Category Archives: hearing the obscured

Short story : The other side

(This was written for a short story competition.The theme for the competition was ‘strange love’. )

THE OTHER SIDE

It was unusually cold for a June night. But it was nothing compared to the chill he felt inside. As he shuffled with his messed up hair that fell lightly on his forehead, and the even messier thoughts inside his head, he looked up in the sky. They used to talk about the moonlight. But the crescent moon did not manage to light up his heart today. Everything in front of him was pitching black. His insides were even darker. He tried finding constellations in the million little stars above to block the image that flashed in front of him every time he blinked. He put his i-pod on full blast playing the happiest songs on his list. He tried concentrating on the blinking street lamp at the end of the boulevard that led to his house. He tried everything possible to block his mind. But standing six floors above ground, in the balcony of his old house, there was nothing he could do to stop the image from haunting him. Thinking about it, he sensed his eyes were glistening, again. Was it because of the sorrow that he had lost a beautiful, poised ,witty girl forever, or was it only from the effort of trying not to blink, he could not decide. But least, the tears confirmed he wasn’t dreaming. He wasn’t dreaming earlier in the night too, when he had entered his favorite club, and glancing on the dance floor on his right, had seen Meera with her beautiful long wavy brown hair swaying sensuously on the dance floor with Trisha. He was surprised to see her there, and in that moment, he had felt an insane amount of attraction towards Meera. Why had he pushed her out of his life…he suddenly appeared unreasonable to himself. He tried making sense to himself of this never felt before emotion that he seemed to be full of right now. Was it remorse, resent, longing to be loved or loneliness? He shook his head, smirked at himself in his trademark righteous attitude and went straight ahead to the bar counter, ordered drinks for his guys and settled in the nearest table on left, from where the dance floor was still visible. Since a few days, he had noticed, Meera had found a savior in Trisha. He felt no doubt that it must have been Trisha’s idea to drink up the sorrow, in quite a literal manner. He gulped his beer and continued watching Meera. But as soon as the DJ shifted gears from the pounding racy music to a more melodic tune, and the flashy swaying multicolored lights settled in a steady blue ambient light, Meera  signaled Trisha to the bar counter, and she went back to their table, while Trisha ordered a fresh round of drinks. As Meera sat at the table, she caught Arjun’s gaze. He remembered being surprised that his presence in the same room had not affected her even a bit. She had just blinked and looked away. He tried reminding himself that he did not care for her anymore. He had declared that she was just a mediocre girl who no longer deserved that special place in his life. Thinking this to himself in the club, his heart sank. He only realized now what he had done a few weeks ago. Trying to concentrate on his froth-less beer, he confessed to himself that he would never find a girl like her. Could he do anything to fix this? His train of thoughts was interrupted by a sudden cheer from the guys on the next table. As he followed their gaze, and saw what they saw, his heart twisted violently inside his chest. His knees were suddenly weak and contrary to the smoldering image he had created around himself, a teardrop had rolled down his fluttering eyes. His forehead shone with a film of perspiration. He reached involuntarily between his unkempt hair to wipe it clear. Out of the corner of his watery eyes, he looked at his friends. They were frozen jaw dropped in a stunned expression.  It had been three hours since then, but his legs still felt weak, and the image that shocked him kept projecting in front of his eyes constantly. Peeling the rust flakes off his balcony railing, at 2.47 am, he finally caved in and broke in to steady whimpering cry.

