01 May, 2011

Scene I : The Images

They met at the gay bar. She was looking for him or someone like him, someone straight, in this gay bar. She did not believe in bisexuality anymore. She wanted to be loved till her last passionate cry gave away to blissful mourns and groans, and to be loved alone, in devotion. He too was looking for her or maybe her gay friend. He was the doorman at the bar. He had to check the orientations.
They took the orientation to her bedroom early morning, after his shift was over. Tossing and turning in the bed, Helena C was like the crouching tiger and he let out his hidden dragon from the depths of his passionate slumber. They made love once, twice, thrice, in harmony and ferociousness, in the bedroom and the 67 inch Contemporary Bathtub with Oak Wood stand and on the kitchen table near the “kitchen sink”.
Within a week he was there twenty four seven minus his working hours, blowing his trumpet and getting blow jobs simultaneously. His rubble was here too. One trunk, few clothes and the pile of english newspapers. She accepted the trumpet and him blowing it. But she could not tolerate the pile of rubbish that they called the newspapers. But it was another time, when she could cry out the agony in his arms, lying restless the whole day, find bliss with him inside her, fulfilling her, completing her.
The times were dark, the papers delivering ingratitude to the times, the chimera was shattered. Regulating the actions of the homosexuals, all the bars were closed. And so Jimmy P lost his job, his identity as the one who knew how to identify orientations, his love for Helena C. and his new found old addiction of lethargy.

