Saturday, December 27, 2008

A World of Our Own

It had been a long, hard day. I always feel days are long and hard when the day begins before sunrise and ends after sunset. But as the day was coming to an end, I was barely able to conceal my excitement. Because I was so looking forward to this, well... , session.

As I walked into the cosy room, the aroma that wafted in made me go week in my knees. Somehow I managed to stagger into the couch... And I instinctively closed my eyes, the eyelids quivering in anticipation of the future.

And then it happened. The touch of those fingers!! It was surreal... Those fingers were magical, and their touch heavenly. The path traced by then on my skin was lit with ecstasy. Now going through my hair, now tracing my spinal cord. And of course, when they got to work on my shoulder blades, the rest of the world ceased to exist... And then something unexpected happened.

In fact I smelt it before I actually felt it... Another aroma, much more spicy in nature but still soothing to the nerves, made its way to my olfactory senses as I realised that a thin trickle of oil is falling on my skin.. This just about took me over the top... As the fingers played around, sometimes teasing and sometimes soothing, I found myself drifting into some other world which was so very calm and serene...

All this ended when I was rudely jolted back to the real world as I heard the voice saying, "Would the massage be all sir, or do you want a shave too?"

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tribute to my EX

He was a fantastic guy! ('was' because I no longer claim to know him the way I used to and not
because he does not exist anymore. Hence, also the 'tribute.') Well, at least I thought he was fantastic until he spurted this orgasmic conscience and decided to prove me wrong in favour of highlighting for me that which was right. (I owe him one for this. Not one sexual favour. But one moment of intense truth. I retain the right to choose this moment.)

So right about the time when I had convinced myself that the male species could never get better than the worse I had, things began to change. Dramatically. While I scoured the cosmo for *tips* on keeping the man in my life happy, he was busy gaining an hands-on experience of the same. Experience, he debated, made things better. Experience, I argued, gave one sexually transmitted diseases. I was right. He was wrong.

But then, he argued later(when we were breaking up), I was 'always right' wasn't I? What can I say? He was a late learner. Perhaps even in bed.

Maybe I should consult his teachers of 'experience' and write a book about his learning habits. Would perhaps help some fellow man to learn his bit a bit quicker. In fact, I am quite certain he would be more than thrilled to encourage this venture of mine. He always had a deep sense of respect for the entire male species. And even deeper sense of adherence to their bits of 'suggestions'. And if I insisted I didnt like something. He stressed, "But you are supposed to like it! My friends say so!"

His friends also told me that they would be glad to hook up with me should I ever break up with
him. Of course they were joking. I lost all their phone numbers. He has a memory for numbers. So still remembers the numbers of some female friends of mine, but has forgotten mine. A small
slip of memory is permitted every now and then. Now for all the nice things he has done for me
(like made me see that every man possibly does think from between his legs) I should possibly do something nice for him too. So I decided that I ought to help his current girlfriend (I am sure he has one, though he claimed during the break up that he would love me for the rest of his life, its his libido you see, its not really his fault) well, anyway, so I decided that I ought to leave his
current girlfriend with some useful tips.

1. He gets embarrassed to tell you that his room which you probably love, is all done up by me. So dont ask him about it. He hates lying. But he would lie to you. Not because he does not have a pine. But because he does not want to hurt you. Is there a difference between the two? I don't want to steal the joy of figuring that out from you!

2. That blue shirt which makes him look positively hot? Oh well its got a little story to it. You see we went for a drive in the rain and got naughty ( you can ask him for the details, it really turns him on talking about it). He didnt but that shirt. He really does not like to spend on himself. Neither did I gift him that one. Nor did his mother or sister or some far off cousin. Some Indian sounding canadian gifted it to him after he gave her a time of his life. He does not like talking about it. (He hates to admit that she gave him much a better time than you ever will and he wont be able to explain a turn off in the middle of an animalistic passion. But memories can do that, you know) But though that shirt is a little faded and perhaps torn by now. Please dont throw it. Its sentimental.

3. Dont ask about exes. Not just me. But any of the others. He is a bad story teller. And he would
not be able to tell the truth. And he would hate to torture you with half lies. So you will fight. Best let it be.

4. He loves committments and marriages. He just does not know how to handle them. So I suggest that though I gave him the better part of half a decade to come to terms with it, you reserve another half a decade to get him to understand this (I told you he was a slow learner). And then be prepared to understand that he might not have learnt much after all.

After all has been said and done. I dont want to say something bad about him. And because there really isnt much to say besides that I will have to abruptly terminate this tribute here. But who knows as memory returns I might just find time to contribute some more!


PS NOTHING PERSONAL ABOUT IT ;)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Dawn and Dreams

She loved happy endings. She hated it when the ending just invited more speculation. If it invited more speculation, then it could hardly be the end, or could it? She patted the book in appreciation and snuggled into the welcoming warmth of her blue blanket. She ought to sleep now. But she was wide awake.

She watched the dark shadows of the night make way for the whispers of a new dawn. Her mind was rampant with vivid images painted by the subtle words of the book she had just finished reading. She could feel the warmth of the embrace as the protagonist finally hugged the woman he loved.

He turned in the bed beside her. She smiled at him. Not that he would notice how pretty her smile looked in the faint gold of an early morn. But she smiled nevertheless. He was the protagonist of the novel which forever sprinkled words on the pages in her head. He was not perfect. He was real.

She moved closer to him and plated one cold hand on his still warm cheek. He frowned at the mild disturbance and opened his eyes to tiny sleepy slits. She smiled into his eyes. He captured her hand on his cheek and then turned to plant a kiss on the inside of her palm.

"You are so cold," he said and stretched his arms towards her. She willingly snuggled in the warmth he was offering. He hugged her close to him. She could feel his heart beat rhythmically in his chest. He kissed her forehead and closed his eyes once again. His hand lazily stroked her cold forearms in a futile attempt to warm them.

She smiled into his chest.

Somewhere the first morning bird fluttered her feathers and began to chirp gaily with the warm rays. The world was slowly waking up. His soft snores ruffled her hair. It would still be time before the world fully woke up. Till then she could spend time like this captured in this dream.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Blue Dolphin

Wrapped in love, they wandered through the aisles of the mall, experiencing togetherness. Like the lovelorn couple in the eighties, who would wander aimlessly through shopping streets, admiring, giggling and in general having fun.

While he looked to the right, where electronics flaunted themselves with the pseudo promise of a hassle free life, she looked left. Arranged in delightful rows were soft toys of all colours, shapes and kinds. So far content with holding his hand, she now let it go, to momentarily pamper the child in her.

She picked up quite a shapeless blue dolphin and rubbed her cheek against the soft fur. It felt so wonderful. She eyed the dolphin with longing and was reluctant to let go of it.

“Charming the dolphins are you?” he said coming up behind her.

She smiled at him. Secretly she wished he would sense the unspoken desire to possess the dolphin. But moments ticked by and her desire threatened to remain a ‘forever’ secret.

It was the 21st century after all and a more direct approach best suited the situation. She nudged him playfully and said, “He is so cute, ain’t he?”

He had picked up a brown teddy bear from a nearby rack and was eyeing it with the curiosity mowgli had reserved for Radha. He put the bear down and shrugged his shoulders, “What do you find so cute about balls of cotton wrapped in Turkish towels? Beats me!”

That definitely did end the discussion. There was no way he was ever going to gift her a soft toy. She sighed inaudibly and put the dolphin down with a last pat. Wines and chocolate he definitely had a taste for, but soft toys? That would have to be another story altogether.

--

She had woken up that morning feeling out of focus and in a mood to war with the entire world. She had snapped at the maid, her early morning conversation with her mother had spiraled hopelessly out of control and she had lost her temper there too. When he had wanted to hug her good morning, she had cold shouldered him and walked away.

She had been snapping at his heel, right till the moment he exited for work. He hadn’t said one word. She had had a sleepless night and he had claimed he understood. But that didn’t make things alright. They just made them worse. For now she felt like the worst woman under the sun.

She plonked on the chair and willed her pain to go away. Finally, she burst into tears for she had done what she hated doing the most. She had hurt the very people who were trying to show they cared. She cried some more, without knowing why. But it felt nice to feel the tears on her cheeks.
The doorbell pealed. Given her state of mind her first reaction was to get irked at the unwanted interference. She mentally berated herself and went to answer the door. A prettily wrapped colourful package awaited her.

