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Seasons

“People usually fixate on how Delhi has only two seasons, the pinching heat of summer and the scathing cold of winter. Their premise is neither completely wrong nor completely right but for a person like me who loves the very onset of winter, there exists four. The two additions are very short in nature; they tend to disappear before we could realize their surreal existence. It was in March of ’96 when I made my first addition.

I was born and brought up in Delhi but the transition between winter and summer remained unacknowledged until then. It wasn’t a blink and a miss phenomenon; it took its own sweet time to mature while providing the time for us to adapt. But I only noticed it when I fell in love with Priya.

I and Priya had been studying in the same college and were from the same department but we had never really spoken with one another until our penultimate year in college. Project Work as it had been labelled back then was the glue which started it all for us. We were grouped together, with a deadline which spanned throughout the winter holidays while ending with a strict date of submission on 5th of March. I do remember the date, why wouldn’t I? You always remember the day for which you have prepared helter-skelter for; mind you, I wasn’t talking about the submission.

Despite having ample time to complete the project, we spent our winter holidays cozying up in our blankets while playing the occasional hand cricket with our siblings. It was in January when we felt the first buzz; it was a silent roar from the other groups who were tottering around the city to collect fodder for our respective projects. The progress of Jaykar’s group spread like wild fire, catching all of us unprepared. It was on one such day in January that I had received a call on my neighbour’s landline, the only telephone in our entire three storied building. Sunitha Aunty knocked at our door, informing us that there was a girl named Priya on the call.

We met the following evening near our college. It was a group of four, out of which three had turned up. I don’t remember my exact words but I do know that she smiled. It was the first time when I noticed how beautiful her eyes were; they were special, atleast to me. She came up with an idea to work at her father’s garage as the cold had made it unbearable to work outside. We kept sipping her home made coffee day after the other for the entire month which she occasionally bragged being the best in the world. “You should try coffee in Chennai; it’s an out of the world experience” she often used to say. While we continued pouring in our efforts for an early completion, atleast Sakshi was eager to. She had her sister’s wedding in February and therefore wanted the project to end as soon as possible. May be that was the reason why she seemed to agree on everything; she never pointed or raised any doubts even if the work was outlandish in nature.

But whatsoever the fruits of our hard work remained unrealized as we were in month of February and the project was not even half way through. Sakshi had ditched us for the wedding while Aman remained as usual irregular. That’s the time when I and Priya actually bonded. The winter had slowly started to recede while we began to venture outside her father’s garage through our long strolls in the nearby park. The conversations were always deep between us but it became longer with those walks. The sun began to set late, the days became longer, while I & Priya found more time to be together. The transition was gradual but unlike the climate, I noticed it at the very first instant.

It was on the 5th of March that I had decided to tell her what I felt. I spent more time in front of the mirror than behind the books in preparing for the viva, and once we were done submitting, I asked her to accompany me to the college cafeteria where I finally professed my feelings which she gracefully reciprocated with her cheerful nod of acceptance. It wasn’t a kind of jubilation that I had felt back then but it was a sense of assurance that I had found. An assurance, that she felt the same as I had always felt for her, an assurance that felt like bliss for the very first time.

But seasons change. So did us. It was in month of October’00 when I acknowledged the second and the final addition in my season list, autumn. It was a sudden phenomenon, and it began when our four year old relationship ended abruptly.”

#Tara&RyanSeries

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The Antagonist

“Humanity, love for a fellow human being, is it some sort of a bargain we have to dish out every time we meet or converse with an another. Does it come out naturally to us or is it forced upon, like the innumerable veils we garb ourselves with. Couldn’t we just enforce a default and forget paying back the goodwill which others generously spend on us. Why can’t we treat it as an economic good, scare and non-renewable, using it only when we generate profit from it. Isn’t manipulation a quality? Why is it seen as a crime? Why do people see me as a misfit when they do what I do but only implicitly? It’s a strange world out there.”

