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The genie never came..

 

PicHad I known it was the last smile, I would have bottled it away. Filling it with sand and pebbles, sending it off on a finite voyage, till it found me again on a deserted shore, sometime, some place

Had I known it was the last caress, I would have held on, for a million minutes.
Feeling every bit of your warmth that embraced every bit of hopelessness and despair in me
Had I known you would never return to this threshold, I would etch your feet into the floor. To have a path to follow and find you by my side forever

Had I known this was the last walk, I would never stop walking into nothingness and everything, for a destination is meaningless if I don’t arrive with you
Had I known this was the last whisper, I would make a museum of your voice
So it could ricochet into the walls and back into my heart, as fluid as that symbol of infinity
Had I known this was your last breath, I would lay beside you, breathing till the end
And fill my lungs with you, never to exhale…
How I wish I had known…

When Vada Pav saved Valentine’s day

HeartSameeksha woke up with a smile on her face. While slaving away on her laptop the previous night, her only solace had been that she had a big bright spot to look forward to
The following day. The last few months had taken a toll on her. Between Sujit and her hectic travel, Anaaya’s school , the home madness, somewhere along the way, the phonecalls had reduced in frequency, the intimacy was at an all time low and it seemed as if they were familiar friends passing each other every day instead of the head over heels in love struck couple they had traded places with. Nothing was wrong as such, she often chided herself, but deep inside it didn’t feel right either. But today, everything would change. Valentines day would fix everything. She would take a half day, go to the salon, finish everything in time for her romantic date with Sujit and they would sip champagne into the night, just like old times and all would be right with the world again.

But what they say about the best laid plans often hitting dirt rang true for Sameeksha on the worst day possible.
‘What the hell is wrong with you!? How can you not run this by me before going to the client?’ A few hours into work and she had already lost her cool a few times. Nevously glancing at her watch didn’t make the day go any faster. Sujit called just before lunch to check on her and she ended up being testy with the person she was trying to desperately get through the day for.
‘I’m sorry Sujit’ she apologised. ‘Its just been a harrowing day. One crisis after another, I’m surrounded by fools who can’t fix anything. The maid keeps calling because theres no water at home, Anaaya’s
School teacher called because she got into a fight with some boy and.. and.. look at the time! I need to get to the parlour. We have a reservation at 8:30 pm.’
‘Darling, its okay if we don’t go for dinner. Really..its..’
‘What do you mean! It took me forever to get a table at the best restaurant in town. And I’ve told all our friends about it. We are going for dinner. I don’t care how!’ she almost shouted with frustration.
‘Ok Ok. Don’t get stressed. We will go’ Sujit tried to soothe her frazzled nerves. ‘See you soon love.’

Just when she was leaving office, 2 hours after her salon appointment, the car decided to break down. Leaving instructions with the security guard, she ran to get a taxi. With every passing second, looking at the hands ticking away, she felt like the day was slipping out of her hands. The final nail in the coffin was a traffic jam. At 7:30, she was still about half an hour away from the salon and realised then that her carefully laid plans would crumble to dust. Thankfully her mother was also at home to keep an eye on Anaaya but she knew going directly to the restaurant was not an option either.
She would never make it. She called Sujit with tears streaming down her face, broken and exhausted and told him she wouldn’t be able to make it.
‘Just go home Sujit. I’ll see you there.’
‘Baby, its alright.’
‘Just go home Sujit. I don’t want to talk.’ She hung up, wanting to sulk alone in her smelly cab.

