Saturday, 3 September 2011

Story Behind Missing Shoes Part II

Nikhil and I had been talking all the while. Nikhil would call once every two days. He would mostly call at night. He thought we two were made for each other, it was written or how else would you explain such incredible tale of our love. Sometimes Jay also talked with him. Two of them will tease me by making fun of me, but Jay used to give us enough space. My then husband would go for a walk or sit sometime in the garden at the middle of the night.

Finally after a wait of twenty five days, Nikhil said he was coming back. He would arrive at Delhi airport after three days. I immediately called Jay at his office. He got two train tickets for us of the same night. He told his parents that the two of us wanted to go for a rather delayed honeymoon. He had to concoct a very good story for such a sudden change of mind since earlier he didn’t go for it even when his parents insisted. Somehow he managed to get both of us on train. The journey was very tiring and even stupid. Both of us were allotted berths in different compartments. I went to sleep very early.

When late in the night I rose to visit toilet I found a college girl in deep conversation with Jay. She wore a golden chain with a heavy golden pendant entwined with it. What college girl wears such jewelry, that too when she is travelling. The girl looked suspicious to me. I went up to them and showed the shrewd little wimp her right place.

Jay places his trust too quickly; anyone could take advantage of him. I didn’t want him to get hurt, besides I didn’t wanted him to keep up all night. We had to rise early in the morning to reach airport on time.
Suhana felt for the first time that her friend was trying to cover up.

When we reached Delhi we were left with very little time. We rented a room and freshened ourselves up in an hour or so. Nikhil called up and asked us to come at Hotel Centaur. We took a cab to reach there.
After a journey of another two hours, FINALLY, I saw Nikhil in front of my eyes. It seemed like it was a magical moment; I couldn’t stop myself from crying. I crashed into his chest and wept heartily in his arms. I gave him a long, passionate kiss. After I could contain myself I introduced the two. Nikhil thanked Jay a lot and wanted to pay him homage for what he did for both of us. He invited him for having lunch with us. But Jay, for the reclusive hermit he was, bade goodbye.

“But you can’t go like this” I pleaded, “You’ll have to give answers. What will you tell your parents? To my parents?  We’ll have to plan everything out. Please, stay with us for a while.”

“No Madhvi, I was in the middle of a project when we left. I have to get back as soon as I can. I’ll catch the earliest flight from the airport. I’ll tell your parents that you are happy. And that you will call them soon. As far as my parents are concerned, they are easy customers. This shouldn’t be difficult.”

He handed over some papers to me saying “You’ll need these when two of you get married. As we were officially man and wife, these papers discount that association of ours. I’ve signed it and when you do, we will be legally divorced.”

I thanked him for keeping in mind such seemingly petty but important thing in mind. He gave me a hug, wished the two of us luck and left. Nikhil and I enjoyed the afternoon together. We took lunch at the hotel then we chatted for a long time in a nearby park.

Suahana interrupted her, “Tell me one thing Madhvi, how come Nikhil accepted you just like that. Didn’t he have any doubts over you staying with a man for a month?”

“I guess he trusted me, he never asked me if Jay and I had anything between us.”

“Gosh Madhvi you are so lucky! Everyone seems to love you these days. By the way where is The Man of the Evening? He is due for half an hour.” As soon as Suhana uttered these words, she saw a man in black shirt and blue jeans, with disheveled hairs, stooping over Madhvi and kissing her on the cheek. The man had sharp features, rather boyish looks, fair complexion, and his disheveled hairs complimented his V shaped jawline. Suhana had heard from her friend but now she witnessed herself how handsome the beau was. She was overawed with the man’s demeanor.

He looked at Suhana and smiled. Suhana offered him her hand and said, “You must be Jay” the man in black shirt nodded and shook hands with her “I am Suhana, I believe you already know that Madhvi and I are childhood friend.”

“Yes, I’ve heard a lot about you Suhana” he said in a soft voice looking at Madhvi.

He suddenly started speaking in a frenzied tone “Ladies I wish to stay with you but I really need to go because…” Madhvi didn’t let him complete the sentence, she erupted with a groan “No, we have hardly talked since last night.”

“Sweet heart, you know how much office time I’ve lost in the last two days” Jay tried to explain. Suhana wanted him to leave, since Madhvi hadn’t finished her story yet. She wanted to know how Madhvi realized that Jay was the one she loved and not Nikhil and how in the world did she lost her shoes. Madhvi was eager to tell the story too, or so Suhana believed.

“It’s all right, I’ll see you later tonight” Madhvi condoned her- now technically- ex-husband. The couple kissed each other good bye and Jay left.

 “When are two of you planning to get married again now that you are divorced?” Suhana asked mockingly.
“That shouldn’t be much of a problem. In comparison to what Jay would have to do had I eloped with Nikhil, this should be a cakewalk” Madhvi said with a wink.

“He is a magician, isn’t he?” Suhana said praising her friend’s beau.

“So where were we?” Suhana was growing impatient for knowing what happened next, “Nikhil and you were in a park.” Madhvi resumed her story:

Nikhil and I chatted endlessly in the park. But Nikhil was aware of my indifference all the while. He talked and talked and talked! And I was just staring blankly in the sky or at children playing nearby. He finally asked me “What is it sweet heart? I’ve been talking for almost an hour now and you haven’t told me much about how have you been these days, or what are your plans ahead. Not only that you have been listening to me with listlessly.”

