Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Walking the walk

Rupo vaguely remembers her arrival in Kolkata with Moina mashi. It was the first time that she had stepped outside of her village, Buroputi. Moina had promised her mother to find Rupo a good job that paid a monthly salary that she could send home. A family of 15 hungry mouths, her mother had been more than happy to part with the seven year old. Kalpona Sen, baromashi to Rupo, became her first employer. She was a kind hearted woman. Rupo had enough to eat, a variety of handed-down, mended, but clean clothes to wear, a place under the stairs to sleep. Moina would collect Rupo's salary of a hundred rupees at the end of each month to send to her family.

Rupo's new life was very busy. It did not leave her time to feel homesick. Her first chore early in the morning was to sweep the uthon which is a square piece of land inside of the house connecting the main house to the kitchen. Then, with the municipality water supply starting at 6:00 AM, her job was to do the pile of dishes from the night before. She would first scrape the lightly dirty ones with ash. Then she would scrape the burnt pots and pans with aluminium caps from milk bottles and some detergent. Things had to be squeaky clean! Baromashi had actually thrown a saucepan at her one time for the left over grime. Rupo learnt her lesson well. Soon she became an equal fanatic. After the washing, Rupo would fill up two large cast iron drums that stood on the side with the fresh water for use for the rest of the day. Rupo's next task was to make tea for the family. She served bed tea to Kalpona and her husband. The only son of the mistress, Pinku dada for Rupo (dada as he was three years older to her), got served milk with two teaspoon of Bournevita.

After tea, Kalpona would come down to the kitchen to make breakfast. Rupo got to eat her breakfast after Pinku was off to school and baromesho (Kalpona's husband) was off for office. She ate all her meals in a spotted bent aluminium plate, legacy from her predecessors across several years. She did not mind it. Her utensils were clean and kept in one special corner of the kitchen. Mornings were roti (bread) and alur tarkari(potato curry).. or, sometimes she had roti with a piece of jaggery. She had this with tea from a slightly chipped porcelain cup. She really looked forward to the days she got a burnt piece of toast layered with a pinch of butter and sugar. Her other chores included cutting vegetables for Kalpona to cook and sweeping the rest of the three rooms and the stairs that constituted their living quarters.

Rupo did not go to school. Kalpona tried to teach her some alphabets and some numbers on a black slate that her husband, Charon, got for Rupo. Rupo was bright but she was not a serious student. Kalpona could not keep at her to pursue her studies. After a while, the effort to educate her was abandoned. Rupo's focal interest it seemed was watching the TV whenever she got the chance. Her employers were semi-indulgent of her obsession. She was allowed a couple of shows for regulars. Rupo got really mad with Pinku because he would force her to get up and do something for him in the middle of her favorite shows. Pinku devised wicked plans to tease Rupo. She was a novelty in their house and someone he could boss around and play with. An affectionate relationship blossomed between the two.

When Rupo was ten, Kalpona went and opened a bank account for Rupo. Her salary was to be split into two parts. One part was to go to her family, and the other part was to go into the bank account to save for her marriage. Kalpona had to argue quiet a bit to get Moina to agree. No one questioned it that the little child had not once been taken home for a visit in three years.. though she continued to send her salary to them religiously! Around fourteen, a new ambition begun to grip Rupo. She had to work hard and save so she could marry and settle down. A boy from the carpenter's shop across the house where she lived had caught her fancy. He advised her to stop sending money home. At this point, Rupo no longer cared about anybody in her home anyways, so this was fine. Moina did some more theatrics, but she knew a lost cause when she saw one.

When Rupo was seventeen, something sad happened. Pinaki came home drunk one night. He had quarreled with his girlfriend because she was being very strict with him. He made a pass at Rupo. Baromashi was furious... with Rupo. Rupo cried all of two days. She lay listless in her dirty mattress under the stairs where she'd lived for these past fourteen years. "How can you be so ungrateful? Get out of my house..", said Kalpona. "Where will I go, baromashi?", Rupo wailed. Kalpona threatened her lest she open her mouth about this. "Do not lie. No one believes you." Kalpona hurried to get Rupo married to the boy across the street. The boy demanded 20000 rupees in cash. He had gotten wind of the situation. Charan wanted Rupo to take some of it out of her savings bank account. Taposh, the prospective groom, refused to let that happen. That was Rupo's money. He forbid her to give her thumb impression. Kalpona and Charan had minimal sympathy for Rupo now that this outside boy seemed to have so much influence on her decisions. Finally Kalpona agreed to pay the sum. Whatever had happened, of course she had to stand by Pinaki. But she did have a soft corner for the little girl who had grown into a woman under her roof. Besides, the money was a small price for protecting her son's reputation.

Rupo spent a few happy years in a slum in South Kolkata. Taposh was a nice to her. His sisters and mother treated Rupo well. She had after all come with a fair amount of dowry for someone in their position. Taposh had actually gone to school up to tenth standard and was considered quiet a man of the world. Into the third year of her marriage, Rupo went to get Kalpona's blessings during Bijoya. She took the customary sweets with her for her baromashi. She had forgiven them in her heart. Kalpona also received her warmly.

But things were set to change. In the next three years, Rupo miscarried three times. Her husband and inlaws blamed her for her misfortunes. The laughter and frolic was wiped out of Rupo's world. Taposh was considering marrying again and the family had started seriously misbehaving with her. Rupo came to the only mother she had known.. to Kalpona. Pinaki had been married the year before and had recently had a baby. The house was ready for another helping hand. Charan was not happy with Kalpona's decision, but agreed to play along. At 23, Rupo re-entered the Sen household, came back to her bed under the stairs. A tin door was now added to that area to give her some semblance of privacy.

Rupo was a trustworthy nanny. Pinaki's wife Nandita liked her, liked the care and attention in everything Rupo did for the baby. Pinaki stayed distant.. he badly regretted what had happened between them and felt pity for the events in Rupo's life. He also knew that he was in no position to make anything right for her... not then, not now. He would try to bring her things she liked to eat and give her a little extra money now and then. Nandita caught on and from then onwards Pinaki became even more distant from Rupo to avoid the ugly quarrels. When his daughter turned three, Pinaki got a transfer order from his company. Before he left with his wife and daughter, he spoke with Rupo "Look after your mashi and mesho." Rupo had not dared to look up at him. She had silently nodded assent staring down at her feet and cried.

Rupo has dutifully served Kalpona and Charan since. Some years ago Charan passed away and now Kalpona has also died recently. Nandita and Pinaki have come down to Kolkata for her last rites. They want to sell the house and close the chapter here. Nandita asks Rupo where she wants to go.. they can arrange for her transport to wherever she wanted. Clearly coming with them is not one of her options. Nandita is not keen on having Rupo over.

Rupo is sitting on a train holding tickets to go back to Buroputi. Pinaki has bought a bit of land with a small kachha hut on it for her, with money that Kalpona had left her in her will. Rupo is told that she is lucky to have employers that did so much for her. Rupo knows no one there, but there is at least a roof over her head, some money for food and clothes. Her brother also lives close by. He was interested in her when he heard she had some money, but after Pinaki made arrangement with the post office such that her money could not be touched except for the monthly intersts that only Rupo could collect, his fraternal interests seemed to have waned sharply. Pinaki is standing on the platform waiting for her to be off. Rupo wants to say something like, "Take care" or "Keep in touch" or perhaps, "Dont forget all about me." But her throat is constricted with tears. The train starts and Pinaki raises his hand in silent farewell. He has done all this in the best way he thought he could to make ammends. As the image of Rupo moves away his heart fills with pity and regret, but he consoles himself that she will be happy amongst her own people.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

How many frogs? Will you?

Continued from..
How many frogs? Chicken or Eggs

Deb froze at her question. The issue was never far from his mind these days. Deb was genuinely attracted to Radha as a person. But he had not made up his mind. Radha might want a family soon. Deb was hesistant to commit to that. How about emotional committment? Did they have enough going? Sure they liked each other, liked each other quiet a bit. But did they need each other enough, or at all? How could he know if what they were feeling now would actually last? Radha was such an independent woman. Deb felt vulnerable. How about boredom? Deb knew it would hit them sooner or later. How long can one remain interested in each other? Again he was unsure how Radha would react. She was almost too spontaneous, too gut-driven, to be stable.

He could feel Radha stiffen as his silence lengthened. A part of him was frustrated that she had thrown him the question at this precise moment. He was distracted by her proximity and he had genuinely wanted to kiss her. He was not a man who could answer in the positive just to get on with what he wanted from her right then. At the back of his mind passed the thought that she had had physical relationships with other men in her past. Why did she want him to answer this one just now? He stopped himself hastily. He was not going to be judgemental. Finally Deb said, "Would you?"

