Saturday, December 17, 2011

I miss...


And so many other parts of 'me'.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Well, quite simply, what marks the end of an era.

At least I think so.

(12:38 a.m., 26th November 2011)

Friday, November 4, 2011


...And they are only dreams
Dreams that remain unfulfilled
That do not kiss reality, 
That do not even see it from a distance
But then, 
That is how
Dreams remain what they are,
Simple, Untarnished,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One day,all this will come true...

One day, the running around will cease to be,
One day, this city will have emptier roads,
One day, we will think of pollution in 'flashback mode',
One day, the fatigue will stop creeping in before it actually does,
One day, the air will be fresh and clean and inhaleable again,
One day....some day....some day in the future...
All this will come true.

Hah, now that is some serious wishful thinking.

What is your craziest dream?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Child In Me...

Devoid of inhibitions,
Fearless, Spirited & Free,
Another time,Lord,yet again,
Let the Child awaken in me.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I am beading my dreams together
One, by one, by one,
On a silken peach thread,
Most of them will remain where they are,
A few will sprout wings and fly...
Who knows where?
A few will break free and fall,
One,by one,by one,
And Life will go on,
Dream, by dream, by dream.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

"For I Have Promises To Keep"

I sit by my window, sipping a cup of piping hot herbal chai, staring at the rainy greenery outside. As the rain plays on its steady, pleasant rhythm, I subconsciously begin to hum a song I learnt as a child. A monsoon song that my Auntie Flavia taught me. And I am transported back in time.

She was the odd - one - out in all our get-togethers. While these social gatherings were usually excuses for my neighbours to parade in all their dazzling traditional finery, she always came in wearing  flowy pastel dresses. She was also the only senior-citizen in the motley group of couples who mere much younger, couples who addressed her as Auntie Flavia. That is how I ended up calling her Auntie Flavia too, even though she was old enough to be my grandmother.

I do not know what drew me to her. Maybe it was the  fact that I did not have a grandmother. Or maybe it was the fact that both of us had no contemporaries in the whole group. But I grew attached to her in a way that I secretly like to consider priviliged.
She and Uncle Frederick had been a childless couple, and shortly before I was born, Auntie Flavia was widowed. If she did have relatives, no one had never heard of them. But, like my parents have often told me, Auntie Flavia never seemed to complain. She seemed content and secure in the midst of my family and our other neighbours. Her most special affections, however, were reserved for me. Looking back, I realise I was much more than Auntie Flavia’s god-daughter. I was, in fact, Auntie Flavia’s way of filling up a void in her life.

Auntie Flavia was my Santa-Claus.  Her gifts were unambitious, often home-made, but very frequent. Sometimes she made me cardigans, sometimes little handicrafts, and sometimes sauces and pickles. I loved all her little surprises, but what I enjoyed the most were her home-baked cookies. She could rustle up batches in the most unimaginable flavours, in the most intriguing shapes possible.

Once, seven-year old me proudly told her that my art-teacher had declared me the best “drawer” in class. She’d been delighted. “Will you make me a drawing for my birthday?” she’d asked, earnestly. I’d nodded. “Promise?”, she’d ventured, and I’d nodded again.

But her birthday came, and I remembered nothing of my word. It was then that she told me something that I was too little to understand at the time, but carry with me everywhere now. “Promises are little treasures,” she said, “Learn to keep as many as you can.” “Why?” I asked. “Because each time you keep a promise, you make someone happy and allow the person to trust you a little more. And, as you grow older, you will realize that few things matter more than trust.”

If you look at Life closely, you will realize that everyday, something or the other is changing. And you will discover that somewhere, some changes are getting to you. Suddenly Life seems different, and you want to run away from it all, and hold on to that one constant that makes you feel secure. That restores hope, simply because it is the way you’ve always seen it.

To me, Auntie Flavia was that constant. She saw me through some of my most challenging phases. Whenever things became too much to handle, I would run to her for comfort. The fact that her house remained brick-red, with the same doorbell, the same furniture, the same plants, the same antique piano, the same porcelain dolls, the same wall-hangings, the same unmistakeable freshness of the cookies and the same bedcovers I saw being rotated periodically, year after year, gave me a lot of solace. In more ways than one, Auntie Flavia and that house kept me going.

When I turned seventeen, my parents decided to migrate to Canada. Auntie Flavia was seventy-nine at the time. Knowing that we were the only family she had, and also how difficult her life would have been without me, we offered to take her along. I know it was a very difficult decision for her too, but she declined. “I am too old for a new country now,” she told my parents. “I cannot wake up in an unknown land. And besides,” she smiled wistfully, “I have promises to keep.”

