Saturday, October 15, 2011

Selective Amnesia

       Stale. That is what the smell is. Stale. The stink of a cigarette long chewed. It is time to close my eyes and wrinkle up my nose. I want to crawl under the bed. Out of sight. But I'm scared. It is too dark and Mommie is out working. 
       I heard her heels clacking on the hallway. She tries to tread softly, but even with the raggedy carpet, I could hear her. 
       In the basement is where I and my sister have been tucked into bed by Mommie a while ago. She works in the day too. Poor Mommie. That-woman says it is because we did not die but chose to live. I and my sister Bessie that is. And That-woman says Mommie is working to feed us and if we do not eat or do not ask for anything Mommie would not have to work so hard. So Bessie and I did not eat the whole day today. And yesterday. And the day before.
       But now I have a queasy feeling in my stomach. And so I have this biscuit with me. One for me and one for Bessie when she wakes up. She smells. Of poo. And now I will have to change her nappy. But she would wake up if I tried to. So I’m just gonna let her sleep. Poor thing, she is only two. 
       Mommie reads out ‘Willie-rabbit’ to us everyday when she comes back from work. She hardly gets time to change before she has to go out again. But I love it when she is next to me. Bessie’s drool does not bother her. She places a kiss on the top of our heads and leaves, taking away the scent of half-wet clothes, mothballs, powder. For some time after, her fragrance lingers. As comforting as the tattered blanket we are sharing I almost smile in content. 
       But then the door creaks and I can hear voices. Hands carry me to the drawing room. Bessie is crying because she has been woken up too. Rough hands, and a lap. Now my nightie is yanked off and I’m shivering with the cold. The fireplace is out again. 'I will build a nice warm fireplace for Mommie, when I grow old. And I want to grow as big as I can and as fast as I can'. I talk to myself in my mind. 
       Soon, it is over. 
       Amidst a chorus of coarse laughter and merry giggles we have been retuned to the bed.
       Our refuge. 
       Bessie is wailing. Now that-woman follows us and hits her on the head. Bessie stops crying and whimpers instead. ‘Shut your trap and don’t go about whining the way your Mother does all the time. 
       I let Bessie crouch in my arms. 
       The door shuts. 
       Bessie’s wispy golden hair tickles me in the nose and I sneeze. 
       Once. 
       Twice.
       Thrice. 
       She looks up, and now a smile is forming at the corners of her mouth. 
       I pretend to sneeze some more. 
       Soon she bursts out laughing and snuggles closer to me. 
       Everything is forgotten for a moment.


       But for a moment.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Mera Bharat Mahan - Par Mein Nahin..!

       So tomorrow is Independence Day? More than 6 decades ago, India gained freedom, a handful of wiry men in Loin-cloths, went hoarse shouting for freedom from the British. Many leaders came and vowed to make India nothing like what the Britishers had made us. 
       Slaves.
       So today, everyone of us will be 'proud' to be an Indian. 
       We will send our kids proudly off to school for a flag-hoisting ceremony without knowing why we do it - hoist the flag that is, sending them to school, we must, that would take them off our hands wouldn't it? 
       We will make them wear little caps and paint their faces with the colors of the Tri-color.
       We will buy those 10 rs wallah small flags being sold at Traffic Signals. 
       Then we will host a party at home - Arrey zaroor aaiyega, aaj hum dinner rakh rahe hain, Chutti hain na? Chalo socializing ho jaye’
       The kids will sing Jana Gana Mana with their hands glued to their foreheads like little  tin toy soldiers, without knowing how it came into existence. The teachers will sing alongwith, while inside they are actually cribbing at having had a Holiday spoilt. 
       Some technologically advanced schools will set up projectors and play ‘Gandhi’ or such (all the while yawning), while at home, people will watch with glee films like ‘Roja’, ‘Indian’ etc where they serve up patriotism with dhishum-dhishums. 
       We will scold the under-age-servant and make him work harder. But no, we, the educated ones, will not ponder that child-labour is illegal. No, we will make those 10-12 year olds change the baby’s nappy, clean out commodes without a care. We are paying them after all, right? 
       By the time kids come home from school, it is time to have a family-meal. Who cares about the millions in our country going hungry? My obese idiotic child’s belly is all that matters to me. 
       We will clean our houses and throw the ‘kachra’  onto the roads without a care in the world. 
       We will keep the tap open while brushing,  enjoying the soothing lilting melody of water gushing forth, without thinking of the lakhs of people who get 15 minutes of water every 3-4 days. Aren’t we the posh ones? The ones with status, money? 
       Oh it is evening, ‘chalo, chalo, let us go out’’ and we will each take out our 4 cars, one for each person, no, no, the word ‘car-pooling’ does not exist in our dictionaries. 
       And then we will go out and proudly gloat over the new swanky malls and buildings coming up in areas that were marked for ‘garden Projects’  by the city. 
       Gleefully, we will spit and compete on who can redden a public building corner first. 
       And write ‘Tinku loves Pinku’ on World-Heritage buildings. While our children observe us and mimic us and grow up inheriting these ‘legacies’.  
       Oh, yes and how can we forget updating our FB status spaces with claims of how we love India and how glorious it is and what-nots? 
       So we walk around like proud peacocks, never mind the fact that we, actually have done absolutely nothing for the nation. 
       So why not start now? 
       Say no to that babu asking for a bribe. Say no to that person throwing rubbish onto the roads. 
       Educate. Teach. Act.
       Do something at the grassroots level. 
       It doesn’t have to be major. 
       Stop favoring child-labour. Instead, help to send that child to school. Doesn’t he deserve an education just like your children do? 
       Just do something, anything, and then be truly proud.  
       You should actually start off by not smirking at this note written by someone who is changing and has hopes that you will too. 
       No realization is too late. 
       People died for freedom, and they died because they dreamt of an India free of corruption, sex-discrimination, red-tapism, feudalism, fanaticism. 
       Not this seedy worm-infested underbelly of ‘India Shining’.

Friday, August 05, 2011

From Pappa with Love

This entry is a part of the contest at BlogAdda.com in association with imlee.com


'I'm 29 years old, Pappa. 29. Not 2. Not 9.' I almost shout at him just before he leaves for work. But I know it wouldn't change a thing. Even if I had that tattooed over my forehead. 

Pappa will still distribute his pearls of wisdom (or in his case, rusted bits)....Mummy rolls her eyes and goes back to weaving magic with the broom and mop in her hand. She rubs a little of the broom on the floor, n voila, like Cinderalla, I'm transported into a squeaking clean house. Well more of her later.

The reason why my blood is boiling over now is because I have been subject to Pappa's free advice ever since I woke up at 7 this morning. More reason why I should stay in bed till he leaves.
So that on working days, when Mummy is already in school, n he is leaving at 9, he wakes me up just in time to shut the door. Those are days that I can escape from the grim reality that in his eyes, I'm still a child.

