"Work"ing your Way

I attempt here to write about the change in lifestyle, opinion and priorities we experience as we step out of college in to the world of fending for yourself and what better time to write about it than on a Monday morning, right after the customary coffee cup.

I have been up since five, scurrying around to get ready for the two hour journey that takes me to office from my home. The breakfast will just have to be rolled up in Aluminum foil because getting late is not an option: they will charge you a half day's salary. Besides, you are perennially struggling to beat your supervisor in the race called 'I got here first' and somehow he is always there, sipping his morning tea while you frantically urge your system to boot up and record your attendance.

Contrast this with just six-seven months back: I would have lazily albeit unhappily got up at eight, had my fill at the breakfast table because home cooked food is so hard to come by and reached the metro station in a mock hurry. Yes, yes, there would be lectures to attend but who cared if you missed a couple? A well-modulated voice could always mark your presence, anyway. And, then, timings never really mattered. There was no pride to be gained in entering the lecture room before your professor. More importantly, it was all a matter of choice. A crucial (by that I obviously allude to attendance and internal assessment issues) lecture was worth a couple of hours of sleep and hunger pangs... 
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Abracadabra: A review

I am reviewing Ruchira Khanna's Abracadabra as a part of the Secret Elves thingy initiated by the very lovely Indiblogeshwaris. The first thing that struck me was, of course, the title. I mean, who thinks of something so unique, intriguing and exciting? Whoosh! Also, it literally translates to 'I create what I speak' in some language (read that on Facebook sometime back). And, well, that is what the posts are all about: the wisdom gained from life and a set of action mantras to keep the magic intact.This was the first time I paid the blog a visit and was pleasantly surprised with the sheer positivism radiated by the content. There are songs, poems, images and write-ups dealing with every thing life throws at you and all of them end on a happy note. It is a good thing that I came across her blog in the Christmas season as it heightened the spirit of festivity for me. :)

Borrowing from one of her Mantras: "Only a writer has ways to keep his audience fascinated" and that is exactly how I feel going through her posts. You can't just stop with a single post or page, you have to go in and delve deeper, looking for the gems, searching for the snippets of wisdom to take in and keep with you. Then, you may come across a post that strikes a chord inside you so deep that you have to bookmark it and maybe come back to it time and again to elicit that smile. The good thing about Ruchira's posts are that she takes up the commonplace of things: a hard disk crashing, a change of season, a flashy image and weaves her words around them to create something magical. She transforms them to something exciting and forces you to pause and reflect, maybe she'll leave you with a question and have you mull it over while you walk to work or cook. Then, there is the quintessential life mantra in the end which motivates and inspires you.

All in all, I think Ruchira is doing a great job running an inspirational blog: there are too few of them and god knows how badly they are needed. She writes often which is a great thing for her followers (the newest addition being me). Her posts are concise and direct: delivering the message across efficiently. The blog's layout and design is convenient. Hmm. But if I have to suggest a change, I would be asking her to make previous posts more accessible: the blog archive link is hardly visible. Oh, and also to go with a fancier headline style for such a fancy blog title!

So, well, here was my little Christmas review for a wonderful lady. Do check out her work, it would make you smile and nod your head in that silly way... :)

Merry Christmas!

Ignorance is Bliss

4 Nov, 2013

Sometimes in our lives we defy logic. We act exactly contrary to the rationality a situation demands. You are lonely and scared, but you fill your life with meaningless relationships and emotional detachment. Why? Does it solve any purpose? Maybe denying the existence of a problem works in completely wiping it out of a system. It's like saying, there is no cancer and I will not die. Then there won't be any need for painful therapy. Because, you see, you're dying anyway.

Ignorance is bliss. Don't you see?

A cold winter morning

I could not have known
Winter would find me longing
For the sight of you again

Fragments of me you owned
Laden with warmth of my affection

Needed by me they are now
In this distraught desolation

To ask for them, I dare not
For seeing you will be hard
But reclaiming remnants of what was, me
Harder still


It's hard to be sane when nothing is the same.
But tomorrow may not necessarily be darker than today.
Keep it together.
Keep your head high.
And Smile.
It won't solve any of your problems, but, it will make the battle easier.

Medha Kapoor


On an online discussion group a couple of weeks back (the lovely Indiblogeshwaris), the topic of talk turned hovered around dealing with the loss of a loved one: by death, betrayal or a separation. Everyone had a lot to say about coping with break-ups and betrayals, but death was difficult. For a couple of minutes, I sat back and thought of a meaningful reply, but, nothing came to my mind. That's when I realized this wasn't a topic I could reply to with a single lined witticism or an anecdote with a message. It is one that requires a great deal of introspection.

The first thing I asked myself: do you really ever get over the loss of a loved one? 

The answer is an obvious and painful no.
There is no technique, no meditation,no counselling and no pill that can purge you of that grief. The void people leave behind is permanent.  

I have lost family, I have lost friends. Each death took me by surprise and left me in unsure territory. 

After the disbelief subsides, you reluctantly embrace acceptance. 
First come the memories. Words, caresses, images... There is just so much that can remind you of a person. A cricket match. A song. The moon. It's all very bittersweet. You want to remember the way things were but it also makes you so sad.

Then comes anger and vexation at the way things turned out to be, a desolation of sorts. The what ifs and if only. 
Then, just when you're trying to go on, you see or read something that reminds you of them and you yearn with all of your being to communicate that thought, but you can't... And it hits you. Grief. 