16 March, 2011

Keeping Mum Alive

Astrum loved going on long walks in the evenings and turning into by-lanes. She would sigh with delight and longing when she would see the tiny wooden row house tucked in between the opulent, modern bungalows. It wasnt only because of the chirpy pink bougainvilleas lining the fence that she longed for the house or the green lawn with the cane chairs and wooden coffee table or the stone steps, where she imagined spending her afternoons reading. She also loved it because the back of the house faced the lake. Astrum wanted this space to be hers so bad, as bad as she wanted to settle down and as bad as she wanted to write her first book. The problem with this wonderful dream bubble was that Astrum was thirty and single, no publisher wanted to publish another memoir on how to cope with your loss after your mother had died of cancer and lastly who can afford a fancy house if they worked at a nursing home for cancer patients after studying for years to become a criminal psychologist?
Not like she was scared of working with criminals or doing a government job that paid four, maybe six times as much but she wasnt entirely over her mothers death, which occurred two years ago arising from brain cancer. The four years that Astrum saw her mother writhe in anxiety were her worst. Sometimes her pupils would dilate to different sizes, sometimes she would scream all night holding her head and wretch in the mornings. She could simply watch as her mother aged rapidly from a beautiful woman to a haggard looking limp patient. Eventually she had to remove the mirrors from her mothers room. Her family helped her with the treatments when she had to quit her job to stay home and look after her mother.
 Astrum lost her father when she was barely fourteen. So loss wasnt exactly new for her, but she had no family left, no siblings, not even grandparents. So at twenty-eight, she had no family and was completely broke. Her aunts and uncles called her over for dinner every now and then but shed much rather stay at home to recover from the mental exhaustion of her work. She enjoyed coming home to her cat, who wouldnt ask questions or emotionally blackmail her to go on blind dates with strangers or even worse, second cousins.
Change is the only constant in life and on her thirtieth birthday, not exactly when the clock struck twelve but post the grand surprise party her life took on different colours. What is important in this scenario is not that she slipped out of her own surprise party and ran off to the stargazing night trip that she had earlier planned on taking anyway, but that Kato, the mastermind helped her execute it. Kato was dating our birthday girls friends friend but it was more of a no-strings-attached kind of situation, purely physical. Why Kato was even at the party is not such an interesting story. But what is essential for this story is the fact that Kato was one of the millions of people who avidly followed her blog even before they met. So Kato knew what Astrum was like that night, or so he thought. And Kato kept his eyes fixed on Astrum in a state of absolute awe all night.
The next morning Astrum called in sick, inspite of which she slept like a baby. Later that evening while taking her evening walk she mulled over the last thirty years of her life, she had come so far and yet not taken the leap. Her job made her feel good about helping people but it also held her back and depressed her to a large extent, would she ever give up her job, would she ever give up her Mum? Was this how she would spend the rest of her life? Depressed, lonely and eventually broke?
 The tiny wooden house came into view and she thought of last night, of the sky: a portrait of illuminating stars that made up uncountable constellations. She and Kato lied down beside each other after spreading a sheet on the hard ground amongst the several other star gazers huddled up together in the clearing in the middle of a forest. It was his first time, so she pointed out the North star and the arrow that made up the constellation of his zodiac sign, Sagittarius and he thought he saw a man dancing and no centaur with a bow. Astrum and Kato counted upto 19 shooting stars together and every single time, she wished for a miracle that would change her life. Kato was so easy to be with and he brought out a shade of her, she never knew existed, she turned into a person who wanted to live each day like it was her last. He made her laugh so hard that she was asked to either shut it or leave. Kato took a flight back the next morning with his date and they exchanged Skype ids and phone numbers.
She longed one more time for the wooden house and right then she decided she was going to quit her job and concentrate on selling her book, work harder on her blog and apply for a government job. It was nobler than working with a corporate lawyer she figured. She promised herself a house by the lake by the end of that year. Government jobs are not usurped in a days time unless you have powerful connections and so Astrum acquired some freelance writing work instead. Sometimes she got nervous if she had made a very spontaneous decision, she wondered whether this was what they call mid-life crises but she would snap herself back to look at things optimistically. Thats what her mother would have asked her to do, to keep the faith.
 Kato, she thought would forget about her but they Skyped daily and sometimes even twice a day. A month later she received a return ticket to Chicago and without any commitments to bother about, she took off. A week later Kato came down to spend the weekend with Astrum and they made love for the first time. At the airport he gave her a memory card and he asked her to insert it into her phone and listen to it on her long ride back home on the bus. It was a folder of songs that started off with why Chicago was a great place with Katos voice after every song and eventually songs on living together and finally his voice asking her to move in with him.
She wondered what her mother would have said. She wondered if her mother would have liked Kato, him, with his curly dark brown hair neatly trimmed, his round silver framed glasses over his dark brown almond shaped eyes, his fair skin, tall and broad frame. She wondered if she would have approved of her moving out all of a sudden and moving in with a man without taking any wows. She wondered if her Mum would think that she was crazy.
On her way to the airport, she saw the wooden row house from her cab window and smiled to herself. Kato received her at the airport and that night she was introduced to his family over dinner. She felt so comfortable that at first she thought it was weird but soon enough she knew that it felt right. Kato was a graphic designer and worked for one of the best agencies in the city. Astrum continued to write and took up a job with a leading newspaper. They left little notes for each other all the time. As time passed she learnt how to make his tea semi-hot, just the way he liked it and that he hated tomato and loved playing on his Playstation on Sundays. In the evenings they went for long walks by the lake and on the weekends they met up with friends and families and drank to good health.
Two months later he told her that he was taking her on a stargazing trip and while cuddled up under the same blanket, he pointed to a shooting star and whispered he wished to marry her. She squeezed his hand hard and started sobbing, too overwhelmed to speak.
They were married a month later and moved into a tiny row house made of bricks, with a huge lawn with green benches and a swing with creepers embellishing its iron rods, and the front of this house faces a lake. At her wedding she cried like a baby because her mother couldnt see her looking like a Goddess in her strapless white satan gown decorated with a rust golden sash tied around her waist. Her light brown hair tied up to reveal her sharp features, her fringe above her dark eyes, her skin glowing with happiness. Kato kept telling her how lucky he was to marry a Goddess.
After a few months Kato quit his job and started his own company that outsources to advertising agencies, which he operates from home. Astrum shone on to win a prestigious award for her blog and after her pregnancy quit her job but continued to freelance for the newspaper. This year her baby will turn one and she, thirty-two. Now she works part-time helping teenagers under charges of crime and drugs. She also started work on her second book after her publishers set a date early next year to print and market her memoir dedicated to her mother.

15 March, 2011


The little wooden boats, the ones that gently rocked when you blew at them, cost thirty Rupees at the village fair . Rickety little things, that never left shore enough to touch another. This one was different though. The minute he clutches at it’s smooth, symmetrical polish – scented edges , he knew. He also knew it was not to be owned. The setting sun rippling on the river, the perfect postcard background for the grand launch; he let it go – envisioning it’s grand travels along it’s puny path on the mighty river.
And it travelled. It touched Benares and carried a whiff of the evening “aarti”. It touched Bengal, and the “baul” song reverberated in intoxicated rhythms from it’s then ripped sails. Somewhere in Howrah, a girl touched it during her late afternoon splash. And she saw the ‘pujari ’in his pot bellied , ‘tilak’- in –place splendor. She felt the cool breeze of Rishikesh , just a draft – but nonetheless. And then it stole away, leaving behind the illiterate girl with a glimpse of a highly coloured , high school geography book dream.
The shepherd found it in some crevice of the almost frozen river. Motion was difficult then. The smooth flowing meanderings replaced by icy obstacles. He breathed in long forgotten summer dreams in its hollowed length. It was like the last time he had picked mangoes in the orchard, he could still taste it on his tongue tips, the uniquely mango-ish juicy sweetness. The thrill of secretive climbing of forbidden trees.
And having delivered that last smile from far-off lands ; it breathed it’s last in the icicle cave. A furry creature scurried forth. Somewhere there were meadows with enough sun and trees.

