Monday, December 26, 2011

Fighting Fire

The scene was set. It was that time of day when neither day or night exists. It was moments before dawn would break and shatter the wholeness of the dark night. The two kings stood facing each other, separated only by the thin line that distinguishes light from dark and day from night.

Like fire he burned, bright and golden, his steady arms radiating that shine and power possessed only by the sun. His fierce eyes, rimmed with dark kohl looked restlessly ahead at his enemy. The time of beckoning was here. One could not see his features clearly for there was a strong light illuminating from him, but mainly because he was their king and they feared him deeply. They had heard that in the battlefield, a brief look at King Agni could lead to a death so painful, that even the Gods dared not to show mercy on the dying man. It was hard to believe that that same king of kings was the provider of their world of warmth.

In the black of the space stood firmly King Shvet, poised like a statue, cold white fumes emanating from his body clad in silver armour. He stood still, much like the stillness of a cold winter's night. If one looked very carefully, occasionally one could trace white puffs of air flowing out of his lips, indicating any signs of life.

Just as the moon and sun adorned the sky, time stood still and the battle cry was sounded.

To Agni, it was a distant call. He was already in the air and his clawed hands were raised above his head. His body blocked a part of the infant sun as he met the king of the night at the line of change in the sky. Shvet's once immobile body now moved with sharp swiftness. His silver armour shone and clinked as it cut through the cold air. Heat thrust itself forward towards the icy night and the spectators helplessly witnessed this wondrous display of light and dark, the red flames meeting the silver fumes with sparks.

The might king dropped to the ground, cracking it where he fell. The line began to blur.

I woke up to greet a brand new day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ek Baar, Akele

Kabhi apni parchai se bhaag jaane ka mann chahta hai
Run, like no one's looking
Go away, without caring
Nobody calling out to me, to just vanish like I have always been invisible...

Itni bheed mein lagta hai main gum hoon
Ab tanhai mein khudko khone ka mann karta hai
I find myself dissolving into the crowd...afraid that I am not who I thought I was
Convinced, that I am not who you see
I want to dive into depths of myself while no one watches

Kabhi chashma uttaar ke dekha to sab dikhne laga
Kabhi sheeshe mein khudko dekha toh laga koi hai jise mein janti hee nahi
Take away the mirrors, take away these things that surround me
Even my reflection, my shadow...There is no one's company I seek

Aaj maine ek akela panchi udte hue dekha
Aur achanak se apni yaad aa gayi
In that moment I felt like I am missing out
Could I ever dare to go missing?

Pehli baar, imaarto ki beech sukoon mila
Logo ke nahi, 
Is there a somewhere where no love, no friendship
Can even touch me?

Aaj apne naa hone pe yakeen aane laga
In a crowd, I went looking for me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Feeling Mumbastic: When it rained like Mumbai in Delhi

This morning was quite a wet one. Wild Wild Wet, I'd say. Delhi's not the most prepared for any sort of emergency, natural or man-made, in spite of the fact that it's the capital. So rain like this is both disastrous and hilarious.

It was quite a sight. My mom and the maid were running around the house with piles of newspaper and a puny, squeezed out dusting cloth. All the doors and windows of the house were open and the water came pouring in, as if in buckets. The electricity went out and within a few minutes the invertor gave in. So now we couldn't help but open a few doors to let the light in. My sister was shouting at my mother in concern since water and marble aren't really mom's best friends. My mom, on the other hand, was too caught up in saving her house from drowning. We live on the first floor.

Since my sister, jijoo and I had to leave (it seems strange now why we just had to leave), all the umbrellas in the house were gathered and distributed. By all I mean two. A third one was reserved by mom for the purpose of house conservation. There was brief dialogue over why going to the passport office in such weather was imperative (for didoo and jijoo) and why office work could not be done from home (for me). Fast distracted by the tonnes of water falling from the sky, the conversation was submerged under the sound of cloud bursts and we all left. While sharing an umbrella, my sister and I (of course the damaad gets his individual one) found ourselves drenched from front and back respectively.

As soon as we got into the car, the impended dialogue resumed. Why were we going anywhere, my sister asked. I was busy laughing. Jijoo desperately wiped the screen of the car while he drove.

I made it to office somehow and the parking was now submerged. Getting in was quite a treat. A welcoming committee of housekeeping boys and guards stood at the gates, furiously sweeping the water out from the main entrance. My CEO was the only other person in office. I walked to my desk drenched from head to toe and looked down.

I was wearing my bathroom slippers.    

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I am Generation Why Not?

Aren't we a very 'public' generation? They call us generation 'Y' but I'd say we are more the generation 'Y NOT?' Seriously, nothing is off the table.

I don't quite mean it as a compliment. I mean, I guess it has its benefits but how open is too open? And honestly, it's a bit scary when everything goes.

We update every breath we take on facebook and twitter, but no one really knows who we are. You may have 1200 friends on facebook but only 1 or 2 are with you when you need friends. The world knows where you went on vacation, but no one cares to know why a vacation was needed in the first place.

We talk about sex like it's a new flavour of ice candy available at the corner of every street. We wear less, talk more, stay out and don't know where we come from. We like noise, we like speed, we blink faster. We love colours. Our senses are out of control. We talk of peace a lot. About wanting it for the world, but we hate silence. We tell people we don't know that we love them. We love but we don't care.

We stand for everyone's truths because it's convenient not to stand for anything. We revel in ignorance and call it being chilled out. We really know how to chill out. We hang out. We pass out. We freak out. Inside is not a place we know. Inside is not where we go for answers.

We are easy. Sometimes, we are easy-going. We see the bigger picture and forget the minor details. We click a lot of pictures. We are cool because we don't care. We don't care about what we wear and what we say. We use people and words carelessly. We think innocence is passe and so by the time we are twenty, we are actually thirty-one.

We pout. We kiss and tell. We laugh out loud. We paint towns red. We hoard. We are outsiders to ourselves. We 'have a life' because we party. We live on virtual websites.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eyes Wide Open

Some days are not ordinary. Some are just about average. Some exceed your expectations and on some, you barely make it through. Today is one of those and all those days.