It starts off in the morning, like I said before. Let me say, I wake up at 7.00 am. The one-way preamble goes something like this.

7.00 am - I am stirring in bed, listening to my parents talking in the living room. I lie there for some time, but then my kidneys threaten me. So I shuffle to the Loo, n there he catches me on my way out. 'Open ur eyes n walk. U will bang onto the walls or stumble over something n fall down.' I cannot attack as my body is still getting used to the whole waking-thing. 
But yes, he is a witness to the numerous days that I have walked into a wall, (with a bang), all bleary-eyed and yawning.

7.10 am - I pour the tea into a cup, n inevitably 2 miniscule drops fall out. There he is again, just behind me with some waste cloth (which usually turns out to be the duppatta mum has kept aside to starch, n which, on her finding out, gets Pappa a shouting..*chuckles*). 'Wipe up all this. And don't spill any eatable-thingies. The flies will be crowding the whole house now'
For those who don't know, the house is on the 7th floor of a multi-storeyed buidling, invincible against flies and mosquitoes.

7.15 am - I have finished drinking my tea and am reading the newspaper. The empty cup is on the centre-table next to my propped-up feet. 'You will swing your feet in style, n that cup will fall down n break into pieces'. So saying, he takes the cup n deposits it in the place where it rightfully belongs, in the sink, next to the other cups. 
It is another matter, that we do have a macabre collection of cups, missing their handles, spouts, bottoms. Courtesy - Mummy n I on one of our butter-fingery spree, most of which took place, when I was doing what I'm doing now.

7.30 am - He has gone down to bring the Municipality drinking water supply. He refuses to let me bring it. It is just one bucket after all. Oh, so there he appears, 
"Atleast keep the drinking water-container (which looks more like a rocket-launcher with its little legs and snout) open. So that it is easier for me to fill it up"
The days that I do keep it open, for his ease, the advice is 
"Why did u keep this open? The pigeons will come n shit in it.
Wow, since when did Pigeons know exactly which one of all those million vessels lying there, is the drinking water-wala vessel, at potty-time?
(I'm sure u have guessed by now, that I'm absolutely not retorting to any of these pearlies. Didn't Gandhiji say, turn the other 'ear'...?)
By this time, I'm counting the minutes that I will be putting up with this 'gyaan'.

8.15 am - He is dressed to go to work, looking at the things that need last-minute adjustments (like dyeing his moustache black with Mummy's eyebrow pencil, and Mummy still doesn't know why her eyebrow pencil is always blunt when she is about to use it, no matter how much she sharpens it). At this time there are 2-3 things that he throws my way.

-"Keep the windows and doors closed, the pigeons will make a nest otherwise, in the lofts". Which is true. I'm trying to make this particular pigeon-couple my pet, n therefore invite them in with bits of food and 'Ghoo-Ghoo' noises. That the female pigeon gets attracted to me, mistaking me to be another male, is something I don't want to comment on.

-"Switch off the other electrical appliances when u switch on the A.C. - it draws more load than the allotted load, n a short-circuit will occur n the whole building will burn down."
Blame it on his being an engineer, or his being a Rules-follower, at night, he wakes up after we have slept, to quietly tiptoe down to the kitchen n switch off the fridge. The fridge is rendered un-openable the next morning, n Mummy is in a hopping rage, but of course he knows it.

-"Do not wash my white shirts and baniyans with the rest of the clothes. They will all be spoiled." - He rummages around and picks up a shirt (which, because of sins committed by Mummy in the past, she unwittingly washed with the others in the machine, n now it sports a 2mm by 2mm stain in the front) and dangles it in front of me. When I refuse to look up at him. He thrusts the shirt into the sacred, holy space between the paper and my face. The rabid, foaming look I give him is enough to make him scurry away.

8.30 am - There now, he is looking for his socks. "Where are they. My socks. these are Mummy's. Why don't u tie up the pairs? So that I don't have to waste time looking for them or pairing them up!
Why Mummy would want to wear Men's socks is something only she can answer, but there are 56 pairs of socks all tied up neatly, kept on full display in the corner-stand, and yet he rummages around, looking for the newest pair to wear.

By this time I'm losing my patience. The irritation starts showing. And I'm about to explode.

8.40 am - Now he picks up his bag. His tiffin-box and his mobile. His specs. His watch. The ten-rupee notes and loose currency for his autorickshaw-walas. And then finally he is out of the door.

I anticipate the last string of advices almost eagerly. For after that is Redemption. Hallelujah.

-"Do not open the door if someone knocks". Oh did I tell u, that we don't have a peephole! If I ask "Why don't u fix a peephole here, Pappa?", he replies "What if someone points a gun at it n shoots. Or pokes something through." Absolutely no idea, when he got that idea, because we did have a peephole in our previous house.

-"Do not agree if someone knocks the door and asks for water". Well, I suggest that perhaps, I could just show that person the drinking water container which is, supposedly, full of pigeon droppings. No? No. This time I get the rabid look.

-'They (no idea who 'they' are) will come saying there is a courier for you. They will quickly see that you are alone and then they will come back with more people to break open and steal and go knows what else."
 -"Do not open the door to any lady who says she is selling things. These women are more dangerous, as no one suspects them."
All through these, I have no idea on how to find out if the knocker is a courier-wala or a lady-selling-bra-panty-pickle-detergentpowder-neemfacepack, unless I OPEN the damned door. We don't have a peephole, remember?

'Aaaaaarrrggghhhhhh' - I scream (in a whisper, of course). 
Mummy was so right when she said - "When ur Dad retires, he can put up a table n chair under a garden umbrella, right at the crossroads, with a board that says 'Nair-saab nu free-advice ni dukaan'...!"

There it is. The last one. Quick, get it out Pappa, so that I can go back to Peace.

"Bolt in all the 3 places. This is a flimsy door. Will break into two if u kick it 10 times".
I do not want to point to the hinges and say that it will take 'them' just one screw-driver to have the whole 'jaali' n door in 'their' hands.

"Did I forget something? You and your Mummy don't remind me anything. See how that Aunty on the 8th floor takes care of her husband.
Right at this moment, Mummy rolls her eyes again, n shouts from the kitchen - 'Well if the 8th floor Aunty is so nice, you can ask her to cook for you and remind you everyday. Don't start me off, now".

This is where the ice melts. Pappa winks at me. I let my lips curl a little at the corner.
And then he, yet again asks, all serious. The last one. I can see it coming.

"Did I forget something?' Wallet, Mobile, Specs?"
"Your brains. Did you take your brains from the pickle-jar, Pappa?" I ask.

He smiles. I smile.
There the irritation is replaced by a sense of being cared for.
I shut the door and go back to my newspaper.