Radha had hated herself in the pause that had ensued since her impulsive outburst.

R(gruffly): "Would I what?"
D: "Marry me?"
R: "Are you proposing?"
D: "I am asking.. are you sure you want to?"
R: "Look, its ok if you don't want to."
D: "I haven't said that."
R: "What are you saying?"

Deb wet his lips... Radha felt an increase in pressure where he held her.

D: "I value our friendship. I enjoy your company. I guess I am saying I need a little more time to make you that offer."
R: "I don't have time. This has to be on a short fuse buddy. I am sorry."

Radha looked at him with mutiny. Really what was she fighting! Two months ago she wasn't even ready to be married. And now she was hustling this man. What had gotten into her! It was her family, thought Radha rebelliously. Radha was driven to almost feel like she owed it others more than herself to tie the knot and soon. But it was more than that... The weeks they had kept away from each other had been painful for Radha, more than she cared to admit. She needed the reassurance! This must be what getting on in years does to you! She closed her eyes and sighed noisily. For a moment she just wanted to forget about this discussion and lean over to kiss Deb. But she was not 22 anymore! She had learnt the hard way that getting physical was like getting drunk. It took away the pain and the confusion, only momentarily. She took a deep breath to release the tension in her spine. The chicken needed some water. She turned around to get it from the basin. Deb did not let go of his hold.

D: "Look, we can try it if you want. I may let you down you know. I am a 38 year old virgin." He finished with a small rueful smile.
Radha cracked a small smile as well. She brushed back a lock of his hair that had fallen forward, covering his right eye.. "I dont think you will let me down."
Deb caught her hand and kissed her fingers lightly.
R: "I can imagine a dozen worse ways I could let you down, you know? I dont have a great track record."
D (broadening his smile): "Yeah, I have been wondering about that."
R (trying to get over the moment now): "OK, lets forget what I said, please? If I get desperate, I might twist your arms again. But for now, you are off the hook.. "
D (refusing to let go just yet): "You really are convinced? That this could work?"
R (shrugging): "I like you enough to try. I might even be a little in love."
Deb moved his hands to cup her face. Suddenly his doubts felt foolish.
D: "I can live on that."
R: "No.. no.. we will talk about this another time, ok? I mean..." She did not finish her sentence. She rested her hands on his chest to put some distance between them. She registered that his heart was beating fast.
Deb leaned close to her ears and whispered. "Yes we can.." Radha made a face.
D: "I am suddenly feeling adventurous."
Radha shook her head.
Deb hovered over her lips, "This is unfair."
R: "Deb, step back. Now."
Deb brushed his lips on hers.

.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

How many frogs? Chicken Or Eggs

Continued from..
How many frogs? Playing Catch Up

Radha reserved one Saturday every month to catch up with friends. They would have laid back luncheons, the occasional shopping sprees, or massage treats at a spa. This was the Saturday for this month. She was walking with her friend around the lake at the Central Park, when they ran into Deb. The three strolled along and then sat chatting on a bench. They reminisced about the chai wala, or peddlers carrying nuts, that would typically accost them in such a setting back home in India. After a bit, Radha's friend said she had to leave because she had an errand to run. Her errand was clearly improvised for their benefit. Her eyes twinkled with laughter and Radha blushed. Deb loved to see her color on his account.

Radha and Deb were meeting after quite a gap actually. She had been avoiding Deb ever since her mother, Shakti, left, after her three week's stay with her daughter. Deb was around most of the time when Shakti was here. She had made a huge fuss over him. Deb had lapped up the attention without the slightest embarrassment or protest. In turn he had pampered all her idiosyncratic wishes.. took her to malls, on drives, sometimes even without Radha. Their budding rapport had made Radha resentful. While Radha loved her mother, deep down, she looked upon her with faint contempt. Shakti had always disapproved of the loose reigns on which her husband insisted they bring up their daughter. She blamed her husband for Radha's brazen refusal to be "womanly". What man will put up with her shameless temper and energy! Shakti's heart would well up with sadness thinking of her daughter's loneliness. Radha hated the fact that her mother acted so special with Deb with the obvious hope that he marry her. After she left, Radha had been sort of cool with Deb. It made him restless and disappointed. So he had kept away too.

Their chance encounter this afternoon seemed to have cured their differences. A break from each other will often do that to you. Deb looked handsome in his shorts and tee shirt.. younger. Radha glowed from her visit to the spa this morning. They linked their hands after a while. All was sweet and lovey dovey. Radha felt a rush and hated herself for it. Was he feeling it too?

As evening fell, they returned together to Deb's apartment. Another movie night or heart-to-heart perhaps, with Deb then dropping her off as late as 12:00 or 1:00? This had happened twice in the past. Radha was sort of glad to stay away from anything more intimate for the time being. But when they entered his flat today, Deb said, "You are staying here tonight.." Radha smiled and bit her lips. She was uncharacteristically unsure. What did he mean? Was she reading too much into it? Or, did he mean just an ordinary sleep over? She wasn't sure she could handle that either. She was attracted to Deb. She stood looking at him without speaking. She was never uptight about sex. But she was looking for a long term deal this time. Deb had not offered that up, at least not yet. There were signs, sure.. but this time she did not want to be misreading them. Of one thing she was sure. She was not up for a fling.

"What about dinner?" asked Radha, trusting herself to neither agree or disagree. Deb said, "We could go out or we could cook." Radha held his eyes as she walked slowly toward his kitchen. She started to look around and pulled out pots and knives. Deb came to help. He put some rice to boil, while she pulled out some frozen chicken. He peeled potatoes while she attacked the onions... the domesticity suddenly held an exciting promise. They busily foraged the cabinets for this spice and that. Deb was not well stocked. Radha made a mental note to shop supplies for him. After Deb's part was done, he watched Radha busily sautéing the meat. He went up behind her and wrapped his arms around. He buried his nose in her hair and inhaled deeply. He'd been wanting to do that ever since he caught a whiff of her spicy shampoo earlier this evening. Radha went stiff. She was torn between passion and her resolve to hold back. It was a long time since Joy that she actually wanted a man. Did she love him? She was opening herself up to another huge disappointment, said the warning bells in her head. Was it worth it? Deb didn't let her ponder the point much longer. He turned her face to his by her chin. With her head turned into his, Radha whispered on an impulse, "Will you marry me?"

.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How many frogs? Playing catch up

Continued from..
How many frogs? Hello Again

Radha saw a text message pop up on her blackberry. "Good time to call?", said Deb's avatar, a hockey stick. A hockey stick?? Radha's was a frozen cherry. What does your avatar say about you? Probably that he stuck with the default. Radha tried to stop herself from over-interpreting. It was 6:30 pm. She was still at her desk. The data she was reviewing was not in spec. Suddenly the desire to get away overwhelmed her. She dialed for him.

Radha was surprized at how smoothly things had gone between them. So far. She'd always dreaded being set up like this. She'd seen other people languish for months in these conversations. Have you decided? Is it being pushy if you ask? There is this other interesting guy on my horizon. What should I do? Block him until you are ready to say no? Until you are ready to tell me that you've found someone else?

Of course, there's also the well meaning family keeping the pressure up. Did he propose yet? Why do you need to meet? ... It could get bad. Depending on how emotionally secure you are, it could get really bad. Anyways, she was in it now.

They'd mostly been catching up on each other, these past few weeks...

Deb worked for a biotech startup doing instrument design. Ten years ago he had been engaged to marry a girl for a brief period. He had been in a car accident with the girl. She had not survived. He'd blamed himself, underwent therapy.. People around him had been sympathetic for a while and then urged him to move on. He couldn't do it then. Little things like a photograph, a coffee mug, or the watch that she had given him, that he still wore.. such remnants from their unfinished relationship crowded his life. Before he knew it, ten years had gone by. Today, she was more like an unconscious habit that gave neither pain nor comfort.. just a vague bit of regret for what could have been. Deb's younger brother's wife, Moni, was the one who'd finally coaxed out of him a promise to try and look for someone... perhaps a divorcée, a widower, a middle aged single woman.. a woman. Oh yes! The yin and the yang... And people's inane belief in it as the cure all. Hard to battle such deep-rooted convictions!

Radha sat wondering what she'd learnt about Deb from his past. That he was dedicated? Or, that he refused to take charge to change course of things; once something untoward interfered? Certainly not your alpha man. Did she want an alpha man? She was more than capable taking care of herself. She'd gotten set in her ways.. a quiet reliable sort of a partner would be the sensible choice today.


