A love story of it’s kind

He sat by the coffee table, wearing his best shirt and her favorite cologne, he had ensured that every crease was ironed perfectly, singing their song while he was at it and thinking of the last time he had seen her before he left for unknown soil.. She had gifted him this shirt and cried in his arms, and he, in a moment of weakness had reconsidered the decision to leave… but today, so many years later, he was a proud man!

I had everything but this, he thought to himself. This was the purpose he burned the night lamp and studied, this was the reason he cut down on expenses and risked being called a miser by his university mates, this was why he researched night and day for the best job and used all possible networks to get through… many said he was wrong, but he saw the day beyond all this, and that day was today, albeit with a shadow of darkness..

He looked down at the gold watch he got her as a gift and imagined all her possible reactions.. “Oh my god! This is so expensive!!”, “I really didn’t need this”, “Please return it…”.. he smiled silently as he closed his eyes against the welling tears, the overwhelming emotions getting hold of him as he tried to fight them back, along with the guilt of not being with her on that tiring flight, not reading into her words and the well kept secret earlier and leaving everything and going back, stabbing him in the heart.

The announcement for the flight arrival broke him out of his thoughts and he ran, camera in tow, not wanting to miss a single moment as his mother arrived. She was weaker, with a thin cloth tied over her head to hide the damage done by chemotherapy, nurse in tow.. he remembered her strong voice over the phone telling him she would manage the travel alone with the nurse as she now timidly looked around for him. She wanted to see the life he was living, and he wanted to make this the best trip of her life.

Distant Mother

I opened the door and silently sneaked in… There she lay, in all her beauty, unaffected by the world around her. I made an effort to be wary of the slightest noise around- knowing she was a light sleeper. But how could one not be mesmerized out of his or her senses after seeing such distressed innocence! It was comical yet touching to me how I featured in all her bed time prayers, all the little secret letters she wrote to god, all her drawing assignments at school- even though she had barely even seen me. My heart ached to hold her just once, and cry for we could never be the complete family we both somewhere secretly ached to be.

For now, sadly, I just had to make do with these silent conversations once in a while that soothed my fire-lit, yet cold soul. How I longed to put her to sleep on my lap and caress her beautiful soft hair like all the other mothers did!

I remembered the time I had first held her as a baby, remembered her first steps, her first smile, like it was all only yesterday! These were the only figments of memory I had that I could hold on to…. That gave some purpose to my otherwise pointless existence… I could trade each and every ounce of my being only to experience the beautiful amalgamation of joy and pain I felt that night.

I wished this one-way rendezvous would never end, and the dark corner of her room seemed like the coziest place in the world to me but dawn had broken already and it was time to go back to the lonely grave I called home now.

In Between

The streets were lonely and dark as he sat on the divider, a mere reflection of himself.  Why did she have to leave him like that, he wondered amidst peals of self pity, the numerous sleepless nights stinging his eyes. He wandered around for a bit and settled down where he was bound. Tonight was the night years ago- when it had all ended- where he had lost her forever. The memory still came back to stab him in the heart almost everyday but sadly that was the only thing left to hold on to.

Time had lost track now as everything went by in a haze. There were occasions where a sudden glimpse or a memory would instantly transport him back to those days and by the time he got ruthlessly thrown back to the present, hours would have passed- sometimes even weeks. This phase of being “incomplete” seemed to last forever and his existence begged for closure of some kind.

The doomed drive that night- why did it have to happen! The fight, the disclosure of her infidelity. It still hurt- even after all these years! Only if he hadn’t lost control of the wheel along with his temper, his plight would have been different today.

He stood and pictured the remains of the battered vehicle near this very divider like he saw it that day- when she was taken to the hospital and he was taken home, wrapped in white. The memory still came back to stab him almost everyday but sadly that was the only thing left to hold on to.

