I finally publish

Monday, November 28, 2005

Rusted. Or is it nostalgic?

I'd written this when I was 18. Or it could've been at 19. Found it a couple of days ago, while at cleaning out my inbox.

I don't know if I could write something like this today. But it still remains something I've written.

"The traffic was a mess and they were caught up in the jam. It was already late and she had to get home and make dinner. The line was inching by slowly and her husband was irritated. She looked out of the car having nothing better to do. The place had changed in all the years that she’d gone away…More buildings, more vehicles, more people and more pollution. But it was still the place she loved with all her heart and the place she’d be always, given the opportunity.

This was the place where she was born, where she studied and where she felt was home. A marriage, a husband and trotting all over India... Finally after years of wishing and hoping they were back home!

She breathed the air happily…even it seemed so familiar. The oft shifting had made her accept it as part of life and she’d become adept at it. They had only moved in a couple of days back and there was still quite a lot to do. So much more shopping, cleaning, arranging- spiced with bouts of nostalgia …

She looked out of the window of the car, a perfect smile hanging on her face…

It was then that she saw him…She caught her breath. After all these years… he…he hadn’t changed all that much. Consciously she looked at herself…a little weight at the maximum. Love handles, her husband called them. A few gray hairs which the regular visit to the beauty parlor took care of. Not much of a change in her too, she told herself. She looked out and her eyes frantically searched for him…the few moments she had taken her eyes off for a glance at herself, she had lost him…. This was the second time, she thought….

They were the envy of all in college…scarily compatible, best of friends, perfectly happy with each other. Then what went wrong…? Nothing did actually. Everything did actually.

He went in for higher studies and she waited. But time did not- a proposal from somewhere turned up which her parents accepted immediately. She’d had no say- he could not take her with him – well, she didn’t know to date if she would have had the courage to walk off on her parents…

There he was…. He still looked as good-looking as always. She’d always loved the way he smiled and he was smiling now…Smiling at a woman who was with him.

A surge of emotions welled up inside her.

He smiled at her and then at two little kids with them. They must be his- she thought. She looked curiously at the kids. One was about eight years old and the other was in her early teens…. The older one looked so like her- an exact replica- a very good-looking girl indeed, she mused. The younger one was a mix of both them- a very striking looking child, a grudging concession.

Strange feelings flooded over her- would the child have looked like her had she married him- she wondered. Would he be as happy as he now looked- could she have kept him so happy? Would they have had two children or more? How would the younger one look- a combination of both of them….? All these thoughts raced through her mind and for a moment she felt a pang of regret- did she miss something in life…?

With a start, she realized that her husband was beside her. Guiltily she looked at her husband who was still waiting patiently for the line of cars to move. Did he notice the myriad of emotions that flashed through her- had it reflected on her face? How would he have reacted had he guessed what went through her, she panicked. She’d never told him about her little romance; harmless romance- didn’t feel the need to. He’d never asked her about her past. “ Would I have told him had he asked”, she’d wondered many a times. Her answers never satisfied her. So she took satisfaction at the question he’d never asked.

He caught her looking at him while she was thinking all these jumbled thoughts…. He smiled an affectionate smile at her- a smile full of love, a love that had grown with time, a love that was discovered over the years, a love coupled with respect and admiration for the woman in her.

No, the pang of regret she had earlier disappeared immediately and was replaced by a feeling of guilt. How could she – after all they had been married 16 years….

She leaned towards him and kissed him on the cheek. To say he was shocked would be the understatement of the year. He looked back immediately to see if their children had seen the apparently shocking thing their mother had done some time back. But they were fast asleep. These few days had been hectic for them…

He then smiled at her and ruffled her hair and pulling her closer kissed her back. It was her turn to be shocked. But not at the act. It was more because of the person who’d done it. Unlikely. Unlikely but it was nice.

She turned around and looked at her children. Her daughter looked just like her and her son… well, at least not like her neighbor.