Radha, in turn, spoke of her mom, of her brother Rana, impatient to get married at 27! Interesting that, knowing your mind at 27. Radha was living with her boyfriend, Joy, when she was that age. She'd also thought she knew her mind. Then Joy lost his job. The moodiness started. The quarrels became a daily fixture. Joy began to hit Radha now and then, when in a fit. Their relationship escalated to a point of no return. It was the hardest thing, to walk out on the man you had decided you were going to spend your life with. Hard to accept that it was over! Over before it begun. For women, its harder because they are programmed to take it as a personal failure. you couldn't to make it work!

Radha also spoke of her father. She had struggled hard with his loss at 22. The night the news came Radha was out with friends. She returned home dazed. Her room mate was away visiting family. Sumit, correctly assessing the state she was in, had refused to leave her alone afterward. Radha hadn't protested too hard. In the middle of the night, she had come for his sleeping form on her sofa. She came with no clear intention.. just seeking physical warmth and distraction.. unable to stand her own desolation by herself. Anything to fill the gaping hole in her heart! Their whole love making was stained with Radha's unstoppable tears. Sumit had wanted to hold on after that.. been more than willing to marry her. Radha had been appalled. Nobody takes responsibility for Radha Menon's lapses. She'd stubbed him out like a spent cigarette.

The pair lay facing the bay windows of Deb's 30th floor apartment. With the talking done, they'd both gone quiet... the failing evening light created dark shadows around them. They toyed with the stem of their glass of chardonnay... lost, in their own thoughts.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

How many frogs? Hello Again

Radha turns 35, this June the 22nd. She is a senior program manager at Boeing. A high energy individual, she has earned herself this title, at a relatively early age. In the beginning, she was elated with the success.. a bit nervous too, at the sudden thrust of responsibility. But after a few months.. after two well received successes.. competent handling of the occasional faux pas.. she has fit right in. She was recognized recently for her performance at work.

Radha has not married yet. This issue has become a sore point these days between herself and her mother. Always loving and supportive of whatever Radha wanted to do, her mom really had zero conception of what exactly her daughter had set out to achieve. When at 35, she found Radha unmarried, living by herself in a distant country, with several broken relationships under her belt, she was not comforted. She was pretty devastated actually. Nothing else Radha had or did made sense to her. Radha was tired of being cited friends and cousins having their second kids now, or, ex-es sporting pretty wives.. some into their second models. What did Radha care! She swam 20 laps a day, read voraciously and worked hard. She did not need anything else. Vacations went by happily unnoticed. She kept herself busy. Hung out ocassionally with few select friends.. Visiting a family with expectations that did not match her own, was becoming painful of late.

A recent irksome development was that her mother had enlisted her younger brother's help to setup a profile for Radha on several matrimonial websites. So regularly now, Radha received junk messages from random people expressing interest. Her brother was still in college and rumor had it that he'd recently gotten romantically involved with someone. His hurry in getting Radha to decide one way or another was palpable. Radha had no issues to see him married before herself.. but their mother would not agree. It was making things harder to put off. Normally cursorily perused, (more out of a morbid curiosity of what the yield was rather than any real interest).. and promptly deleted.. this morning's share of emails, had something that caught Radha off-guard.

She was staring at the photograph of a man she had recently sat next to on an airplane on a cross continental 8 hour flight. Radha had found him quiet attractive.. loved the cologne he wore. After some mutual eyeing, first covert and then pretty overt, graduating to smiles.. they had struck up a conversation. Topics had ranged from favorite authors, TV shows, to the fate of female executives in the aerospace industry. Radha had found his company stimulating. Conversation was just beginning to foray into their personal lives, when time was up. Radha had felt a slight twinge at the moment of touch down... she'd enjoyed her flight! She was probably never going to set eyes on the reason again. She'd almost asked for his number. Strict discipline had reigned her in. Now he sat smiling and squinting at her from under his steel frame glasses. His interest message said the following:

"Hey you! Remember me? Frankly, I am surprised to see you here! Pleasantly surprised. My sister-in-law, who I hope you will meet someday, sends me these daily updates from various websites on prospective brides.. and so here you are! I have to admit, after we went separate ways, several times I caught myself wondering if you were available or not.. sort of regretting the fact that I did not ask for your number when I had the chance. I am interested to see you.. And, I am hoping that my interest is not lopsided. My number here is 678 038 6129. I confess I am feeling very impatient about the delay I now must accept till I could talk with you again.
A 38 year old confirmed bachelor.. until very recently. "

Radha sat smiling at Deb Sanyal. This was a local area code too! Why the hell not? She reached for her phone and dialed the number in the message. She got his voice mail and spoke the following after the beep: "Calling occupant of the interplanetary most extraordinary craft... I felt the same way afterward. Cant wait to see you again. Radha."

.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

You cant beat the heat

Aj kagoje berieche Deepa-r chobi. Victoria Memorial er mathe duronto garomer dupure se ar tar premik chumbon rato. "Beat the heat" namer article.. Cheletir mukh bojha jachhe na.. Deepa ke chinte kosto hoy na. Antoto chena loke chine feleche. Khabar ghore shakaaler chayer shamne, barir sakoler mukh bhaar. Deepa college e pore. Athoba college jaye.. porashona kichu kore bole tar ma chara ar keui bishwash kore na. Ajker por, aro bishwash korar proshnoi othe na. Deepa por por duto sambondho eshechilo.. se kono krome katieche fnara. Attiyo porijon kana ghusho kore. Deepa r ma baba ja ja karon dakhaye seguli shune bistar ghar nere khub bojhar bhaan kare.. arale muchki hashe. Deepa ei attiyo goshthi ke bishesh bhabe sojhyo korte pare na ajkal.

Ei je Pintu kaku eshe boshe achen bari boye sat sakale... er bou Sashi, dharabahik bhabe, Deepar name nanan nalish tule gachen, Deepar ma baba r kane, or chotto byala theke. Parar kon chyangra chele Deepa ke cycle sekhate eshechilo, kar sathe Deepa nighty pore khil khiliye henshechilo.. kon mather kone Deepa ke cigarrette hate dakha gache.. kon dada Deepar mukhe dole rang dieche.. esob. Katha gulo shune kakhono lojja, kakhon ga ri ri kora raag jhorer moton boye gache Deepar modhye.. kintu chyachamichi se bhalobashe na. Ja khusi boluk ge ora.

Khanik byala porar por guti guti paye hete akta STD booth e giye hajir hoy Deepa. Protim-ke phone kore..

D: "Dekhecho kando ta?"
P: "Hya dekhechi.. Tomar barite ki bolche?"
D: "Bhabo, ki ar bolbe? Tomar odike?"
P: "Ma tomake chinte pereche."
D: "Tomake chinte paren ni?"
P: "Na... mane amar chobita to.."
D: "Tumi balo ni?"
P: "Bole ki labh?"
D: "Protim, aj hok kal hok, tomar ma ke bolbe to naki? Ki korchi eta amra?"
P: "Deepa, matha garom korona. Ma ki eta chirokaal mone rakhbe?"
D: "Ta rakhben na? Amake biye korte chailei uni eta age mone korben. And.. why dont you have the guts to own up to it?"
P: "Tomar mukh ta sposhto na hoye amar ta hole tumi bolte?"
D: "Common! tumi akta chele!!!"
P: "Barite chaap amar kichu kom noy. akta chakri jogar kori.. tar age esob katha tola jaye na. Bujhcho na kano?"
D: "Ami ma ke bolechi ota tumi. Amar barite ar mukh dekhiyo na doya kore."

Dum kore phone rekhe Deepa beriye pore.

