Short Story – The Cottage


Note – This short story was first published in the fantastic Weirdo Magnet anthology ‘Silence is White’ dedicated to the works of well known French poet and author Seb Doubinsky. It was an honor for me to share space with some of the best internationally acclaimed authors, poet and artists. 

Do buy Silence is White for it contains some of the best writings of recent times.

“Unlike many from the city I am no stranger to the whims of nature, but that day’s sudden change of weather caught me unprepared. What started as a hike on a fair-weather day had suddenly been reduced to an ordeal. Winter totally changes perceptions of the land and no amount of off-season hiking could prepare me for the unexpected.

“Three unforeseen things happened that day. First, the weather suddenly turned nasty. Visibility rapidly decreased and the drop in temperature was rather sudden. Darkness shrouded the hills much earlier than usual and the crisp November air turned damp and cold. Second, I was forced to abandon my plan to return to the hotel because I twisted my ankle when my foot got caught in a thick root hidden by overgrown grass. Third, to my surprise, the cottage that I had discovered during one of my previous hikes, and where I was headed for shelter, was occupied.

“From previous visits I knew that the mist would have snaked through the network of paths crisscrossing the landscape, through the valleys and across the creeks until it curled around the cliff tops and canyons that were the mountains.”

My class had been listening with rapt attention until one of the younger students gathered around the campfire broke the silence.

“I imagine it’s great to explore somewhere that’s not over familiar, so your twisted ankle and the worsening weather must have been very frustrating.” He said.

“It was, the pain was excruciating and made it difficult for me to keep up my usual pace. I was on a steep path and I was breathless. I considered trying to find a vantage point from which to get my bearings, but realized that with the weather worsening, and with my throbbing foot, this wasn’t going to be possible. Mist and darkness together can be terrifying especially when you’re not prepared for it, but cold, wet, and with no other choice I had to go on.

“Even though I had visited the area before, my painful foot and the dense mist were disorientating, I’d strayed onto a nondescript trail that or might not take me towards the cottage. Dazed, confused and uncontrollably shivering I continued slowly through the mist, hoping that the path would eventually lead me to the cottage.

“Roosting birds in the woods had fallen silent and the sound-damping mist made the turbulent sound of the river down in the valley almost impossible to hear. It was obvious to me that, if ever I found my way to it, I would have to spend the night in the cottage no matter what, as my ankle continued to grow more painful with every step along the sloping and rock strewn trail. The forest was not very dense in this part of the hill, instead small and dense shrubs packed the landscape. The forest was not very dense on this part of the hill; instead small shrubs covered the ground.

“As I tripped over what I took to be a fallen branch, I yelled with pain but managed to get back onto my feet. Then I realized that this might be a blessing in disguise. I could use branch as a defence against snakes or other small animals I encountered. There were no big carnivores in this region, but even some small animals could inflict bad injuries. I hoped the cottage would not be too far away, as I was convinced I was heading in the right general direction, and despite the pain I tried to quicken my pace, as I was eager to reach my destination as quickly as possible.

“After walking for another ten or fifteen minutes, I finally saw the faint outline of the cottage not far ahead of me in the mist, and was glad that my choice of direction had been the right one. I remembered the area in front of the cottage with its overgrown bushes, which were now invisible. A rotten signboard dangled from a Pine tree close to the property. I recalled it used to have ‘Hunter’s Cottage’ painted on it, two more tall pine trees stood on either side of the cottage porch. Outwardly the building appeared to be in good condition, and I thought it should provide good shelter for the night. I was surprised to see the dim glow of a lantern, indicating that someone was already in the cottage, but as I listened, I heard only silence. Whoever it was, unless they owned the cottage, must have forced the lock to open the door. As I approached, I saw a hazy silhouette on the porch.”

 “I waved and called out to her, for now I was sure that the silhouette was a woman. She remained silent, and stood so still that she might have been part of the structure.

“I drew close to the porch steps, and in the light from the lantern, I could finally see a face. I was surprised to learn that the figure was a woman.

Several students who had been staring silently into the flames looked up at the mention of the woman. “I had seldom seen an unaccompanied woman on those remote forest trails, and wondered if she had a companion in the cottage. I’d heard reports that many solo women hikers had gone missing in the mountains in the last few years. Though not superstitious I usually followed the advice of a former trek companion. ‘Stay away from women while hiking. They’re bad news,’ he’d once said when we finally managed to part from a rather clingy and gabby girl during one of our hikes.”

“That’s not really true. Men have a habit of pointing fingers at women all the time. Not all women are clingy or gabby or bad news. Even men can be like that.” Shyama, one of my female students, interrupted me with her strong voice. “Of course. My friend was generalizing—just as you are now, Shyama.” The other students laughed and Shyama went quiet. Once the group had settled down again, I continued.

“I thought she was beautiful in an unconventional way. I hadn’t realized that I was staring until she snapped her fingers in front of my face. I had even forgotten about my twisted ankle for a moment or two.

“I paused to light a cigarette, and watched for a moment as the smoke from my lungs rose and mingled with the smoke from the campfire. Some of my students stood to stretch their legs, and then reseated themselves in the circle of expectant faces.

“Mountains and forests can be both challenging and intimidating; we all need to be aware of the dangers involved in confronting nature head on.

“It was bone chillingly cold and the wind was picking up, but at least the rain had stopped. By then I was desperate for the comfort of a floor and four walls. I leant the branch I’d used as a support against the wooden railings of the porch, and then, as the woman stood back and opened the cottage door, I slowly made my way up the four steps and inside. As I passed her, I noticed the glow of her skin in the lantern-light and caught a faint scent of musk rose. Passing through the doorway, I saw that the lock had been broken. Inside, I shrugged my daypack onto the floor, and feeling more tired than I could remember ever having felt before, I limped to one of the plain wooden chairs and sat down for the first time since I’d stopped for lunch.

“Though she looked physically strong, I would never have expected her, or anyone else, to deliberately stand out in that piercing cold, it was almost as if she was expecting me—or expecting someone at least. When I looked back at her, instead of following me inside, she was still standing there, peering into the night.

“She was wearing warm pants and a hooded jacket. Her feet were covered in thick socks and her gloveless hands were wrapped around a tin mug. Inside the cottage her hiking boots lay near her backpack, along with a camera, some maps and binoculars. A lightweight sleeping bag lay open on the floor.

“I looked round when I heard movement on the porch, and then I watched her as she removed the lantern from its hook, turned, walked in and closed the door behind her. What a strange woman, I thought. She was observing me closely, but her silence was making me uncomfortable.

 “I’m James Goddard,” I said. As I extended my hand, I saw a smile flicker at the corners of her mouth, but it quickly vanished.

“She nodded and placed her mug and the lantern on a small wooden counter, then pointed to a pan,

‘“There’s some soup there if you want. You can sleep in there, take the lantern,’” she said as she pointed to a door at the back of the room. I smiled at her, watched her drag a chair to the open front to keep it closed, and regretted that I wouldn’t be in her company for a while longer.  I carried my daypack and lantern into the room, and then returned for the pan of soup. Only when I was in the room, with the door closed, did I realise that she hadn’t told me her name. As I drank the cooled soup straight from the pan, it was filling but tasted of kerosene. I hadn’t seen a stove in the cottage, so I guess she must have made it at a camp site and had somehow carried it with her. “I heard her settling down for the night. So, as quietly as I could, I spread a small wrap on the cot, then sat on the edge, removed my socks and boots and used an anti inflammatory spray on my swollen ankle. A little later, my socks back on, I was stretched out on the rusted cot, trying to make myself comfortable for the night.”

“’Maybe someone advised her to stay clear of men. Bad news, you know.’” Shyama muttered loud enough for me to hear. I ignored her continued.

“During my hiking trips I’d heard a lot of weird tales around campfire, some true maybe, others folklore, but I’d never taken them seriously. Now, in the situation in which I found myself, thinking about the strange woman in the next room, those tales started to bother and amuse me at the same time.

 “Lying on the cot I surveyed the tiny room. The walls were empty except for two large hooks on one side. My bed directly faced a window, and through it I saw the skeletal forms of winter trees limned with light that contrasted starkly with the cold, darkness of the night. Their branches were spread like the hands of the dead, bare, gnarled and chilling. As I watched, the branches curled into giant talons and scratched demandingly at the window.

“What I had seen was irrational, frightening, but turning on my side to avoid looking directly at the window, I tried to convince myself that it was nothing more than a product of my tired mind. In the dark, with my eyes closed, I thought about the mysterious woman. I heard her stirring, perhaps tossing and turning as she too tried to sleep. I must have dozed for a while, not real sleep, but that state between being awake and being deeply asleep, then I was brought back to full wakefulness by a sound that’s difficult to describe, whether it was coming from the main room, or was in my room, I couldn’t tell. It wasn’t like the sound of a person moving about, that would have caused the floorboards to creak, there was none of that, just the noise of something brushing across the floor. In the cold night, I shivered even more.

“As my sleeplessness dragged on, I distracted myself from the unexpected events and strange sounds of the night. In a sense, I felt trapped by the things that had occurred, it was almost as if my reality had been manipulated to take me to that place at that time. I forced myself to think about something else, and thoughts of my new life in a new apartment, in another city, another country, came to me. I had wanted to leave my meaningless life in cold and dreary England, it was sucking the spirit out of me. My increasing dissatisfaction had led me to accept an invitation to join an educational institute here in India, your college in fact, as a visiting faculty member. I thought about the people and places that I’d come to know when I had travelled in India, and the endless possibilities that awaited me in your busy, vibrant and colourful country. The hike was a last gift to me before I started my new job.

“At some point I must have drifted into real sleep, because a loud banging noise brought me fully and unwillingly awake. I got up from the cot as quickly as my swollen ankle would allow, and did my best to hurry through to the main room. The chair I had seen the woman move to act as a door stop, was back where it had been when I sat on it, the front door itself was swaying to and fro, and occasionally, as the morning breeze gusted, it slammed noisily into its frame. Through the window, through the swaying door, the room was flooded with light as the sun climbed above the trees. There was no sign of the woman hiker, whose presence had puzzled and perturbed me through the night. I hadn’t heard her get up, pack and leave. I looked around, and apart from the mug still on the counter top and the scent of musk rose, there was no sign that she had been there at all. Where she had spread her sleeping bag on the floor, was a layer of fine dust that lifted and swirled a little in the draught from the door. The only footprints in the dust, I knew, were from my own hiking boots, and there was nothing to show that anything had softly trodden that floor, as I am still convinced I’d heard in the night.

