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Saturday, 24 September 2011

Midnight Rendezvous

Rimi stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind her. She heard footsteps reaching the door and turned back to shout: ‘Don’t you dare follow me…. You are the sole reason for my sadness. I did a mistake marrying you.’ Prasun’s visage changed from a pursuing one to an extremely angry look. He just muttered ‘Fine’, turned back and went into the bedroom to close the door on Rimi. Momentarily, Rimi was a little scared at his expression. Did she hurt him a lot? She should not feel sorry. She did want to hurt him, only she had expected him to cajole her into changing her mood and dropping their quarrel.

In her fit of rage she had also forgotten that they were no longer staying alone. Her parents-in-laws were sleeping in the adjacent room. ‘Damn!’ she muttered under her breath. Why was she always expected to remember everything? For the last two hours she had been fighting incessantly with Prasun. There was actually no specific reason. They were married for just two years and love was very much evident between them. Then what was it? It was just that she was irritated…..she was irritated at the way the evening had shaped up…at the way she had thought that this get-together after their return from abroad would be celebrated by all. How naive of her…. She had been staying alone for too long and she craved family… it was she who forced Prasun to change his plans to get back home, because she felt that she was missing out on everything starting from the cousin’s marriages to the friends get-togethers and all the fun their relatives were having back at home. But the moment from when they had reached home, life was miserable. There were too many people around, and everyone had huge expectations from her! At least she thought they did!

Wiping away the tears stinging her face Rimi reached behind the kitchen counter to retrieve the pack of cigarettes she had hidden there after they had unpacked. She had all but completely forgotten about it, until now. There were a few left in the pack. She grabbed a match box and headed for the balcony. Closing the door behind her she huddled in a corner to light the cigarette. She took a long drag…it did not actually feel good but she felt in control. She was simply tired; she just sat there staring at the moonlit road below.

She thought to herself, what had she done…. What a fool she was…she had left her settled job, her known atmosphere and most importantly her independence and come back willingly to a prison house. Not that her in-laws were bad people. No they were not, they were all too supportive but sometimes support and love can become excessive… so much so that she felt suffocated. To top it all, the flow of relatives was non-stop…they were everywhere… and they had too many questions…. One aunt-in-law had also asked Rimi in the evening if she was pregnant and whether that was the real reason why they had returned. ‘What?’ was Rimi’s instant reaction at the question, the aunt-in-law backed up in time but Rimi’s evening was spoilt. Was that what everyone was thinking? While they were too happy with each other… they had not even given this idea a second thought.

‘Ouch..’ whispered Rimi as the cigarette stub burned her fingers. She lit another and kept staring at the moonlit road with these thoughts racing in her mind. She was tired now from the quarrel that she was having with Prasun and with the quarrel she was having with herself. She was even feeling suffocated at her mother’s behavior. Since they had reached India, her mother had been calling her everyday to enquire what was happening to her and how she was reacting to everything. She was enjoying these calls for the first few days but now she did not even pick up her call in the evening. Oh….she closed her eyes tightly to shut out these thoughts….Was the problem with the people around her or with her? Was she actually fickle-minded? She wondered how soon her euphoria of settling in India had waned out…. Every decision had its good and bad consequences… Was she not strong enough to stand by her decisions? She kicked herself mentally for living in her fantasy world and for behaving in the way she was. If there was anything in the world that she was absolutely sure about… it was her love for Prasun. And now she had so conveniently succeeded in hurting him. She was feeling scared of herself now.

Just then she heard a tap on the balcony door, which she had left half open. She did not stub out the cigarette thinking it must be Prasun. She kept sitting and pulled the door towards her with her feet to open it. Reena’s smiling face peeped in. Reena was Rimi’s mother-in-law. At once alarmed, Rimi tried to stub out the cigarette. ‘Oh…that’s not required…it’s absolutely fine with me’ said Reena at once. A little awkwardly Rimi held the cigarette between her fingers. Reena came in and sat on the floor opposite her. Looking directly at her daughter-in-law, she asked: ‘Can I borrow one?’ pointing at the half-burnt cigarette in Rimi’s hand. Too alarmed to respond she passed the pack to Reena. Reena smiled at her awkwardness and offered: ‘Why? Am I not young enough to smoke?’ a small smile crossed Rimi’s face. Reena kept the pack with her but did not light any.