Until another day, another morning, another round of 'advices' from a father to his daughter.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

An Ode to My Achamma

       It is never too late to write about her, I think. About my grandmother. Achamma. Father's Mother. Paternal Grandmother. But it is. And the Truth stares me in the face. That it has already been 2 years since she passed away. Since she died. And that she will no longer be there, hovering around me, touching my hair, now, then my face, mumbling about evil-eyes being cast, grumbling why I do not grow my hair long, praising my eyes here, my nose, the little admonishments that only a beloved grandchild can receive.
       She was old as far back as I can remember, even then, 25 years ago. Gnarled and wrinkled and slender with a flat stomach and a willowy figure, the last two which, thankfully, I have inherited, or so people tell me. Ancient, with the fragrance of the herbs and aromatic oils wrapped about her. 
       My first memories are of her in the old kitchen, bent over the 'adup', blowing into the flames with a coil. The smoke never seemed to bother her, and I was always amazed at the dishes she would conjure out of those holes in the ground like my mum called them, much later, much much later. 
       Acchamma had studied till the 2nd grade and since then, had looked after her siblings (1 sister and 2 brothers, all younger to her). She had come to Gujarat as a bride, married to my grandfather, but then returned to the large ancestral house when my father was born. My grandfather was a always in a new and foreign place. He fought in the British army during World War II, like my great-grandfather(his Father-In-Law) did during World war-I, went to Rangoon, Singapore, Ceylon and many other places. So Achamma was left alone for the most part. Not alone in the strictest sense, having been with her siblings and their families, while my father studied in Gujarat for some time and then returned to do his engineering in Kerala. But mostly she was away from her husband and it was not a big deal those days. People got married because they had to, because the elders thought they were ready to produce children. She brought up dad amidst a medley of children, women, and old people. The men were all in Ahmedabad, where my grandfather had got them jobs. So she stayed with the women.
       I do not know why I'm writing this. I guess it is because talking about the riots helped to take off a load from my mind. And I hope this will too. Because of what we did to her in her old age. Because of what we did not give her, even though, day and night, she pined for us and we refused to give her company. The guilt sits on me, my family like a suffocating cloud of some deadly, poisonous gas. A heavy cloud that chokes me whenever I remember her. She grew old and bent and her feet turned inwards and at night she had her knees giving her trouble. So much that in the last 3-4 years, she could barely walk. Grandfather and she lived all alone in that huge ancestral house, and we were away in Ahmedabad. First because of our studies, we couldnt go to Kerala every year. Then I moved to Bangalore and my brother to North India, my parents still working in Ahmedabad - things were so hectic. So we went to visit them in turns. And each time she would lament when she would see all four of us together I wished I was selfless enough to spend more time with her than the 20 days in a year, that too divided between my mother's house and father's house. The last time she had seen us all together was almost 8 years ago. 
       Hoping that she would have something to do in her spare time, we brought her a T.V which she never learnt how to operate, and so would wait for grandfather to switch it on after dinner. I tried to teach her, but she was so self-conscious and she believed that she could never learn it, because of which she never did learn it. Grandfather sold his house, the one where he had brought her as a bride to, because she inherited her father's house. So grandfather held that grudge, that he had to leave his own house and stay in his wife's house. It was all a pretence. He actually hated her brother, who would keep asking her for money and which she would pass on stealthily. This was a habit, people loved her for and often took advantage of.  
       In those days, as even now, albeit less, Nairs being the second most important caste after the Namboothris, had their own set of rules and customs. My grandmother was born into one of the most important Nair families in the village, and therefore she was brought up in that way. When she would step outside, the servants ran ahead, shouting out to warn the others that 'Thambraati' was on her way to this place or that place, and so the low-caste people would hide away, to let her pass, keeping a distance as even their shadow was not supposed to fall on her retinue of servants and maids. She would hold the wooden parasol to cover her face from the men. She told me all this in detail, on many a star-spangled night when it was too hot to lie inside the small wooden recess that was her bedroom. She told me how, the women then, were locked inside a room while they were menstruating, and how her first blood was sprinkled on the fields to bring prosperity. All this she told me. How women were supposed to always be one step behind their husbands and listen and behave as the 'maryada' of the house was in their hands. How until about the 90s, the low-caste women and men in the village still maintained a distance from her, and never looked at her while addressing her, always with hands bowed and gaze lowered. And yet, never once, did she force my mum or me to give up our western clothes. In fact she had never asked us to change anything, savouring the fact, instead, that we were both, my mum and I, independent women. Like the time, when, a relative asked her, 'My daughter had 2 kids at the age of 25, why is Shilpa still unmarried?' and she had answered, haughtily, in her Nair way, 'Because at the age of 25, Shilpa was busy buying her own car bought with her own money, doing a job, instead of producing children and sitting at home!'...She was uneducated, yet fiercely independent, ignorant, yet modern. 
       And yet, we had no time to call her up everyday. 5 minutes every Sunday was what we allotted her. That was it. Through all this, we withheld what was rightfully hers. The right to spend time with us. The right to comb her fingers through my hair, the right to teach me how to manage a household, or why it was important to pray to God. She was deeply religious, yet she accepted my being an agnostic, without any questions. If she could not make me go to the temple, she would send money with the passersby, to have them take 'Pushpanjali' in our names. Once I wore a 'pattu-pavadai' for her and put jasmine in my hair and a bindi, and she was so delighted, she clapped her hands and said I looked like a goddess. 
       I wish, I had been selfless enough to stop thinking my job was my life, and instead spend more time with her. But God had thought otherwise. 2 years ago, while I woke up all excited that it was my birthday, she died. Quite suddenly. She had had a heart-attack, we suspected, and she had simply fallen on her way to the bathroom at 5 in the morning. Grandfather had rushed to her side, but she was lifeless by then. No suffering, no agony, no pain. I hope for the last two atleast. And just like that, on the day of my birth, she passed away. What use were my tears then? I heard the news on my way to office, and I still went to work for strangers. I could have taken the flight to Kerala, but no like the true Dharamraj, I went to office, and then took the evening train, by the time I reached there the next morning, I could only see the urn containing her ashes. I was too late. This time too. 
       And now Grandfather stays alone, guarding that 100 year old, ancient, huge mansion for a house, looking forward to our weekly calls, or the occasional visitor. Atleast, I hope, he will enjoy his rights with his family. Us.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Revenge



