Five Elements – Fire

He asked me to log into Yahoo Messenger.

He ordered me to turn on my webcam.

My heart fluttered with ecstasy. I hadn’t seen him for two days.

 

His face was pale, as always.

He picked them up one after another and showed them to me.

The dark blue denim jeans.

The grey and white shirt.

The wine red tie.

The dusky brown wallet.

The woven black bracelet.

They had been carefully collected over the past two years, the tangible evidence of my undying love for him.

 

Oh yes, and the journal too.

My journal. To him. That told the story of us from the day it had all begun.

 

And then, silently, he set them on fire.

With the really sleek, rose gold cigarette lighter.

The lighter that demanded from me, my dinner for two months before I could afford to lay my hands on it.

 

How was it possible that all the salt water brimming in my eyes was incapable of dousing the fire?

As I continued to watch the evidence slowly melt away, I couldn’t necessarily tell the exact color of that brightness.

 

Strangely enough, he hadn’t laid a single finger on me.

Simply yet.

On his balcony floor lay my heart.

And my soul.

In a pile of ashes.

Without a point of resurrection.

Five Elements – Wind

She stood by the parapet wall.

Dark clouds descended and cold air ascended.

Chill breeze brushed her hair away from her face.

She gracefully placed the Gold Flake Kings in her mouth and tried to light up a match.

The wind around her blew out the little fire.

Neither had she been a customary inhaler of this morbid smoke.

Nor was this her initial choice.

 

**

Her mind floated weightlessly into the past.

Propelled by a flurry of memories.

Willing to reach stagnation only when the outline of his image intensified.

The picture of him inhaling and exhaling toxic grey air.

Her dearest memory of him was the deep sense of melting perfection she experienced when her lips met his for the first time.

Soft and intense, so infused with nicotine.

Choicelessly she swayed from aversion to appreciating its flawlessness.

She no longer wanted to taint her lips with any other type of kiss.

 

**

Now all she had was his brand.

She had turned from passive to active.

The taste of nicotine in her mouth.

The smell of smoke in the air around her was her only streak of connection with him.

It lead her to believe they still belonged like a song in the wind.

Even if it was for one fleeting, unrealistic moment.

Dodging the misty air, she struck the match again and cupped her palms to light her obsession rolled in brown and white paper.

As her lungs got a shot of the polluted air, a whimpered cough escaped from them.

Hopelessly they looked at their neighbor, her heart and inquired,

“Why do you do this to us? Isn’t it easier to simply let go?”

 

Her heart whispered,

“Oh, how could you two possibly fathom. To love fairly and incessantly is all you know. Left lung and right lung, you were born together.

Raised together.

Fell in love.

And became soulmates.

What do you know about loss?

My loss.

The permanent loss of the only heart I effortlessly connected with.”

Her lungs drowned in another gust loaded with tobacco.

Inching towards their doom.

Her heart reached elation and looked at them.

“Lucky bastards, even in their death, they go hand.”

Then. Now. Beyond.

THEN-
With every beginning I wished for the end,
How could eight hours seem like eternal.
Across me, you sat, just shy of a brawl,
I could tell we made each other’s skin crawl.

New, lost, and defeated I felt, as if I were stuck in an abyss,
How strangely my loneliness had meticulously creeped from reds to swings.
And yet, I reminded myself that I left the old and chose the new to serve a specific purpose,
So I tugged along grudgingly with no remorse.

Anger, jealousy, and greed are a few innate emotions,
Hatred strangely surpassed and triumphed them all.
I realized, what was worse than your abhorrence,
Was the way you looked right through me like I was transparent glass, with pure nonchalant indifference.

One unexplained, bitter-sweet gloomy winter morning, for me your eyes searched,
In tolerance they waited and watched. Until upon you, my eyes, I laid,
Your unflinching gaze conveyed volumes, and yet, no words were said.
But confusingly enough, when your lips parted,
I didn’t hear much but spontaneous disdain.
It made me cross,
That your looks and lips reeked of contradiction, playing a game of such brutal polarity.

NOW-
You tap that corner in the deepest, darkest of places,
The one that I convinced myself I was too broken to embrace.
If perception could be a pure, simple language,
Would you converse with me thus forever, from your eyes to mine, through this secret passive passage.

To be impressed and go weak in my knees,
To sway me until I fall head over heels.
All you had to do was sprinkle some intelligence and some arrogance,
Some observance and some perseverance.

How have you jolted awake the teenager in me?
Was it this wonderfully sweet to be sixteen?
Every dawn I hope we chance upon one another,
For that to materialize, several cups of terrible espresso I choose to endure.

My heart has been shattered in the past and played plenty a musical chair,
But to slyly be seated next to you is about what I care.
As you sincerely slice that engineered piece in solid works,
I want to compel you to peel my intricate layers and delve into the farthest corners of my mind, or maybe simply and freely plunge in and fathom my spirit.

When you often travel into the blue skies and across oceans,
So far away from me, remotely above the clouds.
I question, I demand, I struggle,
How is this possible, for us to be divided by land and yet be so united in space?