Around same time, a few miles away, Meera stirred to her senses with an uneasy feeling. She blinked her deep brown eyes a couple of times and opened them with a little buzz in her head. She realised she wasn’t in her room, but it wasn’t an unknown territory. Trisha’s studio apartment had been an abode for her lately. She had almost camped here for a week now. She tied her hair up in a tight bun and got out of bed for making some coffee. She almost stumbled over while stepping down to the living room. Glancing at the innumerable movie DVDs lying on the parquet flooring in front of the TV that occupied most of the living room, she went to the kitchenette on her right and put the pot on the coffee maker. She went back to the living area and cleared the floor wondering how many movies had Trisha watched in her entire life. Just in her knowing of a few days, she had dragged Meera to the cinema five times, and to numerous places she had never been before.  As she went back to the pot, and watched the dark brown liquid turn into boiling black, her thoughts invariably flew to Arjun. It had been 23 days now, but it still felt like yesterday. He had bluntly cut her out of his life. You are a drama queen Meera, I can’t deal with you. And I had never really wanted to take a step forward with you. It never meant anything to me. It was all just in your imagination. Leave me alone now. And you better come out of your imagination bubble. Not that it matters to me, as long as you stay away. Just in a moment, he had declared her a freak, a fool. Even the memory of it felt like a hundred ice-cold daggers jabbing mercilessly at her heart. She had told him that she loved him more than anyone and begged him to reconsider, but he had just smirked, and left. She remembered suddenly seeing him in the club yesterday. She felt proud of herself for being strong in front of him. She poured the black coffee in her adopted mug and went back to bed. This time she remembered to step up. As she pulled the rug over her legs, she saw the reason why she had been so strong earlier in the night. Trisha’s ivory skin was shining translucent even in the meager moonlight that filtered in the room through the French window in front of their bed. The last eighteen days of her life were filled with the charming effervescence that Trisha was. She had not only managed to keep Meera’s thoughts away from Arjun, but had also put her in a perpetually happy state of mind. Meera was strongly against the cliché that two girls cannot be best of friends. She had had many close girl friends throughout her life, but none like Trisha. Trisha was new to the college and within the first couple of day had earned a reputation for herself. But Trisha cared a damn about what was happening around her. It was all about living the moment, she said to Meera, when she had noticed how the guy who used to always be by her side had disappeared. Trisha had silently taken the responsibility of making Meera happy that day and had welcomed her with open arms into her friendship. To Meera, she seemed like a river in full swing, full of vigor and passion for life. Enchanted, Meera had just let herself in her flow. She was deeply shocked when Trisha had revealed after a week that she was gay. Meera had not let it affect their friendship and was in fact touched by the confidence in Trisha’s revelation. She was charmed by her chilled out attitude and independence.  Now as she remembered last night’s revelry, she felt herself smile after almost a month, in a sober condition. She remembered the euphoria of liberating happiness it was to be with Trisha. She remembered feeling tremendously attracted to her as they had danced carelessly in the club. She loved Trisha’s silky auburn hair. She remembered thinking of that moment to be the happiest one in her life. As she had nodded her to bring more drinks, she realized Trisha meant the world to her. She was a savior, a true friend, the most ideal companion. Reaching out to Trisha had seemed like the thing to do then. Without thinking twice, as Trisha kept their glasses on the table, Meera had grabbed her and kissed her passionately. She remembered a mild uproar but only in the background. What she experienced inside was multitudes greater. Her eyes were filled with the image of a beaming girl who had leaned back to give her a warm hug. Trisha’s happiness had reflected in her eyes and for once, made her speechless. Meera did not remember making anyone so happy. It felt perfect.  Sitting in her bed, back to her senses, she did not feel even a bit of regret. She did not remember seeing Arjun again. Probably, he has driven me to this. But I’ll only be thankful for it. She knew nothing mattered anymore. She had made her choice, it was only for her to decide after all. And she had made her decision…to stay away from all the hurt, to be truly and unconditionally happy. To be with someone who made her happy. No more games, no more complications. She put down the half drunk coffee on the side table, rolled over to the other side, put her arm across Trisha and fell back to sleep.