The invisible thoughts flew around one after the other as I finally kept the nib up and rounded the diary back to the shelf. I had bigger things to focus upon, bigger for the moment I was in. It would be my 5th robbery today and the art seemed to flow naturally for me. Despite being only twenty, I already had a high reputation in my circle to live up to. Coming to repute, let me make one thing clear, I am no robin hood, which I think you have already figured. I have no remorse at what I do, nothing whatsoever. Though I do keep my count, the number of things I messed up during previous heists, the ones I should avoid this time. I keep looking for that perfect score, the invisible stature where I would walk in and walk out, unknown, untouched, like I was never there. But anyways that’s the dream.

Tonight, I had circled on the house at the corner, the one with the beautiful garden. Something I haven’t told you yet, I had wanted to become a florist when I was a little kid before I was pushed into our family business. It wasn’t exactly a push, it came naturally to me, may be that’s the reason I started early. Please don’t mind these thoughts; they keep flying by. Coming to the house I was talking about. It had been locked for over a couple of weeks. I inquired around, they all seem to say that it would take another week for the family to get back. That night as I lay inside on the sofa, watching my favourite serial “FRIENDS” on my iPad, I heard a chatter from outside.

“Dad, please open the door. I can’t hold it anymore.”

“Darling, be a good girl. Dad is trying to find the keys.” Tara replied.

“Ah, there it is!”
Ryan opened the door as Arya pushed her father and stormed inside.

“Careful, the lights…” Ryan stopped in between as his eyes lay upon the lighted iPad in the dark living room. There were series of laughters that were coming out from it.

Ryan went for the lights while Tara went to take a look at the puzzled activity on the sofa. The lights came on while I stood behind Tara with my knife on her throat. Ryan stood startled as Arya rushed and clutched onto her father’s leg in shock.

“Don’t come close!” I shouted.

“Leave her right now. Take whatever you want, but leave her.” Ryan shouted back.
“If I say I also want her then?”

“Joey doesn’t share food” the iPad roared.

“You fucked up shit. How dare you!” Ryan charged ahead.

“Stay where you are Mr. Ryan. Am I not in the position of strength?” As I kept the knife even more closer, drawing the first blood. Tara screamed in pain, her eyes were tensed but she didn’t mumble a single word.

“Please. Leave her! I am sorry, leave her.”

“You sound genuine! So little girl what should I do now?” Ryan kept moving his daughter behind himself. She was inconsolable, crying loudly in a shrieking voice.

“Ask her to shut up. I hate kids when they cry.”

“Please leave her. Take whatever you want, please.”

“Okay. I see you have a point.” Smiling at the irony as the song plays out from the tab, “I will be there for you…”

I took the bag from his hands, and moved towards his car still holding the knife on his wife. I asked her to sit beside quietly. She kept quiet, who wouldn’t when you have a knife on your throat. Ryan was pleading to leave her alone, but I wasn’t yet sure of their loyalty. I heard none of what they said, and whistled past the place with the bag and Tara. Ryan did run behind the vehicle but I think the vehicle was faster, indeed it should be, horse power you see.

It was only in the morning, Tara returned home. She wasn’t her normal self anymore. Though her clothes were untouched and she carried no injury, her eyes screamed in pain, as if something broke within her and wouldn’t possibly glue forever. “Only if they hadn’t returned home that night, things might have been much different, only if”, she thought.

#Tara&Ryan

Thirtieth Anniversary

“She appeared from behind, slowly measuring her steps before she took them. The crowd stood agitated in front of her house while she stood before them, head down. Between her and the crowd stood her father and Ram. The noise grew louder with every dialogue her father and the crowd spoke, ultimately it was her father who had the last say. The villagers returned back to their humble huts but a decision was still not taken. Her father had to approve of Ram which was in no case easy. He belonged to a different region, a different caste, and most importantly even his parents weren’t in agreement with him in this. This made the matters more complicated but Sita was determined. She spoke to her father animatedly, spoke for the man she loved at par with her father. It wasn’t something easily digestible for the village headman, her father, but he heard her patiently while Ram stood at one corner. He glanced at him, but both men shared no words. It was Sita who did most of the talking, only to be stopped by her father to bring Ram in front. Sita looked at Ram with tense eyes, of not knowing what was to unfold now, whether her father would approve the match. It was their decision, together, to marry only if both their families agreed. Now there were thoughts in Sita’s mind questioning that decision, especially after what just happened a little while ago.