BEYOND-
Hate is a strong word, you told me,
You have me pondering what hurts more though.
To hate or to love,
Somehow whichever one I pick lingers of an un-numbing ache.

If I am prejudice, will you be my pride?
If I am the half blood princess, will you be my muggle prince, and hopefully this time around, we will be staring at the same tide?

If you dipped a finger into your ivory white skin and then touched my desert brown, will that mixture feel like the color of love?
If your belief in the cross and mine in the primordial tone engulfed one another just as one wave embraces the other, will that comfort sound like love?
If the east and the west turn into momentary mirror reflections of each other, as they birth and devour the sun incessantly, will that serenity look like love?
If your intense and dark bourbon like bitterness dampens my spicy chai like zesty temperament, will that saccharine fragrance smell like love?
If your perfect red lips met and kissed my dusky, bruised soul once, just once, will that fieriness taste like love?

Will this kind of love that completely engulfs my five senses be called perfectly, wholesome, pure love?

Is it possible then,
That with every end I wish for this beginning,
And eternal can seem like eight hours.

Learning to live with a broken, grieving heart

Earlier this year, my father was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer; cancer in the duodenum. Having been a student of the sciences for the entirety of my life thus far, the first thing I did when I got this news is, look up what part of the body duodenum is. I didn’t even know if I was pronouncing it right.

But that is the ruthlessness of the C. It teaches you everything in a very short period of time. It teaches you anatomy, it teaches you that there is no prevention for this dreadful monster, it teaches you that you can only treat it but perhaps never cure it, it teaches you about surgical options, it teaches you all about chemo and radiation, it teaches you about their side effects, it teaches you to fight a battle with all your might and resources, it teaches you to have hope for remission, it teaches you to live with the fear of recurrence, it teaches you the value of life, it teaches you about winning the battle.

What the C doesn’t teach you though, is how to continue to survive when you have lost a loved one to it.

Yes, my father, my Nanna, succumbed to the C.

There. That is the first time I have actually said the words out, even in my head.

There are two reasons why I am actually writing this:

  1. I realized that death is such a taboo topic for most people. I’m not sure if it is cultural or if it is just human nature across borders. Some people are just too afraid to talk about it. Some people desperately want to offer some kind of moral support, but just do not know what to say. They wonder what the right thing to say is. Nobody actually teaches us how to console or offer support to a heart broken person. Some others speak with you, and just skip the topic and try to shove it under the carpet with small talk, while your grief sits in the corner of the room like an elephant. I was overcome with emotion most times, but was also appalled by some insensitive conversations, and rather shocked by some people’s lack of sympathy.
  2. My Nanna was a writer and a poet himself, a really good one at that. He was always very proud that I sought to pursue writing, in some way. And writing about this, is my way of dealing with my grief. Also, if it can help bring some sort of consolation to at least one grieving soul out there even for a few minutes, I am sure Nanna would be smiling down at me, wherever he is.

This part, the past few months, has been the hardest phase of my life. I remember thinking that my break up with my first boyfriend was the worst pain that could be inflicted upon me, but it makes me laugh at myself now. Losing a parent is far, far, far worse. This has to be the worst thing that can happen to anybody. But, nevertheless, I have found some coping methods that are helping me to learn to live with a broken, grieving heart. So I decided to write about them. All of these may not necessarily apply to a person dealing with the loss of a loved one, but that’s the magnanimity of grief and loss, nothing can wholly describe or completely encompass it.

  1. Try to Have no Regrets:

Regrets are nothing but injurious to you. It may be impossible to not have regrets, like, you could have said this, or done that, or just paid attention, etc. And that is why I said try. It is okay, remember you cannot change what has happened and remember, things could have been far worse. Do not regret the things you could have done for them, be it that you didn’t call them more often, or meet them more often, or they didn’t see you graduate, or that they didn’t see you get married, or they didn’t see you have kids and so on. Nobody goes away satisfied. They could still have one more unfulfilled wish.

I was continents away from my Nanna went he went away since he was coping so well and then suddenly, my whole world crashed to the ground, without any notification. I regret not being there, I regret not getting to say my goodbye, but I shudder at the thought of being there and having to see him on a ventilator struggling to survive.  It is more comforting to hold on to an image of him laughing with me, discussing his favorite books with me, or simply being the strong father he always was. So try to let go of the regrets and hold on to the happier memories. Do not let the Dementor of Regret feed upon your grieving soul. Think of the things you did that made them happy, have multiple Patronus’. They help.

  1. Avoid the What-Ifs and Buts:

The mind plays very dangerous games on you. It tries to draw you into a game of ‘What if we have done this instead of that’ or ‘But this didn’t happen to XYZ’s uncle’ or ‘Maybe we should have seen a different surgeon’ or ‘What if we had tried Ayurveda instead’ and so on. All this does is it sends you down a spiraling path of no return. Life is a bitch, and some things are just not in your control and sadly, you have to learn to live with this bitter truth for the rest of your life. Yes, things could have gone differently, and if they did go differently, maybe you could have had a few extra months and perhaps done everything they wanted to do and then what? Even if every sequence of the What-Ifs and Buts went right, nobody is ever going to be ready to let go of their loved one. Nothing can prepare us for this. So do no fall into this limbo.

