Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Sunshine

“Take care of yourself. You’re very important.”

That is what SV said as our conversation drew to a close. I had been rambling on for an hour about how horrible I felt lately, how the signs of depression seemed to be returning at a crucial point in my life. It felt good to vent to him; it always did. He always knew what to say.

And yet it’s those last words that really made a difference. He did not personalise it, did not smother the letters with a show of care; no ‘you’re important to me’ or ‘us’. Just important. Like an open ending to be interpreted as one wished, as if the whole world hid silently behind that last syllable. That my existence had a value that cannot be quantified by sheer numbers of aquientances, that maybe it extended to realms that I did not truly fathom.

I felt a ray of sunshine trickling in.

Advertisements
Posted in Anecdotes

Broken 

I was in a hurry to have breakfast yesterday morning. I dropped my heavy shoulder bag on to an adjacent chair in the common students’ mess, and half threw my sling bag on top of it, before heading to the counter. It was after I had settled down and started eating that both the bags fell to the floor with a loud thud.

I didn’t really think much of it. That is, until I got to our department and fished my phone out of the bag.

A huge crack grimaced at the top left corner, spidering and spreading across the screen all the way to the bottom. I felt a wave of devastation.

No, mine is not a brand new phone. It is exactly three years old, bought in September 2014 with my first earnings, during my internship. I still remember how many reviews I went through and how many specifications I obsessed over, before zeroing down on this one. And unlike most people I know, I made sure the protective case arrived within a week of purchase – I wasn’t going to take chances. 

I’m proud to say that the phone did not let me down, it lived up to my expectations, caught all my good memories and also almost all of the photos on this blog. By the third year, I was starting to feel even a little haughty, as my friends’ handsets got disfigured, damaged or simply died, mine was still as good as new. Well, maybe it did have scratches over the edges , and maybe the skin peeled a little at the back, but to me it was perfect, a reminder that I too am capable of good choices once in a while. 

They say, the software gets affected once the hardware is; Google tells me cracks will eventually cause dirt and sweat and water to leak in and cause collapse of the system. That’s just so sad. 

But then, I remembered something else I read a few days back, a story by Osho about how nothing is sad news or good news, it’s just news. Anything that happens, we shouldn’t hurry to put them into categories. So I thought I’d do that now instead. My phone screen broke. That is all it is. It is neither good nor bad. Cool.

I’m currently searching online for wallpapers to camouflage the broken screen. This is actually fun. In a way.

Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Maybe

I’m torn between desire and care.

Desire to see you waiting for me at the station in the wee hours of the morning, with even the sun yet to spy on us, and to ride home hugging you on the wide empty streets with the moonlight and stars for company.. But another self forbids me from waking you up; I know today is going to be another hectic day for you after numerous others and with many more to come..

I know you’re too. Torn between wanting to see me and yet having to succumb to the responsibilities weighing down on your eyelids; I know the fight inside you to be with me every day, even on the days when you’re not.. 

I know. Which is why I’m not going to wake you up at 4:00 like I promised. Today I’ll fight for once, take a cab and let you sleep.

Maybe this is what love is??

No.

I know it is. 

🙂

Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Remembering Shaari

Shaari..

Shaari? Was that her name? I’m not really sure. I don’t remember.

What I do remember is the little shy girl, smiling timidly in a classroom where she herself might have suspected she didn’t belong in. I remember  she always had amicable smiles and average marks. Her skin was dark, her hair oily, combed back and held in place by plastic clips. I feel like describing her as having possessed mousy features as a child, perhaps because I can easily liken her to a tiny brown creature scurrying away from attention, and comfortable in dark corners.

But why I remember her is not because of her physical features or her characters. It is because of a plain sunny morning when a new teacher asked us to introduce ourselves, and one by one we reeled off our particulars – name, place, parent’s occupation – and when her turn came, she mentioned her father was a coolie. A daily wage labourer.

I was incredulous. My 11 year old mind was fascinated by the prospect of someone like her sitting here in a private school, among the children of professionals.. In retrospect, it does seem sad that such a thing even occurred to me. And yet, that’s what set her apart, for me. The fact that she was the daughter of an ambitious man, who refused to let his meagre earnings be a barrier in his daughter’s future, or believe that she was in any way less worthy of the painted classrooms of the celebrated convent school whose high walls were a stone’s throw from their small house. I used to imagine him coming home tired every night, and looking across the street at the iron gates; I would even conjure up a look of determination on his weary face..

The headmaster, Father T, would come by regularly to ask how many were yet to pay their monthly fees and invariably she would stand up every time. I believe she was given special consideration though, and allowed late payment.

I remember she was not particularly bright, or maybe she just  never had anyone to help her with her lessons at home. Maybe that was one of the reasons, along with financial constraints, that led her to shift elsewhere after middle school. 

