Saturday, November 24, 2007

Shhh ... koi hai

KNOCKKK ...

Huh ?? Is someone there ? Must have been a drea ... zzzz ...

KNOCKK ...

My eyes opened. I turned on the light. Looked around. No, no .. nothing. I guess I really was dreaming. I am quite tired, really. Light off.

KNOCKKKK ...

WHAT THE FUCK was that ??

One hand jumped to the light switch, the other grabbed the phone, while my spine did a dance all it's own. And to think people say I can't multitask !!

5:34 am. Shitt ... I've only slept for 4 hours, and now this crap is happening. Calm down, I tell myself. Calm down.

Two images jump into my head - one, a psycho killer waiting with a big ass knife inside the cupboard, toying with me right now ... ready to spring out at any moment. The second - one of those highly creepy deformed faces with a tiny body and big nails - sitting in my laundry basket.

I leave the light on and scamper across the bed to the table in my room, where I grab the crazy heavy metallic statue and hold it ready. Come on, bitch ... I growl at the closet .. I'm not going down without a fight.

Silence.

Perhaps it's someone outside the house, I try to convince myself. Shall I wake the flatmate up ? No, no point. Not yet.

I'm too scared to go back to sleep. I place the statue next to my pillow, and start reading Asimov once more. Please God ... don't let my room be haunted.

Tick tock tick tock ... silence. I'm through two stories.

KNOCKKKK ...

Fuck fuck fuckkity fuck. I realize what it means to jump with fear. I'm getting out of here. I grab the statue and my phone, and leap out of bed. Suddenly (and perhaps foolishly), I decide to fight. I kick the closet. No response. Slowly, I slide one of the doors open, ready to attack.

Nothing. I peek in - no psycho, no evil dwarf. A little disappointing, actually.

What the hell is making this sound, I ask myself. Is it the neighbors above ? Highly doubtful. But it isn't my imagination - it's definitely there.

Bloody hell. It is a ghost. I'm convinced.

I leave the closet door open, turn on all the lights in my room, open the door and turn on the light in the hall. I'm getting ready to be possessed by Edison's ghost, perhaps.

I get back into bed. Continue to read. Damn it's hot in here, I realize. I go out and turn off the central heating. And it hits me.

You stupid fool ... those loud knocks was the wood of the closet creaking. It's not a totally convincing argument, considering I've heard wood creak before, and it's never as loud as what I heard; but that's the only one I can think of which will not make me wake up the flatmate; and risk him killing me before anything else does. I leave the room door open to normalize the temperature. I decide to discuss it with the flatmate once he's up.

It's been 2 hours. There are no more knocks. I'm not sleepy. I'm also not scared any more.

The statue is right next to me, just in case.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

All for love

Are you sure, Ms. Ro...
Yes, doctor. Please, let's get started.

She sat on seat 4A, looking out the window, her eyes taking in the countryside as the train sped ahead, but her mind was still two days in the past, when she had attended his funeral. There weren't too many people present - just her, his friend David, their landlady, and his supervisor. His parents couldn't make it - his dad had been hospitalized the moment he had heard the news.

She remembered him telling her how his family had lost his sister, Annabelle, many years ago; and how did father's health had taken a toll for the worse ever since. And here she was, on her way to hand over the last of his possessions to them ... well, she had kept a few things back - stuff that would remind her of the two wonderful years they had spent together.

She was apprehensive, of course, since she had neither met nor spoken to his folks ... but she knew this was something she had to do, however awkward it might feel. He always said he spoke about her every time he telephoned his parents, and they had always been eager to meet her. If only it could have been under more pleasant circumstances.

The train chugged along, and she remembered the trip the two of them had once taken. To the Swiss Alps. Where they had made love in their private train compartment. And she had woken up to find him smiling at her, and he had handed her a Polaroid picture he had taken a few moments before - his face next to hers, under which he had scribbled "Sam and Adam" and made a tiny little heart. That was one of the reasons she had fallen for him, and loved him so much. He seemed to understand her better than any other man ever had - both inside and outside the bedroom. Somehow, he just knew the things that would make her happy - however small they might be.

The slowing down on the train brought her back to the present. She had arrived. She steeled herself, and took a cab to his house. Thankfully, David had called ahead and let them know of her arrival.

"Yes?", said the lady from behind the screen door, and she immediately knew she was at the right place - she could almost see Adam in that face.