Instead, maybe, now you couldperhaps check off something on their bucket list for them. My Nanna always dreamed of going to China and so I have decided to go there next year, and do the things he always wanted to do. Mostly for his sake, but also for the sake of my own grieving heart.

  1. Anger Vs Acceptance:

Sometimes I am extremely angry that this happened to me. That I have to suffer this way. On some days I feel suffocated and chocked and irritated and angry. I did not deserve this. There are times when I still hope that I will finally wake up and realize that this is just a bad, horrible dream and that everything is okay back home. Oftentimes, I feel like an atheist, other times I feel agnostic. Some times I am sitting in a team meeting and have tears in my eyes for no apparent reason, other times I listen to really sad songs because I want to make myself cry. I am angry that certain friends haven’t called me after learning about my loss and offered support, and I am angrier that some close friends haven’t said the right things to me. I want to scream when people ask me, ‘How are you?’ I want to snap back saying, ‘I’m not fine, I have never felt this shattered before and the pain never seems to end,’ but you are supposed to gulp everything down and simply say, ‘I’m doing alright.’ I am angry that people don’t ask something more sensitive like, ‘How are you doing today?’ or ‘How are you holding up?’ or simply, ‘Hang in there.’ It suffocates me that I still have my Nanna’s number saved on my phone but I simply cannot pick up the phone and call him anymore or receive any ‘missed calls’ from him.

ALL THIS IS OKAY. You can be angry and you don’t have to accept what has happened. You can keep that saved number on your phone forever and never delete it. I am not asking you to get all delusional but, if you just lost someone you knew ever since you were in the womb, it is alright to be angry and not reach the acceptance stage of your grief.

And let me tell you this, you probably will never reach the acceptance stage and that is okay too. To think that you have them watching over you, guarding you and wishing the best for you is completely normal.

Ever since this has happened, all I can tell people is: My Nanna had the C and he didn’t make it or everything happened so fast and is over. I haven’t been able to bring myself to utter the actual words used in the English language, even the flowery ones. I feel that if I uttered them, they might actually become true.

grief

  1. Keep Away the Negative Energy:

Do not let the negative energy become a priority. What nobody teaches you is that all rituals, irrespective, which religion you belong to make mourning very taxing. I do not question religion or rituals but families often prioritize ritualistic practices over people’s loss. Nobody, absolutely nobody, can feel what you are going through when you are dealing with your loss. While some practices are just blunt and brutal, some families make it harder than it already is.

There were relatives who told me that all my Nanna wanted was to see his 31 year old daughter married and that he left without his dream being fulfilled. I was arguing with them that, yes, he wanted me to be married, but he also wanted me to be happy, that was more important to him than my marriage. There were some people who talked about assets and gold, and there were still others who were gossiping about what treatment could have been better, and some others who were complaining that there was no sugar in the coffee being served to visitors.

What irked me the most, but was also a moment of realization, was when two members in my Nanna’s family had a difference of opinion on the ritual protocol and they began to argue about whether the ‘meal offering’ must be placed at the head or at the foot of my father. That was it. I walked away, away from the wretched deathly hallows toward home, home that will never be the same anymore. I needed none of this bullshit. What I was going through was already extremely heart wrenching and to these people, this was some kind of an ego display theatrics.

This is the kind of negative energy you want to keep away. I feel that facing these situations, or involving yourself in them, even arguing with them to prove a point takes away from your loss. It makes your loss sit on the back burner. It makes trivial things appear more important, which isn’t the case clearly. Your loved one loved you very dearly. Let nobody tell you otherwise.

  1. Find a Medium to Deal with your Grief:

This is very, very important. You need to let the pain out. The pain does not get any lesser if you do, this will stay with you and haunt you forever, but the letting out process eases the pain to a certain extent. You can choose whatever medium you want. Crying out loud in front of people, pouring out tons of silent tears while you are alone in bed or in the bathroom, confiding your pain in your friends, having long conversations with your family about the loss, going to grief support groups, reading books, reading books on dealing with grief, collecting pictures of your lost one, whatever works for you. But find that medium. One of my friends advised me that some people chose the wrong medium, like resort to alcoholism or doing drugs, only because that keeps the pain away, and that I shouldn’t take those up. Of course, so I don’t support mediums that cause self-destruction.

What helps me is talking about my loss. The pain it causes me, the unfair situation, the happy memories, and merrier times. I started to keep a journal and jot down all the little happy instances I can recollect. I want my future  kids, if I ever have them, to know my Nanna since they will not get to meet him in person. This post is a medium too.

My friends tell me I have become even more obsessed with cleaning. I am constantly cleaning the apartment and re-arranging furniture. I keep my appointments to the Ts and never cancel plans. It is my way toward some sort of satisfaction that I can still control some things, and that I will continue to control what I can since there clearly are things that are way beyond my controlling or fixing capability.

