Monday, 30 June 2014


She was always like a concave receptacle that received and soaked in every word that was spoken to her, until she sank to her bottom, like a wet and heavy sponge that had been saturated with too many memories to remain afloat.
The nagging, accusing voices of the world were forever stuck in her ears, the syllables striking at her heart and conscience like blades of sturdy metal swords. She knew that this was a point of no return, and that nothing would ever be the same again.
Her kajal fled her eyes with every teardrop streaking across her face, making sorrowful tattoos that made her reflection in the large mirror before her look rather ghostly and manic.
With every molecule in her body, she wished for every single memory to vanish and leave her brain forever. Somehow, there was a deeper solace in unhappiness and misery. An ignorant person would immediately have labeled her a masochist, but she knew, her condition was more complicated than that.
She had a mental switch, that sat like a time bomb in her brain, going on and off, on its own accord, or maybe because of certain chemicals that decided to wreak havoc with her conscious mind. Her bipolarity had always been very apparent, even when she was a child; but in the recent past, it rose like a tidal wave engulfing her entire life.
She had called her condition her "arch enemy", that seemed to be the cause behind every single disappointment she had thus far had to deal with. Every time she tried to rise above it, taking her pills on time, sleeping for longer hours, eating healthy just like Dr. Derozio advised, until she would reach a day when she felt as though she had perhaps finally conquered this terrible disease. This fleeting glimpse of victory was enough impetus for her to ignore her lithium, and even a day of negligence would result in painful payment that stretched on for weeks. Horrid painful weeks that she would end up spending fastened to a bed at Dr. Derozio's mental healthcare facility.
Every time before that mental switch would go on, she had noticed how a few days prior to that she would feel a sudden spike in her energy levels. She would feel overjoyed at the slightest and silliest things, smiling on for hours and walking with a visibly bouncy, happy step.
And then with the passage of time, gradually, she started associating these 'happy spurts' with inevitable bouts of being terribly depressed and angst-ridden. When she became that version of herself, she no longer knew or cared about anyone. Her words became poisonous and mean, and off late, she had showed signs of violence too, and especially towards those that she otherwise cared for very deeply when she was herself.
It felt safer to be miserable and in tears. At least she was aware, awake and in-charge of her senses.

But what had just happened, what she had just done, was beyond being simply labeled as violent behaviour. This was beyond redemption, beyond anything that could be treated with lithium and banished from her system, albeit only for a while.
Her action had been able to turn that nasty switch in her head off, for the very first time, and she suddenly saw the scene through her own eyes, feeling as if though she had only just been magically transported to the spot she stood at.
She stared at her own reflection with the disheveled hair, the irregular trails of black kajal that ran across her cheeks in an unruly manner, the steady stream of panicked tears that trickled down her eyes as if the floodgates had been left open.
And she stared at her white hospital gown, stained scarlet with fresh blood, and at her own hands that were now the hands of a murderess. Dr. Derozio's corpse lay before her, his head bleeding profusely from the fatal blow that her own alter ego had evidently delivered.
She did not blink; her eyes were wide open, pupils dilated, breathing shallow.
The nurses and hospital staff burst inside her room. There was yelling and screaming, several slaps and punches delivered to her face and body.
"YOU KILLED HIM, YOU BLOODY BITCH! YOU KILLED HIM!" yelled someone at her, as some pairs of arms held her firmly, still afraid that she might just go ahead and kill someone else as well.
They dragged her away, and injected what she believed to be a sedative--for which she was grateful.
Her life clearly was a lost cause; there was nothing left to do, nothing left to be.

In her state of sedation, she dreamed of a beach kissed by gentle waves that played with her feet. The sun shone like a big ball of solid gold; she smiled at herself and at a seagull as it flew past her.
The world was a happy, joyful place without any people, any judgement, any fears, any diseases. There was no one to hurt or harm. She was free.
As long as she was asleep, she wasn't a mentally deranged murderess. She was just a free girl.