I woke up in the morning feeling inadequate, unhappy and dissatisfied. There is nothing that I am doing wrong but nothing felt right. I don't suppose anyone can relate to this bizarre emotion, perhaps everyone can. But that doesn't matter much today. Nothing does. This feeling of restlessness is all-consuming and selfish.

On most days I forget why I am here. I forget what I want and what I want to do. These days turn into months and then years. Then finally a day like today appears and I am filled with sorrow and helplessness. I don't ask any questions today because I know the questions and I can clearly see the answers. But I am overwhelmed by the wave of time that has overtaken me and this emotion that leaves me without warning, without a snooze alarm, awakening me less often than it does. Yes, comfort is comfortable. And contentment is overrated.

Someone else operates me today. I am not who I am when I am sleeping the rest of the days. Perhaps this is who I am really, and must be at all times. But sleeping comes naturally, and waking is such an effort. And I waste today in pin-pricking myself into wakefulness that I want should last this lifetime. Poke. Poke. Poke.

Eyes wide open.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Harry Potter will always be 'the boy who lived'

So I just saw the last Harry Potter movie (Deathly Hallows Part II) and still recovering from it. This is an important moment in life right here, not just for me but I think for many of us.

The first time I had picked up a Harry Potter was when I was in class VI, around 12 years old. At 22, Harry Potter has been a part of my life for ten years, and will be forever more. In a sense we've all grown up together, Harry and me, Ron, Hermione and the rest of the gang at Hogwarts. We've seen Sirius enter Harry's life and then leave, we've seen the wise Dumbledore lead and die and we've seen the end of Voldemort.

This being an emotional moment, here's a list of five things I will miss about Harry Potter:

1. Dumbledore
Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore
The wise old man of Hogwarts will be missed most by me. My favourite character with the best, deepest dialogues. I feel sad but I must remember, in Dumbledore's own words, "For the intelligent mind, death is yet another adventure." Thank you, professor, for everything.

Tom Marvolo Riddle
Lord Voldemort
2. Voldemort
You-Know-Who will always remind me of all that is wrong and evil. How power corrupts and how there is always a choice and that choice makes all the difference. Truth alone triumphs. every, single, time.

3. Magic & Quidditch
I will miss the spells, some of my favourite ones being 'accio', patronus charm, and also the dark arts. No other sport will be ever as exciting as Quidditch on brooms. Will also be missed: Snitch and Firebolt.

4. Hogwarts
This magical world of Hogwarts. Moving portraits, living ghosts, magical feasts, moving staircases; what a school. One question: Will I get admission?

5. Dementors
These terribly fascinating creations. Two thumbs up to Rowling for having created something as frightening as these flying skeletons in cloaks. Brilliantly depressing stuff.

There are so many other things, but this is all I can think of right now and it's tough to type with tears in ones eyes. This is a series of books I will preserve and make my kids read. This is a series that defines our generation. This is my classic. I heart Harry Potter. Forever.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bi-Cycle Diaries

So, I am twenty-two, and I am learning how to ride a bicycle. I can understand how amusing this could be for all you bicycling experts out there, who mastered this art (yes, art) at ages 7, 8 and 9. Clearly, I felt at that age I had better things to do than cycle and it was only till very recently that I realized what I was missing out on.

A few days back I decided I wanted to cycle. I don’t know why I wanted it, how I could achieve it and when I’d do it, all I knew was that I wanted to cycle. In the words of Freddie Mercury, ‘I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike.’

Step one was to arrange for a bike. That was going to be the only difficulty, I had thought. One phone call and that was taken care of. Step two, find a teacher – that was easy, my boyfriend readily agreed, even when it was decided the time to cycle would be 6 am (true love, huh?). What a sport. Step three was to bike.

Day One: It’s ALL about the bike

The wake up call was dreadful. Neither of us wanted to get up and were waiting for the other to cancel. But somehow we were on the road, the new cycle by our side and on the road by 0602.

I don’t care what Lance Armstrong says, for me, it was all about the bike: because it was too high for me. I had to hop on every time and it was tough to ride, knowing I may not be able to touch my feet. It’s funny, I was scared of falling, if only a few inches!

It was a workout, for me and Aman. More so for him, because he had to hold the bike and run beside me, and hold it again as my steering wavered and I headed towards a neighbour’s BMW.

He says he let go for full three seconds and I steered well, right before heading abruptly towards my right and falling. I figured that was progress.

I needed to rest so I stopped. Rest for Aman, or in this case any cycling expert, meant, well, cycling. I can’t believe my Everest is his leisurely, walk in the park.

I know it’s going to get more frustrating as we go along. I may fall and I know I will get impatient. I have learnt an important fact of life on day one: no one likes abrupt breaks on their path to freedom or happiness (or anything that resembles them). It is only satisfying if it is a smooth ride. And right now, my ride is far from smooth.

But I am happy. I am doing something I gave up long back. I don’t know if this is worth writing about, but then everything is. One thing is for sure, this diary is to remind me of a moment, an episode in my life where I decided to learn something new, and hopefully, irrespective of my age, I will continue to do so.

I have been coming up with some theories as to why I want cycle, all of a sudden, out of the blue. I feel it may have something to do with wanting to complete unfinished businesses, tie the loose ends. I may have given up on things worth holding on to and not given up on things and people I should have fast let go of.

As I grow older, I am coming to realize the lack of control I have on my life or anyone else’s for that matter. The only thing I want to control for now, is that steering. I want to ride my bicycle. Perhaps, this is a call of nature, my nature, an expression of my innate child-likeness, the need to be free, to be faster than I am on my two feet, with the wind singing songs in my ears.

And my last theory, it is the need to achieve something tangible, to conquer a skill, and as I said earlier, to finish something I should have a long time ago. But will I? 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mera joota hai Japani and all that

Songs from the dinosaur era blared on the radio and I was forced to listen. What was worse, I was forced to appreciate. You had to, when you were visiting an uncle who had a cute son whose attention you would do anything for. Pretending to like archaic music was the least of my worries right now.

Col S.P.S. Khanna, aka Laali uncle sat in his arm chair sipping on his whisky (on the rocks) and I sat facing him, on the close-to-comfortable sofa chair with a glass of roohafsa in my hand. Roohafsa, I had realized over the years, was the safest drink at a family gathering. It suggested you were amiable, you didn’t drink ‘hard drinks’ – which meant you were a ‘good girl’ – and most of all, it meant you were born of this generation, but comfortable with things of the past. Yes, roohafsa was the perfect mending-the-generation-gap drink.