“With a chill running up and down my spine, a feeling of dread, of not understanding, I went back to my room, dressed for a day on the trail, and packed my things. As I did this, the window flew suddenly open, filling the room with the cool, sweet, pine scented morning breeze. I looked up and saw the pine trees gently swaying. Feeling an urgent need to leave that place I lifted my daypack onto my shoulders, hurried from the cottage with a palpable sense of dread, collected the branch I had used as a support, and taking the same path by which I’d arrived, headed away as quickly as my sprained ankle would allow. Every rustling leaf, every animal sound, quickened my pulse as, with a palpable sense of dread, I moved away from the cottage. I wanted to be out of that forest as quickly as possible, and I hoped I would never have to return there.”

I stopped and glanced at the faces around me. The group had been listening to me in a breathless silence.

I stopped and glanced at the faces of my students, now lit only by the dying glow of our campfire. They had been listening to me in rapt silence.

“Oh my God, the woman was a ghost. The local tales weren’t crap after all.” One of the boys said quietly, as he huddled closer to his companions.

In the tiger reserve around us, I could hear animals moving, but there were no alarm calls announcing that a big cat was on the prowl.

“Is that what you think?” I asked rhetorically as I raked the dying embers with a stick. “Does anyone else have a theory?”

The group muttered quietly among themselves, as I smiled and wondered if even one of them would understand.

“No, not the woman. The trees.” A girl called out suddenly. Immediately the others demurred, so I let them argue for a while, until it was time to turn in for the night.

“Are you going to tell us?” Someone asked.

“Think about the story I told you, consider the evidence, then you’ll realise that only the trees could have been what was haunting that place.”

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Short Fiction – The El Pino Ruins


“Do you believe in ghosts?” she asked.

They were sitting on the steps of an old church overlooking the cemetery.

“No, I don’t.” He replied. “Why? Do you?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact I do, but not like those described in books. They don’t exist. It’s just fiction.”

“Are there any other kind of ghosts than those we read about in books, Pia?”

“Of course there are. Real ghosts, they’re everywhere. Just because you don’t see them it doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Some people can’t see certain colours but that doesn’t mean those colours don’t exist.” She smiled. “Ghosts don’t haunt graveyards or deserted old buildings. They aren’t transparent and don’t evaporate into the mist. That’s all bullshit.”

Federico looked into her big, hazel eyes and forgot the conversation they were having. He wondered how anyone could be so beautiful that they were able to stop time at will. He remembered the day she’d breezed into his book café wearing a bright floral dress, her hair cascading in lazy spirals down her slim shoulders. She’d stopped near the vine of wild roses at the door and gazed at them for a moment before entering the shop and Federico was certain she carried the fragrance of the flowers with her. For twenty minutes she stayed in the shop, and Federico forgot what straight thinking was like. She seemed friendly and had bought a little basket of cookies and empanadas from the counter. He gave two complimentary slices of fruit cake, something he’d never done before. She thanked him for the gesture. The memory of her voice kept ringing in his ears for days afterwards. He knew she didn’t live there but he’d seen her around town sometimes, walking along the river bank where he went fishing. He’d even spotted her on Sundays among the church goers.

It was the last Sunday of the month in which she’d first visited his café and he was standing outside the church trying to spot her as the congregation emerged. He was watching the sea of people so intently that a tap on his shoulder made him jump.

“Dios mio! You scared the wits out of me.”

“Were you looking for someone?” Her gaze lingered on his face which had turned the colour of beetroot. She giggled like a little girl.

“Oh… no not really. I was just…”

“I’m Pia.” She extended her hand. For a moment Federico stood transfixed by her presence but then, somehow, he managed to speak.

“Federico, but friends call me Rico.” He shook her hand and wished he could hold it forever. Pia also seemed to enjoy the moment.

“Let’s go sit on those steps,” she said, pointing at the secluded stone steps at the side of the church.

Rico allowed himself to be led. He heard his heart beating loudly, and was sure Pia would hear it.

 

Captivated by the natural power of the sierras and the dark brooding woods they’d sat quietly on the stairs watching the sun melt on the hauntingly beautiful mountain peaks.

The loud ringing of the church bells and the musical sound of her voice then brought him out of his reverie. He realized that Pia was talking to him.

“Lo siento. I didn’t hear what you said?”

“I was saying we’re all haunted. Haunted by the things we see, feel and by those that we can’t. Do you know what ghosts are? They are our unmet desires, our fears and longings, unfinished businesses.”

“Unsaid words, deeds not done, our struggles in the intolerant world, they are the pangs of unrequited love, betrayals, unfulfilled dreams,” he added.

“Yes, and also the echoes of the ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves’ among other things. We arrive too late everywhere and we live with heartache. Then we die,” she said.

Rico watched one side of her face glow in the sun’s rays. “You seem to know a lot about these things, and if you are right, then we are all living dead carrying our ghosts on our backs,” he laughed.

“Yes, I do. We all do but seldom find courage to speak about them. Fear and guilt, two things that keep us from doing so,” she smiled even though he could sense a tinge of sadness and annoyance.

“I saw you at the cemetery the other day,” she turned to face him.

“Yes, I go there sometimes to visit my grandfather’s grave.”

“I don’t like these goddamn cemeteries. Fake people laying fake flowers every Sunday on coffins placed in straight lines six feet under. People make sure the dead don’t escape by placing heavy stones on the graves as if they would stop anything from escaping if it wished to.”

He saw the corner of her mouth twitch into a little smile that faded at once.

“But the dead need to be buried somewhere, Pia.” Rico said amused by the girl’s statement. He wasn’t a religious person but the discussion was stimulating and also he didn’t want to let her go… not just yet.

“Yes, in the graveyards. Those open places among the ruins.” She stood up and looked beyond the building. Her gaze stretching on the weathered cliff faces rising dramatically, red poppies, yellow mimosa and wild orchids tempered by the soothing green of ancient olive groves, an occasional splash of pale pink almond blossoms and remnants of  some old buildings that lay scattered on a distant hill. Rico also got up and put his arm around her. She didn’t object.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I become calm in roaming among those ruins. I didn’t know you loved them too. I often visit the stream that runs beyond it. What a spectacular vintage point,” he said.

“It is surreal to be surrounded by death. I love the footpaths crisscrossing the mountains,” Pia said. Her eyes glinted with joy.

Rico lived for these moments.

“Have you been to the ruins and the old graveyard?” He asked.

“Yes, I have. It’s closer to my pueblo than yours.”

“Yes, I hear your pueblo is very picturesque. I haven’t been there.”

“No? You must come visit us sometime.” She said gathering her packages. “I live with my little brother.”

“And your parents?” Federico asked.

“Let’s not talk about them please.” She shifted uncomfortably and almost stumbled as she climbed down the old broken steps. Rico caught hold of her arm.

“I’m fine.” She said, her voice almost a whisper.

Federico walked her up to the town square from where she boarded the bus to her pueblo. It wasn’t far and usually people walked through the fields during the day. She too did but the darkness had wrapped the mountainside in her shroud early today. He insisted that she take the bus.

The streets were nearly empty. Federico went to the cafe which still had a few customers. He decided to stay there for a while. There wasn’t anyone waiting for him at home and he loved the warm cheerfulness of the place. He made himself a strong brew of coffee and relaxed on his usual chair behind the counter.

Later at home, Rico’s thoughts wandered to Pia. Why hadn’t she wished to talk about her parents? There was a certain sadness, Rico had always felt, behind her gleeful self. He hardly knew anything about her. The few hours he got with her were usually spent talking about books, travels and other things. She was a well informed, intelligent and beautiful woman, someone Rico would have thought of marrying. He wondered how it would be to live with her under the same roof every day, make love to her, do things together. The thought excited him. He decided to go visit her the next day and meet the brother too.

Early in the morning, he left his apprentice in charge of the cafe, packed a basket of cookies, cakes and rolls and set off. It was a bright day so he decided to walk. On the way he plucked some wild flowers knowing how much Pia loved them.

 

It took him more than an hour to reach Pueblo Blanco which appeared to tumble haphazardly from the hillside. Swathes of orange and lemon trees, bougainvillea and jasmine spread cheer all around the farmsteads dotted over the hillsides. The pueblo consisted of a mosaic of old houses, a square, a market with a bar named Alfredo’s, numerous fuentes and a school building which stood out like an eyesore amidst a cubist’s dream. Rico walked down the mossy trail waving at children who waved back at him. Any outsider to them was a tourist visiting the ruins. They smiled and posed for photographs but Rico had no camera so he did not get much attention.

 

After a little search in the pueblo with its whitewashed flat roofed houses, characteristic chimney pots and narrow cobbled streets he spotted the stone cottage with slanted red roof and a cobbled path leading to the front door.  It was at the end of the street and stood out among the terraced clusters of other houses.

 

The tinao was strewn with colourful potted plants overflowing from the edges making a stark contrast. He scanned the place for some activity but the house was quiet. He knocked at the door then knocked again. This time he heard heavy footsteps inside and the door swung open. The young man who stood there could have been written off as Pia’s twin. Slightly confused Rico fumbled for the right words while he peered into the dimly lit interior of house.

 

“What do you want? I don’t have the time to stand here.”

 

“I am looking for Pia. I am a friend from El Pino.”

 

The man had the similar hazel eyes to Pia and they were fixed on him. Rico saw the man’s pupils dilate.

 

Suddenly he pushed Rico back and shouted angrily, “Pia is dead, you hear me?” He was about to shut the door when a female voice interrupted him.

 

“Don’t be rude, Eduardo. He is a friend. Let him in.” Rico heaved a sigh of relief on seeing Pia pull the man aside to make way for him to enter.

