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

 

GBE2 Week #64 : Hidden – A veiled Life


Her fate was sealed the moment she was born. The Chador that wrapped her, grew with her infant body. Layer after layer it hid her slow painful journey into womanhood, chained forever to her home and hearth,  by norms of society and religion. She was born to serve and submit.. Serve  and submit to the omnipresent men of her clan. In silence.

She was one of the few who survived birth but her voice was stilled for life.  The muffled cries of her infant sister dying a forced slow death still woke her up in the middle of nights. Unlike the so called emancipated, literate, liberated urban women, her life was tied by invisible ropes that rubbed against her soft flesh and left wounds that scarred her being.

She ceased to be human the moment she “came of age”. The menstrual blood brought with it emotional and physical abandonment. It also brought a sudden realization of turning into a “woman” who had, a body “to be kept hidden”, tongue which was just a purposeless mass of flesh, heart which would in long run become a vault for unmet dreams and desires and a mind which was considered “non-existent” and which only worked behind a camouflaged screen of darkness.

Suddenly she shrunk under the chador which had taken monstrous proportion since her infancy days. Her life was no longer hers.  A marionette whose strings were pulled and pushed by the men in her household and extended family.  Shrouded in mystery of her gender, modesty, pleasure, shame, pain and drudgery she carried her body through the lonely barbed web of rules designed to keep her in hold all through her life.

She was still in better position than her aunt, barely a few years older than her and a widow, who had to continuously protect her “unguarded, dangerous” body till she is lowered into her grave safely, a daunting task in a society of vultures ready to pounce on any slice of flesh that they can lay their eyes and hands on.

Deep buried and hidden under layers her body and voice stirred and quivered in want of release but never reached the climax. Considered unfit for any function but marriage, childbearing, housekeeping her entire being came out from the hidden depths during the dark recesses past the midnight silence.  Lying next to a snoring satisfied husband or alone, she  freely roamed around the courtyard and beyond the threshold into the unnamed, unknown lanes and streets like a alley cat.

Suddenly the landmines erected by society to prevent her from deviating from specified gender roles forgot to explode as she stepped on the prohibited terrain.

Not swathed in black from head to toe in the age old dirty chador that hung near the main door, she set the woman in her free. Reclaiming herself. Night after night.

In those intimate hours with herself she would try and familiarize with the contours of her body, feeling that fervent rush which knew no outlet in her forsaken life. Many times she would slip into the veranda, dressed in nothing but a thin duppata, which made her a bit comfortable with herself, throw her bare arms in the air and watch the night sky with two bright starry eyes, letting the breeze flirt with her.

Imagination would thrown open the doors and windows which usually remained bolted. Walls that had risen brick by brick around her segregating and secluding her would collapse in a heap, making her vulnerable and alive. She would create and recreate the stories told in the midst of giggles and laughter by her city cousins.

Before the first light of dawn, hidden in the safety of the darkness she would dare to live a life she imagined. Strange that the very darkness that engulfed her in daytime became her saviour at night.

This post is written for GBE2 WEEK #64 (8-5-12 to 8-11-12): Hidden

Inspired by Tamil writer Salma’s book and Kamla Das( one of my many muses)

If I had my life to live over – GBE2 Week#56


If I had my life to do over then would it really be Me ? It would certainly be some other person. doing other things, living other life and to me seems a bit scary. Life gave me a choice to make my choices and I did –  good or bad. I am a better person by learning from all that went wrong and by making the best of  all that was beautiful.

There was a time when I felt that I wish I could live my life all over again and make it better than what I am living but then it would be a new beginning and in no way I will be able to compare it to this one.  I won’t even have any memory of this life. It will have its own challenges, pains, joys, mistakes, sacrifices.   It will be a new roller coaster ride.

Certainly there are things I wish were different. Some of them I can change now and am doing it as best I can.

Sometimes one rides the roller coaster and in the end gets off to find the treasure. I feel I have been given a chance to live my life again.  Start afresh.

However, I do sometimes feel that IF I had my life to do over I would love to be the leather clad, tattooed, biker chic who hangs out with tough guys and gals, is carefree and takes no crap from no one. 😀 Single, self-willed, independent woman who lives for herself and does what she wants. Not afraid to try anything new. Not afraid at all.

I think I miss out on adventure, travel and all that now. Someone not chained by anything . Yes, one thing is for sure , even with this tough adventurous life I would never trade my heart for anything 🙂 I guess I would be just as loving and caring, just as much in love with life, an incurable romantic as I am now.  This is what makes me who I am and  I still have a life ahead to do at least some of the things I wish for.

