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

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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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Time To Rejoice- Six Poems And A Story In Le Zaporogue XVI


The sun is shining bright and Delhi is jubilant.

This is how I am celebrating. With HOT CRISPY JALEBEES. I have more than one reseon to rejoice.

The much acclaimed Le Zaporouge XVI, the latest edition of Seb Doubinsky’s annual of literature, art, photography and illustration has been published and for the fourth time I have my work included in the magazine along with some fantastic writers/artists. It is a great feeling to be recognised as a writer and I thank Seb Doubinsky ( a great storyteller and fantastic poet) for this honor.

This special edition of 289 pages include Jerry Wilson– Tara Lennart – Celina Osuna – Jonas Lautrop- Laurent Maindon – Anne Krautwald – Franck-Olivier Laferrère – Manu Rich – Marcia Marques Rambourg – Justin Grimbol – Carole Cohen-Wolf – Tikuli – Valérie Debieux – Philippe Tertrais – Simone Rinzler – David Royal – Virgil Petite-Vallée – James Goddard – Alicia Young – Olga Theuriet – Dominic Albanese- Benoît Jeantet – Donna-Lee Phillips – Jacques Sicard – Mark and Janice Van Aken Williams – Stéphane Prat – Jean-Philippe Dreillard – Agathe Elieva – Serge Muscat – Yan Kouton – Maya Byss – ShaneZooee – Matt Bialer – Andréas Becker

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It is a must have impressive collection and  you can get Le Zaporogue XVI ( ebook PDF) as a FREE download here : ZAPOROGUE XVI

Or  for the FIRST TIME buy it in print too ( the back editions will also be available in print soon.) : Zaporogue (Paperback) 

So proud to be a part of this.  The good trend has continued from 2014 for my writing and I am hoping for more as the year ’15 progresses.

Here is an excerpt from one of my poems –

My Mother 

“Clasping your infant body
like a broken doll and a
picture of your mother in my pocket,
I took refuge at a patchwork of shelters
that had sprouted on the smoldering land.
A few of us sat under a small covering
of rags, tarpaulin and sheet metal,
holding whatever was left of our
precious belongings, somewhere
a man sharpened the knife on a stone,
click clack, click clack,
the blade glistened in the dark.”

Do read the rest of the poem and many more poems and stories that I enjoyed reading in this edition. Do give us your feedback.

Follow the FB PAGE by clicking on this link.

To know about more of my online and print publication click HERE 

My Debut Poetry Collection turned ONE this January you can read about it HERE 

Once more Thank You Sebastian Doubinsky for giving me the opportunity to share my work.

Monday Memories 18 – You And Me – Absentia


The moment I opened the door of my home a sudden heartache hit me like a jab of an invisible knife. For a few seconds everything blurred. I held on to the door knob staring into the empty quietness that had occupied everything animate and inanimate. It was a home I cherished, my private sanctuary, a place of my own where I lived on my own but never felt lonely.  A place decorated with the imagined invisible tales of our love that warmed me and gave me company at all times but today it all seemed unfamiliar and surreal as if I did not belong there. Everything  gazed at me with mournful eyes. His brief visit had violently altered my side of the world. He had left but his absence still lingered, making itself more poignant with its presence.  I crossed the threshold stepped inside dropped the bag and the purse on the floor and began to assess the magnitude of the void which becomes more apparent as it gets filled and this one was rapidly filling up with missingness that was  flowing out from every pore of my body. Each step  more difficult than the last. The heaviness began to occupy me turning my limbs to stone. It hurt to be hurting.

The ephimiraliity and uncertainty that has hovered around me while he was here had transformed itself into sorrow and a gnawing sense of disbelief. A  tumultuous place a few days ago the house seemed like an echoing tomb today.  I felt that if I stayed there one more minute the hollowness will gather and  bury me alive in this plastered grave. It’s strange how I felt the lack of him more than his presence which has morphed into my tortured existence and everything around it.

I moved like a lost soul from room to room unsettling the quite trying in vain to fill the space he has left. Up till now I had too little time but now there was nothing but time and I felt myself being engulfed by it.

I had lost all my sides to him and in this altered reality I stood completely stripped off. Exposed. The cold creeping up my spine, filling me from foot to head even though it was a bright warm day. Numb is a feeling too, I always said and in this numbness I wasn’t aware if my heart still beat. Everything had come to a standstill inside me as if I had entered a zero sensation space. I wanted to cry but tears had dried and turned to heaps of salt. Something had malfunctioned inside me shutting down all my senses and bringing it all to an irrevocable breakdown.

A whirlpool was swirling deep within me.  Unable to contain the surge of emotions I rushed out picking my purse and closing the door in one swift action. Without looking back I ran down the stairs forgetting about the elevator and briskly walked down the street shutting myself to all the sights and sounds. I could not understand what was building up inside  – sorrow or rage  or just a feeling of loss.

I wanted to unscrew and pull out the  corkscrew of absence that had gone in so neatly. I needed to push the rising deluge deep into some unknown depth and to do that I bought myself  the biggest tub of the Haagen-Dazs’ ice cream and parked myself  on a high stool in a corner away from the huge glass windows overlooking the street. I did not want distractions and dug into it shoving it in my mouth and almost swallowing it  with no attention to taste or chill that was sending waves of cold fire down my throat. After finishing three-fourths of it  I closed the lid tucked the tub in a paper bag and walked out . The market was flooded with weekend shoppers but I just kept walking through it all hugging on to the tub hoping it  would heal the sickening ache that had taken residence inside her gut.. I didn’t hear the honking from behind till a hand pulled me to the side. The car driver hurled some angry words  at me and all I could catch was “die”. Yes sir that would be really nice. I found the lump in my throat melting and rising up. I mumbled a feeble thank you , lowered my head and shouldered my way  through the crowd of local vendors, rickshaws, sleeping dogs, blinded myself into a few shoppers, got two portions of spicy, oily hot comfort food packed, picked two king-sized candy bars, a big bag of potato chips and walked back home. The ice cream box had become warm from the mid day sun but I felt  unable to trash it.