“Don’t act like a whiner Nikhil” I snapped, “You know how tired I am. I’ve been on a run for sixteen hours straight”. Although there was a lot of conviction in my voice, Nikhil didn’t buy it, I could tell by the look on his face.

“What were you thinking all the while?” Suhana asked teasingly with a mischievous smirk on her face.
I just couldn’t get Jay off my head. I tried to pay attention to what Nikhil said, but eventually my mind will drift into the time I spent with Jay. His childhood photographs, his shyness, how he made maggi for me in the middle of the night when I was feeling hungry, how he used to pretend that he needs a walk when Nikhil and I needed privacy over phone.

The way he used to feel embarrassed whenever he involuntarily made human contact with me, and how envious I felt of that college girl who was chatting with him in the train. I also started missing Kapila and Mitali. The thought of me never seeing them- and Jay- again filled my mind with dread. I started worrying what Jay will say to those people? How could he have returned from honeymoon without his wife?
Meanwhile Nikhil tried to get intimate. He held my hand for a while and tried to kiss me. As soon as his lips touched mine –when my mind was preoccupied with the thoughts of Jay and his family- I felt like I was being asphyxiated. I couldn't breathe. I started wheezing frantically and the words involuntarily babbled out of my mouth.

“I want to see Jay, I want to see him now Nikhil. Please take me to him Nikhil please!” I snorted
Nikhil got scared seeing my frenetic gestures. “Okay okay, I’ll take you there. Just calm down” he said trying to make me comfortable. We rushed towards the airport. I didn’t know if Jay was still there or has he already left for Mumbai. But I wanted to take the faintest chance I had of seeing him today.
We reached airport and looked around for the next flight for Mumbai. My high heels tucked on firm floor of the airport and produced clucking sound.

I’d already learned that no flights had been departed since Jay left us in Centaur. The next flight to Mumbai was due in fifteen minutes. I rushed towards the terminal. Just when I reached the terminal I saw Jay go through security doors and enter the passage towards runway.

I called him but my voice didn’t reach him due to the bustle of the airport. I tried to follow me but security guards won’t let me in without a valid ticket and he also informed me that the guy in black shirt and blue jeans had just bought the last ticket in the flight.

Nikhil tried to convince me that he will get me to Mumbai from the first flight next morning but I ignored him. I removed my heels and jumped off on the other side of the fence. Two guards saw me jumping over the fences and running towards terminal passage. They dashed in my direction. One of the guards even caught my t-shirt but couldn’t get hold of it.

I just slipped out of his hands and entered the passage door. To my dismay I couldn’t see Jay anywhere. There were five aisled behind the door, each of which had two passages in which people walked in both directions. The chances of finding Jay among the crowd given that security guards were right after me were grim. I started panicking. Finally I shrieked his name right out of my stomach.

“Jaaaayyyyyyyy!” I screamed two or three times. Security guards had identified me and were coming to get hold of me. My eyes were filled with tears which blurred my vision; I never saw from which of the five aisles did Jay came running towards me. As soon as I saw him coming, I threw myself upon him and held him tightly in my arms. “Take me with you Jay; please take me with you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” I said with tears in my eyes and making a complete fool of myself on the busy passage.

Security guards came from behind and took me in custody. They detained me for breaching the security.
Two lady officers questioned me in detention room, about the purport of throwing such tantrums. One of them asked if the guy in black shirt and blue jeans was my husband. When I replied in affirmative she enquired if the ‘rascal’ was abandoning me and running off. I explained to them that the pandemonium was my fault and not his. Eventually Jay missed the flight and we had to spend the night on the airport. We left for Mumbai at 6:30 this morning and I’ve come straight to you.

Two girls bantered for another half hour or so and then they bade good bye to each other. She paced towards her home, the home she had finally accepted to be hers, to sample cuisine for her newly found love.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Is it my fault that I am a flirt?


Acknowledgements:  I also thank complete Activation Support, especially Leena and Kiran. It couldn't have been possible without their repeated affirmations.


Is it my fault that I am a flirt?

Note: Although character of Duggu is inspired from a real person, Duggu is different in a lot of ways, primarily in his abilities and luck with women.

Instructions were clear, “If I take you to the party, you will keep your mouth shut”. This was his sister’s condition that Duggu had agreed upon to have taken to her friend’s engagement party. Duggu's sister was furious over him over one of her friends, whom Duggu had easily flattered and then ditched for a better girl. ‘Better’ for him on this occasion had been someone who could match him on round of drinks in the bar. Neela, who was getting engaged, was friends with Duggu also, hence she had invited both the siblings but Suhana wanted to save the engagement from any embarrassments her brother might cause.

Duggu was blessed with an innocent face and urbane communication skills. He had put his gifts to good use, mainly in wooing women. Very few could escape his penetrating gaze and enticing conversations. Today however, Duggu was sworn against displaying any such machinations.

It was a lavish ceremony. Since Duggu’s sister was the girl’s best friend, he got the privilege of joining the engagement couple on the table along with Neela’s other friends. But one thing, rather person, Duggu couldn’t stop noticing was Neela’s cousin, Molly. She was fair, elegantly dressed in a pink saree and beautiful in her own way, distinguished by her long, protruding nose. Her large earrings only accentuated her beauty.

The girls went about discussing their daily affairs over dinner. Those who had boyfriends were asked about their beaus and mocked. Duggu passed brief glances over Molly, he capitalized on every opportunity of making a contact with her while passing the bowls as she was sitting right next to him. He hadn’t seen such a beautiful girl before, at least that’s what he thought. He was growing impatient and wanted to strike a conversation, except that he couldn’t save himself from the gaze of his sister. Suhana was glowering at him, noticing his mannerisms.