All the persuasion that I could manage did not work on her. Eventually, we came to the eve of our departure. I went to her house for my last cup of tea before I left the country. Auntie Flavia brought me my favourite cookies.

“Promise me that you’ll come and visit me whenever you are here,” she said to me. “I do not know if I’ll live to see you again, but still, promise me you’ll come.” “I’ll come only if you promise to bake me your cookies again whenever I’m here”, I said, in what was probably a lame attempt to lighten our moods. “I promise”, Auntie Flavia said, a hint of tears in her eyes.

We left the next day.

Canada was a beautiful country, and we settled in eventually. Over time, we also made a new set of friends there. Once in a while, news trickled in from India.

One day, I heard from a former neighbor that Auntie Flavia was very unwell. Since I had some money saved up, I decided to travel to India.

It was a clear morning when I went to meet Auntie Flavia. Surprisingly, walking into that old neighbourhood, and past my own home of seventeen years did not make me as nostalgic as seeing Auntie Flavia’s house did.

I rang the doorbell. Once, twice, thrice. No one answered. Fearing the worst, I decided to walk over to another neighbour’s house to inquire about her. But just as I turned towards the driveway, I heard the door open.

I turned around. There she was, my Auntie Flavia, frailer than ever, but smiling. I ran up to her and hugged her tight, the tears flowing freely. “Thank you, God,” I kept saying in my mind. “Thank you SO much.”

I drank in everything - her familiar homely smell, the same furniture, the same plants, the same antique piano, the same porcelain dolls, the same wall-hangings,and the same unmistakeable freshness of the cookies. For a while, I was frozen in time. I could see myself, at different ages, running around from one room to another, Auntie Flavia keeping an administering eye on me all the time.

I held her tiny little palm, and asked her to sit down next to me. “Wait,” she said, and hobbled in to the kitchen. Five minutes later, she came out with a bowl of chocolate-and-roasted almond cookies. 

“Just like I promised,” she said, with a twinkle in her eyes.

“I kept my promise too, you know,” I replied. Auntie Flavia smiled.

“You know, Frederick and I met at my Uncle’s anniversary party”, she began, all of a sudden. “He heard me laughing at someone’s joke, and decided right then that he wanted to marry me. He proposed to me soon after. Told me he would never let me feel unloved, even for a moment, for as long as I lived. I said yes, and we got married in a few months. Life was more beautiful than I’d ever imagined. And Fred lived up to his word of loving me incessantly. Even though we never did have children, I did not miss having any because Fred made me so complete.”

I wondered what had led to her suddenly talking about Uncle Frederick. But I kept listening.
“When Fred died, I did not think I could survive on my own. For days, I would go to bed at night, praying that when I woke up, it would be in Heaven, next to Fred. But that did not happen.

And then, one day, your parents moved into the neighbourhood. And you were born soon after. Between you and me, I think Fred sent you to me, because he wanted to keep his promise of making me feel loved for as long as I lived. Because after I saw you, Life seemed worthwhile again. You’ve been a wonderful child.”

We spoke throughout the afternoon, about our life in Canada and her life in India after our departure. Everything seemed just the same, like the good old days. And then, it was finally time for me to leave.

 “Will you do me a favour, Chickie?”

I nodded.

“I haven’t been able to visit Fred’s grave in weeks. My health hasn’t allowed me to venture out. Will you visit his grave for me, with his favourite flowers?”
I smiled and said I would.

“And I hope they haven’t laid anyone to rest in the patch next to his grave. Remember how I had promised Fred that whenever I died, I would lie down right there? I had sort of ‘reserved’ that place for myself,” she added with a little smile. 

How well I knew that promise of her’s.

I got up with a heavy heart. Something told me I would never see her again.

 Auntie Flavia read my mind. “You’ll see me soon,“ she said. “I promise.”

I wondered what she meant, but I assumed she was just trying to make me, and herself, feel a little better. I hugged her tightly and left.

An hour later, the red and white roses in my hand, I walked into the graveyard. I knew where Uncle’s Fred’s grave was; Auntie Flavia had brought me along several times. But as I stepped up to the grave marked ‘Frederick Mascarenhas’, my face fell.

The formerly vacant patch next to it was now occupied.

Part anger and part sorrow gripped me. I thought I’d let Auntie Flavia down. I knew this was her last wish – that she be laid to rest next to her beloved husband. I wanted to scream out in anger at whoever had dared to occupy Auntie Flavia’s ‘reserved’ spot. The flowers still in my hand, I bent down to see who had been buried there.

And then I froze. It couldn’t be.

I sank down onto the grass, blank, weak in the knees. Her last words kept echoing in my ear - "You will see me soon. I promise".