This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 22; the twenty-second edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
       The first sensation Junaid felt was pain. Intense, throbbing, scalding. The pain travelled through his veins, all the way to his spine, n then up to the back of his head. He tried to open his eyes, but they were glued shut. Bile coursed through his throat. He tried to force his left eye open first, since that one did not throb like the right one. Voices floated around. Consciousness jolted him to the reality that he was hanging upside down. Khaki clad policemen lounged around a table, interrogating another man. 'P....Paani....Please give me some water'......Junaid painfully formed the words. One of the men in Khaki  cocked his head at Junaid. 
Ah-a, look who has woken up. Apna hero.’ – the inspector came upto him. 
       He pulled Junaid’s hair and jerked his head upright. Noxious fumes emanated from his mouth, as he leered – ‘Saale, kya re biwi ka nanga naach dekh raha tha sapne mein? Arrey Patel, chal isko leja interrogation room mein. Muh nahi khola toh encounter karva de. Waise bhi yeh Momeddian* paida karne mein peeche nahi hote. 4-5 aaj mar jaayenge toh bhi kisiko fark nahi padta.’ 
       The paunchy constable sneered, and dragged him, half-stumbling, half-crawling to the chair that had just been vacated by the other man. Someone threw a cup of salt water on his face. He cried out with the stinging pain. The nightmare started all over again as he recalled the events that led upto this moment.
***
       February 27th 2002 was just like any other day. There was a wedding in the small non-descript town of Godhra and all the Muslims had gathered at the community centre. Colorful Shamianas, kohl-lined women, huge mounds of biryani  in the makeshift kitchen, little boys scaring little girls with their palms colored by goat blood, the little girls screaming, admonishing mothers, advising grandmothers, blushing nubile women, smoking men, hookahs, chillums, henna……….it was a mela of colors, smells, fragrances, sounds. Junaid was one of the many men sitting around the gulmohar trees smoking and passing the time in idle chatter. Dressed in a blue sherwani, he was the Best Man at his brother’s wedding.  He glanced over at the women’s tents and caught his wife scowling at him for smoking non-stop. He winked at her. Shabnam smiled and hid behind her veil. They were expecting their first child and she was glowing with happiness. He whispered his gratitude to Allah and rejoined the men’s conversation.

       It was the sight of the running boys that set his heart aflutter. Something was wrong. The group of boys were running in their direction, horror writ large on their faces. 
       ‘Aapa, Aapa’, BhaiJan, Umma’ they shouted all together at once, making it hard for the men to comprehend anything. 
       ‘What happened?’ The men rose as one, as did the women. 
       Hearts thumped and trembling hands muffled terrified open mouths. One of the boys, sat down, and, in between gulping huge mouthfuls of air, blurted out 
       ‘They burnt a train compartment. The Rashtra-Sevaks were travelling in the train. They have burnt the compartment they were travelling in. They bolted the compartments from outside.  They have burnt a whole train bogie.’….
       Junaid shook the boy. ‘Who burnt whom? Who was in the bogie? Who burnt the bogie? Did u see them? Who, tell me…!’…
       Another boy shouted. ‘I saw them. We saw the men who did it. They were dressed like one of us, but they are not from our village.** They had neither hennaed hair, nor the marks on their foreheads. They were dressed like us, BhaiJan, but they were not Muslims. We saw them so close. There were so many children and women. They were all burnt alive. They were pushed back inside when they tried to escape.’ 
       A collective shout of ‘Ya Allah’ went up.

 

***
       Inspector Solanki and Sub-Inspector Patel scanned the crowd apprehensively, exchanging glances everytime the crowd shouted ‘Jai Shri Ram’. This was the part they hated most about their jobs. All this meddling with Politics. It was always better and simpler to belong to an age where all that the policemen had to do was arrest criminals and extract baksheesh. But they knew if  they did not toe the politicians’ lines, they would not have a job anymore. It came as a package deal with the Khaki uniforms, hidden deep inside the pockets. The Rashtra-Sevaks were hardcore Hindu fanatics. Bharat’s lost glory must be brought back at all costs. And the only way was to  drive all the Muslims away and stop Western culture from influencing the minds of Hindu children. 

       Saheb Mackeray’s tongue was working overtime to ‘awaken’ the Bharatiyas in the crowd. Saffron was the color of the day as people, mostly unemployed youth, gathered in large numbers with knives, swords and what-nots. ‘Show these Muslims that this is our country. How dare they touch our Sevak-Bhais and Behens? How dare they roast alive 50 sevaks, without fear, like this? Have we worn bangles? Do they think we are wearing cholis? Answer me,  will you remain quiet when someone does this to your country? Show them that we are tigers and not hyenas like them. Rise and come with me to teach them a lesson’. The crowd roared ‘Jai Shri Ram’ and lunged forward. A tsunami of angry men and women would cause serious trouble. Solanki and others of his rank were called in from Ahmedabad for a meeting, in which Saheb Mackeray had strictly ordered them to take leave and go on holidays with their families, preferably out of the city. The sequel to the 1992 riots was in the making.
***