Duggu remained silent, reining in his desires. But his instincts were putting enormous pressure on him. Don’t do anything stupid Duggu, he reminded himself, it’s your sister’s best friend’s engagement. You don’t want to ruin the party. It’s just an infatuation, you don’t really like her. He tried to argue with himself.

To his relief, Neela had dragged him in the conversation, at least she distracted him. “How is your job goin on old boy?” she said looking at him. “Oh, great!” Duggu replied sighing, “I am all set to earn an appraisal this time.” But to his horror Neela dragged him in territories which he wanted to avoid most at the moment, “You are a man now it seems, have you thought anything about settling down” she said patting the thigh of her fiancé, who responded with a smile.

Duggu grew nervous, his angel began admonising, ‘don’t say anything stupid Duggu, don’t mention Molly’. Suhana sensed his uneasiness and tried to distract everyone, “anyone for desserts?” she was ignored by everyone except the caterer who placed a large bowl of ice-cream on the table. Everyone feasted on the delicious ice-cream but rested their attention on only the second man on the table.

Neela resumed her conversation, “Common Duggu, don’t be so shy in front of us, we are all like your sisters, aren’t we?” Not all, he grumbled to himself, remembering Molly. Neela rested her elbows on the table, cradling her chin over her fist. “Are you seeing any girl?” she inquired.

Duggu was feeling extremely agitated. Don’t say it, his better senses told him. He stammered and sighed, “No, no one as such”. He was ill at ease; he started scratching his wrists under his sleeves to distract himself. His throat was dry. He was fast succumbing to his instincts. He gulped down a glass of water.

“At least tell me what do you look for in a girl?” Neela persisted. Duggu started sweating, his eyes met with his sister’s. She was waving her head in a ‘no’, she too was suggesting ‘I know what’s on your mind rascal, don’t say it!’

“A snout” Duggu blurted looking blankly into the empty bowl of desserts, his words hanging in an elongated lull that was created as everyone was left dumbfounded.

Monday, 7 February 2011

The Contract

The Taj stood there- looking over the Arabian Sea- as a stark witness of India’s rise from the undermined slavery, to the independent uprising; from confused identity, to unwavering self belief; from rusticity, to sophistry. In early twentieth century a rich Indian businessman, after being refused entry into a five star hotel because he was non-white, built The Taj Mahal Palace in reply to the British who were the then rulers of India and looked at Indians with disdain. Today the twenty first century Taj having survived the infamous terrorist attack; having added The Tower Wing- which was another structure to its right- equal in capacity, hospitality, and luxury; and having established a brand name for itself world over was hosting two young entities who contributed to the economic uprise of India in their humble ways.

Ajay Sinha, CEO and major stakeholder of IndiaTech Ltd. was one of the younger fat cats of India. One reason for India’s robust economic growth was providing cheap IT solutions which, if otherwise taken from a software conglomerate would make it unaffordable to many businesses. Ajay was one brave entrepreneur who founded IndiaTech with just few friends and their meager computer systems. Now the company was a multi million dollar baby. One of the main reasons of company’s success was Ajay’s unshakable faith in its purpose in face of unrelenting adversity. He knew from the start that it wasn’t an orthodox business enterprise which, after some resistance, would emerge as victor or perish depending on its fate. He knew he would have to work for peanuts initially if not for no returns at all. It would be only after addition of cohort of cheap developers will the company taste success. But taste it will.

Today however, this positive entrepreneur in his mid thirties was rather pessimistic. He was due for a meeting with Fly India Airlines over a maintenance contract. Fly India had provided wings to India. It had an elaborate network across Indian geography and beyond and was the most preferred carrier of corporate elites for the sheer luxury it offered to its passengers. IndiaTech had been maintaining Fly India’s IT for five glorious years. But suddenly the airline considered Ajay’s company incapable of handling such a critical responsibility.

After recession hit the world economy most foreign clients had slipped into their shells postponing all development plans and withdrawing maintenance contracts.

Ajay was in desperate need of this contract except for one thing; he didn’t have the cheap labour anymore. Most software giants had dropped their prices and brought them more or less in line with Indian companies and IndiaTech after delighting over enormous success for over a decade had lost most of its dedicated workforce to newly emerging software companies. The airline was already negotiating terms with another software company which was a sister company of the airline’s itself which only made the matter worse for Ajay. But somehow if he could sustain the contract for another couple of years he could see his company through these difficult times.

Ajay dressed in a black business suite for the meeting and was accompanied by his senior manager. “Needless to say you are looking elegant sir” said the sixty year old manager. Ajay accepted it with a nod; he knew the compliment was not fake. He was indeed a handsome man and used to getting such compliments a lot. He was tall, fair, had a perfectly slanting cheekbone and jaw line. His fluffy disheveled hair were only fitting and made him look much younger than he actually was. But that hardly mattered at the moment.

The two men made their way to the sea-facing regale where meeting was held. They were received by representative’s advisers. They were brought to sit with the host and a quick round of introductions was made.

“So how does it feel to be CEO of a multi-million dollar company at this age Ajay, if I may call you so?” asked the suave and beautiful host. Aliya Ranawat, in her late twenties, was young daughter of airline’s owner. She was an MBA from Harvard and had recently been appointed as the junior manager of the company. Along with fair complexion, tender built, and big eyes she carried with her resolute authority which fully justified her post in the company.