In most cultures, there is a mourning period the family of the deceased have to observe. I am a huge supporter of this practice. Don the white, relinquish the color, because that is how you are feeling inside. Death is something you just can't shrug off. You need the time off to grieve. You need to cry, reminisce, think and be with the people going through the same. 

But the mourning can't go on forever. At the end of the period, you pick up from where you left off and let life go on. As usual. Things have changed, but, that's how it is. Moving on is always the hardest.

When someone close to you dies, a part of you changes irrevocably. It could signal the end of a belief system: you tend to question theism or you take to it with an increased vehemence. It could alter the way you looked at life, it most certainly makes you more aware of reality. It might also bring along a huge change in lifestyle.  In our scheme of things, we don't realize how much a person brings to our life, till we lose them. We take a lot for granted: the support of our loved ones, the constant care of our parents, our health, our luck...

We just take too much for granted. We disregard mortality. And when we suddenly encounter loss, permanent loss, we can't reconcile ourselves with the way things change. Hence, the need for rigorous coping mechanisms.

As time goes on, the ache dulls. You reconcile yourself with reality and get back to routine. The memories will always remain. What changes with time is the way you reminisce. Tears lead to soft smiles and maybe even laughter, when remembering a funny instance or a silly nuance. Yes, there will always be that little glint in your eye when you think of them. That is the real eulogy to the dead.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live"- APWBD

When you realize that death is but a necessity, as real and tangible as life itself, you cease to be terrified of it. You can focus on life better, then. When you know what each day means, you can focus on making it prettier. When you realize how precious happiness and love are, you can focus on spreading more. 

Yes, death is terrible, but so is a life not realized.

The era of the Super Geniuses

There comes a time in a blogger's life when he or she is tracked down by peers in the community and requested to contribute to their websites. The occasion, whenever it comes, is extremely flattering. There you thought that nobody was reading your posts except bots, stalkers and humans with sub-human IQ levels, but, lo, not only are people still alive after bearing the weekly assault on their news feeds, they want me to write more! And with their blessings! So, well, after the celebrations subsided, I happily agreed to write a guest post for Half Baked Beans (the publishing house) blog, Half Baked Voices. Then came the realization: I hardly have any content going around on my blog, from where will I get enough gibberish for theirs? After a lot of hair splitting and coffee brewing, I decided to take a break and watch House. That's where is struck me: House! Sherlock! Dexter! Why did I not think of these gentlemen earlier?

Presenting The Era of the Super Geniuses. Enjoy! :)

My pen

13 Oct, 2013

What compels me to write?
What invisible forces drag me from slumber in the middle of the night to a mad search for a piece of stray parchment and something to impress upon it with?
I am not, by any means, looking for gain- or fame. Most of the times, the re-reading vexes me, giving birth to an embarrassing debate within myself, for, caught in a frenzy, I will pour myself out- only to find a mistake here and a half truth there the next day. It humiliates me beyond bearing to have someone else read me before my eyes- I can't stand the silliness of it all! Yet, every time I see a blank sheet, I must mark it...

When I went up to my terrace this evening, I saw the half moon, seated comfortably on a silver bed of wispy clouds, it's luminosity heightened by the indigo blue of the sky- and I wanted to write. A scenery so splendid, I had to capture it in words. Maybe, I thought, I could weave a story around it: have a fair maiden look upon it longingly, while, maybe, also wishing upon the evening star... Or, maybe, some poetry would suffice: a quartet of select, almost rhythmic words strewn with imagery and the hint of a metaphor... Or, as I mostly do, I could write about myself, about the countless conversations I have had with the night sky, there is always some wisdom to be found when searching the heavens...

But why, why the need?
It's almost spiritual. It's a conversation. It's me plunging into the depths of my soul and my understanding, asking and retrieving. It's a search. It's also a discovery. It's meditation. It is a journey. It is an attempt at identification. It is also an attempt to defy identity- to be somebody, anybody, but yourself, to live a stranger's life.
It is purely about creation.
Ideas and ideologies: the pen starteth it all. And what is man without the thirst for creation?

I'm sure I'm nowhere as near to an answer as I'd like to be, for tomorrow if and when I re-read this, I'll think up another theory...and then another...

The pursuit, the whole temptation of it, is what fuels the passion.


5 Oct, 2013

Like a mesmerizing butterfly
Rests on a nascent dewy bud
The stance not perfected, yet,
Eyeing a dash of color,
Relinquishes it's hold

And the shimmering wings are airborne, again


1 Oct, 2013

Overflowing chalice
Salted water from my eyes fed

With a sigh and a push
Watch it tumble, break, release

A grief unbound
Dissolves in the ever lasting

Its diffused glow, wavers
And Darkness, thirst quenched
Returns to embrace my calm

The Diamond Sword: A review

Hindustan Times carries an astrology section on Sunday which is based on Tarot Card readings for different zodiac signs done by a very well known Tarot expert. As a kid, I would meticulously go through what she had to say and see how well it conformed with reality. On the upper left hand section of the same page was a small section carrying a note or message on spirituality and wellness by Osho, the 'Zen Master'. The little snippet always brought a sense of calm and serenity with it. So, when, while browsing through Jaico Books' catalog for the month of August, I came across a book on Osho, I ordered it immediately.

As Osho's followers and most of the well-informed public would be aware, he has never written a book. But, his wisdom has traveled through books written about him and his revolutionary practices. Also, there have been numerous literary translations of his interaction with journalists all from all over the world. 'The Diamond Sword: Rediscovering Meditation, the forgotten treasure of India' is one such translation.