       They gheraoed the village, baying for blood.  Swords, Sickles, Knives, Saffron bandannas, Trishuls, Rudraksh malas drenched in sweat. Engineers, Teachers, Students, Boys, Men, Teens, Blacksmiths, Officials, Shopkeepers, Masons, Plumbers, Slum-Dwellers, Builders - all bound in their frenzied rage of Hinduism. Systematically, so systematically one would shudder at the meticulous planning that must have gone into it, they went to each house, hacking up the men, raping the women, cutting down children. The babies were held by the feet and bashed against the nearest standing structure. Little girls were stripped naked and their buttocks split open in glee. The women howled like banshees, and ran. Many jumped into the tubewells, but who could hear their howls. The emergency numbers were dialled. But the phones kept ringing. Many set their own children on fire, to save them from this army of 'Rakshaks-turned-Rakshasas'. Junaid’s wife had a sword up her uterus. They brandished the foetus atop the sword, for all to see.*** Within hours, Godhra became famous. By the time the media descended on the village, by the time, the rest of this 'Vibrant' state, came to know of the horrors perpetrated by a handful of men, the raiders had vanished. There were no eye-witnesses. None whatsoever. They had left four men behind. Badly beaten and flayed, but alive. For the records. So that the world would know what happened. Junaid was one of them. After the marauding army had erased its coming, the police came. After they digested their 'samosas' and 'bataka-vadas' and 'cha-naashto', they came. The heroes. The policemen. Solanki picked up the four men. They were not even allowed to have a last glimpse. The nightmare had started for Junaid. And for everyone in Gujarat.  
***
       After 15 days in police custody, Junaid was released. ‘Upar se enquiry kar rahe hain. CM bola jail mein ek bhi Muslim nahi dikhna chaiye. Dilli se log aave toh lagna chahiye na ki protection sabka ho raha hain? Jaa aish kar.’ – a havildar informed him.
***
       Revenge. Revenge. Revenge. Revenge. 
       The word went round and round in Junaid’s head. The village where he had returned to, was long gone. In its place was a mound of dead bodies, that pariah dogs, vultures and other scavengers had chewed on. It was difficult to identify anyone from the burnt, mutilated and charred pieces that were once living human beings. The tears refused to flow. The four men now had stones for hearts. ‘We will avenge this. But not now. To strike terror in their hearts, we need to plan. We need to plan and then show them. We will avenge this.’ – they swore on the mud caked with dried blood. 
Junaid stood up. ‘Until I have my revenge, I will not rest.’ 
       The four men looked strangely calm as they locked eyes and nodded. Slowly. Seriously. 
"We are with you, BhaiJan. But we must plan before we do something rash." - Salim said. "We must properly plan first. I know some people in Indian Mujaheedin in Mumbai. They will help us. They are experienced. And But first, we will go to Ahmedabad. Our brothers there are in peril.
       Junaid saw reason where there was none. Yes, he would wait. And then he would have his Revenge. 
***
       Ahmedabad station was deserted. Never before had they seen it so empty. The paan-stained corridors spoke of the violent lashings that had taken place here too. On guard, they crept out and into the Muslim-dominated area of the old city. They stayed with Salim's brother. For four days, the men sat and planned. Righ in the middle of this Muslim-'infested' area, as the Sevaks had called it, was a Hindu pol****They took an oath to wipe out every Hindu in that walled enclave. 
       Less than a month later, the community had geared up to have their revenge. The fajr that day concluded with a cryptic note 'Doodh ma jeher chhe' - This was the signal to start the attacks on the Hindus. Junaid, Salim and the others came out and surrounded the Hindu pol from all sides. Inside while the families huddled to escape the clutches of their neighbours,
       Junaid clambered onto the walls, and poured kerosene over each house. House after house, compound wall after compound wall was conquered with shouts of 'Allah, Allah' over-riding the  terrified screams of children, women, men piercing the air. Suddenly it was all over. In a matter of minutes. The police jeeps came blaring. This time, they arrived on time. CRPF jawans sprang out, lobbied teargas shells. Junaid and his companions scampered back to the relative safety of their pols
       It was while he was springing over the last wall, that he saw her. 
       A little girl of about four or five years of age. 
       Naked. 
       Naked except for the torn away remnants of a soft-toy's hand clutched in her fist. Beside the mutilated body of her mother, she sat, crying in the pitiful way that only a child can.
       Junaid wanted to throw his head back and laugh. 
       His first laughter after 28th February. 
       But somehow he could not muster the, what was it, guts? manliness? courage?...
       No no, isn't this what he wanted? Revenge? To feel satiated? To have his wife's death avenged? To have his village's rape avenged? Suddenly, the little girl looked at him, no not at him but straight through him, as if he did not exist. She continued crying. 


       Junaid wondered, why, if Revenge was indeed sweet, his mouth was all Bitter inside. All Bitter. 

******************************************************************************
- This is the first time I have spoken openly about the riots. On 26th February 2002, I passed the Sabarmati Express stationed at Godhra, on my way back to Ahmedabad from Mumbai, where I had gone for the NIFT entrance exams. I had not even heard of this place until it was in the news the next day. We had barely started to recover from the trauma of the 2001 Earthquake when the 2002 Riots were thrust upon us. 
*Mommedian - Used to describe Muslims in Ahmedabad. For eg. Autorickshaw driver to passenger – ‘Arrey madam, woh to Momeddian ka area hain, 20 rs extra dena padega.’
**'they were not muslims' -  Disputed. There were claims that the doors were bolted from inside and that the Sevaks themselves had burnt their own members. 
*** 'foetus atop a sword' - As per the testimony by the Doctor in the Mumbai retrials – he claimed that the foetus was found inside the uterus of the women and not ‘flung aside’ as the media reported. However so strong was the belief that this had been done, that I remember crying on hearing it.
**** 'pol' - A gated cluster of houses demarcated according to caste, clan etc. 


Oh n btw, if I was allowed to submit my older posts for B-A-T, I would have submitted http://shilpa-nair.blogspot.com/2011/04/i-have-angel-for-sister.html the one I think would do perfect justice to the title Revenge.
The fellow Blog-a-Tonics who took part in this Blog-a-Ton and links to their respective posts can be checked here. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A bus-load of Stink

       She wrinkled her nose in dismay.
       Oh, How he stank!
       This fat one next to her. How he stank!
       There was no space in the crowded bus and already people were in each other's armpits.
       Where could she move to? She tried to turn her face away, away from the source of this stink. But she was trapped. There were so many of her kind here. Jam-packed.
       To make things worse, he 'oozed the stink' now!
       Oh, God! How longer could she bear? He was oozing something vicious smelling and sticky. And it would rub off on her, if she didn't move.
       She had to get out of the way!!!
       And then relief flooded her as the driver braked suddenly and the fat one rolled out, leaving her enough air to gulp down.
       'Oh no........!' the driver cried out.

       'Don't worry. It was rotten. The other mangoes are still here....'another man replied, as he tucked her into the basket.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Blah-Blah and The GasMe

       Just when I thought I had enough of Dhongi Blah-Blah RamDev, I am now being bombarded by Sai Blah-Blah's hidden wealth. (btw, love the word Blah-Blah - coined by my genius of a brother)
DhongiBaba
       But why is everyone surprised? I don't think it should come as a shock to anyone that all these Swamis have ill-gotten wealth stashed away in their orange underwear. What are these poor Swamis supposed to do. Wear one loincloth and walk around giving free advice? Donate all their wealth to charity? Come on, India has so many children unable to afford food or education or healthcare; so many mothers with no access to healthcare; so many elderly thrown out of their homes; that this wealth cannot cover all their needs. The Great Swami-Babas know this. That their wealth is too little to feed one whole village for the next 100 years. They are knowledgeable. They are wise. That is why we drink the water which has been used to wash their feet. They are holy. We are ready to be made pawns in their political games. While we donate thinking our hard-earned money will be blessed by Baba and sent to some charity, they sit on it and warm it. Until this whole stash of currency notes and gold and silver is so hot that they need to levitate from time to time by making one small tiny hospital promising free healthcare.


       And how dare you say that they are materialistic? Haven't they renounced the materialistic world of India and taken refuge in the Swiss banks? How can you say they are attached to this world?
Also they are God-men. You must never, ever offend a God-man in India. There are thousands of fools behind them who will run amok in hysteria cutting up whoever they think is an opposer of this self-made regime.

       Did you know that Homosexuality is a disease?! What you didn't? How foolish you are, Bhakt! Come here, and do yoga with me. Yoga will cure everything. This corrupt disease called Homosexuality as well as cancer. I also want to say, it can cure AIDS, but not now. I will say it later when the incredulous doctors and scientists, whose brains are miniscule in size compared to my unschooled wise brain, calm down. So come and do Yoga. I have been practising Yoga for years. It is another matter that Yoga cannot 'cure' fasting.