I emptied the food on a tray , threw the candy bars on bed, stepped out of my clothes and curled up in a corner, knees to chin.  and stared at the steaming hot oil dripping food and spicy pickle. A wave of nausea hit me and pushing the tray aside I pressed my naked body on the hard cold marbled floor and wept fiercely. crumbling and disintegrating as if I was invaded and shamelessly plundered through and through. I felt ashamed of stuffing my face with a thousand calories in order to stuff my emotions and not just that I had also bought a cart load of it home. Tears flowed freely again as guilt and regret hit me like a knife. I wanted to feel the pain not tranquillize it with gallons of  food. I wondered what was hurting me more, letting go or holding on to something unreal. One side of my body had gone numb. I had never felt so exposed. Slowly I picked myself up from the floor, pulled a Tee over my  tired body dragged myself to the bathroom and stood under the shower with eyes closed. Letting the water  wash away everything not needed by my body, mind and soul. I did not bother to remove the tee which clung to me like a second skin. There were no tears, no thoughts, nothing, just a calm one feels inside the womb. Water is a healer so is the salt. It is not just for any reason our tears are salty.

I removed the Tee and gently rubbed a handful of  Epsom salt  all over my body feeling it release the old pain and melt away all the hurt with every stroke of my hand.  I let myself soak into the universal healing and then patted myself dry, got into fresh clothes. Once in the room I shoved the food in the fridge making a mental note to give it to the house help in the morning. along with the candy bars. The bag of chips went into the cabinet. I unpacked, uncovered the Buddha and pressed it against my heart before placing it on a shelf  where I could see it from anywhere in the house.

The sun was concentrated in a shaft of light in one corner of the drawing-room. I pulled the wicker chair in the pool of light and cuddled into it. I loved him and either I could stay trapped in what wasn’t or move freely into what is. The choice was mine to make.  I had decided to move on with him in my heart. It is never ‘over’ and I did not want it to be either. We were just living in two different worlds but I knew in my heart of hearts that he felt the same.  I smoothened the little silk cloth on my lap.  “Never too far away from you“, I ran my finger tip over it feeling the words pulsate with life.

The phone began to play a familiar ringtone. The heart skipped three beats then fluttered.

You and Me – Chasing The Shadow In The Dark


It was nonsensical to pretend he would leave her. It could never happen.  I was in denial.  My mind weaved grand tales to turn that denial into reality, to make some sense out of it even while knowing clearly it was fooling itself.  I stretched my mind so much that now at this point it was impossible to bring it back to its former shape. It was in a different dimension all together. I knew that he would never be able to let her go and the guilt and fear will always make him feel wrong about being with me. . and yet  I stood at the door of the colorful souvenir shop there hallucinating what could happen.

I watched as he slid beside her on the boat. Her face beaming with happiness at something he was saying. I could see them merrily taking pictures and chatting. There were a few other couples and a group of tourists I had seen earlier in the market apart from the local crowd and yet  the moon light seemed to shine just above them like a spotlight on their semblance. I could see their silhouettes slowly fading into the pearly night.  Entwined without touching, their bodies fused as one. Drunk on the lust filled air, my limbs tingling with what I thought was a want of him. A dream he would resume after fulfilling his duty towards her. I pretended it to be that. Hoping that he would turn his head at least once, give me that gaze of reassurance, a smile maybe. He did not.

He had left me as effortlessly as I had loved him. There was nothing more to wait for and that nothingness filled the increasing distance as the boat carried him away to where I did not fit. She wore his promise on her finger. I , on my heart. It was all of him that belonged to me.

My exotic little adventure was over. Torn between magic and mayhem, need and disruption I walked back to the hotel. Faced with the biggest truth of my life I  did not wish to look at the challenge that stared at my face. A challenge of letting go of someone I loved, cared about and more than that I found it exceedingly difficult to let go of the idea, the belief in him because the intensity of disappointment of knowing that he wasn’t what he pretended to be was too much of a betrayal to bear. I often mulled over what could have happened in a certain situations but did not and often a voice in my head said,  “if it should have, it would have. ‘Could have’ was a stressful waste of time.”

I pushed the deluge of emotions at the back of my mind. I needed silence to reconnect with myself , to find some way to deal with the demons within. I had realized from past experience that seeking emotional support, love , care and a shoulder to lean on to was nothing but a smoke screen. A big lie. It did not in any way help to resolve the turmoil inside. All the smoke gave were burning tear filled eyes.

I was violently confused my his real inaccessible presence. For months I had been possessed by the imagination of his. He was distant and closed away and yet my imagination made him present to my mind and senses. I had spun romantic fantasies about us, written tales of love and longing, of a constant togetherness to keep me afloat in those long hours of  constantly hungry waiting.

I kept thinking of the ways in which he resembled or differed from the man I loved, dreamed of, reached out for and every thought only exacerbated things. The illusion had hit me real and sharp. Stung, I wanted to cry but the tears did not flow. Maybe they did, inwardly, too proud to be seen. I could feel the familiar knot in my chest. My eyes were like two smouldering pools but not a single drop fell. I stared at the blur that had enveloped me. I could not bear to look at the bed which was still unmade. Each fold , each crumple reminder of him, of us, of a man who would never come back to me. I felt as if I was getting morphed into liquefied hurt. The room was buzzing with silent echoes of things lost. I grabbed the chair to steady myself and  slowly stepped out in the small balcony. The shimmering waters of the river were filled with overwhelming grief and unspeakable love. The silhouettes of long-tailed boats tied to the dock swayed gently with the night breeze, its touch light and cold like that of a departing lover.  The bamboo-hated vendors had all gone home after a busy day.  It was all so quiet on the waterway. Just like the water-colour painting that hung in my room. Dreams blurred with tears. In my case the unshed ones.