There was no sender mentioned. Curiously she picked it up and even as she walked back in, her finger tugged at the wrappings. She looked at her gift and was overwhelmed. Unknowingly, the tears cascaded down once again.

For hours she lay cuddled in bed, hugging her gift to her heart. The Blue Dolphin.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nine Years

Nine years is a really long time. But she hadn’t changed. Of course she had put on a little more weight, her curves more visible now. But that’s because she had grown from a child to a woman. Even her lips were fuller, more sensuous, more inviting. He was mesmerized by their movement as they chased each other to form words.

But nothing about her had changed. Though he had traveled the world over, though he had visited his family in the bricked structure called home, this is where he felt he belonged. Right here, hidden in the shadows of the tree, watching her from this comfortable distance, this is where he belonged.

She was just eighteen and he wanted to marry her. He was certain if he had asked her then, she would willingly have agreed to. But how much did an eighteen year old know about being married? How much did anyone really ever know about being married? Sounds of her infectious laughter floated to his hears.


He wanted to reach out and run his fingers through her hair; as he had wanted to do those nine years ago when her hair was short, just above her ears. He always felt that they would be like soft dawn, light and soft. But he would never know, because he would never get close enough to her to touch them. He saw the man beside her turn around with a smile on his face.

Had he made her laugh?

He watched as the other man’s eyes lingered on her laughter filled face. She was still laughing as she rested her head on his shoulder. His arm circled her shoulders and caressed her arms. Still, smiling he kissed her forehead. She looked at him with laughter filled eyes.

In the shadows, he moved. He knew what that look could make you feel. It made you feel like for that one moment, you would conquer a million worlds. Something twisted in his heart, but he did not notice it. He had gotten used to that feeling. Every time he had seen a couple in love, he had thought of her and something in his heart had twisted. It had hurt in the beginning, but now it felt perfect. Almost welcome.

He kissed his fingertips and blew that kiss her way. Would the breeze really carry it to her?

She stirred from his embrace as if something bothered her. The breeze blew a wisp of hair off her cheek. She frowned in confusion and looked towards the shadow. Her beautiful eyes squinted to discern what lay there. He slinkered further into the dark. He did not want to be noticed.

The man by her side rubbed her shoulders and frowned down at her with concern. She shook her head, to clear some imaginary confusion and smiled prettily at him. He watched as love wrapped itself once again around her, like it always had. He turned his back on her and left.

Maybe he could see her again after another nine years.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Is this the end?

Despite the many pitfalls which make the journey called life a little uncomfortable at times, we still keep going. Why? It’s definitely not for want of choices. Perhaps, it is because along with pitfalls it also has some really refreshing and surprising pit stops. If at one point life estranges someone who had once been a very important part of your world, at one corner it introduces you to a stranger who will soon become the very reason for your existence.

If life showers a torrent of tears, it perhaps has already planned for someone to wipe them with silken handkerchiefs. And if it brutally tears up your dreams into a million shreds, it also gives you the strength to hope. Such is life.

And equally obvious is the fact that in the early hours of a lazy morning, to a sleep deprived mind, overworked with rampant thoughts; the above statements sound profound and drawn from the depths of philosophy. They become larger than life. As they were doing right now with Shikha. She had no idea why or how these thoughts had made their way to her mind and neither did she know why they were busy cat walking down the ramps of her excited mind.

The internet had revealed that Shaina Singh and Shaina Kulshreshtha were indeed one and the same. There was no mention of Shaina Kulshreshtha, but Shaina insisted she was Shaina Kulshreshtha. And there really was no reason to not believe her. Lav and Chris insisted there was no Shaina Kulshreshtha. And then the mysterious Akshay Singh was indeed married to Shaina too! Was it legal in London to have two husbands?

Was it really possible to love two entirely different men, equally much? Did one man compensate for the shortcomings of the other? And what if both of them still didn’t quite live up to the requisites? Then do you go ahead and love a third? She shook her head to clear it off all the cobwebs of unnecessary thought.

Her entire pondering over the Lav-Shaina-Akshay-Chris complexity was unnecessary, a tiny voice nagged her. But try as she might she could not let them be. For some reason, on which she could not quite place a finger; she knew she wanted the truth. And for the same reason she knew that the truth mattered.

Confrontation, she had learned from experience was a double edged sword. You could either draw someone into a confession or push him further away into some dark recessed where reaching out to him would be almost impossible. But given the intricacies of the current predicament, she decided she was running out of the choice of a proper course. Confrontation, it would have to be.

She once again toyed with her cell phone, as if giving herself that one last opportunity to back out. She would be treated like the proverbial plague, thanks to this one phone call. People would run at the mere mention of her name and all her calls would be returned unanswered. Were the answers to her never-ending questions worth all this?

In response, she dialed Lav’s number. It was five in the morning. As the phone threatened to not be answered, she found her mind wandering once again. Would he be with Shaina right now? Is that why he was not answering the phone? Would he be asleep from a drunken night? Where was he?

“Shikha?” He asked, startling her.

“Hey!” She said feeling stupid now that the call had finally connected.

“You do realize its like five in the morning and anybody would consider this to be an indecent time for a casual call?” He said not sounding one bit sleepy and every bit irritated.

“Whatever makes you think my call is casual?” She retorted. She heard him laugh that rich laugh once again and almost felt the tension dissipate through the invisible phone lines. “It is about Shaina,” she hurried wanting to make the most of his good mood.

“What about her?” He mumbled and she could picture him trying to light a cigarette, while talking to her.

“Well, I have been playing the detective. I met her for lunch and then well, she said she was married to you. But then on the internet she exists as Shaina Singh, Akshay Singh’s wife! So I am all a little confused.” She said all this without the slightest trace of any emotion lacing her voice.

He was silent for a while. Perhaps blowing out contemplative smoke. “Ok,” he finally said, “ I will satiate your curiosity, if you answer one of my questions very honestly. Deal?”

She did not believe he was making this so easy for her. “Deal!” she breathed on an excited whisper.

“Why?” he asked, “are all these questions, which have nothing to do with you, keeping you awake all night?”

It was her turn to be silent. How long had she been avoiding this very question? Did she really know the answer even now? “I don’t know.” She finally said.

“I asked for an honest answer Shikha,” he replied. “If you really want honest answers to all your questions, you need to be honest with your answer to my question.”

“OK,” she said vaguely forming an answer in her mind. “ About a couple of years ago, I thought they didn’t make men better than you. Then suddenly you mysteriously married Shaina. I was there at the wedding. Perhaps I was a little heartbroken too. You know how it is. And then you show up as a prospective match for Raina, about a year later. Well, its all a little confusing. You see, then it means you did not marry Shaina that night after all! Which could mean… well…. A million things!”

He was silent once again. Shikha wanted to kick herself for choosing this moment to do some deep soul confession to herself. She was preparing some sort of an apology when she heard him mumble something.

“Sorry?” she pardoned herself.

“I said,” he said a little above a whisper, “ Shaina is married to me, but only in her mind. This one is a little complicated. Akshay and Shaina were married. Are married. Their car was involved in the crazy car accident. Both of them were hurt. Akshay spent three months in the ICU. But Shaina, suffered a blow to the head and she sort of lost her memory. She did not remember being married to Akshay. But she remembered the three of us hanging out together. Seeing me the first person by her hospital bed, when she opened her eyes and seeing her wedding ring, she concluded that she was married to me. The doctors said her condition was still critical and they were not sure how well she could or would handle a shock. It was healthier to let her believe what she did. Akshay meanwhile recovered and now we are trying to jog her memories by doing things Akshay and she normally did when they were together. Like getting married. Like dining out. The idea is that something triggers her sleeping memory and when she turns to seek the familiar Akshay and finds me instead. Voila! Mission accomplished!”

Shikha was dumbstruck. She would have never guessed the magnanimity of the situation. She had completely misunderstood the ties which bound these four individuals as friends. She was touched by the extent of sacrifice they were willing to make, just to set things right .

“So,” said Lav in a trance like voice, “do you still think they don’t make men better than me?’

“What?”