About half an hour later, still stuck at the same spot due to a truck overturning on the bridge ahead, she looked straight ahead while taking a sip of water and almost spat it out in surprise. Through the
haze of cars and fumes, she saw Sujit walking towards her with a smile on his face. She couldn’t help but respond with a reluctant smile of her own. When he reached the cab, she bombarded him with questions.
‘Holy cow it took me forever to find you!’ Sujit panted, getting in beside her.’
‘But.. how on earth did you find me! Here, in the middle of traffic?’
‘I tracked your cab’ he shrugged. ‘You sent me the link yourself while getting in as always but I think you forgot’ he laughed.
Sameeksha whacked her head. ‘Ofcourse!’ But why are you here? I was coming home anyway.’
‘Why? Because I wanted to celebrate the evening with my Valentine.’
‘In this smelly cab, eating fumes?!’ She laughed.
‘No, eating Vada Pav.’ He said, pulling out two parcels from the bag he was carrying.’
Her face lit up. It had been one of her favourite foods at one point but she hadn’t had one in years. ‘And where is my beverage for the evening? Do you have a bottle of wine stashed in there as well?’
‘Nope’ he smiled impishly like a little boy. ‘Chaas! That’s all I could find on the way.’
They both laughed. ‘I don’t think that fancy restaurant will approve of our degustation menu tonight but who cares!?
She reached for his hand. ‘I’m sorry things have been so hectic the last few months. I thought I’d fix everything today. Its a beautiful place you know…’
‘You’re sorry?’ He asked incredulously. ‘For what? For being an amazing professional while being the best mother on earth? For juggling priorities and a million tasks on your list casually like you were chomping peanuts? For finding the time to massage Amma’s aching feet before turning in for the night. For always leaving extra potatoes for me in every dish , just as I like it, even when we can’t eat together?
For always finding time to tuck Anaaya in with a wonderful story that she can dream about? And for always remembering to throw away my underwear when the holes get too large and I embarrass myself infront of the maid?’
Sameeksha was laughing but she had tears rolling down her cheeks again. This time around, warm ones, washing away her anxieties, expectations and plans for the night that had thickened like a noose
around her neck. He wiped her tears gently and looked into her eyes. ‘ I know its a lot of pressure darling, but don’t do this to yourself. You’re doing enough, and more. Everything doesn’t have to be prefect.
All that matters is that we are together and we make time for each other, something I am going to work on myself. I’m going to cut down on my travel so I can do more on the home front and spend more time with you and Anaaya.’
Her heart lifted with joy. ‘I am going to do the same.’ She decided and said out loud. ‘But what about our fancy Valentines day?’ She pouted, looking around at the still stubborn traffic.
‘We saved ourselves a hefty bill at that restaurant, some salon money and money I would have spent on a large bouquet. This is the cheapest and best Valentines day ever!’
‘Stingy guy!’ she laughed.
As they sat around laughing, bitting into the delicious Vada Pav and providing free entertainment to the cab driver, she realised that even though big gestures and grand plans were great, sometimes the small moments are the big ones and the worst plans can bring on the brightest smiles.

