Friday, September 7, 2018

A Tangled Love Story

Her eyes were blinded by the tears of hurt she was holding back. But it kept filling up like a reservoir of an overflowing dam and burst out in a cascade upon her blue velvet dress. It came out in uncontrollable spurts drenching her clothes and the pillow on which she lay. SHE had promised not to waste her precious tears for him. He just did not deserve it. But she could not help herself. Her head was bursting with fiery thoughts of hate, despair and unparalleled anger. How dare he? After all these years? And after all that, they had been through together. ? SHE hated herself for being the naive vulnerable goody two shoes.  With ideals as dated as the word itself. Her anger was more towards herself than him. HE had never hidden his lack of integrity and had exhibited his philandering ways which he classically described as "open-minded and modern". It was she who had not taken the signs seriously.

SHE recalled the Days and nights she had spent waiting for him as he traveled and partied with his friends.  SHE wanted to give him space. SHE wanted him to be happy so she never interfered. And what had he said, "She was not interested in life and fun?" So he had moved on?The moving on involved HER who was his old friend. They had even dated in college. But he had chosen SHE over HER. She had long suspected he still saw HER but once again in the attempt to give him space and freedom she never spoke about it. Those long phone conversations, late night coffee dates, and long lunches. He had invited her to join them as well, but she believed only half-heartedly so. Hence SHE had refused the invites with a smile and ruffled his hair lovingly.  “You go ahead and have fun. They are your friends" Little did she realize it was not friends but a particular ‘friend’. And so she had stoked her own pyre which finally burned down her marriage.  She often wondered. Had life come a full circle? Had HER stolen back what was rightfully hers? Was it providence?

The thought brought fresh tumult of water from her depths and she poured it all out on the pillow which was now soaked in despair. For years she had been told that a good wife was sweet, kind giving and tolerant. In fact, HE had selected her because of her exact nature and told her so. HER was never wife material he had told her jokingly said when she had questioned him on their honeymoon in Bali.  “You are perfect my sweet darling, sweet, kind, pretty and sexy. She had giggled and cuddled up to him under the stars. Those two weeks were so blissful.  They had enjoyed each other’s company in every way. Talking, giggling, sharing, caring and loving. She had felt she was the luckiest girl alive. He was a kind and gentle and totally smitten by her. What else would a girl want? He loved to talk and they had enjoyed long conversations as they walked on the beautiful beaches in Bali, hand in hand, sometimes kissing under the coconut palms. Oh, what would she not do to get those days back? Sometimes she felt a strong urge to go to him and plead with him to come back. SHE would be willing to grovel till eternity to feel those lips over hers. But it was too late. She had messed up. The time of reconciliation had come and gone. It had slipped through her fingers like grains of sand. He was with HER now. It was too late.

It was a moonless night HE took a deep puff of the cigarette. So engrossed was he in his thoughts that he did not realize He had reached the end of the fag.  HE cried in pain when the burning ash singed his fingertips and rushed to the washroom to pour cool water on his injured finger. HE opened the cabinet for something to soothe his burn and could not help but admire SHE's housekeeping skills. The cabinet was neatly arranged with rows of hygiene products and creams. HE picked a soothing cream and applied it to the small burn which had now turned pink and painful. HE came back to the bedroom and stole a look at HER sleeping. She looked different without the makeup. More real and perhaps a bit aged. His thoughts suddenly shifted from HER to SHE- his wife of two years. He remembered how he loved to look at her when SHE was asleep. Her long thick eyelashes drooping over high cheekbones and pink lips pursed in a delicate baby like pout while her long brown tresses teasingly caressed her round face. He shook himself up and pushed the thoughts away. He had moved on. He was with HER now. His college sweetheart, the first love of his adult life. The sweet and sexy HER. How crazily in love they had been in college, never leaving each other’s side for three long years. They were known all over the campus as eternal lovebirds. But that was before HE had met SHE. SHE had made his heart flutter in ways unknown to him. SHE was his opposite in every way. Quiet, sorted, focused while he was funny, noisy and vivacious. HE never knew how or even why he was slowly drawn towards her silent charisma. “ Cough Cough” HER’s throaty smoky cough broke his chain of thoughts and pulled him back to his reality. HER got up for a drink of water and saw him. She got up and ran over her long painted fingernail over his face and looked at him quizzically. HE just smiled and shook his head and went back to his thoughts. HE had felt a magnetic attraction for SHE. As if his mere survival depended on her love. How he had had to work his charms to get her attention. HER had been furious. But he did not care. SHE was like a magnet that pulled him in her direction. It had cost him a bitter break up with HER and 2 long years of courtship before SHE had accepted his proposal. His life had been bliss. SHE was everything he could think and more. Disciplined, caring, giving and traditional ‘bahu’ material. She had a way about her. His mom and dad had never been happier. HE too was basking in marital bliss. On her suggestion, he had agreed to work in the family business taking up considerable responsibility from his aging father. HE was settled in every way and enjoyed the predictable and stress-free life but only for some time. After a couple of years, he started missing his erstwhile life and his woebegone friends. Being sorted became boring.