“Well, just trying my luck! Because I think they definitely do not make women any more exasperating, cumbersome or loveable than you Ms. Shikha!” He laughed. A deep rumble which made her toes tingle. “Sleep well!”



Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mysterious Existences

The wavering lights of a very busy city made abstract patterns on the inky black velvet of the night sky. She stood at her window, her thoughts as muddled as the streaking gold of the headlights in motion. Why was she making the Lav- Chris-Shaina-Akshay confusion her concern?

Why is that one is curious about something that has nothing to do with them? Maybe it was all a part about being human. Like unwanted rains on a sunny day, curiosity was flooding her otherwise sunny existence with its unwelcome presence. She just could not rest without getting to the bottom of this mystery.

She needed to speak to Chris. Why was he lying to her? They had been good friends for over two years. They might not have revealed their most intimate secrets to one another, but they definitely had not resorted to the feeble support of pretenses yet. So why or what was he covering up by lying so poorly?

She was tempted to call Shaina again, but one lunch with her had distressed Shaina enough. Besides, she didn’t seem to be any better a situation than Shikha, though she did have much more to lose by unearthing the mystery. Maybe that is why she wasn’t trying too hard to unravel it all.

The next quest was to unearth Akshay, if he wasn’t a figment of Chris and Lav’s over-active imaginations. She didn’t have a last name, so she could not possibly google him up. Asking either Chris or Lav was so definitely out of question, primarily because they now answered her calls with equal amounts of dread and exasperation. She could hear their minds weaving crazy stories even as she posed her questions to them. How then could she look up Akshay?

She hurried back to her bed, pulled her laptop towards her and typed ‘Lav Kulshrestha, Akshay’ in the google search window. There were pages and pages on Lav and some twenty odd pages on Lav Kulshrestha. Mostly the pages dealt with his keen sense of business and his flair for building enterprises which became sure shot successes. He even had a fan club which listed his achievements with great fanfare. But surprisingly as she clicked on link after link, she discovered that he had no visible personal footprints in the web-world. So far there seemed to be no mention whatsoever of any kind of Akshay. Considering that Akshay and Lav were best friends, would there not be a remote mention of his existence at least in the smiling interview articles published online of Lav Kulshreshtha?

She was about to give up on the maddening search, when she caught Chris’ name mentioned in the description below one of the links. The page opened to reveal a blog written some years ago, by someone called ‘Shades of passion.’ The blog narrated incidents from graduation days of a group of five boys, which Lav and Chris were a part of. She read through hilarious escapades and the many girl chases which went wrong. Much to her consternation she discovered that she enjoyed reading the blog and was smiling despite her will.

The mysterious writer had stopped writing a little over a year ago. Sometime before Lav and Shaina got married, the writer seemed to have packed his bags and disappeared. Could this mysterious writer have been Lav? But no seen Lav was mentioned in the blog posts, it had to be someone other than him. Could this writer then have been Akshay?

She went to the alumni page of the college mentioned in the blog. There were three Akshay’s mentioned in the same batch as Lav and Chris. Which one of them could have been ‘Shades of Passion’? She couldn’t possible randomly call all three and ask “Hey were you the one who was best friends with Lav?”?

Having come this close to the elusive Akshay, she didn’t want to give up. The tiny digital clock on the screen of her laptop told her it was two in the morning. She knew it was an unearthly hour and she ought not to call anybody. But not doing anything was killing her. She sat there drumming the table with her fingernails pondering what to do next.

She hadn’t been much of a blogger. She wouldn’t know anything about other bloggers. But she knew someone who would. Raina. Raina had been blogging for the past eight years. She said it was her personal online diary which she shared with the world. If it was personal why was she sharing it with the world? But Raina, was the one person she needed to talk to right now.

Raina’s sleepy, “Hello?” gave her an ounce of satisfaction. It was pay-back for all those post midnight calls which had kept her awake all this while.

“Hey! I need help!” she said.

“Are you ok?” Raina said, concern startling her from her sleep.

“Yes, I am fine! I need to find the identity of a blogger. How do I do it?” She asked.

“You called me at two in the morning for this?” Raina almost screamed. “Let me guess. You are still obsessing over Lav Kulshreshtha’s life and love! Why?”

Shikha didn’t know how to answer that, so she just kept quite.

“Ok fine.” Raina said accepting her silence. “I wouldn’t know how to find the real identity of a blogger. But who is it anyway?”

“Someone called the ‘Shades of passion’” Shikha said thankful that Raina wasn’t pressing her curiosity further.

“Shades of passion? That would have to be Akshay!” Raina stated in a matter-of-fact way.

Shikha couldn’t believe her ears. All along Raina had known Akshay? Why oh why had she not confided in Raina?

“Akshay who?” She asked.

“Akshay Singh!”

A google search of Akshay Singh passed out in 2001, sketched him to be the HR head of a lead telecommunications company called Carbon in Edinburgh. He was married for four years and a father of a one year old girl called Preeti. There were no pictures of his wife, but she was mentioned as Mrs. Shaina Singh.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Heart Break

When the heart breaks, it does so with a noiseless crash and the invisible splinters scatter in the tears and flow away, leaving behind a hollow emptiness in their wake. Everything after a heart-break then seems relatively painless or unimportant, because the vacuum which sits in the place of the heart is incapable of emotion.

But that is all about a heart-break. She was not suffering from a heart break; she was suffering from the acid burns of betrayal. She had first been woven a story by Lav and then Chris had fabricated a whole new twist to the oh-so-enigmatic presence of the horribly handsome Lav Kulshreshtha. And the truth had been bared open by the skimpily clad Shaina, who might not even know that she had been married to Akshay; twice by two different people.

She had spent an entire night running millions of possibilities through her mind. She had painted vivid pictures of re-acquainting herself with Lav. All the while, she kept convincing herself that she was harbouring no romantic notions whatsoever. So what if she pictured walking down the gaudy lobby of her office and casually bumping into him and striking a very captivating conversation right then and there. They would talk for fifteen minutes, till some corny colleague, would pass some equally corny line and Lav would blush gorgeously. She would excuse herself with grace, turn around and smile and say oh-so-casually, “Oh by and by sorry about the other time. Mistakes happen you know.” And he would watch her till she disappeared from view. Not romantic at all. She was just thinking of ways to apologize to a perfectly romantic guy, that’s all.

And after last night, she had spent time till the wee hours of dawn, fuming over her naiveté at accepting Chris’ tale on face value. Why had Chris lied to her? There was no way Shaina was married to Akshay. There was nothing platonic about the way Lav had been caressing her shoulder. She had almost smacked his hand off her shoulder, out of pure irritation.

So why had Chris lied to her? What was is it about the entire Lav-Shaina-Akshay triangle that needed to be hidden under so many layers of deceit? And why did she need and seek answers to these questions?

The answer to the last question was quite simple – because she was a woman!

There was no real reason as to why she had picked up the phone and dialed Shaina’s number. There was no explanation as to why Shaina had accepted her invitation to lunch. And no rational basis whatsoever as to why she had spent an hour dressing up for a lunch with Shaina.

But as she walked in through the glass door of Benny’s she was glad she had taken that bit of extra time. Seated at one of the expensive window tables, Shaina looked elegant in her simple black dress. She was browsing the massive menu and didn’t seem to notice that Shikha had arrived. She risked a look at her reflection in the ceiling to floor mirrors on the right hand side wall. Her muddy pink dress with a white high waist belt, didn’t look as demure as Shaina’s black dress, but it didn’t look shabby either.

Sensing Shikha’s presence, Shaina looked up and smiled a genuine and warm smile. After settling down with their drinks, Shaina turned her expectant eyes to Shikha.

“I know this is so strange,” Shikha plunged into her conversation, “But I sort of remember attending ‘your’ wedding...to Lav.” She was sounding successfully confused and perplexed. Shaina kept smiling as if Shikha had said not one word out place.

Now genuinely perplexed, Shikha continued, “But I met Chris the other day and he told me you were not married to Lav!”

Shaina’s elegant brows creased into a frown, but her lips still smiled. Not sure how far she had gone, Shikha now kept mum. She had dealt her cards and now it was up to Shaina to clear her confusion.

“Chris told you I was not married to Lav?” She asked gently, sounding a little hurt.

