I finally publish

Friday, May 27, 2005

It gets lonely early...

The most happening years of my life were I guess the summers. The rest of the days all I can remember is a blue frock that was short and would ride up high when on daddy’s bike. A huge school bag of the most useless books and brown paper wrapped notebooks. I liked when school started, coz then I would be given clean books without dirty handprints inside.

I loved watching mom wrap the books. Cutting out equal sized sheets of smaller dimension from the huge roll of brown wrapper, she would snip a little, tear a little, tuck a little and then give me a brand new dressed book.

And it would be my duty to stick those labels on them. Right hand side corner. Mom never appreciated me sticking them anywhere else and least of all on myself!

It was one of the rare times that mom stayed back in Kerala for a little longer- grandma wasn’t too well. School was to reopen, books were to be bought and wrapped and oh yeah- dad had to work too- so both of us came back.

I was happy that I would be going back without mom. The holidays with mummy around the whole day were getting to be way too tiresome for both of us- when thankfully they got over.

The whole house looked way too different when daddy carried me and the suitcases inside. A kind of hollow feeling... I assured myself that all houses without people and that’s been locked to dust and spiders gave the feeling.

Breakfast was out, lunch was out and dinner was from outside too. And I ate ice cream all three times. The hollow house feeling evaporated slowly with each spoonful… I thought of all the possibilities with no mom around and smiled at daddy. His smile wasn’t his usual- but then I always felt he was a little too attached to mummy and unreasonably so!

The next morning found both of us at my school. I saw a lot of my classmates- but all of us were quite queer after the almost 3 month vacation and the smiles were mostly shy… daddy shook his head sadly seeing the number of books yet again this year.

We went to buy the wrapper. I pushed my luck which seemed to be on an all time high-I’d had ice cream again that morning and asked daddy if I could use red wrapper- the one with silver stars to cover my books. It was one of the first ‘no’s’ of that summer… he let me chose the labels though.

Going home, I reminded daddy- the books need to be wrapped. He appeared a little distracted. I later realized why…

Daddy could not cover the books. I’d never seen him clumsy at anything before and it was a shock. While mom made precise folds and straight lines- daddy’s wrapping looked like a baby in a blanket- all creases and wrinkles!

While I sat there open mouthed-partly because of the over sized lollypop and partly because I’d opened my mouth to ask Daddy something but forgot all about it, daddy looked at me in complete hopelessness and said, “This thing just doesn’t stay where I put it!”

I don’t know how the rest of the days went by. Wherever I walked I either walked into empty rooms or into Daddy.

I first thought I missed her crisp ghee dosas. Then I thought it was that I missed wearing clean clothes. It was perhaps that I missed longing for ice cream. Perhaps I was missing mummy…

I learnt slowly that daddy could not iron clothes, he could not turn omelets, and he could not even make Viva!

Wandering yet again into Daddy’s study I found him standing in front of a Mathrubhumi calendar and smoking.

I went and stood between him and the calendar. Picking me up he said, “20th. That’s when mummy’s coming”

I pressed my nose on the sheet of paper-relief coursing through me. So she was coming back.

“How long is that away from today?”

“A week. 7 days. You can cross off the dates on the calendar. Here, take this one and you can strike the dates as each day is over”

I climbed down with a small calendar in hand. I promptly sat on the floor and scored off today. It wasn’t even afternoon…

The next two days went longer than usual. I waited patiently until afternoon to score off the date in the small calendar that daddy had given me… and from afternoon restlessly until the next day so that I could draw a red line over a date…

By the fourth day I hated the very sight of the calendar. Daddy was as cheerful as ever. A little on the sad side- but yeah- he wasn’t as badly off as I was…if he noticed that I was walking with the calendar around the whole day- he didn’t comment…

The next day- our steps were lighter. We scrubbed the kitchen clean- actually my servant and an additional 100 rupees did. Daddy even managed to turn the omelet and bring it back onto the pan.

I tore up the calendar. I knew mummy was around the corner somewhere… I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Just like a woman!

How do you love someone you hardly know…? Or do you love someone because you hardly know…?

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Auguries of Innocence

I found this poem written in the terriblest handwriting ever which belonged to the most beautiful person ever...

Crisp brown paper from ages of sitting straight backed in the book, writing in black ink from a fountain pen that always stained his pocket...It was used as a bookmark... to a book he would never read again...

I lost the paper. And the person. The words stay on...