 

“What a pleasant surprise, Rico. Welcome to Casa Luna. I am sorry about Eduardo. He is always upset with the world.” Her eyes sparkled as she laughed. Federico felt relieved on seeing her and entered the house.

 

“I have brought this cookie basket and flowers for you.”

 

“They’re lovely. Thank you. Please make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.”

 

Rico nodded and settled on a sofa feeling slightly uncomfortable at the fixed gaze of Eduardo who was leaning against the fireplace and staring at him. He looked around the room; it was sparsely furnished and unkempt but certainly looked well lived in. There was a book case along one wall and a side table with a chair near the big window. The heavy curtains blocked the view and he could smell a musty smell coming from them, like wet leaves. A large portrait of two children in their pre-teens hung on one of the walls. He recognised Pia immediately and guessed that the boy must be the brother. “Yeah, that’s us,” Eduardo said in a bored voice. Rico looked at him. He certainly did not look like Pia’s “little brother”. She looked much younger than him.

 

He was about to ask Eduardo about this when Pia entered with a trolley of tea and cookies from the basket he had brought.

 

“We just had almuerzo, Rico. Wish we’d known you were coming. It gets a little boring to eat alone every day. No, Eduardo? “She smiled at him as she made the tea and handed him the cup.

 

“I don’t like strangers especially those who come unannounced.” He said in an angry voice as he walked towards the staircase. For a brief moment he stopped, turned and stared at them then began to climb the stairs which creaked from his weight.

 

“Please don’t mind him. He is unwell, I’m sorry about his behaviour.” Her face seemed to have suddenly aged, Rico thought as he looked into her vacant eyes. He hated to see her sad.

“No problema Pia. I understand. Is he your brother? I thought you said you had a little brother?” Rico asked as he sipped his tea. He noticed that Pia’s cup lay untouched.

“Yes, he’s my brother. He’s a grown up child. His mind is still that of a little boy. That’s the reason he is so flustered and unfriendly most of the time.” Her voice was a whisper as if she was afraid someone would hear. She seemed totally opposite to her useful cheerful self. He felt sorry for her. He shouldn’t have come unannounced and put her in a fix. He took Pia’s hand, pressed it in his. It was cold as ice.

 

“I understand.” He said in a reassuring tone. “Don’t feel bad. I will catch up with you some other time. Need to get back to the cafe. I just visited on a whim.”

 

She lowered her head and nodded.

 

Federico got up and they walked out to the street where they stood facing each other for what seemed like ages. There was a moment of stillness between them. He wanted to take her in his arms and kiss her but the thought of her brother watching from somewhere in the house kept him away. He gave her a quick kiss and left.  When he looked back she was still standing under the cool shadowed Tinao. Rico blew her a kiss, waved and walked out. The door slowly closed behind him as if gently nudged by the wind. He stood looking at the old stone house. The tiles above the windows were chipped and the iron grills looked rusted. The mid day sun threw strange shadows on the walls. Rico stared at them wondering if he saw them move with the passing wind. It all seemed so out of place.

 

He hadn’t gone far on the narrow unpaved path surrounded by hundreds of flowering pots and pillars when a man lazily drinking the local Costa wine with a vendor selling hand woven baskets and Jarapas stopped him.

 

“Hola Señor! Interested in buying the casa. I can get you a good price.” He said chewing on a blade of grass that fluttered at the side of his mouth. The basket-seller didn’t seem to be interested and busied himself rummaging inside his shop.

 

“I am not here to buy the house. The lady who stays there is a friend. She never mentioned that they are selling the place.” Rico was surprised that Pia never told her they were looking for a buyer for the house.

 

The man looked at him for a moment and laughed, “Are you coming straight from Alfredo’s? You don’t look drunk.” He said scanning Rico from head to toe.

 

“The lady of the house is your friend? Hahaha…you got to be kidding. No one lives in that house. It has been vacant for many years maybe from even before we were born. People say the owner, a doctor, was a brute. His wife ran away and left their retarded son and his elder sister in his care. He took to drinking and constantly beat the children. The girl took most of the beating in order to protect the brother and one day the idiota smashed her head on the wall and killed her. The cops took him away and he never returned. The son, a loco, was left to his own devices and some years later they found him dead in the garden…You seem unwell… Are you alright, Señor? You don’t look good. Can I get you something?”

Rico could hear the man’s voice but was struggling to understand. It was a hot day and the sun was bright. A day when tourists and those from nearby cities came to picnic in those parts. The weekly market was abuzz with activity on the other side of pueblo. Without replying Rico rushed back towards the house. He knocked. Once. Twice. And then he started banging the door. And finally his eyes fell on the lock hanging on the door. Rico almost fell back but soon recovered. He got down with a sense of disbelief not really knowing where he was headed, resisting the urge to look back. Lost in the surreal world he dragged his way to the scattered fort ruins and stood there staring at the graves, stone columns and large piles of stones. The remains of a paved floor of a circular hut seemed like a site for prayer rituals for the dead. He felt an unmistakable and unbearable presence of Pia. He sank to the wet mossy ground that smelled of spring flowers and death.

 

*

I ordered another cup of coffee as I listened to Dr. Alejandro. We were sitting inside a small cafe across the city square where the old doctor had asked me to meet him. He’d seen my advertisement in the newspaper for renting a traditional home.

 

“Federico came to me a week after the incident. He was disturbed and needed help. After a few sessions of treatment and a visit to the Casa Luna he slowly began to recover and even started going to the cafe which was run by his apprentice at that time. We met a few times but then both of us became busy with life. A few days ago Rico called me to inform that he was moving to the city and needed my help to find a tenant for the old casa where he had lived after selling off the cafe to his apprentice. Memories of Pia had drawn him to Pueblo Blanco but he’d become very ill soon after moving in and needed to be admitted to a hospital for treatment. He wants someone trustworthy to look after the house in his absence. His house would be ideal for you.”

 

He handed me a slip of paper with a name and address and a frayed business card with his phone number. He added that I could call him at anytime.

 

“Thank you Doctor. I’ll talk to you soon.”

 

“Go safe.”

 

“I will.” With that I picked up my things and left him with his thoughts.

 

It was late in the noon when I reached El Pino. I parked the car near the church and went looking for Rico’s book cafe. No one could give me directions so I decided to walk to Pueblo Blanco to meet him.

 

It was an early winter day but the sun was still warm. There weren’t many people around, just the locals going about their daily business. The mountains, the air, and the wilderness filled me with such contentment I could live here, surely for the rest of my life.

I was in no hurry and reached the pueblo as the afternoon shadows began to lengthen with the onset of evening.

 

Pueblo Blanco was a tapestry of traditional houses and a dilapidated building which looked more modern than the rest of them. A white village as the doctor had said. I looked around for Eduardo’s house but couldn’t spot it. None of the buildings had a red roof. I checked the slip to see if I had lost my way but the dusty signboard near the solitary shop confirmed that I was in the right place.

 

I walked to the shop and looked around. An old man sat slumped on a chair smoking a cigarillo.

 

“We are out of stock.” He said before I could speak.

 

“I don’t need to buy anything. I am looking for Mr. Federico who stays at Casa Luna. It is an old stone building which was owned previously by Señor Eduardo if I am right.”

 

“You are wrong. There isn’t any house by that name nor do I know of any Federico or Eduardo living in this pueblo. You have got the wrong address. The only stone buildings the pueblo has are the ruins over there.” He said, pointing towards the distant hilltop.

 

“That’s strange. My doctor friend gave me this address. He is a friend of the owner and spoke to him a few days back about renting the property.” I handed the slip of paper to the man.

 

“You’ve come to the right place, Señor but I’ve never heard of anyone called Federico or Eduardo and I’ve lived here all my life. Did you say he moved here from El Pino? Maybe you should check with the priest there. He would certainly know. That’s the last bus over there. Don’t miss it.” With that he touched his cap, nodded and went behind the colourful curtain that separated the house from the shop, but he emerged again before I could turn and leave.

 

“I remember my abuelo telling me about an old decaying cottage at the other end of the pueblo. Children called it casa embrujada but that was years ago when I was a child. It is just a pile of stones now.”

 

I muttered a few words of thanks and ran towards the bus. Maybe the man was right about asking the priest. He would certainly know. When I reached the bus I stopped and glanced around the lazy streets of the pueblo. There was no one in sight.

 

When I reached El Pino, the church bore a deserted look and the door to the priest’s home was locked. I decided not to wait and to drive back home. It was getting late and I had to return to the city that very night. While I drove down the winding road my thoughts kept going back to the old doctor, the picture perfect pueblo, the house that did not exist and Federico whom no one seemed to know even in his own town. I hadn’t even able to find the cafe.

It was late when I reached home, but I decided to call Dr. Alejandro- all I got was a busy tone.

 

I was tired so went straight to bed. The strange events of the day were spinning in my head and I wanted it to stop.

 

Next morning I got dressed and decided to call Alejandro again before leaving for work. The phone finally rang after a few tries.

 

“Hola! Alejandro Hospital, how can I help?”

 

“Hello! I am Jim Adams and I need to speak with Doctor Alejandro urgently. I got this number from him.”

 

“You need to speak to whom?”

 

“Doctor Alejandro. I met him yesterday and he told me to contact on this number.”

 

“Estás loco o qué? Doctor Alejandro died years and years ago.”

 

The line went dead.

-*-

Note – The El Pino Ruins first got published in the final edition of Le Zaporogue XVIII by various authors. The short fiction was well received by the readers so I thought of sharing it here too. Thank you for reading. Please leave your views in the comments.

 

                                                                                  ________________

Choices


“You know how sometimes you tell yourself that you have a choice, but really you don’t have a choice? Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean they apply to you.”
― Rick Yancey, The 5th  Wave 

I titled this ‘Choices’ for the lack of any other title. These are just reflections of the last seven plus years that I spent rediscovering myself. This is purely subjective piece of writing. A large percentage of women, even in India, may take completely different steps and bring a change in their sordid lives irrespective of age but some of us are unable to. Mostly because of our own inner fears. Most of the times these fears are  based on aspects outside our control and sometimes they are just baseless but still take a grip on our psyche.