I must admit it did not quite enlighten me on meditation, the way the title claims to, but, then, you can't really expect a book to teach you meditation, do you?
Instead, this book is about Osho and his re-discovery of the forgotten treasures of India. Osho speaks at length about the richness of our heritage, about how, while we're trying so hard to imitate them, the West has been going gaga over our knowledge of yoga and meditation. Very Baba Ramdev, you'd say? Hardly so, Osho understand the exact problems that ail our society. He does not wish to go around teaching renunciation and meditation to all and sundry because he reasons, there is no wisdom or enlightenment to be found in poverty. A poor man can only be concerned about finding the next morsel of food, yet alone try to unravel the mysteries of the Universe. It's because of rational statements of the type above that edged me on to reading the book till the end.

Osho is, as the British government describes him, 'intellectually brilliant'. He targets the wafer-thin moral backbone of our society, the materialism and the clinging on to meaningless icons which hamper us on the path to fulfillment and happiness.

Sample this: While in the US, Osho gathered a commune of five thousand people in a desert and, over a period of five years, transformed it into an oasis swarming with sanyasins full of love and tranquility. however, the US government arrested him on account of a hundred and thirty six charges.
Why? He was only a peaceful sanyasin. But, the American novelist, Tom Robbins described him as 'the most dangerous man since Jesus Christ'.
What is it about his ideology and method that entices such a antagonistic reaction from the governments of twenty one countries? Read the series of books on Osho to find out.

'The Diamond Sword',  available under 'Religion and Philosophy', published by Jaico Books. You can browse for more details at http://www.jaicobooks.com

'Become Natural, become ordinary, live in equanimity, and do not remain unacquainted with the secret that is hidden within you' says Osho, the Zen Master.

An apple a day...

A couple of weeks back I had an itch. A common place, everyday itch at a not so important spot on my leg. So, obviously, I scratched it and watched a tiny little red bump appear. All normal, everyday events, you might say. By nightfall it had a white head and I cursed and shook my fist angrily at it. A couple of days went by with it becoming angrier looking and gaining in size. I was having a gala time celebrating the mid-week break India's independence earned us and gave it a little lotion. The next day, it started hurting and emanating heat. I knew it was an infection and could possibly spread but acting on my 'no-bacteria-can-harm-me' arrogance, I washed down a pain killer and went to sleep. During this whole ordeal, I had for company a bunch of well-wishers who kept pestering me to see a doctor. Of course my reply to that was always two yeahs and a nod with an inward gladness for having caring people around. But, after a couple of days of pestering, I semi-acquiesced by calling up my mother and giving her an account of the now rapidly expanding wound. She gave me some advice and prescribed medicine, asking me to further visit a doctor whenever I get a day off from work. So, I started the medication and also took to cleaning and dressing the wound, only too glad to have the medico genes kick in. The infection was getting contained and the pain had disappeared, I was so happy on having saved myself on costly consultations. Then Nature unleashed it's fury. I was sitting in office one day when 'it' gave me the impression of being on fire. It burnt and when I removed the bandage to check, the skin was indeed discolored. I'd only applied savlon to it and covered it up, an act, my doctor told me later, that would've worked on an ordinary wound but not on an infected one. The pain I experienced this time was enough for me to pick up the phone and make an appointment with a doctor.

It is not everyday that a twenty two year old, independent woman staying away from home gets a scolding. So, when the MD, after patiently listening to my story, put his pen down and looked at me squarely before delivering me a sermon on 'how could you neglect yourself so?' He injected me with a local anesthetic and cleaned out the wound. It was deep, around a inch and half into my flesh and equally wide in diameter. It took me six days to gather the courage to look at it. A literal hole in my leg. Every second day I had to visit him to get it cleaned, stuffed with medicine and bandaged. And oh god, did the whole procedure hurt!

Today, at the end of the second week (it's been fifteen days since my first visit and it still hasn't closed up), all DIY doctor-giri has left my system. No matter now innocent looking the cut or infection or wound may be, I am visiting a professional straightaway. There are only a few things in life that can never be compromised upon, health being on top of the list. No matter what the expense or discomfort involved, it is always better to get professional advice before you end up damaging yourself. The professional always knows better and it never hurts to get some help.

An apple a day isn't always enough to keep the doctor away.

A tiny tale for the Hopelessly Romantic

Emily paused from her reading and looked out the window. It was getting dark. Though she could not see the sun due to the high rise buildings surrounding her apartment, she could make out the orange red hues mingling with the blue as they signalled dusk. Another day gone by. Another day spent in quiet isolation, waiting. It would be two weeks tomorrow since she'd last heard from him. He supposed to call her when he returned from his business trip, but he didn't. Well, of course she could call him too, find out what he was up to, but she had been having doubts lately. Did he really care about her? Why did she always have to be the one to make the effort? She had decided long ago that she would not make it about self esteem and not think too much about making the first move. But this was going too far. She didn't want to seem...desperate.

Emily sighed as she realized that that was just what she was. Desperate for him. She had not been too keen on the whole dating scene ever since she had been promoted. Work had kept her too occupied. Other than the occasional dinner or drinks routine, Emily steered clear of young dateable men in the city. One lunch with Mark had changed all of that. He had made her laugh so much! Time just flew when she was with him. She wouldn't call it love, she just adored his company. Maybe its just loneliness, Emily, she told herself, get a grip on yourself, put on a nice dress and go out, put Mark out of the picture.
After all, that was the practical thing to do. You can't waste your precious youth pining about one person. Life was just too short. So, Emily got up and walked over to her closet. Her mind occupied with what she'd wore on her last date with Mark and what he'd said about her dress, her style, her laugh, her... She held on to the dress and closed her eyes, trying to clear her mind and focus on her new decision. Sighing, she picked out a bright red dress and shoes to match. The red beautifully brought out the soft brown of her eyes and the dress was sharply cut to expose her dainty shoulders.
'You look delightful', she told herself as she looked in the mirror, permitting herself a little smile of self-adulation. Mark must definitely be crazy, she thought, to turn down someone this good looking and capable. She must have misjudged him, after all, he wasn't all that good for her. Tonight, she was going to find out what else the city had on offer. Her spirits up, she decided on a place, grabbed her bag, switched off the lights, bolted the door...and there he was.


