The Friend Who Was… 

8 August 2016.

Dear The Friend Who Was,

I was reading the posts on Terribly Tiny Tales tonight and as part of the Friendship Week, they are posting all kinds of letters addressed to all kinds of friends… And one letter hit me right where it hurts. A letter addressed to an ex-best friend. And it made me think of you… But I’m not sure if that letter accounted for all that I had to say, because I am not sure if I can actually call you an ‘ex’. 

We never had a showdown, no horrible words exchanged, no nasty looks. We just woke up one day and the world had changed. Our worlds had changed. And while dealing with a world that didn’t include each other, we forgot to officially terminate the friendship. So you aren’t a thing of the past…not yet, anyway.

I see your silhouette, watching me as I walk down the other side of the street. I wave to your retreating back just as you drive past, in a hurry to ignore who you had just seen. I see you at cafés, joking with friends… Someone else sitting at what was once, my place. I dream of you some nights, catching up on those chats that have ceased in real life. I listen to songs you dedicated to me, just to make me grin. I still do break into a grin but now, it is tinged with nostalgia. Of a helpless kind.

I still walk down those lanes where we used to meet each other. Timed so perfectly that you walked up the street just as I turned round the corner and walked toward you. I still peer through the gates of what was once our childhood playground. I haven’t been inside the gates for quite some time. I can’t. Not without your welcoming eyes standing there, once again. 

I still drive down those roads but my gaze is flitting around, hoping for a glimpse of you. All those memories, all around the city…they distract me, they haunt me, they disturb me.

I hear your laughter in my ears, late at night. I miss our random chats, up to date, right till the latest sneeze. I long for a loooong phone call, across continents. I wish to ring your doorbell once, and ask you, ‘What happened?’ 

I know you wouldn’t answer. I doubt there is an answer that both of us would agree to. We walked away, wrenching our hearts away… Leaving behind a friendship – shaped  void. And without a parting glance. I don’t know what really happened, why we are where we are today. Your image is fading, day by day, in my mind and yet your memories are as fresh as ever. I keep them close because they are the only reminders of you.

The Friend Who Once Was…

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Raining Happiness… 

03 August 2016

Some mornings,  you just wake up with a black cloud floating over your head. You walk around with a sullen expression, your patience wears thin and you keep to yourself, as much as possible.

This ‘rainy’ mood is unlike the usual you and you mutter to yourself, ‘It’s not gonna be a good day ahead!’ True to your word, the black cloud keeps you company as the day moves, oh no, draaaags ahead. At work, things go wrong…frustrations rise high, irritation levels go overboard. You prepare yourself for what seems like an endless work day. 

As you leave for the day, you bundle up. It has been raining pretty consistently for the past two days and you don’t want to get wet. Or perhaps you do… You ditch the raincoat pant and think, ‘What does it matter? Anyway, I am going home!’ Perhaps you also have faith on the Rain Gods…that they won’t make it pour so much. 

But remember the black cloud? Of course it is going to pour! And pour it sure does!! As you manoeuvre your way through endless traffic, you feel the patience wearing thin again. You get drenched from the waist down, puddles dirty your footwear, and you get sprayed by mud enough number of times to lose count. 

Yes, it has been a bad day. It has been a long day. But maybe, just maybe…it wasn’t that bad after all. Because while you were muttering under your breath about the irresponsible citizens who jam up the roads, there were two young boys cycling their way home. Dressed in simple Tshirts and shorts, they cycle past you. The you so bundled up in rain gear that you don’t let a single rain drop tickle you into a joyous mood. The you so busy being mad at the world that you overlook the refreshing wetness of the rains. The you so tired of routine that you don’t realise this unexpected escape offered to you. 

The pouring rain brings back childhood memories. The pouring rain brings along with it the whiff of roadside eatables. The pouring rain brings back the deliciousness of mud that has currently painted you over. The pouring rain washes away all your day’s troubles and reminds you that a fresh day awaits on the other side.