I have always been a drifter and always been ridiculed for it. Sometimes it hurt me deeply and at other times I didn’t care. As a young girl I would often dream of travelling to all the places I saw in National Geographic Magazine and the other books I read. I would dream up places too. Beyond stars and galaxies, beyond the known and unknown. The consistent aspect of each dream was a house. A small yet comfortable house which I would turn into a home. A home where I wanted to be in but never was in reality. I would include a husband/partner/lover as the other resident and yes, there were children too. It all depended on how lonesome or solitary I felt. There would always be a nice kitchen soaked in the warmth of winter sunlight but coolly shaded in summers. There would always be a small garden attached to it. There would be books, music, food, laughter and most importantly love. Other things changed time to time. At that time I never thought of living alone. I was too lonely already to long for more seclusion. Later of course things changed.

At that time not many people asked me what I would want to become when I grow up and I felt grateful for that but when someone did I said, “I want to become a nun or I want to become a trapeze artist.” Fascinated as I was by the world of circus artists. It was a fantasy I wanted to escape into. Of course all that changed once sense prevailed but the drifting continued and all I needed to do in the  future was find a haven away from the chaos.

During the middle school years every time when I  returned to an empty house, with the house key dangling around my neck in a black thread, return to cold meals and silence, I would cringe and envy the kids who had someone waiting for them at home, mostly their mothers. Of course, we were raised differently and there were no gender assigned roles in our house but I was young and grappling with many issues. I think I even cringed at being alone with my dad for various reasons. It was at this time the feeling of living alone began to grow. The dreams remained the same but there were no companions, no family. Perhaps a few friends who would visit but not cling. I was increasingly becoming weary of people around me. It was a complex situation where I wanted the company and yet needed my quiet space.  We didn’t go out for movies or attended family weddings/functions. Hardly anyone visited our house but we did sometimes go to my maternal grandmother’s house in Pune. Another place that I was very fond of for many reasons and yet carried a lingering fear in my heart about it. Someday I will write openly about it.

There were times I enjoyed the peace and solitude of being alone at home. It was a good change from the tensed, argumentative, stifled time when others were around. In some part of my heart I reminded myself again and again that I did not have a ‘normal’ home environment and vowed to give that to myself and family when I grew up.  It did not happen that’s another story though I did leave my job before I got married in hope to make my marital home the haven I had always dreamed of. The lingering thought of having a working mother and my constant loneliness as a young girl made me believe that only stay at home moms could provide the secure and loving home a child needed.

In my circumstances it wasn’t a good choice to be a dependent. Financial independence could have saved me a lot of hurt and humiliation. It could have changed the course of my life but then there are a lot of other factors that contribute to the kind of turns life takes. One can go on about the ‘Ifs’ and ‘buts’ and ‘would be’.

When I look back I see my life divided into slots of  about twenty years each. I am in the third phase now. Two major life changing decisions came at the age of 24 and 44  I got married at 24 and left my marital home at 44. The reason behind both was similar and yet different in some ways. I have written about both in other posts.

Seven years on from the second decision I find myself at the threshold again. Still not able to find a closure. Sometimes I feel I am a rider inside the motordrome or a silodrome with no safety harnesses. I guess the universe took my fascination of circus acts a bit too seriously and put me on this eternal side-show in his carnival called Life.

It is very easy to judge people for the choices they make. I think the only person who can judge is the choice maker. Only he/she can weigh the pros and cons of the action taken. Most of the time the decisions seem correct at the time they are taken and it is only later when we look back we see the hollowness of the choices made. Sometimes we can start afresh and at other times we can’t, no matter how much we wish.

The last seven years revealed some very poignant things.

It is very important to be financially independent from an early stage in your life. It helps build confidence and gives you power to control your life to a large extent. You may question my statement and tell me stories of happy stay at home wives and I do agree that if your partner/husband is caring and respects your decision to follow your dreams even if it is to keep home then it is worth every bit but that is not always the case. I saw the dream shatter and the lack of financial support left me nowhere. As the years passed I found it extremely difficult to acquire the job that would suit my ‘outdated’ academic or professional qualifications.

Also that ‘academic intelligence’ or even life skills sometimes do not guarantee real world success or employment especially if you over 45+ woman and looking for a career.  It is a personal experience about which I will sometime write in detail.

The second phase of my life was a struggle to  cope with a non supportive/cooperative marital family, raising children and trying very hard, against all odds, to make that house a home. It did not work. So, I put aside the idea of  living my dreams and put all my strength to see that my boys get what I did not. It was a choice I made. I was weak, emotionally and mentally. The strength to rebel came very late and with tremendous consequences.

The idea of love is very rosy but be very assertive about your self-respect and dignity. Do not ever allow the other person to take hold on you in any way just because you are in love. If there is no mutual affection and respect in a relationship then it would never thrive. Everything else fades away with time. Adjusting, compromising with yourself on various grounds in hope of a blissful haven is foolish. Unconditional love is a silly thought. There is no such thing. Every act of love seeks something in return and if one doesn’t love oneself one can’t expect love from others. Again, something I knew but never practiced. What you give to others is never enough and is often thrown back at you as an object that supposedly smothered them. Never give away all of yourself to anyone. Never.

I also feel that heartbreak is often good for you because you know exactly what you do not wish in your life.  Mistakes / failures are always very good teachers. Each failure, each rejection is a stepping stone to something positive so instead of crying over them it is always better to move forward and be grateful for the things that broke you so that you could collect yourself and walk much stronger and experienced. They teach you lessons that you need to learn, strengthening and resurrecting you in the process. It makes you reach inside and know yourself better.

No school or college can teach you what life does. Be attentive to it. The beauty of the human life lies in its fragility so don’t give it up or give it away. It is the real strength and power of being human to accept your brokenness, to put it all back together. To fill the cracks with gold of love and move on. Cracks are the wounds indicating you have suffered and have overcome that suffering. Something like Kintsugi . 

I spent years carrying the hurt in my heart and then one day I just let it go. It made all the difference within though the daily struggle to assert myself and live continues. Insecurity and discontent robs you of your peace and your health.There is nothing like travelling light and finding joy in small things rather than moaning over the past and the negative. Unfortunately financial instability or lack of money and a basic comfortable life in a space of your own can pull you back in that muck time after time.  The reason I suffer even now, even after knowing all this. It’s tiresome being a fighter all life long.

I’m essentially a very trusting person but the events of last few years have made me tougher. I am not cynical but careful than before. People who claimed to be well wishers back stabbed in such a way that I began to question the very essence of any relationship. It broke me but then I emerged wiser. Now there are a selective few I trust and the others need to prove their worth.

Each person and the environment in which he/she lives is different but one thing that runs through every situation is unless the men in your life (father/brother/husband/partner/lover/ son..) are enlightened enough to see you as a human being with a mind of her own who has goals and desires you will always be subjugated and remain unhappy and dissatisfied with yourself and others. To stop that you need to be strong and vocal about what you want from life and take full responsibility for your actions. I realized this very late in life. Many things were out of my control and irreversible by then. Never make this mistake of handing the pen in someone else’s hand. Write your own story.

I told someone to stay single and pursue the goals she had set for herself unless the partner is supportive of her blossoming. Not many agreed but darlings this is the only way to happiness. I support people who not to have children and also who decide to have them/adopt them or just sponsor a child. It is a choice they make. Why should one judge? We are very judgmental lot especially when it comes to the choices women make.

Patriarchy sees red when women make choices and that is one of the reasons why many of us have stilled voices. Also, our society is obsessed with marriage. It is time to look beyond pushing kids to settle down and have babies.

Women are “natural givers”, this is a concept taught by the patriarchal society. A woman has to think of others before she thinks about herself. ( If at all she dares to think.) We are made to believe that our very existence is for others. A girl is conditioned to this thought since childhood and the society frowns if she resists making her feel guilty and most of the give up her dreams. In each role she plays her glory is in sacrifice.

“Selfish” became my middle name the moment I decided to break those barriers. People often say women don’t want to break out of patriarchal mindset as they love to play victims or as an excuse for their life state or unwillingness to be decisive and take the hard path. Though I do agree that many of the women do that but it’s also true in many cases the lack of support system and financial instability can also hinder their movement towards a path they want to walk on. The hard path is harder than you think. At different social levels the choices differ and so does the ability to break free. Especially in the case of middle class, which has also now got segmented, women find it much difficult to step out. It’s easier said than done.

I think it is very essential to know and realize your worth not just as a woman but as a human being. As an individual.

Another thing that life revealed in last few years is, if you are in an abusive or an unsatisfactory marriage then take a stand as early as possible. If you delay then it would be very difficult at later stages. Not all natal homes are supportive and not every woman will find a steady income to support herself or children ( if there are any). Early decision also gives you enough time to make a fresh start if you need to look for a job to support yourself.  I spent twenty plus years in hope that things will improve but they did not. Don’t believe in the misconception that once you have children things will change for good or improve. No, they don’t and then children suffer too.

People often ask me, ‘ why did you take it for so long?” They say among themselves,”How could an educated woman with liberal thinking do this to herself?”

In our country unless you have a back up or a support system worked out it is lethal to step out and fight for your rights. If you think your natal home is where you’ll find solace, think again. It is very frustrating for many. I know because I am living it.

I had spent two major phases of my life struggling with myself trying to find who I am and where I am headed. Oscillating between what I was and what I had become.

In solitary hours I would stare at the walls on the house of bricks that held me captive because I let it. Slowly I felt my energy depleting at all levels. Though I kept myself involved with children and work at home there was something that was so unfulfilling that it began to gnaw at me.  I did things to distract myself from the mess I was in and found ways to keep myself and boys as much out of it as possible especially in the first half of the marriage. My natal family knew of all that was happening but as they say, if you do not help yourself no one else does. No support came from there to give me courage to break the destructive cycle. I talked, wrote long letters ( boys think that may have been a stepping stone to my blogging  at later stage) but never found a solution or a helping hand.

