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The last post

I started this blog as a scratchpad for writing, something I wanted to do since I started reading books outside the prescribed syllabus in school.

However, writing had to wait for years. Once you get hooked on to reading, everything else seems trivial, including the fact that beyond all the essays, philosophy, stories and poetry that has been written you might have something new to add.

Then came social media and everyone, even the most socially handicapped and uncooperative was dragged in. Social media, with its flaws and health hazards, does force you to write. Comments! They start a chain reaction because it becomes an obligation to write something in response, however inane. My reluctant and later enthusiastic contribution in these exchanges impressed my “social” friends and I was told I may have enough hold on language and humor to write something worthwhile.

This led to the creation of ESP blog, a scratchpad to test if I am good at writing. Clueless, that I was, I decided to try anything and everything that I could, and I did. The blog has been a success in that aspect.

Over time, I started reading, following, liking and commenting on hundreds of other blogs. These are activities that consume a lot of your time. There are takeaways in the form of learning from others and making friends who think and behave like writers. The general reception to WP posts is always encouraging, criticism seems redundant when people are trying out their luck, mostly unsure of themselves. The repercussions of such applause and lack of disparaging verdicts makes one give up the most essential aspects of writing – reviews and editing. The price for the takeaways is clearly too high.

I have decided it is high time to move on from the scratchpad writing and try to create something I would be proud of.

As a favor, I would like you to tell me what you didn’t like in my blog. The incentive I offer is acknowledgement of your contribution in the great books I will eventually publish 😀

Good luck to all you guys!

Keep writing, keep blogging!

Love,
– ESP

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Fiction

Love, silence and a few words

Nikhil woke up with a start, something that he has been doing lately instead of his usual waking routine that involved a sequence of transitions from states of blissful oblivion to states of increasing awareness of reality. This reality feels more confounding to him each passing day. Being jolted out of sleep was annoying at the start, but it is slowly evolving into a habit. He has woken up with the same feeling of being incomplete, the same fading memories of wanting to scream but not being able to, the same helplessness he woke up with the previous morning. Today however, it seems that the feeling is more well-formed as compared to last few days. Is he losing his voice, he wonders. He thinks of giving it a try, a scream is a perfectly normal way to meet a new day. Almost on the verge of execution, he sees the futility of the undertaking and retracts.

Possession of a resounding voice that grazes the territory between being firm and being benevolent gets you far. This fact is exemplified by the bosses, or to be precise the singular form of the word as in the case of Nikhil and to be even more precise, Megha. In contrast, Nikhil is soft-spoken and economical with his words. It has its benefits in the corporate world, especially when you are in the lower hierarchies and you have an immediate boss who highlights the drawbacks of being loud and garrulous in every presentation. He has been doing a lot of these presentations with her lately. However in the world beyond offices and presentations, being less endowed with a resolute voice is construed as a lack of confidence. People who know him would contradict on the bit about confidence and may tell you his story from another time and another setting as an argument. For some reasons known only to him, he never talks about his past and forbids others too.

Megha woke up with a start too. The first thing she did, as she did every morning and even the ones when she didn’t wake up with a start, was to look at the time and feel relieved that she got up on time. It’s been five years since she moved out of the flat and life of Mayank. There were many memories of those glorious love-filled days that haunted her and usually managed to ruined her mood, but the morning alarm tops the list. Mayank used to set morning alarms every ten minutes as he deferred getting up. It took her a few months to figure out the reason why she always got up in a foul mood. The morning alarm had to go. As a repercussion of shunning the alarm, she wakes up worried every morning. This waking up with a start and wondering if its too late is better than waking up to thoughts of Mayank. Also, she doesnt mind because it induces a sense of urgency and keeps her going through the rest of the day. What she minds though is the fancy ideas HR has started coming up since last quarter. Today is ethnic theme and she has two emails from HR reminding her to wear a saree and setting up an example for the team and the office in general. Mention of the team reminds her of the latest problem she is facing with her star performer.

She remembers that fateful day when she had to choose between three candidates that applied for the opening in her ever dwindling group. The attrition was partly her fault with more parts accredited to the changing decisions by upper management making her focus on new technology every six months. She remembers how she went against the consensus of the interviewing team and picked up Nikhil. Even though handsome and looking sharp, the guy carried a graceful calm as he struggled to answer her questions. She saw in him the composed and methodical person she aspired to be. The merit of her decision has been proven in the two years as Nikhil has grown in stature and given more and more responsibilities. The only thing that bothers her is his growing reticence. Never combative, his sagacious contrapuntal views has always helped her develop perspective. With his diminishing vocals, she senses how her voice has acquired a louder tone as if to create the balance. She must have a talk with him soon.

She looks gorgeous in the Saree she is wearing as part of the ethnic dress day, but tall women always did look pretty to him. In her case however, there are additional attributes that make him fall in love. The dark sunken eyes, along with the dark circles around make them look cavernous in which the surreptitious lover within him longs to hide. To add to the charm, she always flaunts pairs of dazzling and dangling earrings, which moved in opposite directions to her hair. Her face and the unpainted lips makes you anticipate that they will break into a smile any moment, except they never do. When amused or in a good mood she ends up laughing, a laugh that he wants to capture in both audio and visuals. There were times when he reprimanded himself of these thoughts, and then there were times when he listened to the reprimands, especially when she started speaking.

The almost grating, stentorian voice makes him wince, makes him wish that mankind never learnt to speak. The villain in his love story is sound of the voice. To fight it he has no choice but to embrace silence. If only he could communicate without talking and make her learn the art too. It is not going to be easy, he thinks as he lies in his bed late nights. The silence of his room reverberates with the muffled yet rebellious urges to scream. The resentment of the silenced keeps gnawing at him, longing to be free of the shackles and join the discordant cacophony of the loved one. He must have a talk with her soon.

Part 2

The office air was filled with rumors of more organizational changes as Nikhil walked in the next day. He was greeted, or rather his path was blocked by an animated group of four; to whom his appearance seemed to have stoked the animation further. With eagerness that none of them showed in their work, they jostled to tell him about the newly acquired knowledge, or the lack of it.

Most of his colleagues steered clear of him, most of the time, and he knows the reasons. He knows because this knowledge was transferred to him by a guy who was done with his knowledge transfer and was ready for the goodbye mail when fate brought him face to face with Nikhil.

Rajiv had joined few months back, he was smart and appeared intelligent. Nikhil couldn’t be sure because during his short tenure, they never interacted outside the discussion rooms except for the parting conversation.

“I have always wanted to tell you this, and to your face!” Rajiv had said with passion which was quite unbecoming of him.

“Can it wait, Megha wants me in her office to discuss a mail she needs to send.” He had almost sounded apologetic.

“No it can’t wait, because today’s my last day in office and you know that, you are such a snob. Everyone knows that, you included. What I want to tell you though is that they know you are the spy for Megha, and that’s why her favorite. They also know why you keep distance and fumble to speak even a single word when accosted.”

“And what exactly is your theory explaining the fumbling,” he had tried his best to make the conversation jovial.

“It’s because you are always listening, nothing escapes you, not a word. The only talking you do is in her office,” a wave of triumph passed over Rajiv’s face.

“Good luck, for future,” Nikhil remembers to have said before walking away.

This conversation plays again and again in his mind. Not because of the ludicrous allegations but because of the insinuation that he might be a favorite. Maybe he should report things about his peers to Megha. If only he listened. The sound of human voice has been on a declining curve of his tolerance. Even the music he enjoys now is void of vocals. He put on his headphones and set about replying to the mails received over last night. With growing responsibilities and stature you get closer; with respect to mails and meetings, to people ignorant about technology but good at writing. The phone buzzed and it was Megha, she wanted help with replying to a few tricky ones. He could understand her plight, she was one of those people who he was just describing about, but the ones she had to reply to were further up the mail ladder.

