You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.

Lights are shutting out in the way of darkness

Ways are moving away from the land marks

Why you pointed out me?

The distances are not closer either

Wave length always move in the breeze

Why do you follow me?

Climbing all the way for the hill side

Sticking all around for a shelter

Why did you scream all around the snow?

Making all dough for the late night

Heating up all the woods in between

Where did you go without saying?

I searched you all around with fire

But none saw your face I noticed

Who were you?

Today is winter, another change in season

But after all seasons I didn’t see you

I expect a following, a screaming

But now it is time to sit quiet,

For me to believe that you were my kid

Once I was forced to destroy and run back

Miles and miles.

 

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The story of the first story that I have written,

I remember that once upon a time, when I was child, I thought about writing a story. Why? I don’t know. All what I remember is I wrote a story and it was about a very nice little boy and a very beautiful little girl. They loved each other very much, a love that only children know.  I was very happy about this love story, but I was very ashamed to an extent that I have hid the story from anybody that I would know.

However, one day, I found the story with my dad. I don’t know how did he found out, but what is important he was very angry when he read the story. He hit me once or twice, but not more than that. Then he left angry. Why? I still don’t know. At that time, I was very upset and torn the story into small pieces so no one will read the story. I threw the story in the street and forgot about it.

One hour ago, I found the first short story that my little son has written. I have read it, and then threw it on his face. I bit my son once or twice, but not more. I said to myself “little boy loves little girl? It is very disrespectful” and then I left very angry.

I expected that my son will throw the small pieces of his story in the street and will be very…very upset. Then he will forget the love.                   
 
 
 

I felt my heart go out to her as I hugged Rhea in a tight bear-hug. This young girl in my arms had gone through a lot of problems in the last few days. And no eighteen year old deserved what she was going through. Not even the meanest, most evil person deserved this. And as I desperately tried to comfort her and get her to stop crying, I discovered that I too had begun to cry. And I knew it was useless to convince her to stop crying while tears slowly trickled down my cheeks. I let them flow. I empathised with her. I hurt for her and with her. I just stood there hugging her and cried. There we were, two people – a young woman afraid of life and an older one, bitter with it.

Rhea Kher and her widowed mother had been my neighbours from the time I could remember. We lived in the same wing of the apartment complex in our not so healthy town. Rhea’s father had passed away when she was a baby and her mother never remarried. She said it wouldn’t be fair to her dead husband if she did. No coaxing and threatening from her family would change her mind. And when she could not afford the posh villa they used to live in when they were a complete family, she moved with her baby girl into our apartment complex. Rhea was a toddler of two when they moved to our town. My parents took an immediate liking to this mother and child. And my mom was extremely fond of this little girl – maybe because she realised it was time that I had a sibling and she couldn’t naturally have one after me. Because I destroyed her uterus when I entered into the world and I was always doomed or maybe blessed to be an only child. My mom was so very fond of Rhea that she was like a surrogate daughter to us. And considering the fact I was quite bored being the only child, having no one to play with, I took to Rhea equally well. We had an age gap of seven years. But that did nothing to limit the fun we used to have as kids. Those were the good times. When we were both innocent and undoubting. Then time moved on. We grew up. I wonder where the childhood and innocence disappeared.

After I finished my school, I went to university to pursue my architecture dreams. Rhea continued being the topper in all her school classes. She wanted to become a doctor. It was not the kind of passion children have after their parents force them to do stuff and pursue a particular profession, the most sought after being Engineering and MBBS. Rhea’s mother was one of the kindest and most unassuming people one ever met. She never believed in running after everything the society was after. In fact, she cared nothing about what society demanded of her and her daughter. But we did. Our family of three always was around to take care of Rhea and her mother. When she lost her job, my father found her an equally good job at his firm. My parents offered to pay for Rhea’s school and other expenses. But her mother would have nothing of that sort. She worked very hard to bring her up. Rhea knew it and she worked equally hard to keep her mother happy and do her dead father proud. Even though Rhea or her mother wouldn’t accept any of our monetary help, we helped them in every other way. For shouting out loud, she was like my sister. Correction, in ways more than one, she was my sister.

My father passed away when I was in my 2nd year of college. My super-man was gone. The one person who had my back no matter what, was no more. I was shattered. No, shattered was an understatement. I was beyond shattered. My dad had a heart attack and he died on the way to the hospital. I had spoken to him just one hour before his stroke and I couldn’t believe he was there one moment and gone the next. My mother was in shock and she could not do any of the things that had to be done after the head of the family passed to the world beyond the grave. She couldn’t offer the help and comfort that I much needed. Hold on, she couldn’t comfort herself, then how me? Rhea’s mother was our strong pillar then. Since she had gone through the whole cycle herself, she knew what all had to be done. She helped in obtaining the death certificates and the completed the formalities for a decent burial. She comforted us and co-ordinated the help our relatives offered. And after the procedures were complete and the mourning over, she was more than happy to help in any way that we wanted. My maternal uncles insisted that my mother and I move to our ancestral family. After much thinking and planning, my mother consented. She moved back to her home town. I went back to college and entered a life of rebellion. Life was not fair. My father who was at the peak of his health just was not supposed to die. Now, there was no-one to give me away at the altar. Nobody would walk the aisle with me. I couldn’t go on those long rides with him and hum the old songs of Mohammed Rafi and Jagjeet Singh while he sang in his rich baritone voice. I couldn’t pick fights with him anymore over who would have the last slice of pizza. I could no longer complain about the world to him. I couldn’t goof around at home with him and laugh at the silly Mallu jokes. True, I was close to my mom, but I was always a Daddy’s girl. And now, he was gone. He had no right to leave me and my mom alone and go away all by himself. But he did. There was a Dad-shaped void inside of me and I desperately tried to fill it with all the wrong people. I was into wrong relationships one after the other and each break-up left me drained out and weaker than before. I was a wreck and I knew it. Then Rhea did what she does best. She was just there for me, as my saving grace.