I sighed and dragged myself back to the room. Each step felt as if I was carrying a weight of a lifetime. One by one I began to throw my belongings into the open travel bag. Things I should have thrown in the trash bin instead but could not. I intended to keep what was mine. Even him. I was committed to the  memories, heartaches, laugher and joy, all moments of intimacy however short-lived they were. Committed to the tales of love, the dreams that kept me company in his long months of absence, the hope and the futility of it all. I wanted to treasure that “true love” which could never show forth. I did not want to wipe the slate clean and so I did not cry. I wanted to keep the flickering fireflies like stars in my eyes.  It was preferable than to face  the fear of letting go everything that meant a world to me. It was preferable than to step into the nightmare called future which was going to be  horribly empty without him. I knew it because I had planned  to share it with him. Even after knowing how utterly impossible it had sounded even to my imagination.

Usually one could see the fireflies at the waterfront during the nights of the waxing moon but tonight even their glow had dimmed. I had not been able to see even one. Such are some nights.

I held him tightly in my heart but had no hold over him. I loved him and I was not giving up on that I was just letting him go and even that hurt as much as hanging on.

With the daybreak I would be on my way home or let us say to the place I call home. For a home is where the heart is and my heart is a gypsy forever wandering  on paths where my dreams lead me to him. In my heart I also knew that in dreaming about being the queen of the ocean I had lost the pond too. There was never going to be a  “home”. Only stopovers.

The cell phone which had replaced  the watch for the lack of any other activity showed that the night was well into the last phase. I had been betrayed before in body as well as in mind and yet I had fallen in love again. Opened myself to another world of hurt. Knowing he would never be mine. He had a world of his own beyond those two oceans that lay between them. A family, a profession he was passionate about, a home whose comfort he was used too.  I neither belonged there not fitted.

He was a saviour who had lifted me out from the mess that I was living every day. Given me a source for dignified living. Given me kindness, care and … love. Given it to me as a fuel to my boost my confidence in myself and the life that lay ahead of me. I, on the other hand had given him myself.  Suddenly I had everything I had longed for, a friend, a confidante, a lover ( what did distance matter when the hearts were one.. so I thought)  and a man I implicitly trusted.

I had felt betrayed when I had seen them together for the first time. Maybe I should not use the word “betrayal” . It sounds utterly insensitive in our case. I felt betrayed because I had built up expectations and carved out an image of him from my imagination.  Occupational hazard of being a writer. He on the other hand had not promised anything but my freedom from the shackles that held me back to the world I needed to escape and happiness that it would bring. Nothing more.  As I said earlier there are variations of love and we ( I take the liberty and luxury of  calling “us” “we” here.  He did Love me but not in the same way I did. There was no question of any betrayal at all. Everything else , yes.

That made me think about her and the question, which one of us was less fortunate? I was seeking a bond of complete trust which could only be built on the foundation of  his breaking trust of someone else. The pangs of guilt hit me like a bolt of lightning. Love doesn’t consider all these things conscience does and my tug of war with the two popped up very timely to curb the flight of the heart. The mind was nothing but a manipulating mind controlling freak and in those moments of vulnerability , it leaves no chance to whiplash. I pushed the thought aside. There was no place for guilt and fear in Love. They came to me in glimpses and flashes but for him they acted like a fence that separated us.  Some things just happen and it is better not to dig deep.

He was faint hearted, I was a romantic and she didn’t know any better. We were all afloat like the boats on that graceful timeless river. Trusting the flow of life to take us to our final destination.

I was now at a point where I had to decide whether to wait or to forget . I decided to choose the first. I wanted to remain his best friend and not become some heartbroken stranger I was becoming. I checked myself before it was too late . I loved him with whatever there was or wasn’t. Call it a flaw in me to love an unattainable man, it is what it is. I am flawed and fractured but it is a better option than losing. It was maybe my destiny to fall in love with someone I could not have. Over and over again. With him , unlike others, I felt at home. You know the feeling, don’t you? The feeling that your search had ended and you have found your match. All about the Karmic soul-mate or the twin soul etc. It made me warm even through the coldest of hurts. It was a feeling of being a book with two volumes, one incomplete without the other. That’s what we were to me.  Strange are the ways of heart.

I watched the empty bed from the couch where I had curled up. The sadness of  which spoke to me in his absence. The faint light of daybreak made it look surreal. I felt as if he was there, lying on his back, feet overlapped, head buried in the soft pillow, asleep like a baby just like last night when I had watched him sleeping after we had made love. This time a tear quietly escaped my eye. Missingness is the worse feeling ever a human can experience. We aren’t designed  to endure it.

I stretched my limbs and rubbed them to get the blood flowing then got up and walked out to the balcony. Birdsongs of predawn veiled in mist greeted me. I could see the locals arranging their wares on the little canoes and in rows and rows of wooden shops along the edge of the river selling almost the same stuff. Most of them were closed at this hour.

The people in the houses built on planks were slowly waking up to another noisy day. A few Sampans waited for the tourists to begin their journey down the river. The whole place was a tourist trap but people came back again and again to be a part of the old world oriental charm. To escape the maddening city life they  took a plunge in another kind of madness. Soon the serene river would be plugged with boats and the place would resemble a tropical forest with exotic vibrant colours and people of all shapes and sizes. There were locals waiting at the banks to offer food to the monks. A sight that always filled me with a sense of calm. The boats selling fruits and delicious meals would soon outnumber the tourist boats.  I wanted to get away before their return. I was supposed to. The bills were already paid so all I had to do was pick up my overnight bag and disappear.

We were two hours away from the main city where he had come on the pretext of a conference a few days earlier to my city and from there we had came  to this small province for our little adventure. She had flown in only yesterday morning. They were staying in some swanky city hotel and he had gone back to pick her up and brought her in the morning as part of a tour. It had hectic but then all these secret getaways are usually time bound and messy.