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Whatever works

She realised nothing in her life was going according to the plan,her plan.She closed her eyes in an attempt to stop tears from rolling down.She could feel her ears heat up.She felt an uncontrollable anger towards everyone in her life.She hated the fact that when she needed someone to just be with her,no one was around. She did not need advice,or sympathy…not even apathy.She just needed someone who would hold her hand and give her a warm hug, keep her thoughtless for sometime at least.But there she was,sitting in a crowded cafe,music blasting in her ears,somewhere she was only because she had nowhere else to go. No one to go to.People around her had driven her to a situation where this odd place made her calm and at the same time she feared someone might recognise her here and start a conversation…She longed for a heart to heart conversation with a friend,but did not know who to turn to.So the idea of conversing scared her.It was all confusing for her.She wanted and feared the same things.
She had started detesting people she once loved dearly.Staying with them seemed futile.A waste of energy,time and patience.She sometimes smiled in her head when she tried to listen to what was being bombarded on her all the time.She wasn’t mocking them or laughing on them,not even in her head.It just amused her how insignificant the banter was to her and how ignorant everyone was about it,about her..her feelings,her opinion…her existence!
But it wasn’t a total waste,the bombarding.It did affect her.All the constant pressure and negative thoughts that everyone immersed her in,they did manage to depress her,every single time.And yet she cared about them at the end of the day.She did not want to hurt them by her unworldly ways and that’s why she stayed,stayed but stayed away.On a minimal interaction basis.But they did not even understand that.There was no way she behaved that would prove to be non-offensive to them. So once in a while she laughed and cracked jokes and gossiped with them,to make them feel better.And they did,but that was all that they cared about.She was never their priority,never was anyone’s.But they needed her,to keep them entertained,to do their little charades,to keep them sane.And so she did.Because when you love someone,there is no other option but to do whatever works,whatever works for them.

A friend in need…

How young were you when you first heard the line : ‘A friend in need is a friend indeed’.Throughout our childhood,we have been taught in school,at home to choose friends wisely,to read a person.And during that discourse we more than often were bombarded with the ‘in need indeed’ saying. Did we really understand at that time what it meant?What did we take from it?

I definitely learnt something from it,to help your friends and be with them no matter what the situation.Was it because of this that it got imbibed or that I met such great friends over the years that it came naturally I do not know.But over the years friends became most important part of my life.But only recently did I realise that this line has a different lesson altogether.It does not (only) guide you how to be a good friend,but guides you how to identify your true friends.

Because there comes a time in your life,when all you need is a true friend by your side,to tell you that everything will be ok..and you find yourself starving for friendship.This is the time when you realise that a friend in need is a friend indeed.And like a reinforcement to what you already knew,comes the truth…that your friends  sitting across the seven seas are closer to you than the ones that you rub your shoulders with.It’s amazing that with their own set of problems, issues and umpteen amount of work,they still think of you,sense your needs and care enough to make you feel less lonely.

So how much do the others matter really? The ones that don’t care about anything but getting together, having a good time.Or when they are in need.Are they not good friends?May be they are,just not close enough.May be not friends in the real,deeper sense.May be they are better friends to someone else.All you can do is hope, that they indeed are,and treasure your own close ones!

Fighting Mirrors

She looked at herself in the mirror…she tried to see what was left of her.

After days of not feeling anything,of starving beyond consciousness,of abusive outbursts and carelessness,she realized something was wrong.I was never like this.Now she looked at her reflection.She had lost all of the little weight she had managed to put on in the last year.The only little fat remaining was on her stomach,and it still bothered her.He waist had become waif thin and her wrists were negligible.Her black vest lay loosely on her drooping shoulders and her frayed grey shorts were slipping down her diminishing waistline.She moved closer to the mirror to see her side profile.She moved even closer and saw droopy eyes drowning in a pool of dark circles staring back at her. Suddenly she realized she was a mess.But the next moment she thought that she knew that already,didn’t I?
She played with her hair that fell lightly on her forehead.She crudely twisted them around her finger,like the thoughts that were twitching in her mind.She did not realize she spent 43 minutes doing that until she saw the wall clock in the mirror and turned around to check if the mirror wasn’t lying.As she was turning around to check the time,she heard a soft knock on the door.Her left eyebrow raised in irritation almost as a reflex.He knocks now.He is afraid of me.Her mind was beaming at the thought, but it did not cross the thick layers of skin.And indeed the person on the other side of the door was afraid of the effect his concern might have on her.She cautiously moved across her room and took her copy of her favourite Milan Kundera’s novel and opened it to page 42,exactly the page that she was reading 3 weeks ago.