The sight of charging villagers with lathi in their hand, standing in unison with their Thakur Saab wasn’t a pleasant sight for both of them. Ram had tried initially to convince Sita’s father but Thakur was in no mood to listen. He shouted at Sita at peak of his voice while the crowd jingoistically held their lathis high to make a strike. Thakur was able to understand the mood of the mob better as one among the mob yelled out, “Thakur Saab, give us a chance we will beat this scoundrel to death.” While yet another screamed out, time and again, “Kill him!!!”. Thakur Saab with a loud and clear voice yelled at the mob to disperse. “It’s up to me to decide. You all go back home, right now.” They tried to resist his words initially but no one dared to go against Thakur. They silently turned back and walked towards their huts.

Finally Ram spoke again, unrestrained as he usually does, it sounded intimidating to even Sita. But Thakur wasn’t the one to be cowed down by Ram’s rhetoric. The discussion turned into a debate with no man relinquishing their ground, they toed each other on every issue. After almost half hour, the men sat down on their respective chairs. This time the talk went more subtle, and humble. It was Thakur who relented first, Ram only realised it late that it was his turn to mellow. By that time Thakur had asked for two large glasses of lassi for one another. They slowly gulped it down along with their over expressive ego. It was dusk when Thakur finally agreed about Ram; Sita was sitting along with her father, throughout the conversation, facing Ram. She hadn’t moved an inch, it was her future which was at stake. Now their dream of being together was finally coming through, Sita let out a big smile as her father ended his sentence with a ‘Yes’.

Sita kept smiling as her eyes remained transfixed at Ram while Ram had his eyes always on Sita, especially when he thought he was faltering in the conversation. Her eyebrows rose in fear every time she felt Ram crossed the line, and Ram toned down the conversation as he saw that expression on her. Those little unsaid things which the other understood by a mere expression became the defining factor of their relationship over the years. They weren’t the vocal kind who held long conversations with the other in the name of romance, it wasn’t their thing. They belonged to a different category all together, the ones who were willing to just sit idly in front of each other, without even speaking a word, and still not get bored. That special was their bond, something which words could never define, something which one could feel but fail time and again to describe. Today would have been their thirtieth wedding anniversary but things never pan out the way they should.

Ram settled down on his usual seat near Sita’s favourite place, the one facing Mount Shalimar. He reminisced those moments leading to their marriage as a tear rolled down his cheek. Five years is a long time, but his Sita Mahalaxmi was not someone he could forget so easily. Ram never tried to either; he lived with those memories, some brought about a smile and some like today, brought out an odd tear. Isha, his only daughter, walked towards him, “Shall we leave, Dad?”. He didn’t reply. She asked again,”Dad?”.

“Sorry!” He brought out his handkerchief and wiped the silent tear gently. Then responded with a low voice, “You go ahead, I will join you for dinner.” Isha looked at her father for a brief moment, then asked Anwar Chacha to make sure that he doesn’t stay for long. And then she left while Ram Shankar sat back on the bench, losing himself all over again in the memories he had created with Sita. But sadly he was all alone to relive them over and over again.”

#JourneyCalledLife

#Series4/many

The beginning of our fall

“I am scared Ryan! What if..” “You must relax Tara. All will be well. We are almost there at the hospital. Try holding on for a while.”

She had asked me stay back home, she knew that she wasn’t alright. It was her last trimester and I should have been there next to her but I wasn’t. I had these dreams of building a perfect future for our kid, a world which we couldn’t receive. I never realised how carried away I would become. I never did, even then.

We luckily reached on time, and all went well. Our daughter Arya was born. She had her mothers eyes, those curious little ones which followed me wherever I went.

But now when I reminiscence the day, I could clearly sense that something broke between me and Tara. She didn’t actually confront me but I could see it in her eyes. I had let her down, and it became the beginning of our fall.