She looked at Rimi to say: ‘You know that you are a very brave girl, right?’ Rimi was starting to say: ‘But..I..’ when she stopped her and said: ‘Let me finish…. You know you are very much like me, when I was young but I was not as brave as you. I could have never done what you have done for us. I could never leave my job and stay with my in-laws…. That was the reason why your father-in-law and I have fought all through our lives…. Prasun is our only son and I knew even I’m destined to the fate that I had written for my mother-in-law. She is dead now and I cannot go back and re-do what is already done but I cannot thank you enough for letting me and your father-in-law become a part of your lives. One day when you will be as old as I am, you will feel very proud of your decision. If today you do decide to stay away, remember that I will always support you in whatever decision you take; because I understand how difficult it must be for you. I see a part of a revised version of me in you. Just give yourself a little time…don’t be so hard on yourself’ saying so she squeezed Rimi’s hands lovingly. Of course….it was so simple. She needed time…Why didn’t she think of it earlier or why didn’t Prasun point this out to her? She was at once relieved to find a solution to her problem and smiled in response. ‘Thank you so much’ added Rimi, ‘Oh…don’t ever mention it’, added Reena smiling motherly. She quipped: ‘Let this be our little secret. You keep my secret and I will keep your cigarette pack!’ both of them shared a little laugh at that. Rimi felt the tension ease out of her, ‘It’s quite late… I think we must go to bed now’ offered Reena. Both of them got up and walked towards their bedrooms. Rimi was feeling happy and relaxed now and she whispered ‘Good Night!’ ‘A very good night and sweet dreams too’, answered Reena with a warm smile.

Entering, Rimi saw Prasun was fast asleep. She slowly slipped in beside him and hugged him tight from behind. Waking from his slumber, he asked: ‘What happened?’ and turned to face her. ‘I am so sorry, dear’ replied Rimi ‘I should’nt have said all that. I love you so much’ saying so, she cuddled up next to him. Content, Prasun hugged her back, closed his eyes and whispered in her ears: ‘Love you too!’

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Let’s Meet…

 ‘Let’s meet at the new Mall that has opened up near my office… is that okay with you?’ asked her new found Facebook-friend to Sirin. Instantly, Sirin’s interest in the guy waned. She hated shopping malls. Yes she did…and why would people choose to meet at shopping malls other than any other place in the whole wide world. Sirin felt that shopping malls exuded a sadistic pleasure for the rich, for all those people who did not mind spending those extra bucks for all the over-priced stuff available in the malls. It was a sad place, a place where expectations were raised and broken every minute. Every couple moving hand-in-hand in the long corridors of the malls had a secret to tell. The girl secretly hoped that someday their boyfriends will make it so big that they would be able to afford all the glossy stuff in the windows even if that meant moving ahead from the-then boyfriend to a newer one!

Sirin thought to herself, ‘Why are all men the same?!’ They all thought in the same way. Was she different from the other girls of her age? She must be…. otherwise she would have been happily married like most girls of her age. Sirin Verma was 30 years old. Her dedication to her work has helped her reach quite a comfortable position in her work life, mainly because she had no problems whatsoever, with sudden travels, late night office or any other thing. To top it all, she was pretty in an innocent manner and carried the brains too. Professionally, she was certainly happy but in her personal life she craved company. Facebook had become a comfortable way for her to meet people and interact with them over mails before actually meeting the person face to face. This was the first time she had come so close to someone this way and she liked sharing her thoughts with him. 

Joy Sengupta, the Facebook friend, claimed to be a photographer by profession. Although Sirin seriously doubted that piece of information, she still played along. Photographer or not, she had exchanged some hundred mails with this guy over the last two months and she felt like she was sharing her thoughts in front of a mirror. Their thoughts were so similar! But today suddenly she was not very happy with the conversation. It was she, who had brought up the topic of meeting soon. She regretted it now. Or maybe it was normal to meet at shopping malls, maybe, she was over reacting on this. Actually, she was hoping he would say something intellectual like a bookstore or something romantic like a coffee shop. But a mall was not the idea of her meeting an unknown person, especially with so much competition around!

