Her husband sat her down at the bed. She’d just taken a hot water bath. She placed her towel on her shoulder to soak up water from her wet hair. She inhaled deeply. This wasn’t the first time she had to answer the questions. This wouldn’t be the last.
“How did it happen?”
“What did he say?”
“How does it feel?”
“When exactly did it happen?”
“Did you see it all?”
Once again she closed her eyes and recalled the moment. In a flash, it was all over. One second she was at the pavement, the next she was on the road, the head of a dying man on her lap, blood drenching her clothes, tickling down her skin, shock overriding the bile building up in her stomach.
She opened up her eyes again. She was ready.
Her husband instead said, “It must be difficult for you dealing with the accident. Do you want to eat outside or should I cook?”
She breathed again!
And the six word story series is back!
Closure is overrated. Reopened wounds bleed.
“Ouch,” she uttered, pulling back her finger from the rose stem. A thorn had pricked her and a drop of blood lay on her finger, perfectly placed like it always belonged there. She smiled.
“Got yourself another prick, did you now?” her husband asked, as he sat in the hall, immersed in the morning’s papers on his iPad.
“Why can’t he just buy those traditional newspapers?” she wondered. She wasn’t an e-paper girl.
“Why don’t you hire a gardener for your plants?” he asked, the umpteenth time. “You keep pricking yourself.”
She didn’t answer. The umpteenth time. He wouldn’t be able to come to terms with it.
The first time she’d pricked herself was when her first lover had brought her some from his own garden, ten years ago.They’d never gotten married. But her love for him had not died.
He loved her rose garden. He was coming for dinner tonight.
The first prick had made her squirm. Now it made her smile.
I sat alone in my new room. I’d tried calling up my parents but they were unreachable. Keeping the phone aside, I lay my head on the wall backing the bed. Outside in the living room, I could hear the other girls, both my age, my new flatmates, talking and laughing. I wanted to go out too, but I didn’t know them. In fact, I didn’t know anyone in the office, or in the city. I had only one friend in the crowd of tens of thousands of people camping their lives in the city. The friend lived with her newly wedded husband and I couldn’t even think of intruding into their space at this point in time.
Someone knocked on the door. I hurried to get up and open the unlocked door. The girl at the door, Maera she was called, stood there with a smile. “Come for dinner,” Maera said. “You guys carry on,” I replied, my stomach rumbling with hunger but hesitation creeping up and taking over. I had lived in a joint family and barely ever ate alone. But I didn’t know them either. Wouldn’t it be as good as eating alone? But Maera still stood there, arms crossed, and declared, “You must be hungry with all the shifting today. Come on. I’m not letting you eat alone.”
I smiled a small smile, thanking her in my thoughts for forcing me to eat. I needed energy to carry on without my family here. That night I slept soundly on the sofa while talking to my parents, until Maera came along in the middle of the night, tip toeing so as to not wake me up and then woke me up. “Come we’ll take you to your room,” she said softly, pulling me up. On my bed, I slept better.
A few months had passed. I still spoke to my parents’ everyday. And I still passed out on the sofa at nights. But now Maera and I fought to sleep on the sofa! I cuddled up in her lap as Maera sat and read a book. I was busy on my phone while she ran her fingers through my hair every now and then. “You know you should adopt me,” I said. “What?” she asked, stunned, keeping her book aside. “You should adopt me!” I repeated. “Why should I adopt you?” she asked, laughing and reading again, not even paying attention to me any longer!
I was cranky and hungry. I had had a bad day at work. I fought with a friend. I was not even PMSing yet. Even my hormones couldn’t take the blame yet. Maera sat me down and asked me,”What happened?” “Nothing,” I replied, waiting for someone to stop me in my tirade of lashing out at the world! “Sit here,” Maera said, her face grave, sitting me down on the floor between her knees while she gave me a head massage.
Half an hour later, I had offloaded all my worldly troubles into her ears and she’d filled mine with what little of worldly trouble advice she owned.
I found in her a friend, a reminder of the love of my family, a corner to my worldly troubles, a shoulder to rest on, an adopted parent! Maera found in me an adopted child. Yes, she may not admit to it, but she did.
Dedicating this to my (almost admitted, but not yet owned) adopted child! To hours of introspective discussions, shared love for music, long unwinding walks, cuddles and head massages, getaways at 2 am and gazing starry nights! Stay happy! ❤
Naksh was singing at the top of his voice! “Papparah Papparah Papparah… Badtameez Dil Badtameez Dil… Ahh… Haan“
“Oh shut that radio thing off and stop jumping on the bed,” Shailjaa scolded her eight year old son, Naksh!
No longer jumping, he smiled at her and stood there, the hand held radio his father bought as a gift, still blaring what people called music these days!
She was still angry at him but this child of hers could not be least bothered! He’d misplaced her earrings and she couldn’t find it anywhere. She was sure she’d given to him to go and keep it by the bedside table. She’d even boxed his ears two hours ago but he came back and sat beside her in no time! Now he was jumping on the bed unashamed.