Laali uncle was a man of few words, and too many drinks. In our family circle, drinking had always been his thing. The first few moments with him were always a little tense and awkward. There would be monosyllablic conversation, mostly yeses and nos, and an occasional ‘very fine, very fine’. But then, after he had downed his fourth drink, I would see a transformation, a metamorphoses; soon, our Laali uncle would be narrating stories of his army days, his eyes so bright and his decibel level so high, most others would stop talking and listen in rapt attention. Another drink and the music would get louder and he would be humming tunes, another and he would be singing along. Once, he actually took off his left shoe, held it in his right hand and with his drink in the left, he danced to ‘Mera joota hai Japani’! My mother later joked about how he had changed his mind about taking his trousers off (since the song also said, ‘Ye patloon Inglistani’), since both his hands were preoccupied.

After drink number seven, you’d see uncle twirling around on the floor, his arms spread out, like a sufi in a trans. By the time the night was over, Laali uncle would be nothing like the original. He became the showstopper, the performer, and we, an enthralled audience. I often suspect he was the reason I became inclined to drinking; that glass of whisky, an elixir, a magic potion of transformation.

I looked at my glass of gulaabi liquid in contrast to uncle’s jewel gold one and sighed.

Just then, there was a loud clambering sound, as if to break the silence (uncle was on his second drink only), and he walked in. My stomach lurched into my lungs and an involuntary gush of breath left my mouth. Short, spiked brown-black hair, perfect Greek god-ish cheek bones, a slightly podgy nose, chaffed lips (oh those lips!), and a tiny goatie peeping from underneath, sheltered by his lower lip’s voluptuous curve. I felt a sudden urge to tickle it and I wondered why. This man was perfection. He wore a plain black tee with jeans and held a givson in his right hand. Before I could study the details of what possibly hid under the tee, he spoke. And I melted. In my head, a tiny version of me broke into a slow dance.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Ode to Ordinary Love

(There is nothing ordinary about it)

Could our love ever be the stuff of legends?
Would they read of it with wet eyes and broad smiles?
But we are simple people, you and I.
Simple people feeling extraordinary things.

Could we sing of it?
And would they hum the chorus?
Would it leave their lips but never their hearts, this love of ours?
Of us forgetables holding hands.

Would they talk of us when we are gone,
Like you do of me when I leave?
And I of your absence, limbless and incomplete?
Would they ever know about you and me?

Would they care for the music in our laughs together,
Or the way our fingers played?
Would they count the lines we carved on each other's palms,
One for each year we spent in love?

They would never chase the tears
Running down our faces to see where they ended,
The times of us ordinary lovers
Spent on sandy beaches.

*Dedicated to the love of my life, the cheese to my macaroni, the sun in my sky.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


As most of you would know, I did this course (Youth Empowerment Programme) by Chinmaya Mission in 2009. I would recommend it to everybody. I can call myself educated only after doing this course -- it really did put to shame all the years that was being taught how to read and write in school and college. Unfortunately, we might be literate, but the youth of India is terribly misguided and confused -- what's worst, we are UNINSPIRED.

A personal request to all to either sign up or pass it on to youngsters you may know who are interested in
1. Doing good work
2. Finding themselves
3. Are confused -- have time at hand and would like to use it well

This is largely a service program -- serving the country. We need youngsters who can tell wrong from right and who are inspired and creating an army of such inspired leaders is the objective of this course. Please take a minute and give it some thought.

The course fee is NIL (This is not an over-the-top MBA program. We are looking for inspired leaders in the literal sense, who are ready to give back to society).
The venue is Chinmaya Vibhooti, which is an hour's drive from Pune. (Don't expect traffic noise and skyscrapers)
The time period for the course is Two and a half months of training (at Vibhooti) followed by 12 months of service at various centres of Chinmaya Mission all over the country.

It is a wonderful platform for learning and implementing, through service in the field. Though a year seems like a long time, in a lifetime of 80 years, you can proudly say you gave a year to the service of your country.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Twelve: In the End

Didi took a notebook out of her bag. She leafed through the pages and then plucked a photograph
from inside it.

On the left side stood this boyish girl with short-wavy hair and a stubborn look on her face. She stood in direct contrast to her pretty-in-pink sister, who smiled purposefully at the camera. Between them stood a man of rugged handsomeness, with a moustache set perfectly between his nose and upper lip, thick, black and its ends curled fashionably. He wore a smug look of pride. On the right stood a woman with a quiet confidence, smiling pleasantly as her perm made her thin face stand out, almost like she belonged in a pulp-fiction film poster.

When I turned the photograph, a vivid memory on paper, I felt my father’s pen in his handwriting. It said:

My Girls
The son and the moon,
And the blanket of the sky.
My little ones and the Mother,
How lucky was I.

Our lips curved into smiles as we read this, but our eyes gave the tears away. All this time we had wept over having lost him, but we never realized what Dad had to let go off...

His whole universe.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Eleven: Lost and Found

Day Five

Well, it was only fair I got lost at least once during this journey. I am homeward bound and it is only fitting that I can’t find my way home. This time, I am not afraid of having lost my way. Maybe, somehow, I am turning into a traveller. Or maybe it has something to do with what lies in front of me right now.

Having asked for directions, referring to the map and still being lost, I just looked for the best spot in sight and parked the Bullet. I now sit on slightly wet grass, over-looking a lush green valley growing into a massive mountain of browns. If I peer closely, I see small streams, like waterfalls, amidst a billion shades of green and brown. Behind me are stretches of tar, swerving through the mountain as they lead the way for cars packed with holidaying uncles and aunties.

If this is what lost looks like, I don’t mind being lost all the time, at all. I feel like Dad. I know we have ‘lost’ him, but I now realize that there is a part of me that is him. In a sense, we will live forever.

Father holding daughter’s hand,
An interdependent feeling of growing together,
Tell me, Dad, should we walk or run?
You and I, a force forever.

The child in you,
Now here resides,
In the hole that is in me
And that keeps me alive.

