Saturday, November 6, 2010

Long Ago

She wore silk. In the early spring mornings, sunrays reflect on the surface of water and adorn it like a thin sheath of cloth- one cannot really see the water but then, one can almost see it. The water is right there to be touched. Thus adorned the silks Her body. That was several years ago. Now, She wears a tired terecotton saree. The same one. Everyday.


She had grown up watching, copying, adoring and then worshipping Sreedevi on the little B&W television they did not really own, but had been passed onto by one among the seven families her mother worked as a maid for. She thought her mother really resembled Sreedevi. To be fair, she didn’t. Not at all. Her mother’s face had dark circles, not just under the eyes, but all over- skin wrinkled as if someone had cheated her into accepting a skin transplant from a woman at least 25 years older than her. Her voice was too coarse and rough to belong to a seasoned Bollywood temptress- one that millions like Her worshipped. But She really loved Her mother and to Her, she was the most beautiful woman She had ever seen. But then that was long ago. Now, Her mother’s memories are as beautiful as she herself was once.


Her dance teacher used to say that the feet of the girl knew music like they had composed it, and that Her grace and poise suited none other than the Queen of the seven seas. The only reason why, he often said with a confused air of anger and pride, he agreed to teach Her Bharathnatyam foregoing his monthly fees of thirty rupees, was because he was certain She would perform on the stage one day with a discerning audience applauding Her. And maybe, even Her accomplished teacher. But then that was long ago. Now, he is restricted to the wheelchair and his eyes well up at his unfulfilled dreams. More so, at Her unfulfilled dreams.


Elaborately designed chandeliers hanging from the roof, tapestry covering the walls tastelessly, light peering in through the stained-glass windows as if mortified and looking for some dark corner to hide in, air suffocating itself on the otherwise charming vapor of wines, both cheap and old, amidst rapturous claps of patrons- some who could not wait for the sham to get over and some who were there to let themselves feel like proud, genuine connoisseurs of the arts and dances- She danced. She danced with eyes that had no tears, how She does not understand now, with lips that had a genuine smile of happiness on them, how She does not understand now, with an untiring zest in Her movements. With heavy make-up and heavier jewellery but never a heavy heart, She danced. Thursday evenings were special. She reserved her most rousing performances with the most sophisticated music for Thursdays. Only special patrons, not necessarily rich, but necessarily old-timers, could attend on Thursdays. Sundays She never performed. Every Sunday evening, She would silently come out in purdah, or wearing a burqah, enter the already-waiting Auto and make the painfully long distance to the house that did not have paint peeling off, always had running water and electricity back-up too for summer days- to the house where Her old mother counted her days in loneliness. A nurse who does not speak much, or only does so mournfully on the days she fails to comprehend how her life came to such a pass that she has to clean the human waste of the mother-of-a-whore, is not great company. The nurse wanted to listen to the cluttered heartbeats of asthmatic patients with a stethoscope, write down the long-winding, complicated names of antibiotics on a fresh prescription, and hand it over to the patient even as she called out “Next patient please”. But then, that was long ago. Now, she just covers her face with her apron as she approaches the old hag to give her the customary sponge-bath.


It’s another Thursday. Now, however she doesn’t dance. Her osteoarthritis would kill her if she as much as even thought about doing so. Sreedevi, however, is still dancing pretty on a television. Color television. She somehow does not like Sreedevi’s elegant steps any longer. She remembers how She used to worship her once.

But then, that was long ago.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Spoonful of Life.

A whole generation slipped by in the sands of time,

And I miss that sacred story of mine,

I have seen it all whiz by like I was on crutches,

And then surrendering meekly to its clutches,

Saw it rise from below the horizon and cover

The dead, the mutilated, the gnawed lover.


I have seen the night fall in every night,

And I ‘ve seen her exhaustion and her might,

I have seen victories grand and defeats tearful,

 Charming princes and monsters fearful.

I want to see a victory none has seen,

A place where none has been.

I miss a land with no sandstorm and no mirage,

Where I borrow no mask and lend no visage.