After my mother moved back home and I went off to college, there was no reason for us to go back to our old apartment. In fact, we chose not to go there because it reminded us very much of dad and the happy times spent there. It was just too painful beyond words. But Rhea and her mother made it a point that we got together at least once a month. They would come over to our new home in the village and spend a weekend there. We looked forward to these visits and it went a long way in helping us in our long journey of healing. And Rhea, who was thirteen at the time acted in ways which were so mature for her age. In ways more than I could ever say, they were our strong helping hands. And it wouldn’t do Rhea enough justice if I didn’t say that she was my saviour. I went on long monologues about my horrible choices when it came to picking a boyfriend and how very often I ended up with my heart broken into million pieces and my trust and faith in men shattered. Rhea listened. Always. And she had such sound advise that I often wondered that she had the brain and mind of a wise guru in her. After realising that I was looking for happiness in all the wrong people, I knew it was time to call for a time out. I had to be single. It was just too bothersome being in a relationship. And I was slowly and earnestly beginning to believe that I was cursed and jinxed when it came to men. Starting with my dad who left when I still needed him, to my male teachers and long string of boyfriends, I knew I wasn’t meant for any kind of meaningful relationships. And it was high time I faced the fact and stayed aloof. Aloof, but not alone. Rhea was there. As a sister, as a friend, as a sensible voice, as my pillow and strong pillar. My Rhea.

Years moved on. I finished my course and went off to America to do my Master’s. I went back to my earlier ways of being the worst judge when it came to searching for my soul mate. I thought I found my Mr. Right but he was wrong for me on multiple levels. We dated for a year and got secretly married in America. I did not inform my mom or anyone else except Rhea. By now, I had become so very estranged from my mother with all my rash decisions, the latest being my decision to study abroad. And there was no way on earth she would agree to my latest man and even my marriage. And I did what I had to do. I married him in a civil ceremony. Did I tell you that I stopped being a Christian by then? I had. I stopped praying after my dad died. I did not think praying made any difference. I did not have anything worth praying about, except maybe Rhea.

Then the story of my life repeated itself. My husband of 5 months divorced me after I finished my course. And about time too, I had enough of that foreign land. I just wanted to come home. True, I was being a coward who was running away from her problems, but then again, who really cared? America did nothing good for me, except maybe give me a degree. By the time I got back to India, I was worse than a wreck. I was a shadow of my former self. I had lost nearly 12 kgs and my virginity and the little bit of self respect that I had. In ways more than one, I was beyond repair. My mom gave up worrying over me and resigned herself to the fact that I was always going to be a prodigal daughter. My rebellion just added to her love for Rhea and I did not complain. I had accepted her as my very own sister the first day I set my eyes on that little girl and I loved her to bits. So when Rhea graduated high school in flying colours and announced that she wanted to go to Medical School, my mom was more than happy to give her my dad’s savings for her educational expenses.

Rhea continued to be my best friend and saviour. But when she started college, she needed my help in lots of areas. When it came to inhuman sessions of ragging or issues with her teachers, she always turned to me for advice. And the fact that my words of advice seemed to help her was a surprise even to me. Things seemed to go smoothly until the incident. The incident that changed Rhea’s world for good. And mine too, to a degree.

The primary reason Rhea chose to take up Medicine as a career was her way of getting back at fate for losing her dad at such a small age. Her father had been admitted in the hospital with lung infection. And before doctors could correctly diagnose the disease and begin the treatment, he bid farewell to Rhea, her mother and this world. Rhea’s mother had always believed that he died because of the inefficiency of doctors and Rhea who was too small at the time to know the true reason believed what her mother told her and from time immemorial, she wanted to be a doctor. And an efficient one at that. Because of her staunch passion, when she had problems in her hostel with seniors and other issues, she did not inform us in the beginning for the fear of worrying us too much. But there was a limit to how much an eighteen year old could handle. She broke down and called me one day. She asked me to come to her hostel immediately. And I, who had no inclination of the degree of her trouble, went as soon as I got the call. She had  specifically asked me  not to inform our mothers. I did not. After all, we were each other’s secret keepers.

I could not almost recognise the girl who greeted me at the visitor’s lobby of the college hostel. Rhea had lost so much weight and her eyes were red and puffy. She looked tired and it was kind of obvious that she had been crying the entire night. Well, I should know, I had enough and more experience wetting my pillow at night with my tears. When she saw me, she rushed to me and hugged me tight and started crying loudly. She was trying to tell me a lot of things but I could not understand any of it because of her crying. I tried my best to calm her down and after multiple attempts, her crying was slower, even though it did not come to a complete stop. I could see that my poor baby girl was suffering and I just wanted to protect her. I took her to the garden outside her hostel and we sat on a stone bench and I asked her to tell me what had happened and why she was so shattered. And the reality of what she said scared me to a degree I had never known before…

Rhea was in the college hostel and she had two roommates. One of them was not a bright student and had gotten a medical seat just through donations and by paying huge amounts of money to the college management. The only way she found to make sure she passed in her exam papers was to sleep with her male lecturers. I was taken aback when Rhea told me this. Because in all my years of messed up living, I had never seen or heard of anything like this. But apparently, it was common practise in her college and the lecturers and professors demanded the girl students of sexual favours. The girls who were concerned about their grades complied unwillingly and the others did it, for the sheer bragging rights. I had trouble digesting that Rhea was talking about a college in India. I asked whether she was faced with any such requests from teachers. She said she was. And when she refused, they failed her in her first term exams. She had not told us any of this and my disgust was slowly giving way to anger. She went on to say that when she refused even after failing in her exams, one of her Sirs with help from her roommates did something to get her to comply. Her roommate left her mobile in the video mode in the room when Rhea was changing her clothes. This went on for a few days. They got videos of my baby girl naked without her knowledge. And the girl handed it over to the lecturer. They made a full length video out of it and started circulating it among themselves and in the boy’s dorm. Rhea still had no idea this was happening. But the day before she called me to her hostel, she accidently stumbled upon this video in one of her class mate’s phone. She confronted him and the story came tumbling out. Rhea was scared and heartbroken at the same time. She asked her other classmates and some of them even had the audacity to say that there was nobody in the hostel who hadn’t seen her in her birthday suit. Rhea couldn’t not take it any longer. She wanted me to take her back. She could not study in that college any more. There was no respect for her there. Someone had told her that her video was now circulating on the internet too. She just wanted to run away from that wretched place. And she wanted me to take her away.