But behind her flattering compliments Ajay could sense pitiful scorn for a CEO who was going to lose his business soon. “Of course you can,” grunted Ajay with the sternest face he could make.

Aliya continued, “So you somehow managed to bring us to the table despite our repeated denials”.

“I failed it seems”, replied Ajay “after five years of immaculate service that we provided, your company didn’t even so much as cared to send a senior manager, you know”, Ajay conjured an artificial hesitancy, “ I expected someone who could really take decisions”. Aliya’s soft demeanor disappeared in thin air as soon as she heard this. Rage began wreaking havoc in her senses; she could barely restrain herself from throwing the wine in her glass on the face of her guest. She clinched her teeth. Her lack of control was palpable on the table. “Tell me what you’ve got?” she said glowering at him.

“Our company has stood by yours for five long years. We have provided you with quick and reliant services and I believe we are very much capable of doing so for the next couple of years. And keeping in mind the fact that SCS is offering you the same services at ten per cent lower rates, we are ready to offer you that much discount” Ajay presented his argument. His manager nodded in agreement.

Aliya quickly responded, “Mr. Ajay you know our company too well to believe that it cares about your discount. We place much value in reliability and security of our data. Your company might have been reliable in the past but not any more. We have come to know the fact that you could retain only thirty percent of the employees you had a year ago.” Aliya looked straight into Ajay’s eyes, she took a brief pause. “Yes Ajay, we do know a good deal about your internal affairs. After all one should know well whom he’s dealing with, doesn't he? Although you have been able to maintain the strength of your employees but most of them are new recruits from local colleges, cheap substitutes of the workforce that originally served us. Secondly the company to which we are turning to is a sister company of ours which assures us more that our data will be in safe hands”.

“And lastly if you look at the figures, our company has grown five times in last five years while yours- in terms of employees and revenues- has grown only twice and that too in first three years. From last two, your company has stagnated Ajay. You were unable to keep up with us.” Aliya rested her argument and gestured so by keeping both her arms on the table. An awkward lull was created in the place.

Ajay waited for a moment to seep in and get settled, he finally spoke “I am impressed, you have pretty good knowledge for someone who hasn’t spent much time in the company” Ajay opened up while offering his argument which further irritated Aliya. He called her a ‘new comer’ which indicated that he still was taking her for granted. She was mad at the thought of not being taken seriously. She already owned the company, that’s what she thought. She had never been taken for granted before. How could someone reject her position so blatantly? She secretly fantasized Ajay longing for her. She couldn’t take her eyes off his neck and chest which was his only exposed skin in the suite.

Ajay’s words brought her back from her fantasy “I am sure you are too knowledgeable to deny the fact that my company has played a role in success of your company. Your IT was slow, expensive, inefficient, and costly all at the same time. We streamlined your codes; we upgraded your machines and made your system user friendly. You cannot shy away from the fact Ms. Ranawat that your company couldn’t have done this without us”. Ajay was getting aggressive as the meeting proceeded.

“And we’ve have paid you accordingly for your services Mr. Ajay”, Aliya snapped at him, trying to insult him softly in an attempt to get an upper hand. Ajay was quick on the response, “but not as much as you have benefited from us. Remember, your company grew five times but ours only two.” Ajay completely took her defense apart. She was rendered speechless. She just wanted to run away from this.

“This conversation is over Ajay,” she began wrapping her things and gestured her advisors, who didn’t prove to be of much service tonight, “you cannot cut deals today whining over the terms of yesterday.”

“This meeting was a sham, you had already made up your mind even before it began” Ajay began to winced in an attempt to make her talk again. “Have a good evening!” Aliya said while chaining her purse without any expressions and without any eye-contact. Finally she rose from her chair.

“You cannot do this to us,” Ajay lamented while watching her leave the table, she never turned back. An emotional upsurge began enveloping him. It cannot end like this. He had worked very hard making this company and he couldn’t just watch it die. Something needed be done, something needs to be done.


Aliya took an extended shower. It had been a long day for her. After a stressful day in office she had been disparaged by an IT firm CEO, much smaller than the company she would be inheriting in the future. It was too much of an insult for her. She couldn't take the word '' out of her mind. That bastard challenged my authority she thought. The more she hated him, the more passion it induced in her. She increased the pressure on shower to take her mind away but couldn't stop fantasizing Ajay begging for her mercy, asking for forgiveness, reeling under her authority; imploring, to make love to her.

Aliya finally gave up and turned off the shower. She wrapped herself in a towel without caring to dry her body. She climbed on the bed without switching on the lights; she was too scared to face the world tonight. Aliya had been an insomniac after her mother’s premature death and wasn't used to sleep before late in the night, in fact early in the morning. She groped around the pillow for remote control; she remembered that she had put it there before leaving for the meeting which anyway didn't go very well for her. After some effort she found it.

As soon as she switched on the TV she was aghast watching a silhouette construe under the light of the television. “What in the world…” she blurted trying to exercise some authority over her stalker who cut her short. “If you would keep quite and just listen you would know you are safe” said the man extending his hand into the light, pointing a gun.

She clenched her towel which was the only clothing she had, she could sense some familiarity in the voice. The stalker walked into the light revealing himself fully, in his impeccable black business suite.

“You son of a…” as soon as she recognized his offender, she felt some respite. She had judged him well, he couldn't harm her. He had too much conscience for that. “How did you manage to get in” she questioned him in fury. He chuckled “I have some influential friends in the Taj, and don’t bother about complaining after I leave, we have took lot of pain ensuring that it looks like some hallucination of yours.”