The black cloud drains away, as it rains happiness on me…

A Chance Encounter…

18 July 2016

The newspaper lands faithfully upon our doorstep every single day. We read it as a routine pretty often. News, nowadays, is hardly worth looking forward to. Terrorist attacks, murders, accidents, rapes…absolutely nothing worth being glad of. We browse through the newspaper today, just like we do, every single day.

We read a headline…and we move ahead. We get on with our lives when a phone call comes through. It talks about a headline that features in today’s newspaper; one that we read, and moved on. An Expressway accident, that claimed lives one more time. That’s how these news articles begin…and that’s why we move on this easily too. Expressway accidents are becoming a frequency but the horror of it strikes completely when the news hits home, or rather hits our next door house.

We live next door to an office and the owner died in an Expressway accident last night. Their car hit the road divider and all the occupants in the car were declared dead upon arrival. The news states the nightly horror in such simple and matter-of-fact manner but the eerie silence that has descended next door shouts out the news, loud and constant.

He was a nice man, young and handsome. He was tall but never overwhelming. A politician to the world but always a neighbour to us. Polite and always offering any kind of help we might need. Often, we met him heading out when we were heading in, after a long day. He always took the time to stop and greet us, enquire about our day. Just a month ago, I was hanging out of my door and telling him about what my husband does. He broke into a smile when he heard that Travel and Tourism resides next door to him. “Pudhchi trip sirankadhunch plan karun ghenaar ata!” (The next trip would be definitely planned by sir!) are perhaps the last words we exchanged before he shut shop for the day.

Last night, he shut shop forever and here I am, still waiting for his office next door to open. Sometimes chance encounters create relationships whose depths you are never aware of…until a chance ‘encounter’ with a deadly obstacle takes them away forever.

Rest in Peace, Neighbour….

bereaved

A Yearning…

15 May 2016.
“You just don’t visit us often!!” Her words still ring in my mind. I reply, “I will, I promise I will…”
It was a summer from many years ago. I was standing at the door and she was blocking the entry. “Next time you visit, it better be just to visit me…” She continued to reprimand me albeit in a playful tone. “I will, Aunty, I promise I will…” It seemed to be the only reply I could come up with and yet, it seemed to suit her.
She let me in that day. But just a few days later, she left this world. I did visit the next time and the next, but the door was never again opened by her. I yearned for one more time, one last time…when I could visit and let that time be truly hers’.
I remember the phone call that came through a night from many years ago. “She is no more…” A voice down the phone line whispered. A chill ran through my spine and a mindless laugh escaped my lips. “Stop joking around,” I heard myself reply…but the truth had hit me hard inside and it left a deep crack in my heart.
“You just don’t visit us often!” Her words rang loud and clear in my ears. There she was; the loving, generous and ever-welcoming mother of a friend. I hadn’t known her for long, but she had a place for me in her heart nevertheless. Sometimes we crossed each other on the street, sometimes I saw her at the window. She used to spot me through the crowd and wave at me. It always made me feel special, the way she singled me out. She pampered me, nurtured my sweet tooth with endless homemade treats. She sent messages and boxes filled with desserts through her son. I was invited over for lunches, evening snacks, a cup of coffee and endless conversations.
Such was her overflow of love, that I often wondered what I had done to deserve it.
Till date, I am yearning for her to come and answer that.
In the pale pink twilight, I  gaze out of the window and when the breeze plays around with my hair, I realise this was her spot. And I yearn for her to come back and complete my picture.
Her photograph overlooks on to one of her favourite rooms in the house. I can still see her lounging on the sofa while she asked me about me. She wasn’t just being polite, she really wanted to know. In the short span that we interacted, she made sure to create a lot of happy memories in my mind. And today, in the shadows of her photograph, I still experience her warmth…
I chat to her when I am alone at home and in need of some company. I serve her a new dish I have dared to experiment. I look at her for approval when I clean up the room. I smile her smile when the house is filled with guests. I stand in front of her for advice. I can hear her laugh over my desperate attempts of draping one of her sarees. I never forget to silently say a Goodbye before locking up. She is there, in every room and each breath of the house, looking after us. And yet I yearn for one last, long moment with her.
For I need to tell her that nowadays, I don’t just visit the house often; I now call it my own, too. I yearn for one moment with her, when I get to tell her that from being my friend’s mother, she is today my mother-in-law.
I guess she knows, I think she always had. Yet I yearn…
For one exclusive moment with her.