I also believed that time will heal things and a change will happen. Time doesn’t heal. Don’t believe it all you have been told. Time simply crushes you, chains you, makes you its slave and whiplash you to obey its commands. The answers, the healing comes from either within or from elsewhere. Time just watches the drama and laughs at our misery . Time is the devil to whom we have sold our souls. It is the master, we mere slaves. Only an inner uprising can bring the change. Only that can create true love, true courage, true self.

Abuse ( mental/emotional/physical), is difficult to explain. Many women find is hard to break the cycle of pain and either reach out for help pr move out. They resign to their fates, a guilt, a painful silence that penetrates their bones and makes its home there. The fear, the insecurity, the distrust cripples them. It is very disturbing and depressing. In my case it showed very clearly in physical symptoms. I became a hypochondriac to a very large extent.

Friends were helpless too even if they understood the situation. Suddenly I realized I was alone in this battle. There are many well-meaning people who understand your struggle and encourage you to ” stay brave” but the intention of wishing well does not help. Action does. Not many stand up for you and actually help. The boys were growing up fast and the clock ticking. I had to take a step or fall forever in the quicksand that was sucking me in.

I realized that the only person you can change is yourself. People do what they want to do despite you telling them otherwise. I used to get affected by the undesired outcome, still do at times, but ultimately I found that getting affected by the result harms me more than anyone else involved and that made the difference. It is better to let go and leave people to their views and doings rather than fret about something not in your control. (Still learning)

Someone I admire told me about the universal law of attraction and the role of destiny. I do believe in universal energies but unless one resolves things within the universe does not help. Unless you try to do something to bring the change in your life no one else will do it for you. People can be very comforting and good listeners but no one likes all day whining especially when that is all you do.

I turned 50 last October. Completing 3/4 of the expected average human lifespan and I am worried. Worried about future.  It terrifies me to see that I have neither the security nor the funds for my old age. So, what did I do all these years, let’s say from age 21 to 49 (the working years)? Nothing for myself except a three four years of work from home job given to me by a “friend” as a “do a good deed” pack. I earned some money and experience no doubt but I lost a lot on personal front and then the job itself. As the person said himself,” No good deed goes unpunished”. Not his quote but Oscar Wilde’s. My punishment was to be thrown out of work when I needed it most. It was a crucial time for me and a few more years would have seen me through a lot of troubles. This is when I realized that once you taste freedom life is never the same again. Also, that without enough money for everyday sustenance every notion of freedom and living a life one dreams of falls flat on the face. When someone knows that you are looking for safe refuge more than anything else and at any cost they get you to do stuff they want. I will tell you this very important story one day soon.

Dependence is imprisonment and even though I know it I have very few choices. The ‘hard path’ that people tell me to take is all fine and dandy but my inner fears and physical, emotional health doesn’t allow me to cross the line once more at this stage of life. Now, in this third and perhaps the last phase of my life, I am again at crossroads. The choices are clear and very few unless a miracle happens. I do believe in them by the way. 🙂 You tend to believe in everything when all else fails.

A few of those choices will mean giving up on all that I worked on in last few years. Giving up on my ideals, my beliefs and to start afresh is scaring the wits out of me. I have to make a choice soon even if it means a complete turn around or shedding my skin once again to begin from the first step however hard and painful it may be.

Someone asked me why I decided to play the role of a homemaker when I was ‘educated’ and ‘talented’? Why didn’t I take up a profession, become a ‘working woman‘?

The answer is, every woman is a working woman. As for professional life or being a career woman, It was a choice I made and thought it to be correct at that time. I never imagined things would turn out the way they did.  I never imagined that the ‘home’ that I always dreamed about can only become a reality only IF I earn.

Sadly, everything hinges on money.  I have seen even the supposedly closest people turn away the moment they realize you have nothing much to give in terms of money.

This post is just a rambling to help me and maybe others to decide what course to take to make life worthy. I am seeking answers everyday as I battle with my fears. Will the patriarchy win? Will I eventually find my space? Will I find the closure? I tell myself I have been there before. Fought the war, for myself. Won it too. I keep the faith in the choice I have made now. Though I know the stanch feminists will disagree with it but then again I know what’s best for me in this difficult time. I have to correct certain things. I have to make peace with myself. I have to resurrect a bond I cherish. I have to end the search for a home for good. I have to find that space where I can make the choices without a finger pressing my jugular.

My heart is full but my mind tells me not to give up after coming so far. I have battled fears, depression, physical health issues, heartbreak, regressive mindsets, constant bullying, physical abuse and more at other levels. Still battling many of these. Being home bound for years has made turned me into a nervous, jittery person. I feel scared to take on the world as I did so naturally earlier. It has made me shrink into a non believer in myself. Crowded places make me uneasy, going in empty elevators, public transport scares me. I am not the person who didn’t give a hoot to troubles. BUT, I’m slowly changing that. It is a painful task but I am ready to bring myself back into the game.  I have constantly repaired myself and moved on with courage. I have a feeling now is the time to take that final call. Changing old patterns takes an effort and that effort needs immense strength to carry forward but I am not a quitter. I may give in many times but I won’t give up.

“Don’t ever think of me as “easy” “provocative” . I may speak my mind openly and seem to you like a “non typical Indian woman” but then you don’t know Indian women. It is time you changed your perception. I have scars from touching certain people in my life .. and
Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” Khalil Gibran

Delhi Monuments – Chor Minar ( The Thieves Tower )


I often wonder how I never paid any attention to this solitary tower in K block Hauz Khas Enclave. I have seen almost all the big and small structures around this area but never stopped here. Yesterday I was wandering around the city and was in the neighborhood so decided to walk down and take a closer look at the tower of punishment, a landmark with a gory history, that is usually ignored by many.

The minar is located in the midst of posh bungalows of Hauz Khas. This supposedly haunted structure is encircled by a garden and serves as a traffic roundabout. The monument is made of rubble masonry where large irregular chunks of stone are held together by thick mortar.  The tower, with 225 regularly spaced holes on the upper half,  is kind of macabre to look at. It also seems incomplete and gives a stump like look. If you view it from a distance it appears to have its head chopped off. Sends a shiver up your spine to think what it hides in its dark depths.

Delhi has had its own share of horror filled past and this Chor Minar is a fine example of that. Built in early 14th century, under the reign of Allauddin Khilji (1290–1320) , this tower was used to display the severed heads of thieves and criminals. The heads would be impaled on spears stuck into the holes, to act as a deterrent to others. Though there is no proof if that was the sole purpose of this tower it is very much possible as those times were very turbulent.

I stood there imagining 225 blood dripping heads staring at me from the stone walls of the Minar and turned away only to face the tree in the compound with hundreds of dried seed pods hanging on its branches. It is perhaps one of the Khejri (Prosopis cineraria) trees but I need someone to identify it correctly.

I can’t tell you if I was amused or repulsed. The eerie silence holds you captive as you marvel at the structure, the bloody times in which it was constructed and the Sultan’s preferred way of  delivering justice.

Perhaps with the growing threats from the Mongols, it was necessary to maintain law and order for Khilji. Only with a streamlined administration he could have faced the challenges imposed by the mongols and other invaders. It is believed that when the crime rate increased then heads of only the important noted criminals were displayed and the rest were piled like a pyramid next to it. A blood curdling scene that is hard to imagine as one stands there looking at the manicured square patches of grass that surround the tower.

There is also a belief among the historians that a large number of Mongols who attacked Delhi during Khilji’s regime were defeated and captured and their severed heads were hung from the holes in the Minar for striking terror among the masses.

I wondered if the man who peacefully slept under the warm winter sun, the girls who took selfies next to the Minar or the creme de la creme living in those upper crust houses knew of the headless ghosts that may be grinning or peering at them.

Unfortunately not many people are aware of its history and the morbid tales associated with it and the tower stands there seeped in its blood soaked secrets.

I sat there on the bench taking in a piece of history one would wish to forget. The tower is headless and that seems like too much of a coincidence. It stands on a platform with three arched recesses on all four sides. The central recess on the east is the entrance to the tower with a spiral staircase leading to the top. The gate is locked now and is inaccessible. Only the birds, the squirrels and the bats can see what’s in there.

A woman walking the dogs gave me a strange look as I stood at the gate peering at the minar and hoping against hope to get a signal from some presence in there. It was a hot winter day and the afternoon sun was blazing in its full glory. I had a few more monuments to visit so said goodbye to the ancient inhabitants of the Chor Minar promising to be back soon as my elder son lives a stone’s throw away.

Do visit this haunting beauty whenever you are in this part of the city. The place isn’t very far from the Metro station and the guards near the colony gates or the autowallas will guide you there.

 

 

 

 

The House Of Oracles | Chandini Santosh


Very few books are cathartic, even fewer leave you listless yet fulfilled in a strange way. Chandini Santosh’s The House of Oracles opened some blocks in me. Tears came effortlessly as I finished the book today. They came because a catharsis was much needed. The sky poured endlessly outside my window. I do not know how to review a book so just jotting down what flowed from my heart. This is the second book revolving around an ancestral house that has touched me so deeply. Both the books are by women writers and extremely compelling reads.

Some incidents from past can haunt you for the lifetime, emerging when least expected. Chandini has so beautifully woven that in the theme of the story. Throughout the novel the thought pulsates underneath the current happenings seeking release and atonement in some form or the other.

The heart wrenching narrative tugs at you to keep reading but I had to pause because the characters drew me in at different levels not letting go. The story is set in North Malabar region  and I urge you to do some reading about the ‘Oracles of Malabar’, an incredibly vibrant tradition that is slowly vanishing now, before proceeding to read. The House of Oracles is not just a voyage down the memory lane exploring the rich history, rituals, customs, it is also a journey within. A search for inner happiness, an effort to engage with oneself at levels one wants to push aside. Every one of us has to go through the myriads of  emotions, struggle and pave our path through the pressures and demands society as well as life inflicts on us and that is why perhaps the line between fiction and reality blurs as one reads through the pages.

Although the strong female characterization is the strength of the novel it is the portrayal of the male characters that grew on me. The vulnerability of human emotions is so deftly crafted that it is impossible to disconnect. Each character, even the short lived Vishnu, gets permanently etched in the mind.