He stood in the doorway, dressed in a casual jacket and jeans, looking utterly perplexed.

'Emily!... Are you going somewhere?'. There was disappointment in his voice.

But, Emily steeled herself for the blow.
'Yes, I was just...'

Emily faltered, looked at his face, looked down at her neatly painted toes and looked up again to find him searching her face. She took a step towards him.

'Where have you been, Mark?'
Mark dropped his gaze and shifted on his feet.

'Are you seeing someone?', he mumbled, not looking up.

'No', was all she said and smiled, in spite of herself.

That broke the tension in the corridor and the two lovers gave up their garb of indifference.

' I'm sorry I was away. I was...dealing with stuff...', he offered.

'Okay...', she said, unconvinced and unsure.

Mark realized he wasn't making much sense. He took a chance and reached out to hold her hand. The suddenness of his touch startled her. She tensed up and looked at him expectantly.

'Emily, all I want to say is, I think you're wonderful. Could we make things work out?'


We're so tied up in the race to be self-dependant and strong that we deny admitting to that gnawing, corroding need for companionship. So afraid of being vulnerable, we hide beneath armours of smart talk and being practical. It just takes one tiny glimmer of hope and the resolve comes crashing down.

To be or not to be

Life presents you with a multitude of choices all the time. There's always something to add to your life and then there's also always something waiting just around the corner. Judgements and decisions!

What if it's all a hopeless chase? What if being nice and being good doesn't count for anything, in the end? What if you've got the rules all wrong?

It perplexes me, the battle between right and wrong that keeps playing itself out in my head. It wears me out! Yet, I'm not always aware of it. Tossing and turning every decision to be made, looking at it from everybody's perspective. Yes, it is right to be considerate. But what if that extra time spent in contemplation takes the buzz out of the thing? But, there's one thing that is important. Never apologise for the way you feel. You owe that to yourself.

The pursuit of happiness

"Ask most people what they want out of life and the answer is simple - to be happy. Maybe it's this expectation though of wanting to be happy that just keeps us from ever getting there. Maybe the more we try to will ourselves to states of bliss, the more confused we get - to the point where we don't recognize ourselves. Instead we just keep smiling - trying to be the happy people we wish we were. Until it eventually hits us, it's been there all along. Not in our dreams or our hopes but in the known, the comfortable, the familiar."

I've always regarded the attainment of happiness as something mandatory to our system. It's a natural state to be in, I've told myself, like the point of equilibrium for a pendulum after its tumultuous journey through space. You see, whenever asked what my codes of morality were, the only answer I'd be able to present was that I wanted to be happy. It's all very simple. What do you wish for the person you love? 'I just want you to be happy'. Why do you want to take the week off and go hiking in the hills? 'It would make me very happy '. Happiness, or the lack of it, has always been the driving force, leading us on the path of decision making. Yes, it's all very selfish, when you only think in terms of happiness only, but, why should you not?

Bur the thing is, happiness is no state of being. Only the pursuit is. The long, eternal road. Because, you see, happiness is like a butterfly, fluttering all around you in all its winged splendor. When you catch it, it's ecstasy. But butterflies only live for a day...

So what is it all about, really? Could we define happiness as the absence of pain? But when are we ever without any troubles...

Can you be happy even when you're falling apart and everything is changing? You could struggle around and grip on to something secure, something you know will work to being the smile back. Happiness is a need.

Coming to terms

You're dead and gone. Why is this fact so difficult to digest? You're gone. I won't ever see you smiling back at me again. That night outside my house was the last. The wistful, promising smile. I was happy. For you. I knew you were too. What happened there, kid? Godmother, that's what you called me, once. I wish I could be a better one. I can't turn back time and it hurts. Remember that day in Delhi? I told you I can't ever live with regrets. Not any more, kid. You are gone. It's just irreconcilable. I won't ever get a chance to, well, be there, with you, for you. I loved you, kid, I loved you in that pure simple way that you can only reserve for someone who you call your own. And that you were. I don't know what we were, best friends we called it. But it was there, all that love and care. Us. Now you're gone.
I thought of writing an obituary. But how do I put in to words what you meant to me? Words were your forte, were always your forte, I am only borrowing inspiration. They haunt me, your words, things you said in that heavily accented high pitched voice of yours. They come to me when I least expect them to and then they just stay, hanging in the air. You once told me playing with your words can get you anywhere. You just have to choose and use them right. Yet, we always ran out of them when we wanted to talk, didn't we? It's strange.
Today, sitting by myself and watching the rain, I'm trying to come to terms with what this means, if at all things have any meaning. I'll take my time dealing with the grief. You always knew that about me, didn't you?
You were brilliant and lovely. I would catch hold of random friends and tell them about your genius. It made me so happy.
The love you gave me was, is, so precious. You were one of those who loved unabashedly. I remember one afternoon when, sitting in my room, you sang me a lullaby. You were, undoubtedly, pathetic at singing, but the passion with which the words flowed out...

'...So long I've been loving you,
I will never forget you...'

That is the thing.

