What Divya Bharati’s death did to me…

Posted in Uncategorized on March 20, 2010 by eightbeats

There are so many things in my early childhood I long to go back to. Like the dance sessions I used to have with my friends –Fareeda, Zubeida and Nargis every evening after we completed our home work and before their father (Ahmed uncle to me) came back from work. If Ahmed uncle did not find all the three sisters on their study table the moment he stepped into the house, he beat them and their mother up with impartial animus.

This, I speak of the early nineties. I must have been in the second or the third standard. Part of our house was getting constructed then. And so there was this platform in our compound where the Bangladeshi cement masons would mix sand, water, gravel and Portland cement by day. And by evening, after the masons left, it was our stage. It was also strategically located – we could see Ahmed uncle’s light brown scooter from a distance and blow the bugle. It gave the three sisters just about enough time to jump across the boundary brick wall which separated the two houses, and scamper to the common study room in their house.

In hindsight I think our dance sessions were extraordinarily disciplined for our age. I can safely attribute that to the missionary convents we went to. The dance recital began with the individual performances – one of us would dance while the others sang the song aloud. These were followed by the multiple group performances wherein all of us would sing and dance along. Group performances constituted of dance number after dance number – Saat Samundar , Yeh kaali kaali aankhein, Aashiq Awara, Galyat Sankali Sonyachi ipore pora chi iski ada mera dil le gayi ipori pora chi (I’m writing the words exactly the way we used to sing them back then – I still don’t know what the right words are!), aisi deewanagi dekhi nahin kahin, choli ke peeche kya hai etc. As a rule of thumb, there would have to be at least one Divya Bharati number. Divya Bharati was our idol. I invariably used to be the Compere in our sessions. My microphone was a blue coloured cylindrical pencil box. And, Nargis, the eldest sister would judge our act. She was exact, sincere and impartial; free from passion, unbiased by interest, fear, resentment or affection; and faithful to the truth. Our daily exercise came to a nail biting finish when she announced the best dancer of the evening. Make no mistake. Meriting this prize was serious business. Each one of us had so many things on our mind at the same time. My thoughts would typically be – “My dance steps must be in sync with the beat. I wish I could slap the mosquito on my left knee dead. I must try and look like Divya Bharati. The more I look like her, the better my odds. I must smile a lot. I must throw an imaginary dupatta in the air and pretend to catch it too. Beginning with my right foot, I must take three steps backward –right, left, right. Then I must hit my left foot against my right foot and clap my hands. I must turn around a lot but be careful lest Nargis should see what she is not supposed to see. I must be better than Zubeida.”

Zubeida was the best among us; I like to think I was second best. I would constantly try to get the better of her. Once I wore a short floral pink skirt teamed with a blue top and black slacks (what I and my friends now fashionably call leggings). The ensemble loosely resembled what Divya Bharati wore in the song ‘Aisi Deewanagi.’ That evening, I also performed on the same song and won hands down. Zubeida did not speak to me for two days.

Then one day, when I had just come back from school and was taking off my satchel, Ma informed me that Divya Bharati was reportedly dead. I could not believe my ears. I jumped across our brick boundary wall, ran to the Ahmed kitchen and summoned Fareeda. Fareeda soon appeared at the doorstep.

“Divya Bharati is dead!” I told her between gasps as I tried to catch my breath.

“Aafaamuni!!” she cried out to her elder sister Zubeida, “Look at what this girl is saying – Divya Bharati is dead!”

Zubeida immediately wept copious tears, while Fareeda accused me of making her sister cry. Soon, Nargis emerged out of the next room and told me she did not want pandemonium in her house and that I should leave. Dejected, I returned home, hoping that what Ma had heard was just a silly rumour.

The evening Samachar on Doordarshan confirmed our worst fears – the queen of hearts was indeed dead. She had fallen off her husband’s 5-storey apartment building. Speculation was rife that her husband had killed her. “These filmwallahs, you can’t trust your own husband”, said Ma as she clicked her tongue while we all watched the news. As for me, I was hated by the three sisters for being the bearer of such tidings. And so, though all that separated their house from mine was a brick wall, it had suddenly become strangely impregnable to me.

