Mirror, Mirror.

It was past 2 am when Meja finally stepped into her apartment. Business dinners often ended into the wee hours of the morning. This was an early wrap and she wasn’t happy about it at all. Liam hadn’t texted her yet but she was sure to wake up to a barrage of angry ones from him in just a few hours from now. She’d worked particularly hard for this meeting, making sure all stakeholders were well-informed and the bankers were well-fed. Well, all except for that bitch, Jennifer.

Meja took off her navy Givenchy midi and cast it aside on the couch. She’d air it out later once she’d figured how to deal with Jennifer. Jennifer was new to them and was already creating too much of a fuss about the ‘ethics’ of Project Sky. Why had she even agreed to attend the event if her priority was the social ethics of it rather than financial feasibility? Wasn’t she just some investment banker?

Meja scrubbed hard at her eyeliner, exasperated at its’ refusal to come off. She banged at the mirror in frustration.

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“Ouch, that hurt, you know,” the mirror exclaimed.

“Well, I am hurt too. And let down, especially by another woman!” Meja responded to the mirror. She threw her cotton ball aside and instead started pulling out the pins holding her hair up.

“She doesn’t define you or any other woman. She can only represent her own self, just like you do.”

“I know that and you know that. But I am sure the men there are laughing at both her and me. They must think we women are so soft, those dastardly creatures! I worked hard at this project. I didn’t just walk up and walk over someone else’s year long planning. And they want to bucket me in the same slot as that woman? It’s a disgrace!”

“You tell her that then. And you show the men that no one messes with you.”

“Yep, no one gets to walk all over me,” she said, pausing to reflect at the truth her mirror was throwing back at her.

“Absolutely, darling! Show her that she can no longer be a hindrance.”

“You’re right,” she began, thinking out loud as she decided how she would tackle Jennifer’s move. “I could get her off the project itself. Or better still, such a weak and emotional women should have no right to be able to wield power!”

“You’re getting there,” her reflection egged her on.

“Maybe I could simply end her career. Perhaps I should set up a meeting for her with Liam first. I’ll let him humiliate her enough so she has to come begging to me for just keeping her alive. That would show her her place,” Meja concluded, her hair held in clumps by the spray and falling over her shoulders.

“I love that twinkle in your eyes. Your show of strength is so sexy. You be you, woman,” the mirror responded.

“Only you understand me as well as I do. Only you,” she said, patiently removing her eyeliner, a smile lingering near her lips.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “What if you mirror started talking to you? What might the mirror say?”

Brazen

Shivering, he dived under a shade, water puddling around his feet, fear taking over the chills of a sudden downpour. The dogs outside were ferocious – he’d never seen such big angry eyes up close. They were still sniffing around, he could feel it. He backed away into the dark, keeping an eye out for sudden movements and his mind scared him into running faster, in zig zag patterns, banging into things here and there. It was pitch dark, too dark even for him but at the end of his run, he could no longer smell the dogs outside.

He settled down on his stomach, his paws stretched, tongue hanging out, heart still beating very fast. He was tired. He just wanted to close his eyes for a short while and then get out of this dark and dingy place. His eyelids were drooping. He yawned, shaking his ears and his head dropped onto his paws. Some time later, as he awoke, he found himself cold, alone and in the dark. He stretched himself out, his front legs taking all his weight, his the bones in his back cracking. He looked around at the silence, not much else visible to him – it scared him much more than he was ready to admit to himself. He could hear the faint tap of the rain, if he really strained his ears. Something or rather, someone, swooped overhead. As he ducked, something scuttled past as well. A mouse, perhaps! He didn’t like mice. They tasted pungent. He left them for the crows outside. That reminded him of food. His stomach grumbled. He sniffed around. Everything smelled different in here, stale and pungent, like the mice. He found a couple of them on his trail but passed them. He thought of the lady who came to feed him everyday. Was she looking for him? Was it daybreak yet? Or was this going to be a long night?


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He was hungry and had wandered into new territory and then it started drizzling and the dogs came at him from nowhere and he didn’t know what to do. Hunger had started this all and he was still hungry. He could smell the outside in that direction. He ran across the dark hoping he’d be able to get out of here. He ran head first into the paper boxes which ended up making a lot of noise. He heard voices outside, sounds of the rain and afraid, he stayed in the shadows. When he quietly got out again, his heart racing, he heard loud noises and something hit him on the back. Wheezing and whimpering, he tried to run but his back foot hurt. He got under a car and howled in pain, as he sat. His behind was stinging and his legs hurt. His eyes were watering in pain. He heard a shuffle under a nearby car. Crouching in fear, still whimpering in pain, he braced himself for the next fight or what was left of it in him. They were the same angry red eyes from before. This time they weren’t angry though. They had food, he said. Would I want some, he asked.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Write about being inside an old abandoned warehouse.”