So one fine day HE decided to gather all his old buddies who he had drifted away from over the years. SHE had been encouraging about it and helped him to organize a party for them. SHE had cooked and decorated and was the perfect hostess who made everyone feel welcome. After ages, HE had a blast. He smoked, drank and danced away. Most of his buddies came and HE felt alive again after years. He had flinchingly called HER as well. Though she picked up his call she gave the party a miss which had somehow made him feel guilty. So the next time he decided to host a party he went to see her at the swanky office she now worked at. She seemed forlorn at first but then HE turned on his charm. They started by going out for drinks as friends first. He asked SHE to come along too but she told him to enjoy with his friends. HE wondered why SHE was not jealous or insecure as any other wife would be. Maybe SHE was more open-minded than he gave her credit for. But her unconcern pinched him. The old gang now became an integral part of HIS new life. He loved the refreshing change from the monotonous home to office and back home routine. He now found the family dinners and family celebrations very humdrum and avoided them at all costs. SHE was always supportive and covered for him giving him space to enjoy with his friends. His buddies, on the other hand, cracked jokes and pulled his leg about his “marriage” whenever he turned up by himself for their hangouts. Initially, HE missed hanging out with his sweet, pretty wife but gradually starting enjoying the freedom and space. Then HER started joining the gang’s hangouts. She had always been the life of the party and fun to be with. HE found himself getting attracted to HER. But HE was in love with SHE and had no intention of hurting her or destroying his marriage. So HE started avoiding the old friends and started staying home. SHE wanted to start planning for a family and was very excited about the prospect but he was far from ready. SHE did not push him but he felt discomfort at the thought of a nip in his newly reacquired freedom. But SHE could think of nothing else and constantly talked about it. This irritated HIM considerably. Though SHE waited on him hand and foot and did everything he loved, something seemed to have changed in him. HE could not remember the exact moment when he started the affair with HER. There was guilt only the first couple of times, then it felt like old times. No responsibility or accountability or plans just plain and simple fun. It gave him such a rush to be with the no-nonsense powerful HER. He was smitten that she still wanted him after all these years. HE never really thought of his wife anymore. Maybe SHE too didn’t really care as long as he came home every night. He sometimes felt SHE “knew” about HER. Occasionally when he returned home after spending long hours out with HER, SHE looked at him with her large brown eyes and smiled her enigmatic smile but with a hint of sadness. But SHE never uttered a word, as if she didn’t care. HE felt a mix of relief and anger at her nonchalance. Was HE of no consequence to her? Was HE not even worth a fight?  As time went by HE became more and more detached from SHE and attached to HER. HE almost stopped going to work to the chagrin of his father. One day after nearly six months, SHE came up to him with a tear stricken face and said, “Aren’t you tired of this gallivanting yet? Don’t you think it’s time you came back to normal life and to me? she whispered. HE remembered giving her a casual glance and said, “I don’t think so. I cannot live with someone who is not interested in life and fun” and walked away. The memory of the moment caused a pang of guilt to shoot up through from the pit of his stomach right up to the head. HE felt bilious. Oh God how heartless had he been and so egoistic. HE could have talked to her and made her understand how he felt and that how different they were. He wondered how things would be if he had. Would SHE still be in his life? HE missed her sometimes and thought of her loving touch reassuring pat and restrained giggles at his jokes. Being with her brought him peace and solace. Looking at her made him feel all was okay with the world. SHE still stirred something deep inside him that he could not fathom. But it was no use now. It was too late.