Friday, 27 June 2014


Between conversations
And deliberations, loomed a pause
Pregnant with your silence
Because you filled it
With the fruit of your mind
As if it were nothing but
An empty vessel to receive and collect,
Like an aqueduct
Pouring life from one page
To the next...
Giving shape and form
To an idea you stole
From the lips of the lady
Who stole your lover...
Like an empty house
After the residents have moved
To a brighter habitat,
Leaving behind the ghost
Of forgotten laughter
And secret escapades--
The ideas left your mind
And poured out on paper--
Sepia and solid
Like old photographs
That hide in attics...
They became a tangible work of art,
To live and to give birth
To other pregnant pauses
So that silence may turn into art
And truth may turn into fiction...

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

An Interesting Breakfast

This morning, breakfast was a rather unusual affair for me. Unlike the familiar routine of sitting on the dining table with a bowl of cereal and the newspaper for company, I had the rare chance of dining with a military intelligence officer.
Uncle B is one of my father's oldest friends and a highly decorated intelligence officer who has served the country for over twenty-five years. I had never had the chance to meet him before (owing to his profession), so the first few minutes of conversation were general ice-breakers.
As we both warmed up to each other and questions regarding my future plans started to pop up, I decided that it was only fair that I ask him the same.
"Do you still have to go for field operations, Uncle B?" I asked, rather timidly.
"Oh no, I don't have to do that anymore. I've been there and done that now!" he said with a casual wave of the hand. I imagined him hunting down and killing terrorists and evil enemies-of-state, and the thought was unnerving and simultaneously enchanting.
Uncle B has these light brown eyes that dart from one spot to the next, keenly observing everything about everything; part of the job I guessed. I stared at him and listened to his fascinating stories as he told me about all his adventures and experiences. Owing to his job and upbringing (his father worked for RAW) he has had the privilege of having traveled to over 45 countries in the world.
"What about Afghanistan? Iran? Syria? Israel?" I asked, not being able to contain myself. I have had this life-long dream of seeing Kabul and Jerusalem, and had yet to come across a person who had visited these places.
He smiled a secret smile, and I knew that these were things he wasn't allowed to talk about. Even if it were just with a harmless little dentist such as yours truly.
"Let's just say I've seen it all, and that politics will be the death of human civilization. This world is a messed up place, beta," he said, shaking his head. "Kabul used to be a place filled with some of the richest people in the world. Now, they have all migrated to Bahrain or Saudi Arabia, and all that's left behind in the city are ruined families and UN officers trying to salvage whatever little is left. The city is in shambles. Do you know that more than 70% of the passengers who fly in from Kabul to New Delhi everyday are patients who need emergency medical care? There is nothing left in that country," he said.
"I know. Sort of. I mean even Hamid Karzai's wife came to Delhi a few months ago to deliver her baby, didn't she?" I asked. 
"Yes. He, himself studied in a school in Shimla; did you know?" added Uncle B.

We chatted for another hour or so, as I picked at my empty cereal bowl and he recounted more interesting tales from his life and work, until it was time for him to leave. 
As I waved him farewell, I realized what a significant life he had led, and I felt like a selfish little speck of unimportant dust on the map of the world.
It hit me, for the millionth time possibly, how simply fixing teeth isn't enough for me. 
I'm searching hard and fast for deeper meaning, and I'm quite certain that has a lot to do with ink, paper and my passport. The three most important objects in my life.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

