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 

Would you hold me? Give a real hug?


I like the way you say “we will find a way”. I like the word “we”. It feels like a warm hug even from such a distance. I have lived a life fractured into “You” and “I”.  It never became “we” until you came in it.

It is true that every time I think of you  it is like getting a hug from inside out but sometimes the want for a real hug consumes me like a wild-fire. I wonder if the love we put into words will ever transform into hugs – real hugs not virtual.

I have forgotten how a  real hug feels like, the warmth of a human body against yours, nothing sexual or romantic but just a need to be held. I can’t remember even if I go back looking through my youth or even my childhood. Just simple hug, that cocaine high , that surge in the blood, that solace of being desired, that shamanistic, trance like feeling of ecstasy which strangely illuminates from within.   I desire you in the simplest way, simpler than you can think of and this desire is constellation of  wants and needs, hopes and dreams exploding inside me yearning for that one hug. The warmth of your arms around me.

I get that warmth from the words you say and write and the yearning increases with each day.

Sometimes I sit and wonder, why do we feel so uncomfortable giving a hug as we grow up? We don’t teach our children importance of non-sexual touch. They grow up without that knowledge and don’t know what to do when someone wants to hug them. They freeze. They feel confused when a sudden voice from inside tells them to go embrace someone. They burn but can’t bring themselves to give a simple hug. It surprises me how my own boys somehow lack in this especially when I instilled it in them. I guess society has a lot to do with this inhibition we have. These simple gestures of holding hands, hugging are lost in the rigid norms society enforces on us. It is surprising that two girls hanging out, hugging , walking hand in hand, giving a friendly peck on the cheek is acceptable but when boys do it becomes a matter of concern and ridicule, something abnormal, out-of-place. What kind of world are we living in? Aren’t we depriving our children of basic human needs? What will they become when they grow up, if not skewed up, frustrated adults fighting with their basic instincts?

We grow up to be icons of romance, fulfil those slush fantasies but so lack in these simple things. It is strange that sometimes those in a relationship/ marriage too lack these simple pleasures just like we, the lonely ones do. It is not gender or age based either.  We connect with each other at many levels but not on this one. There are times when one wants to give a hug and restrains and if one gets a hug one freezes and shrugs it off. Either way we lose, curl up, and go into a shell yearning for a  hug.

Empty hearts give empty hugs, even the pleasure of sex quickly goes cold in cold arms. I have been there so I know. They are just physical motions one goes through, a routine, devoid of love, desire, care or longing empty arms which may feel warm but leave your cold and drained. Slowly that dies too leaving a void, a starved body longing for human touch. Nothing is more bitter than to be forced to submit to the falseness of love. To endure the cage of arms that suck life out of you instead of  nurturing it.

I long for those arms, those arms that can end the growing longing; arms that would wrap me in the comfort of loving energy that matches mine. Arms that would make me feel safe, cared, understood for who I am. Not possessed, owned or used as an object, not holding me as an obligation to dead vows .

I sometimes feel like hugging random people on streets but I notice how suspicious we are of each other. We restrain ourselves and lock ourselves afraid that the floodgates of human emotions may overflow. Unsure if we can handle the deluge. We give virtual hugs freely but a real hug is a herculean task. I have felt the flow of energy even when touched accidently but it just ends in a surprised reaction. Hardly anyone gives a real hug these days. It has been reduced to a social gesture. We hug our animal companions more than we hug our fellow human beings. Isn’t it something to think about? Have you ever wondered “why”? Why is there such a social disconnect?

I sometime ..no, actually all the time … feel the need to put my head in someone’s lap or shoulder and cry or open my arms to someone who needs it, to stroke someone’s hair, to simply hold someone’s hands, simple things that words can never express.

You have to be in this place to feel the emptiness of the feeling of having someone who can change this forever and yet being a distant dream. This feeling is beyond the loneliness of any sort.

To be held in true love is a rare experience these days, be it from children, parents, friends, lovers, be it in any relationship even marriage.

I am looking for those arms, those arms which would hold me and true love, compassion of human heart, comfort and understanding.

Would you hold me? Would you turn those words into real hugs?

Would you?

You know

I would

If you choose so

Till then I will just desire. Feel your words wrap me in their warmth and make my fragmented state of ordinary life a little coherent. No longer scattered like autumn leaves through  time and space but contained at one place. In You.