13 February, 2011


A Kiss
On the bruised knee of a four year old says -
There, that will take the pain away.....

A Kiss
Flying across a crowded room says -
I love you, be careful.....

A Kiss
Gently placed on the cheek says -
I'm so glad to see you......

A Kiss
Capturing a sliding tear says -
I am going to make your pain mine.....

A Kiss
Warm on the lips says -
There is nowhere else I'd rather be.......
There is nobody else I'd rather be with.......
There is no other moment I'd rather live.....

03 February, 2011

My first short story...

“Panditji, this is taking too long can’t you speed it up a bit,” Shekhar yawned and managed to wink at me at the same time. I couldn’t help letting out a small giggle for which I got a light whack at my back by my elder cousin. We had been sitting for too long now, almost 3 hours. But then I was told that was how it was at weddings, mine was no different.

I was getting married to my college sweetheart, a love story been written to death by Bollywood directors. Boy meets girl, she doesn’t notice till some bad guys from the same college give her unwanted attention and well then comes our dear hero and suddenly the girl realizes how perfect the boy is. Yes, that pretty much sums up my love story.

I looked down to stifle my smile, knowing only too well that the sudden fits of giggles that usually rise up at odd moments are almost impossible to curb, which if tried too hard, came out as snorts. Now that sort of thing would not do especially keeping in mind that my would-be in-laws were sitting right in front of me. So I simply tried giggling softly, I called them whispered giggles, a technique I learned from my mother. And just like that I didn’t need to try anymore, the uprising had stopped as quickly as it had started.

My mother, the same woman who was sitting right in front of me, trying to catch my eye just like Papa. It was too late, didn’t they know that? They threw me away from them long before I could know I was no more home. I was their only child, the apple of their eye born almost 16 years after their marriage. I grew up with a smug knowledge that whatever I would ask for would be given to me without questions. I lived the dream every child has, of getting each wish fulfilled before I even form the right words. I can’t remember a time when my parents said no, and I think that’s why sending me away like that stunned me into silence. I never protested as they thought I would, I didn’t kick or scream or make a scene, no I was too proud for that.

I never wanted to leave my school, my friends and restart my life with strangers, but I didn’t have a choice. I knew as much without needing to raise my voice against the injustice of it all. They gave their reasons nonetheless, they thought I should learn the hard way, learn how to handle when someone said no.

They never heard from me again, my letters were never me, just some facts which we were forced to write to our parents every week. Those years were nothing short of hell, but they never knew. They even came to visit, but every time I went out into the city, carefully corresponding my outings with their visits.

My years in school were not the best moments of my life but it did teach me to be independent. With time I began applying for colleges, in cities as far away as possible and finally made it to Xaviers, Mumbai. My life kept going, but it seemed better, my friends were not so different from me anymore. There were times I felt I could move on in life and forget everything, and then when I had almost convinced myself that I could, I met Shekhar.

I wasn’t the most popular girl in campus or the prettiest, but for Shekhar I was nothing less than an angel, it was in his eyes. I’ve met men who look at you as if they could gorge you, but he saw me in a way that made me feel needed, wanted, something I realized I hadn’t felt in a long long time. We were the cute couple on campus for the next 5 years and before long, he proposed.

Like any other girl these days, marriage was a thought that I did not hope for till much later, preferably never. But then they say you can’t plan your life, so here I was next to a man I loved and sitting in front of me were those whom I should have been crying for like every other bride.

We finished the final phera and it was time to take our blessings from everyone. My in-laws hugged me tight welcoming me into their family. A hand caressed my cheek wiping away a tear I didn’t realize anyone could see. I turned hoping to Shekhar there but was met with old brown eyes that held back so much more than tears in them. And this time I could not look away.