I’ve never seen her since, but I do sometimes wonder what became of her. Had she found the new school to her liking? Has she have grown out of her shell with time? 

Sometimes, I imagine running into her some day, and struggling to recognise the mousy girl I knew behind the confident young woman who challenged the world, with her proud father by her side. I would like that very much. 

I look forward to that day.

Posted in Anecdotes

Midnight Pangs

It was nearly two by the time I decided to retire, even though the assignment was only done halfway. I’d have to cram it into the morning hours somehow and submit in the evening.

I realised Amigo SR had already fallen asleep on the only mattress in the hostel room. My idea to have him keep me company till completion of the work was evidently faulty. Better still, his head rested on my folded blanket for a pillow. Great. There was no way my malnourished body could stand the A/C-fan combo that he pledged alliance to, so I ended up attempting the obvious – that magic switch of items under the Head of a Sleeper. It was almost a success till I felt empowered enough to adjust the pillow further,  and lo, he was up.

Which is not really so bad on its own. But like every soul that gets woken up in the middle of slumber, he couldn’t sleep again.

We chatted for a while more, and when I finally realized he wasn’t going to shut up if I didn’t, I pretended to have an attack of narcolepsy and froze in mid-conversation. He prodded me a couple of times, and then started on some self-relevatory remarks and loud ruminations till finally falling asleep again.

Which is when I should have ideally slept, except for that pang of midnight hunger that hits you just when you’re in bed. I decided to sleep it out, fearing I’d wake him up again, but my tummy wouldn’t let me. Apparently sleep and hunger do not really go hand in hand. I waited for a while to make sure he was really out, my stomach grumbling all the way, before finally creeping out from under the blanket, only to be hit by the AC’s freezing blow.I stealthily and hurriedly made my way into the kitchen, grabbed a couple of slices of bread and ran back to protection under the covers.

Once satiated and warm, it struck me just how convenient and lucky it was that, when I was cold and hungry, I had bread and a blanket at hand, that I was sleeping on the floor by choice, and that too on a bed sheet. 

It was very very lucky indeed.

Posted in Anecdotes

Smith’s Bday

Amigo DC and I decided to step out of the Health Centre for refreshments in the evening. The few patients trickling in were being managed by the interns anyway.

The aimless search ended prematurely as I spotted a café quite close to the centre that I had noticed once before, but did not check out. A typical tourist hotspot with the routine stock of shawls, cotton garments, incense, handmade soaps, bags and jewellery. As we settled in after ordering tea, I noticed a clock on the wall behind me. Another antique piece kept for sale perhaps.

I peered closer and noticed it said Richard, and then around the middle, what I made out to be ‘Smith’s Bday’.DC inquired whether I was interested in buying it, but I pointed out how the clock was dead, stuck at 2:12. 

She laughed. “Maybe that’s when Smith was born”.

I looked at her and then the clock in surprise, grinning like an idiot.

She was joking of course, but I liked the idea. Clocks set to immortalise the moment of your birth. 

 I didn’t inquire about the clock after all. I didn’t want to know if the clock needed a new battery or it had died of old age. Nope. I’d rather be grinning stupidly.

Because sometimes, to be stupid is to know magic.

Posted in Anecdotes

Cone Ice Dreams 

She held my hand as I looked both ways and crossed the street. It was ten at night and the road leading to Rock Beach was almost isolated, with just a trickle of traffic. A few people and a couple of dogs loitered in the distance. 

Suddenly she pointed at the lone bright spot in the vicinity, an outlet of Baskin’ Robbins that was still open. I saw a child walking out.

“Ice cream cone!!”

Her voice brimmed with delight and longing.

“You want one?”

She looked at the shop, back at me, and smiled.

“Come on, then.” 

I led her in. An array of exotic flavours were displayed.

“Which one do you want?”

She peered into the glass counter and hestitated. It was not an easy choice, and the familiar tones of Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry were conspicuous in their absence.

“You choose one for me”

“You can get a taste, you know. Pick any one you like, and I’ll ask them for a sample”

Her eyes widened. 

“Umm.. something crunchy. That I can chew on as well!” She could hardly reign in her excitement.

I pointed to Mint Chocolate. The guy behind the counter took a tiny spoonful and handed it to her. She licked it up and shook her head. 

“Too minty”

Next up was Milk Choco Chips. That one won her approval. I ordered a cone of the same. The guy scooped a huge ball of it and filled a fancy BR cone with it. I watched him handing it to her as I paid. 

“What about you?”, she asked.

“I don’t do icecreams”, I said laughing.

We settled on a rock and watched the waves crashing.