Gato mashe Deepa or periods miss koreche. Ki asambhab tension e din keteche or. Prothomato achena Gynocologist khuje ber korte hobe. Protim daktarer kache or sathe jete raji holo na.. chamber er niche dariye chilo. Deepa ak ghor bibahito pregnant mohila der majhe jarosaro hoye gie boshlo. Check up er por akta sosti chilo je or pregnancy test negative... kintu daktarer se ki gyan dewa! Deepa r ichhe korchilo du katha shuniye dite. Apni apnar diagnosis bolun. Bakita apnar dayitto noy. Beriye Deepa Protim ke khub akchot jherechilo.. kintu hoito aka jawatai thik hoeche.. chena jodi karor sathe dakha hoe jeto tahole? Ekhuni khub birokto lagleo, Protim chele ta bhalo, Deepa seta jane. Protim ke o bishwash kore. Chaaper byaparta mithye noy. Akmatro chele to. Kintu... esob issues uthle Protim er ei nepothye chole jawa ta baro asojhyo lage Deepar.

ma: "Kothaye giechile?"
D: "Protim ke phone korte."
ma: "Tomar lojja korche na.. ami to.."
D: "Ma, please tumi ekhan theke jao. We will get married, eventually."
ma: "achha deepu, tui ja cheyechish kakhono ki kichu"
D (ma ke interrupt kore): "Off, tomar ei emotional blackmail bandho karo please. Yes, tomra sob diecho.. I love this guy and I kissed him.. so what?"
ma: "Eisob berrella pona ebarite cholbe na Deepu. Tomar jonye aj tomar babar ar amar matha het hoye gache. tarporeo tumi gola tule tarko korcho."
Deepu kichuta chup kore thake.
ma: "Tor jodi eisob ichhe thake tahole biye korchish na kano?"
D: "Eisob ichhe mane?? Ma... do you have any idea what it means to get married? Tumi jano Protim akhono college e. He doesn't have a job. Debe biye tomra?"
ma: "Ta oi chele chara ki tomar ar keu jutche na! Kato bhalo sambandho ta Bulu enechilo. Sanyal er meyer sathe ashche mashei thik hoye gache biye."

Deepu bojhe maa-er sathe ei tarko barie labh nei.. meyeke niye she barabor-i disappointed.. katha jedike garachhe tiktota berei jabe. Deepu nijeke sambaron korar chesta kore.

ma: "Deepu, chelera boy friend akrakom, bawr kintu onnorakom.. ja sahoje pawa jaye.."
Deepu ghar theke jhorer bege berie jaye.
ma (chyechie bolen): "Deepu, barir baar hole ar bari dhukte hobe na tomake!"


...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kalponar Tumi

Mollikar sathe Nripen er dyakha hoy, Esplanade er mor-e akta coffee shop e. Mollika sundori, intelligent, besh legechilo Nripen -er. Bhab hoe galo.. Ha, por din aabar dyakha korechilo ora. Charteye.. Nripen college er last class kete chole ashe, Esplanade er metro station e .. jedik ta Grand Hotel face kore, otar samne. Tarpor cinema dakha.. Na, na, khanik hente Outram ghat e Gangar dhare chole giechilo.. khub misti hawa. Counter er cigarette.. cinema hall e kane kane fish fish. Misti premer koli misti chande beje jaye Nripen er prane.

Tarpor akta syant syante bikel er katha boli. Thanda brishtir fota schuer moton bindhchilo. Tobu dariye apekhha korche Nripen. Gariahaat er Bambinor shamne.. Aj to ekhanei.. Ar kata minute darank na hoy. Phone nos jana nei.. bari kothaye tao na. Ki holo Mollikar? Se elo na.. Nripen chole elo aro kichuta dekhe. Ar eloi na se kakhono... Shunyo buke bohudin apekhha korechilo Nripen. Aki aki jaigai gie boshe thaka.. jodi dyakha hoye jaye..

Tarpor ak jug kete gache.. Hathat mukho mukhi pore gyalo dujone. Shamle niye sahoj bhabe jante chai Nripen. Kamon acho? ajkal ki korcho? Biye korecho? Mallika gombhir mukhe bole gelo.. Bhaloi ache, biye koreche,Songsar korche mon diye. Akta palta proshno-o korle na se. Kichui jigashyo nei tar Nripenke.

Concentrate korte parche na Nripen.. Cigarette er dhoate mukh lukiye obhisar sritir rajye.. Mollika looks so different.. Patla thot duto kapchilo or..Tate kamon kheen banka hashi.. almost regretful! Ki hoechilo Molly? Darling, what happened? Aj e proshno nirarthak. Jene ki labh Nripen er? Kintu Mollika! You were a shining star! Tomar sei agun kothaye? Bari boshe putul khele din katachho! Nripen bhabtei parena tar Mollika mene nieche songsar kora.. Akta unimaginative boka loker sathe..

Palash er sathe tomar bhalobashar biye? Lok ta ke akta lathi marte ichhe korche Nripener. Jamon roop temni goon. Chitkar kore katha bole. Khyak khyak kore hashe. Kissu sekha hoy ni bidesh e theke. Ei loker golaye jhule porte holo tomake! Wine khawa hochhe dhuku dhuku kore! Shala shuor. Du paishar chakrir ki garom. Paris ar Italy r galpo shunte shunte kan jhalapala korche.. Fosh kore ber korle black berry te Eiffel tower er pashe chobi, Piazza r pashe kola byanger bermuda pora hashi. Ashojyo lagche Nripen er!

Tumi amar amar amar. Mollika tumi paliye esho. Tumi sukhe nei. sukhi hote paro na er modhye! Ami sob mene nebo. Ei dabi niye jodi aj darai tomar kache? Hashbe? Tomar ar amar agnisakhhi lagbe na. Tumi seta jano mone mone. Jano na? Tumi kato ekanto bhabe amar? Ki hoechilo Mollika? Aj anekdiner purono byatha huhu korche or buke. Amake bole jao ki hoechilo.

...

Ki mushkil!! Nripen of all people!!! Se katokaler katha...Biyer du bachor pore Kolkataye baaper barite tin masher chuti katate asha.. Nripen er sathe kheyali prem.. it started with a bit of flirting.. I was never serious. The boy was simple, sweet..ektu mukh badol.. It isn't a sin! But shesh ta ato suffocating hoe jete shuru korechilo..Ami just paliye benchechilam! Bolte parini mukh fute... Or sathe abar dakha hobe, eta hiseber baire chilo. There he goes mooning again! Why does he stare at me like that! What an idiot!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Be Mine

1. Be Mine: A pretty guest
2. Be Mine: What is that brewing?
3. Be Mine: Let me in
4. Be Mine: Games I will play
5. Be Mine: Take me back where only we can go
6. Be Mine: For all eternity
7. Be Mine: Finale

Phew! Mystery and history... my husband says this story was growing incoherent! I didn't think so.. but readers, your views are always welcome..

Growing weary of story writing... stumped @ 2!!

Until later!

....

Be Mine: Finale

Continued from ...
Be Mine: For all eternity

Torit found Keenu lying on the floor unconscious. The doll lay strewn next to where Keenu had fallen. With a heart full of unspoken fear Torit stared at Keenu. Something inside him prevented him from shaking her awake. With the sight of the doll, a strange theory dawned on him... what if the doll could interfere with their minds and take them away to an alternate reality? This theory, preposterous as it may sound, could solve some of the terrible confusion from his mind.. the more he thought the more his mind began to clear. He was convinced. With the conviction grew his terrible fear for Keenu. Torit knew in his heart that the doll needed to go. How could the doll be destroyed? He feverishly searched on the internet for clues but drew null.. he was very concious of wasting precious time. What if Keenu got hurt in the interim?

Keenu lay wondering if there was anything she could do to escape from her captivity. She seemed incapable of movement. Keenu wondered what Aki had planned for her. As she lay thinking these thoughts, a vision of a dark handsome man appeared before her eyes... Shahin held a golden needle and he pierced Aki in the heart. A thread of blood flew like a stream from the ends of the needle. Keenu realized it was a message from someone on how to destroy the doll!

With the knowledge came elation. She lay there feverishly thinking. A needle. Where to find it? At least this was a start. But then came dismay. She'd have no memory of this if and when she went back to her reality. How could she pass a message for herself? When we write notes, we hope to remember the context in which the notes were created to interpret it later within that context. Keenu's mind just drew a blank. Suddenly a fierce hiss dissolved the vision before her eyes. Keenu turned and what she saw turned her blood to ice. A snake slithered across the floor toward its prey! The woman stood behind with a serene smile.

But then she changed... Her teeth begun to bare in a grimace. A red stream of blood errupted from her chests as her inky eyes exploded. Keenu lost conciousness one more time.

Torit sat staring at a golden needle in his hand. He had no idea where he'd gotten that needle or its purpose until now. He had discovered this needle in his possesion a few days prior to his accident. It had a red thread and looked totally different from modern needles and such. Was this then the weapon for Aki's destruction? He wondered how he had known to bring it back, how he had figured out the way to destroy his tormentor... but time was running out. Torit pierced the golden needle through the doll's heart.... not a moment too soon. With that Aki crumpled with finality. The slithering snake approaching Keenu was also blown into oblivion.