“Good morning Nikhil, I am fed up with the Israel team.” Megha always spoke as if she had rehearsed before.

She looked her usual self today without the saree, but the tormenting voice had a nasal tone. Maybe it’s the onset of another round of cold and flu, he hoped. Of all the variations in her voice, this one was his favourite, it was the perfect mixture of being husky and cute.

“Yes, I know,” he replied and fidgeted trying to avoid looking at her breasts.

“Is something wrong,” she looked worried.

“No, why do you ask, do you have a cold coming?”

“Dunno, are you being weird for a reason? Is it because of the reorg rumours. I checked and it seems this time it’s mostly about trimming the middle management, every unit does that once in a while and to be honest I wonder why they didn’t do it before.”

“Ok, so the team remains intact, that’s good news.”

“Yes, but what’s wrong with you these days, you have been keeping quiet during discussions and when you speak it always seems to be coming from a Nikhil so distant that you can talk to him but cannot discuss a thing with.”

“I am in love with you,” he blurted out.

“What..” she didn’t complete.

He looked down as if in shame, or probably to hide the jubilation of finally being able to say it. However, the implications immediately dawned upon him making the jubilation short-lived. He had violated the sanctity of professional relationships in general and a great synergy if not a partnership in this particular case.

“Why would you say such a thing, I am your manager, do you realize.”

He looked up to find Megha fuming as she continued.

“Is this a joke?” she waited.

“Say something, you idiot.”

“I find you pretty, especially your eyes,” there was no going back now, he had heard how the heart takes over the brains, but witnessing it for himself was a new experience and he was loving it. The remnants of the defeated brains was imploring him to stop if he didn’t want to be reorged out.

“What the fuck, Nikhil. Stop it. This is so grossly wrong and ridiculous, I don’t even know how to deal with this. You, of all people. Why are you doing this.”

He looked blank, he felt blank, was there more to say. He knew he had to rehearse.

“Come to think of it, I can’t even fire you,” she looked exasperated.

“Maybe I should go, maybe I should resign. Sorry.”

Megha suddenly looked more composed, probably because of the “resign” word, or probably because of the sorry. He would never know. She looked at him but beyond, as if lost.

“This is the same way Mayank proposed. What’s wrong with you men, just say that you love the girl and then leave.” The voice now appeared to be coming out with a hint of sobs. The eyes were misty but managed to hold back the tears.

“Why would you love your senior, both in terms of hierarchy and age, it’s so not like the sensible and composed Nikhil I know of. Why would you even find me pretty, no one does, everyday I wake up I am a little more ugly. Mayank didn’t even give me a call since that day.”

Tears were rolling down profusely now and he had no idea how to deal with it. Not only was he confused whether she likes the fact that he loves her, or whether she is thinking of retention and not reacting to her true potential. One thing was certain though, she is still obsessed with Mayank.

“Don’t cry, I will stay,” he managed to say while he worked out whether he was heartbroken or just relieved.

Megha kept crying and he decided it was cue for him to leave. He walked straight to his cube, packed the laptop and left the office at a brisk pace.

Next day he decided to call in sick. The day after he got a call from Megha which he didn’t take. That followed a message asking him to get his ass back to office along with a wink emoji and a heart, which was so unlike her. She must be desperate. His suspicion was confirmed when after a few hours she sent a sterner message saying he better be done creating the presentation if not replying the mails. The absence of the voice was so heavenly that he couldn’t even sulk properly. He didn’t feel like replying to mails or creating ppts, instead he read the emoji message once again.

Part 3

The phone buzzed yet again. Even in vibrate, it made considerable noise; enough to irritate his sensitive ears. Nikhil knew it was high time for a new one, a new car too, a new house, a new beginning, rather a lot of new beginnings. Was there something like a new love, he wondered. Isn’t it always the same love that extends and encompasses a new lover that you acquire. Is one individual capable of love in more than one way, or is one assigned to experience only a fraction of the big vision of love that exists. For that matter, the millions of people in love all over the world might be in a way experiencing parts of the same universal feeling. If that is the case, then why does our first love feels different, feels special. One plausible answer is that first loves are unsurpassable because they are novel. Why then does he feel devastated at not being loved back, when the novelty is gone and he has fallen in love yet again.

The phone buzzed again. It was GD on his will-keep-calling-you till you take the call spree. He never gets it that the other person might not be interested. Nikhil didn’t want to talk, or rather hear a voice. The last few days have been peaceful, so peaceful in fact that he has doubts about his broken heart. Instead of answering the call he messaged back, “what is it.”

The reply contained more of swear words than of information that was sought for. A second one contained the information, “#@!$, it is my birthday and treat, there would be babes.”

For some reason, this message gave him purpose to get up and go to office. He would have to go for the party in any case.

There was however no explanation on why GD, as he called his friend from school days, college days and for a year, office days, celebrated birthdays like a kid. He would cut a cake, ordered by himself, and would spend a lot entertaining people he hardly knew. He insisted that everyone must drink like crazy while himself not touching the poison. Sameer had a theory explaining this behaviour. GD is a religious fanatic in hiding, he would say with eyebrows slightly raise and his tone slightly modulated, and religious people don’t booze on their birthdays, instead they visit temples in the morning and prayed before retiring to bed. Sameer used to be religious once which makes him the expert on these matters, and he might be right. This theory goes for a toss when you meet GD. There is not a soul in this world more blasphemous than GD and glad about flaunting it.

There was a message from Sameer too, insisting that he come tonight and how it’s been ages since the three of them got together. Sameer is a sensible guy who knows WhatsApp is the choice medium of communication when it came to Nikhil. Shruti did choose Sameer over him for his sensibility. She would be there too and she loved to talk to him, for some reason, or perhaps because of the residual love that always lingers around exes. She was the only person whom he loved to hear, even if she talked about inane stuff, even if it was about Sameer.

Thinking about Shruti made him think about Megha, she hasn’t mailed or messaged since last week. It was also strange that no one bothered to call him regarding the projects he was involved in. Maybe they have already gotten rid of him, Megha must have informed HR about his proposal and how inappropriate and inconvenient it was. It was still a surprise how they managed without him, they must have had help from outside. It was great to work in a team of mediocres but you get frustrated with yourself. It’s the same with people who achieve their dreams only to realise they didn’t aim too high, mediocrity goes both ways.

Nikhil entered the office with mild trepidation. His anxiety was fuelled further by the strangely silent and soothing ambience compared to the rumor-filled and noisy environment he witnessed the last time he was here. His moment of silent solace was brutally destroyed by the high-pitched voice of the woman in HR who never talked to him, and thankfully so, till this day.

“Hi Nikhil” she almost squealed, “can you come with me to the conference room, you have an important meeting scheduled for now.”

It struck him immediately, this is how the HR deals with employees getting laid off. They won’t let them enter the cubicle area. He was now sure of his guess at what might have happened.

“Can I go and check my mails before I join you guys?” he asked to test his theory further.

“No, this is very urgent,” she put on that I can do urgent-and-important face and said, “you are required to go now.”

“But, how did you set up this meeting when you didn’t know if I was coming” It was an earnest question, one that baffled him too.

“Oh, we are taking all members of Megha’s team directly in, as they reach the office since yesterday.”