“Get out,” she said, dropping the freshly ironed bed covers and pillow cases on the bed. “I have to change the bed sheet.”
“Mummy, I am sorry,” he said, and walked out of the room, forlorn and dejected, head hung.
Shailjaa didn’t reply.
She pulled off the old covers angrily. Unfurling the new covers, she went to the headboard side and struggled to pick up the mattress alone to push the new covers beneath. Something fell from behind the mattress onto the floor beneath. She bent down and looked under the four poster bed. Two pieces of gold shone out to her. One within her reach, the other rolled off to the other end. She crawled under the bed and got her hands on both the pieces. She craned her neck upwards to look at the bed from under. A coffee flavored toffee was sticking out from behind the mattress, fighting gravity, pinched in place. She pulled it out too and crawled back out from under the bed. She sat on the floor, head resting on the bed, turning the earrings back and forth. They were the ones for which she’d boxed her son’s ears. She felt terrible, devastated almost. She now recalled picking it from the bedside table and having kept it on the bed. They must have gotten wedged between the mattress and the headboard during the course of the night. She lay her head on her knees and held herself close. She sat that way for more than a few minutes and swore to herself she’d put people over things here onwards.
Getting up from her place on the floor, she went out of the bedroom to look for her son. He was standing in the balcony, listening to the radio. She snuck up behind him and dangled the toffee in front of his eyes. He whirled around and smiled broadly. But then he saw her face and his smile dimmed a little. Her heart pricked.
“You want this?” she asked him.
He shook his head.
She felt sad.
But then he said, “I want the mango flavor.”
Her heart jumped with joy! “I’ll get you those later. Right now, will you please help me with covering the bed?” she asked.
He nodded her head vigorously. Then he raised a finger and asked, “Can I jump on the bed after that?”
“Yes, we both will,” she said, laughing.
Beaming with joy, he ran towards the room, and she noticed as she followed him, that his radio was lying in the balcony. She picked it up and placed it on the table – a lesson learnt.
As promised (to no one in general), here’s a continued set of anecdotes from my trip to Gujarat!
Let’s begin right from the beginning of the trip, like is the norm unless I choose to write in reverse chronology. That’s a good idea but for another day!
Anyone who’s spent even a day on Bangalore roads would know how terrible a nightmare they can be, especially if you have a flight to catch. So for my own mental peace and for all practical purposes, I left from home, four hours before my flight was to take off! And lo behold, I reached in just about an hour and a half, much to my annoyance and my cabbie’s surprise at my annoyance. The good people at the flight customer support counter however sent me off on an early flight as reward for my unacceptable promptness.
We came across not one or two but three locations where there were rubber band sellers – and when I say rubber band sellers, they were only selling rubber bands! A handcart full of crimson, kale, azure, gold, grey, fuchsia, violet, saffron, striped, polka dotted rubber bands! Out of curiosity, I asked one of those vendors what the price of the bands were and he said 1 rupee! Yes, you read it right – freaking 100 paise! 1 rupee! My first thought was how are they even surviving! My second thought was to buy a dozen or so of the bands. My third thought was exactly how much is the production cost of these bands if people are managing to sell these at such a nominal price!
At one of the beaches, my sister was polite enough to do the human thing of clicking a picture for a couple of guys who requested her to. One of them started making small talk with her asking her if she was a resident of the town, did she know any good places to eat, et al. Having answered in monosyllables, we started walking away when one of them called out to her asking her, “I’m from the States. Would you want a picture with me?” Surprised, she refused. He insisted again asking, “Are you sure you don’t want a picture with me?” While I was wondering if I could place his face to any of the Indian Americans I’d seen on the USA shows, my sister was muttering, “He’s freaking flirting with a 20 year old! He is almost double my age!”
We had visited a set of caves, to which there’s dispute about whether it was a geological formation or dug by the Portuguese for formation of the Diu Fort. Either ways, it was a beautiful maze of earth cut out in a variety of eerie and curiously un-human ways. There were stairs ending into nowhere, rocks hanging out precariously, cuts in the ceiling which didn’t seem to explain the purpose or history of its creation! And because it was so huge and devoid of many tourists, there were spaces where you couldn’t see another person as far as your sight and the maze allowed. The silence was harsh enough for you to hear your own breathing and each step you took creaked the twigs and dry grass below. I was thankful to have gone there during the day! In the midst of this little nowhere, was a bunch of DSLR equipped photographers capturing a to-be married couple’s shots. The pictures will turn out to be pretty, I tell you!
When I recounted the saga of being stuck on the highway in a three hour traffic jam in the early hours of a new day, I did not mention a first I encountered! I managed to locate and confirm my first constellation sighting in the skies! It was the Big Dipper constellation, as confirmed by the StarTracker app I use, when I was very sure that it was Big Dipper! I wish I could have captured the night sky as pristine as I saw it, but technology has its limits and sometimes, what you see is too beautiful to be captured as is on camera. The camera just cannot do justice.
I went on a tour to the Indian state of Gujarat with family recently. It was fun filled, exciting, adventurous, reminiscent of the two decades we have spent together. Sure we had our tough moments too but very well overshadowed by the good moments!