The area around the brick wall in our backyard was especially mosquito infested. But that did little to deter me. Every evening following that one, I would saunter about aimlessly beside that wall, braving mosquitoes, leeches and stinging caterpillars in the hope that the Ahmed sisters would speak to me. My heart would beat rapidly at the sight of any one of them and I would look for an opportunity to get friendly with them – show them my new sketch pens or offer to help Fareeda out with the Robert Louis Stevenson poem in our English reader. I even tried to share with them my new found knowledge of Friday drill exercises. None of my ploys bore fruit. Fareeda and Nargis did make small talk with me occasionally but I could not get around to building the same rapport with Zubeida for a long time; I would smile sheepishly at her but she would turn away her face from me. But I was persistent. Ma would hand me some salt in the evening and tell me to pour it on as many snails in our compound as I could spot. Snails were easy to find and easier to kill –I would dispense generous dollops of salt on the exposed flesh of the snail and see it crawl out of its slime coat, frothing. Then I would deal it a fatal blow with anything I found handy. This snail killing exercise gave me a convenient alibi to hang around the brick wall as long as I wished. And a chance to revive my friendship with my estranged companions. I saw light at the end of the tunnel one evening when Zubeida wanted to know how much I had scored in my Moral Science paper. That immediately fired me up; I ran to my room to retrieve my Moral Science paper duly signed by my teacher with a “Very Good” remark at the top to boot and showed it to her. Before she could run her eyes through it, I asked her if we could go dancing on Saat Samandar. But as luck would have it, Ahmed Uncle appeared out of the blue and shoved her from behind. That was the last I ever came close to dancing on a Divya Bharati track.

We never danced together again, the three of us.

The friendship was rekindled but it was never the same without the dance sessions. With Divya Bharati dead, the dance sessions had suddenly become a cardinal sin.

Somewhere down the line, I lost touch with the Ahmed sisters. Perhaps it is a part of growing up.

We all grew up to be very different individuals. Zubeida eloped with her cousin and is now busy raising her many children. Nargis teaches kindergarten kids. Fareeda intermittently gets duped by different institutes which promise her a medical degree and close shop as soon as the donation money is transferred to their account. I am stuck in the great Indian IT rut. And dabble at writing whenever I go on a guilt trip about it.

I am still a fan of Divya Bharati. I wonder if Fareeda, Zubeida and Nargis remember those evenings. I hope Zubeida’s daughters turn out to as good as their mother was at dance. I want to meet them when I go home next and show them the Saat Samundar video, maybe teach them a dance step or two. And apologise to their mother. For a wrong I had never done.

Black grapes and orange..

Posted in Uncategorized on March 12, 2010 by eightbeats

Black grapes. Orange. Deep baritone voice. Musky odour. A question left unasked.

Gentle breeze. Rustling green tree. Unlucky shrivelled leaves.

Granite slabs. Again black.

Hands in the pocket.  Basilisk eyes.

Nail enamel. Again Green. Chambor. John Miller. Striped. Red.

Bike rides. Dreamy humming. Snappish retort.

Night sky. Full moon. Frothing waves.

Reluctant embrace. Assertive dodging.

Faults to foil gifts.

Reckless abandonment of logic.

Insomnia. Drawing breath in suffocating sighs.

Sentimental to the brink of bathos.

And the reasons. There are no reasons.

Just wanted to share…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2010 by eightbeats

I found this in the blog page of a long lost poet friend..Just wanted to share it with anyone who would empathise….

The love that lasts the longest is the love that is never returned.
——william somerset maugham

All in a day’s work…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 18, 2010 by eightbeats

All in a day’s work…

I rush down my desolate street, half walking half running. Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me and Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed are already in the cafeteria having breakfast. I tuck my shirt in as I walk. Tamil aunties on the road give me disapproving looks, I grin back shamelessly. I reach the railway gate and scan the vicinity for I-will-drop-you-for-twenty-rupees Anna. Thank heavens, he’s there. I save my five rupees again. I make small talk in the 2 minute auto ride in my apologetic Tamil, he only smiles and smiles because he thinks I’m conversing in Telugu. I give up, say thank you and jump off the auto once I reach the gate. I arrive at my office block, smile a toothy smile to whoever is at the reception and swipe my access card. I turn my head to the right to check if Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me is at his seat, he isn’t – he’s safely ensconced in the cafeteria.  First things first, I login to the communicator. Mails can wait. The moment I’m green/red, I get bombarded by multiple pings. Sample this:

Miss I-smile-therefore-I-am : “Go through the document I sent you and ping me for clarifications.”