Horror Story

An eerie silence filled the room as the pawn on the Ouija board moved in response to the questions. The tension was building up as people exchanged nervous glances, the candlelight casting their shadows on the walls. Every small sound and the slightest hint of movement accounted for a skipped heartbeat. They had not even come to the serious part and she was already repenting her decision of sitting near the window. The sudden wafts of cool breeze grazing the back of her neck occasionally on a warm summer night made it scarier. No one else seemed as scared as her though- She found out why soon enough when everyone else burst into peals of laughter. She was not amused. These were not things to be played around with-she argued, and left the room in a fit.

Walking back home at this unearthly hour was an ordeal, even though she lived right down the street. Even after knowing that all this was just a stupid prank, in her head, she had somehow messed with the supernatural- Something she had been curious about but too scared to investigate or get involved in all her life. And the icing on the cake was her having to stay alone at home that night with all her roommates out of town. She pulled the sling bag tighter across her chest as she paced quickly by the grim looking tree. It was weird how everything transformed in to prospective demonic objects in the moonlight. There was a low thud in the background. “If you look behind when a ghost is following you, they possess you easily”- her grandmother had said once in one of her fairy tales. Her heart almost stopped, and her throat choked so bad- she thought she lost her voice. She couldn’t make out whether the footsteps she heard apart from her own were for real or a figment of her imagination. The idea of turning and bolting back to the friend’s place paralyzed her with the fear of facing something she dreaded. She pushed the gate, that felt cold and solid against her palm, bringing in a sense of relief that she had finally reached home.

Little did she know that reality indeed had a ghost in store for her. She walked in to face him- cold and vicious, with a knife snuck into the back of his belt- which he used without batting an eyelid on being caught red handed. There was no place she could run or hide in that cursed moment, where the fears that lay outside were defeated forever.

 

 

 

 

The Owlhead

There were stories about her, no one knew where she came from and where she lived… Few said they had seen her sleep under the huge banyan tree near that old dilapidated library building, from where eerie noises came at night and no one dared going to after it was dark.

During daytime, she would sit silently in one corner of the road with a red cloth in front of her, and a doll on her lap, which belonged to her dead daughter, oblivious to all that was being said about her. A semi-transparent dupatta covered her head, that only partially revealed the huge kohl-rimmed eyes. She did not beg, she did not get up till dusk, and then, she just disappeared with whatever alms or food people kept in front of her through the day.

On one hand, she was fuel to many a lurking stories in the neighborhood- the result of idle minds and hyper imaginations… Someone said they had heard her singing one day to the doll and talking to it. The doll was possessed and talked back. The elderly said that she had killed her own child and the spirit was in the doll. The media combined the two stories and created a third story and flashed it on television. They branded her the “owlhead”, because of her huge eyes. Kids never even wandered near her-she was the boogie man for many a frustrated parents who just couldn’t put them naughty children to bed and desperately wanted a character to scare them with.

While on the other hand, she was just someone who was driven to borderline insanity by her very own people in her very own faraway little village who thought she did not deserve a life after everything and everyone she loved had perished in a fire and she was the only one unlucky enough to survive and be called a witch and be held responsible for everything. Running away from that place was an inevitable reaction more than an option. Landing here was an unforeseen occurrence, and survival was the only way ahead.

She was glad that she had found an empty space near the library building, where the street lights were ample and the huge tree shielded her from nature’s wrath. The huge tassels that hung from the branches initially scared her, making weird shadows on the ground next to where she slept, but she knew this was the safest place for her. People feared her appearance, and that kept her safe from getting into trouble with drunk goons lurking out at night and the resident territorial tramps who would terrorize and drive away anyone else who trespassed. She did not intend to harm anyone, but she did not want to be harmed as well, and hence she would put up the acts and make an effort to dress up like that- she knew people would mess with everything, but not some thing associated with the supernatural.

Today she does not sit at her spot, and the old library building has been pulled down, but the stories of the owlhead continue, and no one goes near the banyan tree at night.