“What do you want” at gunpoint, she was still very authoritative. She got off from the bed, alert, looking for way to outsmart him. She clenched her towel tight and adjusted it to cover her curvy bosoms.

“I want you to just listen to me. You cannot just abandon my company after using it for five years. As I said you cannot deny the fact that you couldn’t have reached here without us.” Ajay was gasping, he couldn’t catch his breath. “You cannot do this to us. You have to make sure that we get the contract for next two years. My managers have all the documentation ready. All you need to do is just convince your bosses over the phone to sign this contract. As soon as they agree my manager will present the papers to them. Until those papers are signed, you will be my hostage”.

“I’ll never be able to convince them over the phone, they will want to wait till tomorrow morning in any case” replied Aliya, still wrapped only inside a towel. Television was the only light present in the room apart from dim moonlight which came from the large window that also gave away cityscape.

She could see the images in her mind somewhat come true. Ajay was in front of her, helpless, pitiful. But as the images materialized, so did the passion.

“I have all night” replied Ajay.

Aliya started moving towards him, “Ajay you are not in right state of mind, and you don’t understand I will never be able to convince them over the phone. They would want me to discuss in person over this.” Aliya inched closer, she was now standing right in front of him; Ajay firmed his grip over the gun, focussing on the aim “I am afraid you will have to die then” it was an unconvincing threat.

She started stroking his arm with one hand and gripping her towel with the other, “you cannot do this Ajay, you don’t have to do this”. She concocted her expression to show how anxious she was feeling in front of him. Ajay could no more ignore her fair, wet body. Sweet fragrance of her soap had completely enveloped the room; Ajay was feeling his grip over the gun loosening.

She started caressing his cheek her bosoms started eking out from the loosely held towel. It barely covered them now. She finally let go of the towel and held Ajay’s face in her hands, naked. Their nose was touching each other’s; their eyes locked; they could feel each other's breath.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Life in a metro


I never associated myself with a metropolis. I come from a small town in central India, where you could sweep the entire ambit with just a bicycle. Usually such small towns are remote and devoid of many privileges that a nearby city offers. But ours was more fortunate. Due to the presence of army cant, our town could afford to have fancy stores, nice restaurants, and big brands. At the same time it was peaceful and tranquil.

The southern outskirts of the town, beyond the Army War College, were enveloped in lush greenery. The woods used to flourish in full bloom in the month of August, which was when monsoon drenched the town with showers. The air was damp and environment tranquil, it was nothing short of paradise. It was in some of the sporadically scattered ghettos in these woods on which our family business thrived. We used to offer consultancy and help to illiterate villagers who wanted to apply for various rural development schemes of the government.

My father was always short of hands and I used to offer one, I filled up forms in lieu of a hefty pocket money. I knew nothing beyond this town, I didn’t need to, it offered everything one could ask for. But after high school I was confronted with the prospect of making a career. Everyone around me was studying something extra apart from school books. They joined various coaching institutes and read bulky books. There was enormous pressure on me and I conformed. I too joined a good coaching. I was not more than an average student. With whatever I had, I managed to get admission in a reputed college in nearby city.

And finally my average academics landed me a job in this metropolitan. It had its own pace, which was very fast for a rustic like me. Huge vehicles moved with incredible pace; people walked around in a hasty manner and usually treated each other as inanimate objects which was the only option given the crowded streets and public transports; you couldn’t see many stores, people usually bought from malls; trains were the veins of this city, they were fast and had an elaborate network.

In fact trains were the only option for large distances since roads were frequently blocked due to traffic jams. Railway stations were built every two kilometers or so. Typically on a railway station a train would come every five minutes. On larger junctions, the frequency could be double or even triple. As soon as a train halted, cohort of people will alight and board in a very small window of time since a train would halt for not more than thirty seconds. Needless to say they were overly crowded, working class commuters filled every inch of it. And it ran with unrelenting pace, in fact no one was allowed to walk near railway lines because speed of these trains tested quickest of reflexes.

I had no qualms about this metropolis. I had adjusted to its idiosyncrasies in my own way. I rented an apartment in suburbs which was at a distance from bustle of the city, I would rise early in the morning and stay in the office till late, that saved me from burgeoning crowd. The suburb was actually a small village around which I had built pretty much of my metropolitan life.

One frosty night, one of the trains, which enormously contributed to the identity of this metropolis, ran over four pedestrians trying to make their way across the railway line. Before they could get out of the way, the magnitude and intensity of this beast unnerved them.

The metropolis somehow lived with the loss of few of its inhabitants. Its daily chores resumed next day. It couldn’t stop; it was carrying too much responsibility for that matter. But in its heart, it must’ve felt grief for such a loss, for a brief moment though. 