Bones & Beads.

“Shoma, you’ll have to take off your ornaments – all of them, irrespective of whether they’re gold or not,” the doctor-in-charge Ratan da ordered me.
“You’ll just be doing a regular check-up, right? I didn’t think we’d be going into the OT,” I asked, worried there had been a miscommunication because I wasn’t ready for the nausea of a surgery to hit me. I wasn’t to be counted in the all hands on deck!
“Even with your vast non-medical credentials, I wouldn’t let you anywhere near my OT!” he said, bellowing with laughter. I sniggered, mildly. I still wasn’t sure where this was going. Nevertheless, I started taking off my earrings, “I still don’t get it though.”
“Gold is attractive. They want it. So unless you don’t want to go back as you came, you take it off.”
“Oh, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the heads up,” I called out to the bald spot on the back of his head, as he left the room, raising his hand in acknowledgement.

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Ratan da was a gracious host, well gracious enough for someone who lives alone is dedicated enough to choose to work in the middle of the Indian Ocean! He replied to our emails, once a week; if lucky, twice! I found more paper and books at his place than food. I was glad I’d requested him to book me a private room in the town. Anyway, I am digressing! I was going to tell you the story of the neckpiece – the one my mother detests, the one very few people know about, the one you will know of now.

A few moments later, after Ratan da left the room, I left my packed bag under his wobbly table, my dictaphone, pad and pen stuffed in my boyfriend jeans. But I didn’t know which way to go – so instead of walking into the clinic room, I walked into two women, one young with a baby cradled in her arms and the other older but I couldn’t place her in the decades. They were the people I’d come looking for but I hadn’t anticipated such a bumpy start. They were heavy bosomed, wearing a maxi sort of thing, short haired with shining skin! They were the Jarawas. I apologised to them profusely, in Hindi, in Bengali, in English, bowing, bending, fumbling, hoping they would understand what I meant!

Ratan da appeared out of nowhere and instead took us all away to the clinic room, blissfully unaware of what he’d walked in on. I spent the next two hours in that room, occupying a corner, observing the work, asking a question in between to understand the conversation underway. I caught snippets of Hindi and Bangla once in a while, my ears working overtime. I wanted to know if the baby I had accidentally walked in on was okay but Ratan da still did not catch on. The older woman probably did. She said something to him and he responded. For the next minute, I simply observed them staring at each other, the baby and me. I was afraid they’d taken offence. Instead, the doctor said, “She wants to give you a ornament.”
“Me?”
“Yes, she is the wife of the head. I might have mentioned to them that you might be coming. They’re welcoming you here. If you’re okay, they’d like you to come feast with them.”
I was stunned.
And that is the story of this piece of jewelry; a bunch of ancestral bones strung together with beads, binding me to their tribe for as long as I will remember.

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Write about a piece of jewelry – who does it belong to?”

Dishes.

The water was so cold. It sent goosebumps up my spine. Why did I lay out the new cutlery? I asked myself out loud.

“Because you wanted to treat your wife,” she said, sliding her hands along my torso.

“Your hand goes any lower and you can say goodbye to this plate,” I warned my wife.

“Alright, alright. Finish this and come to bed.”

“No,” I groaned. “I have to finish transcribing the interviews. They need the edits by tomorrow.”

“What were you doing while I was cooking dinner then?” she asked, irritation seeping into her voice.

“Let me think,” I drawled, turning around slowly, the soaped plate, carefully placed between us, “Did the furniture dust itself? And the walls of the balcony painted itself? Oh, no! That was me! That is what I was doing for the past three hours. Remember?”

“Alright,” she offered, rolling her eyes, “Let me finish these for you. Then you can complete your work.” But I knew better.

She’d cooked a scrumptious meal and the least I could do was clean up after. I did not enjoy it because it required all my focus – no multi-tasking. Folding clothes was more my thing, I could work with my hands but my brain could actively think about the next project! I set the cleaned plates on the marble pantry one after the other carefully. Poornima had walked out of the kitchen; she must be tired too. We both were, on most days. We were still getting used to Seville and having been brought up the middle-class Indian way, a bunch of servants around to render services all the time, Spain hit differently. Back home, I’d always magically found my clothes in my wardrobe, food on the table, my shoes clean and back in the shoe rack. Here, I realised, spiders weren’t just a sign of abandonment and cutlery didn’t come with the house. With Poornima away at work, her creative house husband had to meet deadlines and keep the house running as well! My mother is proud of me, my father must be rolling in his grave though. More like, be kicking up a storm with his ashes.