“You know”, she began, “when I was little, everything was an adventure, and I longed for so many things that you might even laugh at. Even an ice cream was a dream, a luxury reserved for carnivals and such! Another one of my biggest wishes was to watch a plane take flight.. or at least see one up close. I remember, once I was allowed to accompany Mami to the airport for her flight. I got so excited! I put on my best dress and powdered my face. I decided your Grandma was not proficient enough at plaiting my hair properly so I ran to the neighbour’s place and had her do it instead. But alas, by the time I got back they had left without me! It was such a sad day indeed.”

She paused.

“But then, I did get on a plane with you that day after your college counselling session. And now here I am, at a beach in Pondicherry at midnight, having ice cream! Who’d have thought!”, she laughed. “I believe I was meant to see the world through you”

I pulled her closer and hugged her.

“I love you too, Mom”.

Posted in Anecdotes

Saving Food

Wasting food is something I feel quite strongly against, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t do it. I do it all the time. My tiny appetite almost never sits well with the enormous portions of food served in most restaurants. Hunger makes me overestimate my nutritional needs and I inevitable end up staring at half eaten plates with a satiated tummy and deepset regret. 

One solution I recently devised is to never order a meal for myself when out with other people. Tidbits from their plates usually suffice to ward off starvation, which again fits my funda that one need only eat what is necessary to survive.

Today, even that didn’t help as the hotel I visited with my parents and an uncle proved to be extra-gracious with their food supply. An entire bowl of fried rice sat untouched and forlorn on the table, and we stared at it, wondering what to do about it. Indians generally hate wasting things that they pay money for, and it’s considered blasphemy to not get leftover food parceled, regardless of whether we end up eating it later on or not. As patriotic citizens, we contemplated doing the same, but our full stomachs rebelled against the idea.

That was when Uncle A suggested we give the parcel to a random beggar or ragpicker, a surplus of who are found along streets in the region. It hit me how the thought had never really occured to me before. Yes, it’s leftover food.. but it is still food, and throwing it in the trash somehow does not seem anywhere as ethical as letting a hungry soul have it.

We kept an eye out for vagabonds on the way back. Soon enough, along came a man with a large bulging plastic sack over his shoulder, with clothes and body both covered in grime. I was still hesitant to carry out the plan, lest he should be offended and start swearing at us. So Uncle A took the lead.

‘Have you eaten yet?’

His eyes gave away his voracity and his hands beat his tongue in response; they extended way before his mouth could mutter ‘No’. We gave him the parcel and rode away. I turned back once out of curiosity, and I saw him taking out the still-warm packet and turning back to look at us.

Now I have another solution to not waste food. I think I like this one better.

Posted in Anecdotes, Musings

Expected

Yesterday was one of those days. My mind was a web of cluttered thoughts as messy as my room, and although the right thing to do was to get to work at cleaning both up, I found myself reaching for my keys. A lonely ride around town at night seemed like a great idea. I did not know where to, but then, the beach and the streets of White Town are all that Pondicherry really has to offer at night. So I rode slowly in that direction, gathering my thoughts.

I had never been to the beach alone before, and it felt rather strange. More disconcerting than soothing. Among all those people around me, armed with friends, lovers or families, I felt I must make a sorry picture, alone at the beach close to midnight, with not even a bottle or a puff to keep me company. I perched on a rock and began to stare at the sea, seeking tranquility. The waves crashed much like my ruminations – anticlimactic, recurring brilliant pieces of frothy white light that dissipated just on the verge of formation.

Suddenly I heard a call behind me.  Two young men stood precariously close, and I started, as any average Indian woman would.

“Don’t be afraid”, one said. “It’s our friend’s birthday.. he’s rather shy.. so, here you go”.

One of them extended a piece of Black-forest cake (incidentally, my favourite) as the other stood by, sheepishly. I was not quite sure of what to do. If this were to happen in the Western world, and if I am to believe what I’ve seen on television, the ideal response would be a beaming smile and to extend a hand, or a hug perhaps, wishing the ‘birthday person’ warm greetings from your part. As a cautious female, I did nothing of the sort. After choosing to pinch off the tiniest fraction of the cake I could manage (lest it be poisoned with the date rape drug) and muttering a hurried thank you, I went back to staring at the sea with even more determination. Sure, I was currently in apparently one of the safest cities in for women, and was surrounded by more than a hundred people, but one doesn’t want to take chances. To quote a poem I recently came across on YouTube, “we don’t want to be another of India’s daughters, do we??”

So I sat there with my back to the world till it occurred to me that perhaps I had been rude. They had not really seemed like trouble. I decided to walk up to them and say a proper birthday wish. As I stood up and turned around, I realized they were gone.

I remembered his first words. Don’t be afraid.. And then it hit me. Perhaps, like any average Indian, my response was exactly what he expected anyway.