The sun comes up right above my head,

And shines its mirth and joy right into my bed

The joy and the gaiety is now a shroud,

Out comes from beneath the cloud,

All that has slipped by in the sands of time,

All that always was, always will be mine.





Sunday, June 15, 2008

She owes it to no one

The swings tied with long, brazen ropes to branches shooting out, as if from clear nowhere, had never inspired the same porcelain fear in her as it can sometimes in children aged nine. Not that she was exceptionally brave or something. She still ran for covers when the milkman Gopal dada dilated his eyes in a not-quite-playful fashion, or when her cousin-brother chased her with the dead cockroach dangling perilously from its whiskers between his index and middle fingers. It’s just this she had taken to the swings. Taken to them enormously. She wanted to miss the school, miss her evening-glass-of-lukewarm-milk, and “gudda-gudiya ki shadi” for the swings. “Not great signs”, her know-it-all and once-a-sanyasi-now-a-liftman-in-the-university maternal uncle had shot off bluntly to her gaunt-bodied and almost-beautiful mother, “girls”, he had remarked, “should show less of this free, untamed spirit and be more involved in familial proceedings”. It was an obvious reference to the oh-so-soon-disillusionment of the girl with “gudda-gudiya ki shadi” and her torrid love-affair with the swings. Her mother chose to ignore him, and had instead in reply asked if he would like some tea or some sugarcane juice.

Her mother had learnt to live life vicariously. To sit and savour the joyrides on the swings from right inside the sweltering kitchen with open, uncovered and sometimes even unbridled fire used for cooking the meals which she always wondered-and-never-resented why she got to have the last of all in an extended family of 19 or 20. She had told herself at the birth of Ramya she wouldl live her life through the senses and sensibilities, experiences and extremities, situations and insinuations, happiness and haplessness, vigour and vitality, endeavours and endings of this little godsend, Ramya. Ramya would sing the most enthralling of songs, take dips in the deepest of lakes, vanquish the tallest of summits, travel to the most obscure of lands, compose the purest of paeans, receive the most-craved of degrees, and love the most-desired of men! Who knows how many empires would be razed to the dust if a woman’s heart were to open up? Surprisingly, the mother didn’t feel guilty enough. It’s her life, and she owes it to no one. It’s her soul, and she owes it to no one.

Ramya was of course not beyond the clutches of time and however badly she wanted to, couldn’t of course always remain the cherubic and free-minded nine-year-old pleading to be left alone for some more time on the swings, or perhaps to be pushed harder and harder so she could swing higher and faster than ever before. Few understood her love for speed and heights. Unbecoming of a little girl for sure.

She turned out to be an exceptional student at college and university. She always gave the smartest of boys a run for their money in the predominantly patriarchal society. Always got the scholarships, the medals and the recognitions. Also went on college trips to strange places her mother had never-heard-of but was nonetheless happy about. Also sang beautifully. Also got her poetry published in The Weekly. Also loved. The best of men. She had had more than her share of walks-to-remember and heartbreaks in her college itself. A fact not entirely hidden and unknown to the mother. Neither a fact not entirely detested and abhorred by the mother.

She had not entirely disliked Dev. All knew he was a bright guy with a bright future. Besides, he was such an affable gentleman, respectful to elders, courteous to peers and doting to the younger. But somehow he had never had the opportunity to figure in Ramya’s entablature of affairs. And then to find yourself married to this very man can be a rude shock. But women, they say, have to bear more than the earth beyond the feet. She had to get married after all, so why not Dev?

All along it has been great. A joyride yet again. Only, not as fast and as rash as the swings. She has a good, loving husband and a two-years-old baby, Rani. She has a decent job in Wise, an analytics firm operating out of Mumbai. Dev earns well too. What’s more important to a woman, Dev loves well too. On her weekends, she spends lots of time with Rani trying to compensate for the absence of it during the weekdays. Ramya feels a bit tired and exhausted these days. It has been a routine since the childbirth. People did tell her Cesarean sections take time to heal not just from the body, also the psyche. Looks like it has left scars not just on the abdomen. And scars that refuse to go.