The driver we’d hired was peculiar though. He had a fascination with keeping the car clean! Within an hour of starting the drive, when food was mentioned he immediately requested us to not eat in the car. As the trip progressed, his fancies for taking care of the car started to become nightmarish for us. We couldn’t use the pouches at the back of the seats because they’d become shapeless then. We couldn’t put up our cramped feet on the seat. We had to check the soles of our footwear before getting into the car. We had to try and dust every grain of the beach sand from our clothing lest we carry it into the car – even if it meant waiting in the noon Sun for an extra half hour drying ourselves, our clothes and the stuck sand! There was a moment when a couple of us were sitting in the car waiting for the others to join and there at the side of the road, as our car stood, replete with dust (because well, Indian roads are dusty, especially when travelling between cities) our driver was dusting the car’s body with a cloth. Why on earth would someone do that in the middle of a 50 km drive? It would all just come back!
So needless to say, in our seven day trip I was dreading spending the 40 hours or so in the car travelling, with that guy at the wheel!
The last night of our trip was planned such that we’d be travelling overnight to our final destination. It was also our first night travel while he was at the wheel. Around 1:30 AM, we got stuck in a traffic mess on the highway. And we’d just crossed a scene of an accident ten minutes ago. In the pitch darkness of the roads, the night only lit by star shine and vehicle headlights, even overturned stones may seem like human skulls. If that wasn’t enough to spook me out, we found out that there was another mix up that had happened ahead and we would be stuck in the car for a while ~ too cold to step out, too stuffy to stay in. We switched off our car lights and music to save fuel. And good we did, because the jam finally cleared three hours later! About 25 kms from there, we again crossed an accident spot. By now, I had tremendous respect for the driver because not only did he have a steady hand but he was very careful while overtaking other vehicles or maintaining the speed limits! Though I had noticed this over the week, that thought never got a chance to come to the foreground, because of his affinity to keep the car clean.
His sole job was to ensure that we travelled safely and on time. And he did that brilliantly, not failing us even once. Yes, he wasn’t the most charming talker or accommodative enough when it came to his car but that is not what was earning him his bread and butter. His driving skills were, and they were top notch.
Note to self : It is so easy to judge people, make fun of their personality if it differs from ours, without thinking or asking why they do what they do, without bothering to know what makes them them. Where’s the fun in being empathetic and sensible all the while? But would you rather live easy or live right?
In the background is a 15th century well cut out of hard rock to preserve water. It has 162 steps of descent and is located in the Uperkot Fort in Junagadh, Gujarat, India.
He was rummaging through old letters his deceased wife had written him during a long marriage and before. He also found his first and only Valentine Day card from thirty years ago.
Tears welled his eyes immediately when he read and re-read the sender’s name etched in crayons. He called her. This would be his first conversation with her in more than two years. “I want to take you out for dinner today. Will you be my valentine?”
She wasn’t sure if she should even receive the call but she did. “Me? But, Daadu. Also, today is the 21st of January,” said his recently divorced thirty eight year old grand daughter.
“I found the Valentine Day card you’d made for me years ago,” he said, not going into further details.
Eyes closed, she pursed her lips and barely managed to say, “I’ll pick you up at seven PM today,” before tears brimming with happiness rolled down her cheeks.
The outgoing winters always have a track record of leaving me fumbling with a runny nose or a sore throat. As expected, it happened this time around too. But what happened next was un-thought of earlier. In one of my impulsive phases, I shot a question at a few friends.
The answers left me speechless and also glad that for a change, I caught a cold which didn’t affect my brain. Or did it?
The question was : If I cut my nose, will it help me get rid of my cold?
Person 1 : “You surely won’t be able to breathe.”
- That sounds like my answer – 90% of the time. But I was in the 10% bucket right now. So that’s not coming from me today, at least.
Person 2 : “I tried to Google it. But I couldn’t find anything concrete.”
This is my favorite answer! From my favorite person! And for you, all I’ll say today is :
Person 3 : “No. Mad woman!”
- Okay! I got you. Jeez. Relax. I am not really going to cut my nose off, irrespective of how much I’d like it to be sharper and longer. But, nope, not cutting it off!
Person 4 : “Drink some ginger juice. Steam some water. It’ll help get rid of the cold.”
- Nah, this one ain’t a doctor. But this one worries about me, sometimes a little too much to get the humour in the question, probably! Just saying. 😉
Person 5 : “You could try it. If it works out, let me know as well. I’ll join the club.”
- Someone help me out now! It’s important this one joins my club! She is after all, my sister! Yes, the craziness runs in the blood!
Person 6 : “Definitely!”
- Surprised, I asked the person another question. “What do I do with the blood?” Yes, there was a response. “Pass it off as pomegranate juice and give it to someone to drink!” Speechless!
What would you say to me? Go ahead, sharpen your wit, improve your humour and answer me.
P.S. : The cold’s gone now. The nose is still there. I wonder if Voldemort is jealous of me. 😛