       Looking at all the clowns in saffron robes now, I have decided to change my career.

       I'm now officially Sutli-maiyya. Come and listen to my nonsense. Membership fees only Rs 50,000. Though I cannot do bellydancing like them, I can make Tin jewellery(since i'm still a new-comer in this business) appear from thin air. If I do not get 4 members by tomorrow evening, I will go on indefinite fast.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hangover

This was the second version of my entry for 'The Other day' @B-A-T. Yes u guessed it right - I am totally obsessed by relationships ;)


       Selma switched off the A.C. She knit her eyebrows together. Her head throbbed and her mouth tasted of bile. Last night's events unfolded in her mind without any order or clarity. Tumbled forth randomly. What exactly had happened 'yester-night'?


       She had had no idea why she chose to look for Zarine in the Nursery. Her daughter was away at her parents'. It had to be the drinks. The whisky was running out and she wanted to ask Rutul to get some. He was not there in the Living Room, neither in the Kitchen. The tequila shots hadn't gone down completely, n she had tottered, grabbed at curtains, leaned on railings, while she had gone looking for Rutul. Maybe her subconscious mind had given her the idea that Rutul was putting Zarine into bed. Or maybe it was her intuition. Something that she would rather not take seriously. Years ago, her intuition had told her, Rutul was not the right guy to marry. But she had gone ahead and married him and it had turned out to be great. They had had a fantastic house, fantastic friends and a fantastic Life. Absolutely no way, she was going to spoil things for herself, by listening to the loony-bin inside her.


       And so last night, for some reason she didn't know, her body had stumbled and fumbled and somehow reached upstairs. In the loud din of the Music blaring out from the Living Room, her shouts were drowned.
       There it was. the Nursery. Just after the master bedroom and the guest bedroom. No that was the master bedroom, this was the guest bedroom. Forget it. She had peered inside one of the rooms. Nope. No Rutul. She had then, headed straight for the Nursery. Wait a minute, the Nursery was on the other side, why had she come here? To this part where only the bedrooms were? Selma shakes her head. Too many drinks. Recall. Remember Selma, what do you remember? Yes, she had passed the first room. And she had heard a noise. Or a voice. She wasn't sure. But it had sounded like someone laughing. giggling. Or maybe a 'Gosh'. Something like that. Something that kicked her from the inside. She had looked for the door. There. Just ahead. Straining through hazy-unfocused eyes, she had managed to clasp the door-jamb. She did not recall if she opened it, or someone opened it for her. All she knew was that she had fallen into the room. 
       Into Rutul's arms. 
       He was naked. Yes, he was. But why? And he was sweating. And he smelt of some familiar scent. She did not know what. But it was a scent that had been around in their house recently.
       If only she hadn't been so befuddled. She would have been out of this confusing maze now.


       Rutul had said something. Something. What? 
       'Selma, What are you doing here?' Yes. He had asked her what she was doing there. And she had giggled. Like a fool. 'I came to look for you. Why aren't you downstairs?'...He was trying to block her view of the room. Almost trying to wrestle her out. 'I want to lie down for some time. My head is spinning. Please put me into bed, Rutul.' And she had stepped past him. And fallen again. He disappeared for a second.    Leaving her on the floor. 
       A split second. 
       During which she thought there was a mannequin on the bed. A head of raven curls. A wig, that moved. And then he was back. He carried her into bed. 'I saw a wig here. Where is it?' she asked him. Looking under the sheets. Flailing with her arms. 'There is no one here darling. No one. You take some rest. I had come here to change my stained shirt. I will get some lemonade for you, and an aspirin.'. 
       There she had seen it again. A head of curls disappearing through the door. Yes, she was sure of it. Or was she
       Later, she had dreamt of an army of curly-wigs attacking her. Running after her. Baying for her blood. And she had woken up screaming.
       There was something wrong. This was the guest bedroom. And Rutul's clothes were in the master bedroom. So what was he doing here last night. She had examined the room, and especially the sheets. She sniffed at them. Where had she smelt that scent before?
       There was a knock at the door. A knock followed by a sweet female voice. 'Are you up, sweetie?' And Parul pushes open the door with her foot, balancing a tea-tray in her hands.
       Parul, her childhood friend. Who has come to stay with them for some months.


       There.
       The wig of curls.
       And Selma recalls with complete clarity, all the missing details.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Other Day...

This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 21; the twenty-first edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton.
       It is stuffy inside the Law Offices. I wave away the offer of Tea that my lawyer asks me. 'There, you go. It is all done. You have been given Zarine's custody now. He will be allowed to see her every Saturday for 2 hours, but that is if you want him to. Basically he has lost his rights as a father.' He explains. I nod, mutter ‘Thanks’, grab the file and walk out of his office.
       I can see his eyes boring the back of my skull.
       For one weak moment, I want to go back and tell him to somehow make all this vanish.
       The files, the court summons, the papers I just signed. Erase them, Tear them, Fling them away into the air. And go back to the Life I had. Wedded Bliss, like Rutul called it.
       Maybe if I was alone, I would have.
       But for Zarine.
       But for her, I wouldn't.
***
       When Zarine arrived, we could not have been happier. Rutul and I had been married for 9 years, of which 3 were spent dating each other in college. It was Love at first sight. He was perfect in every way imaginable and I considered myself lucky. 
       We had everything planned. When we would buy our own house, when the children would arrive - everything. He had always wanted 4 kids. 2 sons and 2 daughters. ‘For now, let us start with one’ I teased him as he stood there with our precious daughter. Father and Daughter. Touche. 
       It was perfect. 
       Too perfect. 
       I remember lying in the hospital with a living and breathing tiny porcelain wonder in my arms and Rutul holding the telephone to my ear. People calling in and sharing our happiness.
       Life would change. 
       And how.

       The last telephone call that day was from Parul. She was wondering if she could come down to stay with us for sometime.  Rutul thought she was rude to ask that when she knew I was exhausted from my Birthing ordeal. But Parul was my childhood friend and we had done everything together. Until she went to Milan to study and I came down to Delhi with Rutul. She had been on and off with some guys up there and had suddenly decided she wanted to get away from it all. Basically she wanted some breathing space from her too-many-doomed relationships. Her project with some NGO in Delhi had worked out n she wanted to know if she could stay with us. I said yes while Rutul looked at me amused. I saw no offence in what she asked. 'It would be nicer and easier on me, what with the baby and all. I could sure have her help while she stays.' I explained to Rutul later. 