I felt my heart go out to her as I hugged Rhea in a tight bear-hug. This young girl in my arms had gone through a lot of problems in the last few days. And no eighteen year old deserved what she was going through. Not even the meanest, most evil person deserved this. And as I desperately tried to comfort her and get her to stop crying, I discovered that I too had begun to cry. And I knew it was useless to convince her to stop crying while tears slowly trickled down my cheeks. I let them flow. I empathised with her. I hurt for her and with her. I just sat there hugging her and cried. There we were, two people – a young woman afraid of life and an older one, bitter with it.

I felt hurt and bitter and very angry. My Rhea did nothing to go through this. I did not know what had to be done. I was still too young to take such a major decision, more so since it could affect Rhea. I did not want to make any mistake when it came to her. I convinced her that I needed time to think it over. However, I took her home with me. I knew she wouldn’t last in that hell for another night. On our 2 hour journey back home, Rhea was silent in the car. I desperately tried to get her to say something unrelated to her ordeal and failed at many attempts at getting her to laugh at my pathetic jokes. After a while I gave up, I drove home in silence. But even without my knowledge, I found myself praying to the one above for Rhea and to comfort her. There was only so much I could do to help her. The rest, only God could do. I prayed earnestly after nearly 4 years. And tears streamed down my face and I wiped them away furiously before Rhea could see them. But I did not have to worry, she was starring at the outside sights with a blank stare. I took her to my house and phoned Rhea’s mother from home. The four of us had a good cry. I was bitter at whoever did this to my baby girl. The lecturers, her room mates, the people who enjoyed watching her naked in the video. And when I thought of the fact that these were the people who were going to come out as doctors after a few years, my heart sank into my stomach and I felt I had to throw up. It was just too disgusting for words. It really was.

After hours of crying together and talking about it, we decided that Rhea should quit med school. True, it was her dream, but there were higher things at stake here. We did not want her degree; we wanted our Rhea safe and sound. And we could not let anything hurt her. Rhea, who was too tired after all the drama said she wanted to go to bed and retired to her room,. We were concerned for her. My mom, who always had wild imagination feared Rhea would do something stupid at night. She wanted me to sleep in her room. So I did. We talked all through the night. Our roles were reversed now. For the first time in my life of 25 years, I was expected to be Rhea’s saviour. I do not know whether I did a good job at it. Frankly, I do not think so. Neither of us wanted to talk about the big problem at hand. We spoke of random things. Childhood memories, teenage crushes, our mothers, our dead fathers. Then we did something that we ought to have done in the very beginning. We knelt down by her bedside, held hands and prayed. It was heart breaking to see Rhea crying her heart out to the Lord. And watching her, something broke inside of me. All the bitterness that I had in my heart ever since my father passed away seemed to rush at me all at once. My heart kept getting heavy and I joined Rhea in crying to the Lord. It went on for some time and then after a lot of crying, I felt so light. There was some kind of a relief which I could not explain. I did not know when I had fallen off to sleep but when I woke up in the morning, Rhea was all smiles.

“Guess who called in the morning?” she asked with big grin.

“Who?” I was still sleepy.

“ABRAHAM?!!!” She said and smiled wider.

“What?? Why did he call?” Abraham was my ex-husband-of-5 months.

“Why don’t you find out? He is in India. This is his number. Call him. NOW”

I did. Abe wanted to get back with me. It seems he had missed me too much and wanted me back in his life. He wanted a new beginning and couldn’t imagine anyone else to share his life with. He wanted me to move back to America with him.

I was not sure whether I wanted to go back to him. True, in the depths of my heart, I still loved him, but was it that simple? I wondered. My mother wanted me to go back to him. As far as she was concerned, it was better to have a living, breathing husband than stay at home divorced. Well, you couldn’t blame her; the questions from relatives were sharp enough to drive anyone insane. She was sick and tired of answering them on my behalf. Rhea was the happiest for me. For the first time, something seemed to go right in my life and she said it was about time. But I did not feel completely at ease about going back to US. Mainly because I did not want to leave Rhea behind. She needed me and I knew it. But Rhea surprised me and all of us when she announced that she was going to go back to the same college. She said it was useless trying to run away from her problems. She said she knew it was going to be very tough sitting in the same class with her classmates sharing videos of her nudity. But she insisted saying that this is what her father would have wanted. She had always been a strong woman and this I felt was the pinnacle of her strength.

Things moved fast after that. After spending two more days at home, Rhea left for college. She got a single room in her hostel and turned deaf ears to the demeaning comments and taunting of her classmates. I moved back to America and remarried Abraham – this time in a proper Christian manner. I asked my mom to come and stay with us and she did. I landed a good job at a prestigious architecture firm. I became pregnant after a year and when I held my baby daughter for the first time, I did not have to think twice what to name her. She was going to be named after the one person whom I cherished as my own, Rhea.

After struggling her way through medical school, she graduated with honours (no surprises there) and after completing her internship at a prestigious hospital, she got a lucrative job offer from the same hospital. But then with the same ease with which she told us she was going back to college all those years ago, she declined the offer. She then joined a non profit organisation called “Aditi” which works exclusively among rape victims and women with AIDS. Her explanation to the whole thing was that her first year in college had taught her how demeaning and emotionally scarring society’s shunning and taunting can be. Even though Rhea’s mother was not too happy about this career diversion of hers, she said nothing. Rhea had always been a smart kid and she knew she would not mess up now. They moved from the city that had brought us together to a small house near the slums. We keep in constant touch with each other. Rhea met a young social worker and they are getting married in June. I couldn’t have been happier for her. Now, when I look outside my window at my snow-covered lawn, I can see Rhea in my mind’s eye. Doing what she does best. Being somebody’s saviour.

I was reminded of  Mother’s Day through Facebook when someone posted a “Happy Mothers’ Day” message.   I was a tad confused about the date, since I don’t remember registering March 21 as Mother’s day anywhere in my memory chip!   When I “googled” it, I understood that Mother’s Day is observed and celebrated on different dates in different countries!

Never mind,  my personal opinion on this is not to confine Mother’s Day to only one single day in a year, but to dedicate and celebrate Mothers’ Day,  throughout the year.  Because, Mothers are special.

Today, on this Mothers’ Day,  let me dedicate this blog post to my late mother (Mummy);  my Amma (my mother’s elder sister who brought me up with love and affection); to my mother-in-law (who takes care of me like her own son);  to Bindu (my wife; and mother of two children) ; and to all mothers I know and do not know.