Both of them were fast asleep at the back of the car which was caught up in a traffic jam and which had their very irritated father at the wheel while their mother had a little romance with memories all by herself…"

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Flotsam and jetsam

It was strange... No, let me begin at the beginning.

Some relationships are too good to be true. If someone was to tell me they met over the Internet and fell in love, I'd smile an indulgent smile, patronizing nods and feel superiorly intelligent.

But it need not be only love you know...

How things change. How I change. You can have great conversation, feel warm, feel cared, care in return and you stop every once in a while feeling vaguely out of breath. A time and an evening without his voice overriding the whistling pressure cooker, the sizzling omelet or the beep of the microwave cannot be imagined.

You form various zig zagged patterns of friends, classmates and people you know. You have passed the same street signs, you've eaten in the same cafes, you've sat hours in the same beaches- but at different points of time. And even if they did intersect- you didn’t know. You talk about all that and wonder... you could've easily missed knowing this person again. He could have been just another hurrying pedestrian in one of the narrow Indian roads, whom you brushed past. He could've been just another person you shared a seat with in nameless Indian buses... You could've easily missed.

But and instead, you met. Over a surreal world of words and pictures. Of emails and phone calls.

It happened to me too. Every once in a while I'd stop and shake my head with incredulity- something as beautiful as this could not be happening in my life. Not my life surely. But it did. And those premonitions and fey feelings would firmly be brushed aside. I deserve to be happy and blissfully so- I'd convince myself.

Untouched happiness, because it happened in a way not known before. I hugged my joy- it hovered right around my fingers.

Everything ends. This did too. When you least expected it. I never saw it coming, the fool I always am. And will be. Yet another scar.


An hour and more, a movie which I wouldn't have watched even if someone had paid me to when back home in India and a horde of people I've never met- a spoonful of such a concoction is what I prescribed myself. A bottle of medicine labeled change. Like all medicines, it doesn’t taste too good. You have to gulp it down. I did that.

The best thing about being a pessimist is that you are either proved right or pleasantly surprised. I was proved right. Halfway through the movie, I wondered if I'd overdosed myself.

Intermission found the entire crowd out- loos and popcorn and colorful bottles of coke. Maybe it was Pepsi.

I stayed back. A polite turn down of the invitation. I am getting an expert at this.

The whole of the theatre was filled with Indians. Who else would hope against knowledge and attempt sitting through 3 hours of exaggerated emotions, fantastic situations and unbelievable romance.

Sitting in the semi dark movie hall, I firmly pushed thinking what I ran away from. I concentrated on looking for what my family told me- the elusive Mallu guy. I started when I felt someone brush my cheek. A small and perfect hand. He must've been four. Or maybe three. His mother pulled him back, profuse with apologies. I hadn't minded. I smiled at him and beckoned him over. He turned shy all of a sudden. I turned back to staring at nothing in front of me.

This time I caught the perfect hand. He wriggled his hand. No escape. Rummaging with my other hand that did not hold the perfect hand, I found what I hoped would be there.

A bar of chocolate, which I offered.
The wriggling stopped.
A questioning and hopeful look, one that both my sister and I were experts at; he threw at his mother.
His mother after a quick scrutinizing glance at me, nodded in the affirmative.

His stretched his other hand that wasn't being held by the not-so-perfect-hand.

"What's your name?” I asked.

I shouldn't have. Too many people have the same name.

Everything returns. That's the eternal hope in a beachcomber's life. And the bane of somebody else’s.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

In a New York minute


Lying in the darkness of my room, I think of you and… New York. There is always solitude in darkness.

When I landed at the airport, I was filled with apprehensions. What if you don’t find me in this sea of people…? When encircled arms met people who filled the seats around me on the plane, I repeated to myself your mobile number, which I’d memorized. But when I saw you looking for me and when you wrapped me onto you, my relief was by sinking completely into you- bag and baggage. I like being found.

