Posted in Musings

For Mother Dearest

I stayed with a friend recently. Her grandmother resided with them, a lonely wispy figure in white who you saw moving about, wordless. She was quite healthy for a woman her age, and would take part in the household chores. I often saw her in the kitchen when I went to get a glass of water, silently fixing a meal. Would you mind if I cooked gourds for lunch? Of course not, I’d say with a cursory smile, anything was fine. At other times I would notice her watching television in the hall, repeats of soap operas, translated serials. In the mornings watering the plants as we sat studying outside, inadvertently drenching us in the process, every time.

I noticed the questionable indifference often demonstrated by my friend in her presence. Slight but tangible. Disregard for an innocent inquiry, usually about the meals. Maybe an exasperated tone of voice when something was misinterpreted. The roll of eyes when the hose missed the orchids and watered our books. I felt sorry for her, the wispy silent widow in white.

I kept sensing a foggy familiarity in those gestures, the impatient wave, the irritated frown. I knew someone like that, someone who treated a relative less than perfectly. I groped for the face among the cobwebbed rooms of my mind, trying to discern those discrete clues, till one day I saw the culprit in the bathroom mirror, wide eyed, recognition finally washing over my reflection.

Now I remembered all too well. All the times I waved aside my mother’s questions when I traveled, the exasperated sighs when she asked about college, the nonchalant replies to her many concerns, the apathetic glance I gave the sweet kheer she prepared for my birthday one time.. Mirrored in my friend, I saw the ugliness within me.

I have since been trying to wash them clean, those stains of habitual disregard for the little things I take for granted, the naive show of affection I’ve been blessed with and the endless chatter that I am sure to miss one day. One hug at a time.

Love you mom.



Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta : the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

– Vladimir Nabokov


Posted in Musings

An Evolutionary Paradox

I was not a very happy teenager. Indeed, I believe I was a particularly pessimistic one, a trait that haunted me well into my young adult life. This, in spite of the fact that I really did not have much to complain about. A dotting mother, good friends and a brain that did not revolt against the modern educational system –  I ought to have been clicking my heels and singing to sparrows as they do in musicals, but instead I was busy toying with ideas of suicide. It seems simply preposterous to me now, but it is a reality I am ashamed to admit. Me, healthy-beloved-educated-well fed-maybe even a little spoilt-me, wanting to kill myself at 13. And at 23. And all the time in between.

Now that I can talk about this in the past tense (thank God!), I have been wondering what exactly was the matter with me. Or the thousands of others who apparently feel the same, if the rising statistics are to be believed. What is so horrible about our existence, finite as it is, that we feel the need to cut it shorter still? Are we not intellectual beings capable of rational thought? And then I wondered, could it be that our possession of rational thought and insight is our undoing??

Other than isolated reports of self destructive behavior seemingly demonstrated by certain grieving animals, and examples of martyrdom wherein some insects protect their colonies via their own deaths, the general governing principle in nature is one of self sustenance. It is also striking how resilient so called lower animals and plants are. I saw a crow in our backyard the other day, hopping around on one leg, and flying away once it found a piece of food. The loss of a limb did not weaken the triumph in its flight.

I remember a science experiment learnt in school where we were to keep a plant in utter darkness with just a little hole on one side permitting light to enter. When examined a few weeks later, we would find that the plant had bent and grown towards sunlight. Photo tropism, I was taught it is called. Now 15 years later, I realize that the experiment had a lot more to do with life than biology. Seeking out light in the dark and opting to survive are tasks that prove difficult for a lot of us. An evolutionary paradox occurs to me at this point. Plants are, in a way, the most basic of life forms, incapable of movement let alone conscious thought and yet are potentially immortal. At the other end of the spectrum are we, human beings, the supreme life forms on Earth contemplating on killing ourselves. Makes one wonder, does it not?

‘Bent’ on growing up!

Something makes me believe we are looking at this all wrong, that our evolutionary vantage point is skewed somehow. Maybe the sign of supremacy is not locomotion or the skill to dominate or kill at will, not the million ways we can devise plots and win wars, not the deliberate conclusions we are capable of arriving at. Maybe it is just about your ability to grow towards the light when immersed in darkness, knowing the future is fatally and beautifully ambiguous and that life is not to be wasted pondering questions that are not necessarily ours to answer.


Posted in Fiction

Fireworks For Christmas

Shops glowed with Christmas lights as she walked down the street. Large posters everywhere announced special discounts on overpriced goods. People moved past in a hurry clutching bulging packages rustling with crispy newness. Joy is in the air, sang some elves stationed outside a toy store, with Santa nodding in agreement. She eyed them with dispassion. Festive seasons always brought out the cynic in her. Ballyhoo of goodwill on prescribed dates struck her as ridiculous. Humbug, she muttered, siding with Scrooge.

It was then that the world erupted in colors. Fire dragons flew from a lone roof top to burst into flames in the sky. Little phoenixes rose from them, coloring the night glittery red, green and yellow. The clouds crunched under their wings splitting the stillness. A child laughed. Something stirred. As she watched, the glimmer faded into a bokeh of memories. She stood still, remembering.

Christmas Eve. 21 again.

They walked around in the park adjacent to the sea, hand in hand, oblivious to everything else. The cool night air was still and soothing, like his whispers in her ear. Her quiet laughter fell like dew drops into the silence, discerned by him and no one else. They walked on forever, for in love every moment is eternity in itself.

She was the one who noticed the abandoned boat, half hidden by the foliage. It lay against the sand and reeds, just brushing the water, oars interspersed with the waves like fingers refusing to let go. It welcomed them without stirring. Side by side on the wooden thwart, she felt him graze her arm. She looked up at him with the hint of a blush on her cold cheeks. He pushed aside an untamed strand of her hair and held her face in his left hand. Across the shore, the sky became a flurry of hues. The last thing she saw before closing her eyes was a blur of golden sparks, before the feel of his lips simulated the same in her head and the world ceased to exist.

She opened her eyes 42 years later and smiled. Yes, joy was in the air.