 

The Walking Stick

The bony hands traced clear letters on the mud as the old man sat at his usual spot… on the bare ground under the huge mango tree, waiting for his grandson to come and pick him up. He seemed a little upset at being made to wait so long, though the sound of any car approaching made him look up expectantly, but he knew the kid would get late. He had other priorities in life too and the fact that he made an effort to come and pick him up everyday after his evening walk on his way back from work was a big deal in itself. This routine at least gave him some quality time with his only grandchild who was naturally, the apple of his eye.

“Why do you always do this! Why can’t you just sit on the benches and wait for me?”  The boy stood miffed in front of him as he looked up from the artwork and flashed a toothless grin. Even if it was in this way, he was sure that these little conversations, and his childish antics were what his little one would remember when he was gone, and he would probably tell his friends, hopefully with a slight tear. “Did you see what I wrote?” he asked, almost breathless, trying to keep up with the young man’s pace. “Yes, it was my name, but you spelled it wrong” the latter chided playfully, opening the front door of the car and helping him in. “Dada where’s your walking stick?” The reply was a moody shrug, “I spelt it right only… It’s a proper noun” Knowing that there was no use of arguing over this, Samarth raised the music volume only to his grandfather lowering it again… “My heart feels restless today, I don’t think it can handle your music”. Taking a deep breath and trying not to lose his cool, he drove on, while the old man rummaged in his handy bag for something, “I got you a chocolate… remember the one I used to bring home every evening? I didn’t know they still sell these” Samarth smiled, this made him nostalgic… he remembered running to the door as a little boy, and looking up at his grandfather’s pocket as he, without fail, pulled out the much awaited bar of chocolate everyday….They had really grown apart over the years, he thought. He looked sideways and saw his dada in a peaceful slumber. The rest of the short journey went by without a word.

He parked the car, still lost in the memories and walked in to see a lot of visitors. His company lay in the hallway under a white sheet, with everyone around mourning. A void filled his head as he half heard someone say that he had an attack while walking in the park, and he resisted the people reaching out to him and trying to console him. This was impossible…this couldn’t be true. He ran back to the car, and then to the park, his brain numb, his heart slowly coming to terms with what had happened. The pick up spot didn’t hold his incorrectly spelled name, but he did find the walking stick.

A dance in the rain

In a world of ideal relationships, theirs was a total misfit. Even their laughter had a tinge of guilt and awkwardness associated to it. Awkwardness of not being sure what was it that was between them, if this was it, or was there something else that destiny had in store. Yet, none of them spoke a word. No one questioned when the other got a call at 3 AM in the night… no one questioned the texts that separated them miles away even though they just sat across each other at the dinner table. The mechanical birthdays and anniversaries had the alarm clock ringing off at 12 AM, the sudden surge of affection, followed by the expected surprise the next day. There was absolutely never an impulsive decision made amidst all the meticulous calculations and planning. Nothing felt amiss, this was how everyone around was, this was the way it was meant to be.

There was almost never a story to tell, and all the responsibilities and obligations made it ever more impossible to create one.

It was not that they wouldn’t want to have it any other way, just that a dance in the rain was never given a thought.

Disgraced in honor

Does it even matter anymore that the dapper young man had many suitors in the small town he hailed from, a lot of them way more accomplished, yet ready to sacrifice all for the killer looks and effortless charm. The already well-to-do family though did not seem as interested in him, as much as they were in the return on investment he would get them. He was well aware of this, but he smiled to the mirror everyday as her thought came brushing past. He was of the blessed kind who could stop people in their tracks, make women turn around for seconds when he crossed their paths, while their insecure better halves reconsidered losing that extra inch of tummy, and yet he was humble enough to make anyone and everyone who knew him feel like they owned it.