He was now sure of what this was about and it calmed him, he hated it when things were not black or white. There was also a triumphant feeling building up, he is getting fired for love. Even Majnu couldn’t have managed to do better if he was a software professional. But Majnu didn’t do the training on sexual harassment which he was forced to attend last month. There has to be a trial, and questioning before the verdict. So this might be about the details, he couldn’t think of anything to say in his defense except that he is in love.

“Come in,” said Sumukhi, the HR director. She had that fake smile that irked him more than her sing-song voice. He was reminded of his sorry state of life every time he met these people pretending to be happy and doing a good job of it.

“Hi Sumukhi” he said, but it came out like a question.

“Hi Nikhil, you must be aware of what has been going on the last few days, you being one of the people directly involved. We in HR are doing everything so that you don’t have a tough time going forward”

“No, I am not aware of anything. I have been on vacation last week.” he said to test the waters. But he knew from the tone of her voice that the decision has been made. How the fuck would HR help me with getting a new job.

“Ok, it’s good that you are hearing from me before unreliable sources. We don’t want you to be prejudiced by gossip. Let us start at the beginning. How would you describe your relationship with your manager”

“You mean Megha”

“Yes, but let’s use the word manager for the sake of being objective”

“I love her” he intended to say it with utmost objectivity, but it came out like a resounding statement.

“Yes we know you were her favourite, but do you think being favourite affects your performance, and say focus”

He didn’t understand this conversation any more, is Sumukhi trying to defend him? Shouldn’t it be the other way round, is she playing good cop, the bad in waiting.

“I don’t think Megha has favorites, and definitely not me, otherwise I wouldn’t be here, would I?” there was more than a tinge of hurt as he spoke.

“On the contrary, I have talked to all your colleagues and they seem to concur, they all know about your relationship with Megha and they also know what has happened”

“Oh! but how do they know”

“I had to inform them, obviously”

“Why would you inform them, shouldn’t it be discussed in the internal committee as the training showed”

“Internal committee? What are you saying, the decision was made at the top”

“But the top never heard my side of the story, did they?”

“You are making this very difficult for me Nikhil, even I wasn’t consulted. I am equally pained by the decision”

“You are not pained by anything, you didn’t even know me well before today. Can I talk to Megha, this seems so unfair”

“What do you mean talk to Megha, she had been let go as part of the reorg”

Nikhil felt like being hit hard with a tennis ball. He didn’t know how to react.

“We are in the process of restructuring the team, with team-leads taking the verticals. You seem to be capable but you are not popular”

“Where is she now, is she ok”

“What? Who? Oh you mean Megha?” She paused.

“Yes of course, who else”

It was now Sumukhi’s turn to be perplexed.

“She took it well, she understands the politics and the perils of being in mid-management”

“Can I talk to her. Is she in the office”

“No she left yesterday, and we have requested her not to talk to employees. I would advise you not to contact her either, there is no point”

Nikhil had taken out his phone and was already dialling the number. It however said switched off and a wave of panic swept over him.

“Did Megha leave her mail id or do you have her address”

“No, and stop there. Why are you being so dramatic”

“I need to talk to her, are we done here”

“Yes, you will hear more from us in the next few days, till then keep working on the projects you were working on. It doesn’t take long for matters like this to settle down.” Sumukhi seemed relieved to be done with the meeting.

Nikhil had other ideas on the subject of settling down and kept dialing Megha’s number, quite frantically too, as he left the room.

Part 4

The phone battery was now on the verge of dying. Nikhil gave up on Megha and decided to head for GD’s house. As if on cue it started ringing. With a triumphant fumble he took the phone out of his pocket and was in between a sentence to Megha when he saw the caller. It was two years back that he had a phone conversation with Shruti, a call he wasn’t very keen to remember. She had done most of the talking, even answering the questions she had posed to him. Breaking up over the phone had its advantages though, one could feign attention and understanding of the seriousness of the situation by simply keeping quiet. Both of them knew the relationship was doomed after Shruti met Sameer and her benchmark standards for the ideal, or probably an acceptable boyfriend changed from GD to Sameer. Nikhil simply didn’t stand a chance. That phone call was Shruti’s idea of making it official, women tend to put everything in words. There is a reason why they are good at writing poetry, at least Shruti was or must have been, everyone said so. He never understood what she wrote.

“Hi Nikhil,” she sounded unsure this time.

“Hey what a surprise. Did you break up with Sameer?” The words came out as if on reflex. His thoughts immediately went back to Megha, battery was at 3%.

“You going to the party?” She sounded curt but not irritated as she got whenever he mentioned Sameer.

“Yes, GD will kill me otherwise. Sameer is coming too, you?”

“Yes I will be there,” she paused before continuing “yes, see ya.”
She disconnected. It felt strange but he had gotten used to Shruti acting weird. Love makes people act as if they are possessed, which is true, in a way. He thought.

GD was waiting at the door with a grin.
“I got the place to myself for the night, as a birthday gift. Ha! Who’s the genius now!” He smirked complacently.

“You are, always been. Happy birthday!”

“Where is my gift you happy-birthdaying fucker.”

“Turn around!”

GD’s habit of hugging always bordered on embarrassing. He would act all emotional after the hug, and look for its effects.

“I have got some good stuff for the night, will make it memorable for you guys.”

“Shouldn’t it be the other way around.”

“Yes, but you people are useless. You must be thankful that you got a friend like me, and more thankful that tonight’s my birthday.”

“Yeah sure. Do you have a charger.”

By the time Nikhil managed to unearth the charger from the mess on GD’s bed and got his phone charged till 60, he could already hear the music in the hall and sounds of conversations, dominated by the booming voice of GD. Whiffs of barbecued chicken seeped in and made him realize how much he was starving.

Sameer and Shruti arrived late. By then he must have had a few rounds of beer and chicken kebabs, one of the few things that GD was good at. He didn’t remember or recognize most of the people in the crowd but pretended otherwise. With the phone charged, he had made three more attempts to contact the switched-off Megha, mostly as breaks from the loud voices as people tried to talk over the music. Shruti looked pretty and demure as always and Sameer looked bright. There was no denying they made a great couple.

The cake was cut with birthday song, sung most loudly by GD. He was now asking people to dance, a girl with ample breasts and curves joined readily. Sameer was good at dancing and he was pulling Shruti who seemed to be resisting. He gave up a little too quick and joined the dance crowd. As usual, only a few were dancing to the music, GD’s amply endowed girl was good though. She had a pretty next door girl face, someone with whom you could start a conversation without thinking twice. Shruti, who was now walking towards him, always looked stern, forbidding, like the girls with whom you would practice a conversation before venturing into it. She sat next to him and sighed softly.

“Hi Shruti, you are looking pretty.” He said without taking his eyes off the dancing girl.

“Thanks, I see what you see. She is not pretty..” Shruti said slowly and without inflection, also not looking at him.

“But you are,” he said now looking at her.

“You know I like this about you, telling a girl she is pretty with a straight face, clinically, without emotions.”

“Facts don’t go with emotions, and once you state them you don’t linger, with things like emotions. You have no use for facts in the future.”

“Yeah, you never have future plans. Didn’t we break up over future.”

“Yes, you wanted answers and I didn’t even understand your questions. Sameer apparently did.”

“You know, every coin has two sides. Every decision has its pros and cons. You may lack vision, you may be shallow, emotionless,”

“We are not breaking up again, are we?” Nikhil chuckled.

“See? You may lack seriousness, but I loved you. Loving you was satisfying, there were you lost and unloved and me coming to your rescue. To love is taking an initiative. Its a conscious effort, a deliberate and therefore fulfilling endeavor, and if there are any shortcomings it is solely your fault. You are the one responsible, for all it’s goodness and all its faults.” She was saying this with her typical earnestness, the pauses making it apparent that she was feeling her every word.