Me: “Sure, give me five minutes”.

——————————————————–

Mr. Missile: “ Tu ab aayi? Main toh kab se kaam kar raha hoon! Bada bhaari task hai yaar. Mar di aaj toh meri. Kal toh puri raat humlog idhar hi baithe. Bada bhaari hai yaar”

 I press Esc.

—————————————————————–

Mr. X: “Dinner this weekend?”

I press Esc.

—————————————————————

Mr. Y: “Lunch this weekend?”

I press Esc.

——————————————————————

Mr. Z: “Movie this weekend?”

I press Esc.

————————————————————————–

Mr. I’m-not-wearing-heels-I’m-really-this-tall : “ Abe sala subah se missile mera sar kha raha hai. Mar dalunga us chutiye ko”

Me : “Mat puch yaar roz jhelti uski bakchodi”

———————————————————————–

Mr. X1: “Dinner this weekend?”

I press Esc.

————————————————————————-

Mr. Y1: “Lunch this weekend?”

I press Esc.

—————————————————————–

Mr. Z1: “Movie this weekend?”

I press Esc.

———————————————————-

I rush to Miss I-smile-therefore-I-am’s seat. Mr. Yo Yo is ogling at everything feminine around him and maintaining minimum contact with his own screen. In contrast, Mr. I-will-save-my-skin is glued to his screen like his life depends on it. Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am is looking at his SharePoint designer and expectedly, thinking.

Miss I-smile-therefore-I-am flashes her magic smile; I return it with a generous dose of affection. She explains the requirement to me, asks me if I have any doubts and offers an avalanche of suggestions. I turn to leave when she calls me again to her seat and says, “Finish it by lunch.” She bestows that magic smile again. This time I don’t return it.

I reach my seat and check Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me’s status. Aah, green. Good. I ping him.

Me: “Busy?”

Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me: “Hmmm. 2 mints.”

His 2 minutes stretch to more than thirty minutes and my stomach coils up in hunger and protest. I ping him again.

Me : “ Jaba?”

Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me: “Hmmm. Bola.”

I go to his seat. He smells good as always. I stand beside his system waiting for him to look up at me. Disappointment is in store for me- he doesn’t even acknowledge my presence. I look at my wrist watch and grimace. He finally pushes his seat backwards and says, “bola”. I grin and take him to the Taj Wings refectory, and order a Gardiner salad with two portions of dressing for the price of one. I smile. They oblige me. At least my smile works somewhere. Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed calls Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me to ask where he is. To this, the latter replies, “having my second breakfast for the day.” And then he looks at me and smiles. My day has begun!

We rush to our seats and get on with our respective tasks for the day. His task is his task; my task is our task.  So I’m more at his seat than at mine. Mr. Speak-only-in-puns nudges by whispering the only Hindi words he’s managed to learn in the last three months, “Kya jee? Kya jee?”. Miss Snobbery-is-my-birthright-and-I-shall-have-it shoots me a cold stare. I give her a nervous smile suddenly feeling guilty about parking my ass on Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me’s desk. In less than ten minutes, I’m turning heads. This must be blasphemy by IT standards; I wonder aloud and slip down the desk to leave for my seat. At that precise moment, a shudder goes down my spine as I stand or sit or half stand half sit face to face with The M. I can practically feel the final nail being hammered down my coffin. My ears turn scarlet in a heady mix of embarrassment and fear. I make my way towards my seat so fast that the air around me turns into a gust of wind and I feel it kiss my ears.

Mr. Speak-only-in-puns looks at me and attempts to converse. I avoid eye contact. He pings me, “what happened? Did you have a chance encounter with The M?” To add insult to injury, he also ends his query with a winking smiley. I groan and press Esc.

The next one hour, I resolve to do what my organisation pays me for. Work. Soon it’s time for lunch and I, Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me, Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed and Mr. Never-go-to-a-Tamil-wedding-the-food-sucks hit the cafeteria a second time in the day. We eat, talk, laugh, smile, express concern, make weekend plans, take off on each other, and one hour breezes past.  At the same time as we amble back to our block, the missile appears out of thin air in his pink shirt. We have only our monkey like agility and quick reflexes to thank as we dodge the missile by inches.