How did she grow so old? Never before did I notice those wrinkles around her eyes, or those slightly crimsoned greys almost splattered across her forehead. Her hair was dying. What happened to those long tresses I used to love combing at nights hoping mine would grow just like Ma’s. She seemed so different, so helpless, and those tears? Many of my friends said they had never seen their dads cry, well my mom was the stronger one and not once had I heard her raise her voice or cry.

And then, just like that, we hugged. My heart soared and my mind went back to those carefree years from my past. They way she hugged me the first time I scraped my knee on my cycle, the day a boy in my class pulled on my pigtail and called me a sissy, when I got my first period, I even told her how my crush finally found out and embarrassed me in front of the whole class. She was the one who introduced me to music, applauding me on my singing and pushing me to competitions and being there each time I lost or won looking at me with equal amount of pride.

I missed her so much, her soap, her soft fingers now wrinkled beneath mine. And then it hit me. I won’t be with her anymore, I had asked Shekhar to take me away from India, somewhere far away from everyone. I won’t ever know what happened in those years I wasn’t there. I always thought I never wanted to hear their reasons, that I didn’t need to know if they had stopped loving me.

“Smriti beta?” an uncertain hoarse voice called me from the back. I knew my father well, he wouldn’t have called out again. Never before did I feel the urgency in his voice and neither do I remember having complied to his wishes so fast.Papa wasn’t an easy person to live with, he gave me all I wanted but I knew it came at the price of my mum bearing the brunt. He had certain rules I always felt obliged to rebel against and yet he managed to always have an upper hand. He was never comfortable with me being so feminine, my lack of interest in sports always amazed him.

The old man in front of me seemed no more than the ghost of the man I knew then. His eyes were covered with spectacles and he was using a cane to support his weight. The man I knew had scorned at these objects even when once he had come back from the hospital after a major accident which had not only temporarily affected his eyesight but had also left him with a weak limb. I suddenly realized where I got my strength and stubbornness from. I had always thought I was more like my mother, but had secretly always admired Papafor his actions.

I don’t know how long the three of us stood looking at each other, but no one seemed to be there anymore. I didn’t quite know what to say, there was no more any anger in me, it was long past that. What I had were questions, questions on why they sent me off to a boarding when I was just learning about life, when things were just making sense to me.

He seemed to have understood me, but left me standing there. “Don’t walk away papa,” but he didn’t stop.

“Beta, he wanted me to give you this, he loves you a lot you know,” handing me an envelope my mum looked straight into my eyes a note of hope in her voice. She then silently followed her husband.

And they never came back, not even when I was leaving and the rest of my family came to bid me farewell.

Throughout the journey Shekhar held me tight. For the first time I cried like a baby, those years of not knowing came out in tears searing a pain so strong in my heart I knew I could never be happy again.

I had read the letter.

Smriti beta,

You’re a married woman now, congratulations. Did you know you have always been our pride, our little miracle child? We’ve watched you from afar for many years now, I am sorry we hurt you so badly, you didn’t deserve any of it. You were everything we wanted and so much more.

I am writing this letter to tell you that you were loved. The last few days made me realize how much you needed to know that. Your eyes have been asking these questions without you knowing it. I always thought it was better you never knew, for then you might be able to hurt less. But then I saw you look at your niece in doubt when she held out her hand to you with so much of trust. I puzzled on it for so long, for even as a child you were the nurturer, the mother to those younger to you, you had changed. And as always it was your mother who bailed me out, made me realize that you may have doubts about your own maternal love, question it because of what happened to you, if it would be temporary for you too.

It is thus I have to tell you my child that we never left you. We have been there besides you knowing about you as a girl and a woman. There had been times we wanted to come out in the open to help you, especially when you lost to a far lesser singer at a school competition. We had seen you wake up early mornings to riyaz. It was so difficult for us to be away from you then but you were strong even when you were on your own.

We were living in the colony near your school and had told your teacher never to tell you all this. I have been ill for many years now, the day we decided to send you to a boarding was the toughest day of our life. I was to be hospitalized for a few months, you were too young then, we didn’t want to leave you alone at home. Our relatives were out of question because of reasons you have seen yourself when you were with us. I didn’t want you to waste your year just because of this, but we also knew that you would have never gone had we told you the truth, you’ve always been as stubborn as a mule. So we had no other choice. And then you never came back, we knew you avoided us but you were growing, learning. You were doing things we knew we could never teach you, had you been with us, your life would have been lived running between school and the hospital.

I hope I am not too late beta, to ask for your forgiveness. You’ve grown up to be a beautiful woman both from the outside and from within. May god bless you with beautiful children who would be really lucky to have you as a mother.