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My father probably didn’t even know what food he loved eating. His whole life was managed by my mother. He was a sculptor, not world famous or anything but a man so possessed by his passion that nothing else mattered to him, not family, not food, and from what I recall, not even money. I did not inherit his art but I did cultivate my own. I wrote and he saw in me a spark for the art. He kept me around his workshop, gave me a small room to recuse myself into, to read, to write, to do whatever I needed to do that kept my pen scribbling. Often I would just go there so I didn’t have to finish my homework or after an angry note from my teacher highlighting my incompetence at school. Somedays, I would sit and watch my father work, peeping out of the small window in the room that was mine, lost in the clay, the arms he was building, the face he was sculpting. What would he say now if he saw me washing dishes and cleaning fans instead of writing? Was his passion was worth it? Was his neglect right? Be as it may, I better kiss my wife to sleep. 

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Even writers and creative artists have to do house work sometimes. Write about doing laundry dishes and other cleaning activities.”

Guilty As Charged?

“Sir, why has my handbag been detained?” asked a petite lady, dressed in a salwar suit, sensible chappals(flat sandals) and a young, fidgety kid accompanying her. I waved at him to distract him from tugging at the woman’s dupatta; instead he looked away, hiding his face, clinging onto the woman’s leg. “Yes, darling. We’ll get you something to eat. Just 5 more minutes, beta (son).”

The officer-in-charge, a tall, young CISF personnel, turned to her address her finally. “Ma’am, we will need to recheck your bag. We’ll tell you the problem, once it is your turn. Please maintain the queue until then,” he commanded, directing her to move to the end of the queue. I was no longer the last person standing then.

It seemed like it would take a while. The officer was being extremely thorough. I wondered if there was a security alert. The lady passenger seemed to want to say something but then possibly changed her mind. She didn’t seem come across as the kind who threw her weight around. But you never knew what New Delhi airport would bring you! The city, after all, was famous for its inhabitants bringing up their apparent connections with the powerful who’s who of the city, probably once in every conversation, even a short one! As she took her place behind me in the queue, I dropped her a small smile but she was too busy cajoling the child to notice. While the lines kept stretching long, people’s patience stretched thin.

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The officers broke the passengers into 2 more queues, the lady behind me suddenly at the front of the new one. She didn’t still didn’t acknowledge me though. Tough luck, I thought! I was just one person away from my turn now. I was trying to recall what in my handbag could have triggered the search. I was listening carefully to the questions being asked.

“Ma’am, do you have any objects which are sharp or any liquids in the bag?”

“Yes, there is liquid, but that’s very less quantity. It’s his medicine,” she said, pulling her child closer.

“Ma’am, I have to search through manually. Please empty the bag out.”

Awkward,’ I thought. I didn’t want my bag strip searched. Who knew what all it had? I surely didn’t. What did I throw in there last minute? Chewing gums for sure, a couple of condoms definitely and my vibrator! F***! The batteries in them must have triggered the system! They weren’t supposed to be in there!

“Ma’am, this pocket as well, please.

How would I explain this?’ I had missed packing this in my check in luggage! Damn! This was going to be more embarrassing for them than me probably. I was sweating right then. ‘Did that make me look guilty?

“Sir, you are up next. Please step forward,” the officer requested.

Could I just leave my bag here and go? Would that count as a felony?

“Sir.”

“Yes,” I said, stepping forward gingerly.

“This one’s yours?” he asked.

I wanted to say no but it was after all mine. Just then something happened.

“All of you please step back,” boomed the officer checking the lady’s bag. A shiver ran down my spine at his voice. “Please step back. You are all crowding the place, take three steps back.”

That silenced the blubber of voices that was starting to come up. “Ma’am what is this?” he asked urgently, pulling aside the officer-in-charge of my bag. They both didn’t took very pleased.

“What is what?” she asked.

“Ma’am, you have a bullet in your handbag,” he said. My mouth dropped! I wanted to turn and look at the scene unfolding ahead of me but I also kept my eyes glued straight at my own bag, waiting for my own embarrassment to unfold. “I can explain,” she began, trying to take back the bullet from him. Unfortunately, the officer-in-charge handed over my bag to me and asked me to walk away. All I wanted to say to him was, “You can have a look at my vibrator! Just let me see this through!”