By the time we reach our respective systems, Miss Snobbery-is-my-birthright-and-I-shall-have-it has not only mailed to Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me demanding a status update but also copied The M in the mailer.  Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me has been messed with and the first thing he does to salvage his plummeting performance is to promptly get rid of me. Nearer home, Miss I-smile-therefore-I-am has forgotten to smile because neither the missile nor I have been able to complete our tasks. She warns us that our weekend would be at stake if we failed to deliver by EOD. I code with renewed vigour now.  Mr. I-will-save-my-skin, Mr. Yo Yo and Mr. I-love-your-dressing-sense-Snata-do-you-have-a-boyfriend walk in Indian file for a tea break and mock contort their faces as they pry into my monitor. I smile foolishly. Mr. I-love-your-dressing-sense-Snata-do-you-have-a-boyfriend has the audacity to wink at me. I pretend not to notice and clench my fists so hard my nails  make half moons on the skin of my palms.

Finally, ten minutes before six, both the missile and I complete our respective tasks. I ping Miss I-smile-therefore-I-am to notify her about it. The missile flies at supersonic speed through the length and breadth of the bay and proclaims to all and sundry about his valiant endeavour, the completion of his uphill mammoth gargantuan colossal mind boggling task. Nobody bothers to ask him what it was. Nobody would risk striking a conversation with him. So he comes to me, his most gullible prey. Whilst I put up with this occupational hazard, Mr. I’m-not-wearing-heels-I’m-really-this-tall starts giving me multiple missed calls. He is clearly relishing the scene. Sadist saala!

Meanwhile, there is a veritable stampede at Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me’s desk. Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am is doing his best to get Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me’s task done on time. Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed has descended from the fourth floor and come here to accord moral support. Tongues rattling away in Telugu – all wanting to get the mission accomplished. Even Mr. I-live-to-browse looks concerned. There is palpable tension in the air. Will he be able to deliver or will he not? Thoughts of The M hacking Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me into pieces is chilling everyone to the bone. The air is thick with heavy breathing. Everybody’s hopes are now pinned on Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am. The clock is ticking away wickedly.

The tongues are tied now. The bay is silent. All you can hear is the sound of Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am’s fingers on the keyboard and the ticking of the sinful clock. Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed’s phone rings. It’s his girlfriend. He silences the phone – no time for love. My mother calls. I press silent too – no time for motherly love. Both Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed and I are sweating in the conditioned air. Mr. I-live-to-browse has stopped browsing and is cracking his knuckles. Then I see the corner of Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am’s lips curl into a smile. He looks up at Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me’s face and says softly, “It’s working da.” Immediately our bay resembles the Gandhi Parivar’s quarters after a Congress swept victory. Minus the fire crackers but equal the joy in the hearts. Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me pats Mr. I-think-therefore-I-am’s back and gives him an approving nod. Then we all pat him and he blushes profusely.  There is free flow of words like genius whiz kid guru to name a few. He blushes even more through his smiles; I have a gut feeling he just wants the carpet floor to gobble him up so that he can run away from the attention. In minutes the status update mailer is ready and sent. Sent to The M.

We pack our bags to leave. I rush to the rest room. I always have to pee before I leave office. The janitor inside asks me where I got my nose pierced. She tells me she loves the ring. She wants to know why I wear silver and not gold. I want to tell her gold will look hideous on me, but I don’t know the Tamil word for hideous. So I smile and say, “I’ll try.” She tells me she has a night shift tonight and I say goodbye and leave.

Outside, Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me and Mr. A-Friend-in-need-is-a-friend-indeed are waiting for me. We walk towards the cab. After getting down from the cab at the office main gate, they walk me down to my place. We walk in silence. These are some things I’ll miss when I leave Chennai. Like walking down this road with people who mean so much to me. I reach my gate. I turn back and wish them a good night. I look expectedly at Mr. Don’t-mess-with-me. He says, “Thanks.” Both of them smile.

I walk up to my floor and fit the key into the lock on the door. I realize I’m smiling too. All by myself.

“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars….”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2010 by eightbeats

     The IInd part is by a dear friend…

                             I

 Don’t teach me about love, my eyes will mock you.