The irony of my dream from that night lay in the fact the his wife sat next to us as we lay on that ottoman, on the verge of sleep and dreaming dreams within dreams. While that reads like a tongue-twister, what it really managed to do was twist my mind into a crumpled heap of shame and misery.
I woke up with a sinking feeling the next morning knowing that it was a highly inappropriate thing to have dreamed of.
He always smelled of this manly, sweaty smell that was his own, and I know that might sound unappealing and gross, but it was the exact opposite. It was this rugged, masculine smell that worked better for him than any cologne possibly could have. His smile was the perfect balance of alignment and mischief, and I could swear I saw every pearly white in glorious (and concurrently heart-wrenching) detail. I smelled his raw, earthy skin as if it was right under me.
I haven't seen that face in over nine hundred days. There have been smarter, kinder, friendlier, less hurtful people I have had the good fortune of meeting over this time, but no one manages to creep into my nights the way he does. Some kind of evil voodoo to remind me of what was and what became of it, like a sustained-release tablet to hurt and harm.
The dreams should ideally be reducing in frequency with time judging by how comfortably I have moved to happier, greener, freer pastures, and on the basis of the last horrid memories of him in my brain-physical abuse and adultery, among the other mistakes he chose to make. Then why this recurrence?
Dreams should be about vague, flaky thoughts that the brain subconsciously strings together into a game of connect-the-dots; not about recounting real-life events in accurate detail with additional effects to increase the scariness.
In the dream, his wife stared at me with accusing eyes, but I didn't move, and neither did he. It felt like nothing could move us or convince us to open our eyes to the truth.
I suppose it all comes down to connections between the brain and heart, because it's so much easier to influence a heart, but only very few manage to touch both. And when they do, you're in deep trouble.
My eyes were closed to his secret life and selfish intent, but now they are open.
That ship has sailed. These dreams will stop.
No more nightmares.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Gritty Black Eyes

Her hand absentmindedly picked at the crimson line of powdery sindoor that sat on her head, seemingly dividing her brain into a left and right hemisphere. Her eyes stared vaguely ahead into the distance, unfocused and cloudy, like beady black buttons that could switch on and possibly bring her back to reality.
Drops of salty sweat trickled down her neck as the world around craved for some respite from the unrelenting heat and humidity.
Her husband of twelve years, Mohan, had been out of town for the past two months for what he preferred to call 'business', but Aarti was convinced he was with his mistress in Chandigarh. She had mentioned to me a few times before how she had never liked the way Mrs. Khanna had eyed Mohan. Apparently her body language used to become serpentine and her voice turned a little too sugary at every instance that they met, which was usually at the annual Jamshedpur Mill Worker's new year's party.
"She makes my blood boil, that light-skinned Punjabi wench! What does she think? Stealing Mohan from me will take more than pink cheeks and slinky salwar suits. I am the mother of his children; he will think a hundred times before leaving me!" she said to me with angry vehemence as her hands rested on her hips.
"But Aarti, he's not even called you once in these past couple of months. Maybe you need to think about this with a clear head.." I tried to reason. 
"Clear head?! Everything is clear here. He loves me. I am his family. He may do what he wants, but eventually he will come back home to me and the kids. He wouldn't dare leave us for that bitch," argued Aarti.
I have seen enough unhappy women to know when I ought to hold my tongue, and I noticed a solitary tear trickle down her face leaving a sad tortuous trail. She wiped the tear away with the back of her hand and just like that, I knew, the topic of this conversation had been changed. 
"I learned the most amazing recipe for shahi paneer yesterday on that new TV show. You must try it!" she exclaimed animatedly and shuffled into her kitchen.
I was a little confused because I couldn't connect a cheating husband with a new paneer recipe, but I realized how strong this lady's will and conviction was. What struck me in equal measure was how women build up excuses for men who don't deserve them in the first place, and how living in denial is easier than confrontational domestic battles.
I stayed on for lunch that sultry afternoon at Aarti's place, and her cooking did not disappoint. I am fairly easy to please when it comes to food, but her food was the result of very accurate culinary alchemy.
We ate and chatted about mundane nothings like the new mall that was opening nearby and about how her son had picked up some rather choice swear words from school. She laughed a fairly girly, melodious laugh that, for an instant, made me forget that she was a thirty-three year old mother of two little kids who was possibly being abandoned by an unappreciative, adulterous husband. 
God writes the screenplay to each of our lives with such attention to detail, such precision, such personalization, I thought.
It was almost four in the evening when I bid her adieu that day. "Aarti, I hope you know that you can call on me for anything that you need, at any given time? I wouldn't want you to think twice about that.." I said, as I fidgeted with my strappy sandals.
She just smiled and nodded at me, not making eye contact. My gaze fell once again on her sindoor and I had to positively bite my tongue in order to control myself from telling her to stop wearing it for that worthless, undeserving blob of a husband, Mohan. 
Some wars need to be won on our own merit, without help from allies and neighbours, I realized. This was Aarti's war, and I hoped for the sake of her little kids that her husband would come back home; and for the sake of Aarti, who had the strongest grit I had ever encountered, and inarguably the most beautiful black eyes I had ever seen.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Mahesh And The Haunted Cowshed

