The fearless lightness of being

I have a friend with a beautiful name. Maya, she is called. I really like Maya because unlike most people Maya does not understand the concept of fear. Therefore in the most orthodox of the settings in my country she can be herself – calm and composed. Also unlike most other people Maya does not let gender creep into her daily train of thoughts. She thinks without keeping the fact in my mind that she is a woman.

Why should one keep their gender in mind while thinking about things you ask?

That is how it is in my country – if you are a girl you are constantly reminded of it every single time you breathe. That is how it is.

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Maya called me last month. She said – you know something strange happened. I asked her – how was your trip, she was travelling you see, Maya loves to travel. She said – the trip was soul soothing, I was living in the present after such a long time, not once did I look at my phone, I forgot time. We just were. It was a time of extravagant delight. 

I love when she talks like that. It is like heaven on earth, she can make you feel that. I asked – what was the strange thing that happened? 

She said – On the way back, I had to catch a train from one of those really small railway stations, you know the ones from the movies of the ’70s – desolated platforms, poorly built. It was raining, and it wasn’t that big a station, there were just four train tracks and two platforms. Platform number one was well built with seating spaces, platform two was under construction. A white over-bridge connected the two platforms. It was raining lightly, the sky was gray, the station looked washed, I was walking on the bridge dragging my one bag, dressed in a long flowing dress and I thought to myself what a perfect place to smoke. But it was raining, and I couldn’t open my umbrella with all the luggage, so I decided I would get to platform two, find a secluded corner and light one. 

Now then I descend on platform two, there are a few people around, some are staring at me, but I really don’t care, all I want to do is take in this beautiful scene in my head with a smoke, so I walk to the farther end of the station, I walk in the rain to where a father and daughter are sitting. I ask them if it would be a problem if I smoked, the father is just staring at me, the girl, not believing what she just heard, says – yeah, no it will not be a problem. 

So I light my smoke, and I am looking into the distance and I am thinking it can’t get more perfect when these bunch of kids join the father and daughter. There are two boys and two girls and they look at me and start to talk about smoking and I almost roll my eyes. The weather and the setting is too good and I rarely get annoyed, this line of their conversation is not even amusing, it is just cliched, the world is a little like that isn’t it – repetitive in it’s conclusions? 

While she is telling me her story, I can imagine her in a long flowing blue dress on a freshly washed station smoking a cigarette like they are meant to be smoked, just being herself – tall, beautiful, a work of art.

The kids then start discussing about which trips are the best to have – an only boys trip, an only girls trip or a mixed group trip. The girls said all girls trips are fun. This one boy said – all girls trips cannot be fun, too many restrictions come into picture, you cannot visit certain places, you have to get back in early, there is that safety issue. Listening to him, the girls gave a weird look. Listening to him I laughed in my head. I do not know who I felt more bad for – the women who were being brainwashed or this young man who thought in this fearful practical way about the world around us. 

I understand where Maya is going with this. Still, I wait for her to say it –

Darling, she says, people live in so much fear. And they are not even aware of it. Before they can act they are conscious of their sex, of their place in society, of the rules which tell them how to behave, of the constructs which shape their reality. How does one breathe in so much senseless noise? How does one live by decree? 

I cannot live like this, she continues.

You do not live like this, I tell her.

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Looking for something more long-term

Today Ann is in the mall, walking down the corridor of beauty parlors and salons. Her hair has been acting up lately, it has become dry – from the tips to the roots, as well as her scalp, her scalp has become dry too.

Ann does not like the things she cannot manage, every night before she sleeps she applies five different kinds of lotions, and shampoos and conditioners, and sprays and serums so that she can have the perfect hair the next morning. She must do it the previous night, every single time, because her hair is so unmanageable, she can never ever just wash it and let it dry out in the outside world. Because only she knows what she looks like in that time between when her is wet just after the shower and when it is completely dry. That in-between time is a secret that has been kept away from everyone, even her friends and boyfriends. That is why sometimes they think she is a little eccentric, but then, she is kind, so it really doesn’t matter.

What Ann hates about making her hair perfect is that she has to go through a tedious process every time she has to wash them. Every single time. She hates that. It is such a grand waste of time, she thinks. Every other day one cannot spend three to four hours just on their hair. No. There has to be a better solution, there has to be something that lasts long, really long.

So, she walks into the first salon she sees. For perfect hair, for the perfect you, reads the display of this salon. The salon people, the saloners, smile at her, greet her as she walks in. They ask her if she would you like to have a coffee ma’am, should they get her some juice. Yes, they know Ann at this salon. She is a regular.