I longed for a hot mug of coffee and decided to go down to the small quaint, richly decorated 24 hours coffee shop the hotel had. I needed some human warmth and company to help me cope with the long lonely day that lay ahead.

It was a gorgeous property set in a century old house and had exquisite ornate interiors done in traditional Thai style.  The sleepy lobby was draped in early morning rays that filtered through huge windows overlooking a magnificent oriental garden with fruit trees and exotic flowers. A small wat called temple of dawn stood at a strategic angle where the first rays of the rising sun flooded the statue of Buddha.  I decided to spend some time there. A section of cafe cha was open air. I decided to sit there in the midst of rose vines and from where I sat I could feel the energy of peace and calm radiating from the sun-kissed statue. Mesmerized by the aura that surrounded me I barely noticed his presence.

“Beautiful isn’t it?”

“Huh? Yes it is.” I smiled as the steward laid the breakfast and coffee on the bamboo table. I had decided to eat and leave before they came. They were staying in a boutique hotel right at the river front and I did not want to be of any embarrassment or trouble. Any way my stay here was till noon.

I thanked the elderly gentleman for remembering to bring exactly the kind of coffee I needed. He nodded and gazed at me for what seemed like a long time.

“You must go and light some incense sticks there. I will bring you some.  It is better to ask for love, compassion, joy and sympathy from Him than ordinary people.” His gaze was fixed on me. Suddenly my eyes filled and I looked away unable to stop the flood of tears welling up inside me.  I snatched a tissue from the table and hurriedly wiped the tears away.

” Kob Khun maak Ka” I said. He nodded and walked back to the main café.

With the first bite of Waffles I realized how hungry I was. The piping hot coffee almost scalded my tongue. It was the best meal since I arrived here. We had not got chance to do any site seeing r indulge in any local cuisine. It was all room service and a hurried dinner at the dining hall. Food was the last thing on our mind. The thought made me smile and the warmth of the memory of time spent together brought colour to my face.

I wasn’t feeling so low now , maybe it was the Buddha or the breakfast and coffee or just plain affection that the old man had bestowed on me. Sometimes hearts connect and there is an instant energy exchange between two strangers. Whatever it was it charged me for the day.

I licked the plate clean to the last crumb and was about to step into the garden when the old man returned.

” I think you should leave. I will burn the incense for you. Here take this.” With that he handed me a small figurine of exquisite black wood Buddha set in a silver case. He took out a fine silk cloth from his pocket  wrapped it and handed it to me.

“Something we give to our special guests.”

I kissed the gift and tucked it in my  purse.

“May he look after you and show you the light.” I took his hand and pressed it gently.

” Thank you. You made my trip memorable” I said.

“Go safe.” He said and hastily walked back inside without waiting for my response.

“Yes, I will.” I said softly and went to my room.

I hadn’t asked him why he wanted me to leave so suddenly. I just followed his words.

After a quick shower I changed into a casual denim and tee picked  my bag and took one last look at the room.

On second thoughts I kept he bag on the wooden floor and walked to the bed and  ran my fingers over the creases of the bed sheet. A fragrance I still carry on my fingertips.

I kissed the pillow and pressed its cool white surface against my cheeks. I held it for a while tightly hugged and then in a swift moment kept it back , picked the bag and walked out in the corridor closing the door behind to yet another parting.

A girl was at the reception and I said my goodbye to her, handed the key and walked out in the morning sun. The mist had lifted long ago and the place was a riot of colours and noise. Quickly I making my way through the notoriously chaotic traffic to get to the bus station when I spotted them just a few shops away. Before I could react our eyes met and instantly he looked away and turned his back. She was bargaining with the vendor about some stuff and I stood there staring as if I had taken roots through the dusty pavement. Everything else blurred.

Without realizing , as if pulled by a force, I began to walk towards them. I think he sensed it and tuned. His eyes not believing what they were seeing. I could feel the rising conflict of emotions swirling inside him. His face intense, his eyes following my every move.

She struck a final price and turned to him with the magnificent stroll in her hand and stopped mid sentence. I was near enough to overhear her. She asked him if he was alright to which he nodded and forced himself to appreciate her purchase. She looked around as if sensing something but missed me in the crowd of tourists who had emerged from the adjacent shop. I turned and walked away with the group without looking back. I put my hand inside the purse and grabbed the little Buddha in my fist and walked briskly through the crowd to catch the bus back home. “Please leave” that’s was his eyes had conveyed in those few moments.

I still don’t know what had made me do that bizarre thing in the market . Sometimes we just do certain things however unreasonable they may be. I knew this will surely come up in our conversations later. I knew that however I may try to harden my heart I would never be able to break away from him. I could not. He was too much a part of me.

“Your phone.” The woman next to me pointed at my bag.

“Oh! Thanks. I didn’t hear it ringing.” I took out the cell phone amazed that it still did what it was meant to do. I had totally forgotten about it being in the bag.

I stared at his face on the screen unable to decide if I wanted to take the call or not. Thankfully it stopped ringing. A beep indicated a text and I opened the message with trembling hands.

“Tried calling. Go safe. Will connect once I am back.” After a minute there was another beep.

“By the way that was wicked. You almost gave me a heart attack. Love always.”

For the first time I giggled at the little prank I had played.

I replied with a digital heart and kiss and placed the phone back in the bag.

At the airport I browsed at the book store, had another cup of coffee and some sandwiches and waited.

Waiting  was one thing I did well.

With nothing much to do I took out the Buddha encased in the shimmering silver case. I had not paid much attention to its beautiful ornate carving. The smooth black wood had a lovely shine to it. I ran my fingers over it and turned around the case. Something caught my attention and my heart skipped a beat when I saw my name engraved at the bottom of the case. It was then my eyes fell on the inside of the silk cloth. On its ivory surface were scribbled a few words. “Never too far away from you.”

