Monthly Archives: September 2012

ice-cream cones and conversations: My entry for the Get Published contest

One of the first conversations that they had was on their farewell night while in Graduation College. She asked him if she can take a photograph with him. He nodded. That’s about it. Little did they know, at that time, that almost a year later they would be in the same city, working for the same company and deeply in love with each other! During one of their numerous non-sense conversations that they had late into the night near the ice-cream stall, over cones of ice-cream, they had shown me that photograph and told me this.

When I say conversations, it was usually he, being the chatter-box that he was, who spoke while she sat there listening to all that he had to say, following every word keenly and managing to find an old stupid joke to giggle at. He told this to me that when she laughed like a carefree child during those conversations, her laughter the only sound at that point in the night; things just appeared so perfect that it felt like a dream. She only spoke when it was necessary and on most occasions was very precise.

He wanted to be a fiction writer. She wanted to be a professional dancer. They both ended up being software engineers. They both dreamt of quitting their jobs some day and pursuing their object of interest. No doubt almost all their talks were dreamy. Most people would dismiss their talks as empty, like castles in the air. But castles they were! And beautiful ones on top of that! They usually came one after the other, never together. But they always left together. Unlike the other couples, they never walked hand-in-hand or close enough to each other. I often wished they would, just to complete the picture but they never did. Most of their conversations got carried over to the walk – he leading her, talking animatedly, and she following him, smiling coyly.

I only saw them fight on a couple of occasions. The first time when she had said something about him being very rigid on his values, sometimes stubbornly so; and the second time when they had to decide whether to continue living as they were or move away from their present jobs in pursuit of their dreams, which also meant moving away from each other if the need be. Their fights were characterized by the lack of conversation, that’s about it. They still came for the ice cream and left together after having it. But mostly, they had only one and in silence.

I did not see them after the second fight. I had grown so used to their presence at 10 o’ clock in the night that it felt weird not having them around in the beginning. With time, I have slowly accepted their absence. I do not know their names. I also do not know where they were from or where did they go to. Whatever little I know of them, I had gathered from their conversations – some that they had shared and some that I had overheard. They were like any other ordinary couple who frequent the ice cream stall. I do not know why I still remember them except that I do and every night at 10 I single out two ice-creams – a butter-scotch for her, a chocolate one for him – and keep them separate, just in case they happen to come over!

This is a work of fiction and bears no resemblance to anyone in particular. However, incidents in this story have been inspired by many love stories that I have been a witness or audience to.  So, if you find a part of the story that you think belongs to you, do not be surprised. Most likely it is yours in which case you can contact me for a free ice-cream!

This is my entry for the HarperCollins–IndiBlogger Get Published contest, which is run with inputs fromYashodhara Lal and HarperCollins India.

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the second honeymoon

Anjali waited for the priest to finish the rituals and then silently said her prayers and offered the flowers. Today was Rajiv’s seventh death anniversary. Seven years ago, on this day, her husband of thirty years had suddenly collapsed after dinner, never to wake up again. She was broken then, not knowing how to piece herself together for the life ahead. She had wondered if it would be possible for her to get used to living all alone at sixty. It was not easy but she held along. With passing time, she had accepted his absence around her.

“Are you okay?” Abhijeet asked.

“Yes, I am. Thank you.” She smiled. The sudden stop to her train of thoughts jolted her a bit.

Abhijeet did not know what else to say. He stood silently next to her. It was awkward, so she decided to continue the conversation.

“What keeps you busy these days? I do not see you often.”

“Well last week, I had an auction for my paintings. I was busy with that.”

“Nice. How did it go?”

“Pretty bad. Not a single one sold.” They both laughed.

Abhijeet was her next door neighbor. Post-retirement and after the death of his wife, he had developed a penchant for painting. Anjali did not know much about painting but from whatever little she did, she knew Abhijeet was a horrible painter but she never had the heart to tell him so.

“I am no good with colors. I guess, I will start something new. May be consider travelling.” Abhijeet continued from where he had left. Anjali felt glad at the self-realization.

The doorbell rang. Anjali was not expecting any more guests, so she went to the door a little surprised. The courier boy handed her a parcel. She had not received a mail for long. She wondered who would send her something. And more importantly, what.

Abhijeet excused himself the moment she came in with the parcel. She wanted him to stay a little longer, may be for a cup of coffee, but the parcel clouded her thoughts and she did not ask him to. She opened the parcel. Inside were two travel arrangements to Melbourne, Australia and a note from her husband’s travel agent.

Dear Ma’am,

Greetings!