The women on the other hand have this inner strength that surfaces quietly at times and at others more vociferously. Even in the midst of chaos that surrounds their lives there is resilience and dignity.

Chandini is a poet and painter par excellence and from the opening lines the four hundred year old house of oracles, the outhouse, the graves, the trees and the forty steps leading down begin to emerge before the reader like a painting. A painting alive with the aroma of the Parijata flowers floating down like tiny, wispy dreams or the moon dragging over the tulsi plant in the atrium, the stream swollen with rain, the daunting shadow of the seven layered stone lamp eternally etched on the walls, the grape-eyed monkey looking beseechingly from the tamarind tree, the lake simmering like a silver coin tossed into the night.. the imagery takes your breath away. One feels compelled to get under the skin of the characters and follow them around the House of Oracles and at times one almost becomes the house itself. There is no other way than to give in.

It is the phrases like, “Forgiving is a limbless genie. It has to be carried in rounded palms or the open hollows of the grieving mind” and “Everyone has to find their own key to the treasure; everyone’s treasure is different” that make you cling to the book till the last word.

Weaved intricately between family traditions, human tragedies, ancient customs is the inevitable social transformation, caste struggle, anomalies of land grab, the ways of the neo-rich and the uncomfortable transition from traditional to modern.

This intense, fast paced narrative will not let you down at any level. The cover design is based on a charcoal sketch by the author and is the portal to a world of storytelling that’s hard to come by these days.

I highly recommend Chandini’s debut novel to everyone. Go pick up your copy here – The House Of Oracles

Dream Diary – Beneath The Waking mind


If sleep is ‘little death’ are dreams then an afterlife?

Painting credit copyright Aditya Dogra.

I have not logged about the early morning dreams or premonitions in some time. Actually I wait till some voice within me tells it is time to write. Things keep happening between the realms of wakefulness and sleep and in between too. Yes, i think there is a state in between and perhaps it has a name too but I am not aware. Even when we are asleep there is this inner wakefulness that guides the dreams as we know them. Sometimes I feel I conjure up some situation or thing to work upon while sleeping and that becomes the dreamscape but on most nights the events are unexplained and not really connected with the day’s events. There is always something deeper and more authentic than the  waking reality.

I do not know what prompts me to write down my dreams and I do not know what they mean but it feels good to be intrigued by these riddling images of my mind. Here I will share three recent ones.

First the most recent and the shortest.

I am in a cave, exploring perhaps, when i find something glistening in one of the ledges cutting through the wall on my left. Something is breathing there. There is only natural light but enough to see what needs to be seen. As I focus my eyes I realize it is a creature , a mix of a serpent or a snake  and a huge lizard ( iguana/ monitor lizard are first thoughts). It’s body is glistening blue green. The color of peacocks neck. The colors shimmer as they would in sunlight. It’s head too is a strange mix of both the creatures I mentioned but more like a snake’s. As i stand there in awe it slowly rises as if waking from a sleep. Our eyes meet. There is a gentleness in those eyes. I do not remember what color they were. All I can remember is the feeling of warmth  they radiated. The creatures slides to the ground and as it does I notice its torso and legs. They are like human body. The lower part below waist is human like. It has the same flesh color. It stands there gazing as I gaze at it and in that moment we lose track of time and space and everything else. 

I didn’t wake up immediately as I mostly do nor did the dream continue. It just ended there.

At another time  the dream was more in conscious state of mind I believe as I was very much aware of the sounds around the house. I am anyway a very light sleeper though my children claim I sometimes sleep soundly when I say I  had been awake the whole night. Strange that it may seem.

 

Talking about children, my boys are often part of my dreams directly or indirectly.  Many time I get this sudden thought/ a flash of an image like a premonition and most of the time it comes rue in one form or the other with the person whose name/face flashes in my mind. It has happened too often in last few months though again it could be just a coincident. These thoughts don’t always come to me as dreams.

Usually it is connected to something uneventful, a mishap in most cases.

In a few cases the mishap occurred without me being aware  and when I shared my dream/ thought I came to know what had happened. It has happened with friends/family in close circle.

Before I go on to the longish dream to end this post let me give an example.

Few days ago my elder son had come to spend the weekend with me. Early Sunday morning  at about 3 AM I had a dream that my brother was waking me up telling me to come see how much blood was pooled up near my elder son’s hip area as he slept on his left side facing the wall. i rush and try to wake the boy asking him where is he bleeding from. The chap gets up and yells at us for spoiling his precious sleep as he isn’t bleeding at all. I stare at the blood pool wondering where it was coming from while the boy dozes off again. 

I woke up with a start and went straight to the room where he was sleeping peacefully. I sat there for a few minutes and then went to brush my teeth and make tea etc. In an hour or so my phone rang and it was the younger son. Worried and weeping he asked for his brother. My heart sank thinking of some mishap that may have happened with him. I quickly work Kid 1 again and gave the phone. I could make out something was very wrong as he consoled his younger brother, jumped out of bed, changed, booked the cab to rush back home. While doing that he explained that their little kitten fell from the second floor and was attacked by dogs. She was in critical state and bleeding from mouth and rectum.

I did not share my dream with anyone except one person. It isn’t the first time this has happened and it scares me. In recent months there have been many short dreams/ flashing related to blood / death/ mishaps and invariably a news has followed. In an already skewed up world in which I exist this isn’t a good sign IMO. A thing that last maybe 30 seconds while also never ending in my mind.

How the consciousness speaks in these ambiguous forms of  oneiric tales freak me out at times. Dreams can be bizarre. A surreal continuum of lostness like this next one.

it is dark and me and the boys are travelling on a bullock cart ( I think they are bullocks) through some slush. The ground is rough and uneven. It is also cold, at least for me, as I have a hooded cape wrapped around me. The boys are bare chested.

I do not know where we are and where we are headed. The horizon isn’t visible. It is just a journey into deeper dark. There a big iron truck with us though I keep thinking of it as suitcase and call it a suitcase.

“How long will it take?” I ask.
“No idea but we need to keep going. It may rain too. The entire area is flooded.” Says the elder son.

” Keep the suitcase covered.” says the younger one. ” we can’t take risks. I’m fed up of this unending journey.”

“Stay quiet.” I whisper.

I can see the tree line of some forested area far at the horizon.  it begins to drizzle.

“Who thought of taking this fabulous vehicle for such an important ride?” Kid2 tries to make the animals move faster. They groan.

“Be prepared for anything and look out for some repair shop. We need to get the suitcase repaired. We can also sell it and buy a stronger lighter one if possible.” Kid 1 says.

“I can see a lantern. Be ready.” I say gripping a baton while the boys grip on some weapon of defense they have.

Slowly, like a shadow we move closer to the lone yellow flickering light. It looks like one of those puncture repair shops one sees along the highways. There is an old shack too. I spot boxes there. We do not spot anyone. Cautiously we step down and look for the owner.

“What do you want?” A voice startles us. A man had appeared from behind the ragged curtains acting like curtains at the door. He looks a million years old.

“We need to exchange our old suitcase with a lighter box. You can keep ours. No money.” I say, eyeing the boys to remain alert.

“Select the one you want. Be quick. The rapids will rise any minute.”

The boys rush to the cart as the animals begin to whimper.sensing an impending danger.

In a minute I join them and we set off. After a while I look back to find the place drentched in dark.

“We were lucky to get away.” I mumble.

” Is everything safe.” Kid 2 asks.

I gasp realizing that the box is missing. The boys pull the reins and glare at me. ” You left the box there only. You idiot.” Kid 1 is fuming with anger.

“I just don’t know how that could have happened. I transferred the contents, locked and picked up the …” I stare at an empty worn out old suitcase thrown in a corner of the cart.

” You picked up the old one.. How could you? You lost all we had. Our everything. Our lives. ” We were rooted to the ground in the middle of a large dark flooded plain. My elder one’s angry figure looming large over me.

I  hear my younger one mumbling in fear. ” We are done. We won’t survive. I told you it was a bad idea to cross over like this. What will we do… mumble..mumble.. “

 The water ahead of us is gleaming in some invisible light and the animals pull the cart as quickly as they can through the slush pulling them in. 

The forest line is clearly visible but still far. There are stumps of burnt trees around us. The cart suddenly stops and we freeze. Something isn’t right. My elder son gets up and picks up a spear. 

“I have to leave. You need to travel on your own from here.Go north then west. Goodbye for now.” With that he soundlessly jumps out of the cart and in a flash vanishes into the dark. We just see a flash of the spear tip gleaming and then vanishing. 

We look at each other and then ahead. We have fallen through time. The tree line has disappeared. and instead far away the horizon is visible like a red thread encircling the landscape. We turn north. First the bullocks dissolve then the first half of the cart with Kid2 and then me. ll that remains is the darkness. 

 

I slowly opened my eyes and glanced around the room which seemed darker than usual. Usually one can hear the low snoring sounds of my brother in next room but that night was quieter than ever.

For a long time all I could think of was my elder boy. I did narrate the dream to him some time in the next few days and maybe there was some part that I may have forgotten to write here. A conversation perhaps when he leaves but I do not want to invent anything now. It’s been a few months.

2016 brought a lot of upheaval but then the chaos is necessary to give birth to something. When it comes to my life I do not know which plane I am on as I plunge into one to emerge on another, day in and day out.

Something is about to change in the coming months. I do not know if that is a good sign or bad but I am going with my gut feeling and going with it.

Something needs to be written about. Urgently and Soon.

Something needs to be brought to a closure.

Universe is showing some signs. Hope it guides me in the right direction.

PEACE – BE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Light Of Darkness – Radhika Maira Tabrez


 

After reading a book if something changes inside you for better then it is a good book. I found light from this one. Simple stories told from the heart are the best. Our lives, across the globe, are all connected with fragile threads. Sometimes these threads quiver just a little to make us aware of their existence and of the beauty of life that is unfolding despite everything. Threads that help us ‘cross over’, to move past regrets and sorrows and embrace life to the fullest.  These potent threads lead us to one another when the time is right and makes us whole again.