Jason – A Short Story


Jason was first published in MICROW 8 (Luminous) Winter 2013

It was a special day for St. Luis Hospital. The conference room was filled with medical students, support group volunteers, media people, friends and well wishers of Drs. David & Jane Brown.

Jane’s eyes scanned the packed 80-seat room. Most of those present were familiar with Dr. Jane’s captivating presence and they listened to the story of her courage and pain in rapt attention trying to imagine how a child could illuminate the lives of millions. She stood at the makeshift podium under the spot light; everything else was flooded with soft darkness.

A year ago they’d lost Jason. He was two years old and terminally ill. As David listened to his wife speak about their dying child, their hopes and despair during the two years that Jason lived he recalled his child’s gradual decline and his wife’s courage.

“I knew it was just a matter of time as I leaned against the nursery door taking in the sights and smells of my baby’s room I felt a profound sense of emptiness. As I ran my fingers along those untouched things we had collected for our son I felt that I didn’t know myself.  I could hear Sara playing and blowing soap bubbles with her father in the garden. Sometimes I would find her perched on a stool near Jason’s bed talking to herself or watching her brother quietly. She seemed to understand that her time with Jason was almost over.  When Jason smiled it illuminated the entire room and brightened our lives but I needed more, I needed a sound from him before he was gone forever.”

“I went and stood near Jason’s bed and watched the light filtering through the blossoming branches of a cherry tree. As I watched his face lit up and his eyes moved as if following something.  My eyes followed his gaze and saw that a soap-bubble had floated in through the window. He was fascinated as it drifted around him glistening in the sunlight. Slowly Jason’s hand lifted towards the bubble and then he chortled. My eyes filled with tears of joy.”

Jane stopped speaking, took a book from the table and held it up.

“This is a story of the two years we spent together, ‘Jason – A Mother’s Account of Letting Go’.”

She clicked a button and a large photograph of Jason smiling, filled the screen behind her.

“This is the picture my husband David took of that one precious moment.”

David and Sara joined her on the podium. They hugged and for the next half an hour she read passages from the book, finally she said:

“I hope my book will help all those with a terminally ill child cope with their loss. David, Sara and I would like to thank everyone for their support; you offered it when we needed it most. “

There was a moment of total silence, then a ripple of applause grew louder and louder. Jane listened with tears shining in her eyes.

 

Luminous

 

(Digital Art by my son Aditya . The story was published under the theme Luminous with a 500 word limit)

You and Me – Billet-doux like crushed violets on white satin sheet


It was a brief encounter. So brief that before they could get over the clumsiness of it all, it got over leaving them yearning , longing , desperately wanting to stop the hands of clock so they could spend one more night together, one more day, one more hour of togetherness.

The reason I write in third person is because I want to look at  it from a distance. The ‘ I ‘ dissolved in those moments what have left  scent of love in my hair, in memories that nestle in the hollow of my neck, in the delicate web of my fingers and in places that blossomed and came to life only after he touched. First the mind, then the  heart, and then the body.

In waves of breathless, mindless ecstasy
he breathes in, sharp
she purrs, catlike

her body a Smörgåsbord

he savours her

each pip

crushes between

ravenously longing

tongue and teeth

and lips

pomegranate

knutschfleck the color of orgasms

sensuous syllables

in blushed hues of red

billet-doux

like crushed violets

on white satin sheet

revealed

the morning after

a phantasmal explosion of a rainbow awry

Psychedelic bodies

engulfed

consumed

colonized

The meteoric more beautiful

than the everlasting 

*

they parted

carrying

 scent of each other
the warmth of their passion

only to float

 into each others dream

a dream that flew

across a thousand miles

and two oceans in between

A dream that stupefied her. She went through it in a trance like state. All the romanticized notions that she had built up in her mind evaporate through thin air.  All that remained were the bodies – arms entangling and untangling. His voice touching places inside her as if someone moving through a house flicking light switches. Her mouth a molotov. The smell of sex charged the room, circling over them like a ghost.

Love when turned to passion is brave, furious and loud. There is no time for fantasies and honeyed mush. When passion takes over you don’t want a just a heart, you want everything –  flesh, blood, and bones. You want to occupy every thought, every breath, every pulse. You want fingerprints tattooed all over you. It is strange, this fire that ignites two human bodies. It’s a fire that consumes without burning. A fire that transcendent and purifies everything.

She felt like a lovely bonfire burning day and night on a tropical coast filled with scent of salt that gently tickles down the spine and the heat that melts the body like wax embraced by the flame. A teasing burn of silky excitement, noting like anything she had felt before. Nothing could calm this sensation but sin and for once she was ready for it.

Quickies don’t include showers nor luxurious soaks in tubs with rose petals floating in them. They include blind and furious salt laced bodies, tongues and mouths driven by thirst.

They lay there in the realm of sleep, without sleeping,  half with fear , half with wonder at what they had awakened in each other. Trembling in bitter-sweet longing, enchanted, bewitched.  Suspended in time and place. And then they kissed – his lips on hers telling all that which his stumbling words could never do.

She let him sleep. All disheveled and unwound. His head buried between her breasts. Dressed in nothing but his undress like a careless animal.  She watched his body slowly become a silhouette and longed to mold it into hers  but stopped. She loved to watch him as he lay in deep slumber. Her heart beat outside her body flushed with this new-found deep sexual pleasure. She felt anesthetized  by sensations one can’t speak of without sounding absurd. One can only sentimentalized it after it is over.

Here was the man she loved, like a  child with his appetites. She had yielded to him what he wanted, willingly. She let him ruin her with his intense love. In those intimate hours with herself she felt the fervent rush inside her which had known no outlet till now.

