Posted in poems, Short Stories, Uncategorized

The woman from 17 Again

How do you tell your boyfriend that you love him?
That you love him but.
That you love him but it’s not enough.
That you don’t wanna be the woman from 17 Again
‘Cause she fell in love at 17,
Got engaged at 19,
Got married at 20,
Had a kid at 22,
And at 35 she realized she had fallen out of love with her husband.
You didn’t want to be her.
How do you tell him that he is perfect and his efforts aren’t falling short?
But you’ve seen Monte Carlo
and you want to roam about Europe
on a Vespa with a really nice guy you met there.
How do you tell him thanks for handling you
when you were really drunk that New Year’s Eve?
But you want to know what its like when a guy buys you a drink across the bar.
How do you tell him that travelling with him is goals?
But that international trip wasn’t supposed to include him.
It was supposed to be your trip with your friend traipsing around the place, making memories and having no sex.
How do you tell him that the blame game sucks but it’s never one person’s mistake?
But you’re tired of accepting mistakes that weren’t yours in the first place when all your heart actually wants to do is make all the possible mistakes in the world without regret or guilt and own it, damn it!
How do you tell him that you once saw a future with him and you still do?
But you’re 20, a graduate, unemployed and you still haven’t figured out what to do about your own future.
How do you tell him that you’re tired of the fights and maybe if you both took efforts, the fights would be resolved?
But you want to take all those efforts and put them in yourself because if you did so, maybe, just maybe, you’ll figure out a career.
How do you tell him that you may not have whirlwind romances or foreign affairs?
But you can’t afford to know that they never can ’cause you never tried.
How do you tell him that you both once wanted the same things?
But now things have changed and you’re not quite sure what you want but you’re willing to give Life a try.

Posted in poems, Uncategorized

I Survived an Earthquake

People ask me what it was like.
I’m stumped.
And I’m never stumped.
How can you explain an earthquake?
You know, stuff moved, we moved.
It’s not a big deal.

How do you tell someone that the ground beneath your feet
Had literally been pulled away?
Oh it wasn’t that bad.
We weren’t at the epicenter.

How do you explain
That the mountains you once trusted
were falling to pieces?
Dude, it felt like we were on a swing.

How do you tell someone
That glaciers cracked,
That boulders split into half
on their way down,
That the snow became an avalanche?
Babe, someone cracked a joke and I laughed.
Everyone now teases me that
I laughed so loud that I created the earthquake!
It’s quite a joke.

How do you explain that you didn’t know what was going on
But you couldn’t balance yourself,
Your knees gave away
And you found yourself kneeling on the swaying ground,
Praying the ground doesn’t crack open
Because you don’t want to be Sita.
You’re not ready.
Oh, you know, it was definitely an experience!

How do explain that this happened
Once
Twice
Thrice
19 times that we counted
And about 27 over all?
No, there was one major
and other small tremors
so it wasn’t really a big deal.

How do you explain that the tin hut
shivered and moaned
and you thought it would collapse?
That when you woke up
you heard numbers of the people who were
dead
And the count kept increasing?
Yeah, but it’s not like we died dude, chill.

How do you explain that we climbed
down in two days
what was a five day trek?
That when we reached the oxygen line
we weren’t thankful for the oxygen
but the cell phone range?
No, yeah, we evacuated pretty quickly.

How do I explain that when I called home
my dad laughed and said
he knew everything was okay
because if something were to happen to me
then he would receive a call from the institute
And no such thing happened?
How do I explain that
Even though dad was trying to be cool
I knew he was worried sick?
Naww man, we just discussed the different food items we would miss.

Rocky road and ice creams didn’t make the list.

Posted in poems, Uncategorized

A Woman’s Secret

This is a call for Unity.
A clarion call.
A tremendous trumpet.
A call that must reach out to all of our kind, the keepers of Vulnerable Respectability!
Rise, O young girls, mature ladies and wise women; rise out of your sweaty seats of discomfort. Rise against the lewd eyes that defile you and mock your modesty.
It is time we rose, for we cannot withhold the pressure anymore. It is time we rose together and united for our cause. It is time to move towards Utopia, for our needs are greater than theirs. I do not promise you a journey without difficulty and hardship. I do not promise a journey without masculine eyes following us. But I promise you that the journey will be worth the wait, and the comfort that you will feel when you reach there will negate all the negativity you have ever faced.
We must move together now- vigilant as does, united as wolves and proud as tigresses. We must be ready for change and co-operate to the fullest. I am sure we will all make it there safely and back again if we must.
After all, a visit to the loo is of utmost importance, and it must be visited together as a group.   

