Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Last Smile

The Last Smile

Rahul looked into the imaginary mirror, one more time and took a deep long breath. He smiled gently at his own self, then slowly closed his eyes and started fading. Slowly and gently... gently and slowly... He knew what was happening and what was going to happen and he knew he was alone. Like before, like now. He had realized that it is better to stop breathing than to live a life without happiness.

As he started living the last few moments of his so called valueless life... he could see his past rewinding like a movie flashback.. The background wallpaper of each precious moment in his life... was her black and white picture. She was the one girl, he had always loved. She was his first love. He had loved many people in his life. But she was his first and now his last. They had fallen in love long ago...Thirteen years ago... when they were in college. In the four long years of intense friendship and strong love, they had realized that there was no one else in this world who would understand them more than each other. But the decision was made and the deal was sealed. They had to part. Destiny would not see them together. So they simply walked away from each other. It was painful, it indeed was. But there was no other choice. They simply had to let go. 

Letting go of what is yours, is always more painful than holding on to what is not yours.

17 hours far away and on the other end of the world, Neha twitched in her sleep. Her husband and two daughters were sleeping peacefully with her in the posh king sized bed. The twitching transformed into violent jerks and she woke up with a silent shriek. At the same time, a part of her stopped breathing... somewhere in the world.

Little Dangerous Things in Life

Life's greatest defeat is when you betray yourself. You shatter your own dreams and there is no one responsible for your situation, but you and only you.

Writing has always been one of the best ways to release feelings... and in my case, the only way... So, here I am... in my own world.. fiddling up with words and letters... trying to forgive myself...

Life is short.... Sometimes sweet and sometimes painful, but it is totally up to you to make sure that you get up and stand after a fall, because in this journey... there are no teachers.. no companions and no relations... No one to congratulate you on your success... no one to woo you when you fail... No one to walk with you... in this journey.. You are on your own.

Welcome to Ooty, nice to meet you!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Crush Crush


I must have been fourteen and I was unfortunately destined to study in a boys-only school, throughout my childhood. In those days, St Xavier’s Boys High school, apart from being one of the well known and most popular schools in town, was also equally infamous for being in close proximity to our rivals - The Lourdes Convent Girls High School. The latter which was run by fair Catholic Nuns (mostly from abroad) had a reputation of admitting selective, cheeky and dashy feminine mini-prototypes.  The Jesuit Fathers who managed our school always reserved a sorry feeling for the poor girls. “Indecent bunch of girls who would spoil the next generation” was what they would indirectly term the young girls clad in short, but cute, blue skirts that were deliberately tailored to mandatorily reveal those adorable pair of knees. And for those Catholic Nuns, we boys had a permanent watermark inscribed on our foreheads which read “Uneducated bunch of idiots who have no future”. In spite of this, and many other controversies, any competition between these so called mighty institutes, was always welcome and victory and defeat both were accepted in a positive sense and true spirit of game. Well in the event of any contest, any act of physical drill-thrill was for sure to be won by the boys while the girls always outshone when it was even remotely related to the brain and art! There was always an evident ego-clash in between these two schools, but at all levels, we would make sure that compete healthily. There was never a lack of discipline, thanks to the inflated ego, and it was sheer hard work and commitment that brought victory to whoever won.