Ann sits down with the head hair expert lady saloner.

What would you want to get done today Ann?

I want my hair done perfectly.

We can go in for your regular routine. Or you could try the new treatment which Lo’real has just released. Keratine Intense, it is called.

How long with this new treatment last?

2 to 3 months, followed by the usual touch-ups.

Do you have something that will last longer?

There is the botanical oils treatment. It will last around 6 months, but you will have to be in the parlour every month to back it up.

Still longer?

How long you do want it to last Ann?

Well, forever sounds about right.

The head hair lady saloner expert smiled.

No, we don’t have anything for that. But the Keratine Intense treatment should do you wonders for about 3 months. Shall we start it then?

No, said Ann and she got up and walked out.

The next salon display read – care for hair that lasts long. Ann smiled. Maybe this is it, she thought. She sat down with the head hair expert man saloner and went through the same exact conversation.

Don’t you have something more long term?

Your base genetic structure cannot be altered Ann. Your hair will remain how they are naturally. Nothing can be done about them.

So what are all these treatments that you so religiously recommend?

You want to know the truth?

Yes.

Quick fixes. That is what they are. Instant solutions.

Ah, I see.

Should we start with the protein treatment then?

No, said Ann, I am looking for something permanent, I am looking for something long-term. And she walked out.

She met Adam the same night. They had drinks. She told him of the saloners and of their quick fixes. Adam smiled.

Do you want to know the truth Ann?

Yes, Adam.

Adam lit a cigarette.

Look around you Ann, look at the society we live in. You want to lose weight, you go on a diet. You want perfect skin, you take a facial. You want good hair, you go to the parlour. You have a deadline to meet, you spend the entire previous night working. You like a guy, you sleep with him on the first date. It is not working out, you end it and you move on and you try again. It still doesn’t work out? You end it. You tell yourself that next time it will last. But how will it if you don’t stay?

We are living in a society of quick fixes. We are living in a society that seeks instant gratification. Managers are worried about their quarterly numbers. They don’t give a shit about the long-term growth prospects or the environment implications of their decisions. Everybody wants quick results. Now, I want this now! How can we ever achieve permanence like this? How can we ever built something long term like this?

Take your problem. You want good hair. Eat right, every day, every single meal of every day. Work-out. Meditate. Read. Research. Learn. Introspect. Reflect. Keep it natural. Do this for a month, then a month more, then a few years. You will have absolutely gorgeous hair. It is rather obvious is it not? Permanence is a continuance not an end result. It requires effort, it needs patience.

The boy who was born in a book

On a grey Monday morning, with a hat on his head and an umbrella in his hand, a step ahead, another step in front of it, he was walking on the cobbled streets of his town. He pulled his sleeve back, his iWatch 2 showed him that in approximately 7 and 3/4 minutes he would reach the only pub for his kind of people, it also told him that his usual sun-lit seat was ready with his usual order – warm brown coffee and honey-laced waffles. He raised his eyes and smiled a little, he had never thought he would marvel at the wonders of technology.

Magic is lagging behind our times, a tall red-haired man joined him. We need to improvise, just like they did in Episode VII. 

Indeed, our boy-hero nodded.

They walked into the pub. Fewer heads noticed them these days than they did a few years ago, both in pages and in person. Mobiles had worked their ju ju well on humans, even the special ones.

Old men that they were now, they wished the ones they liked and no more. After the customary morning greetings they took their seats in the only sun-lit spot in the pub, saving the world had its benefits.

Nothing like a warm cup of brown coffee on a grey rainy Monday morning, said the red-haired man.

There is something like it, said our boy-hero, in fact something a little better. 

His friend cocked an eye-brow and then broke into his goofy smile, right, right, of course. 

One of the good things in their lives, apart from the warm brown coffee on a grey rainy morning, was the books placed in front of them. They went in print in ’97 and now in ’16, 19 years on, after getting their careers sorted and their children in school, they could finally sit down to read the story of their lives. 

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Brothers on Moon

I have found staying on Moon quite exhausting, it is very different from spending time on Earth. Earth’s atmosphere is quite like home’s, the gravity is about the same too, he said, stepping on a jagged white stone, his face slightly skewed, his eyebrows tense.

His brother lent him a hand and his face broke into a smile as he stepped on flat land.

It is quite colourless too unlike home and your favourite planet. 

He rolled his eyes and hit his brother, as had become his habit, right after they had left his favourite planet and his brother had thought it appropriate to let this become a personal joke between them. (Yes, they were joking now. Things were a little different on Moon.)

The Bifrost takes care of the travel, it has quite no effect on the body, but standing here on the moon, I can feel my body fighting just to stay together, vacuum has never really been my thing.