Shikha nodded, feeling suddenly very very uneasy. Shaina leaned back in her chair and fidgeted with the silver spoon. She did not seem very offended by this remark, but she did not seem very calm either.

“Its funny,” she finally said. She looked at her then. There were tears forming in her eyes, but she was too brave to let them flow. “ But Lav keeps telling me that I am not married to him either!”

Shikha didn’t know what to say. Shaina leaned forward, laid the spoon back where it belonged and began talking very animatedly, “ But I know I am married to him! I remember marrying him! And,” she blushed sensationally here, “ I remember a whole lot of ‘other’ things!”

Shikha nodded and hoped her nod was encouraging enough for Shaina to go on. But at this point Shaina needed no encouragement. “And then suddenly for the past three months, Lav has been trying to convince me we are not married! Its absurd. I have never met many of his friends, except for the wedding. And the only friend we ever go out with is Chris. And when we are with Chris, he does behave like the perfect husband! And now there is you! After you left yesterday, both Chris and Lav were very disturbed. We hurried back home. Which is why I so wanted to meet you!”

A few tears had managed to sneak out and were rolling down her pale cheeks. Shikha was confused and didn’t know how to react. She was hoping Shaina would be able to clear her confusion. But Shaina was hoping Shikha would provide some answers. What were Lav and Chris up to?

She was in no mood to converse with Lav. But after lunch she did get Chris on the phone.

“You liar!” she hissed.
“You moron!” he yelled

“You lied to me!” she shouted

“Yeah! So? Sue me!” he challenged

“Why?” she asked baffled, “Why did you lie to me?”

“ Because the truth has got nothing to do with you!” he exclaimed

“I met Shaina for lunch” she confessed.

“WHAT?” Chris screamed. “What did you say to her?” he asked more calmly

“That I wanted to know what was happening,” she said that uneasy feeling creep over her again.

“Did you mention Akshay?” he wanted to know

“No.”

“Good.” He relaxed. “Now listen, don’t mention Akshay to Shaina! Ever! In fact I don’t think you should meet Shaina yourself”

“But I thought she was married to Akshay!” Shikha was getting angry

“Was, shikha, was..” he suddenly sounded very tired, “ look do me a favour and please stay out of this?”




Monday, September 29, 2008

War with faith

Doubts are the invisible darts which burst your bubbles of hope. And all the dreams within that bubble come gushing out in one massive torrent , to scatter aimlessly in the wind. Sometimes you end up spending an entire lifetime just chasing those very dreams.

But while her hopes, hung dangerously close to being scattered, she hadn’t given up on hope yet. Chris’ tale though very romantic had sounded too pat, to convince her as being true. But it didn’t ring totally false either. And maybe Chris was not such a good story-teller after all!

One thing she was convinced of, though, was that Lav was, and most probably still is, strongly in love with Shaina. She couldn’t help but envy Shaina. There was the gorgeous, handsome, mouth-watering Lav ready to do absolutely anything for her and there was also Akshay. Though Shaina had never met Akshay, she could only imagine the depth of his love, if all he could think after snapping out of a coma, was to do the right thing by her and marry her.

In the thick romance novels, which kept you awake way beyond sane hours at night, the once heart-broken hero, would begin to believe in the magic of love once again, thanks to the dew-eyed heroine. Could she really be Lav’s dew-eyed heroine? She had also guessed that Lav was as tempted by the thought of marriage as a hydrophobic would be by a swimming pool.

She mentally condemned herself for letting her thoughts run away with her. She had just argued that Chris’ tale was punched with loopholes and she was already piecing those shreds of hope together to repaint her own love story. She strapped her heels firmly in place and appraised herself critically in the full-length mirror. She did not like her soft curls, in a period when straight dead hair seemed to be in trend. She was wearing a dark peacock blue halter, when the rest of the women would be dressed in blacks, reds and maroons. She sighed, but she did love bright colours and she just couldn’t get herself to wear boring blacks.

She heard the blaring of a horn and knew Raina had come to pick her up. She grabbed her purse and rushed downstairs. Raina was looking gorgeous in a black satin mini skirt which was really really short yet long enough to not qualify as indecent and a bold black chiffon top, tied at the back with just a string. She sighed inwardly again. With such illustrious female friends for company, it was no wonder she never guaranteed a second look.

It was Saturday night and by the time they reached, the disc already seemed to be bursting to its seams with a frenzied crowd. She wouldn’t have been here, were they not celebrating Sunil’s, who was incidentally Farah’s boyfriend, promotion party. He was one of the few Indians, she knew who had managed to beat the English intellect in their very own land and achieve managerial positions, they much deserved. The other one was Chris and then of course, there was Lav.

Two Cuba Libras later, she started getting bored of the current conversation, which was about a take on the current political scenario in India and started looking around, drinking in the variety of the crowd. In a sea of white people, she could easily spot one or two Indians. She smiled as she recognized the blackish-brown colours so characteristic of Chris.

She excused herself and threaded her way through the maze of bodies. As she neared Chris, he bent down to pick up something and that’s when she froze in mid-step. Chris’ companion who was making him throw his head back and laugh his famously infectious laugh, was none other than the controversial, Shaina! On an impulse she scanned the crowds once again.

Sure enough, making his way from the bar towards the duo, with a glass of what looked like a cosmopolitan in one hand and scotch with ice in the other. She watched transfixed as he handed Shaina her drink and draped his arm around her bare shoulder. She waited for some time on the sides of the dance floor, her eyes trained on the trio. There was nothing ‘friendly’ in the way Lav’s strong fingers kept caressing Shaina’s shoulder. Chris, who had woven, the now unbelievable love story, didn’t seem the least bit uncomfortable by this shared intimacy.

She was furious. She was mad at herself for giving Lav the benefit of doubt. She was angry with herself for putting so much of faith in Chris, who hadn’t batted an eyelash while spinning her a cock and bull story about Lav. It was almost as if she had ‘gullible’ stamped on her face!

She had been eyeing the three of them for the better half of an hour and so far she had still not spotted the mysterious, and convincingly fictitious, Akshay. Another five minutes and she was sauntering up to them with a simpering rage.

“Hello!” she said, her voice husky from the booze.

“Hey…?” said Shaina, obviously not recognizing her.

“Shikha!” blurted an astounded but totally flummoxed Chris

“Not you again!” muttered Lav on a groan.

Ignoring the two men, she extended an hand to Shaina, “Hi! You must be Shaina! I am Shikha!” Shaina gave a confused smile and shook the proffered hand.

“I attended your wedding!” she said getting straight to the point.

“Shikha…” Chris warned.

“You don’t really have to talk to her,” Lav said physically turning her away.

But Shaina was intrigued now and she smiled at Shaina, “You did? I am so sorry but I don’t remember meeting you!”

“Of course not! I did not meet you, I was there to just hand Chris his invitation.” She said by way of explanation, “But you looked absolutely dazzling in your pink and blue wedding dress!”

“Thank you!” Shaina crooned. “I had to wait for an entire month till the tailor had finished working on it!”

“Really? Was he the same tailor who stitched Lav’s grey suit too?” She asked innocently.

“Don’t answer that!” Lav warned

“Shikha really…” Chris said intervening

“No silly!” Shaina said warming to the topic of fashion, “ He got his suit from Almack’s! They do make the best suits you know!”

“No wonder he made such a handsome groom!” she said watching Shaina from over the rim of her glass.

Shaina, twined an arm through Lav’s and stared at him with blatant adoration as she said, “the best!”

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cobwebs

Friends are like moonbeams on a starlit night. No matter how bright the rest of the stars shine, the silver streak is still the one who holds the promise of hope.

After a heated discussion with Lav, who was quite adamant that Shaina was married to Akshay, the discussion ended with him banging the phone on, “I don’t need to explain myself to anybody and definitely not to a nobody! So think what you fancy!”

So well, back to the coffee shop, back to stirring thick latte foams with sparkling silver spoons and back to brooding, albeit not alone. Chris was stirring his own mug of coffee.

Putting her spoon down, she took in a deep breath, as if she were about to pose a question of paramount importance. But the question was of paramount importance.. to her! Though, as to why it was so important, she had no clue.

“You remember Lav?” She finally asked.

Chris continued stirring his coffee, “The one I feel for the woman, while I am making out with her or the emotional pfaff romance novels talk about!”

