Category: Fiction & Poetry (Page 1 of 2)

Expiry Date

There, but not there! 

Seeking perfection even in the camaflogue of the broken, twisted and peculiar settings, our innermost desire still remains – finding that perfect story. 

In the corners of the world, probing for boxes with that one perfect story hidden somewhere. They all look appealing. 

‘Maybe, I want them to’, the voices warn!

One after the other. Open. Each box is supposed to be: ‘the one’. 

Anticipation. 

‘Please try again’

And we move to the other.

‘Better luck next time’

The cycles. 

Boxes. Us. The stories. 

They all change. The us-es. And with them, the stories. Just like the changing boxes. 

You’re ired to continue opening another one of these. You’re tired of the disappointments. Of those stories that are there, but NOT there. Of yourself. Of them. And you so wish that it was in your hands to let it all stop. 

The myth of the choice. Hadhtag My Choice. Hashtag their choices. The puppets think they have free will. The strings are just accessories to walk around the life’s stage. Idiots. We’re all the Siri’s and Alexa’s in a parallel universe. 

Stories where cliffhangers are the norm just tend to miss out on cliched endings like.. ‘…ever after’. Lifelong happiness sure might be a myth. But even seeking the permansncy of a ‘they lived’ is a tall order. 

They say, there’s no correct box. The idea of that one box doesn’t exist. Unless it’s a book. A really good book. Or a movie to lend thoughts to those imaginations on 70mm. But, who listens?

‘Customize it!’ They say. ‘Weave your own story. Paint it the way you’d like the world to see. ‘ they add to their wise sayings.

‘But.. the story isn’t for the world!” I contest. 

‘No one gives a $#@*’. Their look says it all. Uncensored. 

Expiry Date

Expiry Date

Empty rooms shout the loudest. On their own. Laced with the echoes of yesteryears. The silences shout louder from the depths of it. There are traces of your laughter. Those awkward ones with a snort as if you’re trying hard to not laugh. Failing, of course. But successfully remaining etched. Redefining what failures means.

Ever wondered how their flaws stay back while the perfections fade away? Perhaps that’s the charm.

There’s music adding to the gloom, failing to drown the noises of the past. Instead, helping it thrive. Words, I don’t know of. It probably does. As the strings caress each other and the symphony flows out like the background score of a Spanish drama, I stare out of the dark smudges of the window. Nothing.

With my back stretched on the sofa and the legs dangling out on the carpet, I stare at the ceiling. Questions. All over the carvings on top, flowing without answers. Navigating my way, forlornly, from one pattern to the other. Following the mundane routine.

‘Why it had to start?’ The question on loop since the exit.

The numbered days had already stapled an expiry date for the end. I knew it, she did too. A set timeline for it to happen. For a change, I chose the short term joy over my long-term sanity. I overlooked the pain of not looking into those eyes ever again over the laughter accompanying me for a few. But it did start something. A beautiful beginning awaiting cessation. The end was always in sight. Tick Tock. Tick tock.

‘Why it had to start??’ The question was still unanswered.

As we sat on the stairs, while the moon shone brighter, silence engulfed us both. I feared, that this is it. Did she?

Her eyes said, ‘Maybe this is for the best’. She said nothing.

‘Why it had to staaa…’

‘Ting’

A smile dangles out, effortlessly, as a message popped up.

‘Kitna roega be C%$#^? Neeche hoon. Jaldi aa’.

Maybe they all don’t come with expiry dates.

…and that’s when I knew

That look of yours. Yes, the same one were you magnify your eyes. The one which makes me feel that they’ll just pop out. That. 

That’s when I knew. 

When you blurt out the same things. And when I do the same. And then we understand, but don’t laugh. The silent high-fives.

That’s when I knew. 

When you share those uninteresting stories. Oh, sorry that’s just me. You hold them back. But you listen, to mine. And remember.

That’s when I knew. 

Your start-stop act of being funny (trying to) and thoughtful. 

That’s when I knew. 

Maybe we both know. Now. And then. Or maybe it’s just me. Again. Waving at the bus, I keep missing. 

”It’s just in your head”

‘Yes, and that’s the damn problem!’

Reading-Book-with-amazing-view

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Shattered stories of our times

‘How to tell a shattered story?

By slowly becoming everybody.

No.

By slowly becoming everything’.

True to this, Arundhati Roy is able to become the shattered selves of each of the characters she pens down in the book. It is a story of one, and it is the story of others, as we read.

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ is a fiction about current affair calamities woven together into a book about the modern conflicts. It mirrors through the length and breadth of the country’s many tragedies like a pendulum swindling across unsymmetrically.