Her Saturday night outings with Dev or Sunday evening kittie parties with other ladies in the neighbourhood still interested her and helped her unwind. She still loved to be held in his arms, also passionately made love to. She still loved the exotic Thai cuisine at the super-elite restaurant Buds down Bandra. There hasn’t been much of a change in her life in last five years, other than the arrival of Rani, and the usual fare- promotions, raises etc. In a kind-of guilty way, she knows any woman would kill to live the life she was living. Guilty because, she still feels the burning desire inside her for that extra something, that extra bit which obviously is missing. She had tried talking about it to Dev and he didn’t look uninterested (he never does, by the way. He is the proverbial 'woman’s man'.)- but had no incisive insights to offer either. All he could guess was maybe it was the C-section scars, she had still not gotten over it perhaps? She had promptly rubbished the suggestion off!

Scar- she now thinks is a strange word, very explicit and conveying. As if even a person without any knowledge of the language could tell from just the sound of the word, that a ‘scar’ is something awful. As if it’s egregiously bad. Even Evil perhaps. Demoniac. “Useless thought”, she chided herself.

She bought some under-eye lotion at Pantaloon’s yesterday. She had had enough of scars and marks, she decided. Prevention is better than cure. And absolutely better than no cure! “Scars don’t go Ramya”, said Ramya.

What had she done to deserve this? Trying to bring to this world the sweet one, Rani. Is that a crime grave enough for her to deserve such harsh punishment, that too one which leaves indelible imprints on your charmingly beautiful body? Also the psyche she was beginning to believe. Who is to be blamed and held responsible for this crisis in her life- the man who sowed the seeds in her womb or the sapling that grew out of it or the whole expectation that a woman will sure act as the garden and produce, reproduce till the garden remains beautiful no more? “Evil thoughts, I better get down to work”, thought Ramya, once again chiding herself and stifling the thought that was slowly but surely assuming a vice-like grip over her.

Ramya always used to take a cab back home in the evening from her workplace. She hasn’t felt like driving ever since Rani happened, and doesn’t want to be driven around by a chauffeur. Also, a cab suits her just fine. Anyway, Dev drops her to her office in the morning. She is sure he would love to pick her up in the evening too had his office not demanded his presence till pretty late. These days, she doen’t take a cab. She simply walks. Walks to the Juhu seaside. Sits there pondering for God-knows-how-long and then takes a cab to back home when she has had enough of the thoughtful moments spent indulging in self-pity.

The seaside is bubbling with activity today. Rani is a bit indisposed but there is that motherly nurse at home to look after her. The cool breeze from the waves striking against Ramya's face (which has very subtle and almost-indistinguishable make-up) transports her to the swings she used to visit as a child, only in a happier frame-of-mind than now. Rani feels better with her mother around, and the baby waits eagerly for the solace it gets in the mother’s arms. Meanwhile, Ramya lets her feet feel the warmth of the yellow sand, and settles down nonchalantly amidst this soothing warmth. Surprisingly, the mother doesn’t feel guilty enough. It’s her life, and she owes it to no one. It’s her soul, and she owes it to no one.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Man! Thou Art the Supreme Creation. Blessed be Thy Name.

07 May’08

Dubai International Airport

Local Time: 1:50 pm

Zoom down to: Gate No. 27

Scene 1: Passengers waiting for security check and subsequent boarding of Flight No.EK-057, Dubai to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Monologue in the background: All the passengers are requested to report for boarding and security check at the security counter.

Scene 2 : Passengers, well, don’t quite make a ‘beeline’ for the counter, but a queue can hardly be less interesting , or less boring, for that matter. I am the 2nd entity in the queue. The first is a German family which clears its check; and I am the one up next.

--“Your Boarding Pass please?”

--“Here it is”, as I handed him over the pass.

--“Your passport?”