Now, well I saw her for the first time during a Independence Day march-past drill. As part of a marching competition, nearby schools gathered and would show off their infantry-like skills. The audience was typically students from the other schools, and their parents and teachers, who were invited specially for the event at the magnanimous PPG (Police Parade Ground) that adorned the sides of the Athwalines Main Road (also knows commonly as National Highway 6). Well, I used to live in a town that was made quite famous by clothes, diamonds and rats. But after the “Rat” event, it successfully emerged as one of the most beautiful cities of the country and PPG was definitely one of the good places to be noticed. Coming back to the march-past, there was always a prize for the best march! More than the prize, what mattered most was the moment of pride that escalated sky high on winning anything against our rivals. Our boys had been ceaselessly winning the series of events since the launch of the yearly marching competition half a decade back. And coincidentally the rival girls always managed to steal the second position. In a perpetual effort to puff up their noses with pride, the holy Fathers always ensured that the Lourdes girls and the Xavier Boys always marched side by side in the final rounds. It becomes an easy decision for the judge, you see. Although the girls would march with rhythm it was quite obvious that the boys would never let their drill master down. I mean how could they? After all those rigorous hours of repeated practice for over a month and not to forget those cane floggings that seemed to adorn our backs, we were sure that we wouldn't make a false move, even remotely! Well, there were a group of 20 students from each school and one leader among them. And that year, I should say my height and my affinity towards the NCC camps, contributed a lot in making me the boys’ scout leader. So with my fellows behind me, I had to lead the team, with the school flag in my proud hands. Before our final round of parade started I looked at my supporting school mates who were clearly spread across the ground. And then I happened to look at my right side to see our enemy leader - the soul whom I ought to be competing with! And boy there she was – an angel dressed in pure white. Not as though we were not in white, but it felt as if her attire was bathed with double the specified amount of “Aaya naya Ujaala, Chaar bundo waala” [A typical whitener advertisement that was quite common in those days]. Dressed to kill!  Perfectly like they say! Perhaps noticing from the corner of her eyes, that I was noticing her, with a genuine grace she too turned her charming face to look at her rival. Oh boy that was supposed to be me!!! The eye contact lasted for less than a second but I was frozen and boy was I knocked off? Yeah I sure was! I then forcibly looked beyond at the audience and I saw the stern grim faces of the harsh Reverends and I was determined not to compromise the school’s objectives. With the start of Ready Steady…Go!!! [They might have said “Ready Steady Wall” if it were to happen today. It seems I have been watching a hell lot of POGO channel these days, which unfortunately was non-existent then] and we (the leaders) were marching side by side, at a distance of course, on the brushed jaded red carpet along with the band and music with young scouts following behind in perfect gesture.  

Now as we crossed the chief guest, we - that is only the scout leaders, were supposed to look towards him and bend our respective flags sideways as a mark of honor, as they generally do, and give a gaze to the audience without moving your heads. The stare would have to be the typical military look-kinda stuff and it generally spelled out the commitment and confidence. And heck, why did the chief guest have to be on our Right? Although I tried my best to avoid looking at this beautiful vault in between my team and the audience, my eyes seemed to automatically relocate and lock-focus on our rival leader! Within exactly ten seconds, that is the time by when we would have passed the seated chief guest, we had to straighten our flag and look affront again. But boy, I had fallen in instant love. Like they say, when you are in love, each second seems like an era, and it sure did. And now, completely lost, I was looking at the perfection of those beautiful pair of eyes and the perfect eyebrows and the dimpled chin and the cheeks that were seemingly shouting out aloud “Kiss me, Kiss me” Was I looking at an angel? But wait a minute, “Wasn't she supposed to be looking right towards the chief guest? Why is she looking straight ahead” Suddenly I got a rude kick on the back of my shin from the guy behind me, and it brought be back to the real world. For a split of a second I was mad at this crazy guy coz I somehow thought he had spoiled the entire rhythm of the march with a seemingly wrong step. But ouch! Reality Bites! I just understood why she was not looking right, and why I got the kick in the first place. By now, I was a good one minute late in turning my head straight (and of course straightening the flag.) The march ended soon and as fate would have it, we lost the very first prize for the very first time to whom else, but the rival girls! I couldn't justify the reason for the one minute delay to a bunch of idiots who would not understand what that feeling felt like for the entire minute. Back in school, I was invited on stage and given the royal treatment for my stupid act and for embarrassing the school’s reputation so drastically. But even while I was feeling the wriggling pain, back in my mind, I knew that those “Sixty seconds” were a thousand times worth the punishment. And the first prize was my first and last gift, especially and carefully wrapped with love (the first-sight types), to a beautiful person, who I never even knew.