Yesterday, on the dinner table, the family and I had that rather overdone but still interesting conversation about ghosts, spirits and the rest of the supernatural beings that we have come to know through popular myth, media and movies.
One of our house-help, Mahesh, a young boy of sixteen, came traipsing down the stairs with freshly roasted papad for us from the kitchen. He is packed with enough energy to set off a small explosive, and is as uncontrollable as an untamed circus animal when it comes to playing loud/ terrible Kumar Sanu songs on his mobile phone. Yet, I have always liked the kid because he has a good sense of humour and keeps the kitchen lively and a little less uninhabitable during the heat that has been plaguing our land recently.
Mahesh is also quite a storyteller, and although he has some trouble conversing in Hindi and often uses some Bihari terminology which isn't very easy for me to understand, his stories always leave me thinking, and I suppose that is the greatest sign of good storytelling.
His stories about how his bhabhi makes the best mango pickle he's tasted, how he plans to settle in Calcutta for good because he loves the big city, and how he has been beaten up by bullies in his village and consequently avenged his thrashing by beating them up with sticks, have always managed to capture my attention and imagination.
Last night, while we ate our papads, Mahesh recounted another captivating tale about how he once encountered an evil spirit.
Back in his native village, his family has a farm and livestock. One night, a few years ago, as Mahesh was in the cowshed feeding his three cows, he suddenly noticed that the cows became abruptly restless and stopped eating. Their incessant mooing alarmed him, and while he was still trying to calm them down, he noticed a big black shadow rising in front of him. He said he could have sworn that there was no one anywhere near the cowshed for miles. The cows panicked, broke free from their harnesses and ran away; so did Mahesh. He ran, and he ran, until he reached home. No one in his family chose to believe his seemingly ludicrous claim of having this close encounter with-what he was sure to know was-a ghost. In fact he was ridiculed and scolded for having let the cows stray away from their shed.

"But believe me didi, it was a ghost. I'm glad I'm not there anymore. But now that I know I've seen a real-live ghost, I'll never be scared again!" and he laughed a giggly little laugh as he said this to me.

He turned on his heel and left the rest of us on the dining table a bit spooked and discussing the possibility of ghosts and spirits being a reality in our modern, mechanical world.
If you ask me, I do believe in ghosts. I believe that there is life after death and that this circle goes on for as long as it takes for a soul to learn every lesson it has been instructed by The Maker to learn.
I admit that I've had certain experiences-not many, but enough-to know that there is a definite supernatural realm that exists parallel to our universe, and sometimes, the inhabitants of both realms tend to mix and mingle. But I'll save those experiences for another time.
Right now, Mahesh's story and his mysterious lingering giggle is still fresh in my mind, and I feel suddenly transported to his little village and that haunted cowshed.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