I hand him over the passport. Several seconds pass and the official is still inspecting my passport. Several more. My shoes are getting hotter. Well, several more before his rather effeminate voice makes a splash in the undulating ocean of silence.

--“Where are you going?”

Well, the only place I could’ve gone to had to be Dusseldorf, where the flight was going. Or did they intend to disembark me at a height of 4000 ft above sea-level, mid-way that is? Adventure sports anyone, eh? I manage to stay patient and answer “Dusseldorf”.

--“Why are you going?”

My my, was he turning on the heat!

--“Education, hmmm, internship.”

--“What company?”

--“Not a company. A university.”

--“What university?”

--“Fachochschule Aachen.”


--“The Fachochschule Aachen. FH Aachen.”

Please wait in the lobby while I scan your passport Sharma. (I found the absence of ‘Mr.’ Very conspicuous. The least he could do was perhaps be formal and courteous.)

I enter the lobby. Also trickle in other passengers gradually with smile on faces and passport in hands. I had neither. I am afraid that despite all my valiant efforts I might have cut a sorry figure.I mde it a point to sit at the very entrance of the lobby, the first row of chairs itself so as to be at ‘ready disposal’! More passengers trickle in and my prying eyes fail to locate a passport in not one hand. By the way, this exercise of looking for passports taught me a very momentous lesson: Passports are either red or blue in color!

Suddenly I get company on the hitherto uncoveted first row. A Sri Lankan lady nattily dressed in a business suit and hardly looking amused comes and sits with a thud on the chair next to mine. She tries looking away for sometime,labours a lot to continue doing so but then gives way under the pressure. She faces me and blurts,”Passport?” Alas, all the poor lady could manage was this one word. I smile at her as my reply. Silence does communicate.

Just as soon as this rather succinct conversation of ours was drawing to its quiet end, another man arrives and sits beside her. Two is company. Three crowd, right? I didn’t mind one bit! They start chatting away in language I could not understand much of, apart from a very beautiful word that caught my attention just too often for comfort- passport!

Monologue in the background: All passengers of Flight No. EK-057 are requested to board the plane through Gate No. 27. I repeat. All passengers of Flight…….

The lobby was suddenly empty. The plane full I guess! Remained inside the lobby just 3. 1 Indian. 2 Sri Lankans. We sat waiting for a correspondence. An air hostess waves at me from the end of the lobby to hurry up and board. I steal a quick glance at the watch and gesticulate back to her indicating my predicament. The time ,2:15 pm. Another 20 min and I could wave a goodbye to other passengers from ground.

Suddenly, almost as panic was beginning to assume gargantuan proportions, the same official calls out “Chinmaya Kumar Sharma.” I walk up to him pregnant with apprehensions and expectations. He stares at me, then at my photograph on the passport, then at my photograph on the visa. Repeats the exercise for what seems like eternity. And finally hands me over my passport. Words exchanged- none.

As I make a quick dash, a hushed-up argument falls into my weary and almost-numb ears. An argument between one supercilious immigration official and two harassed Sri Lankans.

Scene 3

Dusseldorf Airport

Local Time: 7 40 pm

Passengers alight from EK-057. Alights an Indian. Alight 2 Sri Lankans. Alight the rest. Whites. All.

Friday, April 4, 2008


This is no story. No poetry. No rhetoric. No literature. What follows is a thought. Just that. Think about it.

I am currently reading “The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari” and the book has set my mind on fire. It has further corroborated what I have believed all my life since I had the brains to think from; only believed because I never had the courage to really follow it completely.

Isn’t it strange that all of us want to become similar things (like: rich, famous etc.) in life despite all being so very different people that we hardly can agree on any issue at all, ranging from the ill-effects of a mosquito-bite to the 123 Agreement? Isn’t it strange all of us recognize the importance of studying very hard whereas none the importance, or worse still, the pleasure of walking barefoot on dew-besotten grass?

We are all so smitten with becoming what the world wants us to that we completely forget what we want ourselves to become. Life is so driven by an external remote that we completely forget about the steering wheel sitting plumb right in our own hands.