The wooden floor creaked under her bare feet as she carefully tip-toed to the bathroom. Turning on the light she gazed at her nude body that  quivered with magic and mayhem of the moments gone by. She smiled at the silliness of all that she had imagined and fantasized about both of them. Reality was far more fascinating than fiction. Every pore of her body sent out a message that said , “I am here. I am alive.”  The cold water from the tap sizzled on her smooth skin and electrified her entire body. She let it trickle down the hollow of her neck and flow like a rivulet between her aching breasts. Her cheeks were on fire by realization of the fact that for once in her entire life she gave in completely to her desires. Unrestrained, Unchained and she felt gloriously happy.

Tomorrow she would wander with him amid the beautiful ruins.

As she synced her breathing with his she realized something. From now on she would live two lives – one that she was living and one that she would always wonder about. A dream within a dream. A life  that lay beyond the invisible line that separated their worlds. A line she will never be able to cross. A line that told her place. She brushed the thought aside. This was their time and she did not want to lose even a moment.  The morning sun will bring the hour of separation closer but for now the shadow of her arm circled his waist  and neither the sleep or the night could separate them.

PHOTOSHOP IMAGE copyright-  tikulicious©

You can read the rest of the posts in the series here YOU AND ME 

Beyond The Unknown – A Short Story


I felt slowly being lifted out of my physical body. It wasn’t a hallucination. I was very much aware of the separation of my consciousness from the flesh body I was living in for all these years.  I was aware of one of my selves watching the other in moment of life. Fully conscious of what was happening to me I watched my sleeping self for some quiet moments, turned and began to walk.  Nothing unusual.

I walked on a familiar road shaded with the deepening shadows of ancient trees that lined on both sides and remembered what a beautiful shade of green they were during daytime but at night they acquired demonic shapes. There is one thing about the night; it paints everything in its own colour. All forms, colours, and shapes dissolve. It fills them with similar melancholy stillness. There are things one can see only in the darkens of night

The road beneath my bare feet was like a glacier. I was sure I heard earth’s soundless whispering drifting through the trees.  Why wasn’t I scared? Why did it seem familiar? Was it Déjà Vu? Or was I under some spell?

I remembered my physical body lying on plush bed. The slow rise and fall of my breasts and the constant humming of the ceiling fan. And then I saw him. A hound. At least I thought it was a hound. It sure was a larger than life and had deep non luminous eyes. A hell-hound?

I could see his balanced athletic body movement as it advanced towards me, slowly growing like a huge sinister black shadow.  Strange that he did not charge on seeing someone on a road – deserted, charmed, and vacant running through the middle of nowhere. It surprised me that the darkness of the night failed to camouflage him.  There was nothing ferocious or scary about him, not even the demonic red eyes that looked straight into mine… instead I instantly felt a connection, an at ease feeling. I felt his sinews strengthening mine with his growing presence. A strange sensation began to flow through my veins. He seemed friendly, maybe he was a protector, an animal spirit guide or maybe not. Maybe he had some ulterior hidden motives? As far as he did no harm, it did not matter much to me.

I felt a drop in temperature as the distance between the dog and me shortened but kept on walking. I noticed he had stopped midway blocking whatever lay in the darkness. For  fraction of a second as my attention shifted from the dog to the rustling of the leaves he was gone. As if he just melted into the night and slid into some dark hole taking it along with him. Making it all even less visible than invisible.

The scene changed dramatically. I could see the graveyard now, dilapidated, old, forgotten and vandalized. The headstones were barely visible even though the early morning light pierced through the thick foliage like spears making some sort of voodoo motifs on the earth below. Everything was transfixed except the light.

The graves themselves were covered by wild flowers and moss.  I stood there observing the scene that lay in front of me.  For a long time I kept staring at a headstone half covered with gray green moss. It was the only one intact even though it had aged with time and had a dull decaying appearance. I tried to step a little closer to inspect but found myself rooted to the ground. I just could not move.

A bunch of wild daisies fluttered furiously at the base of its left side as if desperately wanting an escape. It was bizarre because the breeze wasn’t that strong.  The flowers held my gaze. A strange feeling of some past connection swept through me. The effort and the feeling of déjà vu were now consuming me.  I felt as if my skull was about to crack open.

Suspended between a strong desire to stay there and a stronger one to return I stood there in the midst of all that sadness that had burst into various shades and textures of green.

Why was I there and whose grave was it? I noticed that most of the other grave stones were buried under wild growth or barely visible. Some seemed ravaged, as if mauled by some animal. I suddenly remembered the hound and instantly felt a presence behind me.

I turned on an impulse and floated into a dream.

The same woman who came in my dreams, my friend, confidante and lover was standing behind me, wearing only a smile. Her left breast seductively half concealed behind the long dark tresses which she had brought forward on one side. Let us call her Luna. The familiar feeling of being at the receiving end of a torrential desire crept up between my legs.

I looked at the sky, the shadow of the moon was slipping away slowly from under the clouds.  Either the time was travelling too fast today or her eyelids had closed upon the day. Day and night seemed to have merged.  Weak with longing and fatigue I sank into her arms.  The touch of Luna’s smooth skin felt like ice on my scorched skin.  I was delirious. I remember whispering strange meaningless words to her. My face resting in the curve of her neck and her strong comforting arms wrapped around me like a blanket. It was uncanny how easily I melted and morphed into her skin and became her. Our relationship was something between friendship and love, something which I had not experienced in real life. It was fluid with no spaces in-between.

Luna had been my dream companion since time’s beginning and even though I am not a lesbian many times I found comfort in her. It wasn’t just erotic sexual relationship we shared but the bond of intimate oneness was stronger than any I had experienced. We were friends. Inseparable. When this world became too much to bear I always turned to Luna or should we say Luna was always there.  I don’t how to explain my relationship with Luna.

It surprised me to find her here in the graveyard and that too naked, why was she roaming around naked? But then I had always seen her like that. No, sometimes she wore mist but today her voluptuous body shone like an August moon in tranquil night sky.