My Mummy, Late P. Sarada Amma

My Amma, Smt. Padmavathi Amma

My Mother-in-law, Smt. Indira Panicker

My wife, Bindu with Govind & Gayathri 

On this context, it would be cruel and criminal, if I fail to mention about my loving mother-in-law, who, inspite of her illness,  took strain  to help me as a by-stander during my hospitalization, in June, 2007.   Those days have really taught me more and more about  a mother’s love, affection and caring.  Having said that, let me once again thank each and every one who prayed for my health, visited me in hospital, donated me ample courage and boosted my confidence.   I salute you, THANK YOU!

A True Story – in 20 points!

Annamma, an elderly mother, at last,  forced herself to come out of her shell and appear before a Human Rights’ Committee.  Since the below is not a story, but some facts, I would like to present it to you in  a different way, through some bulleted points:-

  1. Annamma was born to a well-to-do parents nearly sixty years back.
  2. Annamma was given proper education, eventhough she was not much interested in her studies.
  3. Having not much hopes on her academic career, her parents got her married to a similar well-to-do bridegroom.
  4. Annamma spent time on household chores and doing some kitchen-farming.
  5. Soon after, the happy-go-lucky couple were blessed with a baby boy,  Chacko.
  6. Chacko was given extra care, love and affection by both his parents.
  7. When Chacko was eight, Annamma lost her husband, due to some illness.
  8. Annamma struggled to bring up her son.  She did household work for other people for her livelihood.
  9. In no time, Annamma, the once-rich-lady became a servant to many!
  10. But, she did not compromise on Chacko’s schooling. She worked more harder to pay her son’s school fees on time.
  11. Chacko studied well, passed out from his school, got admission in a reputed college and cleared his graduation with   good marks.
  12. Chacko got a decent job, through recommendation by one of Annamma’s masters, where she did household work.
  13. Chacko, an employee then, due to his prestige issues told Annamma to stop working for others as maid servant.
  14. Sitting idle at home made Annama a sick lady.
  15. She got much worried on her health and hastily did the partition-deed, transferring all her wealth (including land, cash etc.) to her only son.
  16. Within a couple of years, Chacko married Mary, daughter of a local businessman.
  17. Immediately, the very next day, Chacko,  under the influence of Mary and her father, started arguments with Annamma regarding the house and the land they had.
  18. Chacko insisted Annamma to vacate the house as the house legally belonged to him!!  Annamma could not believe what was happening to her.
  19. On the fourth day of his marriage, Chacko who came home fully drunk, started to beat up his mother, after  arguing on the house and ‘his’ land.  In no time, he kicked her, breaking her leg! THANK YOU, DEAR SON !
  20. With no hopes left, Annamma left “her home” empty-handed and and took refuge in an empty cowshed near her house.

On this Mothers’ Day, let us stand united to support and return the due love to our Mothers.  Let us dedicate a special day of ours (our birthdays, children’s birthdays, wedding anniversaries, parents’ birthdays) with these less-fortunate mothers.

Thankfully,  I could really celebrate my father’s birthday with some mothers in September 2005 – a celebration which I will never forget.

On this wonderful Mother’s Day, myself on behalf of my family members salute and respect  all the Mothers!

Amma, this flying kiss is for you.

With lots of  love,

Renjith,  your son.

Moving On (30 minute writing exercise with an image of an old bench and a writing prompt indicating that two friends met here everyday).

 

I could not help myself. I needed another coffee to get started even though I told myself countless times that I was wasting my money and could better spend the money elsewhere. I was saving for something very special that was as shallow as get my morning Starbucks. I justified saving for my dream purchases by saying to myself that I was not like any other woman. I don’t always want everything. I only want some things. There is a difference I thought. My friend, whom I met earlier this year at my children’s school agreed with me although she was not partial to my dream purchase. She was out of my league often splurging simply on a whim. But I didn’t care, I had my own style. Always did, even was a young  girl. Funny how we know we are so obviously different and actually don’t mind. Maybe this would bother some people, but I like being a little different with fashion. My friend and I shared a passion for fashion as they say. We used to meet everyday after school drop-off, lattes in hand and on the days when the temperature dipped a little, steam oozed from the cup giving me a sense of coziness. Life was grand, or so I thought. Although we had much to talk about each and every day on that old long teak bench, my friend was an unfortunate whiner. Having everything delivered on a silver platter, she always wanted more. Is that what having too much money is all about, I thought. You become a surly, needy bitch never quite seeing the glass  half full?

 

One day, after many days of feeling guilty for having created a crater full of shallowness and devoid of fulfillment but rich in full fat lattes, I decided to go back to work. I did love that bench and the routine. The convenient bench was also the bench that became too comfortable. I spoke with my friend about my desire to move on. She was quite happy to continue sitting on the barren bench day after day. After all, we did have much to talk about. She was content. Clearly, the bench represented something different to me. You see, the bench was actually two benches pushed together. You could easily see the split in the middle as the wood was warped and part of the one side rose above it in the middle. Separating the benches would be a cinch but who would want to divide it? They had been there for years without moving. And so this is how I saw my life. I could have stayed there on the bench or pulled myself away and moved on. What would I have to loose? Imagine the freedom of being your own bench. Of not having to be one with the other but making your own decisions. Of creating your own destiny. The reasons to move on were so compelling. So undeniably exciting.

 

I met my old friend in a queue at the cafe. She and her friend had their steaming lattes in hand, venturing outside to the bench. With a wry smile, she gave a curt hello. I knew I shouldn’t have stopped at the cafe. I still needed that money for my dream purchase.  I thought to myself how likely it would be for me to give up coffee for something else. Not likely. Not everything in life needs a lesson in self-improvement I convinced myself. I have, in fact, already take a giant leap in my life. On my way out, I glanced over at the bench. The old bench I thought with a tinge of melancholy. I don’t need to go there nor do I want to. Thank goodness for landmarks I thought. How would we ever find our way around. My friend and her companion sat giggling, engrossed in conversation. They barely noticed me but it didn’t matter, I noticed them and the old bench and moved on my way.