 

I’d still rate ‘God of small things’ as a better book but this is still one amazing book I’ve read in a while. Although, full disclosure, I read only a select few. The half-read books on my shelf are now shouting, ‘Say..finish reading only a few’. However, if you are looking for a recommendation, then I’ll say, yes, go ahead and buy one!

It has been a few years since I read ‘The God of Small Things’ which was Arundhati Roy’s first novel. A Booker prize winning debut novel. When I first read it, it was a fascinating insight of Kerala, at least a little, Communism, caste-system among other things which formed the backdrop of the lives of two twins. They were central and everything else was background.

‘The Ministry of utmost happiness’ keeps the background running parallel along with the many protagonists that are scattered through the storyline.

It has an interesting ensemble of characters. There is a ‘hijda’ Aftab who became Anjum, who is central to her world of other characters, ranging from her gharana, to people who walk through and along with her, literally to the graveyard. A graveyard which gives refuge to the shattered souls of the world. Then there is Tilo, the non-beautiful dark skinned woman, who is loved by three distinctive men with shattered stories of their own. Each of the characters walks across others’ lives. Making a difference, to their own, and others they touch.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness captures the unrest in Kashmir as well as the plight of ‘naxals’. It talks about transgender lives and their conflicts, changing face of our society, communal riots, political commentary, and things which as a subject, you won’t tag as fiction.

Yes, sometimes, Roy seems to go overboard in blurring the line between political commentary and fiction, and if you’re acquainted about the happenings, appears like a view point pushed deliberately. But this happens in the case of issues, I’m familiar with, the ones I’m not; seems fascinating for the lack of a better word. But, even with this, the commentary does work in giving you an overview of the times.

The joy of reading the book was in how the characters appeared to say so much without telling it. The book is like a narration of a theatre play where the actors are very emotive, grabbing your utmost attention and giving you a semblance of happiness, grief and more importantly an understanding of their worlds.

Thank you, Arundhati Roy for your second novel!

Scene

There’s so much to write about you and then literally nothing. You’re the preoccupation that refused to get off the mind space. 

Not that you’re present in the specifics. You are all so vague. Like you were. 

I’ve replayed that scene. Of how it could have been different. How my fake laughter should have given away the disappointment. And you could SEE.

When you asked rather rhetorically about him, I should have shown my disgust. Not for him. But for the question. Even thrown away the plate of canteen food that was itself hard enough to gulp down. A tantrum or a two. Or just walked away like others had done. To you. 

But there I was. Laughing. At my own misery. 

Don’t mistake me for your cliche of a good guy. I’m not. Our breed is just scared. 

 ‘… after all this, there is an Us. Of a you and a me. ‘ echoed in the noise.

As I walked back to the class where a C+ desperately wanted to be an A, it was the numbness of the lunch with you that presided over the presentation. Of watching people and reading out the slides. Next. Next. And next. 

Thank you. 

.. and Scene!

The Uninteresting stories

Her eyes grow bigger every time she tries to tell a story. The sincere eyes moving around, even though it’s just the two of them talking, tell their own story. 

He, half-listens her story, while his eyes remain preoccupied with the shine in her eyes. Her excitement in narrating an uninteresting story fascinates him. Of the few stories that she decides to share with all. 

He knows his stories are told the same way. Uninteresting. While she listens to them with rapt attention. Remembering details to be recounted later. Her wandering eyes try hiding in the imaginary crowd. But he adamantly dives down in them. Every time.

With an actual crowd, sneaking innocent glances while people laugh about everything and the random, alike. A world of their own. The alternate glances. 

“…but this would not last. There’s just no time.” Their minds would shout almost in a chorus.

‘So what?!’ The eyes rebelled for that temporary solace.

Charger

Story: The Phone Charger

He searched for his phone next to his pillow, while trying to open his eyelids, adjusting to the sunlight from the window.
 
“Good Moornnning!” she walked in with her morning tea along with her visibly routine excitement, like there’s a good day awaiting.
“I’ve put it on charge”, she said, while putting the morning newspaper on the table next to the window, blocking the sun rays from his face.
 
“You do know I need to check my mails in the morning.” He rhetorically cried stretching his eyebrows.
She ignored him like the page3 gossip and headed over to the editorials. Folding the paper to read, glancing across to the bed, to see him look irritated. A controlled smile escaped her eyes.
 
“Why do you do this?”
 
“So that your phone doesn’t run die while you’re out!”
And before he could add-in a rebuttal. She quickly added, “…. No, you’ll forget your charger too”.
 