In the distance, the sun was slowly setting, and the world was becoming darker by the moment. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One More Story...

“Misha, did you know that Alamelu got married recently?”

Sometimes, life drops explosive news on you. The news is by no means unpleasant, but it causes your face (and your brains) to go through a series of psychological expressions before you can actually react. I’m thankful for the fact that this piece of news came to me at a time when no one could really see those expressions, owing to lack of sufficient illumination.

I guess I’m also thankful for the fact that there was no mirror around.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * 

 I met her in 2004. The first time I saw her, her leg was bandaged. She’d been in an accident and was walking around with a limp. She was two years my junior, but taller and very lanky, and I remember being a little shocked at the (un)ambitious length of her shorts.

She was obviously in pain, but very cheerful. We hit it off pretty quickly. We spent the afternoon chatting, the conversation surprisingly easy and free-flowing for a first. And then, in a few hours, it was time for me to leave. We promised to keep in touch.

We met again a few months later – she was in town, visiting her father for a couple of weeks. This time, we bonded over shopping and lunch, the way teenagers do. We spoke about our closest friends, our families and our interests, and got to know each other a little more. After she left, we started staying in touch over the phone.

There was something about her that appealed to me. In her apparent innocence, I could see overtones of maturity. Perhaps it was because I knew that she had had a very difficult childhood; she had lost her mother at the age of three, and ever since, her father had sought refuge in chronic alcoholism. He had even remarried, for a brief period; her stepmother seemed straight out of a Grimm’s fairy tale.

I was actually amazed at her unrestrained appetite for life.

On one of her subsequent trips, just after the 2005 deluge in Mumbai, we discovered a litter of puppies in the middle of the road. Their mother was nowhere to be seen, so we brought them home, and took care of them for the next three weeks.

I was nineteen, she was nearing eighteen. Both of us were experiencing our first serious relationships. We would giggle and gush about our respective boyfriends from time to time over the phone. She met mine when he had come down to Mumbai, and I met hers.

Technically, she’d been my partner in crime, more than once.

One night, around the middle of 2005, she called me up, and started to cry. Her father’s alcoholism had taken a turn for the worse – he used to drink every night, and even had to be hospitalized a couple of times.  That night, the way she put it, things had almost gone out of control.

My parents heard about the situation from me. Knowing that her father wouldn’t live very long, they discussed asking him if we could adopt her. I had already started to love her like a little sister, and was more than willing to go ahead with the idea.

Around the end of 2006, her attitude began to change. She started maintaining a calculated distance from me. At first, I thought she was genuinely busy, but then, it wasn’t really like her to not answer or return my calls or messages repeatedly. One day, a few months later, she asked me to stop “interfering in her life”. To “give her space”.

At the time, I was already going through a bad phase, professionally, academically, even personally. Her words were extremely painful. She was a very close friend, and I needed her to be around, but her sudden, uncalled-for acerbity made it easier for me to stay away. I resolved never to call her again.

We lost touch. I lived up to my resolution; she never attempted to contact me either.

One day, a common friend informed me that her father had passed away. I did not know what I was supposed to do. Ideally, I knew I should call her, but her turning away from me, and our friendship, had hurt me so much, that I did not have the courage to do so. What if she refused to speak to me again, or said something I wouldn’t want to hear, like the last time? That would hurt me even more. And I did not know if I was ready to get hurt another time.

After a lot of thought, I called her. She sounded strangely normal – not like a girl who had just lost her second parent, or who was talking to a former sister-figure whom she had told off so ruthlessly.

I kept the conversation brief and formal. A few days later, I called again to check on her. It felt strange, as though I was being mechanical in my actions, as if it wasn’t concern but obligation that was making me call her, but that was the least I could do.

That was the only thing I could do.

A few months later, I woke up one morning to find an SMS from an unsaved, but still familiar number. “Hi, I’m sorry for all that happened in the past,” it said. “You were one of my closest friends and I did not value you the way I should have. If you ever think you want to speak, re-establish our friendship, the way it used to be, let me know. I am only a call away.”

Part of me was seething from within. It isn’t that easy, I wanted to yell at her. You were heartless and insensitive and you do not deserve someone like me. How can you even think that a simple three-liner will help me forget everything and attempt to “re-establish our friendship”? Did I not deserve more? A more elaborate apology? I decided I’d not call her.

Two days later, I found myself dialing her number.

She told me she had distanced herself from a lot of people over the past two years. And that after her father’s death, she wanted to re-build as many ties as possible.

I empathized. But I could not spring back to my original self as easily as I had done earlier. I conveyed that to her, and she understood. Over the next half hour, we discussed briefly the highlights of the past two years, and when our conversation ended, her words, her tone, suggested that she wanted to attempt to make things up to me. 