I felt a tingling sensation tickle down my spine. A cross-road demon?

My body seemed chained to the bed and yet it felt strangely relaxed.

It took a lot of effort to open my eyes.

It was then I realized I was nude under a thin sheet carelessly thrown over me.

The kaftan I had worn lay crumpled on the floor.

My throat was parched. Somehow I dragged my body to the cabinet twisted the bottle lid and took a long drink of water. Some of the icy liquid ran down my bare neck and sizzled as it ran in rivulet between my breasts. I was still hot like flaming embers.

I manoeuvred my way through the smokiness  of the room turned the door knob of the bathroom turned the shower on and stood under the cold needle sharp jets of water. Eyes closed. I could hear voices and feel the coarseness of a bathrobe on my skin.  The water had stopped running.  The heat was returning and I was drifting again.

*****

I could not have heard her last words had I not been sitting close to her. I reached out and touched her forehead. The temperature was normal.  She was fast asleep.

I picked up my recorder and stood up. My shoulders and back ached as I tried to stretch myself. It had been a long day.  I walked up to the window and looked out at the lengthening evening shadows.  It had been strangely hot and murky day.  The tarmac on the road steamed and gave out sparks as the vehicles zipped passed on it. Something moved and caught my attention behind the cluster of trees across the road. I thought I saw a large shadow leap and slip away into the forested area.

With a swift movement I turned around. The couch was empty.

 This story is based on a dream I had some months back and which returned two days back

 

GBE 2 Week#67 Peace


Danny watched the enthusiastic joggers and wondered if he would ever be able to catch up with the pace of the park which moved with its younger regulars sweating it out profusely before returning to their air-conditioned lives. A lot of elderly too visited the park to exercise, walk or just enjoy the lighter side of the city, meet friends, inhale the fresh morning breeze from the sea and reminisce about the past to avoid the present. Children usually came on holidays or in the evenings. He had seen the way this beautiful Park had changed over the last decade.

He noticed that today also the elderly gentleman was sitting alone at his usual place aptly named “Garden of Peace” away from the hustle bustle of the main park. This section was designed in the style of a Japanese Zen garden overlooking the sea. He and his companion had spent many a glorious mornings in these tranquil surroundings laughing, talking or just sitting quietly watching the sun break through the clouds just above the eastern horizon. It was almost a fortnight now since his companion had not shown up but he was always there. Oblivious to the surroundings he watched the water lilies float in the pond or gazed at the deepening rosy glow of the sky.

Today, in his freshly ironed lavender shirt the old man had sat there for more than his usual time.

Danny wondered what had happened to the old lady. Unable to stop himself he collected his sketchbook and pencils and walked up to him.

The old man was busy observing the little yellow butterflies flirting above a row of colourful flowers.

“Aren’t they beautiful?” He said looking up. His face was that of the Buddha, calm and peaceful. “She would have loved them. I have been coming to this garden since its inception and why not, it is I who planned and designed it.” He added.

Danny saw the riot of colours in front of him and the little winged beauties fluttering over them.

“You designed this garden? How wonderful. It is beautiful” Danny looked around the serene ambience that had attracted him to this place years ago and since then he came here every morning to sketch.

“May I see your sketchbook?” He nodded and gestured Danny to sit beside him.

“Sure”.  Danny noticed that the old man’s hands trembled as he took the sketchbook.

“I used to paint at one time, now it is difficult to keep the brush steady”, he smiled at Danny.

“Really, I would love to see some of your work”. There was something about the old man that drew Danny to him.

The old man did not reply. Engrossed in the sketches he turned page after page as if looking for something and then he stopped. His slender fingers traced the patterns on the lines and curves on the paper.

Danny leaned forward to see what had caught his attention.

It was a sketch of the old couple he had made just before the lady stopped coming. They were standing next to the lily pond holding hands. Her face shaded by the summer hat and his beaming with love.

“They have sent her to an old age home. I could do nothing.” His face betrayed a glimpse of the emotional storm that was swirling inside and then seeing the puzzled look on his face he placed his soft wrinkled hand on Danny’s and winked, “She isn’t my wife. She is my first love.” A faint hue from the sun-kissed sky spread across his face.

Surprised by this sudden revelation Danny didn’t know how to react so he simply smiled.

I saw her one winter morning strolling here, talking to the birds and flowers. The morning mist had just begun to clear. I recognised her instantly but did not approach. After all these years I wondered if she would remember me.” His face shone like the sun which was now shinning in all its glory. “For some days I lingered around avoiding her eyes, quietly enjoying her presence. She evoked memories that were long since buried in some crevice of my heart.

Then one day as I bent over struggling to tie my wayward shoelace I heard a voice, “you still can’t tie shoelaces properly, can’t you?”  I looked up and there she was with a mischievous smile on her face. She held me by the shoulders and helped me stand. For a moment it seemed like a scene from a fairytale.

“You thought I may have forgotten you, didn’t you? I was wondering how long we would play hide and seek,” She laughed.

“I remember, he continued, I had laughed sheepishly and muttered something silly. Since that day we met here every day, spent some time reminiscing the good old days and then parted with a heart full of hope to meet again. We found peace and solace in each other’s being and not being. Life had been a roller coaster ride for both of us and these hours of togetherness were in which we truly lived.

We often noticed your presence and she was the first to realize that you were making a sketch of us. “

Danny’s face flushed a deep shade of pink. “You knew I was sketching both of you?” “I am sorry I did not ask for permission. Both of you looked so much a part of this garden of peace that I could not stop myself.”

“I am glad you made it.” He glanced lovingly at the sketchbook in his lap.

Danny took the sketchbook slowly pulled the page from the spiral binding and handed it to the old man.

“She will always be with you.” He smiled and he gently pressed the two trembling warm hands.

For the first time the old man’s face really showed the pain of longing and separation. A tear escaped the soft brown eyes.