“But I do….”
 
“Even your power bank isn’t charged!”
Damn! This woman knows too much! , he thoughtfully murmured.
 
“What did you say?”
 
“I said…”
 
The sunlight blurred his eyes, adjusting his eyelids, he got up from the bed to answer only to find no one.
 
He sat there in silence looking at the old newspaper by the window.
 
The phone rang from a distance. Near the charging point. She was a good teacher.

An Idiot’s Love story : The Stalking (Part 3)

I felt kind of cheated. Not by her. But by my own thoughts which had already started building up 2bhk apartments of imaginations where there had not even been a foundation laid. Even thoughts of me getting laid. 😛

I was stupid. Yes, I was. Being a romantic is a pain in your own ass, you know. You turn every single incident, every single statement and gosh, even you try to read the hidden meanings those smilyes might give off.

Why you ask? Well for starters, I tried to start off a conversation on facebook instead of actually going to her and talking, because you know, I just couldn’t!

So, there I was, sending her a friend request on facebook.

Oh, yes I’ve grown quite addicted to this, thanks to a little jealousy and to sharpen my stalking skills. With anticipation and worries, the night went on. Finally, got the notification that my request was accepted. Yes, I was happy and more so, relieved. A smile flashed in between the lecture, to which the professor gave me a strange look. Thankfully, it just stopped at that. Yeah, the look from him, not my smile.

From that, chats became a regular affair. Of course, I had to initiate those chats every night. Was yet to talk to her in person, but there was no stopping me to continue. And well, as it turned out I wasn’t the only one after her. Not just via this stupid fb chat, but on a lot of “platforms”, from restaurants to late-night walks to helping her in projects. Damn, and I was pinging her on facebook!!

So when this castle started showing cracks of being broken, with the heart breaking stories of her outings with others, and one in particular. I tried to talk one day, and move my online communication to the offline world. But then, the way it all unfolded only made me shrink in with the fear of never getting to be with her. Thoughts of me not of “her league”, not the one she is looking for and a whole lot, creeped in, like a storm.

What happened was a simple incident, a group of friends standing and there she swooped in to talk to one of them, even I mustered up courage to say a few words, afterall even I was one of her friend too, even though it was just facebook. But what I uttered, couldn’t travel the distance of a 2 feet!! Maybe she didn’t hear or maybe she just ignored. And I still repeated the same thing thrice, only to witness my words just fizzing off without getting to her ears.

Not that I never got to talk to her ever again. Staying in a residential college has its own perks, of having to cross paths multiple times and somehow during those “incidents” we did got talking. But then did anything happened or build on post those? Nope, not with me atleast.

A few days later she was with someone else. So, I became the guy, who admired her, while she walked around with someone else. Stalking her.

It wasn’t the end though. I did got my second chance.

What happens next ? Be there to find out soon. Also do read the first two parts of the story.

Part 1 & Part 2

As narrated by the Idiot, with minimum exaggerations and enhanced expressions. For further development keep waiting. 

Lessons from the wild

The eyes just looked red, before I opened up my eyes to see the sun striking down on my face. Sid was just lying around me at that time.

“Wake up, you lazy bum” was what I said while giving a nice kick to the area in question.

He woke up and just stared at my face, as if I’ve done some cardinal sin, by waking him up.

“dude???!!!, what’s wrong with you ? Can’t you just let me sleep for God’s sake!!”

“I would have, had we been in your cushiony bed instead of somewhere in the middle of nowhere, trying to complete the exploration, so get off your ass and get ready”. I felt like some coach of a sports film, giving a lecture to motivate the lads.

Only I wasn’t.

Sid, laughed hard on my face, seeing my “seriousness” but anyways got up.

Both of us had taken part in this competition for exploring the forests of Jharkhand, along with a few other crazy kids from all over India. We were supposed to collect items from a list and find our way to the other end of the forest before the other teams. On paper it was adventurous and super fun. Instead, it was scary and highly uncertain.

The first day, we were able to collect just “satavari”, which is an anti-oxidant and increases memory and is found to be beneficial for the eyes. This was our third day inside the forest, the second day had ended without much luck to complete the lisy. We both were already out of food, except a few pieces of biscuits. The list provided to us, not only had the names of the items but also what they are used for. Having read that this “satavari” can be beneficial for our health too, we tried this too. I’m not sure whether that helped, or it was just pure luck that we were able to spot “gaduchi” , “bala” and “vidarikand”, each of them help in building the immune system and also rejuvenating strength.