“Shruti, what are you trying to say, you rescued me? From what?”

“To love is to gain,” she continued ignoring my interjection, “you gain the attention at the least. Attention is the most definite confirmation of your existence. Isn’t life all about establishing ones identity. To love is to distinguish yourself, stand apart from the crowd.”

“Did you read a book? Are you going to cry? Wait, are you going to propose?”

“With Sameer the role has reversed.” She continued looking at me, but ignoring my words. Her eyes were red, maybe she was going to cry, or maybe she had one too many beers. He realized how close they were, he could almost see the red veins in her eyes.

“He is the one who loves me, I love him too but I can feel his love, something I never experienced with you. Being loved is comforting, but feeling the love is almost like being forced to accept something involuntarily. Even if you won’t accept, there is no getting away from acknowledging it. Over time it consumes you, sapping your existence little by little. What am I if Sameer stops loving me, I shudder at the thought. Sometimes I feel like running away from all this.”

Thoughts of kissing Shruti, given how close their faces were, went up in the air with the last sentence.

“Are you crazy? Sameer is such a nice guy, you won’t get a better one.”

“I am not saying he is any less, forget it Nikhil, you never understood me.” She kept looking at him and he felt drawn towards her lips.

“One must not spend more than 10 mins at a stretch with your ex,” GD screamed, or it felt like it, startling them both.

“I need to borrow your ex,” he said to a perplexed Shruti and dragged me up.

“Riya wants to go on a road trip. Let’s go to Kasol, our long pending trip.”

“Who is Riya and why should we take her along.”

“Riya is the girl who you been ogling when you were not leching at your ex.”

“Oh, is she your latest girlfriend?”

“Latest yes, girlfriend or not we will figure out together. I don’t want to get into another doomed relationship, it’s my birthday and I am getting old and soft.” They both laughed.

“Well I don’t want to be kebab me haddi between you two,” Nikhil said when the brilliance of the road trip idea struck him. He wanted a break, and lots of malana cream.

“Well, you can bring your manager woman if you want.”

“What?! How do you know?” He was shocked, more with himself than GD. He had completely forgotten about Megha, and immediately checked his phone. Nothing.

“There are no secrets between friends, remember? You told me before passing out last time, both about your manager and that there are no secrets between friends.” GD tried to smirk but ended up laughing.

Sameer joined them looking flushed from the dancing and announced that GD has finally managed to find a decent girl for himself. Riya and Shruti were chatting, one pretty the other sexy.

“You know, let’s make some joints.” GD suggested breaking Nikhil’s line of thought on the girls.

He woke up without a hangover. Instead, he actually felt nice and refreshed, maybe he drank too much water during the night, that did the trick sometimes. He checked his phone for messages, there were none. Call records showed the attempts at calling Megha, and Shruti. He always did that when high. There was a long message he had sent to Megha on WhatsApp which he quickly deleted. Maybe he should write a decent one, and then GD called.

“Pack your bags, we start after lunch.”

“Are you serious, I cannot go.”

“You can, and you are,” he said with unfounded finality and disconnected.

Maybe he told everything to GD after the joints. In any case, Kasol was tempting.

to be continued…

Standard
Fiction

The girl with a round face

1

She smiled perfectly as she extended her hands for a shake, most likely deciding against the hug.
“Hi Amit, so we are finally on a date. I see you don’t find me attractive.” The perfected smile that would have disarmed the Stoics, made me think if she had been practicing.

“Oh, what makes you say so, I feel you have the perfect smile,” I grinned back, wondering if it looked hideous as usual.

“I see that in your eyes, so why did you ask me to meet,” she asked with more than a hint of mock. “Didnt we decide we hate each other.”

“Yes, but then I thought of you debating as if you wanted to win wars, and all that you said compelled me to prove you were wrong,” I blurted out, which to an extent was the truth. I never like to concede defeat in an argument, no one does.

“Ah that sounds typical, but you should have done that when I was in a mood to argue,” she said with a more natural smile.

“Well..” I paused to find the right words.

“But,” she continued, “you were drunk, all you wanted to do then was kiss me rather than prove me wrong, so not just the rights to kiss but you lost your chance to refute, forever!”.

“Ah, so you remember me trying to kiss and don’t remember us kissing.” I winked, or I think I did as I strained to remember what had really happened.

“Nice try,” she laughed, “I never drink beyond the flirty pegs, but wait, you think I forgot your kiss. Are you that bad?” she said stifling a giggle.

I didn’t actually remember what happened that night, except that I wasn’t really drunk when the discussion and the alleged attempt to kiss ensued. Maybe she looked more attractive than now, but once the girls and their not so girly escorts were gone and so was the booze, we went hunting for more. What follows usually is waking up in a place that’s usually not my bed and with no memory of how I got there.

I realized I was looking up at the poetically azure sky filled with some errant clouds only to find her expecting eyes staring at me.

“Fine, it was lame and I m convinced we didn’t, but I have been honing my skills in that area lately. Why do I feel like you are flirting with me more than I think I must be doing here.” She looked for a second as if to think, and burst out in a hearty laugh.

Just then the phone rang as if coming to rescue her from the conversation. A wave of concern enveloped her comely face, which only rose as the call went on. I sipped my coffee and checked out the people on other tables, the usual ensemble of girls with a guy sprinkled here and there.

“I have to go,” she said snapping me out of my scan, got up and rushed out in a blur.


2

Besides this conversation and her hearty laugh, now that I am trying to recall what I felt when I saw her for the first time, in sober state, it feels like an event in the haze, one that clouds the northern plains she belonged to. It is the haze in the winter days just after the sun wins over the fog. Her face was like the same sun breaking through the mist that had built up from years of me becoming a virtual recluse, I think it was two years since Kavya broke up to marry a guy from her school days. The painful part of it was that she was not in love with this guy, but she always wanted an arranged marriage for some twisted reason. Whenever I enquired, I got the same answer – “it’s the same twisted reason why I choose to live with you”. But that’s me paraphrasing her answer, hers were more prolific with words, ones that didn’t include the word twisted.

No one could argue with that, and I felt it wise not to engage in an argument with someone you shared the room with. Aditi, the girl I am talking about, was good to argue with, I think she was wearing some nondescript colored clothes, she was neither pretty nor sexy, neither fair-skinned nor dusky, to sum it up there was nothing remarkable about her appearance, except the round face. Her face was a perfect circle, and it was not easy on my part to control the urge to verify this theory. The thing I vividly remember of her appearance was the expression that went over her face as she saw me smiling, or rather as I grinned out of my failure to smile. This expression which made appearance more than once during our talk didn’t last a second, but it’s engraved in my memory. I have tried giving words to the expression, and the best I could come up with is how one feels seeing a piece of cheesecake after one had many rounds of jalebi dipped in thick rabri.

Almost a year later, I was with friends and having jalebi at Haldirams when I saw her, and this time she looked stunning. Maybe she did something about her looks, her dress or it was just me happy to see the familiar round face, the end result was stunning. I started walking towards her with my grin, which is less hideous when I m not on a date, and was just a few steps away when the expression on her face changed from prettiness to a shade of sourly disgust. It then dawned upon me that she was part of a crowd which seemed to be well connected, a connection now enhanced by their common interest at that moment, me. I resumed my approach after a moment of hesitation and asked how she was.