Born with a skull of bones in the light of morning cloud

It so happened in a sky filled with rain and stormy clouds
Her first cry moved around the hospital with a thank to god
She was born to take her list of dos

She walked, fell down and cried moving around on her feet
Loved and cared with love in hands of a mother
Reaching on her first year of day the almighty wrote on her skull
Month one started for the journey……………

Flying like a butterfly all around the world like a Cinderella
Playing around with her friends and fighting for her dolly
Moving around with a half of food inside and outside of mouth
Sleeping with bedtime stories near to her mother”s heart

Month two started for the journey……………
Seasons changed with light and darkness around her
Sunny evening shined played around with family
Bunch of happiness surrounded her with joyful
Hours were counted near to her……………

Slipped and fell from the large heights of her house
Kissed on the ground by spreading colors of red
Burst out with fear and cried out without breath
Ran towards her and took her on his hand

With broken skull, the butterfly smiled and closed the eyes
Father touched his little kid and said my dear my blood
Don’t go……………

Counting hours ended and said goodbye to the world
Life splits with the hours and faith plays the game

Ready with flowers filled with love at cemetery
Hugged towards to heart and cried out loud, my child
Prayers surrounded from the heartbeat of life’s
All the hours left into bones with out a heart

An old man at the cemetery looked at the little bones
Taking skull into his hand and said only two chapters
Looking up into the sky and asked why only two chapters
Old man swiped his tears and said this was no needed

Only two chapters……………

 

NOTE: This recently occurred near to my home. Poor child Let her soul rest in peace.

It was a day in office like any other. She had recently joined an organization but her heart was still back at her college campus, playing basketball with the boys, spending time reading at the library and teasing classmates. There was not a care in the world and she knew her future was full of possibilities. A technical training was in full swing and she tried hard to concentrate, but every now and then her eyes darted to the computer screen to spot new messages in her inbox. He wrote short emails. She wished that he’d write longer ones. At first glance they looked curt but when she weighed his words, they meant to convey so much more than was written.

It had been an hour already since the last email and she felt her body grow more and more restless every passing minute. He should have emailed to confirm. Well, the thing was, he had asked her out over the phone and details were to be shared over the emails during the day. She shivered with excitement for various reasons. One being, it was her first date with someone she secretly had a crush on since the time she had set her eyes on him. It made her delirious when it was reciprocated.

What was taking him so long? “Ping” – you have new email, it said. Promptly her hands took hold of the mouse to open the email and the sight of his name made her want to yelp with joy. He had written that the date was on and details were a surprise. It included a warning at the end, that it would be a long one, so better be prepared. Her fingers that typed the reply to that email were sweaty in anticipation. It was a good thing; she said to herself, that within a month of moving to a new city, her social life had started to buzz. Now the intolerable wait till the evening!

Finally, the day at the office ended. They were supposed to meet at a  mall and then take it further from there. When she entered the mall, she almost kicked herself for not going home to change. She saw a bevy of girls pass by looking absolutely sparkly. She called him to know where she should meet him and he asked her to take the escalator up to meet him at the Cineplex foyer. So it was easy enough for her to guess, that they were going to watch a movie. Soon she saw him standing at the enterance of the hall with nachos and pop corn packets in tow. They simply exchanged pleasantries and moved into the dark hall with the other movie watchers. Soon she realized, it was a block buster movie that she had wanted to watch all along. Within minutes she got engrossed in the movie , the plot, the characters, the twists and betrayal. She did not know that while she munched on her nachos and popcorn, he was intently watching her. He watched her body’s silhouette in the darkness. He watched the chocolate tone of her skin glisten each time the lights from the screen fell on her. He observed that she was unselfconscious and one with the purpose which at that time was watching the movie. He observed that she had just one anklet on her foot and began to wonder if she was the singular anklet wielding boho-rebel. But somewhere, in his mind, he was enchanted by her nonconformist attitude. He imagined her running like a wild child amongst the sunny flowers with a basketful of daisies. She was the one who could chase the butterflies with the same ease as she would conduct a meeting with a room full of suited stalwarts. Would he feel intimidated, he asked himself? That’s not even the right question, he heard himself answer. Funny how oblivious she was while his eyes watched her every movement.

The movie ended and she felt strange about how uninteractive he had been all the time. She felt as if he was getting bored in her company and that made her apprehensive. Surely she had it in her to keep him interested so she decided to drive the conversation from then on. Maybe then she would be able to understand if it was her or whether he was the recluse kinds. It would make it clearer whether there had to be anything to this association, if at all. Having made up her mind, such, she embarked on a verbal diahorrea, quizzing, prodding, indulging and to the extent of simply meandering. He was kind, she understood. He listened like a man who was besotted but never offering his two cents on any topic at hand. She felt like a lone warrior who had lost her purpose in the pursuit. But she liked that he listened.

The date was to extend from merely movie going to an evening at one of the most romantic spots in the city. They drove in silence more times with just the smattering of words when the silence became unbearable.  Slowly the conversation started to dribble in and topic of life partners and marriage took center stage.  She thought that she might just try become a match fixer and try to fix him up with her taciturn room mate. She thought both of them would make a great pair. But she would feel sad, if he didn’t keep in touch with her. She would miss his emails, his song dedications to her and the lovely quotes that kept her engaged for the whole day in a romance that was akin only to the novels. He was definitely a much better person to interact over the emails, she decided. Maybe she should try being a little more flirtatious, open a shirt button or  two, laugh more so and throw her hair around. Darn why was he giving her such mixed signals!

He was taking it all in. Her boisterous talk, the way she threw her hands around while talking, the way she stealthily opened the top button of her blouse and how he couldn’t get enough of the broken tooth whenever she flashed her dazzling smile. His thoughts were interrupted when she started steering towards marriage. On an impulse he knew how the date had to end. He joined her conversation in bits and pieces while noticing the bent of her elbow and the creaseless neck. He did not believe in love at first sight because he was too real to humour himself with such fallacies. But he grew surer of the outcome of the lovely evening.

Gosh!! She thought, those dimples that formed on his cheeks were hard to miss. Half of the evening was over and she was surprised she didn’t notice them before.  She always had a thing for guys with dimples and felt that guys who had them automatically qualified as the ones who were caring and sensitive. The evening light heightened the gold colours on his temples and she almost reached out to cup his strong chin. Slowly as if her eyes were seeing for the first time, she noticed that his skin was golden as it was bronzed; he was clean shaven for the occasion and his hands looked neat. His lips parted every now and then as if to say something but then held back the words. What did he fear? A silly thought perhaps, or maybe a promiscuous pass or the shock of having had a glimpse of the undone top button. She giggled at the thought of it. He must think she was trying too hard, so she turned away a little to button up her blouse. Now he would probably think that it had unbuttoned by mistake. She chided herself at making too much of a normal situation. Here were a boy and girl, meeting to have a good time. Why should they tag other expectations with this rendezvous?