Posted in Uncategorized

Honey

Big colourful suitcases,

Tall family,

Sitting on one bed,

One cupboard,

Smiling –

First memory.

Acne,

Big pouf,

Long hair,

Rainbow towel,

Quilt –

Roommates.

Oiled hair,

Dry hair,

Short hair,

Long hair,

Braids –

Playing with hair.

Purple laptop,

Bollywood songs,

Salman Khan,

Dell,

VLC –

Dorm Room Dancing.

White shoes,

Laces,

Green t-shirt,

Huff-Puff,

Pink cheeks –

Jogging.

Colourful paper sheets,

Paints,

White light,

Desk,

Midnight –

Story time.

Corridor,

Dorm,

Water cooler,

Running,

Cockroach – 

Jump!

Idli,

Dosa,

Rice,

Ghee,

Papad – 

Annakshetra.

Kajal,

Gloss,

Pouf,

Aarti Kurta,

Talks –

Signature Look.

Dorm,

Arms,

Long hug,

Swaying,

Tears –

Crying.

Night,

Milk,

Sandwiches,

Cold,

Granite Bench –

Break from studies.

Dormitory,

Common Room,

TV,

Oiled Hair,

Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani –

Movie Night.

Green Room,

Drying Clothes,

Newspaper,

Mirror,

Wax –

Waxing.

Aarti Kurta, 

Multi Purpose Hall, 

Diya Thali, 

Achyutam Keshavam,

Singing –

Aarti.

Exercise,

Milk,

Milk Bikis,

Crossed Legs,

Soggy Biscuits –

Mornings.

Afternoon baths,

Colours,

Earrings,

Bangles,

Dressing up –

Sunday Aartis.

Post-its,

Lists,

Names,

Landline,

‘After you’ –

Weekend calling.

Packed Room,

Common Room,

Yellow-Blue,

IPL,

Cheering – 

Mumbai Indian fans.

Green,

Kajal,

Earrings,

Hair Dryer,

Draped a sari –

Farewell.

Dubai,

Mumbai,

Honey,

Vedanti,

Bond – 

Friends.

Posted in Cultures, Uncategorized

My Skirt Celebrated My Womanhood

Women’s Day. Nice day, Women’s Day. The one day that everyone is supposed to believe in women and promote feminism (and for those of you hate that word I suggest a synonym – gender equality). The one day that everyone wants to celebrate womanhood.

When my professor asked me to take part in the women’s day celebration in college, I was curious. I was supposed to role play as Elizabeth Loftus and represent our Psychology department in the event. As amazing as Elizabeth Loftus is, I immediately agreed at the chance to even pretend to be her for a mere 5 minutes and tell non-Psychology janta about this remarkable woman. Background? She proved memory can be altered and false memories can be implanted in people because of which eyewitness testimony can be false. Saved billions of lives, she did. She’s still alive, by the way.

Anyway, I was to tell the audience a few of my experiments as if I were Loftus herself. My professor’s asked me to wear a skirt and shirt so I could portray the Western woman all the better in western wear. If you know me, I ride a bike to college (which I didn’t on this specific day, because skirt, duh) and am found in Jeans. I asked my professors if I would be allowed to enter in a skirt and they said I just had to tell the security that I was performing at the Women’s Day Program. Very well. After spending over an hour dressing (which I never do for any event) in a skirt of suitable length, I went to college in a knee length skirt, a high neck t-shirt and a full sleeve shirt to top it off. All despite the glorious heat that has made its early appearance this year.

The lectures proceeded as usual. During break time, we began to rehearse just a little bit when a troupe of (my college?) girls passed by. They looked at me like I was an alien life-form sprouting some sort of tentacles and proceeding to devour my classmates alive. I ignored them. My phone rang just then: ominous background music like the opening track to a day of horrors. My professor asked me to come down to the staff room. As my friend and I walked there I told her that I had a feeling that they would say that my skirt was in issue. And it was. Ta-da. Much surprise.