Instead of answering me, she looked around and answered the gathering in general, announcing that I’m an old friend. This made my grin extend a few millimeters because I liked being an old friend of pretty girls. The happiness was short-lived though, like most happy moments, as a taller and good-looking guy came forward with resounding confidence. He grabbed my hand and asked me to join them, an invitation I refused with a blank expression and looked questioningly at Aditi. She appeared to have gone into a standing coma with a weird expression that didn’t suit her face making me realize that it was a cue for me to withdraw.


3

Next day she called up and asked me to come to the same place we met for our first date, or was it a date I still wonder. In any case I was happy like a bumblebee since it had been a while since I went on a date, I would have said yes to anything. In my excitement and lack of any reasonable purpose in life, I reached the venue much earlier than the appointed time. The crowd looked the usual, girls in pairs or bigger groups, or a guy on date with a talking girl. The only change I noticed was the girls looked fatter and more chirpy. What is it that they talk about incessantly, I was wondering when something hit me on the head. I looked up at the sky in reflex, which looked back at me tranquil if not depressive as it basked in the orange glow of the setting sun.

“Lost in yourself, as always,” she almost screamed in my ears and laughed.

“Are you like this with everyone or do I get the credits of bringing out these brilliant acts,” I said recovering from the auditory assault.

“Don’t be grumpy, no girl would date you besides me. Ruby told me about your breakup and the sad status, but wasn’t that years back?” she winked.

“Yes, women run the society, I know, while we men think we are the superior kind.”

“Ok stop there, I know you will get on one of those philosophical trips of yours, I still remember the night you tried to kiss when you fell short of arguments,” she giggled.

“I am getting married to Akash, remember the guy you shook your syrupy hands with.” She said faster than her usual pace and looked seriously at me, as if expecting a response that she had already accounted for.

I, on my part was disappointed with the news, or maybe at her, or myself. Disappointment though doesn’t care about the people, it is usually more arrogant than failure. She looked the same, unremarkable, like a girl you would skip checking out even when there is not another in sight. At the same time she was one of the few girls with whom I felt a sense of freedom, and for some reason there was always an air of intrigue around her.

“Congrats, the guy is handsome, you deserve better though,” I said after a while, which must have been too long because she looked impatient.

“What do you mean better, and he has asked me to invite you to the wedding,” she still had the foreboding, impatient look.

“Ok, I m good at attending weddings, everyone seems to be getting hitched these days. So, when is it happening?” I tried to look interested.

“Not sure, they are doing the astrology stuff to decide on the dates. I am in no hurry anyways.”

“Ah does that mean I get to meet the prospective bride again?” I attempted a wink, which must have failed miserably because she looked offended.

She kept staring at my face with the straw in her mouth. I stared back to locate a red spot in her eye, a mole on her neck and her not so impressive breasts.

“Stop checking me out!” she was saying.

I grinned, “you didn’t answer.”

“Yes, we can meet but let me tell you about Akash who you clearly seem to be very interested in,” she said looking all serious, and that she did. Girls are taught from birth not to give options to others, there is just one and you have to take it, a theory I have formed based on statistics. She went on and on about his job, how he worked out every day, his family, even the latest movies he liked, and more. I listened and interjected when she was dragging on a point, sometimes its fun to detect run on sentences.

The phone rang, this time mine to save me from the Akash onslaught. I made it look more urgent than what it really was about and left. On the way I realized my knowledge of Akash now surpassed my knowledge of Aditi.

Unlike what we had decided, I didn’t meet her for a few months after that. Then one day coming out of a liquor shop I met Akash. I waved but he just looked through me. I was not to be deterred and went up to him and started introducing myself. He on his part interrupted and said Aditi and he broke up, the marriage never happened. He walked away, deciding against the planned trip to the shop. I called her immediately and heard the familiar high-pitched voice. She didn’t sound gloomy like Akash, and almost ordered me to meet at our familiar date place.

Part 2

4

Almost every Saturday afternoon during winter, Nikhil and I would sit in our balcony of the second floor flat we rented and watch the girl with abnormally long hair massacre them. This hair combing ritual had an effect on Nikhil that I am sure he too never figured out, he would sit still with an unblinking eye as if in a trance, not a single muscle of his body moving. He was always treading the line between being crazy and being weird, which made it easy for him to dismiss my questions on the subject with a half-hearted wave of hand. I, on the other hand, was born with a scientific predisposition that made me struggle to find something reasonable about his behavior. To add to my confusion he showed no interest in her if she was found in any other state, which was quite often because we lived next door. I remember talking to the girl, which in my case meant going beyond the smiles and the hellos. I also remember suppressing my urge to ask her if she noticed us watching her comb. I liked this afternoon activity because besides the occasional glimpse of her ample cleavage there was an inherent sensuousness to the scene. As in most cases of sensuous phenomena I could never find the exact reasoning, maybe it was rooted in the length and darkness of hair, the pretty facial features, hair covering part of her face or maybe because of the voyeurism in the act. The nature of sensuousness is that it makes you more aware of yourself, which contradicted with Nikhil’s lost in the scene attitude.

I was thus lost in contemplation and trying to define the differences between sensuousness and eroticism when my phone rang and both of us were wrenched out of our reverie and back to acting like guys who don’t have the appetite to do anything worthwhile after a Saturday lunch. It was Aditi on the phone, which came as a surprise because she never called to just talk. It was always the authoritative tone asking me to meet her at a predestined place at a predetermined time. The surprise factor today was that it was a Saturday and she never went out on weekends, the reason why she wouldn’t go out on weekends was a mystery that I had learnt to live with along with many such peculiarities which I assumed had something to do with being a female of the species.

I took the call after this briefest of pauses and found her in the middle of a sentence, “…you must be with Nikhil watching the hairy one comb,” she sounded irritated as she continued, “get a life, and on that subject meet me tonight at 7 for dinner.”

“Great!” I cut her off, my curiosity taking over the prospects of a Saturday night date, which throughout the history of mankind has always led to progression in intimacy. In our case the next step was a kiss, which evidently never happened in the booze party with which this tale started, or in any of the consecutive dates.

“How come you are asking me out on a Saturday, you must be getting desperate for the kiss. You know the one that lingers in the air, lately, when we are together.” A very smart thing to say I figured to set the mood, and in my little triumph I winked at Nikhil who was staring past me or most likely listening closely. The cigarette in his mouth didn’t seem to be lighted either.

“Cut the small talk and save your kissing bravado for the girls who might fall for such humor,” she said in a flat voice that made the whole kiss joke seem lame. She then proceeded to tell the name of the restaurant and asked me not to worry if I checked out the details of the place since it was her treat.

Before I could ask the occasion she disconnected. It was a mutual agreement, as were all agreements she came up with that I was never to call her up. Unlike the other mutually agreed rules of engagement, this suited me well because I wasn’t obliged to call if she didn’t for days. I never mastered the art of talking on phone, not that I ever tried. Also, the etiquettes of phone calls when you are dating a girl are complex and I had seen Nikhil struggling to figure that out even after a year into a much stable and intimately successful relationship.

“She is using you man!” Nikhil said in the muffled voice he produced with a cigarette in mouth. “You just need to learn to say no,” he continued, “or learn to make her say yes. Learning is important in all aspects of life, but its most essential in a relationship. Otherwise the relationship floats without purpose like a boat in a placid lake.”

“What the fuck, what boat in lake, are you smoking weed?”

“Never mind the boat and lake, you call her up and say you can’t do it tonight,” he said with a finality that was unlike him. He was born a chronic quitter, exemplified by the way he just gave up on his boat in the placid lake.