Tears of Blood

What: Entry for Edition 8 of the Indian Fiction Workshop.

Plot Synopsis: There is a dilapidated old fort in a forest bordering an Indian village. The villagers believe that inside the fort is a chamber, locked shut by an ancient King, and guarded by spirits invoked and trapped inside the chamber by that king.

Unknowing of the folklore, two thieves who have escaped from a nearby prison take shelter in the fort. Thinking that there might be treasure inside, they break open the door.

Narrate the events up to and after this point, in FIRST PERSON POV of the thieves. You can choose to do it from POV of one thief, or alternating between the POVs of both.

Plot Credits: Jayashree Srivatsan

Judges: Leo, Jayashree, Rajrupa Gupta

Genre being explored: HORROR

My entry:

Tears of Blood

‘Hurry up, Raju! Run or those dogs will be upon us in minutes!’
I watched as Raju struggled to move with his pot belly impending him, wheezing and coughing on the way. I was a hundred meters ahead of him and before me stood the mighty trees of the Chiranjeevi forest. We were being chased by a group of policemen for escaping from prison and had just been able to lose them through some really quick thinking on my part. I knew they would never follow us into the forest, at least not at night. They were a bunch of superstitious fools who believed it to be haunted.  Well, haunted or not, it was the only place for us to escape from the jaws of prison life.
The forest was cold, dark and damp. The flashlights we were holding were of little use, scarcely illuminating the space around us, thick with foliage as it was. The sound of leaves crumpling below our feet hung in the night air like a lone beacon of light on a stranded shore. And I was afraid that it would attract the wrath of wild animals.
‘Raju, I believe we’ve made a grave mistake, we can’t spend the night in this place…it may be full of wild animals!’
He looked at me with a grim expression, before turning away and regarding the darkness, ‘There is a way, Shyam…I’ve been in this forest before and I know of an old fort, I’ve seen it as a child, I think I can lead us to it…we’ll be safe from the animals there…’
‘Alright, is it far?’, I asked him.
‘It is in a clearing at the heart of the forest. But it is our best chance’.
‘Hmm. Let’s go then’.
Raju nodded and studied our surroundings for five minutes before starting down a path…