Momentarily baffled she frowned. Then realizing he was talking about ‘love’ and ‘Lav’ she let out an exasperated breath.

“When you are making out with a woman its lust not love,” she corrected him. When he looked all eager to debate this point further, she raised a palm to silence him. “I am not talking of the romance novels either! I am talking about a person! Who you happen to be friends with… or.. .used to be.. Lav Kulshreshtha!?”

Chris hid his smile behind a sip of coffee. The putting the cup down he grinned a more broad and idiotic grin at her.

“You mean the one you thought had a cute butt?” he asked grinning.

“I thought no such thing!” she retorted colouring furiously.

“Oh come on!” he said adding to her embarrassment, “The entire office knows about it! Everybody noticed how you ogled his back till he disappeared from sight!”

“What?” she asked totally mortified. He just chuckled further.

“Ok! Calm down! Maybe I was the only one who noticed!” he said sobering up. Then quite seriously he added, “ So why the renewed interest in god’s gift to woman kind?”

“Well,” she said fidgeting with the paper napkin, “ you remember how you had forgotten his wedding invite and asked me to pick it up for you?”

“uhuh!” he nodded his assent.
“Well, it was for his wedding right?” She asked, her heart beating faster with every moment.

“Uhuh!” Chris acknowledged in affirmative again.

She leaned back in her chair a sadly victorious grin on her face and whispered, “What a jerk?”

“Why?” asked Chris totally at a loss for what was happening, “For inviting me to his wedding?”

“No!” she exclaimed leaning close to talk to him again, “because he has the gall, to claim to be unmarried and meet sweet unpretentious women and fool them into marrying him!”

“Whoa! Hold it there!” Chris said holding his hands up as if surrendering himself, but in fact attempting to stop her flow of monologue. “Lav is unmarried!”

Totally taken aback by this, she scowled at Chris. Either Chris was fiercely loyal to Lav and had hence decided to sacrifice their friendship. Or there was something really wrong here.

“You did attend his wedding that night, didn’t you?” She asked clearing her cobwebs one by one.

“Yes I did!” Chris stated.

“And he married Shaina?” She asked taking the next step

“Yes he did!”

“Then how on earth is he unmarried!?” She asked completely foxed by his last statement.

“You see Lav married Shaina because Shaina was pregnant with Akshay’s kid. But Akshay was in the ICU due to a major car crash. She was four months pregnant and there was no way out but to have the baby. Nobody knew when Akshay would snap out of the coma. So Lav married Shaina. Seven days later, Akshay snapped out of the coma. Fortunately the namesake marriage, which had taken place more for the society, had not yet been legalized. So three weeks later, Akshay and Shaina were legally pronounced huband and wife by some court in Mumbai!”

Silence.

“Then why all the secrecy around it?” She asked bewildered and awed.

“Not many people know that Lav had married Shaina. It was just close friends and family. When Shaina married Akshay, it was decided that the Lav-Shaina wedding should die a natural death. Lav didn’t want to put Shaina through the agony of explaining her fickle minded nature while choosing husbands or justifying her pre-marital pregnancy. Whoever mention the Lav-Shaina wedding are just told that they made a mistake about the groom.” Chris explained.

“He must have loved her!” She exclaimed on a whisper

“Completely. He still does. There is no place for another woman in his life.” Chris explained.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Mysterious Wedding

Half-knowledge is like a particularly annoying itch, which surfaces bang in the middle of a boisterous party, where for the first time you have managed to grab the spotlight. You are dying to reach out and scratch your crotch, but you just can’t! No spotlight hero gives in to his ancestral inclinations.

In a somewhat similar predicament, she sat at the dining table, twirling her snazzy cell phone on the smooth glass surface, seeking solace in its whirring motions. Some distance to her right, lay Lav’s visiting card face down on the table. She knew he was at the wedding, as surely as she knew it was he and Shaina on the lush lawns of Moor Manor. She was almost sure, that he was the groom, after all she did attend the wedding!

On an impulse she got up and started pulling the drawers of the filing cabinet. She knew she had stashed the wedding invite somewhere. She remembered it was a brick red card, with gold trimmings. She remembered sitting with the card cuddled in bed and dampening the golden ink with tears, she didn’t know she was shedding. How teenager-ish, she thought as she ruffled some more papers in search of that vile card. And how teenager-ish of her to have kept that card as a romantic memory of a painful heartbreak.

But how intelligent of her too! For now that card would prove to her and to Raina, whose head was ringing with pseudo wedding bells, that Lav Kulshreshtha was a liar! That he did get married at Hutchinson Gardens and to Shaina! Yes, he could steal your breath away with one smile and his voice poured over your cold heart like hot chocolate, but he had married and that was the bitter truth. She rummaged further fervently praying for the card to find its way under her seeking fingers.

Forty long minutes later her prayers were answered. With a heart thumping as wildly as dyslexic workers with sledge hammers, she opened the card:

A marriage is a promise,
Like so many promises,
We might fail to keep this one,
Or like some others we might see it through…
Who can predict what the future holds?
But we have set our hearts
To honestly attempt
Sculpting our lives
Into one magnificent wonder
We want to inaugurate this promise
In the presence of friends
Who made us believe
In the magic of such promises
So please be there..

Lav and Shaina

There! There were those words again, which had moved her to tears then, as they moved her to tears now. The confused promised of two hearts in love, willing the world to be a little easier on them. She squinted at the card again, yes, it was signed Lav and Shaina and not love, Shaina. He could not fool her with that, at least. So he did get married to Shaina! Of all the rotten things to do! Not that marrying Shaina was a rotten thing to do. Hiding the fact, that he was married, was a rotten thing to do.


The more she thought about it, the more she was convinced that he had indeed meant his wedding to Shaina be a buried secret! The wedding at Hutchinson Garden was more like a select dinner for invitees only. There was even an uniformed guard at the entrance checking if you were carrying an invite. She wouldn’t have gotten an invitation either. It was just fate and coincidence indulging in one of their favourite games, which had landed the invitation in her lap. She barely knew Lav. She had always just admired him from a distance and listened to tales of his wondrous deeds from the many colleagues who had a crush on him as well. And she definitely didn’t know Shaina.

But Chris did. Chris knew Lav , as a competitor and a potential rival in the race for promotions. Besides, Chris and Lav were legendary friends. And Chris and she were friends. Not legendary, but close friends, who could occasionally share a drink, get drunk, abuse the world, let down their masks and not hold it against each other the next day. So, when he had forgotten his invite to this hush-hush wedding, he had called her and pleaded her to fetch it for him. Lav having seen him at the entrance had ensured his invitation-less wedding.

So when she stood at the entrance with an invitation, not meant for her, and the guard had bowed her in, she quite naturally walked in!

So ok, she had been a gate-crasher wedding! Lav didn’t know that. She had had an invite. Maybe he had thought her to be a friend of Shaina’s!

But all that was the past. What was the present was the existence of the wedding invite and the glaring fact that Lav had lied. Her itch of half-knowledge was turning into a full blown rash! She picked up the card and studied his number as if it were a complicated mathematical equation demanding the fullest of concentration.

She picked up the phone and dialed his number.

“Hello?” he said in the melting chocolate voice and she did almost melt.

“Lav?” she felt she ought to confirm his identity.

He laughed, that rich laugh which kept you warm at nights. “I sure hope you are referring to my name and little else…”

She blushed. Knowing there was no way he could see her, she still blushed under hi seasy flirting.

“This is Shikha, Raina’s friend?” she said revealing her identity.

“Oh yes! I do remember! The one who got her grooms confused!” he said the smile still lingering in his voice. “What can I do for you? Clear some more cobwebs?”

“Actually,” she said her temper beginning to rise, “ I called to tell you , that your cobwebs need a broom taken to them, and you perhaps need to jog your memory and that you have the groom confused at your own wedding!”

“I told you, Shaina is married to my best friend Akshay. Not me.” He said beginning ot sound exasperated.

“Then why am I staring at a wedding invite signed Lav and Shaina?”

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Curiosity

Curiosity is like an ageing woman with a warped sense of humor. She keeps nagging you with a million possibilities, of what possibly could be, until you shut her up with a dose of facts. I remember this one incident, where my dog had run away and this old neighbour of mine, painted with vivid words possibilities such as being frisked away to the dog pounds; trampled under a fast moving car driven by a crazy young man, who didn’t even pause and look at the crushed dog; tied to a tree by the street kids and beaten into whining. Thankfully my dog had just run to the backyard, in search of a new place to pee and came faithfully back.