“No, I am not doing anything of that sort,” I declared, still looking at him with suspicion. “Tonight is the night we are going to kiss, and with the beer or probably wine, she hinted it was an expensive restaurant. So yeah, you never know what will ensue after she experiences my kissing skills.”

“That’s never gonna happen because she is using you. I don’t understand why you can’t see such an obvious thing, you are just a filler till she finds another worthy guy to get married to.” He looked at me for acknowledgement and finding none went on, “Ok don’t say anything to her but don’t go, let her have a taste of what it is like to wait. You are going with me tonight.”

Again, the finality in voice made me realize for the first time since I met Nikhil that he might actually have some ambition in life, unlike me.

“Ok, and what mission have you signed me into,” I asked with my best sarcastic face.

“I am going to dump Priya, and need one more person because I won’t know what I will do if she starts crying, loudly. I have seen her bawl, man! it’s embarrassing.” The cigarette was still not lighted, which now I had figured out was because Nikhil was nervous.

“Oh.. and what the fuck will I do if she starts crying, I am sure you will flee leaving me with her if that happens. But more importantly, why are you dumping her, you guys were like the perfect couple?”

“No couple is perfect, it’s just a facade to keep you from falling in love with more people than you could manage. I realized over time that she is not my type, also I suspect she might be faking it, which makes her a liar.”

“It’s ok, I never judge, but are you sure about this?”

“Never been more sure and thanks for coming,” he concluded the conversation by lighting up the smoke.

I thought over and realized I had never witnessed a guy dumping a girl, my case was in the reverse order. Brilliant that I always have been, I solved both problems and convinced Nikhil to do it in the same restaurant. Aditi would be paying, also he will have a girl to handle his potentially bawling and broken up girlfriend. We could both flee the scene. I marveled at my skills in problem solving after Nikhil agreed to the plan and called up Priya to tell the place and time for dump. For a guy going to dump his girlfriend, he looked calm and composed and sounded the same.


5

We were getting in the car when Nikhil’s phone buzzed. He looked at the phone for a moment which lasted more than a moment. The call was brief, and as we started Nikhil told that Priya is bringing her friend too and he couldn’t say no, it just had to happen tonight. This made me nervous because now Aditi will have to pay for more people, or maybe she won’t which would only make it worse. Nikhil was mostly silent during the drive and I kept quiet to give him space to practice the dumping routine. For once I was more interested in this event than meeting Aditi on Saturday night, a first of its kind date with her.

I was still parking the car when he shot out of the car and was gone in a blur. As I got out, I saw him with a bunch of people standing at the parking gate. At closer proximity, the bunch turned out to be two girls and a guy. Nikhil seem to be engaged in a heated debate with Priya while the strangers held hands and it looked as if they were squinting into each other’s eyes. Since I didn’t know if Nikhil was already doing it, without wasting a second I walked up to them and said hello. Priya looked jolly, which allayed my fear of losing out on the scene, and introduced her friend and friend’s fiancé, Aditya.

“Sorry for the late intimation, but my dad won’t allow me to go out alone at nights. I could convince him by dragging Aditya along, he is good company.” Priya’s friend answered with a dash of pride to my bewildered look at Aditya, Nikhil and back.

With the introductory issues settled, the five of us entered the restaurant. It looked dark and a woman wearing even more dark popped up from the dark air asking if we had a reservation. When I told we are with Aditi and she made the reservation, our dark dressed woman looked at us with the typical doubt ridden femme eyes and probably approved, because she directed another dark attired but younger woman to escort us to a table. There was music coming from the roof, more beats than music but one can tell bad music from the faintest of the sounds. We were settling in the cozy chairs when Aditi arrived, looked at the crew and looked at me with questioning eyes. I decided against explaining the circumstances that made the two people treat now a six people one and grinned instead. Priya got up and hugged Aditi, which brought back the pleasant smile that always went well with her round face.

Priya went on to explain the presence of her friend in conspiring tone, and the presence of Aditya in louder, announcing tone. I could see Aditi’s eyes light up at the news of the two getting married and she was immediately friends with the duo asking them questions that mostly made more sense than the answers that were offered. I looked at the silently fidgeting Nikhil who caught up with me and directed my attention to Aditi, still engrossed in wedding conversation. Nikhil was bad at doing the “I told you so” look but I got the gist. As a fitting reply I interrupted the talks and announced, “Nikhil has something to say,” I paused for effect, “something to say to Priya.”

Nikhil glared at me and turned to Priya in an extremely slow motion who looked at him confused. In a hushed tone that he wasn’t capable of, he embarked on the speech.

“You have been the best girlfriend any guy could get, you are smart, sexy, intelligent..”

“Wait, are you breaking up with me,” Priya cut him off and looked at him as if he just committed a grave crime.

“Well,” Nikhil fumbled for the right words and said “yes, I was. Stop interrupting me.”

“Oh I see, and you got your friend so he could witness your brave act.”

“No he was invited by Aditi, I thought it a better idea to do it in an expensive place.” Nikhil grinned.

“Ok, but I got my friend along because I wasn’t sure how you would react once I broke up with you tonight. This relationship needs to be aborted right now, stop grinning like an idiot.”

They kept staring at each other for some time, for me it was like a tennis match. The grin on Nikhil’s face was gone and replaced by the straight face mirroring the same look on Priya.

“So, you want to break up too? You could have told me on phone and saved me all the trouble.” It was now Nikhil’s turn to acquire the accusative tone, and he continued, “but wait, what did you think I would do, cry like you?”

Priya laughed, “you never know. Have you ever been dumped?”

“See? This is the problem with you, you are never serious.”

“As if you are,” Priya looked at us and realized there were more people around, and still looking at us said, “we should continue this discussion when there are fewer people.” To which Nikhil gladly agreed. He was still looking at Priya, and I suspect it was with awe.

With the break-up broken up before it matured, my attention found its way back to Aditi who looked happy.

“What’s the occasion, how did you manage saturday night, why such expensive place,” I had many more questions.

“Occasion is I resigned and starting something on my own, will give you details later. It’s such a brilliant idea you will blow out of your mind. Wait, I am upset with you inviting this medley of jokers.”

“I wanted your treat to get bigger, and see it’s a party now,” I grinned, “You are still paying, right?”

Just then the waiter came and we ordered drinks, being last order of happy hours Nikhil and Priya overdid their orders. Priya’s friend and Aditya were discussing the menu still. I went for the same non-alchoholic drink that Aditi ordered. She had quit alcohol. After her wedding was called off and we moved on from coffee joints to pubs, she used to drink like a drunk fish. But then, for no apparent reason one fine day she quit. The reason for my sacrifice of beer was that I still had the kissing thing in mind and didn’t want to risk the smell of beer as a deterrent.

The drinks order was followed by discussion on the music that was playing upstairs, we didn’t see anyone going up the stairs though. So the conclusion was – if there was a party in progress it must have had started much before.

“How’s work, why do you stick to a job you don’t enjoy,” Aditi asked. She was in the mood typical of people who have recently quit their jobs. They tend to question others of their choices, life, universe and almost everything you don’t want to discuss.

“I know it’s pointless, but I don’t care, sometimes it’s nice to go with the flow. But you know that about me.”

“Are you insinuating at our relationship?” Aditi asked with the most solemn face she and continued, “because if you are it’s just too good and precious to me. I don’t want to ruin it by a kiss that supposedly lingers in the air. Also, I know why you are not taking beer.”

More than heartbroken I was curious at the theory. “Why would a kiss ruin our relationship, especially when there isn’t one in the first place to ruin. Most relationships on the contrary are conceived by a kiss.”

“I meant,” Aditi said with the same serious voice, “let’s not ruin such a friendship over a kiss.”