Take control before it’s too late. We all have pasts and presents riddled with aspects that we wish rather wouldn’t be there.  Stop. Do not wish. Act. Let them not be there. Let’s fill our minds with all things positive. Remove all negativity gradually and silently without telling it about its expatriation, so that it doesn’t make itself larger and more tempting than ever before, making our tough job still tougher.

Let’s take “the road less travelled-by”. It’s less easy and hence more rewarding. Friends, I, for one, have started the process of stopping (albeit in a very small way)-stopping doing what others expect and want me to, but I don’t.

 I dare you? 

Friday, December 21, 2007


hi. my name is raju. and i am fife years old. and nandu is also fife years old. nandu's papa and nandu's mamma call her nandu when they are loving her and nandita when they are not loving her. i call her nandu always-when i am loving her and, no i am always loving her very much. we go to school in same bus and sit on same bench and go to same toilet together. english mam says we must go to separate toilets but i do not want to go away from her.and we together eat both tiffin-boxes, one by one. sunrise in the east to sunset in the west we are together. at evening she goes to her home and i come to my home (my home is very very big, and red in colour).we play with two dolls. one is male doll and one is female doll. male doll's name is raju and female doll's name is nandu. and i love nandudoll more and nandu loves rajudoll more.yesterday, we were on the beach. and i was riding my tricycle (my granpaa had gifted me tricycle on my birthday) and nandu was trying to make home for nandudoll-and-rajudoll with sand. and suddenly my tricycle went over a little snail, and he died.seeing him, i became very afraid and sad and came running to nandu. "nandu, nandu" i was shouting when i went to her. "nandu, nandu.. i will tell you somthing if you dont tell it to my mummy.. i..i..", and nandu was making the home. "nandu, nandu... listen listen.." and nandu was very happy looking at the home. beside the home were rajudoll and nandudoll. i picked up nandudoll and started going back to my tricycle (and the dead snail). on the way.i told nandudoll everything.i told him that it was not my happened by mistake only.....


Hey Hi thr! I am Raj. Seein you all after 17 years, I am now doin my MBA. Infact, done my MBA. Final results today and I jus cant wait! All this hardwork and all these sacrifices of last 2 years….They better materialize into fantastic results or I am gonna get screwed bigtime. If I top, I mite jus get thru my dream job or else guess deep shit waits fer me.

Holy Shit!!! I forgot. How cud I!!! Fukk Fukk… I can be such a dumb ass sometimes…How cud I 4get 2 call her up? She is my life and I am hers, and this said suffices…

“Raj, dude you rock!!! You do!! You topped the whole frigging insti!!”

Wot??? Wot??? I cant believe my ears!!Gosh, y r these 2 years going past my eyes in a flash? I m in a trance. Nandu nandu u r d 1st person who deserves 2 know dis.

--“Hey Hiiiiiii Nandu Darling….Sweetheart!! Happy Birthday… Many, Many Happy returns of the day…”

--“Thanx Love. I love you. I was afraid u 4got!”

--“Ohh how cud I? Know wot? Results declared today and…”

--“Know wot Honey! My friends have come up and they are such a bunch of sweethearts.already flooded me wid gifts. So wot r u getting along for me? I m sure its sumthn unbelievabl. You ll reach here by the evening rite..?? I ll c u then… Muaaahhhhhh…..Bye!!!”

--“Bye love Bye.”

She hangs up; and I continue “ Nandu, I topped. Can you believe it?? All those missed dates n parties n discs!!. I succeeded Nandu………………..”


Hi dear friends. I am Mr. Rajan Khanna, the CEO of Lucent Technologies. In life as soon as you think, all that was to be achieved has been, and you just need to hold on, exactly then life veers into uncharted territories and unmapped terrains without giving you the faintest of inklings. Suddenly and swiftly, you are thrown overboard into a surging ocean, surrounding you like eternity, with the orders to swim to life or sink to death. It has been a day when fate has played its deadliest move and I happen to find myself not in the same team as fate. The management has given me transfer orders, as the CEO of Vincent Inc. a very young subsidiary of Lucent, with the ultimatum of either boosting its sagging fortunes or relieving the company of the burden of the fortunes I was being paid as remuneration. I still haven’t told this to Nandu, my wife of 26 years. I find it preferable baring the ugly facets of life face-to-face rather than on the phone, so I can comfort her if it gets a little too much for her gentle disposition.