So as she sat at the coffee shop with Raina, waiting for Lav Kulshreshtha to show up, the old lady called curiosity played havoc with her mind. Concentrate! She told herself. If on nothing else then do concentrate on the rich aroma of the frothing latte and meditate in its sensuous pleasure. But Raina couldn’t let it be. She was going on and on about how mr. perfect ought actually to have some flaws and how she, her trusted friend, was ‘entrusted’ with the responsibility of finding flaws in him. Nagged beyond endurance by Raina on one hand and curiosity on the other, she blurted, “Isnt being married, flaw enough?”

Raina looked like Tom (from Tom and Jerry), who had actually finally caught a mouse and couldn’t believe his own luck! She stared at her, with her huge eyes widening into perfect circles and she breathed on a whisper, as if speaking out loud will undo the fact, “He is married?”

She just shrugged her shoulders and continued walking her spoon in aimless circles through the thick froth in her cup. Raina’s hand flew to her open mouth in a very theatrical move. She clutched her wrist, with her free hand, putting a stop to the growing whirlwind of coffee, “How do you know?”

“Because I attended his wedding!” she said finally letting go of the spoon and unwrapping Raina’s hand from her wrist.

“What?” she screamed loud enough to turn heads. Then looking around to assess the damage she had caused, she leaned in further and asked, “When and why didn’t you tell me?”

“Well, about a year ago!” she confessed, “I didn’t tell you because, if you have heard about him from your parents, he obviously somehow managed.. to.. get unmarried!”

“That’s impossible!” Raina exclaimed, “You cant get divorced till after a year of being married! What a b******!! What is he going to do with his first wife?”

“Maybe she died!” she said behaving quite like curiosity herself. “Maybe he is a widower. Which would explain why he needs a wife again!”

“Bull shit!” Raina said shaking the contents of a sugar sachet into her sweetened coffee. “I am sure he murdered her! How vile is it to keep a first marriage a secret?” she picked up her spoon with renewed energy and noisily stirred the melting sugar.

“You know what?” Raina added squinting into some far off image. “ It shows lack of character. It shows the need to hide behind secrets. And I am telling you,” she said pointing a coffee dripping spoon at her, “ I am marrying no such widower!!”

She could see that Raina had worked herself up into quite a state with this piece of information. She was digging inside her preoccupied mind to come up with something soothing to say, when the doors of the café swung open and in stepped Lav Kulshrestha!!

The past year had done absolutely nothing to him. His black hair still curled adorably behind his ear, his jaw still had that firm look, his eyes could still melt rock hard hearts. As he scanned the café, his eyes alighted on hers and glinted with a faint recognition. He walked towards their table.

Raina had her back to him. So when he whispered, “Raina?” she almost jumped out of her chair.

“Yes?” she frowned at him.

“Lav,” he said, waiting to be invited to join the table.

Raina frowned at him as if he were same alien. It was evident her mind was elsewhere. Slowly the frown gave way to the dawning of his identity and she hastily urged him to join them for coffee.

Leaning towards her she whispered, “ If the widower is this handsome, even I am bound to make some concessions!” Saying this Raina turned her prettiest smiling face to Lav.

She was fuming. Raina, didn’t even know that Lav was a widower! It was just abstract hypothesis! But just because he was heart-breakingly handsome, she was about to overlook the fact that he was married.

“And wont you introduce me to your friend?” he asked, ever the gentleman. “In fact, I think we have met before… I just cant seem to remember where!”

She was seething by then. The coffee had set her insides on fire and the pseudo smiles were grating on her nerves. Before Raina could say anything, she looked straight in his eyes and said, “ Of course we have met before! At your wedding? Or don’t you remember being married?”

Raina kicked her hard under the table and scowled at her. Lav just let out a rich laughter that turned more than one female heads.

“My wedding?” He asked reigning in his laughter, “ You met me at my wedding?”

Completely shocked by his callous pretense and overwhelmed with the idea of defending her friend against the deceptive clutches of this handsome criminal, she added, “ Hutchinston gardens? October 2007? Rings a bell?”

He sobered up quicker than a bucket of cold water on fire. “Yes, in fact it does! Shaina’s wedding?”

The way he said it, confused her, “yes.. shaina’s wedding.. to you…”

This time he frowned, a very unpleasant emotion flickered in his black eyes, “ If this is a joke, its in horrid taste. I am equally un-keen on getting married as probably you girls are. I am here to just indulge my folks. Does not mean I have to take character slights from anybody!”

“ No.. no.. “ Raina was hastily plunging into conciliatory explanations.

“You didn’t marry Shaina?” She asked confusion evident in every pore of her face.

“No!” he declared, “ Shaina married my best friend Akshay!”

She turned a deep red and looked down into her coffee. There was silence around her. She looked up and she said, “ Sorry! I so apologise! I so thought it was your wedding I was attending!”

Damn! There she had just put her foot in her own mouth. She gave him a panic-stricken look and was already working up excuses to flee.

“And you thought so because?” he almost demanded.

“A week ago I saw you in the lawns of the Moor Manor, on a nice romantic moonlit night.. with.. well.. Shaina!” She said thinking he had a right to know.

Raina gasped audibly. He said nothing. Silence stretched. Raina cleared her throat drawing two lost attentions back to the table, “So now that we know that you are not married, and definitely single…”

Monday, September 1, 2008

Full Circle

Sleep was like the golden strands of dawn, slipping away even before one could notice their subtle presence. Almost anything could steal her sleep away from her, even the soft footfalls of the approaching breeze. So when her phone screamed shrilly into the silent drunkenness of the night, it startled her sleep into disappearing. She rubbed her eyes once again and checked the display on her cell phone, it was three am.

“Hullo?” she answered sounding wide awake. The last vestiges of fatigue beat a hasty retreat out of her body as she stretched into a sitting position.

“Did I wake you up?” she asked. Why is it that people ask the most obvious questions when they wake others up at alarming hours?

“No! Not at all,” she said tapping her foot on the cold floor in search of her slippers. “ I was just lying awake thinking of sleep!”

“Heeheeehee,” she giggled nervously. Her voice was heavy, which could only mean two things; either she had been drinking heavily or she had been crying. Either ways, the phone line was booked till the early hours of a restless morning.

“Mom had called from India,” she informed.

She stopped mid-way through the act of sinking her feet in her puppy brown slippers and asked, “Everything Ok?”

“NO! Everything’s not OK!” she bawled. Hearing her bawl, she hurriedly grabbed her dressing gown and donned it over her pyjamas.

“Hush! Calm down! What happened?” She asked heading towards the kitchen. Coffee always buffered a shock.

“Its ma,” she sniffed at the other end. “She has finally found the perfect guy to marry me off to!”

She banged the coffee kettle so hard on the platform, that she almost cracked the glass bottom, “this is the tragedy?! Raina!! You are calling me at three in the morning to bawl over an occurrence which takes place at least thrice a week.. Unfailingly!”

“No!” Raina hastened into the conversation, “No! It’s serious this time. It’s a son of a friend of Dad’s Elder Brother!”

Realizing that she had no choice but to hear this out, she reached for the coffee beans and spooned them into the coffee maker.

“So?” she asked switching the coffee-maker on.

“So.. he has apparently done his law from Harvard and has a successful practice in London. He wines and dines the who’s who of London and has opened a sister concern in India. Within six months the Indian sister concern has apparently made it to the top list of India’s who’s who and so how could this guy be any wrong?”

Point to be noted. How could such a guy be any wrong for ANY girl? “So.. why is he still single?” she asked peeping into the fridge to see if she could manage a midnight snack.

“See?? Exactly my question! I am sure he has a defunct testicle!” Raina sniffed again

She rolled her eyes to an unseeing audience and pushed the bowl of fruits aside to reach for the peanut butter. Fattening and highly comforting.

“Oh wait! And he has a name!” Raina was saying

“Of course he has a name!” she said balancing the phone between her shoulder and ear and slicing the bread into thick slices.

Raina laughed, “ he is called love!”