We will grow wiser,
And you will remain,
The same old boy,
In the spaces of my young mind.

Let’s not stop and wait for the others,
We don’t run for them, but we travel together,
Hand-in-hand, heart-in-heart,
Brothers this moment, and friends in another.

We protect and preserve
The forces that bind us
A memory in a photograph
Because that’s all we have.

But we will act, not lose face or suffer,
Sing, dance and pray to be heard
Dad, take my hand, we’ll walk awhile longer
You and I, the force grows stronger.


I quickly packed my bags for the night and rushed to the car. I drove like a child on a sugar rush, indicator now, accelerator then. It was a long drive to Maa but with a little help from the radio and my crazy thoughts, I didn’t have much problem passing time. The traffic helped too.

Eeshu was coming home today. She has finally called to tell us she’d be reaching in the evening and she wanted to see us both. I hadn’t heard her voice in almost a week and we both weren’t used to that. I couldn’t wait to be pampered by Maa and showered with Eesh’s stories. That adventurous one! I always knew she’d do something to make women all over the world proud. At least I was proud. She did what she wanted to. I always knew she could do it, secretly.

Maa and I met, broke into a dance and I lunged to hug her. “Me too, me too!” Eeshu appeared out of nowhere. “I was supposed to welcome you! What are you doing here already?” I gave her tight squeeze. “Surprise!” she beamed.

It was an ideal day. All three of us, with our legs warming up inside the blanket, Maa feeding us great food and showing off her art work. It was great to see Maa so driven about something after so long. I felt how Picasso’s kid must feel, if he had one. My crazy baby sister had loads to tell as well. Mom would have tiny heart attacks every time she told us she got lost, or her bike broke down, but in all, we were all just relieved that she was back in one piece. Her friend Anuj, of course, was more relieved to have his bike back, in one piece.

Little Women

Chapter Ten: Wake Up!

I woke up with a start and reached for a pen and paper on the bed-side table. I started to sketch and the lines just flowed. I had dreamt of an image, a waterfall gushing into a still pond. The water landed on a lotus flower, that remained unperturbed by the heavy force of the water. I did not know what it meant, but within me, it stirred a sense of peace. I wanted to capture that picture in my mind onto paper. It became an incessant urge within me.

I hunted for my canvas and painting artillery. I had not painted in a long time. I impatiently squirted the paint onto the easel and my fingers began flowing. It was the journey of a life time. Sometimes the brush walked and at other times it ran. My fingers traversed the canvas for nearly four hours.

I finished the painting with a feeling of discovery. I had found something, and this time, I would not let it go.


Day Four

I was looking in the wrong place! While I was busy moping over my luck, there was someone waiting to help me. Little Kajal had been silently watching me and shyly came to me with her hands behind her back. She leaned on my bike and waited to catch my attention.
Her father owned a chai stall closeby and their house stood adjacent to it. That was my place of residence for last night. It was the most wonderful experience for a traveller. I had transitioned from a tourist to a local, overnight!

A family of six, six-year-old Kajal is the naughtiest of them all. Her laughter is contagious and her fearlessness, an inspiration. It makes me think whether I too was so bold when I was young. I am not sure I like growing up at all, at this point. I can feel the fear and cynicism creeping in. Perhaps I need a friend like Kajal to remind me to stay a child forever.

This family’s hospitality amazes me. It also amazes me how big-hearted people can be. I feel almost disgusted of having lived in a city - so much for progress and modernity. This is a better life, a simpler one. But I am not too sure how I’d survive like this for long. I am, unfortunately, a spoilt, city child.

Kajal’s father also got his friend to fix my bike. This means it is time to leave. When I tell Kajal this, she cries. I hug her, but I wonder why this child weeps at my exit, having known me barely for half a day. Did she think I was here forever? We are all on this journey, travelling our own paths. But when they cross, we are thankful to have met, I want to tell her. I am starting to realize now, that perhaps the same rule applies for my father’s exodus.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Nine: Inside Out

Don’t panic, I told myself while I, well, panicked. I rummaged through my stuff. Dad’s gloves were missing. I could not have misplaced them, how could I have? He had given them to me. “Are you looking in the right place?” Ashinde repeated. Where could they have gone? I had kept them next to my jacket before I had dozed off last night, and now they weren’t there. I couldn’t think straight. Those gloves meant everything. It was almost like losing Dad again. The thought itself made my heart sink. “Calm down, little one. Where did you see them last? Think.” “I don’t know, they were here in the room...I showed them to you this morning, did I? Did I give them to you? Do you have them?” the words tumbled into each other. “You are looking for something, but you are not looking in the right place.” “Stop saying that! It’s not helping! They were my father’s. I told you how precious they were to me!” I dejectedly dropped myself on the bed and held my head in my hands, trying not to let the weight of my feelings translate into tears. In a half hearted attempt, I lifted my jacket with one hand and fidgeted inside the pockets. I found the gloves.

“See, Little one. This is what happens. You look everywhere and you have the gloves. Stop looking outside the pocket when it is inside. It is inside and you search outside. And then you cry about it like a baby. And now you found your Dad! Happy?”

Relieved, I repacked and got ready to leave with Ashinde by my side for a little while longer. He had decided to get off mid-way, giving me reasons I didn't quite understand. The ride was noisy, with Ashinde having something to say about everything, and then abruptly stopping, to give some room for introspection, I figured.

I would have to be the lone ranger from now on.


Day Three

Having survived two days in a land away from home, I am failing to love this feeling of discovery. Before leaving the house, I knew this journey would have been tough, but just how tough, I am now starting to see. I am, at this very moment, sitting on an uneven milestone, my broken machine parked next to me. I have a feeling it has something to do with the carburetor, or something else. May be I will find someone to help me. Am I looking in the right place? Or maybe I will have to find a place to stay around here, since it is getting dark. I suddenly feel insecure and in need of protection. I am starting to miss Mom.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Eight: Maternal Hassles

I had phoned both my daughters. The elder one had cut my call and the younger one’s phone was switched off. I had even messaged them, which is rare, me being a luddite of the first order. Why have phones if you don’t want to be contacted? “All grown up, but still a reason for worry, these children”, I mumbled. A mother’s curse is that she can never have peace.