  1. Let Each Person in your Family Deal in Their Own Way:

If this isn’t easy on you, it isn’t easy on your family either, your siblings and your mother, I mean. They could be in a far worse situation than you are. Do not put yourself in their shoes because you probably will never understand their pain even though you are all dealing with the same loss. Do not judge them or force them to confide in you. Just remember, in Rachel Green’s words, if you feel that it’s like there is rock bottom, then 50 feet of crap, then you, your family could be feeling the same, or they probably have a 150 feet of crap between rock bottom and them. Grief is so weird, it comes like alternating current, only there is no resistance, none at all.

What I am trying to say is; every human being is different. When the likes and dislikes are so vastly different between two individuals, how will two people’s modes of grieving be identical. It took me a few weeks to understand this.

When this great tragedy hit my family, my brother did not cry. For as long as I was there with him, he did not shed a single tear. I was very worried for him, worried that we would have to face a volcanic outburst due to all the over piled containment inside of him. I nudged him to cry, and offered him my shoulder to cry on, lent my ears to hear him out, and he did neither. He also refused to shave his head that was required as a part of the ritual. And when I asked why, he calmly said to me, ‘I do not want remember what I was made to do to him after he was gone, in the burial ground. If I shave my head, every time I look into the mirror, this is what I will remember.’ Reality hit me; I hadn’t even considered what the boys in our country, particularly Hinduism practicing families go through in these kinds of situations. It is just outright brutal. Of course, my brother was forced to shave his head anyway.

I simply said to him, ‘You don’t have to confide in me, as long as you have some medium or someone you feel comfortable enough to speak with, as long as you are unburdening the pain in some manner, I’m okay.’

  1. The Ultimate Support System:

This could be your family, friends or simply acquaintances who are also grieving and know what it is to lose a parent. They are your backbone and you have to learn to recognize, and appreciate them.  Support comes in so many ways. Some people give you cards to console you and let you know they are there for you, some send you flowers, some friends come and meet you and stay with you, some of them, even if they aren’t physically there, say the right things you need to hear. Some simply ask the most mundane and banal questions that could mean the world to you. Every little effort matters and needs to be remembered. I always like to say, ‘Good friends clap their hands and cheer you through your ups but great friends hold your hand and pull you up through your downs.’

When I got the most devastating news of my life, a co-worker and friend hugged me real tight for I don’t know how long and asked if she could say a Christian prayer although she knew my Nanna was a Hindu, and I just hugged her back and shook my head in agreement.

An acquaintance who I barely know asked me, ‘Have you been getting any sleep and do you feel hungry at all these days?’ Such an inconspicuous question but it literally had me chocked. Because there are nights you cry yourself to sleep and yet can’t keep the pain away.

And to all these people who were my backbone, I made sure I told them how appreciated they were and how much their concern made some difference to my grieving processes.

  1. It is okay to be Happy:

This is the trickiest one. There are times when you forget all this pain for some time and go back to being your old self. When you treat yourself. When you go shopping and buy yourself a new dress. When you go out on Friday night with friends and get drunk. When you simply turn off your mind and decide to go watch a newly released movie. When you take a vacation because you need a break. And this is okay. Do not be guilty about it. Ignore the judgmental looks people throw at you. Nobody decides for you about how you learn to survive, you do. You have been through a lot. And you don’t have to sit in the corner and cry all the time. If anything, your life isn’t going to stop because you choose to throw your hands up in the air and decide you’re done.  Your loved one never wanted you to brood all the time and waste your life. That wasn’t expected of you. Grief will last forever; you just have to learn to continue to do everything in life while you carry that void in your heart.

This has been one of the most difficult things I have ever had to write, but I just needed to put it out there because sometimes, I have felt extremely lonely and all I wished for was to hear from someone who was dealing with what I am going through. And yes, growing up sucks. Sometimes I wish I could just go back to being in 7th Grade where my biggest problems in life were fear of Gowri Ma’am and passing the Maths test.

For those of you who are interested, I chanced upon this website called Remembering With Roses. This company takes roses from events such as funerals, weddings, graduations, etc. and they have a recipe that makes the roses into long lasting, permanent black beads. They accept both fresh and dried roses and you can ship directly to them. I wanted to have something tangible from my Nanna, apart from myself, so I got a pendant made. When I wear it, I feel connected to him and it gives me a sense of protection from him, like he is over seeing me.

Here is the link: http://www.rememberingwithroses.com

October 21st, 2016: Happy 64th Birthday, Nanna. I love you.

“The most painful goodbyes are the ones that are never said and never explained.”

Airplane Mode – Part 2

March 31st, 2016, Doha

She chucked the idea of going back to the book store to buy herself a book to divert her mind; instead, she decided to feed her obsession of figuring out who the girl in the pretty black dress was.

She carefully began to observe the girl.

‘Observation makes no sense to me at all, because what exactly are you trying to deduce, I have no clue. You are trying to confirm if a certain person is actually the person whom you’ve never met before, and whose Facebook profile you obsessed with about 3 years ago? Isn’t that plain pathetic?’ her mind made a feeble attempt to persuade her to sway away from the path she was going down. A path that was capable of bringing her more gloom than gain.