It has been years since I’ve seen the fort of Rudrapratapa. It used to be our favorite spot for playing hide-and-seek as children, with its plethora of rooms of all shapes and sizes and the passages set out like a maze. One could easily get lost there. Our elders would often warn us against going to the fort. Apparently, it had been cursed by a witch. They would try and scare us with various stories but it never deterred our free, adventurous spirits.
‘Where is your god-damned fort Raju? I’m exhausted from all this trekking in the forest…’
‘Here, here; just beyond these trees…Can you make out the outline from here? Look there…’
And there it was, looking melancholy and desolate against the silver moonlight. All its past glory turned into just bricks and stones. How time ruins things! Not a sound to be heard except the chirping of the crickets. I could see an own perched atop a tree near its boundary wall. Its yellow eyes shone at us menacingly. I flinched.
‘How do we get in?’
‘Look for an opening in the wall…there should be a crevice wide enough to let us get in…’
‘Bats! Yikes!’, Shyam shouted, ducking and waving his arms around. Ah, the perils of spending a night in the wilderness. I thought we had had enough of crazy nights in the prison.
Fifteen minutes later, we are inside the fort. It’s much cooler than outside and we are shivering slightly. I feel uneasy, I have a feeling we’re not alone in this place. But then, the fort is huge enough to grant refuge to an army of hundreds.
‘Shyam, let us just find a nice spot and hide till the morning. I’m very tired.’
But Shyam would not pay any attention to me; he was like a man possessed! He ran from room to room, admiring the splendor of the place while the thief inside him looked for items to pick up.
‘A couple of rare antique items from this place, Raju, and we’ll be millionaires! Just think about it!’
‘Don’t be stupid! If there was anything of value here, it wouldn’t be laying open for scavengers like us!’
‘Hey! Look! Look here!’
Shyam turned my attention to a heavily ornamented door. It was studded with gems arranged in an intricate design. I couldn’t recall having seen anything like this here before.
‘I’m sure there’s something of value inside! But this big, fat lock! Do something about it, Raju, my mastermind!’
Wordlessly, I got down on my knees and examined the lock. It looked simple enough; just some careful ministrations with my master key and it would give away. Yet, my hands trembled as I inserted the key in the hole. It felt as if there was someone on the other side of the door, waiting to be set free…
‘Holy Cow! Look at the size of this room! And it’s loaded with stuff! We’ve hit the jackpot, my friend!’
The room was impressive! It was full of caskets and cupboards and drawers. The walls were adorned with paintings. There were desks, chairs and a huge bed. All made of expensive mahogany, I presumed. We were going to be rich! No more petty thievery for the rest of our lives! The only problem was, Raju wasn’t willing to share any of my enthusiasm. He was silent and subdued, transfixed to a spot near the door. Maybe, he’s scared, foraging in the dark like this. Hah! What a child!
‘Oi, come over here, you go and check out the other side of the room, I’ll look here…’
I looked on as Raju gingerly walked to an almirah, stumbling over a couple of caskets on his way.
I sigh and turn my attention towards a painting on the wall. The frame seems to be made of gold. It is a huge piece of art, a life-sized portrait of a reclining woman. I trace her figure with the light of my torch. She’s draped in a blood red saree, snugly fitted to her voluptuous figure, curly black tresses, full lips, pierced nose, eyes…eyes? I froze in shock as I realized that her eyes were missing! Their place was marked by two blotches of red, as if the eyes had been slashed off. What a weird painting! Those kings must have been crazy!
‘Shyam…’ somebody whispers.
‘What, Raju?’ I turned to speak, but he wasn’t there. ‘Raju?’ I swung around to the other side but there was no one. I turned back to the painting and was immersed in complete darkness. The batteries had died. Shit. Okay, calm down, just walk towards the entrance. There was a still a glimmer of moonlight coming through. I could just focus on it and it would guide me to the door. I start walking, carefully. I realized that I was sweating. The darkness that surrounded me was oppressive. It felt like it was suffocating me. Somehow, I could not get the image of that blood stained face out of my mind.
People say that when you are deprived of the use of one or more senses, the other remaining ones become sharper. Standing in this room with only a dim source of illumination, I became aware of my surroundings in a most unique manner. I observed the smells and the variations of temperature. My mind was just not burglary today. I felt myself being drawn to a cold corner that smelled, quite unmistakably, of blood. The metallic, nauseating smell of congealed human blood. Could somebody have dumped a dead body here? I wonder as I walk towards the source of the odor. I'm very close to the spot, the smell is so strong that it makes me want to throw up. The air surrounding me is perfectly still and chilly. I can feel goosebumps on my flesh. Footsteps! I hear footsteps. Thud thud thud thud thud. A dull, rhythmic motion. We are not alone here. Someone is coming to get me. Maybe its the murderer! What should I do? I take a confused step forward and feel my foot strike against something coarse and ice-cold. I freeze. Oh my god, its flesh! It’s human flesh! 'Shyaaam! SHYAAM! Where are you? Get the fuck here immediately!' Trembling, I move my flashlight to get a look at the body but there is nothing there. I glance around, move back and forth but there's no sign of a body. Cold fear grips my spine and I turn away, ready to run just as a hand shoots out of nowhere and grabs my foot. 'SHYAAM!!Help me! SHYAAMMM!'. I can feel its rugged claws biting into my skin. I can't free myself from its grip. I scream as another hand grabs the other foot, completely immobilizing me. It’s dragging me towards itself.  
Suddenly, I receive a slap to my face and the hands that gripped my feet disappear.
'What on earth is wrong with you Raju? You're screaming like a madman!'
'Oh Shyam! Thank god you are here! Lets get out of here. I beg you. Please, let’s just go.'
'Why? Why should we go?'
'Because this place is haunted Shyam! There is a ghost here! I felt it! It was gripping me! I couldn't move! It was gripping my feet! Both my feet!'
'What nonsense, Raju! There is no such thing as ghosts! You must have been dreaming! Now give me your flashlight and let us see what is there to take!'
I had never felt so angry with Shyam before. How could he disregard my opinions this way? Does he take me to be a fool? I fumed.
'Shyam, I want to go. You have no right to talk to me in this manner. What do you think of yourself? '
'Raju, please just calm down. There are no ghosts here, its just your mind playing tricks.'
I could not understand why Raju was being so irrational. Sure, the place is scary, but then, any place would be so in the darkness. And ghosts? He couldn't be this foolish. And then it struck me! Raju is playing a game with me. He wants me out of here so that all the goods can be his! That old fox! I knew I could never trust a man like him!
'Shyam, will you listen to me?!' Raju shouted, grabbing my arm.
'No, you listen to me, Raju! You leave if you want to! I'm not moving!'. I pushed him away.
'I will not leave you alone to die and you will listen to me!', he was grabbing me again.
'Is that what it is, huh? I can see right through your stupid plans, Raju. You want all the riches to yourself and so you're inventing all this nonsense! You can easily trace this place in the morning and can come conveniently to claim the stuff for yourself!'  It was my turn to grab him by the collar.
'How dare you! You insolent, greedy man! How dare you!' His knee meets my stomach and I double up in pain. My hands immediately fly to his neck. I wanted to squeeze the air out of the slimy bastard but he had his hands on my arms, restraining me. Damn, he was strong. I fly into a rage and attack his face with my hands. I dig my nails in his eyeballs and scratch; I scratch and claw at them till I can feel his blood dripping down my fingers. He had started howling. Haha! No one messes with me! I step back to let him moan in agony. Before I knew it, he came charging at me like a bull, head first, right into my gut. I stumble backwards with the force of the blow and fall, from the feel of it, in an open casket. I grab the sides and try to get up but this monster placed the lid over me. I could barely move my arms but used all my strength to beat against the top. It would not budge. It was too heavy. I'm going to die here. God please. I don't want to die. I was beating on the lid with everything I had. My breath came in gasps and shudders. I was using whatever air there was in my lungs to shout to Raju to open this thing. But it just wouldn't move. Darkness, the darkness is coming to get me. It has won. I could hear the mad laughter of a woman and I knew it is her.
The pain in my eyes is unbearable. I am bleeding tears of blood. I could barely move so I settled myself on the casket. Beneath me I could still hear the mad screams and knocks of Shyam, asking me to let him out. I ignored them. He could die there and be eaten up by rats and rot in hell forever as far as I was concerned. How could he do this to me? He is a sick man! My eyes! Oh my eyes! I sit there nursing my precious eyes, blood all over my face. I try opening them as the pain subsides but can hardly see anything. Everything is red. I weep more tears.