At 30, she was old enough to chase guys and young enough to lose hope that she will certainly find her perfect match. Her parents were quite fed up with their search of a perfect groom for their only daughter. Momentarily thus, she herself had taken over the responsibility of finding someone nice, at least to spend the life with. She was an architect by profession. With the boom in the real estate industry her career too had found new heights. Working in an environment dominated by males, she had woven a protective cocoon around herself to shield her emotions from the harsh world outside. Once earlier, at the start of her career, an office affair was blown out of proportion resulting in her shifting jobs. She did not want to repeat that mistake again. After so many years of being hidden within herself, she felt conscious now of meeting some stranger suddenly. It felt childish to say the least.

However, there was no denying the fact that she liked sharing her thoughts with Joy. She thought about her odds, if not a partner for life she may at least find a good friend. Like nice grooms, good guy friends were rare too. So why not go for it? After much deliberation, she thought of calling Joy and asking him to meet somewhere else. Yes, they had exchanged numbers some days back but neither had called the other. The mails they exchanged each day were self explanatory and informative enough. Sirin called Joy, half expecting a teenager to answer the call; or maybe, someone old enough to be her father. He was certainly not an average single guy, he was either a possessive demon-boyfriend shunned by all his ex-girlfriends, or a divorcee accused of wife-beating or maybe a terrorist, trying to get entry to her office through her! Phew… she had exhausted all her negative possibilities. She shook her head, as if to clear it of all the various aspects of doubt and tried to focus.

To her dismay or astonishment, the call was answered by a mature and friendly voice! ‘Hi Sirin!’ greeted Joy. Sirin let out her held-breath and replied with a ‘Hi Joy!’ ‘Are you relieved or disappointed that I am me?’ offered Joy at her sigh. ‘Ah… it’s just nice… just nice to talk to you after so long. That’s it!’ was all Sirin could manage. She was relieved that after all, Joy did sound like an average guy. With the initial hesitation over, both of them talked non-stop. It felt as if they were old friends, reconnecting again. More specifically, it felt right and she felt happy. 

Sirin was laughing without any reservation at their conversation. Jokingly Sirin asked, ‘How do I trust you? I mean what is the proof that you are what you claim to be?’ The question was followed by silence at the other end. Sirin thought the line got disconnected, she enquired: ‘Hello?...’ ‘Okay… let me do one thing…I will carry my Passport or Voter ID card….you can verify from it then. I think Passport is a better idea since it is tough for me to recognize myself in the Voter Id card picture; it will be tougher for you and will add to your confusion!!’ it took Sirin some time to realize that Joy was mocking her. When she did, she burst into peals of laughter just like a love-struck teenager, giggling to her heart’s content. A guy, who connected to her mind as well as heart and also had a sense of humor was not bad….not bad at all!

Sirin suggested: ‘Lets meet tomorrow at Crossroads, the book store at Elgin Street; is that okay with you?’ ’Yeah…no problem at all’ replied Joy. ‘Say around 6? What say?’ enquired Sirin. ‘Sure! I will wave my passport, when I spot you!’ came the witty reply followed by another bout of laughter from Sirin!!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