Queen of hearts

Ma

An ethereal beauty beyond words
Why must you conform to worldly standards of which we have become slaves
Vanity can come from a place of pride 
Beyond a face, beyond skin, beyond the usual trappings
Let the hair fall away, your brilliance is enough
Let the skin peel away, what lies beneath is even better
Let amorphous shapes that your body takes become continents of discovery and wonder
Let not your beauty be eclipsed 
For when you are bare, you are beautiful beyond compare…
These are words I wrote for my mother when she was propped up in her hospital bed with a wan smile on her face. A smile that never left her. Through the rigour of years, through the hardships of sustaining a large family, through vicissitudes of life and economics, there was always a smile to spare. Writing for this piece made me reminisce about the true beauty of my own mother. Its easy to write about your mother most would think. But this decision is not based on mere anthropology. It is because she is most definitely one of the most inspirational, resilient, positive and beautiful people that I’ve had the good fortune to encounter so closely in my life.
For a person who had such affluent beginnings, she never grudged being married into a humble family. A kathak performer, a sangeet visharad, a science and maths gold medalist was assigned to the kitchen and brickbats from her new family but she never complained. When my sisters and I were much older, we learnt of what all she had endured with silence. Again, none of this information was volunteered by her. She never played the victim card. Not once. Through tragedies, ill health and suffering. Her entire life was dedicated to her family, not just the army of four children and the beloved husband but anyone who ever came to her door. Whether it was long lost relatives, beggars, house help, donation seekers, it didn’t matter. No one left with empty hands or  hearts. I often wonder how she managed to be a mother, the coolest granny, a wife, a best friend and confidant when she was navigating through various roles of an electrician, plumber, handyman, world class chef and finance wizard, identities that her keen and scientific mind had sought out to keep her interests alive.
But for someone with such immense zest for life, life had other plans. Unbeknownst to us, there were silent killers eating away at her insides. While her angelic face continued to glow with love and compassion, her diseased body was rotting on the inside. Despite our best efforts, the hospital became her second home for many years. But through it all, the smile stayed, a shaking hand always ready to stick a thumb up in the air, to fool us into thinking she wasn’t suffering. I’ve never in my life seen anyone with a bald head, shrivelled skin and fractured limbs look so radiant and peaceful. For it came from a place of immense strength and real beauty, from deep within. For she refused to give in and smiled till the time she closed her eyes forever. When I held her hand for the last time, I still remember my sister had painted her nails in the ICU. An odd, bright red, to cheer her up. Frankly speaking she didn’t need the varnish. For in that shrivelled body lay the strongest and most beautiful woman, the saviour of a thousand lives, a soul that gave more than it ever took, a beauty beyond compare.

I believe every woman has TRUE BEAUTY within her in all the roles she plays. For over 18 years across 650 plus salons across the country, Naturals has been helping the Beautiful Indian Woman get more Beautiful.

Today Naturals Salutes the Beautiful Indian Woman.

Presenting Naturals TRUE BEAUTY… http://bit.ly/naturalsOF 

silver hair Valentines

The biggest and most genuine love stories can sometimes be found in one’s own backyard. I have found one tucked away in a corner of my home and heart. No, I have no salacious details or a scandalous story. This simple heartwarming tale is about a 75 year old man and a 70 year old woman, who could not be separated by distance, grief, needles, pain, suffering or wrinkles. Their bond, much like the heavily advertised Fevicol one on TV, has stood the test of time and troubles to emerge unbreakable.

For as long as I can remember, they have been inseparable. There were many ‘typicals’ in their past. A typical arranged marriage, a typical dramatic and torturous mother in law, a typical life full of four children. But while growing up, we never felt like we had an average life, nothing typical about it. We always felt special and well taken care of, primarily because we saw the love and bonding between our parents which cemented our foundations with comfort, confidence and trust. And mind you, this was never the expressive or overtly evident kind of love. there was no hugging or kissing or hand holding or date nights, which the current generation views as obvious hallmarks of a healthy marriage or relationship. But it was clear to all of us. Everytime their eyes were searching for each other when troubles came knocking, the way our mother used to hang off the balcony every evening at 6:30 pm, waiting for him to appear around the corner, how she carefully ironed all his handkerchiefs and rolled up all he would need the next morning, the way they stayed up nights, together, for years, trying to ease away our pain and suffering, remembering how lost they looked whenever either one was traveling alone, how she would wake up at 4am to pack fresh parathas when he was leaving for a tour. It might seem that she was busy making all the valuable contributions while he was just wafting around. But despite being in a full time and very important government job, our father managed to fulfill all his duties and shower us with all the love we needed.

Years have passed. We all are married and grown up with our own children. But in the last few years, I have seen a more evident and feverish sort of love emerge between our very own Romeo and Juliet, bordering on reverential. And the tables have turned. After years of silently working and slogging away as the core of this family, my mother’s wheels are now a bit rusted, her pace has slackened and she has almost come to a standstill by the side of the road, literally run over by an onslaught of diseases. And the unsuspecting, unassuming Romeo has emerged as the hero. The setting of this love story has changed as well. Even the props are different. There are multicolored medicine boxes, tubes, wires, injections, walkers, sticks and everything that could unhinge the strongest hearts. But his trembling hands are firm when she needs to hold on. His false teeth are always ready to widen into a cheery smile everytime her tears start flowing. There are cobwebs in both their minds but he fights much harder so he can be clear and steer her through her everyday challenges. This humbling and debilitating ‘new normal’ rips our hearts out on days when we are feeling weak in our resolve but every other time, it makes us proud and melancholy. For we secretly pray for a similar love story in our own lives. Hoping that when the world chugs on around us and we slow down, there will always be one set of feet, slowing down with us, with a silent promise that we will never walk alone.