Friday, 16 April 2010

The Story Behind Missing Shoes

Suhana waited for her childhood friend in the coffee shop. Youths, college students, young couples swarmed the place and created a naïve ambience. Suhana hadn’t seen Madhvi for almost two years now. Madhvi was forced into a marriage by her parents a month ago. She wanted to marry her college boyfriend Nikhil but her orthodox parents denied her that luxury and made her tie the knot with some suburban software programmer. The absence of Nikhil only exacerbated her predicament. Nikhil had gone abroad on a trip sponsored by his company’s.
Suhana knew that much from their telephonic conversation and was eager to listen how it all happened. She was earnestly waiting to hear the story of her friend’s journey from forced marriage to coming together with the love of her life.
Madhvi arrived, in gray jeans and a skin-tight, purple, silk top which revealed her chubby figure and outlined her round bosoms. Suhana felt that her friend had put on a little weight over the last couple of years, nonetheless she looked appealing. She noticed that Madhvi had improved her dressing sense immensely, except for one thing. She was looking such an adorable darling this evening, but one important thing in her attire was missing; she had no footwear. She arrived barefoot in Barista, which was more than just a coffee shop.
As Madhvi came near to embrace her, Suhana enquired intuitively, “Where in world are your shoes?”    “Oh it’s a long story, lets order some coffee first” said Madhvi rolling her eyes. Broad grin on Madhvi’s face exuded an ecstatic delight she felt after the ride on emotional roller coaster was over.
“Where is he?” Suhana asked while looking over at the door if her friend’s lover was coming after her, probably after parking his vehicle.
“We were coming together to see you when we got the news that his boss had a minor attack this morning. He went to see him while I took a cab to reach here. He’ll be with us in a couple of hours” Madhvi said transmogrifying expression on her face as if blaming her misfortune.
“So tell me how it all happened” Suhana was earnest now. Both sipped cappuccino while Madhvi began narrating the events of the month that passed:
On the night of our marriage a month ago, I told Jay that I didn’t love him.
“You did, right on the first night? Poor guy must’ve been drowned into sorrow. What did he say?
He rubbed his forehead with his hand and gave out a forlorn cry “Madhvi, what have you done! You should’ve told this to me before marriage.”
“I wanted to” I said “but I never got a chance. You know everything happened so quickly and it was this archaic tradition of disbarring the couple from any kind of conversation before wedding. I am really sorry Jay, I should have told you before.” I started sobbing before him. “I don’t know what to do” I lamented.
“Anyways, better late than never, who is he?” Jay asked blatantly, he made out that my only reason of not loving him was probably that I was in love with someone else.
I said “We did our MBAs from the same college. It was only at the end of our two year term that he gathered enough courage to propose to me. We were together for some eight months during which we decided to tie the knot as soon as he returns from his three month company trip to Singapore. And you know what happened thereafter.” He was listening intently to whatever I said. I got scared of the way he was staring at me.
“I am sorry Jay I should’ve told you” I started wailing and wheezing. “I don’t know what to do!” I cried.
“Where is he right now?” Jay asked. I was afraid as I had no idea whatsoever what his intentions were.
“He hasn’t returned from Singapore yet.”
“When will he come back?”
“In one month or so” I was petrified.
“You must understand Madhvi that you have no other option left…” my heart sank after hearing this. May be I should accept my fate I thought, he gave a small pause and finally informed me of his intent “…except to wait for him.”
As soon as I heard this from Jay tears began falling from my eyes. I just couldn’t believe my luck. It was surreal, is it happening to me! I thought I was dreaming.
Suhana interrupted her “Ohhh! Poor Jay, he was such a darling.” She empathized with him.
But my happiness was short lived. I realized Jay could not have pulled it off on his own. What would he say to his parents, to my parents, to everyone? This was no child’s play, we were talking business here. Jay seemed to have read my mind “Don’t worry about tomorrow Madhvi, sleep well, we’ll work something out”. He tried to soothe my anxieties. I went to sleep with mixed feelings of delight and apprehensions.
We spent next few days under the pretense of a married couple. I made friends with his younger sister-Mitali. And his five year old niece Kapila was such a sweet heart. I had fun spending those days with them.
One evening Mitali found an old album of their family pictures. Mitali, Kapila, and I spent that evening watching those pictures. Kapila showed me snaps of her and her brother getting their clothes dirty in the garden when they were five year olds, their family trip to an amusement park. In one picture Jay was sitting on a heap of raw cotton; he must’ve been a couple of years old then, in another he stood with his right hand on that part of his body where it hurts the most.
Suhana laughed.
As we were enjoying ourselves in the drawing room Jay came back from office. I showed him his childhood pics. “You were cute” I remarked.
“Yes, I was” he put too much stress on ‘was’ while looking intently at one of the pictures. I was grinning as I noticed where it was going.

“You still are” I said such that he could barely hear it, looking at him with an awry head.

“You think so?” He asked me wearily. We both laughed.

“Jay was a passive guy wasn’t he?” asked Suhana.

“He was shy. And introverted,” Madhvi replied.

Jay and I became friends. I started sharing a lot of things with him. I told him about the incidence when Nikhil and I fell off the bike as he was trying to make an impression on me by displaying how well he skidded. He laughed out loud when he heard that Nikhil had to get his broken hand plastered after the incident and flunk mid-sems due to that. I got a little too carried away when I talked about Nikhil. I began to weep silently, or as less noisily as I could. He tried to commiserate with me.
“its okay its okay! It’s just a matter of few days” he said while striking my hairs.
“He was kind of…” Suhana was looking for the word. Madhvi found it for her
“…Selfless. But he tried to flirt with me on one occasion.”
“Tell me about it.” Suhana was surprised to learn the other side of her friend’s ex-husband.
On Easter holiday Jay’s father asked us to visit his uncle’s farms for the weekend. Jay didn’t want to go. We had developed a deep friendship and he didn’t want to give the false impression that we were happily married. “What will I tell them, ‘what happened’ after you leave” he would tell me. But his father insisted and finally Jay gave in. When we were coming back from Uncle’s farm on Sunday, Jay had grown very tired of travelling in the bus. It seemed like his head was suspended and was oscillating under gravity. I would admit that I am guilty of enjoying him banging his head twice on the windowpanes but I suggested him- although laughingly as I couldn’t contain myself- that he can rest his head on my shoulder if he wants to sleep.
An impish chortle appeared on his face, he said “If I keep my head on your shoulders, I won’t be able to sleep.”
“Wo-Ho! He wasn’t a cow” said Suhana admiring her Madhvi’s ex-husband’s sense of humor.
“Don’t you think he was” Madhvi said playfully.
In fact several such incidences occurred after that day. Many a times when we watched cricket with his family our hands would touch and we will smile at each other. He was so shy that once Mitali asked to take picture of just two of us. Mitali repeatedly asked him to come near me. He would move just an inch. And finally when Mitali thought we were close enough, she commanded him- rather obtrusively- to put his hand on my waist, and he lifted his hand, put it around my waist, but kept it away ever so slightly so as not to make a contact and still make it appear that he had me in his arm.
“You gave a lot of pain to that poor chap.”
“Yeah sometimes I feel guilty about that. May be he would remember those days for a long time. But eventually he will forgive me or maybe he already has, I can tell that much as far as I know him.”