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “A conversation you overheard”.

Dazzle.

“We don’t dream. We work. Dreams are for the rich.”

I grew up listening to this, while toiling through the fields, cleaning the fish, even when I was taking too long a bath. If what my father says was true, then dreams are only for the people whose pipes and taps I fix. I hear them talk about the big businesses, about the prime minister and his party, about different countries and places, about where they want to spend their weekend next and then I hear them complain about how I charge them extra each time. Would it make a difference if I told them that the money is for my son? So that his father doesn’t have to tell him, “We don’t dream. We work. Dreams are for the rich.”

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Back home in my village in Orissa, where we own acres of land, if my parents learn about my work in the city, they would cry. We are not rich, no one in my village is rich. We don’t have money saved up. The Gods decide our destiny. The Gods decide if kids go to the fields or to school, the Gods decide if the trawl comes back home or gets lost in the seas, the Gods decide if a woman gets married off happily or for want of money. Every year is different. Some years we drown in worry, other years a fish feast is prepared every week.

But still, it all started with a dream. A dream my wife had, a dream where she saw herself in a city, like in the movies. I wanted that dream for her, I wanted that dream for myself and most importantly I want that dream for our children. While my family and friends laughed it off, my wife’s father gave us some money. For the rest we pawned off whatever little valuables we had. She only has a ring from her mother on her. She gave away everything else, for her son, for us, for our dreams. She works at two houses, takes care of their children, cleans their rooms for them, takes a dog for a walk, even soaks almonds, raisins and other rich food for the families every evening. Sometimes when our son wants to watch the cinema and eat the expensive popcorn, we ration our meals. Those days when we go hungry to afford the luxury of a white puffy snack while watching the movies that inspired us, my wife says to me laughing, “Even their dog eats better food than us!”. Sometimes I ask her if we made a mistake coming here all the way. She looks at me and says, “Why? If I tell someone back home about the dog, they’ll anyway think I’m dreaming.”

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Write something inspired by a recent dream you had”.

Peekaboo!

The new year has arrived. 2020 is gone but the outside isn’t celebrating! The gloom persists, the Sun still hides and the Met Dept. predicts showers! The storm from the past year still hangs heavy. Was this not supposed to change? Did we not deem 2020 to be the year that had apparently caused the havoc? When the clock chimed the twelfth time at midnight, the world would be bright, hopeful and promising again – was it just me who thought so? The clock struck but nothing changed. I still felt sleep-deprived, over-worked and secluded. Now, almost 10 hours since the midnight fireworks, the Sun is still hiding behind the clouds. I can barely feel the heat, just a nip in the air which keeps dropping the temperature with every passing hour. But why was I even bothered about the weather? This day, last year was I even paying attention to the skies outside? If I know myself any well, I was probably nursing a hangover!

Looking out of the window was when I needed the cigarette smoke to leave with it’s unburnt desires. An unforeseen shower was merely treated as a travel hassle. My workspace was a tiny 3 feet by 1 feet space that was assigned to me, where I was tied down, breathing in the same, perennially ill-managed, excessively chilled and conditioned air, as the 350 other white-collar workers. There were no windows to look out of. The nearest wall had blinds covering the windows, as if a prison that could not risk us getting distracted by something as mundane as an azure sky. More than 300 days of working out of my own home, looking out of my window, I am used to tracking the Sun more than usual, looking forward to syncing my life with its’ movements rather than pretending to have fun at forced, virtual team engagement activities.

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Dear Sun, could you show me your face more often? Maybe it’s just in my head but with you around the world feels livelier and hopeful, my bones don’t feel as brittle. And mi hija? My toothless angel’s face lights up when I take her to the terrace for our Sun-kissed walks. So even if it is just a folly of my human brain, please let’s be done with the peekaboo from those gnarly, angry clouds and fool us into thinking that 2021 is the turn we were all waiting for. Gracias!

Graciously Yours!

P.S. This piece is based on a creative writing prompt from http://www.thinkwritten.com. The prompt was as follows: “Outside the Window: What’s the weather outside your window doing right now? If that’s not inspiring, what’s the weather like somewhere you wish you could be?”

P.P.S. Happy New Year!💜 It might just be another turn of the day and night cycle but if it brings hope to millions around, then may it be happy for you as well.

The Love You Need.