I liked your room. I especially loved the ledge where I could sit holding my legs near me and look out into the street. The fan that groaned in slow circles, it made me feel we were sleeping in India. Except that I couldn’t hear the traffic. Things were different and yet the same.

I sleep best when I sleep with my face in the curve of your neck… There were no nightmares and dream was a kiss away.

Do you remember how often we would turn off the alarm and go back to sleep? The alarm would be the signal for us if we were at the far ends of the bed, to come closer to each other, find comfortable nooks and curves that hold and contain. Wrapping sleep kissed bodies around each other we would go back to sleep.

New York… I think I’ve fallen in love with the place. Or maybe with you… all over again. I’ve fallen in love many times and with a lot of people. I’ve fallen out of times and with all of them people. But with you, I’ve always come back to fall in love again.

Central Park…Sheep meadow is the bestest place in the whole world. When you let me sit on your bag, so that I wont get my trousers all wet, I felt I was in college. No, not that anyone in college cared if I sat on wet grass. And when you sat down on the grass and I ran my fingers through your closely cropped hair... your hair felt softer by the way. Is this what lovers do? Apart from writing love letters, long hours on the phone and furtive gropes in dark cinema theatres?

Anyway, we weren’t lovers like that...

We were…we were the lovers who made no promises. We never talk of ‘remember-when’ and ‘what-if’…We were lovers who laughed and talked and walked and giggled at Indian taxi drivers who were rude and ate noodles in cabs in New York. We were lovers who met other people, never talked on the phone, wrote small emails and had sex when we met.

We never call sex, making love.

I liked all your friends.

I like French cheese.

When you whispered to my pressed form on the crowded subway that it was not as bad as the Chennai buses, I could feel your smile on my body. I didn’t have to look at you to see that. I’d stood there, as near as to you I could get. I could feel your breath on my hair. I never once looked up. I hope you were thinking of the past. This once we could behave like others. It is allowed.

I am happier than I ever was. Or if I was, I cannot remember when. But I am sad too. Like the time when I laced my fingers through yours and squeezed your palm at the movie theatre... I’d looked on at the lit screen pretending not to see your questioning look. Sadness sits on me at the most unexpected of times.

When the time came for me to leave and you asked me not to be sad, for we would meet again, that’s the closest to a tomorrow and a promise we’d come.

3 days...it seems like a minute now. In that New York minute, everything’s changed. I think I’ve left a part of me behind somewhere out there. Maybe in one of the avenues we walked… Maybe in one of the shops we went…Maybe in one of the benches we sat. Maybe under the pillow on your bed, a little hidden.

As always and forever;

Monday, November 07, 2005


I’d met him over the small window of the yahoo messenger. No, I am not a chat room person. Neither was he. Lets just say- we were the ‘victims’ of a match-making fiesta by good willed relatives.

Hesitant conversation. Wary. And curious too. I was too young to be married then. It seemed a laughable matter and I plunged fully into ‘no-ing’ the whole thing.

He was nice enough to find a love and nicer still to be thinking on a long-term basis with her. He never gave me a chance to ‘no’ him. I’ll never forgive him for that.

When he told me that he was in love and not with me, that’s when I think I actually began liking him.

We’d spoken once. Just once. A late night conversation, when I sat on the stairs and spoke in hushed tones, which seemed way too loud for the night… I liked his voice.

He was busy trying to make a decent pattern of his life. I was young enough to dance through life and make everyone else dance. It wasn’t the right time for ‘us’.

And like all good things, we lost in touch. But any mention of a name, as his, and I would smile to myself… I like his name.

The next call was four years later.

The moment I picked up the phone and heard the voice on the other end, I knew it was he. Both of us were surprised.

Once again hesitant conversation… Then leaving all bashfulness behind, a hearty conversation with both of us having so much to say and yet nothing at all.

His voice lingered in my head long after the receiver was replaced in the cradle. I like his laugh.

He is married now. And not to me.

I wonder if he’s told his wife about me. Especially when there is nothing to say.