She rolled her eyes and looked at Rush Me Not who hadn’t looked up even once while her own brain had just swum through the past nine years of her own life in nine long seconds. Through the first two years where she had been in a wonderful relationship with him, the next three years where she had been in an off and on long distance relationship, followed by the last four years where she felt that she hadn’t ever gotten over him in the truest sense.

‘What on earth is she doing on her phone? People aren’t even able to connect to the wireless internet at this stupid airport. And why would anyone undertake a 27 hour journey dressed like that. You know, in a pretty black dress with tiny pink roses teamed with plain, black stockings and finished with black high heels. They are not even travel friendly clothes. I wonder whom she’s going to meet when she lands in Bangalore that she had to be this dressed up,’ she smirked in spite.

She buried the memory that was starting to sprout in her head; the one where she recalled how he liked his girl to always be dressed up and pretty, the time when he had expected her to wear her black kurta and striped pink patiala pants when he took her to the temple, or the time when he chided her for wearing an old t-shirt when he took her to Xtreme Sports Bar. And mechanically, she looked down at her navy blue sweat shirt that said OK, BUT FIRST COFFEE, and her extremely comfortable pair of old travel jeans and tennis shoes.

‘Or Rush Me Not must have just gotten off from work and directly boarded the plane. You know, had no time to change in comfortable clothing,’ optimism tried to talk to her pessimism, and she chose to ignore the brighter perspective instantly.

Boarding had now begun. She watched Rush Me Not hastily put her phone away and get in the line and she waited for this girl she was starting to loathe to disappear through the gate and wished she never saw her again, because, if that were to happen, she would never have to nourish her desire to find out if Rush Me Not was the enemy or not.

She looked down at her boarding pass, Seat 15E. She went inside, wished the air hostess a good evening, waited for someone tall to help her 5 feet 1 inch-self place her backpack in the unreachable overhead cabin. 15E was a middle seat in the middle row but a for a four hour flight journey that wasn’t bad at all. She looked to her left and it was empty. To her right side was seated an older middle aged man in a red and blue striped polo shirt. She made herself comfortable and buried her head into the magazine that was available.

It wasn’t until a good 30 minutes later that she noticed the person seated diagonally to her right, in the row in front of hers, in Seat 14G, reading a book. She tried to casually catch the name of the book but instead saw tiny pink flowers as the girl set the book on her lap.

‘Oh no! Not again. I am done with this chapter. I just wanted a quiet three hours to myself before I get home and now, you send this menacing riddle again. You put her in my face where I can clearly see her so I can entangle my thoughts all over again,’ sleep screeched grudgingly.

She wished, that very second, that she was traveling by train with Rush Me Not instead of in an airplane. It would have been so much easier. She could have just gone and checked her name on the list of passengers pasted on the compartment door.

Her distressed and pitiable conscience watched Rush Me Not reading ‘A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin’ and screamed from within, ‘You are supposed to be stupid. The kind of person who couldn’t tell the difference between moment and movement. How on earth are you reading one of the bestselling series in the world especially when even avid book readers have actually taken to watching the series on HBO owing to the fact that reading these books is a herculean task since it involves extensive dedication of valuable time.’

‘Or this is just some random person and not the Rush Me Not like you expect her to be. And even if it is her, why does it matter to you, after all these years. It could be a fateful coincidence that you are traveling together, I would just ask you to thank your stars that he isn’t traveling with her which would be even worse, watching them together for four full hours,’ her haughtiness tried to drill sense into her pathetic, judging self.

She was now starting to get hungry. The entire travel had messed up her food and sleep timings. Besides, she needed food as a distraction from this nonsense that was churning in her head. Soon she was served breakfast or dinner, she wasn’t sure, but she decided to let other standard types of entertainment interrupt her. She turned her TV screen ON and decided to watch something. She wasn’t really in the mood to watch a movie, so she selected an episode from Modern Family and began to watch it and eat her meal. About 20 minutes later, she involuntarily glanced at her rival seated in Seat 14G. Rush Me Not had closed her book and was preparing to eat her meal, but before she did that, she switched on her TV too and began to browse the list of movies. She scoffed in contempt and thought, ‘Yeah, come on, select one of your saccharine infused Bollywood crap like Maine Pyaar Kiya or Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. After all, they are the kind of movies you like.’

Rush Me Not began to dig into her meal while selecting the very episode from Modern Family that she was watching. ‘No, this is absolutely preposterous. It cannot be happening. Aren’t you supposed to be this stupid and immature woman who does not even speak fluent English and watches the kinds of movies that require you to leave your brain outside the theater? What is happening? Okay, adding most of it up, it seems like this person I have been giving a lot of attention to might actually be Rush Me Not, in the technical sense,’ her lunatic heart chirped erratically.