I am home Nandu. The loser, the defeated is home.


--“Good Evening love. So why are you so decked-up? Some outing??”

--“Oh yes love, a ladies' evening together at Mrs Kapoor’s. I am in a hurry. But, why on earth do you look so helpless and depressed?? “

--“Coz I am darling! They transferred me…”

--“And didn,t give you a salary hike, right?? Doesn’t matter love. I still love you lots. Come hop in, dinner is in the fridge. Microwave it before you have it, okay??



--“Yeah, okay darling Okay!”

--“Bye then. I might be late. Don’t wait for me.”

--“Bye, and have a great time!”

My drawing room has beige walls and beige sofa. People say I have a commanding voice suited to CEOs! I never knew this voice is so full of life as to make audience out of the beige and rather lifeless walls separating me and the surging ocean outside. I spoke and I had audience too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Such is Life

Cycling swiftly down under the canopy of Gulmohars on sweaty March afternoons, stopping by at the roadside vendors to gulp glasses-after-glasses of iced Badam-Milk so ostentatiously laced with exactly 3 or 4 strands of keshar, ogling at and fervently commenting about the girls walking the roads, cracking jokes mostly upheld as immoral and improper by the parents and sometimes, very sometimes marveling at the very intriguing football-like structure of Buckminster Fullerenes interspersed with imitations of the very funny and equally grotesque stammer of our Organic Chemistry Ma'm (who allegedly used to dye her hair black every morning before coming to school).

These are the memories that still persist and indefatigably refuse to stop knocking my door, apart from of course her memories.


She, whose name was Rimi Khanna; she, who was more than a classmate; she, whose stunning long and dark tresses and pristine fair complexion garnered her attention from one and all; she, who I loved; she, who assured me of her love; and she, who I had seen holding hands with a friend of mine, and thus cruelly murder all my love for her.


The urge to run away from the girl who I had so madly loved, far off and for ever, had been so compelling I agreed to leave the country for higher education. The degrees, the hard-earned scrolls-of-honor helped me turn my back on the country where I will never cease to belong, where I will never be not-waited-for, and.... where I will never return nonetheless, I vowed.


Today I am grey and almost what people would mockingly call past-his-prime..... My wife Prerna died 11 years back while delivering to this world our only child, my sweet daughter Nisha. People urged me to remarry but I was left too broken and shattered to even consider the rather-offensive suggestion. Also, the rather fast clip at which this whirlwind called life engulfed me left me with no time but lots of time to work and slog, rise higher and higher every waking moment, so high that I ceased to be a man and gradually metamorphosed into a zombie, no feelings, no emotions, no heart and no needs. Nisha is in a residential set-up in Kentucky. She gets to meet me once every month, when I make it a point to flood her with gifts, hoping to redeem myself, relieve myself of the guilt of being such a failure as a father.






My uncle is on his death-bed, thus at least lending me an irrefutable beckoning from the homeland. My country still looks the same, feels the same and smells the same. The unbeatable invite of the nativeland, ohhhh, I feel so at-home.


It almost looks like the unparalleled and unexpected happiness of seeing his nephew with him has brought my uncle back from the jaws of death. He is convalescing against all odds, and into the green of health yet again. What wonders human presence can create. What tragedies human absence can!

My schoolmate, long-lost friend Shirish who chose to stay back in this country, like so many others, took me to the inauguration of a book the last day. The plot, he tells me, deals with a childhood pair in love, but who have to stay away from each other the rest of their lives due to a rather trivial misunderstanding. I enquired the name of the author. He calmly replies "Miss Rimi Khanna."


Such is life.