       We threw a party a few days later. Welcoming Zarine and Parul, both. I was glad to have her by my side. We reminisced over school incidents, startling Rutul with our giggling fits. He felt better too. Maybe he was secretly relieved that I no longer cribbed to him about how grossly fat and ugly I thought I looked post-delivery. I had felt that Rutul and I were growing distant. Maybe it was my Post-natal depression taking over. But sometimes I felt rejected when he turned over to his side of the bed, instead of cuddling me like before. 
       It was Parul who made me feel beautiful. She indulged me and booked the Beauty-Salon to attend to me at Home. We went shopping, and once again after all these years, she was my soul-sister. The party was a huge success. Parul was not as beautiful as me, yet she looked looked stunning in her backless gown, while I looked like a douche bag with my post-natal fat.
       She was infectious. Her vivaciousness, her optimism and her laughter. 
       'Stay away from her,I'm saving her for someone', I growled mockingly at Sam and Arush, who wanted me to ask her out on their behalf.

       14 months after that party, I filed for Divorce.

       I had had no idea that the ‘someone’ I was joking about would be ‘my own someone’. Absolutely no clue. No, not until The Other Day. When I impulsively decided to cancel my shopping mid-way and returned to find Rutul, still in his back-from-work clothes, explaining to me, in front of a half-dressed Parul surprised, while I stand there, the bags on the floor, Zarine shrieking at being awakened by our noisy intrusions, two voices in my ears, Paruls’ and Rutul’s, incoherent mumblings, stammerings, lispings, repetitions of the same words, two voices – ‘It is not what it seems, darling, let me explain. I have not done anything wrong, (….No, Parul screams, No you loser) and he had just come upstairs to change (…..we have been going at it ever) and that Parul had seduced him (…..since the party) and that he loved me and not her (….you pathetic prick, you wanted me) and that it was just a physical momentary thing for him (….don’t believe him, he is lying) and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah......


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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The Yellow Suitcase

       Little things she will not miss now. Her socks. Her bag. Her plaits. Her long hours in front of the mirror practising to dab on lipstick without it being visible - so she could tempt Him with them. The polka dotted underwear. The 30A Enamor bra that she has been towing for 10 years. Though she can't fit into it anymore, she still has it. 
       It is in her yellow suitcase. That old container of secrets. The treasurer of Valentine day cards, Secret admirer cards, love letters scrawled in a boy's handwriting. Folded and refolded many times. Cinthol powder sprinkled across to have them smell nice when she opened them. Now they crumble in her hands. 
       Sighing, she arranges them in the paper-bin. Fondling an old silver chain with a heart shaped locket. He had put it around her neck last week. Just like he had all those years ago. He had brought it for her, wrapped up in a leaf torn out of a notebook. Hidden away in his school bag. They had been scared someone would see them. He had fumbled with the clasp, while she held her hair away from her nape. He had hardly dared to touch her, and yet, she had hugged him fiercely and demanded his mouth. And just when they had parted, they had seen their class teacher pass by in the corridor. How they had fled!
       
       Little things she will not miss now. Her old watch. The one she would check impatiently when she was waiting for Him. Stomping her feet in mock-anger when He turns down the corner. Then flinging all shyness aside, running into His arms. The world could go fuck itself. She was 15 after all. As grown-up as she could be. And she was in Love with this sexy 17 year old God.
       Oh, what agony it was to love someone and not be able to indulge in all the glorious wonderful things that Love brought with it! Oh, to hide from prying eyes of their teachers, and classmates and their families! What agony! To sneak up in the canteen after school was over and steal a kiss. To pull apart as if struck by lightning, the moment they heard any sound. To have that tingling all over everytime they saw each other. To continue talking to friends when all they wanted to do was spend every waking moment with each other. To keep wishing that they did not have to give a damn about exams and tests and marks.

20 years ago. How time flies by! 20 years. During which He had gone off to another country to pursue higher studies. During which she had studied and worked and married. During which they had lost contact. There were no mobile phones and internet then!


       Her marriage was a successful one, technically. She saw her husband twice a year. When Mr. Husband was home as Mr. Husband for 10 days and not as 'Captain-General' in the Indian Navy. It was just a matter of convenience that they did not opt for kids. 
Twice a year Mr Husband remembered that his wife was a woman. 
Twice a year, for 10 days each, she lay under him like a mechanical doll. Making the right noises and touching the right places. While her mind went back to her Lover. 
She often wondered where He was. And if He was married. And if He kissed His wife the same way He had kissed her. Gently, lovingly. 
Her tears for her lost Love delighted the husband who thought it was for his skill at Love-making. 
       Now her husband was no more. Befitting his status, He was given a 17 gun salute at his burial. She walked and talked and posed as the Grieving Widow. Sadly there was nothing that she remembered of her husband, to miss. Except the smell of cigars whenever he was home. 
       5 years of working in an NGO and being a Social Butterfly in Mumbai had not eased her Loneliness. She would never find peace until she found where He was. She wished she could get hold of a Time-machine. She would have changed everything. 


       It was some days later that her neighbour's son started coming over every time his mum was out. She welcomed him and his mum was grateful that her child did not get bored alone. She found him a very intelligent and typical of his generation. Hooked onto the Internet. 'Don't you have a boyfriend, Aunty? How can you not have one?' - he asked with all the wonder of his 11 years old wisdom. 'Well, I'm trying to look for this friend of mine, but have no idea how to' - she replied. He squealed and hooted with laughter. Surprised, she waited for him to speak, half-expecting a 'You are mad' from his mouth. But no, he immediately switched on her computer and before she knew it, she was learning how to use the 'Search' options in Orkut and Facebook and half a dozen other sites! It was Wonderland to her. She had never imagined looking up someone in the world would be so easy (or difficult when they faced about 773 results for His name). Through the next 3 days, they filtered the results and settled down on 2 profiles. She decided she didn't want to compose the message in front of the kid. It was much too intimate for her, all this contact-making thing. Over too much Vodka and Wine, her Best friend convinced her to stop living like a 'Fool' and write to Him. They sent the message that very night - to both the men.
'Hey, Do u remember me? We went to school together at Doon. It is all right if u don't.'
       Days went by without an answer. Then her inbox showed a new message. It was not him. The man had replied 'No I don't. But I wouldn't mind, looking at ur picture' n a leering smiley face. She blocked him. She waited some more. 
       And then the pumpkin turned into a chariot. It was Him. He had written, that he did had never forgotten her! Funny how she still felt like a young schoolgirl. She resisted the impulse to hoot and whoop and twirl around the room. 