‘Or you are trying to match a person’s face and personality with a name. First things first, you were not even provided with this person’s full name four years ago. So for all you know, you could have been ambushing the wrong profile when you checked it out. Two, people are not what they seem on social networking sites. So even if you found the right girl on Facebook, all you did after that was grasped pieces of hay and straw with words like moment and movement and her love for Bollywood and chalked out her personality in your head. Three, even if she was all those things you imagined her to be, four years ago, she could be a totally different person now. People change, situations change, your personality is a direct outcome of your circumstantial subjugation,’ lectured her gray matter, in a serious tone.

Forty Five minutes later, the captain announced that he was preparing to descend in another fifteen minutes. She began to get restless. Not knowing who the stranger in Seat 14G would haunt her for a long time. But she decided to let it go. Come to terms with it. Find peace in the choice she had made four years ago. It shouldn’t matter to her anymore.

******

April 1st, 2016, Bangalore

The plane landed in Kempe Gowda International Airport and continued to taxi towards the gate. Meanwhile, most of the passengers had started to get up from their seats and open the overhead bins and remove their bags as they prepared to hop off the plane. She stood up. She had been traveling for the past 27 hours and her feet were swollen from the continuous sitting. She tried to edge herself completely out of her seat and pick up her backpack but the man in the red and blue polo shirt wouldn’t budge and let her out. She looked around, bored. She tried her best to avoid looking at the woman in the pretty black dress still seated in 14G.

‘Just give it one last shot. One more time. Maybe you will catch a glimpse of her boarding pass or her phone? Hey, she is definitely the cheesy-romantic types of women, the kind who would use a couple picture as the wallpaper on her phone, you know?’ her fragile and scarred heart echoed with vulnerability.

‘Are you serious? Everything you have predicted, designed and played in that absurd playground of your brain has been proven to be wrong. Can we just move on, finish immigration, collect our bags, stretch ourselves and go home?’ her self-esteem thundered in anger. It had had enough of this futile rubbish served to it over the past several hours and was extremely exhausted, mentally and physically.

Her phone was still useless to her since she didn’t have international roaming. So she plugged in her headphones and began to listen to some music as she got her backpack and was ready to get off the plane.

She was standing and at a good viewing distance and could easily look into the sitting Rush Me Not’s phone. She didn’t intend to peep but when she did look, it was right about when Rush Me Not was in her phone Settings and went to turn the Airplane Mode OFF. She watched as the woman seated in 14G quickly texted someone, and then hit the back button making visible to the standing her, the phone’s wallpaper.

She stared. It was HIM, sporting his ordinary smile, in an orange polo shirt, with his one arm around the woman seated in 14G. The girl was wearing a pretty black dress with tiny, pink roses printed on it.

It was as if her world had frozen right there, and could perhaps never be thawed back to normalcy ever again. The plane full of people getting ready to disembark, noisy children pushing their way to the exit door, the man in the red and blue polo shirt, her backpack, the bright lights that lit up the international airport at dawn, the loud and shrill neighboring airplanes that were either screeching to a halt or racing on the runway for takeoff, the captain announcing the local time in Bangalore, some people, readjusting their watches to Indian Standard Time, some people making phone calls notifying their friends or family that the flight had landed, a woman trying to wade her way backwards to get to the restroom at the last minute, everything came to a standstill, like a hazy paradigm. She couldn’t see, hear, or feel anything anymore.

And then, she realized it was because her eyes had become blurry with tears, and in her ears, A.R. Rahman had burst into a passionate New York nagaram urangum neram thanimai adarnthathu, and in her head, very slowly, Rush Me Not had distinctly turned into Rashmi.

******

The End 

Airplane Mode – Part 1

March, 2016, Doha

It was only 5:20 in the evening when she got to Gate B6 at the Hamad International Airport. This meant she had two full hours to kill. She was already tired from the 13 hour flight to Doha and all she wanted by then was to get home and sleep for 12 hours straight. You would have usually seen her with her head buried in a book but this time she had already finished reading the one she was carrying on her. So she began to mentally lecture herself with an ‘I told you to put both your travel books in your backpack should you finish reading the first one’. She took her phone out and tried to connect to the airport’s free wifi so she could Facebook for a while. After a good 15 minutes, she wearily gave up her attempt to connect to the feeble wifi. She then went into her phone Settings and turned the Airplane Mode ON. The phone was practically useless without any cellular network and internet access in a foreign country.

And she reluctantly decided to do what people usually did under circumstances such as these. People-Watching. She wasn’t particularly fond of people-watching and never understood why some people made such a big deal out of it. ‘Airports are such fun places and people-watching, it is my favorite thing. I love those hundred different kinds of emotions you see at airports,’ she had heard people say. She began by looking at people seated in her zone, Zone 4.

There was a young couple with a kid. The wife was asking the husband to give some cookies to the baby boy and silence him while she went to the bathroom to change from her jeans into a salwar so she could be prepared and presentable to meet her in laws at the airport when they landed. There were two girls, probably about 10 years old, watching something on a shared iPad. A young man just brought his mother a hot beverage and was asking her if she needed more sugar in it. Another man in his mid-forties was staring at the TV trying to grasp bits and pieces from the Arabic news channel on the casualties that had occurred during the collapse of an unfinished flyover in Kolkata.