A Little Bit of Sunshine…

15 April,2016

It was a day that went by much too fast. Just a while ago, I was waking up in my bed…having overslept by normal working day standards. Running around, multi-tasking at unbelievable levels, crashing into doors and banging into tables, I stumbled my way to office. I step in and tasks come flying at me; it is half an hour before I have time to keep my bag in place and drink a sip of water.

Summer is raging, and the sweat trickling down my back. I had rushed up the stairs but a much-needed breather does not come until lunch time. The madness continues…meetings, discussions, Excel sheets and Google docs!! I rush out with a colleague for a meeting, but that meeting turns out to be pretty much ‘a waste of time’. Back to office and it is almost time to wrap up the day. Just then, I get a text from my husband. We had to deliver some containers to a friend and the meeting time just got pushed up to an hour before the scheduled time. So basically…..that meant I was back on my feet and maneuvering my way through traffic. Once again, I am rushing up the stairs, grabbing the bag and running down to my bike. Back in to the traffic. Having delivered those containers just on time, I am out to buy some groceries. I walk, hoping to finally breathe a sigh of relief, but diversions in roads leading to traffic jams don’t spare a chance. Having finally managed everything, I make my way home. 

Tired and waiting to just crash straight in to bed. I turn in to our parking area, with a desolate expression on my face. I am driving mechanically, when I suddenly brake hard! A girl, about 4 years old, leaps straight in front of my bike. I give her a shocked expression, she simply smiles in return. She is the caretaker’s daughter, someone I know by sight and name. I wave her Goodbye when I leave for office; she dances in my path with a welcoming smile when I return.

Today, she is flaunting a new dress! Holding it up, twirling it and jumping with excitement  as she screams, “Didi!!” I see it in her eyes, I hear it in her voice. She has been waiting all day for me to come back; just so I could admire her new dress. It is possibly someone’s discarded dress…but in her eyes, I realise its value. Her smile is contagious and before long, my tired expression breaks into a grin! My heavy footsteps get a spring in them as I walk up to my house.

And just as I turn a corner, I come face to face with the lady and daughter who live a floor below us. Again, someone I know by sight and name. She is dressed up in a fancy saree, and the smell of perfume envelops her. She smiles at me, and I smile back. I expect her to just walk away, when she suddenly holds my hand. “You look so tired, just look at those eyes!!” For a moment, I don’t know how to react. She asks me about my day, she tells me about the birthday party she is heading out to attend and she warns me to relax when I get home. I nod, acknowledging her advice and continue my walk up the stairs. Just as I fumble around for my key, I hear her voice floating up the stairs, “What a sweet girl she is! What a pretty face! She’s always so polite and smiling…it is good to have her around. She brings a little bit of sunshine to this building…” She is talking to her daughter, and I am smiling over these unexpected compliments coming my way.

When I was about to reach home, I was waiting for the day to come to an end. Now I think I might last a few hours and happily. You spend the day, looking out for life but you realise, Life is also out there…looking out for you.

It just doesn’t always lie in great achievements and lengthy meetings. Sometimes, just sometimes, it peeks out from an innocent child’s grimy smile and through a polite conversation with a neighbour. It brings the warmth back in to the world. 

Just like a little bit of sunshine does, after the clouds have moved on.
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In the Land of Stories…

26 March, 2016.

One of my favourite photographs from my childhood is of me lounging in a chair and reading a book with a furrowed brow. Upon closer inspection, that ‘book’ is actually a phone diary…but my intent look shows a thirst for reading. I must have been about 3 years old then. That was the beginning….of me lounging about, reading a book and being lost to the world.