They were seated at an open air restaurant and ordered some food and beverage. There was a tingling sensation that they were aware of and knew the cause. They spoke about the weather, the people at the restaurant, the dogs frisking about and the birds chirping at the height of the dull summer evening. They sipped and spoke, the sipped and listened. There was a rhythm in their banal actions which they both were aware of.  Time passed and she teased him with a prospect of introducing him to her roommate. He shrugged and asked instead, if she was willing to be his. To this, in spite of the shock, she managed to give him a weak smile. Obviously he was joking, only pulling her leg to keep the evening afloat. All this while he hadn’t uttered a word of significance and now he wanted her to be his for life? Ofcourse she was being teased. But his gaze was unwavering. It unsettled her since she knew he meant every word that dropped out of his mouth.  How could he decide so quickly, given that he hardly knew her? How could he? She thought, she was frivolous about life but it surprised her that a seemingly mature man had the audacity to play prank of this order with her.

He had to keep his gaze steady to prove the truth of his sentiments. Not once did it occur to him to reconsider. How could he tell her now that this was what he had in mind the entire evening. He had decided to risk it. He had known a lot of rejection and this was  one risk he had to take because he knew he had never had anything handed over to him  easily. He wanted her badly. Not in the physical sense alone, but her very essence, the light frothiness that she brought about where ever she strode.  He missed that zing in his life, this spring like chirpiness and delusion that life can be fun. He was sure that she would bring it with her into his life, if she said yes.

Only if she said yes.

They say that writers are eccentric people. I never really believed it till I started writing at the age of thirteen. Things ceased to be simple. And the voices inside my head grew louder. I couldn’t choose between things or decide soon enough. I was becoming a writer. Or maybe having a bad entry into teenage.

Now that my teen years are way behind me, I can safely say that it wasn’t teen-troubles. I have a girl inside my head. Writers and artists all over the world would give her different names – muse, inspiration, driving force, spark of creation and so on. But for me, it was always a feminine spirit inside my head talking to me about my characters, story lines, plots, titles and themes. I don’t have a name for her. But then again, I don’t think she really minds. She talks to me on silent nights – sometimes as loud shrieks and other times as silent whispers. She embodies love, kindness and everything romantic. She melts inside of me with girlish shyness when he sends me flowers on every possible occasion. She fills me with such silly happiness and I pour those lovey-dovey lines on paper that I feel mortified to read them out later. And when I see helpless, hopeless people around me, I can feel the girl inside my head crying and shedding tears. They flow from her eyes, through my hands into the white sheet in front of me. The ink in my blue fountain pen becomes my tears and I cry on behalf of her. And when people read through these tears of mine, they share the sorrow of the girl inside my head. I choose to be quite and try to calm her down but it rarely works.

Sometimes the girl inside my head has her temper tantrums. She grows so restless that it seeps from her into me and I get these bouts of restlessness where noting calms me – except maybe prayer. Injustice, Corruption, Exploitation and unfair treatment of people – all of these things have her going on non-ending tirades and I move my pen according to her whim and fancy. I help to let her frustration out and write fiery pieces about social reforms and positive changes. God knows, I do. And He knows that all those words remain just that. Words. No life, no meaning and sadly, no action taken on them. The girl inside my head goes into depression and doesn’t speak to me for days on end. Needless to say, I often have a terrible case of writer’s block when she does this. And after repeating this cycle innumerable times, she has learnt not to talk of these things. Nobody wants to know about the harsh reality. They just want entertaining stories. And I am included in the “they”. I fight with her and get her to talk to me. I fight to overcome the writer’s block. And eventually I win over her depression. I ask her to then tell me stories. Stories that she creates.

And boy, does she tell stories! She has a story for every occasion. And times when she doesn’t shut herself in her cave of depression, she tells such colourful, lovely stories that you feel you are living through them. She creates princes and paupers, magically weaves an empire to her liking and she reigns supreme there. She creates twists and turns in her world. She makes people to fall in love, she creates happy children and there is no sorrow in her land. And then she turns bitchy in my head. All the bitterness she has for this world, she spews it out through her stories. She creates ironic moments to reflect our lives – she breaks up happy lovers, she kills people and ends these stories abruptly. She, who used to feel sorry for the sad state of things around her begins to create them in her world too. In accordance to the universal law ” Like begets like”, she becomes so much like the world she clearly despises. But fortunately, she doesn’t stay that way.

The girl in my head looks for the good in this bad world. And fortunately, she finds it. She finds it in the eyes of newly-weds, in the song of a mother as she puts her child to sleep, in the kindness of a random stranger by the road, in the way a Christian priest donates money to a Muslim orphanage, in the innocence of a four-year old’s prayer for a sick puppy, she finds it in me when my words help to soothe someone in need. Correction. Not my words. Her words. Words that she put in my head and whispered in my ears.

She slowly believed in the good over evil and she works through me for it. She comforts me when I need it so that I can share the comfort. She continues to talk to me and I’m ever so grateful for it.

They say writers are eccentric people. Are we? I ask my reflection in the mirror. And I see her light brown eyes looking at me. “Maybe. Maybe, we are” , she whispers in my head. I smile back at the girl in my head

I remember the first time I saw you. The bad day that I was having, and how you were the highlight of it. You were the highlight of the entire week. I still remember what you were wearing that day. I remembered you a year later, when I thought I had lost my mind. I met you sometime after that, introduced by a friend. I don’t remember much of that day though, just your eyes. Those brown eyes that seemed to swirl with everything that was inside of you. And your lips, I remember your eyes and your lips. The fullness of them and how they wrapped around every word. You could have been reading from an obituary and I would have enjoyed it.

I remember the first trip you told me about. How you were stranded. I remember wishing I was stranded there with you. I remember waiting by the phone, waiting to ask you about your day. I remember your favorite foods, because they are also mine. I remember the things I used to say, and how you thought I was better than others. I remember my relief when I found out how close you lived. I remember a month before your birthday, I wanted to get it right. I remember the poem I wrote, and my excitement to give it to you. I remember fearing that you would laugh at my pettiness.