Don’t talk to me about the sting, my sister, I’ll show you scars you don’t want to see.

Don’t kid yourself – you’re not Joan Baez, he can never be your Dylan.

There will be blood is more than just a movie title.

Blood. Cigarette smoke .Ridicule. Disgrace .Primal instinct.Phantom sex.

See who’s lambasting me next -Sleep.

No sleep. No sleep. No sleep. No respect. No fucking respect.

Too scared to close my eyes, All I see are my blood stained jeans.

I can see the broken bottles. I can feel the metal digging into my flesh;

And I can see myself smile through it all.

Seven voices. One pool bar. Clouds in the sky. Rounds of beer. Ten thousand lies.

 Atleast cocaine don’t lie..she don’t lie,she don’t lie,she don’t lie,cocaine..

One kiss sending seven sharks into a frenzy….

 Love comes cheap…

Trade it for more than it’s worth..

When you find a convenient streetlight, you know it’s time to step out of the shade.

Romeo said, “All I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme”..

But Romeo must die…

                             II

You tell me’no woman no cry

Let undeserving romeos die’

But while my creed goes up in smoke and ashes

 Sister, I bleed in back-alleys under broken streetlights

No cocaine can’t tame my senses

My gashes run beyond skin-deep

Maybe am just a pig in a cage on antibiotics

Wasting away on frozen thoughts and fluid emotions

3 years of a lie can’t be wished away in a heartbeat of pool tables and sharks

Maybe all i need is just a little patience

Maybe i’ll just live on a prayer

Till I can tell my diamonds from my rust…

Cry tough…(short story)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2009 by eightbeats

For Bishu,

Bishu , I don’t think we’ve met and though we can never meet, I feel I’ve known you forever. This write up is for you. I’m sure you would have liked it.

Love,

Anonymous.

CRY TOUGH

It was one dark phase in our lives; Ponkhi’s and mine. Disillusioned by love, we spent our days sharing “all men are dogs” anecdotes. And then, as in the fairy tales papa used to tell me, we were rescued by our respective knights in shining armour. We found solace in the arms of men who were hitherto our friends. Bishwadeep developed feelings for Ponkhi, and Justin’s music bailed me out of my Godforsaken love life. But this story is not about Justin and me or Ponkhi and me. In fact, I don’t know what it is about. What I know very well is that it’s a story which needs to be told.

I don’t remember who fell for whom first; it’s inconsequential anyway. Ponkhi and Bishu had a rocking relationship. He seemed just the right choice for her. I called her religiously to share who my current flame was! She, on the other hand, seemed only to contented with Mr. B. I really thought she was going to settle with him. Which also made things tough for me. I had to compose mushy lines (she knew I wrote sometimes) or poems for her, so that she could pass them over to him as her own. Blackmailing her about this did not work. It was not her Achilles’ heel, not writing. Ponkhi was proud she could not sweet talk. “I can’t!” Period.

Naturally, they fought too. On one particular instance, she called me up saying she wanted to come over to my place. Not a problem, of course. Save for the fact that I still hadn’t cooked my lunch, could she drop by a little later? Half an hour, perhaps? No, she can’t wait that long, she had had a row with Bishu a moment ago and staged a walk out. She had to go somewhere! Girls!

We girls do this all the time. We sulk, refuse to reply to messages, get indifferent or sometimes, get off the car abruptly. Which is what Madame had just done. But there’s a catch here. We always secretly look forward to our men cajoling us to go back to them. But we don’t want them to telephone us right away. Let us be in a mood for a day at least. And then leave a voice mail. Nine out of ten, you’ll have us drooling over you.

 That day, when an aghast Ponkhi got off Bishu’s car, he made no effort to stop her. It’s so easy to see why she loved him the way she did.

And then there were birthdays. And birthdays. The shameless female that she was, she would not gift Bishu anything and be amazingly candid about being broke. Not just that, she would go a step further by advising him to follow suit. You might find this weird but I daresay you can gauge the compatibility level of a college going couple by keeping an eye on their gifting habits. Not how often. How seldom. In my four years and eight months with Akhilesh, I gifted him one Nike cap!