Torit sat stroking Keenu, calling out her name in earnest, willing her with all heart and soul to open her eyes. After some tense moments, she obliged. Looking into Torit's eyes, felt like waking from a faraway nightmare..

K: "Thank you for saving me."
T: "Thank you for solving the mystery... it was your notes that saved our lives.."
He held up her palms for her to see the SOS she'd drafted on her hands with the ball point pen she'd been clutching. She'd written: "Needle through the doll's heart. No questions asked." It so happened that as she wrote these words Torit was holding her in his arms and wondering what to do next.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Be Mine: For all eternity

Continued from ...
Be Mine: Take me where only we can go

Keenu was slowly gaining consciousness in a stark cellar like place that looked nowhere like her home. She had decided to give the doll away to the neighbor's little kid. She had already written up a small card to go with it. Holding the pen in one hand, she came to her locker. As she opened the door her heart beat unreasonably. With all the negative thoughts flying around that doll of late, she felt uneasy about getting it out again. Shows how feeble the power of reasoning can be, when fear and distrust mesh with it! Or, perhaps this was a warning from that most ignored of human faculties... intuition. When Keenu touched the doll, a painful jolt of electricity ran through her. She buckled, slipped and as she begun to fall, Keenu couldn't believe she was remembering right! The doll's eyes had come alive. And Keenu felt an inexorable pull into those eyes..

Aki brought Keenu here with murder in her heart.. As the woman lay unconcious, Aki studied her face. Aki loved to play with her prey. Killing her right away would be lame.

Keenu watched the woman in the mirror on the wall. She was lit by an eerie yellow light and busy admiring herself. Slowly recognition dawned. It was her doll.. This was surreal! And yet Keenu could still feel the ball point pen in her hands. Her body felt strangely lethargic.. incapable of movement. Keenu sensed this woman was not her friend.. She also begun to suddenly perceive what had been happening with Torit. She moved her fingers with monumental effort to wield the pen in her hands like a weapon. At that exact moment, Aki flicked her eyes and met Keenu's on the mirror. Keenu could not understand what tongue they spoke, or if they spoke at all.. she had no sense of hearing... only that a conversation happened and this is how it went...

A: "And what do you think you can do to me with that tiny stick you hold?"
K: "Where am I?... And who.. what are you?"
A: "I am Aki, your sweet Torit's new love in life.. and I want him, just for me."

Keenu absorbed this. Her sense of horror growing, she licked her dry lips to stem her nervousness.. Aki drawled on some more details on what had been happening...
A: "And when he screams in the agony of pleasure, I bite him on his nipples. He tells me, Gently girl!"
Keenu closed her eyes, swallowed the lump in her throat and reopened them. She knew that expression well.

K: "Why have you brought me here?"
A: "To tell you that you must walk away from this man... He does not want you any more."
K: "He loves me. I am his wife.."
A: "I told you what has passed between us. He is mine."
K: "You are a thousand year old dead doll. This is not real. Its all dreams!"
A (chuckling): "Dreams are a different kind of reality. You are blind."
Aki begins to pace.
A: "I shall make him immortal.. like me. He has no use for you.. no use for a passel of brats or a lifetime of running errands.. for a living!"

Aki missed having children, a family or friends... Missed all the things she lost out to a choice she had hardly understood at the time.

K: "I don't believe you."
A: "You will lose him.. walk now, with dignity!"
K: "Immortality is absurd.. I am not sure anyone would want it."

Aki knew more than anybody else the premium she had paid for immortality. What sense did it make to live if you could not share it, did not have witnesses to your joys or your sorrow?

Aki did not answer this time. Her eyes bored into Keenu's... Keenu shut her eyes. She wondered how much truth there was in Aki's claim of Torit's defection? She sensed somewhere she still had Torit on her side. This woman had not won everything she wanted or she wouldn't need Keenu to be here today...

Be Mine: Take me back where only we can go

Continued from ...
Be Mine: Games I will play

Temptation is so deceptive. One moment you feel flippant, all powerful.. saying no is just a matter of your choice, is all. At a next instant, temptation seduces you with a soft, wet lick.. melting your resolve to nothingness. You drown the voice of reason by refusing to think... "straying" is a semi-concious act.. do's and dont's can only go so far to control for temptation. Torit resolved to himself that he will not inquire what happened to the doll. He struggled but held fast to this promise. But he also searched drawers, cupboards, everywhere he could... his instinct to do so was powerful. As long as he did not ask Keenu, he allowed it of himself. Torit was hanging between worlds by the strength of a very thin thread.. Will power has a poor reputation for reliability. But for him, it was his last hope...

Torit's restlessness was not lost upon Keenu. His eyes kept returning to where the doll used to be. It shamed Keenu. She struggled to accept the reality that her husband was harboring a disgraceful fancy. And yet she was loathe to confront him. Unvoiced, it was still unreal, in the realm of suspicion. What would she do if it became unequivocally true? Also Torit was just beginning to recover. She told herself she did not want to overexcite him. In moments of weakness, Keenu wondered if she should put the doll out again? Torit needed to relax...

Meanwhile, Aki grew restless in her confines. When Shahin's spells started to draw out her soul bit by bit, she had been scared.. she had hated Shahin for the power he wielded. She had pleaded with him as she had before no man. But Shahin's spells had ultimately spared Aki her life. For when they came to murder the pair, Aki had let herself go and sought refuge in the doll. She had become immortal. Poor Shahin had struggled with his last breath to destory the doll... but the doll was out of his reach. The doll's eyes came alive as it watched the light leave Shahin's while he bled to his death. It was sweet revenge.

Soon Aki realized that with the death of Shahin she now had the power to project herself in the mind of another. She could draw their soul into her little doll world. She had waited a loong time. Aki wanted a playmate and soon Torit would be hers. Aki sighed restlessly. She had to somehow try to reach him without sight or touch. With sight it was easy. Because the eyes are afterall the window to one's soul. What if she murdered Keenu? When Keenu was putting the doll away in the locker, it would have been easy... so easy to violate her mind.. and terrorize her.. perhaps murder her? Aki wondered if murder would work.. Aki lay waiting her opportunity.

K: "Torit, are you looking for something?" (In a quivering voice when the umpteenth time, Keenu saw Torit staring at the spot where the doll had been.)
T (starting and then beginning to break down): "Keenu, dont give it to me... if you have hid it, keep it there.. no, better, destroy it. I dont know what has come over me. I keep seeing its eyes. My sleep is scant and restless. I dont know what to do."
Keenu had already rushed to Torit and was trying to calm him down by stroking his back and shaking her head to get him to stop. Excitement was not good for Torit right now.
K: "Dont be silly my love. You are not yourself. The doll is a pretty one and you bought it for me. I just... with so many things happening, I dont know whats real anymore. Maybe I have been carrying it to bed unconsciously those times I blamed you. Forgive me my love. I'll get it out now."
T (gripping her violently): "Dont. Dont. I forbid you. Its evil. The doll is. I... it makes me think things, forget things. I... Trust me Keenu, there is something going on with that doll."

As Torit spoke, Keenu felt more and more agitated. What nonsense was he speaking! Keenu tried to calm herself. That psychiatric evaluation she'd booked for Torit was this Monday.. not a day too soon!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Be Mine: Games I will play

Continued from ...
Be Mine: Let me in

Torit woke up to find himself in a huge bed of silk strewn with lotus petals. A heavy sweet perfume invaded his senses.. Billowy folds of brocaded silk covered the walls and the ceiling. It felt like he was in a place from the pages of a history book. As he awakened more and more, he bacame concious of a sense of déjà vu. This was not his home. But he had been here many times in his dreams. Always, he would find himself here in this room lying cold and naked. It was the doll! Somehow in these dreams, the doll came alive! She was a beautiful woman who spoke in a strange tongue. Her name was Aki. The sight of her brought him terrible longing. She would slither against him, smooth as honey, and bring him unbearable pleasure. But his mind refused to submit to her seduction. And so it was terrible pain at the same time. Torit had no power to physically resist. On some occasions, Keenu's face would float up in his eyes. His heart cried out for his dearest. He ferverently hoped and prayed she was safe. Yes, she was. Aki always brought him and him alone. Aki would always know when his thoughts had strayed to Keenu. Her smoky black eyes flashed fire. Torit shivered with fear and wanted to run. He could not move a muscle.