I remember seeing you. I remember what you ordered, and which was your favorite. I remember sitting there, trying to take you all in. I remember the mental picture that I painted of you with words. I remember doing that, because it was one of the best times I ever had in my life. I remember wishing it would go on forever. I remember watching you walk away. I remember talking to you the minute I got into my car, and all the way home. I remember how the following week felt like a lifetime, but it also felt like a single day. I remember those brown eyes of yours. I still see them in my mind, every single day. I remember the furniture you bought, and the time you went away. I remember the time you went away. I remember the words you left me with, the words that no longer had a voice. I remember those words.

Kalyani looked at her chapped and broken finger nails and made a mental note to go for a manicure at least next month. Then she thought of the salary she would get and the loans she had to pay and the balance that would remain from her pay. Maybe she can go for the manicure the month after next. There was no hurry. What mattered was whether she sent money home to her parents and family of 7. She let out a soft sigh and adjusted her headset and the small microphone attached to it. She had an avail time* longer than a minute and that was rare. Usually, calls peaked at this time and she was wondering why wasn’t she getting her next call and then her desk phone beeped and the call was automatically answered. She had to deliver her opening lines*. She had done it so many times that it came naturally to her now. “Thank you for calling OneEdge Communications Technical support. My name is Sara. How can I help you today?”

She was not Kalyani anymore. She couldn’t afford to be. Not for the next few minutes at least. She was Sara now. Sara – a confident American who was pleasing to the people who called her when their phone service was not working. Sara who fixed their phone connections sitting at her desk. Sara who symbolised politeness, kindness, efficiency, approachability, and whatever else her customers and OneEdge demanded of her. Kalyani, who struggled day in and day out to put food on the table for a poor family in the outskirts of a village in India ceased to exist. Kalyani, who studied hard and wanted to become an engineer. Kalyani, who had to abandon college after her first year of BSc because she could not finance her studies. Kalyani, who worked at nights in a call centre, to hear people call her the choicest of American profanity when their phones weren’t working , complain and grumble at the poor service offered by their phone company and then who had to solve people’s problems in spite of it all.  Nobody wanted to talk to Kalyani. She did not exist. Sara did. The confident, cheerful Sara.

Kalyani finished her call in the allotted time of 12.5 minutes. She did not have to worry about her AHT* today. There were about 1.5 more hours for her shift to end and she knew she would manage. She had handled 17 calls and she knew she would get at least 5 more before she logged out for the day. She adjusted her phone system to busy status, took off her headset and rose up from her rotating chair to get a coffee. She looked at the watch. 2.48 am. 1 hour and 12 minutes more to log-out time. She sighed again – this time loudly and went off into the pantry.

When she got back, she was in a better mood. She had just one more hour to go and she wasn’t working for the next two days. She smiled and changed the status on her phone system so that she could go back to taking more calls. As soon as she did that, she heard the familiar beep and it was time to be Sara again. “Thank you for calling OneEdge Communications Technical Support. My name is Sara. How can I help you today?” She couldn’t hear a response from the other end. So she gave her opening lines again. This time she heard something that sounded like a soft crying noise. She paused for a few seconds. She gave her opening lines one more time. As per the company policy, she could disconnect the call if there was no response even after the third time she gave her opening lines. And that was what she usually did. But she hesitated this time. And months later, whenever she thought of this particular call, she had no idea why she did not disconnect the call immediately. As she paused with her finger hovering above the disconnect button, she heard the crying again. This time she heard it louder and an old voice said “Please help me, Sara, my son is in an accident. I want to speak to him. My phone is out. I do not know what to do. Sara, help me.” Her senses kicked in immediately. She got the basic customer information from her caller.

Her name was Martha Lindenmeyer and she was an old widow living with her son. Her landline connection, provided by OneEdge was not working for some weird reason and she wanted it fixed immediately. Her son, Neil had met up with an accident on the road and somebody had called  to inform her  to rush to the hospital. But before she could ask him the name of the hospital and the other details, her phone died on her. Martha did not own a cell phone as she could never figure out how to operate one. The only way to reach her was through the landline and the number was stored on Neil’s cell-phone. The call to her house came from his cell and she had no way to call back as her phone totally was dead. Her neighbours weren’t home and the old woman walked nearly a block to find a public phone booth to call Neil’s phone. It rang and rang for about 2-3 minutes till finally somebody picked it up. Before she could say anything to the person at the other end, a crisp voice told that it was a nasty accident involving two cars and a person was dead on the spot. The cell phone’s owner was bleeding profusely and almost looked dead. In fact the paramedics thought he was dead but somebody found a weak pulse. He was rushed to the hospital.  Any further information would be conveyed to the victim’s home number. And for the second time, before she could ask the name of the hospital or at least where the accident had occurred, the call was disconnected.  Martha almost had a panic attack hearing the news. She held onto the receiver and felt sweat pour down her back. She was having trouble breathing and she knew she had to steady herself soon or she would pass out right in the public booth. After what seemed like hours, she managed to get her nerves straight by taking long and deep bouts of air through her mouth. Then she realised that she still did not know where Neil was.  She called back frantically but this time nobody picked the call even after it rang for more than 10-15 minutes. The only thing she could do now was to pray and somehow get her home phone fixed and wait for someone to call her with the news and details. Her next call was made to the customer helpline at OneEdge and by the time she told her story of mishaps to Sara, she was almost breathless. She cried twice in the middle of her narrative and her old voice broke in numerous places. Kalyani felt her heart go out this helpless mother and she knew she had to somehow fix her phone. In a weird way, it was a matter of life or death.

Kalyani tried the basic troubleshooting that she could do over the phone but no matter what she did, the phone just wouldn’t work. And it was almost impossible to do the advance troubleshooting as Martha wasn’t even in front of her phone. Her attempts at bringing the dead equipment back to life was futile, to say the least. And she was at her wits’ end. The only thing she could do now was to send a technician to Martha’s house and as per the company policy, he would do a house call only after 24 hours since the first call was made to the Technical support. For the first time Kalyani felt angry at the way things worked, in this case how things did not work. She was consoling and comforting Martha as she desperately tried various steps to revive the phone and bring it back into the network. And as she was multitasking away furiously, a pop-up window opened on her screen. Her boss was pinging her in the company chat service. He was barging* into the call as it had been active for nearly 50 minutes now and Kalyani was screwing the AHT – not just for herself, but also of the whole exam AHT average. He wanted her to fix up a technician-house-call and hang up the call immediately. She tried to quickly tell him of the issue but he cut her off curtly saying that he was aware of it and just wanted her to get off the call somehow. And Kalyani knew her boss was right, there was nothing more she could do. Well, if she was located somewhere near Martha’s house, she would have gone there in person and done something. But she wasn’t in America. She wasn’t’ even close. She was all the way at the other end of the world, in a dirty urban city in India, desperately trying to earn her wages pretending to be an all-American woman.