I thought I would bring her here and that we would have some wine and then dance in the sunlight, with the earth behind us. But the glass will shatter and the wine will float not to forget that she will be in a big white suit. 

Fiction is always more convenient than reality brother.

Yes brother. 

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An easier interpretation of why I left Nitaya on that beach

In order for this post to make sense please read In Another City I had taken to Coffee and On that beach I left Nitaya from the book.  


Many of my patient readers have asked me – what was going on in the last post? Was the narrator delusional? Did she see ghosts? What was the deal with the table? What was the Russian name doing in between? Did she kill him? 

I still have to decide whether the protagonist is a delusional murderer or is there another story but I will try and make the rest of it clear to you – 

She is sitting in a cafe reading War and Peace. The cafe is in the open and is fairly deserted. She is sitting in a corner. The cafe has wooden tables. People sometimes doodle on wooden tables – names, numbers, cartoons etc.

When she lifts her cup she sees a hello written on the table. Now she is very happy that she spoke to a handsome boy in the library from where she borrowed the book, and between reading aloud War and Peace and having her coffee she happily starts to talk to the stranger who she thinks would have engraved the hello upon which her coffee mug is placed.

But when she picks up her coffee mug again the hello is not there on the table. The person who wrote that hello is a beautiful stranger in a far away city and in some magical way he has heard her quote Tolstoy and he begins to converse with her via the table by scribing/etching/engraving on it. Everytime she touches the words they disappear, this is one of the ways he knows she has read them. Magic magic !

So they set a date to meet which takes her to a new city ( I had Santorini islands in mind) and then they have fun and stuff.

And she is just telling us how they had fun and stuff , what they did etc etc. In her telling of the love tale the reader goes with her to places – the sea shore, the terraced cafes etc etc and thus the reader ends up in the final scene.

Here the reader sees the beautiful man reading out Crime and Punishment to her. The line he quotes is of special significance – do you understand what it means when you have absolutely nowhere to turn?

As he speaks these lines, the cook serves them with green sauced pasta. The color green triggers the repressed memory of Nitaya. And the quote from the book triggers a string of remembrances. The quote is very important here because literally it means that she had nowhere to turn to when she got locked in that cursed( probably cursed) house. Or it could mean that the entire story of Nitaya was her creation to escape from something ( something terrible that happened to her in her childhood perhaps, too cliched?), Nitaya was an escape when she had nowhere to turn to.

In the last part when she walks in to that old house, I had imagined it as her literally walking into her past, literally stepping into her past. Imagine visiting your childhood home or colony and imagine seeing your old self there.

Here again she is living in the past with the beautiful man till the cook interjects and tells the reader that he is already dead. He tells that he was found dead on a sea shore with a book in his hand a month ago. He also says that he was a beautiful man.

One could perceive the last line to be her confession of his murder.


I am open to any alternate suggestions for the madness of her mind. Apparently there are only so many ways one can innovate in the horror/mystery genre. I want to try something new, a new reason for her being a killer rather the obvious cliched ones – troubled childhood, abused childhood, evil possession, witch, haunted object, ghost narrator etc.

Dear reader if you have read an unconventional horror story/movie or if you have an out of the box idea do share it in the comments below.

The old man with his old woman

The village is small, smaller still are the nineteen houses of the village. The old man lives with his old woman in the sixteenth house from the blue lake in the east corner of this village. The blue lake in the east corner of the village has fishes of nineteen different colours. Every summer morning the old man goes to blue lake and brings home sixteen fishes for his old woman.

Time dissolves slowly when one has little to think but it runs a little fast when one is old. They would get up in the morning the old man and his old woman, he would make coffee, she would light a fire, they would sit near the window , he would read the newspaper and she would wait for their children to call.

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I went to visit them in the grey month of winter. They would wake me up early, make me coffee, take me to the fields and teach me fishing. We would laugh, they would talk but not about their hay days or about life. They would not give me any lessons in wisdom instead the old man would take my hand and while we walked on the brown road under an umbrella, he would ask me to listen to the sound of the rain.

The old woman would make my hair while we sat in the sun under the big leafed tree and she would not talk about her lovers past or her children or tell me how she met her old man, no. She would instead sing. Her song was not about a broken heart or a sullen dream nor did she sing of life and its vagaries but her song was one that of happiness, an ebullient verve to cherish the passing of time.

night-sky-backgrounds

In the night we lay in the grass looking at the stars. They would hold hands and I would play my guitar. I would think of my city but I never spoke of its polluted skies. I knew they had lived for sixteen years in the city of star light and dreams and neither did they speak of it or its polluted skies. They never spoke of the fallen human spirit in those concrete jungles of fame. Instead they guided me through the luminous constellations and taught me on the stars to put a name.