We needed strength and taking these things was more of a necessity now. The good thing about trying out these things is that, being herbs, they can only give more of benefoits, rather than the fear of harming us in any which way.

The only thing we needed to complete our list was Ashwagandha and Amla. The day had almost ended and we were unable to locate these. It was almost close to dusk that we finally found these, but to get to these plants, we needed to cross a natural bridge of tree, which might have fallen due to some storm perhaps.

“Come on Raj, we have to get it” cried aloud Sid after half-way going across the way. I am not a fan of heights. Not a fan as in, I’m a little scared. So, I kept my steps very carefully. Hardly, halfway through it, and Sid screamed and fell, and I almost peed. He held onto the branch and shouted. I was reminded of a scene from the movie ”Ishq” (for the uninitiated, the movie starred Amir khan and Ajay devgan in a very similarly funny scene). Funny, in a movie, but it was scary here. Sid, could actually fall and die. And so could I.

But I slowly went ahead and pulled him up, without any more filmy drama. Went ahead to get the other items in the list. Finally, making our way out of the forest.

We did not win. Some other team, completed it in 2 days itself, while we took an extra day altogether. Had something to blame each other knowing very clearly that this trip inside the greens of the forest was better than any other prize, which in this case was a huge bounty.

We were all given big boxes of Chywanprash along with the participation certificates. While coming back, Sid read aloud the list which we were searching for, in the forest.

dabur 3x immunity

I was about to say, “stop, it” for rubbing our loss again. But then I saw him reading it from the contents of the Chywanprash box.

We were surprised and amazed to think that things which gave us strength to stay put and survive in the forest are more easily available in these boxes.

At a time when germs like bacteria and viruses are everywhere, your immunity system needs strengthening to be able to cope with various infections and diseases.

This post was written in association with Indiblogger for 3x Immunity contest for Dabur Chyawanprash

The Broken Window : The scars

The flower-lady was back. The ritual of spreading out her shop on the pavement continued. Carefully placing the basket down from her head and a small broom wrapped around in a polybag and as soon as she could get the dog clear away her area she started cleaning the place.

Settling herself down in the place, she started off arranging the flowers in a particular sequence. Nothing had changed. Nothing appeared to be any different from what it was before. Probably I was in my reverie again when that happened. Or did something actually happen?

I finished my cup of coffee, which didn’t taste the usual, probably because of the milk, or God knows what it was.  I had this urge to go and talk with the lady, not sure why, but I just did.

On the pretext of buying flowers, I went. This was the first time, I actually went there. Of course, she was a regular in my having-a-cup-of-coffee-and–staring-outta-my-window schedule, yet it never occurred to me to go and talk to her. To satiate this sudden urge, I went ahead.

flower garland jasmine

I just handed her a 50 rupee note and took hold of a garland which was arranged in sequential order from the time she had arrived. All I could see were jasmine flower garlands around, wondering for a moment how beautiful they looked. She looked clueless, handing the note in her hand, and staring back at me with an answer. Her faced asked a question but I got lost into thoughts of the scars on her face. I got back from that when she finally asked, “Bhaiyya Change nahi hai ?”  But again, I didn’t have any change.

I showed her my room through the same broken window and told her that I’ll come and get it the next morning. I thought of asking her, how she got those scars in her face, but couldn’t. Way back to the room, the only thing I thought of was those scars.

Only to be reminded of something else from my past, memories which I had always tried to forget.

“Leave Her, please leave her” I shouted as much as I could. Helplessly just hitting him with my little hands. Gathering all the strength I had, lifting whatever I could and throw at him, but only to find that his tall bulky body would resist it all with a hearty laugh.

My cries to the monster fluctuated from being one for being helplessly pleading to him to shouting with rage. But for kid like me, it all looked just like a cry.

I tried brush aside the flashback. The childhood memories were something I didn’t want to recall. Some things are better left forgotten, and this was definitely one of them.

I went inside and lock the door closed.

 

Read what happens next, in the broken Window in the next post.

 

In case you haven’t read the previous ones, here you go!! 

Part 2 : The Broken Window: and she stood there 

Part 1:  The Broken Window

 

The Broken Window : And she stood there…

(Read the First part of The Broken Window here)

The bell rang. But opening the door, made things even worse.

She was standing right there!!! And it all came knocking down, like a flashback.

We never realize the potential of flashbacks, the age old drama technique used on celluloid, but when it strikes for real, its hell.

The moment froze. She stood there, and I did the same. It was as if I choked internally, only I didn’t. Thankfully, she extended a big “Hiii” to make me skip the continuous live stream of flashback in front of my eyes. Stretching my facial tissues only to form a picturesque smile and to move my jaws in typical fasion, I welcomed her inside.