Well, what happened next is quite opposite to what could have happened in a typical Karan-Johar film. I never ever got to know her name and we never ever happened to cross our paths. I remember cursing my serendipity a real lot those days, for around a year. In fact I even waited patiently a couple of times for long stints outside the Lourdes Convent School, under the pretext of buying something that would never be available in the nearby shops, in anticipation to see one more accidental glimpse of that pretty face. But I never succeeded and eventually I had to close this chapter forever. Well at that time, I never realized what that strange feeling was, but later at some point of time in my life, I got to know that she would probably have been my first crush or love or infatuation… Whatever!!!

Today, as yet another Independence Day passed by, and as I look back almost fifteen years back into the pages of my life, I could still see how she looked like! The lingering memories almost incidentally reproduce the freshness, as if it were all happening just now!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Worth a Read

Worth a Read

I recently came across two good blogs:   Meera's Blog and Annie's Blog

And I thought I should try and spread the word. I usually love to appreciate good writers. And I really hope these two bloggers manage to dedicate some time to this wonderful art called writing!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Maple Leaves and Little Hearts

Goodbye Uncle Sam...

It was a typical weekend. I was looking outside the window, watching the beautiful girls in short skirts across the street. They were playing their usual basketball. Being a Saturday  I had woken up pretty late - around seven-ish, got fresh and had indulged myself with a hot cup of chocolate. Relaxing at the living room couch, I was trying to watch life through those huge French windows that almost covered the entire wall. Paige, (I think that was what they called her at home), lived bang opposite to our apartment. She was one little sweetheart I always secretly admired. It was painful to see her fail repeatedly as she tried her best to aim the ball back into the basket. The size of the ball was much bigger than her itsy-bitsy head, but she never gave up hope. Paige looked much more colorful and way too lively for her age. The colorful clips and rubber bands that clinged tightly to her hair, reminded me of my crayons. When I was young, I always used to paint with all possible colors. It would make my stick-man look like a rainbow. It would make my mountains look like a fruit market. And it would make my sky look like a grassland. 

And today happened to be the first day of October. Autumn was just setting in. I could notice a couple of ripe leaves letting go every now and then from the trees in the front-yard  Well, it was nothing like the peak of fall, when the lightest breeze would be strong enough to shower a bunch of leaves. Of all the trees around, the transformation on the maple tree in front of her home deserved attention. Watching the green change into yellow and then orange and red and all the blending of ripe colors in between.. aaaaaaah it was such a lovely sight indeed. Apart from the bird house that hung on that particular maple tree, there was another reason why the maple leaves had left a strong mark on my heart. And that was ever since I saw the winning entry at the local library crafts competition. Little Paige had made a beautiful card adorned with ugly scribbling and a faded maple leaf. It was supposed to be a struggling replication of a valentine's day card, but it had done it's job well. The words in particular had stole my heart (and I am sure that was the only reason why the judges rated her the best). Just beneath the leaves, it read - "Caring is good and loving is better. But it is sharing that is the best.. because you can't share if you can't love and you can't share if you can't care". Although the beauty of the card was lost in the crowd, it had made an impact. Sadly not many were old enough (or mature enough) to appreciate the delicate efforts put in by this 6 year old for creating such a beautiful masterpiece. 