#EpisodesOfLove  #Tara&Ryan

The First Night

Marriages are mostly arranged in India. Mine was no different. It was in the fall of 1999, I had been working for a civil consulting firm for the past four years and was ready to take the big step of marriage. I had a failed relationship when I was in college; the heart break had left me shattered for years. I just didn’t have the courage or the excitement to move on. The pain was pretty intense initially but it waned way with time, slowly bit by bit. Now when I was ready to get hitched, a small part of me became curious, the one which badly wanted to fall in love all over again. That’s when Tara happened to me. She and I had met only a couple of times before we got married. We didn’t get a chance of getting to know each other more, it was only after marriage that we realised how perfect we were for each other.

The first night together is always the most awkward phase in any arranged marriage. I remember Tara walking in with the trademark glass of milk in her hand. Her hands were shivering as she placed the glass on the table and sat right next to me. We both were nervous and we both didn’t know what to speak then.

“What do you know about me, Tara?” I passed a line to break the silence.

“That you work for a consulting firm and you’re a talented civil engineer.”

“About my personality, my character?” I stressed. Her eyes moved curiously towards me.

“I think…that you love speaking a lot. You didn’t give me a chance to speak back then when we met.” She had a sigh of relief as she finally muttered those words. I on the other hand was a little shocked but pleasantly happy. She was finally speaking up and it was my turn to reciprocate.

“You had those curious eyes stuck on me, just the way you have them now. Every time I finished a statement, your expression remained the same so I thought you were expecting more. And so I went on!”

“You have a nice voice Ryan. It felt like I have heard your voice somewhere. It was like a deja vu for me. That’s why that expression I believe.”

“Thank you. That’s a first. Where did you hear me before?”

“Do the math engineer. Where could our lives possibly intersect?”

“I had attended an event in your college. But I don’t know whether you were there in the audience. We were staging a play and I was the narrator. That’s the only connect I can think of. I moved to Delhi, and you to Bangalore.” Still thinking where else she could have heard me.

“Do you remember the host for the event?”

“I don’t, to be frank. But there surely was a lot of hooplah by my friends about the cute host. I on the other hand was busy on my phone, narrating every detail to my ex.”

“You are bang on. But I didn’t knew that I also got compliments! I was too scared of my saree, I had worn it for the first time.” She paused for a while, then continued as she passed me the milk and picked up an apple for herself.

“Ex? What happened, if you don’t mind?”

“Not a problem, it was a long time ago. We broke up after college. Long distance doesn’t work in my case. To be honest it took me time to get over her. It was one of the most difficult periods of my life. I had so gotten used to her company that after we fell apart, I found no one to share them with. My stories, my emotions, I just couldn’t handle them.”

“Then how did you cope?”

“I don’t know. But one thing is for sure, time does heal. I found my voice through my blogs, I tried to showing my emotions in open. I slowly tweaked my quality to become more of an extrovert. It wasn’t easy but I had already made up my mind to make things work. So I think they finally did.”

“That was deep!”

“I have a habit of going deeper in conversations. Hope you don’t mind.”

“I am similar on that note.” She added.

“Tell me your story? Boyfriend?”

“Where do I start?”

“That seems like a long list!” I tried my humour but all I got was a blank expression from her. She sat down near me, after placing back the jewels, with a dead pan expression, looking straight at the wall in front.

“No Ryan. Akash was the only one.”

“What happened then?”

There were tears that started to appear. She spoke slowly and finally uttered, “He is no more.”

“What? How?…Sorry.”

“It was three years ago. There was a car accident, a lorry had rammed into his vehicle. And I didn’t see him again.”

“I had just spoken to him an hour before then. I never knew that it would be our last. I never knew that.”

“I am sorry Tara. I really am.”

“Don’t be Ryan. I am okay now. He is the reason for me starting my NGO, “Rakshak”. It deals with implementing better rules and infrastructure for road safety. We are working with the government to get the Act together, and if brought in & passed by the house it would be revolutionary Ryan.”

“I now remember. I saw your interview in “The Hindu”, Tara. You have wonderful ideas lady, I hope your dream succeeds.”

“Thank you Ryan. Won’t you be supporting me?”

“Always will, always.”

“You still thinking about Akash?” She enquired.

“Yeah. See I will try making one thing clear Tara. I won’t try to take the place what you have for Akash; I won’t ask or compel you to forget him. He is part of you and I respect that.”

I could see her eyes get moist again; she had those curious eyes back on me. She wiped away the tears and made herself comfortable on the sofa.