For her, it was as if nothing had happened. And frankly, Nothing had happened.

Everytime, I saw her. Or even her regularly changing DPs in any of the social networks, it only took me back to her thoughts, which was part of the elaborate stalking exercise.

This one time, she was going on about something, and as always I was only trying hard to concentrate on listening on what her little mouth was blabbering. Nodding my head in between, and mixing it up with the “oooh’s and achaa”.

My eyes would wander around her face, making its way from her wobbling eyes to the straight path down her nose only to land on her moving lips. Then struggling to solve the dilemma of choosing one side to wriggle out of her dimples to rest on those flawless cheeks. Completing a full circle, I’ll wander back to her eyes, which would have grown twice the size from when I started the little trip around her face.

Sun bhi rahe ho ya nahi ?”

And a standard “Haan be” would follow the question, with a little guilt of lying and resolve to listen. Meanwhile, controlling my urge of going on another trip.

Her, bleak little voice called me up. Oye, Sun!!, while I stood there beside the door lost in thoughts.

She looked tensed, but I won’t say that this was the first time; I’ll have to become her sobbing pillow. I had tried my best to stay away from her, from her life and problems. But somehow it would happen that we’ll end up in the very same situation. Call it routine, or destiny, I’ll call it the story of my life.

Anyways, it was something related to the guy which she went on and on about, I tried my best to reason, console and whatever I could holding myself on rational grounds. I wouldn’t say it’s tough to do it, but definitely irritating to the core. Khair, once it was all done and maybe after a few days things were back to being normal for her, life was back to being the same. How would I know of that? Well, No news from her side, meant things were fine.

And the usual would follow. Devoting my time to either penning something down on the laptop or being lost in reveries through the broken window, peeping across the street. Reveries were my true companion. They gave me company, and not limiting myself to times when I’m alone but even when I’m in the midst of a crowd. It’s now part of my identity, finding its way out through my thoughts. My broken thoughts, through windows like these. The broken window.

The Broken Window

 

The window through which children across the streets played football with polythene wrapped like one, the window through which you see countless birds sitting on those tree branches, flying across and the window through which I could see a very different world and Oh, the window through which the flower-woman struggled to sell flowers every day.

Although, there was bheed in front of the flower-woman today. But from what I could notice, it was not to buy flowers from her. I had my doubts on what it was.

My phone rang in the same time. A minutes’ gap to answer the call and when I came back, the woman was not there.

 

Strange!!! Where did they took her ?

 

Read what happens next in The Broken Window in the next post. 

 

Part 1 of The Broken Window Series

The Broken Window

Gulping the cup of coffee, and staring through the broken window towards the street across, I just stood there, numb. In that very moment, it was all blank. I wasn’t thinking, just stood up.

The Broken Window

A car was honking its way out into the narrow street continuously, until the street kids made their way for it. Some even ran after the car to catch some amusement of their own. Bare-footed, torn clothes adorning their malnourished torsos, but a smile flashing across their faces, they ran.  A woman sat along the pavement with jasmine flowers, hardly anyone stopping by. She was young, probably around 22, married. She had a sindoor probably.

Usually at this time, this was how my evening would pass by. A cup of sugarless coffee to give me company, peeping through the window as if I’m scanning the street, as if I was the watchman. Life, even with the monotonous setting, had its charm. The quiet time, spoke with me like it never did before.

A man stopped by to buy the flowers from the woman, probably a garland for the lady sitting in the car parked nearby. He gave her a big note I suppose, she didn’t had chilaer to return perhaps. Neither did she had candies like the shopkeepers now give you in return, and in the process making éclairs as a default currency for chiller in India. She searched under the basket, took out her secret pouch from under her pallu but was probably able to find only some extra cash to return.

The man left without the extra money towards his car and probably the lady who was waiting there.

Meanwhile, my coffee was finished and I got back to my place on the couch. I sat there for a couple of minutes but I was tempted not to. I got the feeling of doing something, something productive, something fun, and something that I always do. Rather used to do. The restlessness grew with every moment and when I couldn’t think of anything else, I just stopped thinking.

It was a lot easier not to think now. Thinking only brought back memories which I just wanted never to resurface again.

And just when I was trying to soothe my nerves, the bell rang. But opening the door, made it even worse.

She was standing there!!! And it all came knocking down, like a flashback.

 

 

…. Find out what happens next in my next post of “The Broken Window: and she stood there

 

Part 2 of the Story The Broken Window: and she stood there…

 

 

 

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