I made my way to the kitchen in an attempt to divert my attention from the possibilities of what my offspring could be enduring thousands of miles from home, somewhere in the Himalayas. Dinner for one tonight, nothing too exciting, a toast with butter and some soup is good enough.

It was time for some television, I decided. I had to snap myself out of mother-mode and I definitely needed to feel independent. Both my daughters seemed to managing perfectly without me, why couldn’t I do without them? All these years, they were dependent on me, and now, all of a sudden, I am the dependent one? Perhaps, life was coming full circle.

My thoughts were interrupted by the door bell. It was my neighbour Mrs Madan. She wasn’t the most pleasant woman in the neighbourhood. In fact, at times I felt she was almost delighted my husband had passed away, leaving me to lead a life companion-less, just like her. I did not want to be around her, but my social conditioning led me to open the door, smile, make conversation and feed her some soup. She tried her best to convince me to join kitties, but I knew what these get-togethers were really about. Middle-aged ladies coming together to gossip, create and disseminate rumours about other women, turn every woman’s house-hold problems into an entertaining episode of a soap opera, or better yet Desperate Housewives. Popular topics of discussion included: extra-marital affairs, incompetent daughter-in-laws, weight issues, recipes, all in all, nothing that interests me.

I yawned twice, and a third time when I was done being polite. She finally took the hint and headed for the door. “You are lucky Radhika. You still have a daughter who comes home to you. You still have to look forward to her wedding...” And in that one statement, all the bitter things she had said in the past vanished. I realized this woman who lived in the house across the street, was more than anything else, alone.

That night I vowed to not let the loneliness make me bitter.

Little Women

Chapter Seven: Ready to Serve

Today’s evening snack menu: Paneer pakoras, hot jalebis dipped in syrup and ginger tea. Just the thought of food made my stomach turn. It never ceased to amaze me how the Sahais ate so much. And today was special. Bade Papa and Mummy were coming to visit. Their excuse: “Oh, we haven’t seen bahu rani since the wedding!” The real reason: Good weather for some free pakoras and pampering.

I guess the menu stands to be corrected. The only item on the menu was the latest addition to the Sahai clan – Me aka Bahu Rani, served on saree-clad platter accessorized with a ton of gold. Okay, I didn’t mind the gold.

Every time I had to parade myself in front of the elders, I could hear my mom-in-law announcing, “Presenting – the girl who is almost good-enough for my son,” full, with background music and all. The spectators would make their judgements, depending on my behaviour and also on how good the refreshments tasted, and eventually leave. I would then crib to my husband while getting out of the 30 metres of cloth, he would comfort me while sneakily watching television. My mother-in-law would return to the kitchen, more or less satisfied with her performance, and possibly with mine, while heating heaps of food for the Sahai men, and me.

Trips to the in-laws’ house was mostly all about talking, eating and eating some more. For the women of the house, it was about feeding and playing roles.

Visits to the Khanna house were liberating. My mother too, was all about pampering. But the subject of her attention was me. I could legally bully my sister and charm my mother into doing anything. When Papa was around, I could take it all one notch higher. We would both join hands and transform Eeshu virtually into my slave, all on the pretext of one statement, “Didi is only here for a few days after all.” Being married had its perks, I guess. I threw unreasonable tantrums. Once, Papa woke Eesh up, just so that she would run to the shop and get me some rusk with my morning tea. A run-of-the-mill biscuit was simply not good enough for his long-distance daughter who seldom visited.

Papa and Eesh had their moments. They had a love-hate relationship. Actually, Eesh loved to sleep and hated being woken up by Papa. He is the only one who dared such a feat, Mom and I gave up long back, for fear of loss of life or a useful body part.

Papa’s departure had been really tough on her, I thought to myself as I poured the tea, which had copious amounts of ginger may I add, into the kettle. All this business of biking to the Himalayas was a rebound. Or maybe not. She had always been attracted to such outdoorsy activities and wanted so much to be like Papa. I could only hope she found a way to cope with the changes that life had offered us. Life, the only thing I couldn’t protect my baby sister from, I sighed.

Little Women

Chapter Six: Sunny Side Up

My rendezvous with Ashinde became a thing of delight within hours of meeting him. He was a kind man with soft eyes with lines around them from smiling so much. I noticed his eyes smiled even when his lips did not. He felt not like a stranger, but a friend and philosopher I soon found out, also my guide.

After my mid-evening snack, I headed to my room. It was small but clean, and that was enough for me. A single bed, a table and chair packed into one corner and a frame photograph of the Himalayan range on the wall, this was the modest composition of the room. I opened the drapes and saw a vision of darkness, with just little lights, like ants on fire, lighting up the whole valley. I smiled to myself and turned to head straight to the loo. I peeped in and found the essentials considerably clean and sighed with relief. I was fussy about bathrooms.

I dove into bed and closed my eyes just for a second and blacked out till 4. 40 am next morning.
I woke to the wet feel of my own drool on my hand and the sound of some very soothing instrumental music. It took a moment to register where I was but it all made sense when I looked outside the window. There it was, my first solo sunrise.

I sat up and just stared. The sky was grey and the world was slowly waking. Now blue, now lilac, now pink. And suddenly, like a fired match in the sky, the sun burnt the blue canvas and the birds welcomed its arrival. I had just witnessed the death of night and the birth of day. The moment was poetic.

I leapt for my bag and pulled out my diary. I turned to the first page and wrote:

Day One
5.09 am

Sunny side up
Riding the sky
Dipped in crimson
Blue says goodbye...

I decided to venture out and explore. I wanted to know the source of the music, for one. Is this how life is in the hills? I couldn’t help but feel left out. As if we city folk were being kept out of this beautiful secret. But then again...the sun rose in the city too...

Half-way down the stairs, I knew what the music was. It was Buddhist music. They called it Honkyoku. Japanese Zen monks played honkyoku for enlightenment and alms. The instruments used were mostly inspired by sounds in nature, to help one soothe the mind. I walked into the backyard to find Ashinde with a cup which had curly shapes of steam rising from it. He sat on a seemingly pointy rock, but seemed unusually comfortable for the surface he was sitting on. He was looking at the space from where I entered even before I had stepped out, almost as if expecting to see me. I gave him a friendly smile but he looked and turned away. His indifference to my presence made me nervous. “Beautiful sunrise,” I said, an attempt to make conversation, which was met with silence. Just when I thought I knew Ashinde as a talkative, ready-to-help, friendly bloke, he pulled this new one. Men, I mentally sighed. When for some more time he didn’t speak, I decided to make peace with the silence.