HER grew up only thinking of herself. An only child of well to do working parents, she had learned to fend for herself as a child. Her own needs and wants were paramount for her as people around her discovered. But when she met HIM, things changed. HE was just like HER-Self-obsessed and stubborn. They made quite a couple and were perfect for each other. HE made HER feel wanted for the first time in her life. She encountered a very different kind of a feeling in this relationship and found herself genuinely caring for him. HE was dashing, rich and handsome and was quite the charmer so she found herself reciprocating. She discovered true happiness in his arms. From the first year of college to the last, they were inseparable. They literally grew up together exploring each other physically and emotionally. Those years were the happiest ones of her life. She found herself looking forward to a future with HIM. But then SHE entered their life and HE began to change. She could not figure where she went wrong for him to be attracted to another woman. And SHE was not even his type. SHE was a traditional touch me not who considered their way of life taboo. Initially, she thought it was best to not give this new person too much importance. HE was only smitten as SHE was different. HE would come around back to her soon enough. But quite the reverse happened. He started distancing himself from HER. Their coterie started breaking up. Their night hangouts became lesser. HE kept on getting drawn towards the simple middle-class lifestyle SHE stood for. It was too much for HER to take and before she knew it HE broke it off with HER quite cruelly and unceremoniously. It was just a two-line text. Something about wanting different things. She was so angry she could have killed him. She was too proud to fight for him. If he didn’t care she didn’t care even more. She took up a job in Dubai with her father’s consultancy firm. With her no-nonsense no holds bar approach, she brought several large projects to the kitty. She slowly climbed the ladder of corporate success and achievements and forgot all about HE and SHE  She heard through friends that they were married. She was surprised but remained indifferent. 

One evening, several years later she received an invite to his party. She had no intention of going but was curious and so picked up his call. He seemed happy to speak to her. His tone was different almost apologetic. She never knew he was capable of remorse. But not that it mattered to her. It was too little too late and she had moved on. But she soon found out through common old friends that HE was back on the old party circuit. Apparently, all was not well in his heaven. HER could not help but smile. She knew him so well. He visited her office several times and she played a little hard to get. At some level, she was not interested in being with a married man. But then with all the unresolved history they shared, she felt herself relenting to his charms. The first night they spent together felt so right. As if time had frozen. To some extent, she felt vindicated, like she could have the last laugh. Soon enough they were hooked on to each other. They spent more and more time together. It was as if HE had never left. But the times were not the same. She was not the same. His lack of ambition irritated her. She disliked that he had stopped going to work for his father. She also did not like the fact that he was so casual about everything as if he was still a twenty-year-old. For HER, work was a top priority. She continued to remain focused on work and commitments and gave the relationship only the minimum casual attention it deserved. In fact, she was quite taken aback when HE spoke of divorcing his wife. But she stayed indifferent. HIS life and his decisions were of no consequence to HER. However, she was very sure of one thing. This time around the decision regarding the future of this relationship was to be hers and hers alone.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Perfect Match

Nisha walked down the road from her workplace.  It was already 6:30 pm .It would be 8 before she reached home after a long bus ride and a train ride later. She looked at the long winding road ahead of her. The labyrinthine rows of cars of varied shapes and colors moved in the slow traffic.  She wondered if she would ever be the one sitting inside the car looking down her nose upon the people walking on the road. Will it be in this life time?

 She distracted her thoughts to the tasks ahead of her. What meal would she cook? Hope the maid had cut the vegetables and put the cooker on. She was dying for a cup of coffee. She wished she could just grab a cup from the inviting cafe coffee day close to her bus stop .But she could not afford the luxury of spending 50 rupees on a coffee cup which could fix vegetables for a day for her family. Family...yes her family her husband and 2 children... 

How happy she had been when she had married Naveen. He was the most eligible bachelor in her community with his fancy management degree, tall dark good looks, beautiful sea view flat and the well-paying job at a multinational.  It was a dream comes true for her when the perfect match went through. It had made many heads turn and also made many jealous including her aunt who always thought her daughter Ekta was a better candidate. Even today a memory of her aunt's disgruntled face through the wedding celebrations brought a smile to Nisha's lips. She had no doubt been lucky.

