May 31, 2007

Sister of My Heart

I remember that hot summer afternoon when I was finally taken to the hospital to get a glimpse of my much-awaited sibling. I had a baby sister and in my five-year-old mind what was of utmost importance was that now I had my very own playmate at home. My father and I waited outside the hospital room for a few minutes before we were ushered inside. I walked in and ran to my mother happily; even those 2 days without her seemed endless. My mother said, “Come meet your sister”. I tiptoed and walked over to the cradle when I saw this red woozy ball with black hair and eyes closed. I bent down to touch her and as her eyes opened all wide I saw the thick-fringed eyelashes and her shining black eyes looking back at me. I think it was at that moment I knew that I found my best friend , my buddy, my lifelong partner in crime .

My sister and I have been a trial for my mother. We were a pair of monkeys and the stories of our escapades are part of the family folklore. My father being in the army was not around too often during our growing up years so my mother brought us up almost single handedly and it must have taken some strength of mind to bring up two such naughty and stubborn children who got out from one trouble only to get into another. My mother saw to every little thing, be it our school, to our meals, our clothes, down to the last tee. She was very affectionate but there were times when she would loose her cool cause her daughters would get into some soup and there is only a certain limit till which one can be patient. Like the time when we drove the neighbor’s young son up the wall with the incessant cat calls or the time I refused to attend my tutorials and locked the door of my house shut and went and sat on the terrace till the tutor came home, saw the locked door and went away. This other time when my sister hatched a plan with the maid and they got together and threw eggs on the innocent passers by who couldn’t quite figure who was chucking eggs on them. My mother who was also a schoolteacher came home that evening to be greeted by my grandmother’s perplexed face.

Bonu [my sister’s name] and I weren’t scholars either. On the contrary we hated studying and Ma always told us that this is the only route to doing something worthwhile in life. We were forced to spend time with our schoolbooks all out of the fear of Ma’s anger. I loved reading but when it came down to Math’s or the Sciences I dreaded having anything to do with these subjects. I almost did not make it to 10th grade, a consequence of taking it too easy and I had to pay a heavy price for it. That entire summer Ma saw to it that I did my sums regularly and read my biology and physics from the very first chapter till the last. To the surprise of a lot of people I did not do too badly in my first public exam all thanks to Ma of course. My sister too was no better than me. I left for college at 18 and she was left alone with my mother. She often complained saying Ma is so over bearing and bosses over her.

In my second year of college while I was studying for my final exams I got a phone call from Ma one evening saying my sister had failed her 9th grade exams. Ma was heartbroken. Nobody in our family had ever flunked an exam before [though I had almost done so myself but got saved] . My mother was an English teacher in a reputed school in the city and it was a let down for her and more than anything it was humiliating. My sister did not speak to me that day, apparently she cried herself to sleep that night. Thus started another tribulation for my Ma. She had always had to listen to outsider’s complain about the both of us or people expressing their doubts on how could Ma let me go away to college in a far off city at the age of 18. There always seemed to be people who would come and talk about how well their children were doing while my mother would be having a tough time making sure we stay on the right path. Ma was determined though that we would do well for ourselves and that’s how she dealt with my sister’s setback. She never let my sister feel that she had lost out on something and always told her that “ Let this be a lesson. We are going to work really really hard. Even if the world seems to be coming to an end now. Circumstances will change”. My mother and sister formed a team and they systematically got around to changing my sister’s academic skills. Times did change but very slowly and gradually, one little step at a time.