She never called me again.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *~ * ~ 

“Misha, did you know that Alamelu got married recently?”

Have you ever experienced a situation where you don’t know something, but really want to know about it, but then again, you don’t want to, because more knowledge will only cause you pain?

This was one of those situations.

I later learnt, purely by accident, that the boy was Canadian. He had worked with her father on a project; that was when they were first introduced to each other. They were married earlier this year. That is all I know.

I don’t think I want to know more.

I found her profile on Facebook recently. There was a picture of the couple, probably taken on their honeymoon.

She looked happy. As though the ghosts of those tough years of the past had finally been laid to rest.

I know I don’t need to know more.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reminiscences In Red

I spent the first sixteen years of my life in a house with a huge verandah overlooking a Gulmohar tree. Twice every year, once during the summers and once during the winters, the tree would burst into cheerful red flames. And the stone-grey ground below would be dotted with red petals, or occasionally even the whole flower.

I subsequently moved in to a new house. Unlike my old colony, which could only boast of limited greenery, my new apartment had a huge lawn with an assortment of trees. For some reason, though, there wasn’t a Gulmohar in sight.

I did not realize how much I missed the tree till I found myself staring at Gulmohars every time I passed them. It took me a while to understand that subconsciously, the Gulmohar was actually a link back to my childhood.

Even today, when I pass by a Gulmohar tree, I experience an emotion that is fairly overwhelming. Sometimes, I pick up a stray flower, bring it home, and keep it in a water-bowl. Otherwise, I simply look at the tree in all its red glory and smile, as if between us, we share a little secret.

I love the Gulmohar flower – its energetic red colour, the one white petal with little red dots that stands out proudly, the tiny red petals with their uniform yellow borders. I think it tries to tell us to be vibrant, unique and colourful always :-)  

Not all memories are in black and white and sepia. Some are a cheerful red too!

Much Love,


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Saying Good-Bye.....

“Can I wake them up?” , I ask Mami. She nods her assent.

I step into the room that Bhalo Dadu and Amma now occupy. They are sound asleep. I know I have to wake them up – because I have to say Goodbye. Probably for the last time.

I touch Bhalo Dadu’s arm, and shake him gently. “Dadu,” I say, in a voice that is loud enough for him to hear. He opens his eyes.

 “Dadu, I’m leaving,” I say. He tries to sit up as promptly as his ninety-four year old body can allow. He holds my hand, draws me into a hug, and kisses me. I kiss him back, once on each cheek, then hug him again. “I will be upset for a while, now that you are leaving,” he says. I do not know how to respond.

Then I call out to Amma, once, twice, then stop myself, thinking I should let her sleep peacefully. I know she is deteriorating, bit-by-bit. I walk over to her side of the bed, kiss her lightly on the cheek, and touch her head affectionately. Her grey-white hair has thinned, so much so that I can see her fair scalp glistening beneath. I take one last look at her sleeping form – her rani-pink bindi, the prominent streak of sindoor, her tiny little eyes, her swollen cheeks, which can fool people into thinking that she is still in good health, her shankha-paula, and her brown checkered housecoat. I hold her in sight for a moment too long, and then pull myself away forcibly.

Dadu attempts to get up so that he can see me off to the car. I ask him not to take the trouble. With all the obstinacy that he can still muster, he makes for the door anyway. I hold him around the waist, so he doesn’t fall. His tall frame, surprisingly erect even at that age, steps slowly towards the verandah.

I hug him one last time. I do not know what to say. Part of me wants to ask him to come to Bombay sometime, but reality strikes as harshly as it always does. I know that will never be possible.

And somewhere, I realise that even he is searching for the right words.

“Bhalo theko,” I say. I think that is all I can manage - asking him to keep well - as my last words. And I touch his feet, and step out of the gate.

From the glass window inside the car, I see Bhalo Dadu waving out to me. I wave back, but I’m not sure his line of vision goes that far. Suddenly, I realize that I want to tell him a lot of things, but I don’t know what. What do you say to a person, who can go any day? Or when you look at a couple, an eighty-six year old wife and her ninety-four year old husband, when you realize that they still have a marriage that has lasted almost sixty-eight years, when you see the shankha-paula and the sindoor still adorning the wife, can you really ask God for more? How much more life and health can you wish them, when He has already been so generous?  

Mama starts the car. I suddenly think I’ll burst out crying, but I don’t. I look at Dadu for the last time; he is still waving.

Slowly, the car begins to move. I hear the gravel crackling beneath the tyres. And in a flash, we are out of sight.