 Life after a perfect marriage was even more perfect and dreamy. Naveen was a loving and doting husband, she had a beautiful home by the sea which she kept spic and span and two adorable babies. She had all the comforts she could wish for including a swanky new car. They planned to buy their own apartment soon and maybe a second car for Nisha. Life was just glorious. Naveen was truly a perfect match for her.

But “Life” as they say has its own agenda. One day without much warning, Naveen's multinational company closed shop due to a financial scam. The company flat on the beachside was gone and they were forced to move in a small flat in a distant suburb. They sold the car and their dream of their own home dissolved into oblivion. Naveen remained jobless and depressed for months as he never found an equally paying job in the economic downturn. As the savings dwindled and expenses rose a reluctant Nisha had stepped in and had taken up a job after more than a decade of being a full time homemaker. How torn she had been to leave behind 10 year old Ashima and 5 year old Ninad with her mother in law and travel to the other end of the city to eke out a living. 

She had been so angry with life, her situation and most of all at Naveen. Initially he had been “adequately” guilty and apologetic at Nisha’s predicament. But as months passed, Nisha noticed Naveen becoming complacent. He stopped trying hard at interviews saying he had always “dreamed” of starting his business. But he mostly whiled away his time away at home watching TV and running an occasional errand to help his mother with the kids. Nisha squirmed but helplessly watched her "ideal match" of a husband change to a good for nothing nincompoop. Her job as an Executive Assistant to the CEO of a small time start-up was interesting and challenging but definitely not well paying. Nisha just about managed to keep the home fires burning with the help of her very supportive and kindhearted mother in law. But they really had to cut corners. While Nisha cowered at their fall from grace, Naveen seemed oblivious to the watery subji and thinning dal on his plate. 

Eventually, Naveen started working with a small time share broker near their home. Nisha knew he could do much better than that but Naveen felt it was best he was closer to home so he could keep an eye on the home and the kids. Nisha was happy that at least Naveen had stepped in. Life would now get better as Naveen would settle in the new field. She could eventually quit her job and take back the reigns to her family. Her daughter was nearly a teen and needed her mother around. Besides her mother in law had started keeping unwell and was unable to bear the burden of household chores.

But Life had not had it out with her. Naveen got bedazzled by the false glitter of speculative stock trade and lost more money than he had earned and quit the job at the Stockbroker and back to his seat in front of the TV. Nisha was back to being the sole bread winner barely trying to make ends meet.

The rude blaring horn of a latest SUV model brought her back from her chain of thoughts. She stopped in her tracks and glared at the twenty- something lady driver with blazing eyes. She hated the lucky woman. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for herself and wished she could free herself from this life she had never imagined or wanted for herself. She did not find her “perfect match” not so perfect any more. But for Naveen it couldn’t have been more perfect.

Monday, September 5, 2016

To My Teachers with Love....

Image result for teacher holding hands animation

Image Source:

I was like a little lost kitten in the big bad world,
Confused and overwhelmed by the madness and confusion abound,
Life appeared like a long dark, stone strewn path,
And I was completely clueless on finding my way around.

Barraged by a million questions and problems,
Flooded by a cacophony of meaningless numbers and sounds,
Expectation writ large on faces of loved ones,
I incessantly worried how I would ever cruise along.

But then there was Light!! And You breezed in dear Teacher,
With a smiling face and kind eyes full of compassion unbound,
You held on to my damp little hand gently but firmly,
And promised to show me how to get around.
Puzzled, Bewildered, Baffled and Perplexed,
I stumbled and fell a thousand times,
Lucky for me I was always pulled up,
By your strong hand that firmly and lovingly held on to mine.

I was fearful, afraid and unsure of the path,
The crests worried me and so did the troughs,
But  I placed in you my absolute faith and trust ,
And to say the least in the end it wonderfully paid up.

I slowly staggered to the end of the tunnel towards the light,
White, luminous and brilliant, a messenger of knowledge and hope ever so bright,
The darkness melted and my confidence zoomed
And I fluttered my tiny wings and took the final flight.

Ever since..
I have soared high over scores of dark paths and tunnels,
And glided through the treacherous trails of mountains and burrows,
But to this day when I  spread my confident wings to fly against the race of time,
I distinctly feel the strong grip of your loving hand on mine.

Happy Teacher’s Day to all my wonderful teachers who held my hand through the dark tunnel of ignorance leading me to the bright light of knowledge!! 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

There's Hope!!