“What?” she said laughter shaking her voice, as she cut the banana into thin slices.

“Yeah I know, so totally weird!” Raina confirmed, “Love Kuru.. Kul.. shesta or something like that…”

“Lav Kulshrestha?” She asked holding her breath.

“Yes! That’s it!” Raina celebrated. “Wait! Do you know him?” she asked

“Umm..heard of him,” she agreed and then, “ you know what girl? Let me just call you back in five? I really gotta go…”

“Pee break?” Raina wanted to know

“What else” she laughed and hung up.

But no it was not a pee break that had made her run. It was the topic of their conversation – Lav Kulshrestha. It cant be, it couldn’t be! Could it? But he was married. He had married last year.

She still remembered the wedding. It was a spectacular affair, of ribbons and roses and the perfect band, playing the perfect music, for the perfect couple. Yes, the perfect couple. She still remembered them standing in the garden, drenched in the moonlight as conscious of each other as two forlorn teenagers, yet each brimming with love for the other.

Her heart still ached with a raw pain, as if somebody had mercilessly pulled the bandages off a healing wound and ripped it further open in the process. Her heart had been torn into a million shreds as she had watched her love crumble on that moonlit night. She had somehow made it to the wedding, but she remembered nothing of it. All that the name brought back to her were crushing emotions.

So what was he doing out on the marriage market again?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Serendipity

When had the equation changed? When had she become this sloppy, tired-of-life woman, who rushed from one day to another, without time to look at her gradually bloating self? And when had Sim become, this chic urban woman, who clicked her heels in perfect rhythm, matched her designer bags to the expensive labels of her clothing, even sighed with the right balance of elegance and grace?

There is one truth about the existence of women in this competitive world. They scrutinize objects of their own species, with much more attention and critical detail than they observe the specimens of the opposite sex. She squirmed in her seat, equipped with the knowledge that Sim had definitely noticed the thin layer of soft flab around her waist, through the thick cotton of her pink kurta.

Who wears a kurta to a lunch at mainland china anyway? Sim was sitting elegantly across her, one leg draped stylishly over the other, manicured fingernails skimming through the extensive menu. Under the pretext of studying her own menu, she was actually studying Sim’s profile. Were those swarovski’s dangling from her ears? Unconsciously her hands reached out to touch the silver rings adorning her own ears. Did Sim think they were a cheap stunt at appearing chic?

Why was she suddenly so self-conscious? In her daily run, she didn’t have time to care what people were thinking about her. So why should today be any different? She knew she did not exactly look ‘unpresentable’ at any given point. So why was she letting Sim’s very prim and proper presence unnerve her to this extent?

“Don’t look now,” Sim said leaning forward, eyes still on the menu and whispering conspiratorially. Anybody would have thought she was discussing something on the menu with her. “Two handsome guys and potential dates just walked in through the door and are seated three tables behind you.”

Saying this she leaned back in her chair, hunched her shoulders slightly such that without quite appearing to do so, she was displaying her cleavage to a very tempting advantage. Don’t look now! She would never look, not today, when she was feeling her lowest best. Anyway she was here to tell Sim that she had found someone and was quite happy to be with him, so how did the presence of those two guys matter.

Sim would no doubt laugh at her and sympathise with her boyfriend, saying what on earth did he find in a slob like her, etc. All these thoughts were running through her head a she feigned interest in the menu, of which she still had to read one single word.

“Ok!” Sim said smiling at the menu, as if she had decided what to order, “Those guys have looked at our table like five times in the past five minutes!” She informed; unable to keep her increasing excitement out of her voice.

Obviously all those showers of attention were for Sim. Those guys couldn’t even see her, as she had her back to them. She just smiled a polite acknowledgement and sank further into her baseless depression.

She was quite startled, when the waiter suddenly appeared at their table with two flutes of white wine.

“But we didn’t order any?” Sim protested.

The waiter bowed his head, politely and smiled, “With compliments from the gentlemen,” he said signaling with his head in the direction behind her. As he set the glasses on the table he added, “For the beautiful lady in pink!”

Completely taken aback, she whirled around. Sure enough there were two gentlemen seated three tables behind her. Both dressed in crisp shirts and elegant ties with well-fitting suits, looking handsome. One of them, raised his own wine glass at her in a silent toast across the room and smiled a devilish smile.

She smiled, picked her own glass and returned the toast. She turned back to a startled Sim and leaned back in her chair with a smug smile. God bless boyfriends! She suddenly did feel like the prettiest woman alive…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seven Years

She stepped out into the torrential showers, holding her umbrella tightly, so that the strong winds didn’t carry it off with them. She had waited all of forty five minutes for the raging gray clouds to calm down. But today, they had an agenda of their own. The sun was there behind them somewhere, had to be, it was just noon. But it was evidently fighting a losing battle against the thickening storm.

Clutching at the pleats of her crimson saree, to prevent the lapping muddy waters from devouring them, she waded in her strapped heels through ankle high flowing waters. A squint through the silver slashes of raindrops, revealed no taxis or rickshaws in sight. She sighed inwardly and kept plunging on. The cold winds wrapped the thin fabric of her saree more tightly around her, highlighting her curves to a tempting advantage and the occasional lightning made her look like an ethereal beauty struggling for sustenance.

Giving up, she finally climbed onto the slippery pavement and pushed open the doors of the nearest café. The already crowded café had no empty table to offer her. She took another glance outside, they rains were still stingy with mercy. Her shoulders slumped in despair. She cast one final glance at the people seated and that’s when she saw him. She had almost not recognized him. He looked different.

Yet he was the same.

She almost fled right out into the rain, when he turned and looked straight into her eyes. Confusion paved way for recognition right within his eyes. She stood rooted to the spot. He gestured with his hand, asking her to join him on his table. She moved of her own accord. She seated herself on the hard wooden chair opposite him. She gave a tentative self-conscious smile.

He had always known her to be a self-confident, charismatic woman. So this new shyness surprised him. The pull was still there though. She could still draw you to her without quite intending too. Her black eyes were sporting a sheen of tears, or maybe it was rain-water. Her damp her fell in soft tendrils on the nape of her neck, striking an erotic ebony and ivory contrast at her throat. Seven years later, she still made his heart skip a beat.

“Coffee?” he asked initiating a conversation.

“Thanks. Latte without sugar, please?” she almost whispered.

What was with the thanks and please? Seven years ago, they had been closer than close, seven years later they were sitting across a coffee table, thrown together by chance, strangers once again! Was there anything left to say? She was married, wasn’t she? She had left him for some other guy, hadn’t she? He was just being as civil to her, as he would have been to any other woman under similar circumstances.

And she was aware of that. She was aware that she was no more than another woman to him right now. Seven years later, it shouldn’t hurt, but it did. She didn’t no why, she didn’t want to know why. She was cold and his cool attitude chilled her further. She had left him all those years ago, so he was justified in his demeanor, but she still felt cold. She shivered.

And he could feel his hackles rise. He could sense her chill and something inside him wanted to do something about it. Offer her the blazer of his suit perhaps? Anything! But he just sat there and stared outside at the pouring rain. She was rubbing a hand against her bare forearm; a minute attempt to ward of the chill. She was not looking at him. She was looking out of the window.

Their eyes met once again, in the shaky reflection of the dark, rain-washed windows. For eternity neither could pull away. The arrival of their coffees snapped them out of the trance. She averted her gaze first. Something inside her coffee mug seemed to captivate her interest more than he did.

“Bad rains,” he said trying another attempt at conversation.

“Hmm.” She agreed, wrapping her cold fingers around her mug, stealing the warmth form the coffee.

He wanted to ask her a million questions, seven years ago. Seven years he still sought answers to those questions.

She didn’t have answers to his questions. Not yesterday, not today. She prayed he wouldn’t ask. But she could sense his glare on her, silently probing, burning with a desire to bring forth all things left unsaid.

The absence of words was made up by chatter from the tables around. She refused to look at him and nothing else around him was interesting enough to look at… but for her. Some equations never changed, seven years ago, he was trying too hard to hold her to him, seven years later he was still willing her to look at him and she was still looking for a place to run.

She looked up then and was startled to stare right into his brown eyes. She looked out of the window, the rain had mellowed to an active drizzle.

“I should be going,” she said reaching for her umbrella.