Please find enclosed with this letter your travel arrangements to Melbourne. Your late husband had enrolled with our ‘Make A Travel Wish’ program and had asked us to book this arrangement for this Christmas, thirty-seven years ago, when we had booked for your honeymoon to the same destination.

We understand this might evoke emotions that may not be very comforting but we are obliged to carry this out. You have the option of canceling the arrangements, in case you so wish to.

Best wishes.

Thirty-seven years ago, on the Christmas that year, she had travelled for her honeymoon. A newly wed then, it was her first trip abroad. Not many people in India knew about Melbourne then but Rajiv was adamant on having his honeymoon there. She remembered the sun kissed beaches, the beautiful locations, the wonderful people and the amazing time that she had. A lot had changed since then but for both her and Rajiv those seven days in Melbourne were always their best days together. For lack of a better reason, they attributed it to the place. Melbourne had something special for them.

These thoughts evoked both good and bad feelings and her immediate next reaction was to call the travel agent up and cancel the arrangements. Obviously, she cannot go to the same place where she went for her honeymoon, on tickets booked by her husband, all alone. What meaning would it have! But somehow she could not bring herself to cancel the tickets. Canceling the tickets seemed like ignoring Rajiv’s last wish. ‘What would have Rajiv wanted me to do?’ she thought. For long she sat there unable to decide what to do.

Travelling alone was not an option. May be she could ask Abhijeet to come along. His paintings are no good anyways. The thought of asking Abhijeet confused her further. Would it be a good thing to do? What would Abhijeet think? She concluded it was for him to decide.

She called him up. “Hello,” Abhijeet answered the call.

“You mentioned something about travelling, right?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Would you mind coming with me to Melbourne this Christmas?” she asked and then took a deep breath.

“That was quick. What happened?”

“Come over to my place. I will explain you everything.”

She put the phone down. She did not know why she felt like a teenager. Was it the right thing to do? She did not know. Was she falling for Abhijeet? Not yet. Did all of this make sense? She could not care less.

Abhijeet got up from his table and went to the cupboard. He had the entire collections from the auction in there. He gave it to the courier boy and said “Here it is. Please thank your manager for all the help.”

He did not know why he felt like a teenager. Was it right to lie to her? He did not know. Was he falling for Anjali? He was not sure. Did all of this make sense? He could not care less.

May be, when they sat together in one of the sun kissed beaches in Melbourne he would tell her the truth and ask her to forgive him. May be she will appreciate the fact that a lonely life is not worth the trouble. May be they will come closer as friends, if not anything else, and be there for each other for whatever time they have left.

But for now, all that he could think of was Melbourne!

This blog post was written as a part of ‘It is your time to visit Melbourne NOW’ contest. 

Book Review: circle of three

Book: Circle of Three

Author: Rohit Gore

Publisher: Grapevine India

Year of Release: 2012

Price: 100

If you could predict the future by what had happened in the past, present would have no meaning left. The above statement, though easy to understand, is one of the most difficult ones to realize. And yet, life always finds a way to tell it to us – a way which is distinct for each one of us in its approach but common enough for all of us to understand the universality of the same. ‘Circle of Three’ is a story that depicts how three people, each coming from a different walk in life, with parallel pasts that are dominated by the loss of near and dear ones to death, ego or callousness, come together in the present to draw inspiration and hope from each other and in the process learn life’s aforementioned lesson.

Ria is a famous scriptwriter who has lost her husband and son to a tragic accident. Her melancholy is compounded by the fact that she comes to know, after her husband’s death, that her childhood sweetheart had been cheating on her for long. Having lost all that she had lived for and unable to vent her anger against her dead husband, she shuts herself from the rest of the world contemplating suicide.

Ranasaheb is a novelist who used to be famous once. However, his books are no longer in print and people barely recognize him now despite his efforts to remain in vogue through digital media. He lives on the money bequeathed to him. His children have left him for his parental royalty and the only woman he has ever loved had died long ago. A melancholic old age coupled with a resent that he has developed for life has turned him into a grumpy old man who whiles away his time drinking and looking for a story for his next novel.

Aryan is a thirteen year old boy who has adjusted himself to a set of parents who are either quarrelling or are busy or are too drunk to register his presence. In the process, he has grown beyond his age. He has already written thirty-thousand words for his novel, is trying to fight recession so that it does not hurt his parents and has a very-uncharacteristic-of-13-year-old dressing sense and hair-style. However, he is still not done with problems that 13-year old teenagers face in real life like bullies in school, facing his fears and finding a place that he belongs to.

And then they meet.