“I was mourning the passing of the night, while you celebrated the sunrise,” I heard him say. I turned my face toward him and saw him looking at me with resilient eyes. He held my stare and his eyes softened, a facial metamorphosis rarely seen. Just like the night had given way to light, Ashinde’s face had lit up. Every moment death, every moment life, I thought to myself.

“Where are you going, Little one? Why on this journey alone?” I heard my thought breaking. “Aah, but you are wise. You understand, one must voyage through the seas of thought alone,” Ashinde said before I could say anything. “That, and also, no one wanted to be my pillion!” I laughed. “So where are you off to from here?” “The next stop is Dhanaulti at 16 00 hours. Provided I leave from here on time,” I peeked at my watch. I had enough time to sightsee and have a filling breakfast. My thoughts wandered to Ashinde’s special omelette. “Oh, I come with you? I have hotel there too. You give me ride. I be your pillion. I am not scared of dying, you see,” he said winking at me and then chuckling. “Okay, okay, I‘ll give you a ride ... Only if you feed me your world famous sunny-side-up and let me stay at your other hotel for 108 bucks!”

Little Women

Chapter Five: Travel Home

Sunscreen: check
Toothpaste: check
Woollen socks: check
Sunglasses: check
Raincoat: check
Diary: check
Powder, rock-climbing shoes, fuel tank full: check, check, check. With that, I was all set to take on the road. Just me, Dad’s biking accessories (leather jacket with matching gloves) and Anuj’s bike. Bliss.

I handed the list of emergency numbers to Mom, promised her at least a thousand times to keep my phone charged and take her calls, texted my sister (which I thought was probably the safer option) and readied myself to take off.

I did not draw much attention on the road, which was great. I reckon it was all the gear that made me look like just another guy on a Bullet. Had people known it was a girl, dilliwalas would have found another reason to gawk.

As I approached the outskirts of the city, I realized the reality of this predicament. This was actually happening! I felt a nervous-excitement in my stomach.

Three hours out of Delhi, it all started sinking in. No home, no Mom, no job, for the next seven days. Just a bike to ride and a road map to guide. I decided to make my first stop at a dhaba in Karnal. I parked and removed my helmet. A few truck drivers turned to look, but I didn’t wait to see their reaction. I made my way to the charpoy and asked the waiter for chai. I took out my cell phone from my bag, along with a wet tissue. I might be riding a bullet, but am a girl at heart, I thought, wiping my face with a ‘Kara’ wet tissue.

I looked at my phone and exhaled in anticipation of what I was about to do next.

Type New Message> To: Mom; Didi; Jijoo> Hi guys, this one’s between Me, Dad and the road. I know your numbers. Will stay in touch. Love you. Eesh> Send

With that last communication with the known, I switched off my Nokia 5600 and threw it into the depths of my rug-sack.
I studied the map. The next destination was Ranikhet, 150 kilometers away. As I rode along, I could feel the temperature lower and the land rise. Soon, sheers of hills draped the sky. The light was getting dimmer and I had no intentions of riding at night. A girl on a bullet on the highway at night, even I drew the line there.

I had marked up a few hotels at a distance of every fifty kilometres to avoid any trouble. I took a bylane from the main highway and headed towards my pit stop for the night, Hotel Star Plaza. When I reached the spot however, the hotel in question was nowhere to be seen. Instead, I found a small bed-and-breakfast. Well, you can’t plan for life, now can you, I said to myself.
I got off the bike and dusted my jeans. In front of me stood a yellow board which said ‘Travel Home’ in army green colour. When I went in to check the place out, I found a middle-aged Tibetan man wearing a T-shirt that read ‘Yak yak yak’ along with a picture of, guess what, a yak. His hair touched his shoulders and was longer than mine.

“Hello! You hungry?” he greeted me. “I...ya...but...” I mumbled. “I make great omelette! Always sunny side up!” he said, with every word slightly mispronounced. “Ya, that’s good. But I wanted a room for tonight...” “Sure sure. We have room. Only Rs 108 per night.” “Why 108?” I enquired, though pleased at the meagre tariff. “108 lucky number for Buddhist. Even for Hindu. Rosemary have 108 beads, you see?” and with that he began counting the beads on his mala. “Yes, yes, now how about that omelette?” I replied, in an attempt to get him to stop counting.

The omelette was scrumptious, but it came with a side order of the man at the reception, who was also the owner-cum-chef-cum-repairman with just his young son to assist him at Hotel ‘Travel Home’. I guess I should have known he was a talker, his shirt clearly gave it away. The ‘sunny side up’ was that he wasn’t a nonsense talker and seemed more or less harmless and very helpful. “So, how come you call this place ‘Travel Home’? To my mind, it’s an oxymoron, isn’t it?” I was surprised to find that Ashinde knew what an oxymoron was. “For a true traveller, home is where his travels take him. But for someone like you, I can tell, you are travelling towards home?” “Sorry to disappoint you, but home is where I am coming from. Where I am going, is still a mystery.” “Little one, home is where you are at peace.”

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Little Women

Chapter Four: Up, up and Away!

You don’t know what I am going through, every cell in my body yelled, as my boss screamed at me for missing my deadline yet again. “You took leave for two weeks. I expected you to be done with your work by now. This is absolutely unprofessional.” I took leave because I lost my father, I wanted to tell him, but didn’t, because I knew I was just a decibel away from bursting into tears. He saw my face contorted with pain and lowered his pitch just a tad. “Listen, I understand you have been having a tough time personally but these things happen, you can’t let it affect your work, move on.” That was it. “Move on! Move on!? Don’t you tell me to move on you insensitive pig!” I leapt off my chair with streams of tears wildly cascading my face and looked my boss straight in the eye and said, “You know nothing! You didn’t know my dad and you don’t know what it feels like to lose him!” I could hear my decibel levels hitting the roof, but I didn’t care. I felt wild and free and dangerous, after a very long time. I even enjoyed that look of absolute shock on my boss’s face. “I quit, you insensitive asshole!” I hurriedly took the first sheet of paper I saw in front of me, jotted my resignation, signed it and violently thumped it on his table. “There you go, Eesha Sahai has moved on! Moved on from this stinking office with a stinking boss!”

