other with a familiarity that only old friends can experience.

They completed a round of the Connaught Circle. He walked her to her car. They shook hands and she told him, ‘It was really nice meeting you.’ She smiled on the drive back to her house and then smiled some more late into the evening when she met her friends for a small party.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

The end is near

The day had to come. I knew it even when I was planning the trip three months ago and even when I was packing my bags 15 days ago. This day had to come—the last day of the vacation.

So we survived the night quite peacefully. SKT and Frooti slept early as usual. I, as usual, was up. I saw Ponyo, a movie recommended by Sweater. I will trust Sweater’s choice even more now. Needless to say I loved the film. Then I read a love-story on Twitter. I slept at around 1 am imagining what the holiday would have been like if I had travelled with someone I was in love with. I guess this was just an aftermath of reading a love-story.

There is something about this cottage. The three of us again slept like logs. We woke up at around 8:30 am that too after Frooti warned us that we would miss the sightseeing if we continued to roam about in dreamland. Gokarna is a sleepy town. It is slow and that is the beauty of the place. Life is worth living and every minute becomes worth savoring here. Our tea and breakfast were served at a leisurely pace and we were not in the mood to complain. The dosas were delicious.

A bumpy autorickshaw ride took us to the main temple complex where we offered our prayers to Lord Ganesha , Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The temple complex is located just a short walk away from the Main Beach. When we reached the beach the sand was as hot as burning coal. However, the sight of a blue sea welcomed us and made us forget about our burning feet. I have never before seen such blue waters. We walked quite a bit in the hot sun. Then we rushed to the vendor selling coconut water. I still felt hot so decided to indulge in an ice-cream. We boarded the auto and braved another bumpy ride back to the cottage. We opted for the simple but delicious meal prepared at the cottage. We lazed around in the afternoon. SKT read her book, Frooti wrote, while I read links I had favorited on Twitter since the last week. SKT and I then called Titu and spoke to him after what seemed like ages.

At around 4, when the sun was not too strong, we took the treacherous path that we had abandoned last evening, and went to Kudle Beach. The Kudle Beach is the beautifulest of them all, as Jaspinder put it. It is a shingle beach. I had first read about a shingle beach when I was in class eight. My teacher had explained, ‘A shingle beach is a beach which has several rocks and boulders strewn all over. The waves come and crash against the rocks creating a sound which touches the soul if a listener listens carefully enough.’ I had wanted to go to a shingle beach ever since. The visit to the beach was everything I had imagined and more. I heard the waves crashing. They spoke to me. Had I been alone, I might have spent some more time sitting on the boulders and thinking about life and such. Then would have walked some more in the crystal clear water. Would have spent some more time talking to the couple who had made a beautiful sand sculpture of Lord Ganesha. However, by a unanimous vote it was decided that it was time to walk to Om Beach.

The track that leads to Om Beach is also a very difficult one. People with no weight issues might not find it too difficult but I was ready to give up on the idea of going to the beach after climbing the steep stairs. I decided to take an auto for the rest of the way. SKT and Frooti were keen to walk the entire distance but decided to accompany me in the auto since they were not in favor of me going alone. So we reached Om Beach. Om Beach is named such because the coast of the beach and the boulders on the coast form the shape of Om. Watching the sun set behind the boulders leaving a red hue across the horizon was an experience to cherish for a long, long time. A very thin sliver of moon rose in the sky next to the pole star while we walked on the wet sand and the waves created music. It was a setting perfect for a song written by Gulzar Sa’ab. We sat on a rock for sometime, listening to the crashing waves, looking at the millions of stars that were twinkling just for us.

We went to the famed Namaste Café. Had a scrumptious meal. I topped off the night with a sliver of banoffee pie. The ride back to the cottage was another adventurous one. The road that leads to the cottage is steep and is a mud-road, not a concrete one. The darkness added to the drama. Thankfully, we reached unhurt.

Now that the vacation is almost over, I can confess that every time I think of how wonderful this break has been, I say a thank you to Jaspinder for helping me plan this trip/itinerary; Loofah for encouraging me to go solo; Sangy for ensuring that no fear ever crept my mind; Sweater for well being entertaining; and last but obviously not the least, mom for saying repeatedly, just be happy and enjoy and ensuring that all my reservations and bookings were done. I am glad SKT and Frooti ‘piled on’ (their words not mine!) on the last leg of the holiday so that my transition back to humanity and my world will be relatively easy.

I am now packed and ready to leave for Goa tomorrow morning. A taxi has been booked to take me to Goa station, which is a four-hour drive. I’ll be taking a train to Delhi from Goa. The 40-hour journey back home will be one where I’ll be revisiting each and every moment of my vacation, not necessarily in that order.