For the longest time, I was not a great fan of dogs. I’d look at them fondly from afar but my canine knowledge was limited to “Hey, look at you!” and “Buh-bye!”. Mostly because I didn’t know what to do around them. Through the lockdown, I happened to have made friends (or that’s what I’ve led myself to believe) with three street dogs near my place of stay. I noticed them in the first few days of the lockdown in India, looking weak and fragile. I fell for their puppy eyes, which weren’t even really pleading in my direction but tugged at my heart strings. I couldn’t let them stay hungry. They were anyway confused by the lack of hoomans all around them suddenly. No entertainment AND no food? That seemed a tad unfair!

I started out with trying to understand what dogs really ate – I mean, pets hog pedigree and the stray ones seem to be mostly rummaging through garbage, so I wasn’t really sure where in the range do I step in. For a couple of days, each evening as I stepped out to buy milk, I lamented about the dogs looking weaker each day, lying on their backs trying to stave off the mosquitoes from the un-swept and now rotting carpet of early summer flowers, sometimes just on all fours, looking at us from afar. You didn’t need a high EQ to sympathize. I thought of bringing them water but that didn’t work out well. A friend suggested I try and feed them puffed rice, flat rice or maybe even bread. I’d put out the food for the two dogs I saw all the time – a black-skinned, red-eyed sinister looking Blackie and a light brown one with the loveliest eyes, Brownie! Forgive me but I am clearly not great at naming pups.

They were as wary of me as I was of them – I’d leave the food around, stand at a safe distance from them, maybe hide behind cars, just to see if they’d eat. Nothing worked. They’d go sniff the food, lick a bit of it and then dejectedly walk away. Prudes! One experiment led to another and Brownie finally gobbled up the ParleG biscuits I had strewn around. Blackie seemed to be interested in them too but she didn’t venture to take a bite. The third day Blackie growled at Brownie for trying to take away her share. Blackie was hungry but also sick – my silly brain kept repeating it. Some instinct, some NatGeo shows, some closely watching my friend around dogs, I sat low on my haunches, kept eye contact with Blackie and slowly extended the biscuit towards her, just Blackie and me. She hesitated, looked away, smelled, twitched and finally took the biscuit from me! Poor thing couldn’t pick the biscuit off the ground. Since then, it’s been a fun three months! Or more. Who’s counting?

Front to back: Scooby Dee, Brownie and Blackie.

Blackie and Brownie now trot towards me in glee whenever they see me around, food or no food. They added Scooby Dee to their coterie, who understands nothing of private space but just comes sniffing up on me. But her manners call her to first sit, settle in somewhere near me and only then she’s ready to eat. She lets me pat and rub her head, once I stop she starts chewing again. But the other day, they weren’t there – none of them. I looked up and down the road, under the vehicles, behind the pillars but no sign of them. The lockdown had eased, shops were opening up, humans were out and about – it wasn’t a far fetched thought that they might have gone away elsewhere. I didn’t find them the next day either. Sadness enveloped me! Dogs that I barely knew, who had no expectations of me, of whom I had no responsibilities, made me worry about them. My flatmate laughed at my tantrums. My friend rubbed salt on my wounds. Jokes aside, I was probably more hurt than worried. The need to feel needed arose! Stranger things have happened but this happened too. I wanted the dogs to want me! Ahh, the human brain. No wonder we’ve been trying to find a larger than life purpose for our existence. Maybe it’s all we are – we exist to feel, breathe, eat, be human. Maybe that purpose should be enough.

Also, they were trotting towards me in glee the third day. They’d not forgotten me!

Since then, Scooby Dee took off one fine day – she’d been pulling away for a while, enough to make me look up signs of dog pregnancy – but not before I managed to capture some shots of her. Another dog seems to warming up to me – too soon to tell!

I miss you every day, Scooby Dee.

For more dog stories, leave a comment below!

Graciously Yours!

#91-100/100

#THE LAST BATCH/100

And here comes the last post of this initiative! While I tried stepping out into one of my favourite breakfast joints of the city, I also explored street art in Delhi via an online AirBnb experience. Also, ink pen cleaning does not compulsorily require hairdryers.

My best friend got married. ❤ 2020 may not be all that bad, after all.

Stay healthy, stay safe! ❤

Graciously Yours!

#81-90/100

#LOTS OF DAYS/100

Could there be anything happier than a yoga mat that needs to be replaced? Still going strong, post three months since I stepped into the gym and I hope it continues that way for the rest of 2020 because things are definitely not going to get better anytime soon.

The thrill of learning to use chopsticks and baking your own garlic bread at home – the lockdown is turning into a joy, well every now and then at least.

Scooby Dee posed for a photoshoot!

Stay healthy, stay safe! ❤

Graciously Yours!

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