I stormed out of his cabin to see the bewildered expressions of colleagues. I walked over to my desk, picked up my bag and my but one belonging, a photo frame with Dad’s picture in it, and left the office without a farewell. I didn’t get a goodbye and it was only fair no one else got one.


“So, what now?”asked Mom. “I don’t know,” I said. “You clearly haven’t thought this through... you are too impulsive, and too sensitive... You always have been. It doesn’t pay beta, to be so emotional...” “Ya, and it pays to bottle in your feelings and cry at night when no one’s watching. That’s better, right?” I said, and regretted it the minute I had. I gathered myself and looked my mother right in the face and told her what I had been avoiding telling her for a long time. “Mom, I have decided to go away for some time. I have some money saved up for a trip. Anuj has agreed to lend me his bike for ten days and I am going to ride to a few towns in Himachal. You know I am a traveller like Dad and you know I am going to go. So just let me.”
I waited for her over-the-top Mummy-type hysterical response. Instead she said this, “I should have seen this coming. You are, and always have been, your father’s daughter. Give me a map of the route you plan to follow and phone numbers to all the hotels you have booked yourself at, and then you can go. A little bit of soul-searching will do us all some good right about now.” I jumped up with joy! All of a sudden I was excited at the prospect of this new adventure. The day was turning on its head. A dream was turning into reality and I was finally running away from the ghost memories of these past few months.


“You are sending her where?” “On what?” It was official, my mother and my sister had lost it. Eeshu wanted a sabbatical in the form of a lone trip to the Himalayas on a bike and my mom had agreed. “Have you guys lost it? I know Eeshu is dumb, but what’s the matter with you, Mom? How can you allow this? You know what, I put my foot down. She is not going. She is leaving when? Give her the phone right now! Right now, Mom! I don’t care that she refuses to talk to me, this is not done! What about you, how are you going to manage alone? How can she be so selfish?”

“She hung up on me! My own mother hung up on me!” “Don’t worry about it love, you tend to have that effect on people,” said my loving hubby. “You are not going to believe this...Eeshu...” “Is going on a trip to Himachal. On her bike. Sorry, on Anuj’s bike. I know, and I believe it. Who do you think funded her expenses?” he said, with a mischievous grin on his face.

“You! Why do you hate me? Instead of talking sense into that girl, you encouraged her into this madness? Was my father the only sane person in this family aside from me?” I sat dejected and disillusioned on the side of the bed.

“Your father was the one who took impromptu trips on his Bullet to Rishikesh. Your father, my dear, rehearsed a fish-hook stunt on his bullet, with your mom sitting behind him!” said Raj, with a victorious glint in his eye. “Ya, ya, I know all that, and much more, mind you. But Eeshu...she’s my baby sister. And... She’s a girl!” “Whoa! Thus spake the lone spokesperson of feminism in the Sahai-Khanna khaandaan! How sexist, jaan, really!” And with that, he knew he had shut me up. Great, I had myself a smug husband this weekend and a loony baby sister for life.

Little Women

Chapter Three: Turn it Up

“Stop honking! It’s a bloody red light!” Jerk. Delhi traffic jams can be the true test of patience for anyone. Even Lord Rama in all his glory would at least think of giving drivers here the middle finger. But then again, he had the brahmastra... “Arey madam, green ho gayi!”
I put the car in gear, accelerated and zoomed ahead, happy having proved myself as a worthy driver, leaving those Indica drivers in the aftertaste of my exhaust. “If Rama had a brahmastra, I have you baby,” I said patting the stirring wheel of my metallic blue Swift Dezire. As if in response, my Bluetooth device attached to the wheel started buzzing. Mom calling flashed on the screen. “Surviving Delhi traffic is one thing, surviving Mom-in-law’s phone calls, quite another,” I said to no one in particular. “Hi Mom. Ya, I am on my way back from office. Ya, I got a little late today. Yes, Raj is home already. Of course there’s food at home, Mom! He’ll help himself. He doesn’t mind...Hang on. Cops.” And with that I put Mom on hold. Not that that stopped her from talking. I could hear her monologue blaring from the phone. “Beta, you should feed him hot chapattis. I mean you both should eat together. Hot food. He likes his food hot, except daal. He likes his daal warm. Not too hot, not too cold, medium. Since, childhood only...hello, hello?” “Haan, Mamma, I am just about to reach home, will just call you. Can’t talk on the phone while driving, you know. Okay, bye.” Thank you, traffic rules.

Just when I increased the volume of my stereo, the phone rang again. This time it was Ma. Mere paas maa-ien hain, I said to myself in the typical Amitabh Bachchan style and chuckled. “Ya Mamma, what’s up?” “Nothing baby, just about to have dinner. Have both of you eaten?... Are you driving?” “Ya Mom, not home as yet. Was stuck at a meeting.” “What about Raj, is he home? Has he eaten?” “I don’t know! I haven’t eaten either! What about me?” Ignoring my response completely, my mother says, “Beta, you should feed him hot food. Hot hot chapattis...” Wow. Do all mothers in the world go by a common script? And do all of them care just for my husband and at what temperature he gets his regular dose of carbohydrates? “Ma, you are unbelievable,” I said half enraged and half amazed. “I’ll call you when I get home... And when I have fed your damaad smoking hot chapattis,” I said for effect. My own mother felt more for my husband than she did for me. It was at times like this that I missed Dad. He balanced everything out perfectly. He would shower Raj with gifts and me with compliments. I was his beta and Raj was the son he never had. When Ma went overboard with this son-in-law business, Dad would give me the extra attention. In one of my last visits home, before he left us, I remember he had given me a five-hundred rupee note before I left. No reason, just like that. And in one of the last few moments we had shared, he had told me to take care of Ma and Eeshu. “You are my beta na,” he had said and few weeks later, he was gone.