Her dad walked in to the room after waiting for another 30 seconds.Her dad was her only family left and probably the only person in the whole wide world that loved her.She looked up only for their eyes to meet for a second and then went back to pretending to read.She was afraid even a second more of eye contact would start a conversation.Even she had not heard her voice in three weeks and wanted the mute phase to continue.She was afraid to hear how it may sound after all these days of hauntingly soulful silence.He walked up to her,kissed her just above the forehead and left wordlessly,leaving the door ajar on purpose.She immediately got up and closed the door and returned in front of the mirror.In an instant all the anger and frustration in her melted in to tears and started flowing down like a constant stream.This was the first sign of her normality in a long time.But she did not want to be normal.She buried herself into her bed and fought back her tears.She did not intend to lose all the anger in her.She did not intend to relieve herself with the tears and go back to being herself.No,that couldn’t be it.She knew she couldn’t bear another hurt and she did not want to make herself vulnerable to it,again.She needed strength…to hold back all the emotions and feel nothing.The mirror made her vulnerable.That day,she decided to engage into an eternal war with her reflection…her conscience.That day,she became a rebel.

Going Crazy (or trying not to)

Yesterday I saw something that totally amazed me.I saw a man laugh… a man who I have known  to be an eternally angry and serious person.I saw him watching television and laugh like an innocent toddler over something that frankly wasn’t even funny.I thought to myself : has he gone crazy?

In the next instant I realised how inappropriate the thought was,and how casually the C – word is used these days, by everyone.Going crazy is actually far more big a deal than it sounds to us.It is insanity.Something that is considered to be irreversible. So really,no one around you is crazy(positively). But then, why is the word used so often? Because we all act like crazy people sometimes.Every now and then, or rarely… but surely, we all have our moments of craziness. We get tired of being the person that we want the world to think we are.Sometimes we want to surprise ourself. Sometimes it becomes a thing that just needs to be done. It is better to have some of these slips, than to bottle up the pressure that would eventually drive you crazy.

So let go all of your tensions for sometime.Surprise yourself.Sing in the office,dance in the rain,shout in a tunnel,sit silently in a corner,crack jokes on your boss(at your own expense),buy balloons for no reason,race to the mountain top,wear fancy clothes…do something out of the routine,that you always wanted to do.Let people stare,you can stare at them when it’s their turn.Be crazy in a moment than for a lifetime!

Island Memoirs #1

My eyes were reduced to a slit.The sun was playing hide and seek with the clouds since morning,but right now,it was spewing heat over my head.I was trying to find the face that I was supposed to trust my life with.I knew he was somewhere around.The knot in my stomach was wrenching tighter.The lump in my throat seemed permanent.He emerged smiling and jerked his head slightly telling me to follow him.Like a little child,I did just that.After a few steps towards the horizon,he noticed my hesitance.

‘Are you afraid?’ he asked. Embarrassed, I nodded,breaking into a smile and said ‘sort of’. He gently took my hand in his and said, ‘trust me…its a beautiful experience’. I nodded again and we set towards the horizon again.When we reached the distance he told me to let go off the weight and float freely.I tried and panicked immediately.He pulled me close by the waist in the most non-offensive manner possible.He looked at me reassuring with apathy,and said ‘keep breathing’. In that instant I knew he would keep me safe.Forgetting every thing else I started floating.He showed me the world I had never thought of witnessing.It was beauty beyond words can describe.I knew exactly what being one with nature meant.There was peace in every inch of my body and I never wanted to get out of that phase.But at that time,I wasn’t even thinking about that.I was living the moment…with him,silently gliding by my side,only looking at me to ask if I was okay at regular intervals. He let me put my hand on his shoulder as he guided me through the mystical world.I had never felt so safe before.He lifted me twice as I ran out of breath.Even if that bothered him,he hid it well.I lost the track of time.I could hear nothing,and feel nothing but peace.Peace…for the first time in my life I understood what the word really meant.