“A friendship! Ah, Nikhil was saying that you use me as a filler while you wait for a groom charming, is this true?” I never believed in keeping things in the closet, especially when I was desperate.

Aditi looked at Nikhil with cold scrutinizing eyes. “You believe Nikhil, a guy who brings a friend for support to dump his girl. Look at him now, one moment he is doing a shoddy job at breaking up and the next he is serenading to her.”

“It’s not that I am judging your friend, and I never said I wasn’t interested in ruining our friendship, it’s just that I feel I might end up in love.” She said in such a matter of fact tone that I missed the import of the statement.

As the implication dawned upon me it was too late and she was looking at Nikhil and Priya who were engaged in a hushed up conversation and were sitting more close to each other than what the chairs would have allowed. Her friend and Aditya were still discussing menu, most likely the food. I didn’t notice anything romantic about this couple except that they never argued, and arguing I always felt was one of the most romantic things to do.

My thoughts on the nature of romanticism and future prospects with Aditi were interrupted by a police siren and the restaurant being flooded with cops in a flash. We all looked at each other clueless, yet excited, at least I was.

Part 3

6

The cops moved around like a swarm of bees around a disturbed hive. Some went upstairs, a few were crowding the dark dressed lady who looked as calm as she was when we walked into the restaurant. Every table was manned by a cop now and the one who was given the charge of ours seemed to be disappointed in us. He looked around but never said a word. Nikhil however ventured to ask him about the state of affairs, a relevant question in the circumstances but which drew an unabashed and an almost glorious yawn from the guy. I decided to do a better job, driven more by the yawning attitude of the cop than any intention of demystifying the development. I was just opening my mouth to speak when there was a sudden outbreak of commotion upstairs and a barrage of footsteps. The sound of stampede mixed with feminine screaming made it seem more ominous than what we would have wanted to believe.

We were all glued to our seats watching the stairs which now came to hurried life, chased by angry lawmen. The cops standing at the tables, with bellies that would shame even the most conceited pots, now ran to the door in a sprint I never thought they were capable of. Some of the party animals though, wearing clothes that covered the whole spectrum of colors managed to escape. The unlucky ones were held while women from upstairs were as clueless on what action to embark on as were the cops who were all men. So the most reasonable thing the women decided to do was to run randomly among the tables and occasionally scream.

The whole scene, though bizarre, entered a rut and my interest was gradually transitioning from dumbstruck to a stuck-with-the-dumb state. This deadlock was momentarily broken by the arrival of sniffer dogs who instead of being let to sniff were shown the way upstairs by the leash holders. The advent of dogs distracted everyone and the guy held by his collar by our yawning cop shed his collar like a lizard would shed its tail sensing a way out of danger. This brilliant idea of lizard analogy was inspired by the way his eyes bulged from the rest of the face. Bulging, bloodshot but overtly alert, the eyes scanned around for signs of prey only to settle on me. I was midway with my flinching, when the guy moved with alarming speed and grabbed the table knife in his left hand and Aditi in his right.

The knife was pinned to Aditi’s neck making her sit still and like all the others on our table my eyes were switching at a breakneck speed between lizard-eyes, the knife and Aditi. The next best thing to look at in that moment I figured was our cop, who I found holding the shed collar and looking at lizard-eyes with a queer amusement and no inclination in any kind of movement on his part. It was thus my turn to act the hero and save my girl, I could already imagine all the eyes on me. I was the gladiator in the ring, except here it was a table and I was no valiant warrior in disguise. Everyone looked at me as I got up slowly, everyone except Aditi who was trying to look at the knife pressed against her throat. I did the get-up-slowly sequence intending to bring some flair and more importantly because I lacked any plan of action. Help immediately came in the shape of when-in-doubt-punch-the-face strategy and without taking my eyes off lizard-eyes I aimed one on his face with all the force I could muster. The punch would have been an unforgettable achievement in my life if had been successful in finding the intended face. It was lost in thin air though, because at the last moment our villain decided to pass out, the soft sound of his fall was contrasted by the sound of the laughter that escaped Priya. Aditi, who looked flustered and irresolute stood up, looked at Priya with disgust and hugged me. This event propelled Nikhil to burst out laughing, but unlike Priya who was giggling now, he managed to say something, the gist of which was we two are equally hopeless and that lizard-eyes should have gone for the fork instead.

Our yawning cop came to life and asked Aditi if she was ok. He then went on and told the air above us that we were part of a busted rave party. There is nothing to fear from the party people because they are high with chemicals that even the sniffer dogs won’t smell. Even before he ended the denouement, a black canine was sniffing Nikhil’s balls who now had the looks similar to that of a ghost realizing for the first time he is dead. The sniffer dog’s cop then asked Nikhil to empty his pockets bringing relief to Nikhil’s face since he realized the dog wasn’t interested in his nuts. But to our surprise and dismay, out came five joints in perfect condition even after being in his pockets for hours. Nikhil always impressed me with these tricks which I am sure only a few could accomplish.

The ensuing consultation between our benevolent yawning cop and canine wielding cop concluded with exchanges of high-handed smirking. We were informed that we would be accompanying the party people to the police station for further proceeding. Before most of us could comprehend this new development and react, Priya’s friend burst out crying. A cry that was so feral and shrill that I thought it would wake up the still flattened out lizard-eyes on the floor. We all turned in that direction only to find Aditya consoling her, himself in teary eyes. Nikhil though, ignoring the cries started arguing with cops on legality of carrying marijuana when Aditi declared she is calling her dad to sort out the affair.

After a hushed up and a surprisingly quick call she assured us that we are not going to any police station. I had experienced this – being in control, being on top of situation voice of Aditi before, but others on the table looked at her with disbelieving eyes. Nikhil, taking advantage of this confusion, carefully and without attracting attention pocketed back the joints. He looked at me with a mischievous grin and explained the post break up celebratory purpose of the same. Aditi wouldn’t reveal details about her superdad and his plans in rescuing us innocent victims. My question regarding Aditi’s dad were different though, as I wondered if and when we would be able to kiss tonight. Will her dad take her with him or will she go in her own car. These questions remained questions in my head as we heard more sirens outside.

The white kurta clad man who entered looked important, there was an air of confidence mixed with disinterest in that confidence hovering above him. He nodded at Aditi and talked to a cop, one who suddenly started behaving like the leader of the gang. I always marveled at how these seemingly important people spotted their peers instantaneously. After a few minutes of discussion, Aditi’s dad came to our table and asked her about the friend. An awkwardly smiling Aditi pointed at me which he acknowledged with a conspiratorial nod. I was offered an enveloping hand to shake and asked if I would mind leaving the company of my friends for a while. Clueless, I looked around for support but was offered blank faces and the remnants of Aditi’s smile. Having no excuse that would rescue me, I joined kurta-dad on the way out of the restaurant.

“Beta, kyu karte ho ye sab?” he started as soon as we were out of the door. I realized this guy valued time and had none to spare.

“But what did I do,” I uttered confused, only to add a little too late, “sir?”

“Aditi has been telling all good things about you but first time we meet, you are caught with drugs and getting my little girl in trouble.”

“Oh, we were not doing drugs, there was a party upstairs. We were here for dinner.”

“Well that’s not what I was informed by the inspector, who by the way is a very honest cop. If he listens to me, which might happen tonight, it’s because I am an honest man myself.”

“I was not carrying any drugs,” I insisted, not listening to the disclaimers on honesty, “nor did I do drugs, ever. You may ask Aditi.”