the art of being fine

I guess I’m fine

I’m always fine

When your warm hand slipped out of mine after an entire life of holding on and became cold, when I didn’t want to live anymore, they told me, don’t be like this

You’ll be fine soon they said, so I was fine

I think it’s been so long since you’ve gone that I should feel fine all the time. But to be honest, everything feels lacking, a bit sub-par

I eat all the same things we used to but all of it tastes a little bit different you know, like its missing some salt

When I look up at the sky, I sometimes see your face in an odd shaped cloud floating by. That does make me feel better for a while

No matter how many times I make your side of the bed, it never seems right. I think I mess it up myself, just so that it can look like you’ve slept in it

I try to keep myself busy but ever so often, silly things, little things flood my head with you,

A smile I see yours in, someone slurping tea like you did, a nervous hand tapping a table that used to drive me insane

Once I had to berate myself quite severely, when I saw your rusted razor and I cried for days

Don’t worry I’m better now

I have to feel better don’t I? There’s no choice

I try and go for long walks but lately I’ve been forgetting the way back home so I try not going too far

I go to parties but I feel even lonelier sitting all by myself in a corner of the room

I can understand. I don’t blame them. I don’t hear too well and have nothing much to talk about either

So you see? I’m living my life. It’s not much of a life without you, but I live it.

I always lay out an extra plate for you, every-day. It looks empty, just as I feel inside, but I know that one day we will hold hands again

And then I shall truly, truly be fine

Thread by thread


Tricks, emotions, tears, joy and trepidation.

Relationships are like that unpredictable blanket, sometimes too territorial and snug, making you sweat, sometimes not as indulgent, leaving your toes peeping out in the unwelcome cold.

Every fibre woven with memories, music, melancholy.

Infused with a familiar smell of warmth and familiarity,some parts soaked in helpless tears.

Sprinkled with stains of cozy coffees, tinkling laughter and aimless conversations.

Strong and unyielding in portions, threadbare in others.

Tug a string too far and line upon line will unravel.

Tangled, twisted, knotted, but they will still make sense to you.

A wrap too strong and you feel suffocated.

With the rigours and vicissitudes of life, the patterns fade, the lines blur.

But on the most directionless of days, and the darkest of nights, they will land softly on your weathered shoulders.

To lift your chin, to wipe a tear, to kiss a lip, to tell you that tomorrow is another day.

To tell you, stay warm, I’m here with you tonight.

Hand in hand


It should make me jealous but it fills my heart with joy.

It really should make me jealous but when I see you two together I just can’t stop smiling.

I see how those tiny hands find their way to you in the darkness, when my unyielding and fatigued body has tuned out her plaintive cries.

Those big brown eyes darting nervously to the door every few minutes, when the sun starts to set.

She will follow your footprints in the sand for miles till the tide finally consumes them.

She never tires of stroking your head when you surrender it to that almost invisible and tiny lap.

I’ve seen her hugging your t-shirts to fill her nostrils with you when you’re away.

That desperate moaning wail that stumbles and follows you to the door when you can’t stay.

Drifting in and out of sleep, so often she calls for you, a determined , demanding voice that I cannot tame.

That happy dance she’s choreographed just for you, the first man in her heart’s hall of fame.

I made her heart inside me, and I know for eternity I can stake my claim.

But that same heart has a beautiful, colourful, throbbing piece, with only her daddy’s name.

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