He wanted to say something to stop her, he just watched her collect her umbrella and head to the door. She paused there, turned looked at him and smiled a watery smile. She then stepped into the drizzle of a lazy afternoon, the gentle breeze lifting her hair off her face. She looked beautiful.

He watched her walk away and melt into the horizon.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Aternoon

The popcorn crackled in the microwave. She was conscious of him moving in the background, collecting beer mugs, opening the fridge to pull out two chilled pints and transferring them into the frosted mugs. The microwave pinged, announcing that the popcorn was done. She scooped out the fluffy kernels in a glass bowl and headed towards the hall.

He followed her with the beer mugs. She curled up on the sofa, tucked her feet under her, adjusted her soft pashmina rug on her bare legs and smiled at him. He had placed the beer mugs on a footstool and was pulling the CD drawer open.

Yes! It was that time of the weekend! They would both cuddle up and watch their favourite movies together, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was perfect!

“So what’s it going to be?” he asked rubbing his hands together, like some connoisseur about to pick at his priced collection.

She pulled the popcorn bowl on her lap, “I don’t know …. How about…Never Been Kissed?”

“Not again!” he said settling on haunches.

“What do you mean by not again?” she asked picking up a dainty popcorn between her fingers and scrutinizing it, as if it were a jewel.

“You know what I mean by not again. I mean not again!” he said half turning to look at her. When she just raised one elegant brow at him in response, he added, “Come on! We saw a romantic comedy just last weekend! One fine day?”

“And you didn’t enjoy it?” She asked putting the popcorn bowl back on the floor.

“Of course I did!” he said turning back to his CD collection. “But why cant we watch something like Superbad or High Fidelity?”

“Because they are guy flicks!” she said sitting up straight. He looked at her long bare legs peeping from beneath the folds of the pashmina, and looked right back at her petulant face.

“Well, we did watch Sex and the City the weekend before the last, which I remember was a chic flick! So if I can watch a chic flick to indulge you, why cant we watch a guy flick?” he tried reasoning with her.

“Because.. you LIKE watching chic flicks! You get to ogle all those women with perfect bodies and what not?” she said waving her hands in the air for emphasis.

He ran a finger down the spine of his CD collection, “Oh please! Sex and the City had old women wearing push-up bras and despite that effort you had to strain your eyes to catch a glimpse of what could have been boobs! And I still watched it… for you!”

“Ugh! Ok!! Your guy flicks don’t even have dehydrated… thingies to offer!” she added exasperated.

He laughed. A rich laugh which shook him. “I get your point. Ok. So lets watch Wall.e. ok?”

Subdues by his laugh, she sank back on the sofa and frowned at him sweetly, “ Who’s wallie?”

“A Robot? I haven’t seen the movie yet..” he was already hunting through the collection for the wall.e CD.

“Your idea of a romantic Sunday afternoon is, watching a sci-fi movie about a gay robot called wallie? I mean who has a name like wallie?” She said getting worked up all over again.

“Its not wallie!!” He protested. “Its Wall full stop E. And how do you know if he is gay or not without watching it?”

“I don’t want to watch robots!” she said folding her hands across her chest and pouting.

He looked at her and sighed. He then smiled to himself. “Umm.. its actually a love story between two robots, rather cute…”

“Really?” she asked interested but not wanting to show it.

“Uhuh!” he said pulling the CD out. He now had two CDs one in each hand. “So what’s it going to be?” he asked again. “Never been kissed?” he asked raising his right hand which held the CD of never been kissed. “ A movie you have seen at least five times. You know all the dialogues. Its cute. Its old. Or…” he raised his left hand which held the CD for Wall.E “Wall.E! A new love story you have never seen. You could probably love. And maybe you would want to watch again?”

She looked at both the CDs. Settled back and said, “Wall.E it is!”

He smiled and inserted the CD in the player. Picked up the beer mugs, handed one to her, settled beside her on sofa and tucked her in the nook of his arm. Sunday Afternoons had no choice but to be perfect!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marriage Madness

The traffic was crazy. If her exasperating day at office wasn’t enough to have her pulling her hair out, the traffic would certainly accomplish this feat. As speed dropped to a halt, she tapped her impatient fingers on the steering wheel of the car, sub-consciously synchronized movements to the “Can’t get you out of mind” blaring on the car stereo. An elegant flip of the wrist, another check on time and another frustrated jolt of realization that the dinner guests would be arriving in the next hour!

Why do women marry? She thought, as she watched drops of rain trickle down her windscreen, blurring the red tail lights of the car ahead of her. For all the shackled freedom that marriage imposes on men, what do women really get out of a marriage?

Her mobile began screaming for attention. She fumbled in her bag. It was her husband.

“Hey love.. umm its almost seven, you know..”

“ I know! And I am on my way… just stuck in a crazy traffic jam five minutes from home!” she said, willing herself to stay calm,

“They said they’d be here by eight!” he reminded her.

“I know! I don’t need reminding! Like I said, I am on my way…”

“Sweetheart, he is my boss in the end you know…couldn’t you have just… like left a little early? Just this once?”

She banged a fist on the horn to vent out her piling fury, “I left as early as I could ok? How is an unpredicted traffic jam suddenly my fault?”

“Ok! Just get here as quick as you can ok?”

“No! I wont.. I will take the longest detour to home possible, just because I want to be present on the doorstep right when Mr. Makra shows up! Ok?” she yelled, unable to hold on to her temper any longer. She hung up, banged another fist on the horn and pushed back against her seat.

She worked equally long hours as he did. Sometimes longer. She had bosses to report too. She had deadlines and presentations. She had maids to haggle with, a house which needed to look the best, most of the times, cooking to do. Something which he was happy not looking into. So how did this qualify as he being on the receiving end of the pitfalls of a married life?

Why did they marry? Last evening had been a disaster. He had come home late in the evening and over dinner just announced that his boss would be coming over the next day.

“But honey.. it’s a week day!” she had protested.

“He kind of said he was coming, I could not say please do not!” he had argued.

“Why cant we meet him out for dinner?”

“Oh please! He wants to see the new home!”

“Well then why cant he come over the weekend?”

“What’s this about?”

“I have the Oberoi’s presentation tomorrow, I have no clue when I get off work!!”

“Once! That’s all I am asking of you! In fact I haven’t ever asked anything of this sort of you before!”

“This is so baseless.. the presentation is not in my hands!”

“Fine! I’ll tell him to not come.. ever!”

“Its not what I am saying…”

And it had blown into a full scale fight. She had in fact spent the better half of the night contemplating whether women marry for some masochistic joy. Why would one want to spend the night staring at the back of the man she loved? Why would she stay awake with the remnants of a fight making her stomach sour, while he snored right beside her?

She looked at the watch again. Seven fifteen. The traffic, as if sensing her panic, began to slowly move. Vexed, she veered her way and made it to her doorstep by seven thirty. She would never get the dinner cooked in time. Let alone set the house and groom herself to be presentable enough to his boss. She let out a long sigh at the door and braced herself for another flare up. She inserted the key and pushed the door open.

He was not in sight. But the hall had been set up. Cleaned, tidied, the lights dimmed … slow, mellow music filled the room. It was perfect. She walked to their room. He wasn’t there either. But the door to the bath was open, and the light flicked on. She walked inside, to a bath tub filled with warm water, her towel hung invitingly, and her spa kit rested elegantly beside the tub.

She found him in the kitchen. He had just finished placing the lid on one of the porcelain severs. Sensing her presence he turned around. She was standing, leaning against the door frame, looking a crazy mixture of love and confusion. He smiled at her, walked to her and pulled her in his arms. She leaned against his chest.

“Food’s taken care of,” he informed her, “ ordered in. Now you go and freshen up. When Mr. Makra shows up with his ‘oh-i-am-so-perfect-wife’, I want to introduce them to the woman I love. The woman who has the most dazzling smile in the entire wide world, who can charm conversations with her rich laughter, who is beautiful. Now you cant be all that when you are tired and snappy, can you? So go…”

He pulled her away, turned and gently pushed her in the direction of their room. She took a step, then turned back and looked at him. Not quite knowing how, a fraction of a second later they were kissing like two hungry lovers, who had been forced apart.

She didn’t know why women married… But she definitely knew why she had! She had married for this…