And then I see her. An apparition, a ghost, a ghoul, a witch or a goddess. I do not know what she is. Skin a sickly green color; she is standing in front of me, wearing a red saree over an emaciated frame. She smells of rotting flesh and blood.  Her hair hangs down loose over her bosom and her face is as bloodshot as mine. But the most horrific part, she had had her eyes gouged out! And in spite of it all, she bared her bloody teeth at me and laughed. I had never seen or heard anything this horrible and vindictive. Her laughter shredded my soul in pieces and suddenly I wish I hadn't ever hurt Shyam. She kneels forward and grabs both my feet with her claw like hands, pulling me down slowly from the casket. Despite her skeletal frame, she is stronger than me. I fall on my back and my head hits against the edge of the casket. I feel dizzy and light-headed.  I didn't have the power to scream or struggle, fear had stupefied me. I just stare at her terrible form, waiting for the torture that I knew was coming but she just laughed and laughed. Her voice echoed and the walls laughed with her. I could not take it any more and let myself drift away into oblivion...

A farewell

'The Last Convertible' by Anton Myrer.
It's rather strange that I should find this book to read at this time in my life. It isn't a pre-meditated attempt to lend some meaning or poetic backdrop to this phase, all I needed was a book to help me with my vocabulary and sentence building for the GRE test next week. I went to my room looking for something non-fictional and resplendent in critical thinking like Dawkins or Freud but when I spotted the red hardbound, slightly torn cover of this book, I knew I had to take it out, if only to sniff the yellowing pages and smile at my favorite passages.
I've read this book before, one and a half times, I think, back when I was in school. Back when we were in school. It was the beginning of an end then. It is an end today. That was the winter of dreams, the fervent excitement of the endless opportunities awaiting gripped us into a state of perpetual hopefulness. Anything could happen. We were at the threshold. We knew that when we met each other again, whenever that might be, everything would have changed. But the thought wasn't scary. I don't know why. Maybe it was the eagerness to explore...to experience change...
Optimism keeps you happy.

Today, everything has changed. This goodbye is different. The eagerness has been replaced by a weird kind of wariness. It is because we know, for sure, that anything is, in fact, possible and things do have a way of changing, forever. With this wisdom comes the realization that we have, unmistakably and irrefutably, grown up. This is the end of student life as we know it. It is time for realism to replace optimism.
I must admit it scares me sometimes, when I think about it, about myself, about all of us, as adults, out on our own, for as long as we can go on. The safety net has been withdrawn. But where there is fear, there is also a source of courage and we have seen and learnt enough. We are equipped.

The saddest part, of course, are memories. Not their content, but the fact that they just can't be made again. Not in the same way.

A convertible is a car which has a top that can be removed or folded. They were popular more than a century back. The book talks about one emerald green beauty, 'The Empress', as they called it. There were four young men from Harvard. There were girls. There were stories. And memories. Memories etched in every crease of the car's metal, every cut of the seat's leather. There; a cigarette burn, there; a stubborn stain- all with their histories. And then, before they could make any sense of what was happening, they were out on the field, a part of the second world war. From boys to soldiers to men. The girls waited and prayed and became women. Youth ended and life moved on.

It's funny that I picked this book up. It's almost like I want the emotions that this goodbye can conjure to overwhelm me. We've been prepared for the end. We made plans for it.     We anticipated it. Heck, we'd even wished it'd happen sooner just so we could get on with our lives and get some respite from the messy hostel rooms. Yet we clung on to every passing moment, counting the lasts. The last exam, the last viva, the last altercation with the staff, the last friendly chat with the lab assistant, the last request to the hostel attendant, the last joke with the guy at the canteen counter, the last bag to be packed and boarded on to the car waiting downstairs, the last hug, the last glance back...
It is the end.
There are regrets: things left unsaid and roads left not traversed, but none of it matters now.
It is the end.
It is also the beginning. Of the rest of our lives on the paths we've carved out, with the people we've chosen and the beliefs we've adopted.

There is one sentence that has been resonating in my head ever since I started on the journey back home...
'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'.

I think it's a perfect description.

Just a thought...

Just a thought...


It's so easy to get yourself in a foul mood.
You know your triggers far too well.
Compulsive behavior.
The need to find yourself in a state of melancholy is as addictive as the need for a high.

But all it takes is a little push to get out of it. One stern no to yourself.

Because, in the end, you outgrow the damage.
You evolve.

Letting Go

How do you deal with pain, misery, being unsatisfied, not being able to get what you want?
One is acceptance. The worse has happened, accept it, let it go. Then there are those who find it better to repress it. Repress the anger, repress the pain, the guilt, whatever load there is that's weighing you down. But repression is always temporary, it can never be a permanent solution. The skeletons are going to tumble out of the closet some day.
Acceptance may be permanent, if you are strong enough. The point is, the mind is such an untamable object. Thoughts just run haywire. But at the same time, it is very mouldable. You can hold on to whatever you think is important, without questioning your decision. But a point comes when it starts to choke you. That is the time to re-evaluate your choice. Do you really need to hold on to things that you know will bring you pain? The rational answer is obviously no. But, still you do it. That self-destructive, self-pitying streak in you, it is unrelenting. Bittersweet.
But when you do overcome that, you wonder what made you hold on to something so meaningless in the first place. Because the thing about life is, whether you like it or not, it goes on. And you will have to move with the current. Stagnation is impossible: it is against the very fabric of the elements the universe has been moulded in. It is against our nature. Holding on will only cause misery. 
The present will always be the thing that matters the most. 


Here comes another piece of fiction writing for the Indifiction workshop organized by Suresh Chandrasekaran and The Fool. The current edition (fifth) is being judged by Deepa Duraisamy, Arvind Passey and Jayashree Srivatsan. The plot provided by Arvind Passey was exciting and challenging. It can be accessed here: http://indifictionworkshop.blogspot.in/2013/02/exercise-for-edition-5.html

I gave up a lot of times while writing this piece and had to ask people to push me to get it done. I loved the plot, but, being used to be fed details, it was difficult working on it.