Sometimes, though not always, a man does change. He reaches out. He has dreams. He disciplines himself, crops his hair short, updates his wardrobe and gives job interviews. When all he’s wanting to say is, “Hope you’re proud of me, girl”. Bishu must’ve felt fantastic doing these for his girl. She too must have felt worthwhile, complete. I sometimes think, none of the dozen odd men I’ve dated, ever tried to change me. Maybe they loved me for what I am. Recklless. Or maybe, none of them ever loved me at all. As for Ponkhi, she would go on and on about how Bishu was gradually growing into a responsible young man, how he’d come to terms with the fact that if he were to have a future with her, he would have to earn it. Otherwise, they’ll have to forget all about it. I told you, she’s er..rather candid!

But knowing her, I bet she would have stayed by him anyway.

He lived in bangalore. Sex, consequently, was infrequent. But whenever they met, they made up for it. Once Ponkhi checked into a Paharganj Inn with him. They did not walk out of the room for 3 days straight!

How do you measure love? How do you know who loved you more, that dumb brawny guy you dated in your teens and couldn’t stop talking to or the guy who you’re now seeing and only talk to once in two days? Or, that high school House captain who turned you into a Soccer fanatic?

And, how do you define love? Vicky tells me it starts off as an addiction. The level is given by how early in the morning you need your first hit. When you get it, all you can think of is your next hit. That’s when you discover that you’re well and truly hooked. Ponkhi and Bishu were bonded in a special way. Having begun as friends, they went on to become addicts and then, became friends again. I choose to call them lovers. No other word would suffice.

Last year, when my semester exams were around the corner, our professors wanted all of us to come up with a complete presentation of what we had learnt in our summer training. They expected us to know everything about the units in a chemical refinery. Why delayed cooking unit was “delayed”, why micro sieves were in vogue, how a rotary drill operates, so on and so forth. All these, when we could be at home preparing for our theory papers! But all engineering college Profs are bloody potheads anyway and they know how to get what they want. So there I was; scurrying about, sketching flow sheets, memorising from the prehistoric editions of chemical engineering reference books which we so proudly stock in our libraries, downloading and printing. And then downloading some more. Never had HP cartridge hurt more!

Finally, on the D day, I stood on the dais in the hall, red eyed and sleep deprived, in front of 40 odd people, including teachers. My monsters were the usual suspects – the teachers and the nerds. Oh what wouldn’t I give to swap positions! Before I started, I heard my phone beep. I furtively checked it. Amessage from Ponkhi. I smiled and murmured under my breath, “What timing, biaatch!”. Giving in to my temptation, I promptly pressed, “view”.

 It read, ” Bishu expired last night.”

The next few minutes were a haze. I pointed to the Isosiv unit and thought of my closest friend. I could not hear what the profs were asking me; if I heard them, I could not follow them; even if I did, I was past caring. I was misty eyed and could hardly see my own sketches. When I was done, I called Ponkhi. She was sobbing. I had never seen her in so much pain and I felt like a complete waste because nothing I said or did would assuage her. So, I chose to listen. To her muffled cries and her breaking voice. I could decipher only one sentence, “why him?” I had no answer.

True, Bishu had done nothing to merit this. His father is an honest law abiding citizen and a generous soul. The proud father of a son who had redeemed himself in the company of a woman. Until then, death was a thing you always talked about in the third person. Until then.

 For Ponkhi, Bishu shared a space between the first person and the second. A space by invitation only. Bishu’s elder brother gave her Bishu’s diary. She could not read it; it was almost entirely about her. I think every line cut through her.

To this day, Ponkhi has not unburdened it all to me. When she called me upon that fateful day, she was still in Delhi. After coming to Guwahati, she has only mentioned Bishu a couple of times to me, more as an allusion than anything else. I think she’s still so weak that she dreads talking about it. She sees him in her dreams. It pains me to see that she’s trying so hard to be ok all by herself; always cracking non funny jokes, believing Shabana when she says Ponkhi is the oracle of Spartan times, reading Debajyoti’s articles, counselling Anita on how much space she should allow Hrishikesh, bumping into roadside astrologers with crazy Angie along and creating a fuss about my single status on a forum. Someone once told me that sharing your grief takes a lot of the sting away. You weep and you feel lighter. You cry yourself tough. Maybe then I should ask her to talk to me. Over coffee, like women do. Maybe that would unburden her. Ask her a few questions and browse a few of the blood stained pages of Bishu’s diary.