“Okay enough of Jay now! Tell me how did you came to meet Nikhil” said Suhana finishing her final sip of the coffee.

To be continued...

Monday, 15 March 2010


onsoon always brings the sweet fragrance of wet soil, and nostalgia along with, for him at least. It always beat him why, until today. Today was an overcast day, just like the day of his convocation. He could remember the day vividly. He remembered all the fine details. He had mixed feelings that day, that of overwhelming happiness and the pain of knowing that this was probably the last he was seeing her for a long time. He was one of the brighter students of his class; president of student’s association and editor-in-chief of the college magazine. That’s why he would be receiving the gold medal, more popularly known as The Medal of Honor, this evening.

It was right from the first semester that he began to fall for her. Not love on the first sight, but something more gradual. He saw her dating a few pupils, change a few boyfriends, but there was nothing serious. He had his reasons of not letting her know about the soft corner he had in his heart for her, they were beyond the fear of rejection and need not be mentioned here.

The dean felicitated him with the Medal of Honor, with fifty four percent of gold in the 10 gram coin and a red ribbon hanging around it, around his neck and complete batch applauded for the man of the evening. Everybody knew him not only for his brilliant intellect, but for the compassionate compatriot he was. He was always there for close friends, and also for not so close ones. He ranked second in most of the academics, but would still receive the Medal of Honor, no surprises for the entertainer he was. His stories in the college magazine moved even the sternest of faculties.

The evening was nearing an end. People started leaving- his eyes were involuntary searching for the face.

She was with her friends; schmoozing, laughing, bantering. He was looking for a private moment and finally got one. This was the moment; he was there, standing in front of her, looking in her eyes. He had played this tape so many times in his head. He never took off his eyes from her. He gently expressed himself, in a hushed tone, “May be you know but may be you don’t, that ever since I saw you I have been falling for you. I just wanted to let you know, I have a small corner in my heart, soft like a feather, where you reside.”

She frowned and transmuted the expression of her face as if she was completely taken by surprise, but the frown was a lie, he always believed she knew. She spoke “Umm, I never saw that coming” another lie, “don’t you think it’s a little late?”

The ballroom was almost empty now except for few boys bantering around the corners. “On the contrary I feel it’s just about the right time, and you know precisely why. I just want you to keep this, as a souvenir” he gently tucked the gold coin with red ribbon hanging around it in her right hand. He began retreating, his eyes locked in hers and at last he muttered “Goodbye!”

Five years down the line…

Today was the get-together of his batch. It was an overcast day, just like the day of his convocation. Monsoon always brought the sweet fragrance of wet soil, and nostalgia along with, for him at least. It always beat him why, until today. He was early; his eyes were involuntarily searching for the face. Finally it appeared. It felt like it was same as it was back then. All those years hadn’t affected her in the least. Mauve and beautiful, it felt like those years of college had just passed by. He was still the editor-in-chief and president of the student's association. He looked for the souvenir, did she preserve it? If she did, is she carrying it today? He scanned her all over; it was there—entwined in her purse chain. An involuntary smile appeared on his face. She was coming to him. His heart was pounding, it was a magical moment. She sat next to him on a bar chair. Quickly they were engaged in a conversation. After few trivial topics came the inevitable. “So, did you get married?” he asked. “Yes as a matter of fact I did, and just a few days have passed when I got the news that I am carrying a baby inside me.” She had a look of amazement in her eyes as she revealed, goose bumps on her sleeveless arms were palpable.

“Did you?” she asked.

“No, not yet but soon I will be. I am engaged for over a couple of years now.” After a few minutes of badinage they bade goodbye to each other, for one last time. They went on to pursue different goals and never met after the get-together. He watched pictures of her and her family few times, on orkut perhaps.
He never understood what she felt for him. Why did she preserve the souvenir for so long and why did she carry it that day? Out of love, reverence, or just courtesy? But for him it always remained a College Love, not forgotten.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Escapism: Hiding from Oneself

“No man is born without any ability with which he cannot change the world”, Osho.