The Date

Quality time….how exactly do you spend it? This was the question that was eating into Sunaina’s mind since she had read the morning papers. The paper that day had a whole section on ‘Lifestlye’ explaining how unattached spouses have become in a modern way world. The punch line of the article emphasized the need to spend quality time with each other. And this was what, was disturbing her. Almost the whole of her waking up hours were spend with Abhi. Abhi who? Sunaina’s partner for life and the name is just ‘Abhi’ not a shortened version of something longer like ‘Abhimanyu’. His parents were way ahead of their times and had decided to name their only son in a modern manner, thinking that any longer name would in evidently be shortened to a shorter version. Thus a short and stylish name retained in its exact form!
Abhi was an understanding and caring person and Sunaina did not particularly have issues with him. The issues were with their relationship. After five years of marriage they were used to each other, just as you become used to brushing your teeth every morning. But there was a silence….a silence that lasted between them when they did not get topics to talk about. Having close by offices they commuted together mostly. The journey was certainly better than the destination but seldom did they talk, talk like they used to when they were not married. Well times were different then…and now topics usually veered around office. As in who ditched whom in office to get a promotion or how bad the work culture had become in office with no scope for fair play. The best topic was ‘The Boss’…both of them could carry on for hours on this topic. Another quintessential topic, which both of them passed onto the other was ‘the need for a baby’.
Among all this what was lost was the understanding, the patience, the zing and of course the romance. Life was timed and divided into slots for all important things. But that was not the reason why they got married. They got married so that they could be with each other, share that exclusive bond which was now been tugged at by various other issues like work, who will sacrifice whose career for the other and of course a joint investment policy called ‘Baby’. Sunaina was determined to turn the tables and give it one more shot. The day in office was not busy and she spent it planning a small date with her hubby. A Coffee date…..although Abhi would cringe at the loss of time and the uselessness of the activity but still she would pester…
‘Let’s leave a little early today… Say around 6? Can you make it?’ Sunaina tried to sound as sweet as possible over the phone. Maybe taken by surprise or just shocked Abhi uttered: ‘Yeah, why not!’ Sunaina did not waste any more of the precious time and hung up saying ‘OK, see ya then’. Abhi was a little scared, to be precise…was it another shopping spree…the ones he detested so much and wanted to yell and tell her that although he loved her he did not think that shopping was some kind of sport that had to be indulged in weekly once… at least. Was it something he had forgotten…his mom-in-law’s Bday or his in-laws Anniversary….and this was Sunanina’s sarcastic way of making him feel sorry. He checked his calendar, he has missed nothing….then what was it? Leaving the office, which was their actual home so early, felt odd.
Freshening in the men’s room a crazy thought crossed his mind…Was Sunanina pregnant? Maybe she just found out and wanted to surprise him….he was confused…how should he react to the news…as far as he knew Sunanina, like all women, she was complicated. If he became too happy she would think that now he was more interested in his offspring than in his wife, and if he became worried she would burst out into tears that tell him that he need not worry about money always…she was perfectly capable of taking care of her own child. Abhi was sweating now…..he decided on a small but genuine smile on getting the news and sensing her reaction he will increase or decrease his smile. Phew….what a situation. Of course…all this would happen only and only when she was pregnant.
Sunaina fumbled in her huge handbag for the mascara that she had carried to office last month for attending a colleague’s marriage party. Work pressure had been too much and she could not make it to the wedding and the mascara had remained in her hand bag. She found it, applied some on her lashes, touched up the Kajal and a little lipstick. Was it a bit too much? Not that she was not conscious about her looks….she was one of the best dressed girls in office. Only thing was… she had forgotten when had she last put on make-up for Abhi….it was a little out of place… she grabbed a tissue and wiped off the Lipstick and settled with a little lip-gloss. She hurried past the elevators, took the stairs and waited at the front gate for Abhi.
The car sped along the nearly empty road. They were a little too early today for the office-returning crowd. Abhi was a little nervous to ask and so was Sunaina. It felt a little like their first date. Finally Abhi summed up the introduction: ‘Why suddenly early?’ Sunaina was hoping he would notice the extra care she had put in to freshen up before meeting him; however his question startled her from her thoughts. She replied: ‘Why? Were you busy?’ ‘No…No actually I was thinking if we are heading straight home or somewhere else?’ quipped Abhi. ‘Oh…actually I was thinking of trying out the coffee shop near our place. We seldom go there… seems to be a nice place to me…What do you think?’ asked Sunaina. Being married for half a decade Abhi knew that the answer to this question should be ‘Yes’ in order to maintain family harmony!! He agreed likewise.
The coffee shop was a little off route for most people so it was almost empty. Even the guy at the counter was not expecting anyone, nonetheless was happy at the sight of a couple, who looked like they could pay the bills! The menu was long and Sunaina searched for new items, which she had not tried before. She was not the one, up for experimenting but Abhi was…and he was a little taken aback seeing his strong willed wife do things his way….however to her utter dismay none of those items were available. They had to settle for two large Cappuccinos and muffin. Sunaina was already feeling let down by her plan…and thinking of calling it a day. The coffee was served and they sipped in silence.
‘So…say something?’ Abhi stared at her to realize that the ball was in his court….he thought of just asking her straight if she was what he thought her to be…pregnant that is…but he decided against it. ‘I..’ with that the power went off and the shop was plunged into darkness. Sunaina instantly caught Abhi’s hand in her own and pressed it hard. ‘Don’t get scared… its ok’ cajoled Abhi….the chord was struck; Sunanina slowly loosened her grip and held his hand with fingers entwining his. The guy at the reception had gone out to look into the matter, he came in to announce that the Back-up power supply had failed and it would take some time to repair. He dashed out with a torch in hand.
Who was in a hurry anyway?? By now the two pairs of eyes were getting adjusted to the darkness. Sunaina stared at her husband of five years and saw the receding hairline on his forehead and the worry lines too, not too evidently though but the silhouette certainly. Abhi thought how soft her hands still felt against his. He traced the line of her face in the darkness…she was certainly pretty. She kissed his hand; Abhi was not surprised at being usurped of the actions that a guy was supposed to do …. Sunaina had always been like that… strong and self-willed…that was what made him fall in love with her….her independence and strength to be different. No matter how much he had fought with her in the past years accusing her to be just those and hence unfit for marriage, he secretly knew he loved that zing about her. The lights sprang back to life but there was not much movement around their table.
The guy from the reception rushed in to make the bill lest the power went off again. He called out: ‘The Bill Sir?’
Abhi did not move, just replied saying: ‘Not as yet…two more Cappuccinos please…’