"Hello, I'm Sam," she said, trying to make her voice sound as friendly as possible.

The old lady seemed confused.

"Sam? You're Sam?”

"Yes," she replied, "it's actually short for Samantha. David must have called you."

A sudden shadow passed over the lady's face. She opened the door and stepped out.

"I think there is something you need to know. I had two children. One died more than ten years ago ... taken away from us sooner than was right. The other left us almost three years ago. The only time I ever heard my child was safe was when I received a letter from David, whom our family has known much before he became the surgeon he is today. He was also the one who took care of all the formalities related to the death."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand."

The old lady shuffled off inside, and returned with a piece of paper, which she handed over.

She took it, and her eyes managed to run over the lines even as her vision started to become blurry.

This certifies the time of death of Adam Robinson to be 11:43 pm. Cause of death - kidney failure. Surviving relatives - Alex Robinson (father), Dora Robinson (mother), and Annabelle Robinson (sister).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

We're meant to be

The judge walked into the courtroom.

All rise, boomed a baritone, and I felt myself do so. Mr. Zibaldini, my lawyer, cleared his throat. I heard someone sniff behind me, and felt good knowing that she was near.

I remember the first time I saw her. We were returning from a cocktail party, and I had bumped into her in the doorway. Somehow, at that very moment, I knew that things would change. I had been married for six years, and apart from the small fights that are a part of every household, I was happy - happy to have married my high school sweetheart, happy with the intimacy we shared, and happy with both my kids. My kids, who I'm glad are not present here today.

This is case number twenty-sixty-six, said a voice, Robbins versus Stempler.

I honestly do not recall how or when I met her next, but I know that I had to continue to see her. Perhaps I ran into her at another party, or maybe at the gas station - all I knew was that she aroused in me feelings I had never felt before. Both she and I understood that we would never be able to be together - I loved my family too much. And yet, every time I would leave her apartment after having spent the night, I felt guilty - not at the thought of having lied to people I knew were awaiting my arrival at home, but because I did not know when would I be able to wake up next to her again.

Strangely, the divorce did not hurt as much as I thought it would. I tried to analyze the reasons that made my marriage fail, but I guess it is too early to do so. Frankly, I knew all along how this would end. Well, end for my family, because she and I are still together, hoping to start a new life. Two years of deceit later, here now I sit, waiting to fight it out to be the primary guardian of my kids, whom, contrary to what anyone might say, I still love with all my heart.

Are you the mother of Zac - age 5, and Tiara - age 3, the judge asks.

I am, I reply.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Thoughts in the shower III

One two ... cha cha cha
Let's do ... cha cha cha
Me and you ... cha cha cha
Ooooooooooooo ....

- I wonder if Usha Uthup sang this as a signal for women to have sex with Nehru ?!?

- The mirror is such a strange thing - on different days it can make you feel absolutely great, and totally miserable about yourself !!

- If I had tusks instead of my dracula canine teeth, I could easily pass for a walrus!!

- Wait ... what ? Friday ? What the hell ? Abhi toh Monday thha !! Where is my life going ?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I feel it in my fingers

The flatmate has been back five times in the last five years. My number is two. What I never understood about him was the excitement that used to take him over a couple of months before each trip. It was almost like that was pretty much the only thing he could think about - it was genuine happiness. Now while I love my family and friends and country as much as the next guy, and have always been enthusiastic to go back (the first time was my first trip back after having been saat samundar paar - hence the enthu; and the second time was T and S's wedding - so naturally I was super excited, though I don't see why - seeing as neither of them was getting married to me ... though, as T's sis - Ka, sneakily remarked when I was sitting next to him in the shaadi ka mandap during some ceremony - "this could just as well be"!!!), it's never been the same as the flatmate.

Until now.