Aki stared at her captive. This man had rescued her from a thousand years of solitude, packed in an ignominious old trunk. But he must pay, as all who came close to her, paid. Men were trifles. Adulation was the elixir in Aki's life. If you held out, you were going to be hunted. Aki could turn into the sweetest of souls. She could have you eating out of her hands in no time. But her friendship was an evil seduction. The more you depended on Aki, the more power she wielded over you. Then started the little manipulations to bend you to her sweet fancy. And when your deeds were against your best intentions, those successes earned a gold star in her books. She was back at her game after a looong time... perhaps she had lost her touch? This man kept remembering this other woman. It irritated Aki. But things were improving, thought Aki... Everyday Torit grew more powerful in his dreams.. his paralysis is going away. Aki's neck hurt from where Torit had gripped her earlier.. Aki had snaked her arms under his to slowly loosen his grip.. Her lips curved with a knowing smile... Torit remembered less and less of who he was... the dream was real now. Aki was flesh and blood, not to be denied.

...

After the accident and his checkup, Torit was both relieved that no pathology has been discovered and yet more troubled than before.. because his problem was real, scary and the doctors were as flummoxed as him. He was sitting huddled together with Keenu this evening in their sofa. Torit leaned forward and kissed his wife. She tasted salty. Her cheeks were wet from silent tears. He stroked her arms gently. He was touching Keenu after a long time... ever since his problem, his libido had been low... he felt guilty about it. As he held Keenu in his arms, Torit felt both the peaceful for the homecoming and vaguely disturbed. From the moment he had gotten back, he had noted that the doll he had bought for Keenu was missing from their bedroom. He was embarrased that it was one of the first things he did note. He also conciously realized his attachment to the doll for the first time. He had gotten irritated with Keenu for blaming him for taking the doll to bed with him! It was a preposterous suggestion. But suddenly today it did not seem so impossible. He could feel he was missing holding it... he could also feel an inexplicable fear of it, deep in his bones. What was going on! Try as he might, he could not push its eyes out of his mind. He willed himself hard to not ask Keenu what she'd done with it..

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Be Mine: Let me in

Continued from...
Be mine: What is that brewing?

I am troubled with a sense of foreboding. I cant put my finger on it... but the light has died from my husband, Torit's eyes. He looks.. hunted, these days. We haven't made love in over a month. That is very unusual. Torit does not exactly seem busy.. just vacant and tired. He doesn't gossip about work as he used to each evening. He doesn't smile much any more... He forgets things... after I have spoken to him at length for 5 minutes, I have to jolt him awake... its like he just dozes off with open eyes! I am wondering how to bring this up. I want to drag him to talk with a psychiatrist!

Today I found Torit pouring over that dratted doll again. It will sound strange, but I am feeling jealous of the doll. It has become a fetish for Torit. I cannot believe his fascination with the darned thing! Several times I have found it on our bed. Torit denies having brought it with him. I control my urge to scream with frustration... and hurt. How the hell else can it turn up there! Is this a new thing, or, an old habit, that I am discovering at last. My husband feels like a stranger sometimes these days. I have decided to lock the stupid doll out of sight in the cupboard. There now, that made me feel good!

Torit said he will return late. At 9:30 I called, he did not answer his cell phone. I am feeling uneasy..

I received a call from the Lady Blair Hospital an hour ago. Torit has had a serious car accident. I am waiting in front of the emergency room. The doctors and police tell me that Torit lost consciousness while driving home and crossed over to the side of oncoming traffic. Its a wonder he is alive. For 72 hours, I hung in there struggling with him for his life. Friends came and held hands. I did not register it.

Torit has regained consciousness. They've done many tests but could not determine any cause for his seizure.. no leisons, nothing. As he lay there unconscious, and I watched over him helplessly, I saw his face screw up in savage fear on several occasions. My heart beat fast for him.. but what could I do to help? What can I do my love? The doctors told me not to worry... it seemed they did not entirely believe me either. He called out for "Aki" once.. who is Aki? I promised myself to ask him when he came back to me.

He did not seem to recognize the name! I trust my beloved. He has never been deceitful before. Perhaps I am just in denial.. and yet, I did hear him. But I also heard the earnest anguish in his voice.. He needs me now more than ever. I must not despair. What is happening to my world!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Be Mine: What is that brewing?

Continued from...
Be mine: A pretty guest

Aki lived a thousand years ago in the city of Aurangabaad. She was a skilled sorceress of unparalleled beauty. She was born the daughter of a courtesan, but the king decided to adopt her.. thus Aki became a princess. Aki had a great secret. One look into her smoky kohl lined eyes, and she would steal your soul... She collected hearts as one collects butterflies. Many men and women had surrendered to her allure. Those she wanted, she relentlessly pursued. The doll in our story was made in Aki's image by Shahin, a West African doll maker. Shahin was a slave that had been brought to Aurangabaad about that time. He fell madly in love with Aki. He was trained in the ancient arts of voodoo. Shahin wove secret spells into the very fabric of the doll's body.. darks spells that could soak your soul into its sensuous folds. The slave became the master. Shahin flourished in the city of Aurangabaad. He got married to the beautiful princess and in time took posession of the throne. Some years later, quiet suddenly, Shahin and his queen were secretly murdered. Many believed it was by conspirators jealous of the turn of their fortunes... The doll was lost to time.

...

This is another Saturday morning a few weeks after the arrival of the doll in Keenu and Torit's house. The couple were siting in their patio, drinking a delicately brewed cup of Darjeeling tea that Keenu took pride in serving. She fingered the petite white bone china cup she held, absentmindedly sipping from it. No ungainly coffee mugs for her, thank you very much. The rose bushes in her garden were in full bloom. The slight morning breeze brought its sweet fragrance to them. Keenu breathed in deeply.

Keenu had noticed Torit being somewhat troubled last two weeks. He hadn't said anything in particular... but she hated the gloom that seems to have settled around her cheerful chatty husband. This time was as good as any to gently prod him to vent..

K: "What up with you, sweetheart? You have not been yourself lately.."
T: "Hmmm?"

Torit had no idea what he had been thinking just these few moments ago. He'd begun having these strange lapses in memory recently. The fact troubled him of course, deeply, and yet.. it sounded so strange to tell someone.. "I am losing focus for hours at a time, that I have no memory of, afterward.." He hadn't been able to confess to anyone yet. He'd been reading up furiously on Alzheimer's... but he was too young for it.. and there was certainly no other symptoms that matched.

K: "Is everything OK at work?"
T: "Yes, sona... do you have some more tea?"
Keenu eyed Torit for a bit. Whatever it was, Torit wasn't ready to discuss it. She knew him well enough to instantly recognize the stall tactics. She decided to give him some more time... perhaps as the weekend progressed, another opportunity will present itself.

K: "Sure... "
She got up to go inside to bring the kettle. She turned back at the patio door and said,
K: "Love, if there was anything, you'll tell me, wont you? Tell me when you are ready.."
Torit sighed silently and closed his eyes. He did not want to trouble Keenu.. but perhaps it was time to let her in.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Be Mine: A pretty guest

My wife, Keenu, likes to collect curios. Initially it felt like a strange obsession. Odd figurines would jump out at me every now and then.. from the familiar corner of my bookshelf or a habitually bare table. Some of the masks and statues looked ghastly really.. with their bared teeth and other grotesque features.. but.. these artifacts have a beauty that grows on you with time. They mesmerize you. Perhaps, its their anachronism that repels you at first, sitting in your otherwise modern living room.. but then you grow used to them. You expect them tucked away in these niches.. sensual, mischievous, forlorn, cruel...

The other Saturday morning, I was returning from my morning exercise. I noticed a garage sale sporting a colorful spread of knick knacks.. The attendant lady caught me eyeing what she had and smiled invitingly. Something drew me to check out her display.. I crossed the street. A bright, really pretty doll caught my attention.. it was an Indian doll, modeled after some princess perhaps. On closer inspection, her eyes looked... alive! I was taken aback. Must be the sunlight playing tricks! Its very unusual for me, what I did. On a whim, I bought the doll. Keenu was delighted with the doll. As I've mentioned, she loved things like this and then coming from me, that bowled her over. I was happily smothered in a bear hug. She placed the pretty thing on her dressing table in our bedroom.

That night after swallowing my medicine which also stands on this dressing table, I stood by the doll for a moment. Almost unconsciously, I picked her up again in my hands. In the diffused yellow light from the bulb, she looked exotic. She really had unusual eyes.. the red silk on her skirt bordered with a profusion of gold sequins felt ethereal to touch.. they hugged her shapely hips and ended around her perfectly rounded knees... her navel was bejeweled. Her raven hair hanging lose framed her tiny waist.. it was so soft.. almost human! The details of her full breasts encased in a scant red blouse shone through the gauzy scarf material she had wrapped all around.. the workmanship of her jewels were superb. I swear it felt like she was no doll.. that she was a live princess that I held... untarnished by time. I was waken from my reverie when Keenu shook me with a laugh, "Have you fallen in love with her?" I felt a bit embarrassed with my preoccupation.. I joked back, "I think I have... indeed!"