I went to the book launch of In The Light Of Darkness last Saturday and met Radhika for the first time. Though we had been in touch on Facebook since some time and I had read her blog occasionally I wasn’t too familiar with her writing. The book is published by  Readomania and their events are always heart warming. You must check out their other books and website too.

When I got the invite for the launch from her I had not seen the cover. The name itself was enough to convince me to look forward to the event. When she shared the cover, I was blown over. It just drew me in. A lot of emotions stirred inside and I thought what a beautiful poetry in picture it was. Later, after reading the novel, I realized how apt the cover was. It sums up the entire human saga of patient waiting of a woman, a mother, a son to being to closure all that needed to be closed. It sums up the very essence of the novel, how ‘the light of darkness’ eventually finds a crack, breaks through and brightens everything around it. It tells the importance of befriending,  understanding and embracing those ‘dark’ phases in our lives for these phases are an important gift for our overall growth and well being. I personally called them ‘rooting years’ .

The novel is exceptionally well written. One of the best I have read among emerging Indian writers. What a fantastic debut.

During the conversation Radhika told that it was Mary Oliver’s famous poem ‘Uses Of Sorrow’ from her book ‘Thirst’ that inspired her to write the story . Incidentally it is one of my favorite books and poem.

While reading, one can see how  beautifully she has captured the essence of that poem  and blended it in the narrative with such affecting simplicity. Throughout the book there is an underlying current of hope and faith. In the midst of all the struggles the character continuously find some thread to hold on to and renew their faith in life, in relationships, in themselves.

That brings me to another thing that has receded in the shadows of time. Letter writing. There is something very personal in writing a letter with hand. Words that came alive and pulsated as you run your fingers on them. Letters that evoked so many emotions in you even after years of receiving them. Letters that bridge the distance and sometimes bring things to closure, assuring a new beginning. I remembered such letters as I read Susan’s letter to her son. there is a certain clairvoyance in it. A light in the dark. I have known the power of such light and could see how beautifully it lead Matthew to the path he had known but never had strength to take.

This isn’t  book review or critique of her work. I am writing this to tell you how the book connected with me at many levels.Page after page I paused and lingered at places that took me back in time in my own life. So many things came up to the surface and eventually found closure. A feeling of Déjà vu made me so uncomfortable at times that I did not know whether to continue reading or to pause and then I realized I needed to go on, go on to find something that will provide the catharsis. If a story helps you look within it always heals.

Sometimes a line becomes so significant that it plays in the mind on a loop. This book had many such lines and I was tangled in them. I could have read the book in one go but as I said there are words that pulled at my sleeves like a kitten seeking attention. We all choose our karmic path and are responsible for our decisions especially the toughest ones. Decisions that drastically alter the whole flow of life, shaking the very bonds of love, of comradeship, of trust. We hope that those who are directly or indirectly affected by those decisions will eventually understand. This hope sustains us, gives us a reason to live.

A mother-child relationship is much more than just a natural bond. The author has dealt with the complexities of this bond so effortlessly. The book makes you wonder about the woman who is torn between being a mother and a woman. It makes you reach out to the son who is struggling to find the light of hope in the darkness that was gifted to him by life. For me, it brought back the memories of a similar decision I had to take for my son. As the story unfolded I was filled with the memories of those dark times and how that box of darkness became a gift to me and possibly for my son in a different way perhaps, but none the less a gift. Not many narratives shake your conscience  the way this one does.

When the story is too close to home it often messes with your mind. In those times I wrote to Radhika and poured my heart out and then I found why this book is so special. Radhika has this innate ability to comfort and love which instantly made me feel better. It also made me realize that time is insignificant to connect deeply with someone. Only a person with so much depth can touch lives with her words.  I know I will cherish this one for long.

The book conveys an important message. I don’t know where your reading of the book will lead you and I am not discussing anything about the plot or the characters here. I want you to find your light once you read it.

 

Go pick your copy of In The Light Of Darkness

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All For The Love Of Books


 

Since some years I had limited myself to specific genres and was missing out on a lot of good books especially the Hindi Literature.So, this year I decided to push myself and expand my reading horizons by taking up the Brunch Book Challenge by Hindustan Times Brunch or HT Brunch.

The deal is to read 24 book by the year end and tweet about them/ write reviews or just share your thoughts about the book with #BrunchBookChallenge and @HTBrunch so they can know your progress and after the completion of the challenge if they pick you up as a winner you get a goodies bag full of books. How cool is that. ) The hashtag also connects you with an ever-growing community of book lovers.

This year the challenge is focused on reading Indian Books. The book could be written by an Indian author or it could be about India.I decided to add some more spice to it by choosing to read regional literature in translation, Hindi Literature and non fiction / creative non fiction. Along with this I have taken the @100BookPact too. This too has a twitter hashtag #100BookPact where you can view what others are reading.

So far I have read 10 books and written their reviews on Goodreads except one which isn’t listed there. I did post my views about it on twitter. Here is the list of my first 10 books. I will update on my progress after every ten reads.

#BrunchBookChallenge

  1. Deja Karma
  2. Tughlaq by Girish Karnad
  3.  Water spirit and other stories by Imran Hussain
  4.  The best crime stories from the 19th century
  5. Of ghosts and other perils Troilokanath Mukhopadhyay (trastated by Arnab Bhattacharya
  6. City of Djins – William dalrymple
  7. Clifton Bridge –Irshad AbdulKader
  8. A life in words – memoir Ismat chugtai (traslated by M Asaduddin)
  9.  Onitsha – JMG Le Cleze
  10. Mr. Majestic- The Tout of Bengaluru – Zac O’Yeah

 

I am still reading the last one. Writing deadlines and a wonderful opportunity to be the guest editor of illustrious Cafe Dissensus Magazine kept me away from reading for some time. When Mosarrap. H. Khan, the editor of this wonderful magazine, asked me if I would like to be the guest editor for the March issue no.(23) with a theme ‘The Book That Left An Impact On Me In 2015’ I said Yes without a second thought. I hadn’t done anything like this before but the challenge was too tempting to let go. Nervousness took the better of excitement once I made the commitment and I seriously began to freak out when the subs didn’t arrive in the first few weeks. I always feel mentoring plays a great role in helping you overcome fears and doubts. Mosarrap guided and encouraged at every step to help me bring out a remarkable issue in a very short time. Producing a magazine is a collaborative effort and I think communication and followup between writers and editors makes the task easy. Magazine editing taught me a lot about reading submissions, editing and submitting my own writing. A big thank you to all those who sent us their submissions at such a short notice.

I am very proud of this achievement and grateful to the editor and team of CD for trusting me with such a huge responsibility.

Here is a link to my guest editorial and the content list of the issue. Do please read and leave your views.

I absolutely loved reading Along The Red River , which is a powerful autobiography of the acclaimed veteran journalist, Sabita Goswami, who was the first woman reporter in the North-East to have worked for organisations like AFP and BBC. The book is translated from the original Assamese, Mon Gongaar Teerot by her elder daughter, Dr. Triveni Goswami Mathur, who is also a journalist and an academician.

It left a lasting impression on me and that’s the reason I chose to write about it as my contribution to the Magazine that I guest edited. Those who haven’t read the book, please do. It is available with all online booksellers.

Here is an excerpt from the essay, you can read the rest by clicking on this link 

I believe that the lives of women across the globe are connected with each other and there is a river that runs through them, filling them with strength and calm. This is what Along the Red River did to me. Recounted with poise, honesty and a rare passion, this book is a compelling read. I often find solace and a voice of reason in its pages.

 

I will now resume by book challenge and writing. A few poetry submissions are awaiting decision and some more poems and stories are waiting patiently in the drafts to see the sunlight.

Do let me know if you are taking any of these challenges or if you read my work. Your comments/ suggestions will help me improve.

 

Déjà vu – Dream Diary


I often revisit a dream or sometimes there is a continuation. It may happen immediately in next few days or even after months, years. The place or people may seem familiar from a past dream, giving a feeling of dream  Déjà vu. Let me tell that it is the people or places that I revisit but the dream is not reoccurring. None of the places are familiar in real life.

Here is the first dream that I had sometime last year. I did not log it so some part are forgotten but most of it is still very vivid.

I am in an old building, probably a ruinous house, with some people who seem to part of an organisation or group I am part of. The bare brick walls are plastered with half torn or full posters. I could see something written but could not decipher the language Red and black  are the  prominent colours. The two rooms on top floor where we are have minimal furniture Basically a wooden table laden with papers, books, pens, water bottles, a few glasses and some other miscellaneous things. A few simple wooden chairs an a bed roll in a corner. There is a small stool in a corner with a few bags. The place is dusty and neglected.

The single window in the room, where we are gathered, is small and the dirty glass panes are cracked. The place is very dimly lit and we seem to be very well adjusted to work in such conditions

The faces are tense. They aren’t familiar people from real life but in dream they seem like old friends Apart from the five – six of us the building is empty. It is away from the habitation and there isn’t much vegetation around. To me it seems like an  outskirts of an abandoned desert village.

There is a part of of dream which I have forgotten. Some conversations and other details. They are there as images but very obscure now.

There is firing going on outside so this place is a hideout. We are probably thinking of a strategy to escape.  It is unclear now.

Next image is of the staircase full of wounded or dead people. The firing is intense and I can see men in military combat uniforms. There are civilians too with rifles etc. From the broken areas of walls I can see fires all around.

I am dressed in regular black jeans and a black long sleeve shirt. No other details about others.

I ask a young man to accompany me down the stairs. He seems familiar, maybe my son but not in the dream. Both of us are carrying some sort of a bamboo pole stick with a metal head

I give a thumbs up to the others and we maneuver down the staircase with people crying out in agony.  Dead faces, half open eyes with life ebbing out of them stare at us as we go down the bloody steps littered with severed limbs and dead bodies. A child is crying but there is no sound. Her eyes possessed with an unknown fear. She is lying in the lap of a woman thrown at the base of the stairs. Her head split open.