When was the last time you gave or got a real hug?

If it makes you think, I feel for you.

Here is one  for you

GBE2 : We are one and one is many


WEEK #57 (6-17-12 to 6-23-12): Two Days Ago

My feature on ancient art and culture took me to various places still tucked away from civilization. Sometimes to the jungles and at others to the deep valleys in the mountains where even the sun dreaded to make an appearance and this time I was in Shanghai. After a month of extensive work I decided to indulge my other self.

I saw her at the flower shop. A young woman practicing the 21st-century version of the oldest profession. street-walker in fish net stockings. She wore a short white dress and no make up. She didn’t need to.  She had personality that could smoke a man with one intense look.  Vulnerability makes women stronger and she sure was a strong woman not just physically but her eyes  clearly stated who was in control. I felt the hunger rising in me.

I stood rooted to the ground unable to take my eyes off her. She must have felt the glare burn into her but decided not to notice. An eternity passed before I could muster up the courage to walk up to her.

“100$ for night and no fantasy sex”, She said in a businesslike tone. No emotions attached.

“Fantasy sex? What’s that?” I asked, amused by the term.

She looked hard at my face, rolled out a cigarette and said” Never mind. You got a car?”

I nodded. There was no bigger turn on than a combination of intelligence and beauty in a woman.

I led the way to the car and we drove off to my cottage. It was late and I had a flight to catch next night. There were many loose ends but who cared. All I wanted at that moment was Her. I noticed that unlike others in her profession she hadn’t gone any extra miles to “perfect” herself. I liked that.

” Sana, that’s my name”.

Not much of a talker she was beginning to scare me in a very exciting way.

I smiled to break the ice.

I was sure I saw a smile appear at the corner of her mouth , it made my knees turn into jelly.

We reached the cottage and she immediately began to undress.

Beginning to feel uncomfortable I fumbled with my clothes and after years I really felt alive again

She was strong and gentle and knew the game.

I had never given to such needs before but felt good and relaxed.

It was sometime in the early morning when I slid my hand into hers and she stiffened, woke up startled, jumped out of the bed, grabbed her clothes and rushed to the bathroom screaming abuses and sobbing.

I had no clue what hit me. Too shocked to react I hurriedly grabbed the bed sheet , wrapped it around my waist and began to knock on the bathroom door. I could hear her sobbing but she did not respond even after my continuous appeals and assurances that I won’t harm her.

Numb by the incident , I dragged myself to the side table and gulped almost all the water from the jug. Spilling most of it on the floor. With trembling hands I replaced the jug and waited. Unable to think.

After an hour  she emerged. Fully dressed but very conscious of her clothes. She kept pulling down her dress to cover her thighs, failing miserably. Her whole persona had changed. Suddenly she wasn’t the same woman I had picked up last night.

Her eyes were red from weeping. she clutched the hem of her dress and was trembling like a leaf.

” Who are you? Why have you brought me here?” She asked in low scared whisper.

I noticed that she stood very rigid near the bathroom door.

” Remember we met at the flower shop last night and you agreed to sleep with me for 100$ ?” I said as gently as possible carefully choosing my words.

She winced as if struck by a flash of lightning.

“Am not a hooker” she screamed and rushed towards the door crying.

I knew there was something wrong with her and I hurried to stop her fearing she might do some harm to herself.

“Sana, relax am not gonna hurt you. Calm down. I will take you to your home. Where do you stay?”

She backed off  immediately.

“Am not Sana. My name is Jen. I stay in Colaba. Where have you brought me? What did you do to me?” She began to weep again.

“Am sorry Jen but you told me your name was Sana. Trust me whatever I say is true. I am a journalist”. I showed her my ID.

She studied it for a long time.

“Where are we?” She was more composed now as she got up and walked up to the window and looked out.

“Shanghai”.

“You got me to Shanghai?”

“No. Absolutely Not. As I said I found you in the flower shop in the market.”

I was beginning to get worried now.

“Let me call a doctor”. I moved to the phone when she suddenly turned and grabbed my wrist.

” Don’t call the police. Please take me home. You are an Indian. Help me.”

I didn’t know how to react. I had a flight in the night and here I was stuck in the most unimaginable situation.

Naturally she had no idea where she lived in Shanghai According to her she wasn’t even aware how she got here.