To see a World in a Grain of Sand...

And heaven in a wild flower...

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand...

And Eternity in an hour...

William Blake
Auguries of Innocence

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Eyes wide shut

A photo. Green saree. Another one- white this time. The third is one with a red saree. I think I have worn sarees 3 times in my life and my mom’s made sure that those moments are forever frozen. An anachronistic sight. Me, nitrocellulose and camphor.

My photo has been sent to, I guess all the homes in Kerala. Ok- all the homes of guys between 25 and 32. Hmmm… not exactly true. Nair, Menon guys of 25 to 32, who have a job. Gah- I don’t really know. And I don’t care at all!

The latest one to see my picture(s) rejected me. He was kind enough to give a reason. “I didn’t like her eyes”

Hmmm…. Maybe he was a teetotaler. Damn- what does one call an alcohol hater?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

That's how I knew this story would break my heart...

Standing on a chair and two cushions– I peered at daddy’s bookshelf. If daddy noticed what I was doing, he didn’t react. He continued sitting in his armchair and reading whatever he was… Smoke from constant drags on his cigarette making a blurred picture around him…

I looked at all the books there. My eyes fell on one of them- it could be because it was the thinnest among the lot… or… it could be that it was white in color and different from the red and black ones that found popularity on his bookshelf… I don’t remember exactly…

Pulling that one out, I jumped down.

“Love Story”, Erich Segal.

I opened the book… I found written inside…

“Dearest R;

May you never know the pangs of unreciprocated love…


Looking up I saw daddy looking at me.

“Have you ever heard of this book?”

“Ummm Hmmmm”, as in the negative.

“Hmmm…. Come here”

I knew something interesting was coming up. Because daddy had called me in that there’s-a-story-coming-up voice…

This is what I heard that day… lying on my stomach on the floor of daddy’s study…

“What can I say about a 20 year-old girl? That she was beautiful. And kind. That she loved Mohamed Rafi and Lata Mangeshkar? And him?

It was the beginning of yet another college year… 1977 would be this remarkable in his life he never knew when he met his friends after their vacations and thumped their backs in happiness.

Law college- the name brought shudders to every college girl, politician and parent! And it was but natural that she would be warned by her seniors on the topic called ‘Law college boys’.

A few uneventful months passed in that summer of 1977. He didn’t do much- just the routine stuff- bashed up a few guys, was in turn bashed up… spent a night in jail… petrified all the girls in college…got crazy drunk all nights… tried marijuana… rebelled against the system… Yeah the first few months were uneventful…

Girls were always the topic… and on one such topic came up her name. She was from another university… but still she was considered one of the prettiest looking girls who joined that year…

“You should see her”, his friend said.

“I’ve seen many…”, he said arrogantly.

“So have we”, his friend quickly defended. “But there’s something very innocent… charmingly so about her… I don’t know… but we all like her…”

“Have you talked to her?”, he asked

“Oh no... The poor thing... She would be terrified…”

“Oh! When has that ever stopped us before?”

He won the round of conversation. Next morning found them all at the bus stop near the ladies hostel of her University.

“Oh God…!!! There they come!!! Was wondering where these wretched guys were all these days…”, one of her seniors whispered loudly to the waiting gang of scared first years.

She look a sidelong glance at him… through dark eyes lined heavily with khol… and put her head down again when she caught fourteen pair of eyes staring steadily at her direction…

He pulled his bike onto the main stand and started crossing the road. One of his friends caught his hand and pulled him back…

“Don’t. Don’t do anything… We’ve asked around and she really is one nice girl… and its no act of hers, the wide eyed look she gave us all…”

Pulling away, he crossed the almost empty road.

Walking up to her, he said, “If at all I marry anyone… it will be you”

He could hear collective gasps from both sides of the road as he walked back to his waiting friends…

The bikes roared to life and went their way… She clutched on a friend of hers and stood there stunned…

She didn’t go to college that day. All this wasn’t common in 1977. Especially not in Kerala. Definitely not in her life…

Lying on her cot and with a splitting headache, she heard her class mate yell out her name. Jumping out of bed, she ran in the direction of the voice.

“Come to college now…”, her class mate panted breathlessly.

“Am not feeling too well”, she said.