They asked me if I was carrying a spare skirt (longer one, of course) or pants that I could change into. Of course I did! I had this tiny string purse that I carried around my body which could be reached into the depths of and extracted fabrics from. I was Hermoine Granger. I was taken to the principal’s cabin so I could be granted permission to wear a skirt for the duration and purpose of celebrating Women’s Day. Before going down, I entered the washroom and pulled down (tried to) my skirt as low as possible so that my knees would be covered even when I sat down. To be very fair, my professor said I didn’t have to go out of my way to become uncomfortable in pulling the skirt down. I appreciated that. Anyway. We waited outside the principal’s cabin to seek audience with her as a peon passed me by. Please note, the skirt had been pulled down enough so as to cover my knees even as I was sitting down. And Mr Peon looked at my legs, looked at my face and looked at my legs again. But then, he didn’t really say anything offensive or cat call anything ashleel so I had no right to be offended. I stayed mum and didn’t create a scene.

As I entered the cabin, the principal looked at me like our parents look at a fridge’s exterior before buying it. My professor explained the circumstances, and the principal said, ‘Oh, that’s why she’s dressed like this’. As if I needed a reason to wear a skirt. She proceeded to say that I couldn’t wear a skirt because our college had strict rules and I was to wear pants. She even suggested I buy new pants. Well, that’s only logical I guess. It was my fault I wore a skirt to college for a Women’s Day event and it was only reasonable that I buy new jeans for a five-minute performance. We exited her office.

So angry was I that I stormed into my class, hiked up my skirt enough to show more skin than the bite your friend takes from your burger and sat on top of the table. I calmed down within 5 seconds (there has to be a 5 second rule about how fast a girl is supposed to gulp down her feelings, no?) and pulled my skirt back down to a modest level (which, according to my college, is at par with ankles).

My professors suggested that I head back home, change into the requested clothing and head back for the performance. There was still half an hour before the performance after all! I politely requested that someone else take up my role as they could read my dialogues out from a sheet I had prepared. But my professors thought I was an excellent orator and no one else could really take my place on the stage. One of them even offered to take me home on her scooty, wait till I change and then bring me back to college. I kept making excuses.

Excuse 1: My house is too far, it takes Rs 70 to Rs 80 one way and I wasn’t willing to spend Rs 200 on five minutes.

Excuse 2: It’s too hot to ride on a scooty back and forth for such a long distance.

Excuse 3: I’m too lazy to change clothes.

Excuse 4: I would prefer to go home only once and sit to study rather than shuttle back and forth.

Excuse 5: It wasn’t really fair what had happened.

But my friends and professors all requested me to take up my role because ‘I had taken so much effort for it’ and ‘I deserved it’. And a girl is supposed to give in to pressure, so I did. We found a classmate whose pants would fit me. I changed into them and went on to deliver my 5-minute performance about an intelligent woman. Once it was done, I changed back into my skirt and trudged down the stairs and out of the college all the while being either eyed head on or from the corner of people’s eyes (all genders and ages, so I guess that’s equality or something).

But it was a nice day over all. I got five roses for being a woman today.

Posted in Uncategorized

Paul

Of my two years in boarding school, he was in one. In the beginning, I would’ve described him as a pompous, narcissistic brat. And he was. An NRI from a well-to-do family with a high-end fancy DSLR camera. He probably had costly branded clothes as well, but since we were always in one or the other of our three school uniforms, clothes didn’t really matter.

I couldn’t pinpoint a certain moment where we became friends, nor could I explain how or why we became friends. I have random flashes of him strutting around with his camera in hand, trying to flirt with random (or all) girls. I remember him walking into the empty class I sat in during my free lectures. I was pretending to study while actually reading Percy Jackson on my laptop. It began with him asking me what I was doing, catching me in my pretence and then sitting next to me to do his own reading. Eventually, we started spending all our free periods together in that empty classroom. I would sit on the bench with my laptop and he would sit on the floor beside me. We would do our respective work. An occasional doubt would be asked and answered. A random fact or quote would be shared. Calculators and pens would be shared. And if he felt bored, he would find a way to annoy me. Typically, he would keep pressing the button of my laptop’s CD drives so it would pop out and I would be forced to push it back in. Only for him to do it all over again.
In the middle of calculus and Shakespeare, we swapped life stories. I learnt about the life he used to live, the life he wanted to live and the life he would probably end up living. I learned about the mistakes he had made and the mistakes he kept repeating.