I'm not even going to get into how time has flown and all that, but it has been two and a half years since I've been back; which is the longest that I have ever been away from home; and I've finally understood what the expression - "to feel it in your bones" - means. My want to go back is no longer an emotional or psychological desire - it's an actual physical need. No, this does not mean I have some strange disease that needs to be treated in India. What it means is that the yearning to be back in India is so strong that I actually feel if I don't get there soon, I'm going to fall sick or something. A tad dramatic, agreed - but it really is difficult to put into words. This is the first time I feel I would not want to come back, the first time I'm afraid I'm actually going to cry at the airport - both when I land and when I'm taking off. Even as I type this out, it already seems a bit strange to me ... and yet I know this trip back is going to be both the happiest, and the toughest, ever.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Stuff I'm looking forward to I

- Spinach baked that mom makes
- T and S coming to Delhi
- Piks coming to Delhi as well
- The daal pakoras at Lajpat Nagar
- Spending sis's money on my clothes
- Crowds
- K's wedding
- Meeting AJ
- Christmas party at T's place (I better be called .. well, I'm going even if I'm not)
- Drinks with B
- The Delhi winter (for some reason, the song "dilli ki sardi" just popped into my head)
- Riding the metro
- Autos
- The clawwny aunties saying "Beta, have a roti" :)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Umm .. they are the future ?

Kids, by and large, are an extremely fidgety lot. But something happens to them as soon as they enter a holy place. Perhaps it has to do with the inherent evil that resides in their innocent little faces. Think I'm over-reacting ? Remember Damien in Omen, when the car is going past the church? I rest my case.

The reason I am making this astute observation is because I was at the mandir yesterday, where there was a puja and stuff on account of Diwali, and so the married strata of the desi society here had brought themselves (and their chintus and pinkis) to the temple. As a result, there were far more kids than usual, and each and every one of them was losing it - I don't know whether it was the smell of the agarbattis and camphor, the chanting, the other kids, the sugar in the diwali mithais, or the wide open space (or, as I mentioned earlier, Beelzebub’s influence) - but every damn whelp there was causing some sort of mayhem. Allow me to elaborate ...

(Since I am a geeky engineer and like to make random lists to kill time, I shall divide the hooligans into categories. What fun!!)

Set 1 - Kids who loooove to stare at people, for no apparent reason. The persons in question certainly do not have horns coming out of their heads, or a tail from their posterior, or have hooves for feet, or all three (in which case, I am certain, all the children would probably fall to their knees in reverence); but these urchins stare at you like they've never seen a normal human being before. And it isn't a cursory glance .. it's a full blown I-will-stare-till-you-make-a-face-in-my-direction-when-my-folks-arent-looking kind of look, at which time they burst into tears as soon as you comply. These kids need to have a sack over their heads.

Set 2 - The kinds who will probably grow up to be druggies, as is apparent from the way they are hogging on the sugar. It isn’t even in the form of a chocolate or something ... it's pure sugar!!! And they're having mouthfuls of it ... the only way it could get into their system faster was if they were to snort the damn thing, naturally, after making a coke line out of it. I think Pete Doherty is an inspiration to these burdens on society. And as you may have guessed, all that sugar leads to them playing hide and seek with no one in particular - they basically start running around the legs of all the people present, probably trying to get away from that colorful monster that’s chasing them and only them. Fire department water hose for them, is what I say.

Set 3 - Aaah, here come the Nadia Comanecis of tomorrow. These agile little darlings love to show off their cart wheeling skills, not realizing that they're landing straight into the laps of people who are trying to pray. Can you imagine - you've got your eyes closed, asking God for a Sony Wii, and suddenly you feel something heavy land into your lap ... you open your eyes, hoping to make the evening news with the information that miracles do indeed happen, and instead are horrified by some child giggling away like the little fool that he is, about to scamper off to re-perform his award winning jump (perfect 10s, really); while you barely have time to deflect his legs away from your prized possessions. Ugh ... where is the rope ?

Set 4 - These kids are either starved for toys, or have rather stiff dolls, since they assume the murtis in the temple are their play things. Of course, this leads to them trying to climb onto the marble pedestals, while the pujari rushes forward to stop the vibhuti from flying all over the place (which, by the way, you may have been hoping to get), right after it's been kicked by the scamps, but alas, by then it is far too late. What ensues is the pujari throwing a highly ungodly look at the child, whipping him or her off the murti and trying to shoo it away. Needless to say, he is highly unsuccessful, because, let's face it, what can a single guy do against a whole set of marauding morons?

Set 5 - These, actually, are not kids at all; but parents who think that their mistakes should be allowed to bug one and all just so that they can get away from the whiners for a little bit. Well, excuse me, but is you were too cheap to buy a condom that works, it's only fair that you suffer. What really gets my goat is that these Britney-ish parents don’t even care to discipline their child. They just let them run amok, to make everyone else’s life a living hell as well (even if it is for those few minutes while you're actually inside the temple). They really need some parenting lessons. I think I see a lucrative business here, where-by cool singletons can buy gift certificates to give to these irresponsible parents, as a Diwali gift !!