Then she saw a woman in a black dress with pink roses printed on it. It was such a pretty dress. It looked somewhat like the one she had desperately wanted to buy for her graduation but couldn’t afford a whopping $150 dress when unemployed, except that the one she had wanted to buy had the pink roses embroidered on the black instead of printed on it like this girl in the airport’s dress. She looked up at the woman’s face and almost immediately looked away, in shock. She could feel rapid pounding inside her chest and her mind was racing. No, it cannot be who she was thinking it could be. Absolutely not! She quickly and hastily looked around for the other familiar face she was anticipating to find.

There was no possible way on this planet that of all the existing days in her lifetime, Rashmi was going to travel with her on the same day, taking the exact flight she was going to take from Doha to Bangalore. The probability of this happening had to be zero in a lifetime. She looked back closely at the girl in the black dress that was busy typing away on her phone.

‘Oh my god! The resemblance is striking. It has to be Rashmi,’ her insanity screamed at her jetlagged sanity.

‘Or may be it is not. And there is no way you can know with confidence because you haven’t ever met Rashmi, face to face, ever!’ her sanity yawned back.

‘Okay, how about this. It may be Rashmi or it may not be Rashmi. So let’s just call her Rashmi Not, like Touch me not, or Rush-me-not, since you hate the name Rashmi, until I figure this out for you,’ her ridiculousness continued to her rationale and kicked the tiredness right out of her travel-sick body.

******

March, 2012, Somewhere in the United States

It was a busy day at work and she had about 45 minutes to grab a bite. She logged into her Gmail account to check her e-mails since she was eating by herself.

Inbox (1)

She looked at the sender’s name and her mind stuttered. He had contacted her after two long years. Should she open it? ‘Of course, you have to open it,’ her curiosity unchained itself and nudged hard at her calm indifference.

“Actually, I wanted to call you but I wasn’t sure if you would accept my call so I am writing this e-mail. I hope you haven’t blocked me and I sincerely wish that you get this e-mail. I really am not sure how or where to begin, but perhaps I could by first saying sorry for everything that I have done to you. We always wanted things to work out between us and both of us made promises that neither have kept as we started to grow apart.

When you left me two years ago, I believed life had come to a standstill. I felt severely incapable of even a simple thing such as a genuine smile. I have been alive and kicking all this time, not doubt, but I have lived in your memories and I was more than happy with them. I swore that I would always be there for you, at any point in your life, and that I would wait for you to come back to me. But, here I am, guilty again for breaking yet another promise to you. I am sure you will feel less guilty, or actually I am not even sure why I am writing this to you, but I wanted to apologize and let you know that I am moving on in life. You have been such an important part of my life, you cannot even comprehend, and I can never forget you. What I had and have for you always has been nothing but love.”

She calculatedly read every single word in the e-mail at least five times. Her heart and her mind were creating a ruckus at the same time. She couldn’t hear either of them even if she paid close attention. She closed her eyes to analyze how she felt about him today, after these two years, and all she felt was nothing. No pain, no anger, no hatred, and perhaps, no love.

‘Well, you have to reply. You need to know what he means by moving on,’ her ignorance fell to its feet and begged her common sense. And thus, her twitching fingers picked up a glass of water, chugged it down in haste, and hit the reply button and began to type out a rather controlled response.

“There is absolutely no need to apologize. I would like to believe that I have matured enough to understand that we were young and silly when we first fell in love, and that our relation would require so much work given our contrasting personalities, which is why I decided to call it quits two years ago. I have just stayed aloof and out of touch so far because I am really not the kind of person who has it in her to remain friends with an ex.

I was always aware that time would heal you, take that pain away, and that eventually you would move on. I understand that you moving on in life means that either you have found someone you love or that you have decided to marry the woman your parents have chosen for you. Whichever one it is, I am happy for you. I do not hate you today nor have I harbored any hatred for you in the past. I wish you luck.”

By the time she had gotten to the end of this self-restrained crap she had typed out, she plainly wished she deleted everything and just wrote back, ‘I still LOVE YOU, in his favorite Comic Sans font. But she did no such thing. Her fingers voluntarily hit the send button while her eyes involuntarily brimmed with salty tears and her heart; it sank into the deepest torrents of randomness.

Almost immediately, Inbox (1)

“Thank you!”

She couldn’t contain herself and didn’t think she needed to either. This could lead to something, maybe, what that leading entailed, she had no clue.

“So, are you getting married?”

Every single cell in her body had prayed frantically for him to answer, no. ‘Why on earth does it even matter to you now? You chose to leave him for good in the first place. There is no peace in learning more from the other side. If anything, this one question will lead to five more. Just let it be,’ her strength hissed at her weakness.

“Not yet, I am in love. And we are planning to get engaged in May.”

Her heart sank from randomness into the deepest, darkest grave within her soul, a part she never knew existed inside of her. She tried to gather herself up, and get back to work, to working on her research proposal but the next second she found herself typing:

“Is it Vandana?”

“No, Vandu got married last December.”