Friday, 16 September 2011

Happy Birthday (a short story)

The pain is the worst accompaniment of these visits. It is tough to see Gerry lying limp on the bed with blank eyes and saliva dripping from the side of his mouth with exactly the same expression for twenty long years of his life. Today, like always, mom has brought a chocolate fudge cake to the ‘Home’, where he is kept to celebrate another of his lifeless birthdays. Who has told her that Gerry likes chocolate fudge cake is not known, because as long as I remember he has never spoken a word, being affected by a brain disease while still in the protective cocoon of mother’s womb.

Another reason for celebration today is my graduation from medical school. I will be starting independent practice from tomorrow. My only wish was, however, to spend the night here with Gerry. Overnight stay was not allowed but I was permitted to stay till 9 in the night.

After the cake cutting and distribution of money to the nursing staff, which took care of Gerry all year round, mom and dad left us alone. Knowing that I am a doctor now, the night-nurse left him alone with me to attend to her personal work.

I stared hard into Gerry’s blank eyes, squeezed his hand and waited patiently for a response or a blink or just a twinge of fingers. Nothing happened. I sighed… took out the vial from my coat pocket and with a syringe pushed the liquid into his glucose drip. A five minutes’ wait… followed by cardiac arrest…..and…eternal peace…
I whispered into his ears… ‘Happy Birthday’…
I thought I saw a single curve of smile on his lips for the first time ever…

Fun as it is….

The world around somehow functions on its own rules. By the world I mean the society that surrounds us and at times engulfs us. Like State, society is a body which does not have any existence of its own. We are the society. We form it, we make the rules, and we also mend the rules as per our convenience. All of us have at some point or the other discussed other people and their lives. What we overlook is the fact that someone somewhere may be discussing us; that discussion is not very favorable every time. Well… I do not mean to bog you down with the negative notion but I am just asking my readers to understand and respect the fine lines that constitute the fabric of human nature.

When you laugh at something, that thing is invariably superficial. A recent post doing the rounds in Facebook status messages is the one that asks you to be proud of what you are, thin or fat, fair or dark. That’s exactly the point… while having grown up we conveniently forget what we have learned in our growing up years, that is, to respect others for what they are. It is said that laughing at someone’s physical appearance tantamount to laughing at their Creator…. that is God. That is too huge a sin to commit, don’t you think?

However, with so much tension to handle at work and at home we give the finer details a miss and enjoy a hearty laugh often at the expense of others. It is similar to the fact that it’s always easier to cite watching TV as a hobby instead of developing some actual hobby, which requires you to use your brains and get up from the couch. And please…. video games and mobile games don’t count as hobbies either. Often we get back from work and lie down to watch TV, which instead of making us relax makes us realize that we have done nothing fruitful throughout the day…however when you end the day doing something good you will certainly feel good.

I know the final objective of whatever we do is to stay happy, be it at the expense of others, laughing at them or their ways or watching TV or gulping down Pizza although you promise to be on a diet. I think a miss one time is fine but this should never become a rule, otherwise the exception will become the rule and before you know people will start avoiding you for being shallow. Fun of this sort is short-lived and will wane out sooner or later. On the other hand it’s better to see every situation in a happy way and then enjoy that moment. For once try to enjoy the scenery around even when you have lost your way and have traveled some extra kilometers and burned that highly costly liquid called Petrol :P 

Stop calculating the amount you burned and relish the fact that you traveled a lost route and enjoyed something different!! Is it too difficult a task??