Here's a snippet of the story:

06:05, 01/02/13

Samir shivered in the early morning chill. It was barely five minutes past six and it had taken him a humunguos effort to relinquish the warmth of his bed for a jog. Not that he needed the exercise. Or wanted it. The neighbour's teen-aged daughter had started getting insecure about her figure and he was more than ready to lend a helping hand.
'Late again', he muttered as he fixed his hair using a parked car's side mirror. 'Sexy eyes', he crooned, looking into his reflection. 'Hmmm. Handsome face', he smiled, moving back a few paces. 'Strong should...what the hell!!', something in the reflection had sent shivers down his spine. He spun around to spot the source of the horror and gasped. There, behind the car, in the narrow lane between the buildings of the compound, hung, tangled in a mesh of wires, the body of a young girl, covered in blood.
Samir stood transfixed, unable to comprehend the scene before him. Who could've done this? It was one of the most peaceful, residential areas of the town. What should he do? Calling the cops meant dealing with questions and possible accusations. But why should he be scared? He looked at the face of the young girl. The eyes, still open, looked startled, as if she too was surprised to find herself in a position like this. Dangling from a set of wires at six in the morning. On a Sunday.

Samir snapped out of his daze. He decided he shouldn't be seen in the company of a dead body so early in the morning. He was just a regular jogger, trying to score the neighbour's daughter. Satisfied with his decision, he turned on his heel and jogged away. Had he waited a few minutes he would have earned himself some interesting company.

The door of the balcony of one of the flats on the seventh floor swung open and a middle-aged man stepped out, looking bewildered. He cut a handsome figure of masculinity except for the red ladies' gown that he was wearing. He stood puzzled for a few minutes, trying to remember why he was so dressed. But a trail of blood on the floor caught his attention. He followed it to the edge of the railing, grabbed the handrail firmly, peeped down gingerly and felt the ground beneath his feet give away. The earth trembled, the sky erupted with bolts of lightning and the Sun spewed fire as Mr.Sibal let out a horrified, ear-splitting scream.

Check out the rest at:


Love for the walls

We're moving out from the house we've lived in for fifteen years. It shouldn't bother me much because I have been practically living out the last six years. But, bonds of memories unite you with the concrete of pillars and the bricks in the walls...

This room. So quiet, still. This is where I grew up. Read and wrote. Dreamed and waited. These walls stand witness to all that I felt. All the gods I worshiped, lost faith in and renounced- their edifices once adorned these walls. Till I took them down and out, out of my life. These walls have seen all those that mattered. Heard the conversations- the clever scheming, the giggling fits, the starry eyed dreams, the lore of loss...

It is in this room where the stray rays of the moon filter in through the window that I have slept, safe from the outside, secure in my thoughts. This is where I imagined myself being magical, being famous, being someone, being anyone... Till it was time to pack my bags and leave, see the world for what it was. Yet, I cannot hide from this room, all the things I have learnt and un-learnt with every trip and journey. It is here that I must return, to remember or to lose the burden of memory. For this room holds the knowledge accumulated all through these years. It holds answers. It is a mirror reflecting the past. It is a mirror reflecting what's inside. It is a pensive. It is a safe-keeper. It is a caregiver. It has me, in every scratch and speck.

Staying safe in the City

I returned to Delhi two weeks back. There is an element of paranoia in the evening breeze of the city. The other day I had to take an auto-rickshaw to get back to college. It was barely six in the evening but my heart was beating like a drum. It's not like I'm faint hearted, I can travel on my own and take care of myself. But a few days back, a friend of mine was walking on the street and two men on a bike tried to snatch her phone from her. She managed to save it, but the incident left it's impact. The city is merciless and you can't trust any corner. Staying safe is number one on the priority list.
I managed to scramble a list of some things you can do to keep yourself secure:

1. Carrying pepper spray, chilli powder or in extreme circumstances, deodorant. Come on women, walk to that pharmacy and buy a can of mace. Or order one online. How hard can it be? Or is it just laziness? Or denial?

2. Being alert. Not letting yourself get involved in phone/laptop/book or conversation. Pay attention to your surroundings. If using public transport, pay attention to what the driver and co-passengers are up to. If walking on the street, avoid letting yourself into dark corners or places where you'd be suspectible to harassment. When walking alone, paying attention is of the utmost importance. That text or phone call can wait.

3. If possible, carry a bulky bag. It intimidates people and can be used as a weapon.

4. Layer your clothes. I'm not recommending wearing burqas, but, a pair of leggings beneath that skirt or a scarf wrapped around your neck would do well to deter stalkers.

5. Create a scene. Scream, shout, threaten. No person who has ill intentions on his/her mind would like to draw attention to him/her self.

6. Looking confident and in control. I cannot stress this point more. People are quick to take advantage of a damsel in distress. So, even if you are on the verge of becoming one, never let it get to your face and bearing. I am horrible at remembering addresses and directions and prone to getting lost on every other trip I make outside. I'd like to believe that there are other women out there who too feel lost or out of place at times. And it is situations like these when you look most vulnerable and susceptible to exploitation. The trick here is to maintain your composure no matter what. Walk as if you own the place. Ask for directions, ask questions, but don't let the panic get to your voice.

7. Don't hesitate to call the police, security guard or the helpline numbers. They've been installed to help you.
Helpline number for Women: 1091 & 011-24121234In addition to this, Delhi Police has a whole list of helpline numbers for women in different parts of the city.