I guess it’s something to do with boarding schools. Or maybe our particular one. It broke you. It brought you down. And once there was nothing left, it created a brand new you. I didn’t want to be a brand new me. Neither did he. We just wanted to be better versions of ourselves. We weren’t broken pots that needed to be remade. We were decent pots who just wanted to be painted well. And in that fight of ours with the world we were living in, we found a friendship that fuelled our resilience.

Then I left. I graduated but he still had one more year to go. When I visited school a few months later for our annual week celebrations, we spent all of two days together. It was like I’d never gone away, except that now I was allowed to visit the boy’s dorm because I was an alumnus. We spent the entire time catching up and walking around campus reliving memories. When he graduated the year after me, he came to study in Pune. And in the one year that he lived there, he visited Thane twice. Once, just to hang out, check out my house, eat my food and meet my family. The other time he came all the way over from Pune for a day and a night even though I couldn’t host him – all because that day was debatably one of the important days in my entire life. And the best or worst part of it is that he didn’t think it was a big deal. For him, he wouldn’t have done anything differently. It was an important day in my life, and I needed a friendly face who wouldn’t judge me no matter how I performed. I needed him, and he was there. No questions asked.

And that’s what makes him one of the most beautiful people I know. He’s not without faults. But he is unquestionably the best friend one could ever have. He’s not without mistakes. But he learns from them. He is my harshest critic. But he doesn’t judge me for the things I do. He always forgets to message. But I know that if I needed him, he would cross the oceans to be with me. And one day, I hope I can do the same for him.

Posted in Uncategorized

Most Memorable Birthday

Shivam and his parents had a deal. Every year at his birthday, Shivam could ask for any gift that he wanted. Shivam would to tell his parents what he wanted one month before his birthday, and they would get it for him. This year, Shivam wanted the giant Lego set that he had seen at the mall. So, on his birthday, everyone got ready to go to the mall and buy Shivam his Lego set.

In the store, just as they had picked out the Lego set and were waiting at the cashier’s, Shivam saw a small box of Lego characters. It was a limited edition collection of many different Lego people that could be mix-matched and assembled. Never in his life had Shivam wanted something so much. He knew, nonetheless, that his parents wouldn’t agree to let him have this gift as well. He had already gotten what he originally wanted.

Resigned to his fate, Shivam took his gift from the cashier and headed out. As he was leaving the store, Shivam saw Rs 500 note fallen on the ground. Quickly, Shivam picked it up and turned around to see who it belonged to. As he turned, his eyes fell on the gorgeous Lego character box that he had wanted only a while ago. His greed got the better of him. Shivam pocketed the Rs 500 note silently and walked out of the store.

Meanwhile, his parents had no clue what had happened. On their way out, Shivam told his parents that he had forgotten something inside the store and rushed back in after giving his excuse. He quickly picked up the little Lego box, took it to the cashier and stood in line for payment. 
As he stood there, he heard a little boy crying loudly. The little boy’s parents were trying to console him, but he kept crying. The cashier went over to the little boy and asked him what was wrong. The little boy told the cashier that he had saved Rs 500 over the year to be able to buy a toy today but he had lost the note. Now the little boy wouldn’t be able to buy the gift that he had saved money all year to buy.

Hearing this story, Shivam felt very guilty. He had parents who were willing to buy him anything he wanted. Moreover, he already had his birthday gift. Because of his greediness, he was about to deprive this little boy of his gift. Shivam quickly put the Lego box back on its shelf. He walked over to the crying boy, handed over the money and informed them that he had found the money fallen on the ground.

By this time, Shivam’s parents had come looking for him. They witnessed this entire incident. Not only were the little boy’s parents grateful to Shivam for saving their day, but Shivam’s parents were also proud of their son.

It was only later that Shivam told his parents the truth about the money and the little boy. His parents told Shivam that he had done the right thing by returning the money to the little boy. That evening during his birthday party, Shivam got one more gift from his parents. They gifted him the small Lego set he chose not to buy as a reward for his honesty.
Published in Balvihar, January 2017 edition