Or, let her be.

I hope this doesn’t make me a lesser friend.

The battle for space

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2009 by eightbeats

I think I need more space than the average Indian female. Only that, and nothing else, explains my paranoia. I stay alone because I cannot stand the typical scheming gossiping fudging-the-monthly-ledger flatmate. My gtalk status is more often red than green because it’s good to catch up with friends once in a while but I do not wish to succumb to the pressure of discussing my life up to the most minute detail, with any friend who’s online. Every morning, I like my green tea cold and my newspaper warm and I don’t like to share that time with anyone else. In office, I mostly join my colleagues in the ubiquitous-in-IT coffee breaks. But sometimes I choose to drink my coffee alone for no reason; then they don’t ask me questions. Thank God for small mercies.

I don’t call up my friends every week or every fortnight; I call them when I genuinely want to talk to them or when they need me. By me, that’s ok. You can talk to a friend every night and still bitch about him or her in the next phone call you make to another friend you call every week. I can never do such a thing. But I’m subjected to ridiculous accusations of being arrogant. I’m infamous for not returning calls and for not replying to scraps. Not returning calls, I will attribute to my absent mindedness.  And not replying to scraps, I don’t even want to comment on. I hardly think scraps maketh a friend. For me, the friends closest to my heart are still the ones I’ve grown up with. Like, I’m genuinely happy that Shakeel, my buddy of twenty years, is wining laurels in The Hindustan Times and living my dream. But how often do I call him? Not very. I’m sure deep down inside, he knows nothing has changed and that I would still mimic his girlfriends and that I still long for the gulab jamuns his mom used to make on his birthday every year.

I refuse to let anyone else control my life. I fiercely protect this space. I cannot see myself glued to the phone discussing with my boyfriend what I’ve eaten, what he’s eaten, when I’ve eaten, when he’s eaten, which colour I’ve worn, which colour he’s wearing, which friend  I’m hanging out with, which colleague is making a pass at me, which teddy of mine misses him so on and so forth. Most of all, I cannot mock cry on the phone when he tells me he’s busy. I cringe when I hear any girl do it. Give the man his space please.  My ex flat mate took invasion of personal space to a whole new high. She told me the first day I met her that her boyfriend approved of my shifting in with her because I was the intellectual type. Huh? Firstly, I’m no intellectual, I told her. And secondly, I could very well do without a seal of approval from him; it was her flat – she decides who she lets in and who she doesn’t. I wrongly assumed that the point hit home and I moved in with her. What followed was an assault on my space. Not only did she discuss her daily life with her; she also gave him a live commentary on what I was doing. “She’s wearing red tonight. She’s watching Dilip Kumar songs on television. She studies all the time and that never shows on her scores. She is smiling because she can hear me talk about her to you (and this was a lie, mind you!). She’s taking a crap the second time today.” I moved out of the flat and resolved to live alone. Life has been a bliss ever since.

To all who have been endlessly complaining, I can be a wonderful friend but I can’t share my space. I can’t talk to you all the time and I can’t accompany you everywhere you go. I can’t inherit your friends and your enemies. I will hang around with whoever I feel comfortable with. I need some time alone in which I do what I want to do or choose to do nothing but curl up with a book in bed. But I will not give away that time for anything else. Please make your peace with that. I’m sure this doesn’t make me a lesser friend.

I’m trying to figure out where this angst stems from. Why am I so fiercely protective of my space? I think it has something to do with my upbringing. My parents have always let me do my own thing. There is a line that no one in my family crosses; we understand that, just because we love a person and care for him, we might not be entitled to possess him. Somewhere down the line, I probably got used to it and any sort of infringement does not go down well with me.

Last week, a dear friend of mine who stays in Delhi, and who I was not in touch for more than a year, for no particular reason, called up to say that he needed help – his girl was pregnant and they were planning to get married immediately, could I help? I responded by asking him what friends were for. I could sense the relief in his voice as he hung up. And, as I hung up, I opened the makemytrip site for the first Chennai-Delhi flight available. The fact that one year had gone by without either of us calling up the other surely did not count. Not , at least, in my book.

Of all the flattered, followed, sought and sued....