They did not tell me to fall in love or to follow my dreams or to burn with my passions.
No.
Speak to me, the old man sang. Laugh with me, the old woman smiled. Just breathe, they said.


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You can find more of such stories in my book 27 Broken Footprints. 


I have been told often about this story reminds people of their grandparents. 


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend,
 an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda.

It was a sweater made for two

It was a sweater made for two. The outside pink,
the inside blue.

He often wore the blue when she used to be in his arms,
in their balcony near the snow clad mountains,
the two of them having tea, talking love and
dreaming about the future.

Now he is gone, and she sits alone, having tea and
remembering his love; the pink on the outside and the
blue inside, touching her like he used to.

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How I fell in love with her and then a little with him

What about our innermost desires? What about your deepest fears? You do live with them. They are a part of you. Do they speak to you as they speak to me? Do you play with them as they play with me? Do you listen to them as they listen to me?

Roadhouse Blues

I was driving down to a friend’s place that day. I do not like driving as much as I like the spectacle. On empty wide roads, I like it though, especially in this part of the town – all green. I never worry about hitting anyone or having an accident on these roads except the occasional animal. But they are fast, faster than the occasional human.

Ah keep your eyes on the road,
Your hands upon the wheel.
Keep your eyes on the road
Your hands upon the wheel.

That day I parked, where I always park, in the corner of the garage courtyard. The garage in this place is exceptionally huge. I have never seen another garage with a courtyard or a courtyard with a garage and a cafe. You pass three houses before you can sit down and have a coffee.

The third house belongs to the woman of dresses.

She was wearing a yellow dress that day. Her black hair worn open along her slender back. She smiled at me and I felt my heart cave. Kiss me, I thought.

Yeah, the back of the roadhouse,
They’ve got some bungalows.
Yeah, the back of the roadhouse,
They’ve got some bungalows.

After we were done with the coffee, she came down and sat at our table. Her dress was as bright as the sun. I could see her in her house out of that dress on the porch having a cup of coffee. I could also see myself sketching her on that porch against the sunset. She would keep her cup aside and walk towards me, hold my hand and touch my face, plant a soft kiss and I would sigh. I could see that.

I could see her in her yellow dress, bright as the sun, walking with him, holding his hand. I heard her laugh at his silly jokes as we walked on the grey road towards my car. Fate has a mean way to be cruel. She said something and then in the middle of a thought she stopped – your car, she turned to me, it is in the air, the tires are gone.

They dance for the people
Who like to go down slow.

I know little why the garage owner thought it best to get rid of my car. I was visibly sad, it was my only car. So she took me back to her house and made me some tea. It was just me and her and her yellow dress.

But that was a long time ago, a very long time ago.

It is New Years’ eve and I am in my balcony, thinking of her. He is with me now and I know he has liked me, liked me long before he could make her laugh. I could never bring myself to think of him in the way that I often thought of her. I have liked him, he does make me laugh and he can follow my thoughts and not be lost. But while I am often alone with her in her house bathing in her beauty I am never so with him, never alone with him, not even in my head.

He takes my hand at the stroke of the midnight. I feel the breeze in my long hair, his lips on my lips and his hands on my waist. We kiss, a deep kiss, which feeds on itself with every turn of our heads.

Let it roll, baby, roll.
Let it roll, baby, roll.
Let it roll, baby, roll.
Let it roll, all night long.

I am on the road again but I am not driving. I am rich now, I am very rich now and though I have hired this person, I am in the front, sitting next to him. There is a lot of dust in the air. These roads are not like those roads from the green part of that town where she once lived.

In an effort to break the monotony of my thoughts the driver mutters something. I am still thinking about her out of her yellow dress as I see him take one hand off the wheel and try and wipe the dust off the shield. Men and their little stunts, I laugh dryly.

He is taking some time doing that, one does what I can do to amuse oneself in the emptiness. I play with her in my head and he is playing with the dust on the shield. I can see him and I can see her and I know he cannot, he is too amused by his manner to see her.

Do it, Robby, do it!
You gotta roll, roll, roll.

He wished he had seen her as I hear him scream. I want to tell him to stop, I really wanted to stop and help her, see if she was alive. Instead I tell him to speed up. I look back and see her and her broken leg become smaller.

Ashen-Lady.
Ashen-Lady.
You gotta roll, roll, roll.
You gotta roll, roll, roll.

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From Perfection in Black and White