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Take my hand

1. Take my hand: hasta mañana
2. Take my hand: DUK there's a fidelity gene
3. Take my hand: Sweetened by time
4. Take my hand: Moody Blues
5. Take my hand: Shall we dance
6. Take my hand: Now and Then..
7. Take my hand: Volare
8. Take my hand: The laundry lunch
9: Take my hand: Anish
10. Take my hand: Waylaid
11: Take my hand: Skeletons in her cupboard
12: Take my hand: You're always on my mind
13: Take my hand: Allure
14: Take my hand: Purple Haze (not that other thing!)
15: Take my hand: No swing.. yet
16: Take my hand: Sunday edition
17: Take my hand: Then and now...
18: Take my hand: Catch 22
19: Take my hand: Heal
20: Take my hand: Everywhere is you
21: Take my hand: Turning in tonight

It was fun... writing my first story... sure, it was haphazard.. most of the post titles make no sense to me now on retrospective... some parts are supercharged with theatrics - that I feel embarrassed to read at the moment ;p

Thanks to those who read it and especially those who let me know they did! A very special thanks to anybody who "deigned" to comment! :)


...

Take my hand: Turning in tonight

Continued from
Take my hand: Everywhere is you

Giri had been returning late daily and sleeping in the guest room, except that day when he did not come home at all. He did approach Seema one or two times in between.. but her responses came out strangled, rude. She hadn't wanted to be rude. Tonight, he looked worse than ever with a dark stubble. He beelined for the spare bedroom without so much as a glance at his wife. Seema swore out aloud.

G (walking back into the living room): "I cant take much more of this."
S: "I too am tired."
Her voice broke. She took a deep breath and then abruptly gushed out,
G: "I need to tell you that I am in touch with Ashfaque again. He is here. And I... I have slept with him."
She hadn't told Ev the entire truth. Now it was out.

Giri looked puzzled. "Your boyfriend?"
S: "Yes!"
He raised a single eyebrow and said nothing.
S: "I deceived you and met with my lover. Is that all you can say? I cant be so tolerant about Ev you know. How do you do it?"

G froze with the mention of Ev. He quietly asked: "What do you want from me? A divorce?"
Giri looked resigned. Seema felt hysterical.

S: "You couldn't care less, could you?"
G: "I'll do what you want me to do."
S (crying now): "I dont want a divorce... I.. Do you want a divorce?"
G: "Why bring this up to me then?"
S (becoming hysterical again): "I am not a cheat, or a liar, or a whore. You.. Have you..? Is that why you are so forgiving?" She did not complete the sentence, but its meaning was clear. G's eyes flared up with a warning, Seema'd never seen in them before. She would welcome violence.. if it could release her from this hell.

Giri tried to control himself, even as a terrible anger stirred in the pit of his stomach. For a long time he stood there. After a while he felt himself looking at his wife, almost like an onlooker on this scene. Somewhere he registered that Seema was calling herself all these names without any help from him. He sat down on their sofa and closed his eyes; begun rubbing his own temples which was throbbing with a dull ache now.

Ev, we know, had not stayed out of this altogether as Anish'd advised her to. Waiting in the sidelines was never her forte. Later on into that night Giri spent at hers, when they couldn't pretend there wasn't Seema or Anish, anymore...

G (dejectedly): "You cant fix this, Ev. Just stay out. We must be who we must be."
Ev sighed noisily and looked down at her own hands, pulling at the skins around her nails in nervousness. She wanted to make it right for Giri. She wanted to help. She was scared for him and feeling helpless about how quickly things seemed to be going irrevocably wrong.
After a while, G said: "What exactly is the matter with her? Has she told you?"
Ev said nothing. After another pause..
G: "Is there someone else?"
E: "I dont know.. but she is very unhappy. Giri, I... I think, you have a problem articulating your feelings for someone... romantic feelings.. how much that person means to you.. you.. come across as aloof.. I know this.. (Ev swallowed a lump in her throat. It was turning out hard to say this to him..) "You need to... touch her soul.. whatever it takes. How can you not act? Dont wait too long.."
In her mind, she completed the sentence ".. this time." G looked at her for some time. He'd heard what she hadn't said. Softly he whispered: "I let you go, isn't it?" Ev closed her eyes and did not answer.

Sometimes we are confronted with a sudden realization about ourselves that blows our mind. A lifetime of friendship, love and devotion imploded in Giri with those words. He did not feel the tears running down his cheeks; no one moved to wipe them. Evie came to him and wrapped her arms around him. For a long time, they sat there without words, just holding tight.

..

Those thoughts somehow helped Giri come back to this room, to this day. This situation was his failing, too. He had to try to set it right. For the sake of every tender feeling he had ever had, whether it was for Seema or Evie, he couldn't let himself run away, this time around.
G: "I love you Seema."
The words brought fresh tears. Seema hadn't known how much she'd counted on him... for absolution. Sometimes we go with the flow, secretly hoping some bank will give us definition somewhere, frame us, cradle us, bring us home.
S: "I am bad news. Perhaps its best for you to go.. you deserve a chance at happiness."
G: "You are that chance."
Seema looked up at Giri.. a tiny light of hope had been lit in her eyes.
S: "I didn't mean to cheat on you, I.." She couldn't finish the sentence.
G: "Lets not worry about that now."
After a while he said: "If you want, we can move to another city, start again... it wont be tomorrow.. but we can try...."

...

On the morning of Saturday of the following week, Ev and Anish were drinking tea, around 10-ish.. There was a knock on their front door. Ev went to get it.

Seema said: "Finally!"
Ev stood looking at her.. What could she say? She blurted out: "You are the ones avoiding us!"
S: "So? you didn't have to follow suit!"

Seema was smiling and Ev felt so relieved to see her like that, at ease.. She moved forward and hugged Seema. She hadn't realized how much she'd missed her until that moment. Giri was standing right behind. His lips were unsmiling, but Ev read the smile in his eyes. She held Seema tighter. "Careful Evie, any tighter and I'll have to stop breathing."

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Take my hand: Everywhere is you

Continued from
Take my hand: Heal

Giri's machinations to avoid meeting with Ev and hence her questions did not entirely succeed. When cornered at last he said, "I am impressed that you actually listen to Anish." Ev knew this was in reference to her uncharacteristic reticence over the past few days. The statement had hurt. Ev swallowed the hurt. Giri was clearly sick and not really himself.. She didn't care what he said. She just wanted to hold him in her arms and wipe away that gloom. Yet she couldn't reach out until he would allow it.

Wednesday she tried to outstay him at work. Around 8:30 it became too much. She went to his cube and asked him to walk her to her car. It was already dark and pretty deserted. Giri locked his terminal and came out with her. They did not talk on the way. When they reached her car, Ev said, "Come home with me tonight". Giri looked at her in surprize. He could see her lips trembling in the orange lights of the parking lot. She bit her lips. Giri walked around and got inside the car. He muttered, "We have nowhere to go." It sounded like a pronouncement. Anish was not going to be home. He was away for the night on a business trip. Giri absorbed the intelligence with a silent sigh. Ev drove them both to her house. On the way she heard him call Seema and inform her that he wouldn't be coming in for the night. His tone was dull and unforgiving. There were no questions from the other end.

When they got home, Giri collapsed on her sofa and closed his eyes. Ev ran her fingers through his hair, kissed his forehead... fed him warm comfort food. Giri did not object to her excesses. When Anish called, Ev told him that she'd brought Giri home. Giri caught that bit. They talked some more. Ev was laughing softly into the phone. Giri wanted her to finish and come back to him. When she did, he sat up.

G: "Why did you ask me to come?"
E: "To keep me company."
G: "Ev..."
E: "Forget everything else going on for a bit...lets pretend this is before either Seema or Anish. What say?"
G's expression became soft. He stared at her for a while without any words. Then with a small smile: "What have you in mind? Making love?"
E (twitching her lips and raising her eyebrows at him): "You would?"
G (screwing up his eyebrow in a mock serious way): "You doubt that?"
E(chuckled): "Lets do it."

G: "Ev, never turn sensible on me."
E: "I wont, thats a promise."
G: "I.. guess we weren't meant to be together."
E: "You have always been with me. Right here in my heart."