“Of course she will support your claim,” he said, the tone now getting edgy. “That is exactly what we need to discuss here, all this boyfriend and dating stuff doesn’t suit a girl from our family. It needs to stop, also she needs to marry Akash.”

“I don’t think she wants to marry Akash, or for that matter anyone as of now,” the mention of Akash brought back the hero again. “Also, we are simply friends, I am not Aditi’s boyfriend.”

“Well that’s great then, let’s cut to the chase. She has been behaving weird since she broke up the marriage, exactly around the time you two started being simply friends. She has quit her job and wants to do something that none in my party understand. So I offer you this deal, the one you must not refuse.”

He looked at me with assessing eyes, and I did spot a wave of doubt pass over his face as he stated the terms of the deal.

“You stop being simply friends with my girl and none of you will be indicted tonight. Alternatively, you may continue messing with my girl’s mind, but only when you are acquitted of the charges for supplying drugs to rave parties.”

I looked at his face for a laugh, or even hints of a mocking smile but he remained as emotionless as a boiled egg.

“It has the sounds of an offer no sane person can refuse,” I said still looking into his eyes, still hopeful. But nothing changed in the firm face, and I gave up.

We shook hands, while his men fetched Aditi who left with a faint wave at me and an apologetic smile that every time I think of, still manages to make me fall in love with her, the girl with the round face.

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#poetry

The hopeful cynics

hopes
buried and forgotten
of mists rising in obscure graveyards
search liberation from afterthoughts
as searing dilemmas in perception of horizons
create smokescreens confounding
the conscience that incited
optimism and love in
cynics

cynics
in love and optimism
incited that conscience
the confounding smokescreens
create horizons of perception in dilemmas
searing as afterthoughts from liberation
search graveyards obscure in rising mists of
forgotten and buried
hopes

Palindrome poems can be read both forwards and backwards. –Selenophile97

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Thoughts

on poetry in blog world…

Poetry is rampant in the blog world, we are inundated by poems of every hue, every shade and color, not to mention the plenitude of esoteric aspects like metaphors and imagery. Even if you subscribe to a few blogs, you won’t escape the multitude of verse emanating from the prolific minds of each of these budding poets. This excess though comes at a price, as you absorb the deluge there is a steady increase in the thresholds of your sensory stimulus, a saturation of sensuousness essential for the enjoyment of this form of creative writing.

The art that gets manifested in poetry is not of the figurative type, fluid in its essence it seeps into the space of abstract thought unlike a piece of prose where the writer is more descriptive, or like non-fictional posts where the intent and the tone is overtly prescriptive. Reading a poem is like looking at a modern painting where the painter has used methods like colors, canvas and possibly structures easily identifiable by the masses, but is not emblematic of the underlying idea. She doesn’t show her intent, the crux of the piece of work or its interpretation lies within the one who is reading. Ownership of the idea that led to the piece of art is relinquished deliberately to enable it take fruition in the thoughts of the readers.

Blog readers on the other hand, are uncertain in the matters of patience and purpose, and most of them are writers of poetry themselves. So, even if the thoughts reigning the minds are similar, even though the content resonates with each other, the way to express them has to embrace the concept of form or style. Form, unlike content is a definitive organic aspect of a poet and once in the groove it’s very difficult to abandon it and embrace another. This is the basic requirement while reading another poet, because the thought that goes into a poem and the choice of words, images and the rhythm are inseparable. The alienness of another’s diction and portrayal, subverts the latent joy in rediscovering the theme and the progression of the central idea as a poem proceeds from its inception to its conclusion.

Readers who are not proficient in writing, lack these constraints but bring in a new set of limitations. They tend to interpret the content winnowing out art from the poem. This is not done as a disrespect to the poem but as a genuine interest to understand what the poet might have meant. The acceptance of ownership, that art is not universal but a very personal experience is an overwhelming concept to many. The usual refuge sought by such readers is in interpretations made by critics, thereby making one distant from the poem, the poet and even ones own volition making the whole process of reading academic, missing out on the beauty that one intended to enjoy by reading poetry.

More often than not, the poet rereading his work sees a novel beauty, a revelation that confounds even himself. It is indeed exasperating to tend to comments from these two types of readers, not to mention the irrelevant and at times frustrating comments posted for unfathomable purposes. On the other hand, it is a satisfying experience to see so many followers, likes and encouraging comments on posts you yourself are critical about. That by itself, makes writing poetry in blog world worthy of the effort and the time spent.

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Fiction, Thoughts

Reflections in the dark

There is a sense of foreboding rife in the night air. Tonight there is no moon or stars, not even the distant lights that shine in his dark eyes when he searches for her. The absence of the celestial lights is not due to clouds either. The clouds from south are yet to arrive, there must be another explanation. He might be going blind. This inability to rationalize is always disconcerting, it makes him ask questions. Indulging the unknown by asking questions makes it tolerable. What is it then that holds the night together in the absence of the moon and the stars? It is not the dark sky that seems too big to care, no the sky never cared. Maybe what keeps the night alive is its arrogant defiance of light. It is only in the blatant disregard to doubts that the absolute is ever achieved.

He must learn more from the night. He must learn to swallow the light even though it burns within, leaving the taste of charred regrets. He knows he must go on till he devours the last of the wavering wisps of pride. The enemy, she had told him, lies within. He had then spent ages trying to fight it, fight them, looking for her approval. Each victory felt a load off, expunged, they became shadows. Even in the dark of this night, he can see their silhouettes. Memories don’t have a shape, structure or silver linings, they just have these haunting silhouettes. Her eyes move rapidly as if excited in his forays, but he can see from within. Beyond the eyelids, beyond the eyes, the vision she finds difficult to fathom, a vision that betrays the disappointment in him.

She was never afraid of the shadows, it’s the reflections that disturbed her. She defied them, but not with conviction. Since a young age she would stare deep into the mirror, trying to look for a movement, and often trying to gauge the depths of her soul. Is the reflection exactly as she appeared to others, or do they see more? We don’t always need mirrors to see ourselves, he had said, sometimes our reflections show us graver truths. All we need is a calm mind, and a calm mind is like a black mirror. It absorbs all the light, all your essence, rendering you void. The only proof of your existence is in the reflection, but to see the reflection emanating from the black mirror requires an assimilation into the void. She must go further to look for him, before he wakes up and she becomes one of his reflections.

He feels his mouth dried up, the tongue feeling the back of his parched throat. She must be probing again, he could feel himself drained out of life. The dryness progressing further, reaching his now withered heart. He is convinced it would spread further leaving him with a shriveled soul. The prospect is comforting. But he must exist, not because he loves her. He must exist so that she has a purpose as she sleeps keeping his night alive. He takes a last longing look at her and retreats back into the depths of the night, before she can find him and destroy them both.

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#poetry

An ode to philosophy

I
read the poets
bards and philosophers
rationalizing me and my actions
but failing to define feelings and emotions.

Think so
on and so forth, they said
go find the truth hidden
between the lines
beyond the circuitous words
but laughed when I did so
dropping my existential guards.

Therefore unlike you
and your books
your wisdom laced with
vanity and jaded looks,
I must struggle to find
peace and probably bliss
delving within to solve
the puzzle with pieces amiss.

I must think to
conquer this mortal bane
because gods that created this life
and the wise who explained it
always seem sparingly sane.
Is there a meaning to every figment
a reason for every lie
or the wise and gods colluded so we are
miserable till we die.

Exist in my own thinking
though all of you do
I may condone the transgression
or give in to similar arrogance
and join the confounding mission.
I may choose instead to ignore
your edifying trophies
or fight and outlive
these esoteric philosophies.

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