As we returned,I thanked him profusely,for being there in one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.He just smiled and said ‘most welcome’. I don’t know his name,nor does he know mine.He must have guided thousands in to the nature’s realm.By now he must have forgotten me,but I can never forget my snorkeling instructor, for without him, I would never have been able to go under water and feel light and free,the way I have never felt before!

Lakshadweep Islands,India has fascilities for scuba diving,snorkeling and kayaking.
Lakshadweep Islands,India has facilities for scuba diving,snorkeling and kayaking.

(This is the first part of a series of memoirs from my recent trip to the island of Lakshadweep,India.)

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She sat by the window reminiscing about the past few days. They had changed her. In what way she did not know. But she knew it was time for her to decide. It was time, yet again, to decide between the two halves of her mind. Between what was right and what was wonderfully joyful. She was never good at choosing the right path whenever she was confronted by the heartless crossroad. Through the window, she looked at the roaring clouds, and then beyond them. Please don’t let it rain on me, she prayed, not to the clouds…to no one in particular.

 

She sat down at her usual bench in the only decent public park in the city and took out her book to pretend to read. There was hardly anyone in the park so early in the evening, but she did not want to seem crazy staring into nothingness to any stranger. In her mind, she was still at the cross roads and choosing the right path still seemed impossible. There was a strong but terrible past beckoning and a fragile future seducing to take a leap, but what was most difficult was enduring the present. Every single day was passing by her, and nothing she did was channeling to the right direction. Breathing without thinking seemed like an impossible task. She just wished she could put all her thoughts to sleep and enjoy the very moment she was living.

 

She lay wide awake in her bed. Her legs kept shaking under her quilt, and her thoughts kept swaying beneath the sleep derived mind. Her eyes were tired, even so were not ready to close. Yet again her life was changing and this time for eternity. She had to make a decision and stand by it for a lifetime. The thought made her shudder. There was no way of knowing which road leaded to heaven and which to hell. The thought kept her awake into the wee hours. But today she felt asleep just after mid night. And then she had a dream.

She had a dream that she was stranded at a crossroad, an actual crossroad. Her denim was frayed and her backpack lay on the ground uncared for. With one hand she was fidgeting with the strap of her camera bag that she still held onto with utmost care. Her dark brown shades were the only relief from the scorching sunlight that was blasting on her. She could see the horizon over wavy fumes of hot air. There was nothing behind her, on the road that took her back to where she began her journey from, that she was sure of now. On her right lay a concrete road that seemed to take her to a dubious land and on the left was a patchy walkway, the road less traveled.  She was sure it would be an adventurous journey but she did not know where it would take her eventually. And in front of her lay barren land,  without any sign of even a birth of road. It stretched till the horizon. There were little bits of weeds trying to spring out from the ground at some places, but that was the only sign of any life on it. She stood there waiting for someone to come along and guide her. She waited all day. Her white t-shirt was all muddy by now. There was a steady wind blowing now and stars had started to pop their heads into the violet sky. But there was no sign of any one coming along to lead her to the right path. She collapsed and lay on the road, every inch of her exasperated. She hopelessly stared at the stars as the sky started turning black. And then she heard it. She heard music that stirred her awake in to her senses and as though hypnotized by it she was started walking in the direction of the provoking sounds. Before she knew she was in middle of a place that seemed to have sprung up from nowhere. There were snow-capped mountains and little streams of water running everywhere. The place smelled like musk and was filled with soft colored flowers.The ground was a soft carpet of lush green grass.It looked perfect until she got too close. The flowers had prickly thorns and the streams were out of reach. The grass was home to countless insects.The mountains remained flawless. She was confused by the imperfection of the place and yet could not resist the charm it radiated. She looked back at the road that had led her to this place. She saw only one long road; there was no sign of any intersection, no sign of any crossroad.

 

 

She woke up in the morning and her decision was made.