I suspected a foul play as it is a normal thing with these hookers but the more I watched her the idea weakened.

I decided to take help. It took a lot of convincing to make her agree.

I ordered breakfast and told her to rest.

With a lot of resistance I finally  tucked her in bed and began to make the calls.

Even after some string pulling and persistence I was unable to get Jen’s identity verified. How she got to Shanghai also remained a mystery.

It was only in the afternoon we were able to leave the hotel. I took her to the same place from where I picked her in the night. She did not have any memory of it and stared blankly at the flower shop. This was another woman ; vulnerable and weak.

We began to walk towards the beach. She still clutched the hem of her dress uncomfortably. I took her to a store nearby and told her to buy a dress for herself.  She mustered a smile through tear filled eyes and chose  a comfortable pair of slacks and soft Tee.

I paid as she changed into them, feeling much at ease now.

As we  turned to leave I saw her freeze and then all of a sudden she broke into a run.

I ran after her calling out and very scared.

She was screaming some name I was unable to hear from such a distance.  The man in front of her stopped , turned and she ran into her open arms. I reached the spot panting and out of breath. She was crying bitterly.

The man was in his mid fifties.

“She lost herself. I was about to take her to the authorities.” I did not know what I was saying.

“She is my daughter Maya. We came to Shanghai  four days back. She disappeared yesterday morning with most of the money and I have searched for her since then”. His eyes filled with tears of gratitude. “Thank you for keeping her safe.”

I felt a surge of guilt sweep over me. All the events of last night came alive.

“Maya? Did you just say her name was Maya? She said she was Jen?” I thought I was losing my pebbles.

“Jen? No.no she is Maya. Here, see , this is her passport.”  I stared at the picture of hers and the name

Maya Nair.

24 yrs

“She does that often. Must have gotten scared. Sorry about that.” She smiled feebly, stroking her hair.

Somehow it was all complicated and it did not matter. I nodded and returned the smile

I had cancelled my flight tickets so accepted their invite for dinner.

I realized that she may have forgotten about Jen so did not offer to give any details.

I felt the same urge to hold her close to me as she came down to the dinning hall of the hotel they were staying in. She was exactly opposite of  Sana but had the same vulnerable intelligent eyes that made men drop to their knees.

I checked myself and greeted her warmly. She smiled and settled close to her doting father. She had a child like innocence and it made me difficult to associate it with the sensuous woman who has made love to him last night.

After a wonderful dinner and  innumerable thank yous I took their leave and headed back to my cottage thinking how my life changed two days ago. I wondered if I would ever meet her again in India.  I knew she lived in Colaba but did not have any address. They were supposed to leave by afternoon flight the next day.  I noticed she looked at me in a strange way. They were definitely Sana’s eyes. I wondered if she remembered our night together. Before the thought took a grip I drove away.

My flight was rescheduled for two days later so I thought of  just resting.  Exhausted I slept for I don’t know how many hours until  a waiter knocked at the door waking me from my slumber.

It was a note in childlike handwriting.

We are all one and one is many. Our lives are the notes of the beautiful tragic score  life plays all the time. We have our eccentricities, secrets, game plans, vulnerabilities, and highs. We tip-off one another, wage wars, indulge in passion, sit huddled in a corner and weep and sometime plot murder. Ready to kill each other. But we stick together. We have one thing in common. Intelligent imagination. It keeps our strings attached.  There are many of us. Sana and I are the hosts. Then we are split and fractured into many more. Let us call them ghosts. Usually we are in command but sometimes these ghosts take over. Occasionally as individuals but more often combined. I live in a house of mirrors with these reflections I call myself, warped and twisted. Echoes of loneliness gets deeper sometime and I do not know my name or who I am. I become a stranger to myself. I can not tell what is real and what is not. I just endure  though at times I lose the will to do so. I know I have. 

We know you understand. To understand is to feel love and compassion and to forgive. My father knows I am not well. We have found a therapist. Most of the time I do not recollect anything but this time I feel something that can’t be named. I feel you. You are a good man.

Sending my Indian address if you wish to meet sometime. Thank you for everything . I hope to write a book one day and I will dedicate it to you.

SJM”

I felt a tear roll down my cheek.  A tear of  respect and love for a brave woman. I prayed that she be cured of her illness for she deserved one whole healthy happy life.