She rolled her eyes as her ego took the response bitterly. What is the need to call that woman by a pet name? It wasn’t like her name was super long. And it isn’t like he was a Senator who was saving a few seconds by typing a shorter version of her first name.

“How are you? How have things been going on for you? Where do you work?”

She ignored his attempt to make small talk. She wasn’t interested in answering those mundane questions. Besides, why does he care where she worked anymore?  He was ‘moving on in life’.

“What is her name?” She typed and pondered whether hit send.

‘Please!! Stop this ridiculous obsession, for heaven’s sake. You really don’t want to know her name. What good will it do to you now? What comes next? Will you ask him for a picture of her? Will you ask him for an invitation to his wedding? Will you beat your brain into pulp trying to find her on social networking sites and obsess on figuring out if she looks better than you. This stupidity has to stop right now,’ even as her pride was yelling at her, her vulnerability pressed the send button.

“Rashmi,” pat came his response and he continued, ““How are you? How have things been going on for you? Where do you work?”

Pain and anger, in that precise order, struggled with the indifferent front she had been putting up this entire time. But her brain finally cleared its way out; first, locked up tons of emotions her heart was feeling and second, mustered all the courage it could gather and typed out one final nonchalant and curt e-mail, completely under pretense.

“All the very best. Everything is alright. I guess this is it, then. Goodbye.”

“All the best to you. Bye.” he replied, and that had been the final communication she had with him. It had taken her truckloads of self-restrain to not respond any further.

She went home that evening, cooked and ate and tried to get the conversation out of her head. It had been two whole years. She had chosen correctly, she reminded herself. Her new self could digest this bitter news. Tomorrow was going to be a brand new day. Everything is going to be alright. Even as she sat on her bed and mentally talked to herself, she picked up her laptop and decided to get a peek at this female who had created ripples in her head and turned her absolutely normal day completely upside down. But he hadn’t given her Rashmi’s last name. So she opened Google and carefully typed out his first and last name along with Rashmi.

She popped up on the first search result. He had commented on Rashmi’s photo on Facebook. She quickly rampaged thought Rashmi’s profile pictures, her About me and her timeline.

‘Blah. Totally judging. Of course, I despise her. She looks like a man. How can people not do their upper lip, for lord’s sake. I wonder how he even fell for her after dating someone so darn cute and adorable such as me. She seems so silly listing her favorite movies as Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Dil To Pagal Hain, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. I mean, seriously, who even likes those SRK-KJo’s diabetes inducing and cringe worthy cheesy romantic films these days. And she could swear across her heart that he wasn’t into that kind of saccharine overloaded three hour torture. See, they are so different, they will never be half of what we were,’ her vanity comforted her arrested heart, like it were some consolation.

And then she saw it on her timeline. Rashmi couldn’t tell the difference between moment and movement. Her status said, ‘Thank you all for the birthday wishes. This year was spent with special people and had special movements.’

She jumped up and down hysterically. She was having her own Carrie Bradshaw moment. The one where Carrie realizes what an idiot Natasha (who’s married to Mr. Big) is since Natasha can’t tell the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’.

‘There you go! She is an idiot,’ her wounded heart slowly nursed its wounds and rubbed her hands in glee.

******

March, 2016, Doha

‘Okay, she’s sitting with you in Zone 4. Maybe you can take a quick glance at her boarding pass and catch her name to figure out if she is Rashmi or Rush Me Not,’ her impractical and unreasonable-self suggested to her clear sense of reasoning.

‘Or you could just walk back to that book store you saw on the way to Gate B6 and buy a book and drown yourself in it rather than investigate and feed on this totally irrational and insane theory you have going on here,’ reasoning offered stubbornly.

To be continued…

An Unrelinquished Emotion

Every evening, as far as the eye can see,
It appears that the sky unifies with the sea.
The vast skies relentlessly let the magnificent sun slip into the enormous waters,
Momentarily making you feel that to this inseparable love couple nothing else matters.
Perhaps simply, the sun is the heart, that is unabashedly transferred from one lover to another,
A supremely bold representation of infatuation, the couple flaunted like no other.

The world that sees the both of them, seldom do they comprehend,
That to this love story, every dusk is a practiced but unaccomplished end.
Humongous egos, they both share, as each earnestly waits for the other to care,
One thunders in dark gloom, while the other washes off sand castles built by those who dare.
The sun is but a mute spectator to their delusional love,
A one that will never possibly materialize and is neatly tucked away with a hasty shove.

And yet, every evening it appears, the glorious lovers start the same struggle all over again,
For, love, though self-mutilating from within, fervently always brings hope as a bargain.
As the brightest star makes his rehearsed descent, he wonders which one of the lovers will make the first attempt,
And desperately yearns that when such a passionate foot is put forward by one, the other doesn’t scoff in contempt.
For the blue sky and blue waters, clear reflections of each other’s souls, and where they figuratively meet,
Millions of human hearts have hopelessly hugged, kissed and skipped many a beat.

And if these two were meant to be, just as every soul already assumed them to be, when will their happy ending be?