“Thank you.” He said softly.

Both men sat there in solitude under the shade of the fragrant Frangipani connected only by the warmth of their hands. The ‘Garden of Peace’ watched quiescent.

This post is written for GBE 2 week #67 Peace 

Snapshot – GBE 2 Week #66


His hands trembled as he tried to light a cigarette. It took him five tries to get it right. He leaned against the wall to steady himself. Everything was a blur. His mind became warped.  He could see nothing, think nothing.  And then came the tears. They ebbed and flowed like seasonal flood. Only that his was not seasonal. He hadn’t cried in years. Slowly streaming down his face like hot lava at first and then like a deluge that surprised even him, hot water for pain like blood flowing from an open wound. Perhaps it was a wound. He did not know, couldn’t think, and couldn’t stop.

She came to him not like a memory but a stray thought. A thought that catches you unaware at the least expected moment. It was something he didn’t want but he wept all the same, shedding all inhibitions. He slumped to the floor and wept like never before into the deep night.

And then it stopped as suddenly as it started. A dull ache swept through his body, a cocktail of myriad emotions that he could not decipher in a single moment. It drained him out.

He lit another cigarette and took a deep extended drag and felt the smoke fill his lungs. Slowly he exhaled and through the smoke screen he saw her. She must have been in her early twenties. He had just begun his career as a photographer and travelled all over the world. People, places fascinated him. He found a story behind mundane objects inanimate objects and infused life in them through his lens. He first spotted her near a roadside café. The city was shimmering in bright sunlight after an early summer rain. The breeze flirted with her waist long windswept hair as she stood with her hands embracing a hot mug of coffee. The harbour in the background made a pretty picture of her. He could see the hint of mascara in her deep dark eyes. She was dressed in a floral dress that clings to her voluptuous body giving it a sensuous flow.

She seemed oblivious to her surroundings. Near her, on a wrought iron table, lay a book. The pages fluttered like hummingbird’s wings. Unable to contain himself he pulled out his camera and focused on her. From behind his powerful lens he could see how ravenously beautiful she was. She did not wear any make up but her face shone like molten bronze. He zoomed a bit more and studied her profile mesmerized to react. It was like a dream sequence. He quickly clicked one snapshot after another and then stopped as if under a spell. His eyes still glued to the viewfinder. She brushed her hair back in a dancer like sweep and in one swift motion picked up the book and vanished in the sea of people who has emerged from a nearby mosque.

Before he could realize he had lost her.

Cursing himself for a lost opportunity he briskly walked back to the hotel unable to stop the excitement of looking at the pictures. On uploading he could find only one of the many he had clicked. Rest of it was as black as night. He was puzzled and angered at this unusual occurrence but the eyes that gazed at him from the screen of his laptop held him captive. For the next six days he went out every day in the city looking for her.

And then he saw her again, this time in a book shop. She wore a plain black dress and had tied her hair in a swirl. He made no mistake this time and approached her from behind. She suddenly turned as if aware of his presence. A little startled he stopped in his steps. His knees became jelly as she beamed at him.

‘You took my picture that day at the harbour, didn’t you?” she said in honeyed voice. She was a Latino for sure. He made a mental note of it.

‘So, you noticed.’ He smiled back.

For his age he was exceptionally fit and good-looking and he could see that in the mischievous twinkle of her eyes.

“Would you give me a copy of it?”

“Yes, of course” he said.

He took out the printed copy of her snapshot from his wallet and handed it to her. He felt the warmth of her body pass like an electric current through his body.

What was wrong with him? Stupefied, he picked up a white rose from a nearby vase and carefully tucked it in her hair. She didn’t stop him.

She glanced herself in the glass door, smiled softly, placed the snapshot in the book she was carrying and left without a second glance. He inhaled deeply absorbing her fragrance and came out in the street. She was nowhere in the sight.

He left the city two days later for another assignment. They never met again but her memory stayed with him every moment. She became an invisible companion who filled the emptiness of his life. In those moments of quiet when he was alone with himself he created memories with him, made love to her, walked hand in hand through empty walkways and streets of cities he travelled. She became his shadow. He never felt alone and for some reason he was happy.

It was twenty-five years ago.

He went to island of Majorca many times and every time his eyes had searched for her.

A tear silently left the corner of his eyes. He dragged himself to the window and looked at the dark night sky. It seemed to have become deeper than ever. The breeze brought  fragrance of winter roses from the manicured gardens of the hotel.

He closed his eyes. How could he not recognise her face even from under hundreds of tubes that ran everywhere? He felt a lump rise in his throat. What had brought her to this godforsaken city in America? Where was she all these years? He cursed himself for not ever asking for an address or a phone number back then. He always believed that the universe will conspire to bring them together again but never in his wildest dreams had he imagined it to be like this.

He was in New York to attend to his ailing mother. She was the only other patient in the room that smelled of nothing but sanitized air. It was on her bedside table he had found the book of verses. Mom had told him amidst uncontrollable sobs, how the frail lady on the other bed had handed her book to the attending doctor and gestured him to pass it on to her just before she died, the book which she always kept close to her frail heart. An emotional avalanche hit him the moment he recognized it.He had stared in stoned silence at the book, unable to breathe, his eyes transfixed on the empty bed to his left.. He had picked it with trembling hands as everything else had slowly begun to fade around him. The snapshot had slipped and fallen near her feet and he was once again held captive by those gorgeous eyes. It was then he noticed for the first time the sadness that filled them. With great effort he had managed to pick the photograph and the book and unable to withhold the surge of pain and hurt of loss he had rushed out of the hospital as if driven by some hidden force.

The flutter of paper brought him out of trance. The breeze had become stronger and the pages of the book were fluttering like wings of hummingbird, just as they were on that summer day. The snapshot lay in their shadow.

This post is written for GBE2- WEEK #66 (8-19-12 to 8-25-12): Snapshot