Anyways, today was somewhat different from any other day. I knew I would never be watching Paige again. I have to say  goodbye to Uncle Sam (or the United States) My flight was scheduled to depart later today. I just had around half a day left. Our short stay here was coming to a halt. The decision to finally pack our bags and get back to a place called good old Home came all of a sudden and out of the blue. I could call it circumstances, or maybe thoughtful thinking, or perhaps even a foolish decision. But I think it would be best to simply call it destiny. New York had of course been such a cozy and happening place. And I had actually started getting fond of Long Island. Ever since I came to know that the character - Ross Geller (of the F-R-I-E-N-D-S TV Show) was born and brought up in Long Island, I had started cherishing the place where I used to live. Surrounded by the Atlantic ocean from three sides, the long strip of the island had a sultry yet blissful climate. Living here was like a dream come true. And the dream was now coming to the end. It was now or never. We realized that we were getting adapted to the US culture and it was getting more and more difficult for us to break free. The roots were creeping down the soil and soon we would have ended up as resident aliens. I hate that term because as outsiders in the United States, you are either a temporary alien or a permanent alien. You are either a non-resident alien or a resident alien  The fact is that you will always remain an alien. No matter how rich you become, or how friendly you are, you cannot possibly win all their hearts. Racism or no Racism, we cannot change the color of our skins and we would always remain brownies. And that's a truth that many Indians abroad take with a pinch of salt. They won't admit it, but deep in their hearts they feel out-of-the-place. But they still love their own motherland deeply, because if that were not true, you can not ever justify the long queues at the Patel Brothers grocery store, where they line up to buy Parle-G biscuits, turmeric powder, gulab jamuns and curry leaves  Be it New York, be it Chicago, be it California or be it Texas, they won't mind driving hundreds of miles to get a touch of ethnicity. Even if it comes with a handsome price!

Coming back to to the point, I had to say yet another goodbye. But frankly I did not want to say goodbye to Paige, because I knew it would bring tears. Not in her eyes, but for sure in mine. I did not want to miss this lively little girl. Experience has taught me that letting go can be very cruel at times and that too for no logical reasons. But life has got to move on. That's the rule. And like it or not, we all have to live by that rule. And as the girls finished their game and went inside, I shut the drapes and started to vacuum the carpet one last time. The apartment had to be returned to the landlord clean and neat, the same way it was when we first rented them. That day breakfast and lunch had to be from Mac Donald's because we had disposed almost everything that we had and packed the rest to take back as souvenir. 

By late noon. the taxi driver had come for the pick-up. We secured our large baggage safely and waved goodbye to the kind neighbors and friends and I was glad Paige was not there. We started off for the airport. I felt a bit odd having to sit at the passenger's seat after what it seemed like ages to me. As the driver cruised through the Southern Parkway, we kept looking around trying to capture one last glimpse of the memories before it gets faded for ever. It took less than an hour to reach the JFK international terminal number 4 and we got down and unloaded the baggage from the mini-van. The driver was a Pakistani and he thanked me with an As-Salamu Alaykum when I gave him a 20$ tip. I knew it would be my last chance to give a tip in dollars and I wanted to be as graceful as I could possibly be. 

As we entered the huge terminal gates with our luggage, it felt as if we were crossing a time-warp  It suddenly felt like our first day at the US. Confused, baffled, scared and lonely. But one look at the huge LCD screens which displayed the departure flights for the day, and we could easily find our destination listed out there.  So we mustered up our courage, put aside our emotions and then checked in our baggage. The official procedures were completed quickly, and we were among the first to be done with the security scans. The airport staff at JFK were well known for patting the passengers during the manual checks. But I seriously wondered what was the fuss in that. It is nothing compared to what we get when we board the crowded public transportation vehicles back home in India. Anyways after an hour's wait at the passenger lounge, we were asked to get on-board a yellow low floor bus that would take us near the destined aircraft which would eventually fly us back home. As I climbed the escalators, I could feel a pinch deep in my heart. I did not know whether it tasted sweet or if it tasted bitter. I think it tasted bitter-sweet.

In less than half an hour, the announcements were made on board the flight by the Captain and soon we were ready for take off. The plane started taxying on the runway and before I could blink the plane took off. Closing my eyes while trying to adjust with the increasing G-force, I mentally relaxed for a while. When I opened my eyes I couldn't figure out the sun anywhere, maybe coz it was evening and we were on the east coast. But down below I could see the Atlantic Ocean covering almost all the view, and the wide horizon had a silver lining.  

And finally..... we were on our way back home!

Memoirs from the U.S.A.