       They talked for hours, and days. And she learnt that He stayed in Mexico and his wife had passed away years ago. He hadn't remarried, 'never got the hang of it' he had joked. He had one teenage son who was off to college. He was pretty much alone. And dating. Yes He was dating on and off. But if she ever came to Mexico He sure would be glad to catch up!
She booked her flights. And then told Him there was some Charity she was expected to be attending in the States, but she would definitely like to meet Him, if He was, er, free.
       They spent 2 weeks together. He hadn't changed much. She was scared that He would have become paunchy and bald like most of the middle-aged men she knew. While she was confident her looks and figure would make His eyes pop out, she did not want to be dismayed. Even when she saw the photos He had sent across, she was not too sure. But when He came to pick her up at the airport, she recognized Him almost immediately. Hair peppered with a little grey, yet the same twinkling hazel eyes and the sexy arms. And His massive chest. She trembled when He greeted her with an embrace. He still wore Christian Dior. She almost had an orgasm then and there. He took her to a hotel near His ranch. They went places. They tried acting formal. It didn't work. Then He flirted and she giggled. They reminisced. They laughed. It did not take Him long to be bothered by their chemistry. 
       That same night she broke a nail and He bumped His head. 
       He had thought of her often, He said. And longed for her the same way she had. He had come back once and tried to visit her old house. But it was inhabited by new people who had no idea where her family had moved. He had given up hope then and there. 
       They spent the rest of the week in a dreamy haze. He could not have enough of her and she of him. One week later He put around her neck, a platinum chain with a little platinum heart. No diamond ring nothing. Heck, she was still a school girl wanting diamonds, when he was giving her platinum! He kissed her nape, she trembled as that delicious stinging ray made its way up her spine. And then He popped the question.
       The precious four words. 
       Needless to say, she agreed. 'I should have done this years ago' He mumbled. 
       She agreed to that too. 
       
       Smiling, she turns her head to look in the mirror. The little heart on her chain lies nestled between her breasts. She powders her face and leaves. Her flight is at 9 tonight.
       Little things she will not miss now. 
       Her Yellow Suitcase. Her Years since school. Her Longing for Him.
       Little things she will not miss now.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Bride-to-be

She sat on the bed. The phone clutched in her hand. Twice she had dialed the number, then disconnected it before it rang. Her hands trembled and her heart fluttered. Was she right? Should she? She closed her eyes.

She was getting married in two months. And yet there was no trace of happiness on her face. No blushing bride coy smiles. It was not because she had to go to work. No. She stayed home. Idle. Whiling away time. Hoping that she would be able to spend time with her family before she would finally go off to her husband’s house. Her husband who was her Boyfriend of six years.

She had left her job because he had asked her to. He stayed in Paris and he had wanted her to come stay with him. She did. Without thinking of anything but the joy of being with him, she complied. Went to Paris. Stayed with him for three months.

What did she remember of her stay in Paris?
That from dawn to dusk he would pound away on his laptop following the Cricket World Cup, as well as watching the same on TV? That the day was punctuated with ‘Make breakfast’, ‘Make lunch’, ‘Make tea’, ‘U r growing fat’, ‘U have become shapeless’, ‘Why don’t u go for a walk?’? Or that the nights she spent with him started and ended with his needs? That there never was a ‘You are beautiful’ phrase escaping his mouth even while he was inside her, grating and grinding against her bruised womanhood?

What did she remember of her stay in Paris?
That whatever she wore was ‘Ugly’? That whatever she cooked was ‘not like what Mum makes’? That the man she had fallen in love with was an insecure, pathetic negative person? That while he had promised to send her back in 3 weeks, he kept her with him for 3 months? That every day she was with him, she loathed him most of the time?

But what did she remember most of her stay in Paris?
That she cried copiously every time he hurt her with his indifference? That she delighted in the admiring glances other men gave her, while she was sulking because he had passed some more snide comments on her appearance, and she had believed him? That every time he remembered her existence and claimed her body, she deceived herself with the comforting that he would be marrying her? That the only time they actually sat down across each other and talked was when he had disagreed with her religious convictions.

She thought of the first time they had met. 

At a party.  He had been intoxicated by her vivaciousness and vitality. He had stalked her for six months until finally she had said yes. Gleefully they had rushed straight into love. When her parents forced her to marry someone they had chosen, he had cried and cried, but not faced her father. That should have warned her. That he would never stand up for her. That he did not have the guts to fight against the world for the woman he loved. And yet she let him smother her in his embraces.
Slowly there were things that he made her change. His possessiveness meant she had to stop going out with her friends unless she had told him of her plans in advance. Gradually they started spending more and more time with each other. She welcomed the change but felt stifled at times. Yet her love for him blinded her to the sacrifices she was being made to give. Her opinion began to be ignored. Every decision was his now. Even when he decided to tell her of his plans to do his MBA from abroad, she had not known until one week before his departure. He had not thought it important to discuss with her! That should have been the second warning sign. Yet, she, the fool, ignored it. Silenced the alarm bells ringing within her mind.

Now six years later, he had told his parents about her. Their dowry demands were huge. But her parents could not afford so much. He should have understood. She had already told him of her family’s condition before they had talked about marriage. So she saw no reason for them to demand so much dowry. She expected him to stand up and fight. But like earlier, he did not. He hounded her asking why her family could not afford such a ‘meagre’ sum. Never once did he ask her about her family’s health or her fears before marriage. Never about whether she would be comfortable in being attired in saris all the time, a contrast to her undying love of western clothes. Even at her own house, she had not worn anything other than jeans or skirts. She hadn’t complained. Just taken it in her stride. The fact that she would be sitting idle even after having done Post-Graduation. She had silently agreed to be a part of a family that would not understand her love for painting or writing. She had agreed, to follow his footsteps. Wherever they would lead her. As long as he was with her, she would put up with anything.

What a Fool she was.

It didn’t work like that. These past 3 months after the parents had talked, discussed, negotiated and finally agreed to marry for whatever her parents were ready to give her, had gone by in a continuous haze of daily fights and crying sessions. How could someone who promised to take care of her like ‘a flower in my palms’ become so insensitive to her feelings? He was revolted by her. She could hear the disgust in his voice every time they talked.  Why?
Now she had had enough. Yesterday he had gone so far to say that he would have to rethink. Rethink what? The marriage decision? So all those nights and days that she had given herself upto him had not mattered! All those six years of erasing a part of her life, her desires, her independence, her vital spirit, inch by inch, had not mattered! If only she had put a stop earlier. Before she had got emotionally attached. She couldn't even look at another man, forget forging a new relationship in her life. And all the grief she had given her parents, with her stubborn insistence on marrying him. With what face could she go back and explain to them?

She had had enough. It would have to end.

Now she sat on the bed. Crying silent tears of Shame, Anger, Frustration. She picked up the phone ‘Rohan, I want to end this relationship. It is not working out. I cannot marry you like this. I call off this marriage.’
At the other end, Rohan exclaimed ’Not another of your nautankis, now. I’m not in the mood. Stop irritating me with all your bullshit…………’

She didn’t hear anymore. She couldn’t. 
She was busy.
Hanging from the ceiling fan. Blue, Grey and Mottled.