After repeated warnings and commands from her boss, she had to disconnect the call. Martha did not have a CBN*. Kalyani got her neighbour’s phone number and promised to call the next day to check up on the issue. She tried again to comfort Martha before she disconnected. She told her that Neil was going to be fine and that tomorrow her phone will be fixed and she will hear good news about him. She felt a lump form in her throat as her reassurances sounded hollow and meaningless even to herself. With a half-heart, she disconnected the call. She had already gone 7  minutes past her log-off time but for some reason, she did not feel like rushing back to the Working Women’s Hostel where she stayed. Her thoughts stayed with Martha and she knew she was not going to enjoy  her two days off. Before she left the call centre,  she assigned the call-back to one of her colleagues and made him promise that he would follow-up on the case. She was still not feeling good, and she made a mental note to call and remind him of the call back tomorrow.

As she expected, Kalyani’s weekly off did not go well at all. She kept thinking about Martha and Neil and wondered how much she was concerned about two people whom she had never even met. From previous experiences, she knew never to share her office stories to her parents or siblings as they were not too happy about her job. They had the typical Indian mentality and said working in a call centre was cheap and not suited to girls from a  good family. But they couldn’t follow up on it or force her to quit because her money paid their bills and she supported the education of her 2 sisters who were in college. The call-centre money was better than no money at all and there was nothing they could do about it. Kalyani reminded her office mate about the call back multiple times. And even after the repeated reminders, he did not make the call back on the first day and the second day when he did call, nobody answered the call at the neighbours’. She asked him to call again but he said he was too busy handling his calls. She let it go. She would go to work the next day and see to it herself.

The first thing Kalyani did when she logged in at 8pm was to call Martha’s landline. She could hear the phone ringing and that was a good sign. After the second ring, someone picked up the call and said “Hello” softly. It was not Martha’s voice. Kalyani introduced herself as Sara from OneEdge and asked to speak to Martha. The person said Martha was at the hospital. She had collapsed after her son had passed away two days ago in a car accident. She was her neighbour and was watching the house for Martha. Yes, the phone technician had come. Yes, He fixed the phone. But it was not much of a use now. Neil was gone and Martha was not in a position to see to things. When was the funeral? Soon, the date was not decided. Yes, she would definitely pass her condolences to Martha. If Sara wanted to attend the funeral, she could give her the address. Martha had told her how the nice lady from the phone company tried desperately to help her. It was too bad she couldn’t attend the funeral. Yes, thank you for calling. God bless you.

Kalyani disconnected the call and sat there motionless for a few minutes. Then she put the phone on busy mode again and accessed the customer information of Martha Lindenmeyer. She saw that she had been a model customer for the past 8 years. She had never had any outstanding dues and always paid her bills on time. The connection was taken in the name of Neil Lindenmeyer and she knew they would have to change it soon. She checked their call logs and found that 90pc of the calls went to a cell phone listed under Neil’s name. For some unknown reason, she felt her eyes well up and hot, round tear drops rolled down her cheeks onto her headset. She knew she was going to get in trouble for what she was going to do next, but then again, after today, it was not going to matter. She accessed the payment information of Neil and Martha and saw they had paid $31 per month for the past 8 years. She did the small math and found that the sum total came up to $2976. They had paid nearly $3000 to OneEdge and when it mattered the most, the company could do nothing for them. Sara felt that it did not deserve their money. And in a twisted way, she considered it blood-money. She had to give it back to them. The money no longer belonged to OneEdge. It had to go back to the Lindenmeyers. She gave that amount as a credit in the account and pushed back the amount into the credit card used for payment. She knew no amount of money would bring Neil back to Martha but this was the only thing she could do. She felt slightly better but deep inside, she still felt like she was responsible for Neil’s death. She felt like a murderer in a weird sort of way and she hated it. But she knew she wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. It was part of being Sara. But it somehow had to stop. Sara had to go. Kalyani then logged onto her company’s intranet portal and submitted her resignation online. She took off her headset and felt it for the last time. Then she unplugged the phone from the base cord and threw it on the ground. Her colleagues from her adjacent cubicles looked at her sudden outburst. Her boss was walking towards her with a What-is-this-nonsense-? expression on his face, but Kalyani did not care anymore. She threw down her headset also and it joined the phone at his feet. Kalyani got up from her chair and walked out of her office into the night. She couldn’t live with the knowledge that she had something to do with someone’s death. She did not want to be a murderer. But she was more than happy to kill Sara. Yes, Sara had to be murdered. She was not Sara anymore. She never will be. She was Kalyani, and that’s who she was always going to be.

*****************************************

* Avail time – It is the time in between calls. Once a customer care agent finishes a call, he/she goes into the “Avail Mode” where he/she can attend to the next customer in the phone queue. And if there’s no customer waiting, the agent gets something like a free time where he is not on a call, but waiting for one. Avail time varies from company to company depending on the number of customers who call and the number of agents who are there to attend the calls. More agents, more avail time, less number of agents and many customers, less avail time. Avail time ranges from 2 seconds to maybe 5-6 minutes.

*Opening lines – The boring, factual welcome lines that you hear when you call any customer care agent. It states the agent’s name (some companies do not have this), the company name and the department and a greeting.

*AHT – It’s the abbreviation for Average Handling Time. The time an agent takes to handle a call and fix the issue is the Average Handling Time. The lesser the AHT, the better.

*Call Barging – It is when a third person barges into a call in progress. It is usually done to ensure the agents follow the company procedure and fix the issue without further dilly-dallying.

*CBN – CBN stands for Call Back Number. Almost all the major companied take this information so that they can call back the customer in case the phone call gets disconnected before the issue is resolved.

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