A Manicured Divorcée

On the plane ride to Zurich, very carefully, I painted my nails a deep shade of pink. The kind of shade that you tend to see most women sporting these days, that tends to be an unacknowledged social marker that all is well in your life, and personal care and grooming occupy a high rank in your priority list and your daily schedule. And that indirectly translates into being a declaration of your emotional and physical independence from men and their evil/ charming ways (don't ask me how or why I deduct such deep meaning from a nail polish shade).
I curled my lips into a round 'O' and blew moist air to dry my pretty pink nails. Overhead, the air-hostess announced in a throaty accented English that we had begun our descent into Zurich and would be landing in less than half an hour. I felt a little flurry of excitement in my stomach. Coming to the Alps had been a life-long dream, and this trip could not have happened at a more opportune time. Every guide to dealing with heartbreak and divorce that I had read in the past two months had hailed the importance of travel, and I honestly didn't need much convincing in this department to begin with.
Outside the window, I could see hilly terrain and deep green fields with lines streaking across them like calligraphy on paper. I already had a good feeling about this trip.
There were some more announcements by the air-hostess and then by the captain--only in German this time--and I felt a sudden tug of inertia as the plane made a sharper dive as it proceeded to land. Figuratively, I thought, this could mean so many things. Inertia dragged my brain and body forward, and gravity threw my heart 30,000 ft. below the plane as if it was an inessential organ that needed to be discarded.
The wheels finally hit the runway and the A380 bumped and skipped and eventually came to a slow, comfortable taxiing speed. 
The 'seat-belt sign' was finally switched off as we halted, and very tentatively, I touched a freshly pinked nail to check its thorough drying. It felt smooth and shiny, and I felt a satisfied little sigh escape my mouth. Very gently, I unfastened my seat belt and got out of my seat, joining the snake-like queue of my fellow-passengers to leave the plane.
One of my favorite things to do when I travel to a new country is to experience and classify in my head the first smell I detect when I leave the aircraft.
Zurich smelled of clean oxygen, pine trees and snow (even though it was only September and the snow was yet to arrive). I did a little pirouette in the most undramatic manner possible to take it all in, and capture an image in my mind to form my first impression of the city. Everything looked so clean and grey; it felt like viewing a place through an Instagram filter. (I scowled at myself for my insufferable social media addiction which had evidently taken over my thought process enough for me to even be able to name which filter Zurich seemed to be tinted with).
My jet-lagged legs somehow managed to carry me through the immigration desk, through baggage claim, and finally through customs and I finally sat in my cab. I had to give very animated instructions to the driver because he clearly had trouble understanding my accent, but once we finally set forth and I saw the first glimpse of Zurich, I knew I was in the right place.
Absentmindedly, I tapped my fingers on the car seat, which was when I suddenly noticed my bare ring finger. It had been a very long time since this finger had been stripped of the gold band I had proudly and happily worn for all these years. A circumferential ring of comparatively paler skin served as a sharp reminder of how long I had been a married woman, and also a simultaneous reminder that I wasn't one any more.
I made a mental note to buy myself a new ring during my Swiss getaway that wouldn't depend on the presence or absence of a man in my life. Perhaps a nice round diamond would go well with my pink nails.
Perhaps manicured nails and bejeweled fingers were the miracle drug for heartache. 
Either way, I knew I would be okay. I was in Zurich.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

For Future Reference

You may one day forget the world as it has been to you thus far. Your memories might turn cloudy and foggy with distractions that you never before considered potent. Even your thoughts might not be loud enough to you as you try to process every impulse your nervous system shoots out for you during those one-on-one conversations we all have with our own selves everyday. 
You may dress like a misfit, hanging loose by a fragile thread of flesh and bone, and everyone you know may treat you as if though you are friable enough to combust at the slightest provocation or stimulus. 
It may seem almost impossible to comprehend the idea that you had ever been considered attractive by another human being, because your skin now sags and crumples like an old pillow that needs replacement. It certainly seems impossible that you were ever able to run or jump or dance or travel for hours on end just to explore a new country or culture.
But you did all that, and you had all those experiences. You had your time in the sun being the center of attention. Believe it or not, you didn't always have wrinkles, and your hair wasn't always white like the moon. You didn't have all that you do now, and you started from scratch. All you had was a big idea and nothing to lose.
You hadn't always had the security of knowing and possessing true love in your life. You were once scared out of your wits about things that turned out exactly how they were always meant to turn out. 
We all come with a story to tell, and sometimes if we're lucky, God allows us to record this story and save it for posterity so that one day, there may be another young mind that reads your story and gains courage to believe in destiny and his power to give it a finer shape.
Never stop writing. Never stop dreaming. And no matter what the cost may be, no matter how opaque your thoughts may one day become, never permit the death of imagination, because that will be the day you truly stop mattering to this world. That will be the death of you.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Don't Even Bother