What follows is a story of hope, inspiration and survival! Over story-telling sessions in a coffee house, they come close to each other, reluctantly at first and with great alacrity later, to form a support system that each of them falls back on in his/her moments of despair. They learn to forgive others as well as themselves and to give life another chance.  In a year’s time, from one birthday to another, the story moves from cynical endings to new beginnings. It is a little clichéd that they all find what they were looking for in the end but then it would have been poetic injustice to deny them the same after making them live through the ordeal of transformation.

The book is brilliant in parts and a pretty decent read otherwise. The language is not racy but it is not incomprehensible either. The characters have been sketched brilliantly – few in number and very relevant to the plot. The story meanders in some parts but quickly gets back to the basic plot. The author has a penchant for narrating death scenes and describes way too many but his detailed narration is a delight otherwise.

This book is no ‘God of Small Things’ but then not everyone is looking for one! Grab a copy and let Rohit Gore tell you an exquisite story of metamorphosis. For a new writer, he has done an amazing job to deserve that chance!

 

Best part of the Book: The character of Aryan, the little boy who is a part of the ‘Circle of Three’. His dialogues and emotions, reflecting his childlike innocence, make for a delightful read.

Worst Part of the Book: There are too many narrations of unnatural deaths in the story, some of them unnecessary.

Final Rating: 3.5/5

 

I am thankful to Grapevine Publications for the free copy and the chance to review the book! 

the invisible wall

She sat there on the beach, her legs sprawled, staring at the horizon. The sun had set long back and she could no longer see the waves being formed but thanks to the 100-watt bulb at a distance, she could still see them touch the shore and retreat gently. It had rained in the afternoon and not many people had thronged the beach that evening. At some distance was a group of teenagers, probably drunk, and beyond them a few couples each busy in their own world. The violent waves and the cloudy night soothed her present state of mind and she did not regret being alone. Now that she thought, there have been many such evenings in the last twenty years, when she had come and sat alone on the beach till the high tide soaked her and shook her of her thoughts. She wondered if that qualifies her as a weirdo. She was not young anymore but then forty-six year olds do not spend their evenings sitting on a beach waiting for the high tide to soak them; they have much more pressing concerns in life. This thought made her feel good and bad at the same time and she could not decide which one to choose.

Twenty years ago, on this day, she had realized her uterus had a very rare problem – it rejected the fertilized ovum every time she tried getting pregnant. Beyond the medical terms, what it meant was that she would never ever be a mother. She still remembered her reaction when she had heard this for the first time. It was not sorrow or denial. It was anger. She was angry at being cheated of her womanhood by the very same organ that was supposed to give it a new meaning someday. She had lost a lot of things since then – her husband left her for another woman, her relatives no longer recognized her, the society, anyways, does not have much for a woman who is single and cannot bear a child – but till date she considered that day as the day she lost her all. There was so much to absorb but she hardly soaked any except for that deep anger that created a wall between her and everything that happened after that day. For very long in her life, she held on to that wall as her only defense. Now that wall had become her life. She had consciously never allowed anything to permeate through it; to reach her; to get soaked into her. Except probably for the waves!

She felt the sand beneath her wet and realized that the tide has reached her. She heard one of the teenagers pass a nasty comment. Not that she was bothered, for having lived as a single woman for more than two decades, she was used to her anatomy being compared to fruits and vegetables and frankly at forty-six she could not care less, but she decided to get up and move towards her scooter. The city, of late, had become very unsafe. Not that it was safe ever!

She reached for her mobile once she got to the scooter. There were a couple of messages from work asking her to report immediately – Rachna would not have her dinner! The messages were sent an hour ago. She started her scooter in haste and rushed towards ‘My Home Residency’.

As she got in, the warden told her how difficult Rachna had been through the evening. Rachna was new to ‘My Home Residency’ and her experience as a counselor told her that this is not going to be easy.

Rachna had locked herself in the store room. She knocked, patiently at first and then a little harder.

“I want my mom,” Rachna shouted back.

She wanted to tell Rachna that her mom was no more but she did not have the heart. Either for the lack of a better answer or because she did not know what else to say to a sobbing child who had just been orphaned, she muttered, “Mom is here!”

The words struck her as she uttered them and she stood frozen. Rachna opened the door slowly, clung on to her and started crying. For a very long time, she stood like that, staring at the wall. As the little girl’s tears soaked into her clothes, making them wet, she suddenly had a very different feeling. Somehow, this time, she did not want to get soaked. She wiped Rachna’s tears and held her tighter. The twenty year old wall had finally shown signs of decay.

There are almost 14 million infertile couples in India. There are around 12.4 million orphan children in India. And yet, we have less than 5000 official adoptions a year. The answer stares at our face but we are too busy soaking our misfortune to realize it. Let’s decide to soak no more!

This post is my entry for the Soak No More Contest by Surf Excel Matic on IndiBlogger