“You’ll feel worse if you see what’s there on our college notice board. He’s written a letter to you and posted it on our board for the whole world to read…”

She ran out of hostel. She didn’t wait for the bus… she ran out without her slippers… she ran all the way till her college…

A crowd- partly amused, partly interested, mostly curious stood in front of the notice board. She pushed her way through… and found on the green board, his letter…”

Daddy stopped his recital… both of us didn’t speak for sometime after.

I broke the silence… I had so many questions to ask…

“Did he tell her he’ll marry her with just one look at her?

“Well… he did take four or five looks actually…”

“But why didn’t he tell her that he loved her? Why marriage?”

“Ah… I don’t know… It could be that maybe he was scared too… and he said the first things that came to his mind… It could be that he forgot the one liner he’s prepared before he crossed the street…”

“But how could he love her just like that?”

“He doesn’t know to this day… But he’s glad, for he learnt to love her more each passing day…”

“Can you love someone without knowing anything at all about the person?”
“He did…”

“Did she love him back?”

“He thinks so…”

“No… I want to know what happened after that… After she found his letter on the notice board?”

“But then… that’s her story…”

I smiled at daddy.

“Shall I ask her?”

Daddy smiled back. He knew I wouldn’t…

I didn’t.

I walked out of the room with ‘Love story’ in my hands …Into my bedroom and propping the pillow on the bed and leaning against it, I opened Erich Segals’ ‘Love Story’ and ran my fingers through the writing inside…

Opening the next page I read…

“What can I say about a 25 year-old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles…”

Monday, May 02, 2005

When the wind was green...

I wish I could run away…

When I was younger and the wind was green, it was one of my pet wishes to run away- into the sea. I guess I picked up this fond wish of mine from some book I would have read….

Run away and do what? Hmmm…. For one- I wouldn’t have to slave over homework. I didn’t slog much anyway- I had innumerable friends who would write a few lines of my work- but the net result was a myriad picture with different curves and stores and a legion of mistakes!

Oh I got caught! And so many times… Reports were written in my blue diary which went on like:

“She is so capable. A brilliant child if there was one. But her laziness has to be curbed. She never does her homework and she gets her friends to do it for her. Kindly see to it that she does her homework at home”

In those days of handwritten notes- my teachers weren’t able to highlight the words ‘home’ in bold!

I scrawled my father’s name at the bottom where there was some space for “parent’s signature”, after showing dad the diary. He never cared much for stuff like this. Had it been a report which said I was cruel to some animal or child, I had lied or stolen- I don’t know how he would have reacted. He would have been hurt I think… and must have felt he failed as a father….

During my growing years of 13 and 14, I was very much in demand. My friends went through varying degrees of crushes.

“Dear Ram”
“My own Amit”
“My dear dear Chukku” (what a name!)

So went innumerable letters I wrote to various guys- the signatures at the end of the letters differed. And oh yes- the content too! I surprised myself at my own prowess at writing sentimental and romantic stuff. I wrote every letter differently… When I was at a loss for words, daddy helped me out!!! Mom never knew- both of our unspoken decision on the lines of, “Some things in life are best left unsaid…”

I stayed at home all though school- quelling my desire to run away whenever it cropped up.

It cropped up again when I joined my wretched Engineering college. I threatened mom at all times with , “Just you wait… I’ll run away!”

I remember I called her up once from a phone booth near my college. Her favorite question during that season was, “From where are you calling?”
Phone booth- was never appreciated. That once I said cheekily, “From Coimbatore”- which was hours away from my college!

Mom didn’t speak anything for a few seconds, after which she plaintively told me, “Come back home…”

I realized with a start that she actually thought I’d run away! And mom with her limited experience with run away females and her even limited imagination, actually thought someone who ‘runs away’ would call up and tell her where from they call up!

But I realized too that I was always a constant source of worry to her. She understood me well enough to understand that I never understood myself… I was constantly torn trying to prove to myself what I was …and I would end up disproving it all…

Years later… my wish crops up again… to run away. I am fed up with the place. I am fed up with the traffic and pollution of Chennai. I am fed up with the people I see everyday…

Parties never interested me. My not-yet-3-month-old job hasn’t proved to be the solution… Loss-of-pay and going home wasn’t the answer too… I hate crowds. Of late, I can’t even carry on a decent conversation with people.

I hate these phases… and they seem to be occurring all too frequently. Having no idea what you want is a terrible thing.

Running away… hmmm… but I realized, the one thing I want to run away from is the person I am… from myself… but darn- it just keeps coming with me wherever I go!