But all this was not for showcase. He was on blinders for the lady who had been, at one point, the little neighbor girl with two pigtails for whom he saved his share of chocolates, the brash, college-going crack head who got into trouble all the time, and now the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with.  There was, however, too much of convincing to do, since the family was not exactly pleased with his prospective bride; even calling her a witch, who had used the supernatural to get him under her wing, plus it really mattered that she was dark and belonged to a lower sect of society. Eloping was the last resort, but now they had begun seriously considering it. He wasn’t as educated as her, worked at a garage during the day and ran small errands by night. She was a pre-school teacher, and fought almost every day to get out of the house for the money because she knew they would need it someday when all would be against them. Both knew the destination, it was only the route that led to it that was blurred out by the rules of the society.

But as fate would have it, they had had enough of it one day, and decided to figure it out anyway. There was a plan, there were hard earned savings. There was hope, there was gut wrenching anxiety, there were plan B’s as well. The motive was to go as far away as possible from everything, but what the plan lacked was the manipulation of the extreme repercussions of the heinous crime they were about to commit.

But the fear of what’s ahead doesn’t faze them today when the dream sleeps with them as they lay on the wet ground, motionless, fallen prisoners of honor. No, It does not matter anymore.

Passing the torch

The stage was set, the lights-on, the backstage looked scarier than ever before… She took a moment to read distractedly what was written on the back of the stage as the high pitched hostess merrily chattered away, breaking her concentration and also annoying her a little. The cheap foundation and lipstick made her sick with the smell and the bangles, that were perfectly fine earlier, were now getting stuck to her dupatta while her mind chided her… “I must run away…why did I even sign up for this!” …. “The audience must be having a blast right now, wish I was there too!”… “I shouldn’t have laughed so hard at the wardrobe malfunction news yesterday, what if Karma gets back to me!!”…. “Now what was that step again??….”

Her stomach rumbled out of nervousness… or was it hunger? She remembered the untouched almonds that her mother had nervously packed into her bag in the morning, while ushering her quickly out of the door before her father could see her with her brightly painted face and the strand of jasmine flowers adorning her long braid, which was carefully pinned to her blouse for the performance. “Girls from respectable families don’t dance around!” was his standard statement everytime she tried bringing up the topic on the dinner table, and that was the end of it! She didn’t see how dance and respect were even remotely connected, and she couldn’t care less! She knew what her passion was, and no one could douse it down! Even if it meant saving up all the pocket money for months and paying for the classical dance classes, or lying to him today and sneakily going out to give her first performance on stage…

Her mouth felt dry and her left foot hurt a bit because she had tied the ghungroo too tightly, but there was no use loosening it now because a numb, blue foot at the end of the day was unarguably more acceptable than the knot coming off mid-dance. She could see her friends sitting and waiting expectantly for her to come up on stage but that very expectation… which made her feel like a star otherwise, scared her to shreds today! All the motivational videos, do or die statements that she had written on her wall back home seemed so feeble right now!

She saw herself shakily get onto the stage and face the audience, her costume glistening in the the spotlight, that directly shone upon her face, blinding her from her spectators: making her feel exposed, conscious and dying for that first sign of a welcome applause that would serve as a reassurance that someone still believed in her and that the goal now was not winning but doing her best.

When she was just about to turn around and give her pre-routine welcome pose, someone gently touched her on the shoulder, snapping her back to reality at the peak of her open-eyed fantasy… “That’s your daughter on stage isn’t it? I’ve heard she’s an excellent dancer, can’t wait to see her perform!” The current situation took a moment to sink in, and then, realizing that the moment had come, she nodded to the kind lady with a huge grin, eyes welling up, as she looked towards the stage and saw herself, 25 years younger, turning around and preparing to give her first stage performance.

Fading Memories and Ointment

She had lovely blue eyes, with huge bags tugging them down that spoke of inexplicable pain. The pain as bad as seeing a loved one die, and to make matters worse.. painfully. You just had to look at them to know how much trauma she had gone through.