“Come here Ryan. Are you tired or can you narrate a story to me?”

I smiled as I sat to her left, and narrated the story I know the best. Her expressions, I could never forget them, they were the most beautiful ones I have ever seen. She had her giggle going for her, and I saw her finally the way I always hoped her to be, smiling. The conversation went long; we moved from one story to another but managed to keep our curiosity burning high even after the exhausting talk.  That night we shared a sofa, like all friends do. She dozed off on one end while I on the other. We woke up with a smile for eternity in our eyes but never knew that we would end up divorcing each other eight years later.

I got up from my seat as I saw her coming. It felt like she hadn’t aged at all, the twinkle in her eyes remained alive for me. Though we did have our share of grey hair, but a date was a date. That too after ten long years since we separated. I decided to narrate what I knew the best, and she was all ears to the old story of mine which she had heard enumerable times before. Her curious eyes remained the same, even after eighteen years since that night of our marriage. So I began.

#Tara&Ryan
#EpisodesOfLove

The Separation

“I sat down, recollecting and refurbishing the details of our last encounter. The time froze as the thoughts poured in to the floating phrases that I had been left to deal with. I closed my eyes, and finally allowed them the space to regroup into a complete whole for me to understand. The play was disturbing; the first thought that sparked reminded me of the void she had left, years ago. It’s really strange that the first possible thought we get when we meet someone, who used to be close, is the one of departure, the one that actually hurts.

It was raining heavily that day; cyclone warning had been issued and the landfall was expected in the next 6 hours. I still remember the frantic calls she had made to my office and how easily I had brushed them aside. She kept telling me to come home soon but I had an important client to satisfy. The deal would have been a big boost to my company, it would have sent us to the next level and I was too ambitious to avoid that. The last call that I received from her was on 8:05 P.M. There were 12 missed calls from her in total. When I finally gave her a call an hour later, the lines were left jammed. I kept trying her phone but all I could hear was how unreachable she was. I didn’t leave hope, as I frantically called her number every other minute, but signal was nowhere to be found.

I left the office in a hurry, managed my way through the overflowing flood to finally reach home. The lights were cut off, the house door was left open. The water had seeped in and all the items were floating in the verandah. I sensed my daughter’s teddy bear near my leg, while her favourite red dress was flowing away in to the main road. I couldn’t control my anxiety any more; the endless thoughts were running amok in my head. All of them related to their safety but I couldn’t find a trace of that in the house. I enquired with the neighbours but nobody was able to answer. I leaned towards the wall and seated myself with the tears that began to flow; it even beat the rain that stopped half a day later.

Next day, I reached my friend’s place after I received a text from her about Tara and Arya.

“Is she safe? How is Arya? Where are they?”

“They are upstairs.” She replied.

As I made my way towards the stairs, my friend stopped me with words that shook my world and left me shattered in a second.

“She wants divorce Ryan. She can’t handle you anymore.”

I didn’t want to believe those words, my Tara can never do that to me. I know my selfish self was talking again, but some characters in us are really difficult to be plucked.

I went ahead with the stairs and knocked her door only to hear the same words from Tara. The only difference was that this one broke my heart to pieces which I was sure would be never fixed again. I could hear my daughter sob from a distance but I wasn’t allowed inside the room. The door remained shut despite my endless protests. I didn’t realise then that the door would be bolted for me forever.

We signed the divorce papers the next Wednesday, and the last sight I remember of my daughter was in the court where her mother took the custody from me forever.

Today after ten long years, I saw Tara again.”

#EpisodesOfLove
#Tara&Ryan

Heartfelt (Part-2)

Written for a competition by Times of India.

This is the continuation of the earlier part which I posted yesterday. 

Ten years had passed since our first kiss, we had many fights like any other couple but we did love each other more than any other couple we knew. But we dared to say it in public that we loved each other like lovers because we knew that our parents will never accept and our society will never permit. It was always a closed affair, there were many rumours about us but we never cared, we never did. She was my pillar of strength, she was the reason for my hard work which eventually paid off as I got selected for Junior Nationals in 100m and 200m sprint. Those were happy days, I thought to myself.