So, here’s to present , to the woman I am today and to life.

This post is written for  GBE 2 WEEK #56 (6-10-12 to 6-16-12): If I Had My Life to Live Over #GBE2

GBE 2 – Bittersweet Days of High School


I attended an all girls school and I loathed it. This is the truth.  I was sure I will end up as a mental wreak by the time I graduate. I believed that it was a conspiracy against me to be thrown to those “catty” girls with painted claws , fiery tongues and  narrow, mean outlook just because I was a tomboy and wasn’t interested in ‘Girlish’ stuff. Actually the very fact that there was a continuous pressure to behave in “lady like’ manner  made me rebel and do all the opposite things :p  I also felt these ‘all girls ‘ schools increased gender stereotyping and sexism.

When I joined in middle school I was declared an outcast.

The reasons –

one – I did not fit in.

two – My mom was member of parent teachers association and a high official in Education Department. She officially visited school very often much to my annoyance .

The girls thought that I got more attention and that every soul who walked the school premises was favorable towards me. That my academic performance and all the medals / certificates that I won were colored by my so called special status.

Three  – They also thought I was way ahead of time and maybe not a  ‘ good girl’ to hang out with , which actually suited me fine. :p

I was filled with such rage and hurt to be forced in to a school I did not like but could not stand up against it. Dad’s word was finally.  The school was near home and less expensive. Also that the merit truly depended on our performance not the status of the school. I am sure he also wanted to rein the wild horses on which I was always riding. (It did not work 😉 ) I remained as ‘un- lady like’ as one can be except for my much coveted “lady like’  body :p . I had the best of both I guess. 🙂

I hated mom’s every ‘official’ visit ( the principal was a great friend of hers 😦 )  and expressed it openly at home but she too had a job to do. We were at loggerheads most of the time.

Those who know anything about the government and government aided schools in India would know the kind of moral policing that goes on there. The dress and behavior codes, the skewed mentality, the look busy do nothing attitude of teachers. It sucked. #shudder

By the time I reached high school I got the hang of how things worked.  I found that it wasn’t just girls but the lady teachers too had an agenda. I saw how inner politics worked. How different they were from public/ private schools.I hated those long ‘below the knee’ skirts and the hawk-eyed Physical education teacher who made life hell for those of us who were actively involved in outdoor sports and had to practice in shorts or short divided skirts along with the boys who came with the coaches. That was my first experience of moral policing  and gender discrimination.  I could see the other girls turn green with envy. It did not matter if they thought of me as an outcast but I often fell pray to their traps. Notes vanished, Notebooks vanished, Practical files either mad pages missing or ruined and much more. I never took lunch from home but the only time I did , it decided to empty itself in my bag full of books and stuff.

It was a task to stay sane and practice non violence. Though an outdoor person I was a shy and introvert girl , rather naïve and not at all street smart. Sometimes I thought my mom’s position there actually helped me stay alive but it still bothered me.

I did make a few friends but it was all superficial.

The only good came in the form of  NCC and Red Cross camps,  intra/ inter school music competitions, sports meets, and choir fests.

These were the events I looked forward to. They opened new avenues, gave  opportunity to explore and experiment new things,  and gave a new meaning to school life. I met students from all over India. Came to know about their lifestyle and culture. Made some long-term friendships.

Being in that ‘same gender’ school also made me realize what I ‘did not want’ to become.  these years in school helped me discover myself. I felt blessed that I was way above the deep-rooted traditional values these girls carried with them. Not that traditions are bad but I had  serenity to know right from wrong and a family who despite of everything still gave us enough freedom to be ourselves.

In the later half of  high school I began to muster up courage and took liberty and advantage of my place as a Red Cross Volunteer and NCC Sargent Prefect  to slip away to watch athletic meets, concerts, special screening of movies etc. or just to grab a bite and return but the sword of Damocles always hung over my head. Senior school was an easy ride.

I vowed to stay away from anything and everything that had to do with GIRLS  but life had something else in store. I joined an All Women’ college ( notoriously infamous and one of the finest in Delhi University).  😀 😀

What I missed in high school I covered in college. 😉

Now my younger son is in senior school and I see how much has changed in last one quarter of a century. Don’t know if our school days were better but yes, we were less stressed and burdened to excel than the students of today.

With all its bittersweet experiences High school still holds a special place.

This post is written for  GBE 2 – WEEK #55 (6-3-12 to 6-9-12): High School