All through the day, she sat in a corner of the rented apartment, immobilized almost completely due to the paralysis. Her husband had walked into the room one day, a few years ago, to find her sitting on the floor, leaned against the wall in a pool of urine and rushed her to the hospital, where they had declared her paralysed waist down.

All through her healthy life, she had been a dutiful daughter , a loving wife, a doting mother, and even now she would tell anyone who would listen with a distant smile about the time when her daughter used to skin her knee almost everyday and come running to her… tears in her little eyes, asking for her attention and the magic ointment.. this was 30 years ago, and this was one memory etched in her aged and irritable mind, leaving a few other flashes that occasionally came now and then, wrenching her weak heart.

Making herbal ointments was a skill that never left her, it was her father’s gift, passed on to her. It didn’t fetch much but was just enough to pay the rent. Living all alone, with the support of a house maid who came twice a day , the loneliness often got to her, and she would cry occasionally, especially when she saw young girls and the thoughts would overwhelm her. Sometimes she remembered everything, as though it was happening at just that moment even though a decade had passed… Her barging into the room and trying to support her daughter’s limp legs dangling from the ceiling fan, with one part of her heart telling her there was no use for she was gone, while the other screamed that her darling couldn’t be leaving her like this. She cursed herself and tore her hair thinking that she shouldn’t have left her alone that night.. she knew she was low about failing her tests for the third time in a row, but she could never have imagined a reaction so drastic, something that would change all their lives forever.

She saw her husband helplessly sobbing, for the first time ever that night, as he left with the ambulance. Her attack followed and she had no memory of the cremation or anything after this.  He went away as well, within a few months , but she didn’t mourn a bit! In fact she was happy that he was in a happier place now. And as for herself, finally, she didn’t have to put up with life every single day just because there was someone left to live for.

Yet here she is, 10 years on.. living with fading memories and making herbal ointments for the little children who skinned their knees.

Miss Hot Mess

She thought of her 100 crushes as she lay on her bed and wondered if this was normal! Would she have loyalty issues with her spouse or were these just hormones speaking? She looked at all married folk and wondered if she was ready for that kind of commitment. In the nightly parent Scrum call a few days back, it had been announced that she had at the maximum 1 year to think about this, and that had got her thinking.. Earlier weddings would mean meeting cousins, happy people everywhere, food, dancing, basically.. happiness.. but now she could see a mother in law, some debt, adjustment, job relocation issues, prioritization dilemma among other things, and worst of all… A shared bathroom!!

The hangover from last night was giving her a headache, and the lime wasn’t helping. She got up and looked around, and felt like going back to sleep! The house was in a mess and it was 12 PM.. which meant.. the maid already left! She laughed to herself as she picked up the bottles, careful not to tread on anyone, and thought that a husband would have come handy in this situation. Not that he would appreciate a floor full of bottles, chips, some pizza and people scattered in between all the mess, but yeah..  She checked her phone and it flashed 5 missed calls from dad and 2 from mom, one more excellent thing to look forward to today!

She swayed right to left as she headed towards the kitchen as she tried recalling the occurrences of the previous night. Glimpses of the dance floor, random strangers, guzzling friends rushed past and wait.. how did they all land in her house?? And was that a cigarette?! Her fingers burned anyway, was this the aftermath of too much smoking?!! And who the hell was repeatedly calling her name!! She opened her eyes to see two amused roommates calling her again and again, and realized that she was leaning against the fridge, day dreaming,  and gaping at them open mouthed all  this while! Quickly composing herself, she wiped her mouth and laughed along, and started wondering what she was in the kitchen for!!

The whatsapp showed a new notification and omg it was Crush #whocares, but he was asking her out tonight! She felt like puking out of happiness! Not the best way of showing excitement of course, but hangover!! She ran to the bathroom and wretched and moaned, as the tummy threatened to give up; and the first thought on her mind was.. LIT or Tequila shots?..