I wiped the growing droplet of water before it even left my eye and submerged myself in the music, as I increased the volume of the stereo. It didn’t matter what song played, as long as I couldn’t hear my own thoughts. There was no time to cry, in a life as busy as mine.

Little Women

Chapter Two: Breathe

He’s on ventilator. How did this happen? We were to move him out of the ICU today. No, this can't be. But the doctor keeps saying it. Why? How? What does this mean? He says he can’t breathe on his own. His heart can’t beat on its own. What about my heart? My life is suspended with his. Don’t they understand?

There they are, those pipes and wires surround him. Who is this? Is this my husband? And I feel the tears drowning me. What do I do now? How do I change this? Is this the end of his fight, our fight to keep him alive? Has he left me? But we were in this together. We have lost.

I wake up with a feeling of despair weighing me down into the depth of my blankets. I hold on tightly to my daughter, sleeping beside me. It is only at this hour that I can plead protection from my child, who I lovingly protect during the tyranny of daylight. I hold her and feel like a child again.

Every night, his absence in my bed becomes daunting by his presence in my dreams. I wish not to recount the last thread of his life with us, but its memory haunts me. Soon, I get myself out from under the comfortable covers and look at the clock, never at his smiling photograph that hangs above it. It is 4.30 am. My husband and I would wake at an early hour like this and over a cup of tea, discuss ways to wake the girls in the morning. Needless to say, none worked.

My morning routine remains unchanged, just without him now. I look at my younger daughter as she sleeps and silently resolve to protect her, like I often do. The purpose of my life seems to have come to this now. A few months back, it was to keep my husband alive.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Little Women

Chapter One: Birthdays

It’s Dad’s fifty-fifth birthday today. Everyone seems to have forgotten. Except Mom, who doesn’t seem to want to remember.

He left us quite abruptly, though on-lookers would disagree, exactly five months and seventeen days back after a five-year-long fight with cancer. We were unprepared, but then again, who is ever prepared to face death?

Everyone says we have handled it well, but I wonder what the criteria for that is. Yes, we are alive and yes we are living. But is that enough? My mother, sister and I, are a whirlpool of emptiness. That has to count for something.

Death wounds you in a way that everything else becomes secondary to its pain. Much like what chemo was to Dad. The sun rises and sets but the wound smarts the same, truly unaffected, like the reality of our very being. Much like what the reality of cancer was for Dad, and subsequently in our lives.

What’s funny is that not in my wildest dreams had I thought he would leave us, which is strange, given his condition. But, I guess, such is the arrogance of the human mind, believing it is invincible. And such is the innocent love of a daughter, who believes in her father’s immortality and her mother’s ability to endure everything. Yes, innocence and perhaps ignorance, is a wonderful thing.

Here comes Mom, morning cup of tea in hand, blissfully unaware of my thoughts. She sits on the chair next to mine and sips her hot tea and drapes her shawl on her knees. Both the cup and the shawl are Dad’s. “Have you had your tea?” she asks me while tilting to see my empty cup. She doesn’t wait for an answer. “Should I get you breakfast? Garam garam methi ki paranthi hai...with homemade white butter!” she adds, with her usual I-am-tempting-you-with-good-food look. She loves that look, like all mothers, I guess. “Nahi, Ma. Not yet,” I say, playing the role of the spoilt sport to the tee. “So, what’s your plan for the day? Any meetings?” I ask Mom as she scans through the headlines. “No...not today...” “When, Mom? You need to restart your work. What will you do all day? You really need to get back to work...” “I am not ready yet. Just let me be. Give me time. Don’t force me.” The same old argument. I soften my tone and say, “I don’t want to force you, Ma. I just want you to keep yourself occupied... I am sorry, okay? You take your time...We’ll go out for a movie today when I get back, alright?” To this she nods and I know this plan won’t materialize, it’s more to lighten the mood. “I am going to go get ready for office, then.”

And I exit the verandah, leaving Dad’s memories suspended in the air. A woman can only endure so much, I tell God as I cross the puja room on the way.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Circles inside my mind's eye,
I wonder if I can hang them on my wall
Like I have, you
In a silver frame, with flowers on the side.

One would not be enough
To hold these whirlpools
And I don't know how they would seem
These framed entities, some blue, some white.

And so I am at a loss to think
How these shining boundaries contain you
You, who is alive and dead, at the same time
Within these four walls, how have you come to reside?

Have I, then, for many years
Just admired the frame?
At a distance I may have stood,
And not seen what it contains.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Signing out

So, I haven't written much lately, partly because I have been reading a lot (an occupational hazard) and partly because, well...What are the other billion reasons why a person doesn't write?

But here we are again. And that's what counts, isn't it?

I am the usual, flowing effortlessly through the monotonies of my excessively routine stale-bread sort of life. I do make it sound horribly brain-dead, don't I? Well, it isn't, I am sure.

Or maybe it is?

Too much for now.

Signing out.

Monday, January 10, 2011


This little girl and I, we have spent many laughs together, to the envy of most others. I have been strung to her lonely finger for longer than I care to remember.

We have bounced, danced and squeaked at each other, I more than her. I have loved her and she, me, her sky coloured pink in my wake only.

I stand suspended in the air by that little finger she has tied to the ends of me.

This season of air is called spring. How her hand holds my string, feels like warmth in winter.

As we face light, I dance effortlessly. Her grip loosens. She is getting ideas.

As I let her go ... I rise.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

My Soul Sister

A precious flower, in a beautiful glass case, rooted to the tip of the highest mountain, coloured brighter than the sun, wrapped in the cosy comfort of a rainbow.

That’s my sister. A fairy tale’s fairy tale princess.

A protected warrior, up in arms when required and sometimes just for fun. Oh how colourless life would be without her. She can single-handedly light up a city of darkness. A hardest day, made simple in her company. The rainbow in the sky of my life, nature's little miracle, my sister.

The Conversation Killer

Meetings with the conversation killer
Leave me in the want for silence
For in the incidental quiet between us
I find chaos rising.

This butcherer of words
Is not a friend in the least
A companion he may have come to be
Another Me in the making.

This unlikely hero
Engulfs me in his voiceless waters
Suffocating me now and resuscitating again
Becoming the cause and effect of the same.