Of course I love kids. Doesn't everyone ? Why do you ask ?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

They're in season now

It wasn't that I didn't remember her, it was that I did. She had an unremarkable face, and had I not noticed her biting down into a strawberry, my eyes would probably have looked right through her; as most of our eyes are wont to do. But there was something about that mouth that brought back a flood of memories, from a time twelve years ago that I thought I had managed to suppress.

I tried to look away, but all I could do was stare at her across the restaurant, transported back to that cruise I had taken, on which I had met a a small group of doctors, all looking to have a good time. And a good time we certainly did have, until we all went to explore an island; and the three of us - she, her male companion, and I; got lost in the jungle. For almost a year after we were rescued, I would try and re-create the scene to figure out how we could have wandered off so far that even a weeks worth of searching (or so the others told us) had yielded no results; at which time we were assumed dead and the ship had sailed away. But it was useless to think of that ... for I knew that all those other thoughts were tied into this one, and so I had stopped.

She bit down no another strawberry, and something her friend said made her laugh. How strange it was, that that laughing face would not have reminded me of her, but those lips did. Why, I asked myself, and then tried with all my will not to answer.

After two weeks of living on whatever rain water we could gather, we had all but given up hope. The island, though lush, had refused to give us any food. Death was near, and there was no way we could out run it. I still remember, it was early in the morning that I felt those drops falling on me, and I managed to open my eyes, and ...

I noticed her pick up another piece and bite down on it. It must have been quite juicy, because I saw her lick her lips.

... I saw her lick her lips. She looked energized, her eyes sparkled, and she held out her hand and offered me a piece. Perhaps I was too slow to respond, but she raised her hand to her mouth, and bit down. I managed to turn my head some more, and saw her tearing open his lifeless body.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Chaii-yaa, chaii-yaaa, kaaa-pi

I've traveled by train - a lot. All classes. As kids, daddy dearest would take us out for a vacation every summer and winter, but we usually flew. Most of my train travel happened when I was in college for four years, and was returning back home every month - yes, that's correct, apart from April and May, when we had exams, I was at home every single month - so much so that the first time I did not return for some sixty days or so, Piks sent me a message that read "You have not been back for two months. My mom thinks you are dead. Is that true?"

So as you might gather, I am a seasoned traveler. I've done the whole bit - got in without a ticket and got caught (which actually worked out great, coz Pops (not dad, the other Pops) and I were taken to the head TCs compartment (AC, two tier) and spent the time from Chandrapur to Nagpur (roughly 3 hours) discussing random stuff with him, of course, after telling him how we didn’t have the time to buy the ticket since the train was leaving, and we're so looking forward to seeing our families whom we haven’t seen in ages (yeah, we lied - oh stop judging us), at which time we were let go with a warning of "phir se mat karnaa blah blah pedantic speech chatter chatter"), sat with hijras and discussed random hindi movie stuff, tasted every flavor of Top Ramen there is, been stuck at stations that were quite literally one horse (well, one-goat) towns for hours at end, fallen in love with the vada pao and chai at stations, sat on the train steps and seen the dark shadows of the countryside go by, stood on the steps and felt the air on my face, along with that occasional spurt of water that you fervently hope is not from the loo, grimaced at the afore-mentioned loo, woken up to the sweet sweet sound of someone loudly and continuously ejecting phlegm from their throat, roamed the various bogies looking for that one "hot babe", and waited ... and waited ... and waited some more for trains that eventually showed up four score and twenty years (ok, slight exaggeration there) later.

And between all of this, the one thing that has remain unchanged is that voice - the voice I have heard without exception on each and every one of my journeys - the lady on the speaker system informing people about how some train has either been delayed (resulting in a collective groan from the people on the platforms), or cancelled (resulting in a collective groan from the people on the platforms, followed by them sitting their asses down with a big thump), or decided to change platforms (resulting in a collective groan from the people on the platforms, moving their thump-ed asses and running helter skelter to get to the damn train before it leaves); and each and every single time, her voice has held the deepest conviction when she says ... "The inconvenience caused is deeeeeeeply regretted" ... and I have always wondered ... if it is in fact a cause of such profound regret, why then have I heard her so often ?