I hold the pen,
I write the words
Of facts and figures,
Of trends and estimates,
And Graphs and charts.

I fill reams full of words, my words,
 But they do not belong to me,
They do not pour out from my depths,
They do not bear my feeling and  emotions,
They are like my step children. .mine but not through me.

I love to write and I live to write,
To drain my ever flowing reservoir of thoughts,
To bear them to the world,
To put myself out there,
To create a kaleidoscope of my myriad fantasies,
Not a mound of these Soulless and Faceless words ..

But then again atleast I have a pen,
So there's hope,
For when it's time it will write. .
My very own words, mirroring my feelings, belonging to me

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Chai Chronicles !!!

 Brrrr... The chilly winter morning with a lethal wind cutting through the fog, the stressed morning sun making a desperate but unsuccessful attempt to rise above the thick barriers of fog and pregnant clouds. Only the very brave or the very helpless have ventured out of their blankets onto the  streets. But through the impenetrable dark fog, a little dim light around the corner presents an unusual glimmer of hope...its a little tea stall (aka chai ki dukan, chai ki tapri, kitli).

A tea stall around the corner is a common occurrence across any city, town, village or hamlet in India. Every Indian (except those who are hung up on milk or those who prefer the exotic coffee) is a tea drinker. Not just tea but the quintessential Indian masala chai (Chai Tea according to Starbucks whatever that means) which is a sure shot cure for that unnerving winter chill or warm summer blues or on a cold rainy evening.  Just holding on to the hot beverage and slowly blowing into the boiling liquid brings the much needed respite from slumber and torpor. As you bring the hot cuppa to your lips, the strong fragrant vapors of the piping liquid rejuvenate the system and one short sip of the liquid brings to life every pore in the body and you feel enveloped in the warm, loving, almost therapeutic herbal embrace of ginger, cardamom cinnamon, pepper and cloves.

Chai in India is nothing short of a religion. Most Indians are used to sipping chai even before they wake up completely, be it winter or summer. The quintessential chai ki chuski (tasteful sip) gives the necessary jolt to push out the sleep and pump up the energy for the day. Every home has a recipe for the drink using specialized herbs or spices depending on the palate of the family and resourcefulness of the tea maker.

Indians drink tea all day long across all seasons.  In the Indian context Chai is not just a drink. A cup of Chai in India (which incidentally sounds so similar to the Hindi word for love (Chah)) has myriad of connotations. It can denote a mother's love, a wife's treat, budding friendship, building camaraderie, a break from monotony, relaxation and renewal depending on the time of the day and the person with whom it is shared. Though kids are not allowed to drink tea I started my tea innings at 4 as I hated the smell of milk and so my mother mixed it with tea to get me to drink it. Needless to say I was hooked and today I proudly consider myself one of the best masala chai makers and drinkers I know. :-)

With the chai being so much a part of the Indian way of life I always believed that just like the “mighty zero” and “the eternal chess” this too was a proud Indian discovery. But a chance program on the EPIC Channel (The only sensible Hindi Channel on Indian TV see here opened my eyes to the facts. Here they are. 
  • Tea was discovered in China 4700 years ago and came to India much much later brought by none other than the British. 
  • The first commercial production of tea in India only began post 1820s. And much like their other contribution- the railways- Tea too became an indefatigable part of Indian way of life.
  •  Thanks to the British, India began to give tough competition to China in production and export of tea not to mention the millions it made for the coffers of the British government. 
  • Even today India is the second largest producer of tea but thanks to the trillions of cuppas sipped up by its billions, 70% of India's tea is used at home.

As  the chai so  the chai wala (Tea shop owner) occupies a position of importance in the Indian diaspora. A typical chai shop in India comprises of a small table with a stove and a couple of stools to seat the clients. Every chai wala has a special recipe and flavour and a very loyal clientele .The chaiwala provides specialized service to his loyalists as per their tastes and preferences-whether a kadak mithi (strong and sweet), malai marke (full of cream) or cutting (a real small portion). In fact he even plays the role of  the good listener and agony aunt to the harried tea drinker who pours out his sorrows over sips  of the soothing 'potion' The chaiwala is hence a key source of local undercurrents and gossips and to some extent a thought leader.No surprise then that a former "chaiwala" now occupies the most important, powerful and respectable position in the Indian Government . Long live the Indian Chai !!!!