Growing up, my snack times were focused more on the book I was reading than the food I was gulping down. A good habit or a bad one…it was always a matter of debate in my household. But the ‘madness’ that ensnared me then, never really let go. English became an obsession; calling it a passion would be modesty. Through school and college, I found many people who encouraged this madness of mine and added fuel to the fire by introducing me to new worlds.

The land of stories is a fascinating one. You can switch destinations and loyalties with the flip of a page. You can develop friendships with characters and feel bereaved when the storyline demands their death. You can sit in a corner of your house and yet live many lives, fictional and heroic. It fascinates me; this language, those words. And especially the travels…

Today, I attended a session where a lady narrated her experience of solo backpacking through Italy. Her presentation started off with a very interesting quote : “Mixing business with pleasure is not a sin…” It made me smile and it made me think. About the time when I mixed studies with pleasure. A pleasure beyond words. A feeling so pure. It made me reminisce of the time when my backpack and I went for a hike through the land of stories…

It had always been my dream to study English in England. As a child, the dream made perfect sense. As a teenager, the dream seemed impossible. But as someone with a family who nurtured her love for the language, the dream was within reach. All set to study M.A in Linguistics in England, I set off…far more excited about exploring my storyland than about the course!

Solo backpacking by a woman has its safety issues. You are scared, apprehensive about the treatment you would get and the looks you would have to deal with. But as I set out to explore the settings of my favourite books and the birthplaces of my favourite authors, I realised they were all women too. And woman to woman, this travel was going to be safe. Because in the land of stories, the good always defeats the evil…

I walked through the streets in Bath that Jane Austen once walked on. I looked yonder at the moors that the Brönte sisters once wrote about. I shed tears of joy in Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. I shed tears of grief at Sylvia Plath’s tombstone. I paid my respects at Ted Hughes’ house and I tipped my hat at 221B Baker’s Street. I gushed upon the birthplace of the Canterbury Tales. I relived my childhood at the Jacqueline Wilson exhibition. But what thrilled me most, is that I lived the Enid Blyton experience!

The creaking stair in the house and the whispering trees of the Enchanted Forest. Scones, mince pies and Yolkshire puddings. The laughing brooks and the thrill of Guy Fawkes’ night.

It was all straight out from my stories. They say, a piece of fiction hardly ever matches reality. But standing there in England, as I absorbed all these parallel realities, I acknowledged what a fantastic job these authors have done, absolute years ago. They created words so strong that imagination would never be far away from reality, and yet the magic in it remained intact. And the little me who spent hours in the fictional world, opened her grown -up eyes to a world just as perfect.

The stories might be fictional, but the land exists… 🙂
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Unsaid Goodbyes…

14 March 2016.

Sometimes images refuse to leave your mind. Memories flood in and leave you washed out. Devoid of emotions, just a blank dull ache. You try everything to distract yourself but the images insist. You want to smile but it seems you have forgotten how to. Your smiles were tied up with those images, the creator of those images. And all of a sudden, that creator had to leave. For whatever reason.So often in life, a person walks away. Without rhyme or reason. You are left there, all alone…with your broken heart in one hand and the other hand raised in a half-goodbye. But he never waited to see you wave Goodbye.

That unsaid Goodbye hurts. Over months and years.

No matter how old you grow, that sudden moment of separation always hurts immensely. While you are oblivious to the world, a friend leaving you alone in the playground hurts. When you grow up, the contexts change. The feeling never does. You just learn to put up a mask and move on with life. Do you really grow strong with growing years?

In your mind, you are still holding strong to thoughts of creating so many memories together. You refuse to accept it is all over.

All you do…..can really do, is shed tears and hope you get all washed out. From those images, from that guilt.

Of not having been there to say that final Goodbye.

The opportunity missed, that Goodbye will always remain unsaid.