I pick up the child, cover her in a cloth mask till neck and run out from the hole in the back of the wall. There are men pursuing us but no one shoots

We run through the dark but somehow the path is clearly visible. There is light that we can see but others can’t. And then out of the blue we are attacked. These look like men but they aren’t. They appear and vanish at will. So do we. The young man gives me a signal and I drop the child in a push cart standing by a tree. The cart vanishes. We are surrounded by trees that look like men. They close in on us. There are other people too (humans)  but they are unconcerned of the happenings around them as if they are in some other reality. We use the poles to protect ourselves but the tree mob and the men who had pursued us close in from all sides On a cue the young man with me spins the pole over his head and in that frantic spinning whirl of light I watch him dissolve There is no movement except for the shimmering dust that slowly drizzles to the ground where he had stood. The attackers turn to me. In one quick motion I slip out of my clothes and take position pointing the pole in their direction. It isn’t a wand but it roots them to the ground. I step back one step at a time.

Their eyes fixed on me

The darkness increase and I dissolve into it.

At this point my eyes opened and for a few minutes I could feel the sand, the dust, the blood , the darkness which was unlike anything. I tried to get up but could not. I must have lay there in that half awakened state for some time. I can’t tell how long but when I finally woke up my body ached and the soles of my feet were dirty. I could feel the sweat and sand on my body which actually wasn’t there.

I never had any similar dream again till day before yesterday. The building seemed very similar to the one in precious dream but not the location. The area was lit with yellow lights. I was walking along the back lane in some old part of the city though the lane was not narrow or winding. All the buildings looked the same as the one in the previous dream. Made of bare red brick  A high wall separated them from the back lane. The wall was whitewashed I was again with my elder son and we were walking along in a hurry Hundreds of people were sleeping on the road Where ever one looked one could see people covered with quilts lying on the road  and the pavement adjoining the wall. I don’t recollect what was on the other side. We walked carefully in the midst of dirty white quilts. The impact of the dream was so real that I could actually feel the warm breath of those sleeping men ) yes, they were all men), the concrete of the  lane, the softness of the white quilt covers on which sometimes I stepped. Only a few half concealed faces were visible. I could sense the rise and fall of the sleeping bodies. It was night and maybe winter but I do not recollect the feeling of cold. All sensory impressions that I felt were of others. We hardly talk till we reach the end of the lane where there is a quiet group of few men.They stand surrounding a wooden stretcher, or bench something flat and elevated on which a man is lying down. My son is a few steps ahead of me As I reach the place I look at the man lying down. He seems familiar. No one I know from physical  life right now.  The man was wearing a plain white cotton shirt  and black trousers. No shoes. He had nicely trimmed beard and mustache. Must be in his mid forties. On his left upper cheek was a gaping wound. Most probably cleaned up as there was no sign of any blood. A man, whom I take for a doctor, was applying some native medicine on the wound. He seemed as if someone had dragged him out from his sleep. No one spoke.  “WTF is he doing?”, I whisper to Adi who urges me to walk on but I can’t. I stare at the injured man. His eyes hold me captive. We look into each others eyes as if our stares are locked. I feel he is trying to convey a message. Adi gets restless and nudges me to move but the eyes of the man do not let go of the hold. There was a surge of emotions I felt in that moment from empathy to rage to warmth to sadness and also love. Adi pulls at my arm and practically drags me from the spot. The eyes plead me to stay but I allow myself to be pulled. As I move away the images begin to blur and we continue to walk , now in the dark.

Though it was just a crossing of a lane and this eye contact with this man, the dream was immensely intense. I still remember those eyes, every fold of the quilts I saw, the air i was breathing, the atmosphere. Strangely there is no focus on the other men , the doctor (let us call him that), even what Adi was wearing etc.

Two things that gave me the feeling of Deja vu were the buildings and the injured man.  It is strange when you feel the warmth of human bodies. I have always felt them in a positive way. No coldness in their presence. Even when they aren’t friendly.

In both the dreams the buildings reminded me of some place I had been before. Like in many past dreams, the area had a desert like feel. Though it was not so evident in this particular one.

Both the time there was a feeling of premonition about someone in need of help. Someone reaching out. There was someone in the previous dream too whom I do not recollect now. Strangely there were no other females in both the dreams. Except that little infant girl.

This time the dream left me with a feeling  of incompleteness and helplessness. A sort of parting that should not have been. A slight feeling of remorse too but I can not say the reason.

This was the first time  I did not want the dream to continue. I wanted to run away from it. Shirking the responsibility I guess. Something alien to me.

What does it symbolize I do not know but those eyes I am not able to forget. Though I do not see them, the thought keeps coming back. Should I have stayed?

“Beneath our waking mind there is another mind that broods and plots the coordinates of symbolic escape toward other experiences.Dreams are those rare things that last a few seconds while also never ending inside our heads. A  space opens to become a volume of the inexplicable and within that space, something not exactly real weaves around itself a palpable web of the truer-real.” A friend wrote few years ago. I miss his presence but I know he is safe and healthy doing what is best for him.

 

 

 

 

Stepping Into The Unexplained – Dream Diary


I have not updated the dream diary since almost one year. Last year had been very disturbing at many levels and I am still coming to terms with various aspects. Though there was always a certain kind of fluidity in my dreams all through the year and the nights were always live with  dreams that were more real than reality there wasn’t anything that struck me very strongly. Mostly the family members feel I sleep soundly but the brain is active or maybe I should say wandering. It is usually not connected with the daily living. The people are unknown, so are the places but there is a feeling a feeling of Déjà vu.  The accompanying male figure in many of my dreams is my elder son. Maybe because he too is very receptive to the unknown or maybe because he is an emphatic match.

This constant fleeting between dreams and wakefulness has actually disrupted the usual sleep routine but now this seems normal. Some may find such dreams crazy or even macabre but that is what makes them so profound. I feel I am always at the threshold of consciousness. I thought my long term insomnia has become a gross feeder for such events but then I do seem fast sleep to others which is intriguing. I’ve had dreams that have left very vivid impressions on my memory. More vivid than the physical reality we experience. I believe that the depth of the experience and the alternative reality is limited to select few but most of us are never able to validate it as we would an event in physical reality. We are never able to bridge the gap.

I have a strong feeling that science, society, religion has boxed us in by limiting our thinking. There is a lot that is unexplained and unexplored with regards to human brain and what we term as “real”.  It is evident that the brain does have some functions beyond what science has already examined. Society builds our box for us, we sometimes feel confined to it because we don’t want to look odd, feel silly or out of place. Personally, I love exploring and seeing what’s out there, beyond the confines of my box which is truly not defined. It may seem odd to others but to me that is  the essence of life. I don’t know how to articulate it properly but in my thinking there is a connect between the universal energies and us. That is why some people are psychic.

Every living thing has consciousness has a connection to everything else in the universe. We are all sort of wired together and sometimes we go beyond the realms of physical world. There may be many reasons for the sensed presence, intuitions, out of body experience or such other things. I read about quantum mechanics of brain and it is fascinating. “When people have a near-death experience, all that quantum information leaves the brain, yet continues to exist, which is why some people report out-of-body experiences and lights at the end of tunnels. I think it says a lot about other such experiences too. One needs to explore. Having said that, it may be the confirmation of our perceptions too.”

We all carry a certain energy within and around us and many of us can sense that. It is an intuitive quality which is inborn but many of us lose it because of the conditioning of our minds by the environment. We are programmed to think and feel in a certain manner and anything that does not subscribe to it is frowned upon. Just as the women healers, psychic, clairvoyant were termed as witches and killed since ancient times.

Some places / people drain you out or make you happy, you feel comfortable in some homes or rooms and not in others  that is because you can feel the energy they emit, it is the same with things that we are unaware of or which are beyond the realms of our understanding. The law of attraction.

There is a fascinating world out there and within us and we know so little.

I remember someone telling me that I may be turning schizophrenic or may have a neurological dysfunction that I am not aware of. I don’t think so. Some people are psychic, intuitive, they have transcendental out of body experiences.

I have felt presence around me many times but they aren’t what the stories tell us. Not shadow beings, transparent apparitions with cold air around them, mostly there is a warmth. Some may say it is dues to the lack of it in the real world for me but I have felt the reverse too. It isn’t scary but it is definitely something I haven’t experienced before and yet there is always something which can relate to my physical life.

Some life energies take more than usual time to crossover and cling to this plane. They even feed off you at times. They prefer to stay earthbound. The reasons could be many. Sometimes they choose to stay  and at others they just hover because of some unfinished business. Energy can not be destroyed, it just changes forms and it is these forms we experience at times. We are like cosmic magnets and our viberational energies attract other energies from spaces around us. I think it is based on our thoughts and emotions and our receptiveness in finding our  matching energy. Our bodies are aligned with nature and the universe in the larger sense.  I am no expert so these are my personal beliefs. I think I never fitted in the norm and was always a little bit of an outsider. Maybe wit ha little bit of sixth sense.

This post may seem like a rambling and it is that. It is a portal for discussion for you. The dreams, the sightings, the intuitiveness,  precognition in a very limited or discreet way are some of the aspect of this being different.

We were having an interesting discussion about the two simultaneous photographs I took last year in the dinning area of my house and I just felt like sharing it here.

Here is the pic and it is open for interpretation. Play or light and shadow or something beyond that ?

 

These two pix were taken on a lovely sunny April afternoon around five o’clock. I was flirting with the mobile phone camera around the house and taking shots of light and shadows. When I focused on the wall in our dinning area I was rather surprised at what I saw. The chair was empty and yet there was a shadow image on the wall. No one was in the room except me. I opened the phone gallery to examine the pic again and could make out an old/middle aged man’s figure so I looked again at the wall. Nothing was visible to the naked eye. I positioned the camera and took a pic again. This time there was no figure. It could be a play of light but I was intrigued. A dream I had day before and a discussion about keeping the ashes of dead family members brought me back to this picture. So I leave you to ponder over this and one more question, is it proper to keep the ashes in the house? Is it proper to flow half of it in the river and keep the other half at home? Is it okay to divide cremation ashes? Are these beliefs tradition/ religion based? I know about keepsake urns etc.  

I must say again that I am not superstitious, just curious…

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