Finally we decided to tell our parents about our uncanny love for each other, we wanted to live together somewhere but with their permission. It was she who broke the news first, she did expect her parent’s reaction but what shocked her was their action. They disbanded her out of their sight, locked her up in a room and then found the earliest match for her to get married to. They forced her to a point where she couldn’t refuse, and the only options left with her were to elope or to forget me forever.

There we were, seeing our worlds shatter in a single day; I was sobbing in her arms but she comparatively was more strong and determined to get us out of this mess. I told her that my mother had thrown me out of her house; she felt I was a disgrace to her and she even said that she would have been happier if I wasn’t even born to her in first place. As Sakshi heard my side of the story, she came close and hugged me while I held her tightly as I felt that this might be our last. She tried to console me, by telling me about the times worse than this and how we had emerged victorious then. But I knew it in my heart then that this would be it; this would be the one which would break us into pieces and I knew she felt the same.

Suddenly out of nowhere, a black colour Innova appeared and her parents walked out. She knew her time was up, so she hugged me tight for one last time and she left. I never saw her again after that.

I never knew what happened with her later. Whenever I tried to find something out about her, I was always met with a deep silence. She just disappeared leaving a number of rumours which I started to believe in with passing of time; some said she married and left, some said she went abroad and some even went to the extent by saying she committed suicide. I knew she would never do that, I only hoped she would be happy wherever she was.

I felt like a broken glass, a dying soul who was searching for a new meaning in her life. There were always murmurs of me being a lesbian but it fell into deaf ears when she was there with me but now, I had started to take them seriously. I tried hiding behind an invisible veil; I tried becoming someone who I wasn’t, may be it was to escape the humiliation by the society or maybe I didn’t have the strength anymore to fight them all alone. I only missed her more in all this and that made me miserable. So with the passage of time I tried keeping myself occupied ,24×7, and the only option for me was to run.

I had qualified for the senior nationals in 100 m and 200 m race, and as the procedure went by, I had to undergo many medical tests which I cleared by flying colours, except one thing. The very thing which my mom never told, the thing which said I had two hearts connected in one me. Initially I felt this was some kind of a joke, but when I really understood its meaning, I didn’t really know whether to be happy or sad. I just remained numb. The news had become public, and suddenly the Kolhapur express was the main headline of every news channel, making me an instant public celebrity.

Days passed by, and a strange request knocked my door. It was from a major celebrity who had been hospitalised for several days because of his weak heart. He was pretty famous around the globe, they said he was the man who knew infinity; some said he was better than Ramanujan. The doctors had found that I was among the few who could save me. They said my heart would fit perfect for him and it would be wonderful if I could help. They even went ahead to say, that the operation would carry no danger to me.

My mother rejected it on the face, but she knew that I took my decisions on my own. So she left it for me to decide.

I turned aside, trying to pull myself back from the memory spiral which I had fallen into a while ago. I tried focussing but I felt only pain and anger which I had stored for years now. I didn’t want to help the society who had taken Sakshi away from me and left me discarded for their whims and fancies. I just didn’t want to; but somewhere inside my heart I knew that this wasn’t the ending I deserved. I knew that deep down, I was still that sweet girl who had so much love left for this world, who treated every day as a special, the same sweet girl who I had locked inside after Sakshi left and disappeared into thin air.

Next day, I passed on a message to my mother that I was ready for the donation. She was shell shocked, she tried to convince me but I was adamant. I was holding a piece of paper which Sakshi had given it to me before she left. Tears filled up my eyes, as my mother read the message to me while I lost myself in her memories, smiling faintly with a satisfaction of finally achieving peace with myself.

“Dear Rhea,

I want you to remember this thing that it’s not the world which we have to make peace with, it’s with oneself that matters. It’s not what others do for you which matters but what you do for them which matters more. Don’t curse others for our present; they might never understand our purity of love, but that doesn’t mean we have to spread hatred like them. It’s up to us to spread the message of love, the one which we understood when we were together, and the very one which made us come together. I won’t budge a day to do that, you don’t either. Let’s celebrate and make people aware, that love is free and could be between anyone irrespective of their gender, caste or race.

I love you Rhea, always forever.

Yours Sakshi”