Every one of us is special, for the simple reason that no one is devoid of any capability at all. Then why some of us achieve well beyond limitations while others spend their lives in oblivion. Psychology can help us understand some human traits here. A child is innocent; he has neither apprehensions nor malice. But we are here for some purpose and tragedies are part of the process of growing up. No one grows (both physically and metaphorically) without experiencing them, first of them being; being born itself. Then there are others like Oedipus complex which Sigmund Freud explained as “first sexual impulses of a child are directed towards his mother.” It stems mainly due to adverse climactic conditions faced by the child after birth, which is very different from the pre birth conditions when child is safe and secure in his mother’s womb “it is this desire of becoming one with body and soul”. Freud adds “the child wants to have his mother but realizes that he cannot, as she belongs to his father”. It might seem taboo to some, but as Freud remarked “because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth…

Thomas A. Harris in his book I am Ok You are OK points out that every child feels- after looking up to the adults around him- that he is “little, incompetent, and often makes mistakes”. Harris also points out that “fortunate are those children, who, early in their lives gets an opportunity to prove to others, and mainly to themselves, that they are worthwhile and competent”. For lesser fortunate children, however, repetitive limiting commands such as “You are worthless”, “You are incompetent”, “You can’t do it”, are found to be playing like a tape in their heads well into their adulthood. This condition has been termed as contamination of Adult by Harris. This is not just one form of contamination of adult as described by Harris; many abnormal human traits come under this head, ranging from masochistic and psychopathic to self defeating tendencies. But the former are much less common in comparison to the latter and in this text we shall deal with the latter only.

Most children grow up feeling feeble and petite. If they are not backed up with enough love and care they might develop an abnormal perception through false learning. Sure, a setback makes us grow out of our cocoon, but it might also do so in a negative way. If a child, during his developmental phase where he encounters a tragedy, is not reconciled with love, he might develop a pervasive view of himself and the world around him. Having abusive parents makes the matters worse. If a child is abused during early years of his life there is a hundred percent chance that he will associate so much pain to being himself that he will hide under delusions, projections, and other defence mechanisms. This is what is called hiding from oneself or ‘Escapism’. If these issues are not dealt with, a person can spend his entire life under their influence.

This condition is not limited to abused children. Children, who have faced domestic violence, had broken homes, poor nutrition, or even- as Thomas Harris points out- ‘didn’t have the opportunity of proving their worth to themselves’ may develop these tendencies. They are ridden by low self esteem.

There are a lot of manifestations of poor self-image or low self-esteem, primary of them being lack of concentration. Intense moments that requires focussed attention brings us to our True Self; this is the concept of meditation. Since the one ridden by low self esteem wants to hide from himself he avoids intense moments and lacks concentration. He lacks confidence, avoids confrontations, and also avoids silence as silence, like meditation, also helps us find our True Self. People having this obliquity can be broadly classified in two categories.

Those belonging to the first one (the primary) are trepid, emotionally insecure and afraid of taking risks. They never see dreams, because a long shot often involves a risk of failure. For them failure is the cardinal sin, they can’t take the risk of coming around as one. Their energies are diverted to addictions and obsessions. They might be galvanized into action by ‘ennui’, or in case they associate a lot of pain to their former self as pointed out by Harris. But if the underlying disorders in schema are not dealt with, they might develop a secondary condition described below.

The secondary condition is quite opposite to the primary in that that the person in concern does not underestimate himself but does the opposite, he overestimates, yet they are very much alike since the pain and sufferings are all the same. Quite notably primary condition is prerequisite of the secondary one. The secondary condition, where the subject overestimates his capabilities and considers himself the centre of universe, cannot develop on its own, an underlying inferiority is always there.

The person having any of the above described disorders eventually undertakes hollow or borrowed dreams.

This brings us to the question of whether dreams can be misleading. Yes! If one pursues goals which are inconsistent with his inherent values and gifted talents, one cannot find peace even after realization of the dream. Such individuals either comes through as a thorough failure or conversely might keep climbing ladders of success one after another, but never finding any satisfaction or sense of value addition in them. They keep asking the same question over and over again, after every achievement, ‘is that all to it?’

Can this condition be revived? This is the question on which psychology, religion, and philosophy offers a coherent view. Thomas Harris calls it emancipation of Adult; Carl Jung, disciple of Freud, called it self-actualization; religion named it apotheosis; while there is no one word for it in philosophy, it can be well assumed that philosophy do advertise that there is a way out or how else would you explain the existence of so many philosophical teachings, they ought to have some purpose.

This process of revival can be understood by the ancient principle of karma. According to this principle every individual has some duties to fulfil, whether of patrician or of petty nature. These duties are his dharma. Karma is the action one performs. One’s karma ought to be consistent with his dharma. A soul’s next incarnation depends on the nature of karma he performed in its previous birth. Duties here does not mean obligations in general, as many writers have time and again reminded us that it is the duty of each one of us to realize our true potentials and share them with others.

Osho in his book Freedom, Courage to be yourself says “if you are a painter, you’ll have to paint; if you are a dancer, you’ll have to dance; there is no other way to achieve fulfilment and come at peace with yourself”.

It can also be understood through science of psychology. Jung laid the principle of Self-actualization. According to him each individual is born with some unique set of skills. Self-actualization is the process of reaching a stage where all the faculties and inherent talents are optimally utilized and works coherently. It is obvious how closely this principal is related to the ones mentioned above.

Realizing our true Self is the key to achieving eternal bliss. That is how we can come at peace with ourselves and to the world around us. Silence is a good starting point. Spending time in silence can reveal to us our true nature. But ultimately we shall engage ourselves in the pursuit of our true calling. We’ll have to ask ‘what are we born to do after all?’ Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said in his speech to the Harvard grads “find out what you are born to do, till then don’t rest, don’t settle”. That is where our hope lies.