Sudden realization- I have become extremely intolerant and indifferent towards people in general. I've stopped making excuses for people and stopped giving anyone the benefit of doubt.
I feel that there is really no urgent need for us to be pretentiously fond of someone who belongs to an entirely different thought process and completely different values and ethics. It's so much better to be blunt and point blank instead of being sugar coated back-stabbers.
I know this sounds selfish and mean, and perhaps this is fueled by the maddening heat and humidity that's making me feel like a sponge oozing out boiling hot water. I'm spitting fire, in every sense of the term.
And I know that just like my mythological fire-spitting counterparts, I am meant to fly much higher than this current altitude. All those who wish to clip my wings, tie me down or restrict my flight are unwelcome and shall be hunted down.
The rest of you however, who encourage ambition, greater achievement, and hard work, and know the value of victory and success are welcome to join the party and fly along. You are welcome and your company is much appreciated and desired. I am so bored of meeting uninspiring John Doe's!

Friday, 6 June 2014

Paris, When It Sizzles

The way butter slithers down a hot butter-knife, and comes to rest on the fingers that hold the knife--becoming a golden puddle of melting translucency--her accent curved and bounced, and reached under my skin where it rested and resided for the rest of the night.
There was no meaning that I could attach to her words, and there was no sense that I could derive from them as I sat and heard her speak. Like smooth rivulets, her words cut corners and spilled around on the sides, with insidious gasps and unexpected meetings of her tongue and her ruby-red lips. The sounds that escaped that deep mouth seemed to me like something one would associate with rustling blades of yellow grass dancing on a hot summer afternoon in a virgin field, lazy waves kissing a rocky shore on evenings when the tide is high, the sharp seductive sound of heels clicking and slapping a wooden floor, a warm fire crackling on a stormy black night when you're curled up in bed with nothing to do.
I sat and stared at her, wondering if it would be completely inappropriate if I made a recording of her speaking her lovely language. I could even imagine myself sitting in my living room, with a cup of coffee and the newspaper, with the recording playing in the background like it was the most normal thing to be listening to.
The wind shook me out of my reverie, and I realized that I could no longer hear her luscious accent.
I might have spooked her away with my dropped jaw and all that staring, for I realized that she was suddenly nowhere to be seen.
Dejected and disappointed to know that I would never again hear that lady with the voice that sounded like molten poetry, I lifted my overweight, drunken self off the chair and trudged along into the Parisian evening.
Up ahead, I could see the Eiffel Tower showing the world its evening shimmer, and enchanted tourists (seemingly high on their dose of Paris) going berserk with the umpteen photographic opportunities. It was my last night in France, and as I dragged my feet towards Trocadero, I thought I heard that familiar trill and flow that I had only ever heard in a single woman's voice. A brief rise and a briefer fall of hurried syllables that seemed to have joined into a cohesion of magical sounds reached my ears as they tried to trace the source.
I looked here and there, my neck working hard and my eyes hunting harder, but it was an attempt of futility.
She was gone, I was intuitively quite certain of it, but I would like to believe that she was calling out to me and asking me not to leave. I think Paris will miss me, but more than that, I am convinced, I will miss Paris.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Free Spirit

Teenage and early adulthood are cruel, harsh times when people tend to assume the best/worst about others, and lead lives dotted by extremes. There are no half measures, and I'm not saying that in a good way.
We tend to exaggerate shades of black and highlight shades of white, and that turns our life into a vaudeville show that will never be easy to forget. We either love hard or hate hard, there is never an in-between where you're simply okay with something in a nonchalant, casual, comfortable sort of way. There will seldom be people that you can merely tolerate; you will either wholeheartedly be in love with them or despise their very being.
These young adults tend to assume that relationships that form over these years are going to be evergreen and everlasting; that the people who enter your life during this phase will always be yours.
While that may hold true in several instances, we must disallow ourselves from falling prey to this loony concept. We do not own anyone.
Whether a person chooses to stay or leave is a conscious choice that they must make and stick to.
And once age catches up with you and you grow into an older, less hyperactive version of yourself and start appreciating the in-between shades of grey and the rest of the rainbow, you will see that it's okay to be alone and you will still feel grateful to have the people you still do.
You realize that while you do not own anyone, it's alright, because nobody owns you.
You are free and alive, and that is something to be grateful for!