G(making a face): "Can you pour me something to drink?"
E: "I am only serving turmeric milk.. you have flu."
G (grimacing): "Can you do what you're told? Please give me a beer or something."
E: "No."
G: "Sleepy?"
E): "Not yet. Do you want to walk in the moonlight? Hold hands?"
Giri broke into a smile... "Lets do it."

Giri looked adorable, according to Ev, bundled up in her mufflers. There is a lake very near their house. It has a gentle paved trail along it. They walked there holding hands. Conversation was superfluous. As it usually is, in the moonlight amidst the stars. Ev sat down on a bench they have on this route. Giri began to whistle the tune for Annie's song.

There are some constants in everyones' lives. Sometimes it is the partner you married. Sometimes it is a friend who has always been there for you every step of your life, whether you knew about it, or not.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Take my hand: Heal

Continued from
Take my hand: Catch 22

Anish and I were eating dinner Friday night. We were comparing notes on whether either of the Raha's have surfaced. Not yet. I felt impatient. Anish asked me to practice breathing exercises. It calms the mind. I made a face at him. Anish is amused with my antics. I know that. Laughter is a good thing. Its the best glue in relationships. Its way higher priority than maudlin declarations of endless love.

E: "I think Giri's actually doing detours to avoid me at work. I haven't passed him once last 2 days"
A: "Good for him!"
E: "What?"
A: "Give the man some breathing room!"
I looked at Anish with mock anger.
E: "I think Giri needs me by his side. I shant listen to you anymore."
A: "OK, fine. Go hold his hand. I cant foresee any peace in this house until you do."
E: "What does that mean? Are you going to be serious?"
A: "Honey, what can you do? Seriously, what do you think you can do?"
E: "I can tell Seema her suspicions are baseless"
A: "If she was going to buy that, we would not be discussing this."
E: "Why do you think she refuses to believe me?"
A: "Because you are in love with Giri."
E: "Anish!!!! I am being serious."
A: "So am I."
E (agitatedly): "And you are fine I assume?"
A(grinning): "I have supreme confidence in Giri!"
E: "You hateful stupid man. Just you wait, Mr Higgins. I shall have a mad affair, pronto."

A: "Have you ordered the two books I asked?"
E: "You order them. I am not your secretary."
A: "Please Ev. Do it tomorrow without fail."
E: "Anish, lets drop by on those two bozos.. now."
A (with a sigh): "If I thought it could help, I would. Hang in there for a little longer."
E: "Anish, if I was having an affair what would you do?"
A : "I would be elated of course." Anish began to curl his mouth: "I'd get a few more hours of well derserved sleep."
E (also smiling): "OK. Consider it a done deal."
E (suddenly switching gears): "By the way, I need your help to unpack the new corner table."
A: "Ev, I am not doing that now or anytime this week. So please dont sneak that suggestion into our conversation any more. You are an obsessed woman."
E: "I am getting antsy that its been lying there for a week now."
A: "If you cant do it, you have to wait till I have time."
E: "I could ask Giri to help."
A: "If thats your seduction routine, its pathetic!"
E (breaking into a grin): "Is it? Seema tried it on you, didn't she? At Giri's surprise birthday party? Anish going over at 5:00 pm to help with party stuff! Amazing man!! In 12 years that I have known you, I've usually had to throw you out before parties. That was the help I needed. Not to have you afoot! "
Anish put up a smiley face and did not deny the charge.
E: "By the way, you shouldn't say these things. Banterings take on real colors. I dont make a habit of hitting on Giri."
A(smiling): "Giri is actually pretty pathetic choice of boyfriend."
E: "He's the sweetest. You have no idea."
A: "Really?"
E: "Ok, not sweeter than you.. you win by a very very very minuscule margin!"
A: "Thank God, I was holding my breath there!"
E: "Dont be too sure, honey!"
A: "what do you want to do tomorrow? Besides counselling Giri, which we are not doing for the record."
Ev made another face: "We dont have to do anything."
A: "You will push me off the cliff unless we get out the house and do something. So we'd better decide. Perhaps a hike ?"
Ev's mind had alreay begun to drift. She was seriously concerned for her friends. "OK, whatever.. but you're right. I'll go bananas if I stay home!"

Take my hand: catch 22

Continued from
Take my hand: Then and now...

Seema mentioned to me that over the past couple of months she'd been in touch with Ashfaque, her ex-fiance, on email and chat.. Seema also told me, she hadn't told this to Giri. What was I supposed to do with this revelation? I wasn't sure. I told her Ashfaque being her ex, probably it was better out between them, than kept secret. G, he's not a jealous possessive type at all. Seema stared at me for some time and asked if I shared every little thing with Anish... you know give him the daily bulletin. Oh!? I suddenly wondered if this was about me and G? If it was, it was masterfully placed. I tried to think if anything particular had passed between me and G recently that could've triggered this. I drew a blank. I thought Seema and I had this burried long back!

E: "I try to share what I think Anish needs to know. That said, I do use my discretion. If you think G doesn't need to know, you are the best judge. Why did you tell me?"
S: "You are my friend! If I suddenly cut Ashfaque off, what would he think? His wife is ill he says. Perhaps he needs to vent. And bringing this up with Giri.. I feel embarrassed, is all... probably because I've waited all this time."
E (haltingly): "Hmm.. you'll think of something. I mean you could always tell him a noncommittal 'recently' or something.."
Seema gave me a half smile at this suggestion. Comm'n! Its better than keeping mum altogether!
S: "You know, I wonder if Ashfaque's wife suddenly died or something (please dont think that I want her to..) just wondered.. I dont seem to be as angry with him as I once was."
E (shocked): "Goodness Seema! Giri loves you so much! And I thought, you,... " I did not finish the sentence.
S: "You will always be on his side, isn't it? Despite the fact that he broke your heart"
E (stricken): "He did not. Oh Seema, you got it all wrong. I forbid him to see me after you know what."
S: "Do you think I am stupid? Credit me with enough intelligence Ev to understand both of you better than who said no first."
That shut me up. I mean, what can I say to that!
E (resignedly): "Ok, yes, I was disappointed.. "
E: "And it was pretty onesided, to tell you the truth. Giri is my friend, not my lover. He did stand in for a bit, but never wanted the job. "
E: "But that is neither here nor there. We are talking about you and G. Why am I suddenly figuring in this conversation?"
Seema did not answer.
S: "I have broken someone's heart before.. This time may be easier."
E: "I cant believe I am hearing this. S, you gotta talk to G. Talk to him. You guys will figure this out. What is wrong with you? You are perfect for each other. Why are you playing with fire?"

Seema thought Ev's outburst was typical! She was half in love with G and yet not enough to stake a claim. And claim she had. S felt it was a matter of patience and timing for the two. They were both more comitted to each other than either realized, about themselves, and about the other. And now there was Anish and there was her. Seema was surprised in the beginning that Anish did not mind E's obvious attachment to G (and vice versa). She'd minded. Interestingly, it was Anish's attitude that had ultimately helped Seema relax around Ev. Anish obviously knew his wife well. Ev wasn't capable of duplicity at least for duplicity's sake ... and probably his male ego would not allow him to cower at the other possibility.

S stared at me in an intense way and I was getting the feeling that she was trying to get inside my mind, ignoring whatever it is that I am saying.

E: "Listen. I know somewhere there you are also asking me something about G? Please... whatever there was (if) is over a long time ago."
S: "I dont believe you. I am not accusing you.. but I dont think its over between you."
E (becoming really agitated): "It is, it is. Dont draw nonexistant parallels. I am not considering leaving Anish, for god's sake!"
S: "No, but thats because for all your hustle you are a coward. Dont fool yourself."
E: "Shut up! You are.. I love Anish! "
S: "Yes, but I dont love G with your intensity. Why does this bother you? Isn't it right that I do what is right for me? If it were to happen, I dont think it will hurt Giri that much either."
E: "It will destroy him. As it is, he has waited far too long to start. These relationships, they need to start early... I... Seema, dont you want to start a family? You are not getting any younger."
S: "I dont want to have kids now. Children as solution to problem relationships is not my idea of responsible parenting."

I came home that evening feeling depressed. I told Anish what had passed, for a change, not glossing over some of the more embarrassing details. Anish wrapped his arms around me and told me not to worry. He told me to leave Seema and Giri alone for a few days.. let them figure things out. He categorically forbid me to bring this up with G. G must have gotten wind of something. I saw him couple of times at work, but we haven't spoken. I am dying to talk with him.. but.. I am waiting for some sign, I dont know of what. Seema hasn't called me once, since, either.

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