Yeah it has been a step at a time. I finished with law school last year and finally started working. My mother’s belief in me paid off .It has been 4 years since that fateful day when I got that phone call. My sister is 18 now. I got another phone call a few days back. My sister’s school leaving results were coming out on the net. I was waiting for Ma and Bonu to call me that afternoon and couldn’t pay much attention to my work in office. The phone rang and as I picked it up apprehensively only to hear Ma’s sobbing in the background and my sister’s anguished high pitched voice saying “ Didi I got a 88%”. I exclaimed “ what?” I could not believe my ears. She had passed the exam with flying colors and could not now make it to the best of colleges in the country. My little sister whom every body had written off had done amazingly well and could now go to the best of the educational institutions. My mother was in tears. She was overwhelmed as it took some time to sink in. Later at night while speaking to her I said, “ Ma your two little failures, didn’t do as bad as everybody thought they would.” Ma laughed and said, “You are my daughters and I knew both of you the best. I always knew that you were never failures. It was just a matter of time.”

May 30, 2007

A Life Less Ordinary

It is just another Saturday night and like most Saturdays I throw a little tantrum on how I do not want to go out partying and want to spend time with myself but like every other Saturday I change my mind and give in. It is almost be a routine now. Although I have only been here only the last 3 months but sometimes I feel that hell I have been here forever. I get into the shower at 11 at night with a drink to keep me company. My roomie asks me to keep my phone close by just incase she wants to talk to me. She is one of the most impulsive women I have met ever in my life. With her around there isn’t a single moment of boredom. She is the one who insists that we have a drink along with our shower. So by the end of it I am a lil tipsy and start looking forward to my night out.

Same old Saturday night but tonight I am not touching alcohol since I have been on this health trip the last month or so. I didn’t really have an option. I was home for a weekend and my Mum got alarmed seeing me and gave me a sermon to last me a lifetime so I am literally off alcohol except for an odd drink or two. This is what happens when one gets into the habit of a drinking binge every now and then. You get up one morning and look at yourself in the mirror or even better your Mum meets you after 6 months who is horrified to see you in oversize clothes and when you have no substantial explanation about how you could possibly weigh 5 kgs more. The consequences being I became obsessed about working out and hitting the gym day after day without fail

Anyways we finally head out and the lounge we were planning to go is apparently full and we cannot possibly go there so we finally end up at this crowded club, not an inch to breathe, sweaty bodies everywhere and loud hindi music blasting into my ears. Not that I don’t have fun, I do. We dance our hearts out. But 4 am in the morning when I have had enough, enough of the music, my feet killing me, not inebriated, and I just plonk myself on the nearest couch trying to observe all the people in semi darkness. Hmmmm! The people are a little too flashy, not to my liking or maybe just not my taste. They try too hard to look as perfect as they do, be it the women with their designer wear and perfectly done up make up, not a hair out of place or the men who would be in body hugging tees and gelled hair and even silken shirts.

I look at myself, my hair out of place with all the crazy dance moves and my feet screaming for help cause the 2 inch high heels supporting them cannot bear the burden anymore, my skirt is crinkled up. It hits me all of a sudden what the hell am I doing here in the midst of strangers, this isn’t me, and this isn’t all that I am about. What do I keep looking for? Yeah I am not as messed up in the head like my friends, no I am not 24 and going through a divorce with a man my parents forced me to marry, no I am not this confused young beautiful little thing who is trying to find her footing in this world after her boyfriend of six years left her. I am just me, plain me. Not confused due to lack of focus. Sounds strange but I know exactly what I want from my life.

I have never really suffered from a lack of ambition. I haven’t had an eventful and chequered life like the people around me. I never had that love story which failed and I cry every now and then and provoke the sympathies of people, I never went through that nasty divorce that I have to build a shell around me and start living life on the edge before one fine day it all goes bust. My life has been ordinary, with an occasional and minor heartache here and there. I dream a lot, I have big plans in life however my story is minus such dramatically life changing events like the beautiful people surrounding me. Then why do I feel the way I do in the wee hours of the morning. Why do I look for familiar faces in a crowded disc, look for comfort amongst strangers? Why? I am supposed to be strong because I do not need that emotional dependency. I live life according to my own terms, a life I chose to live, and a little lonely maybe but I like it this way. Why does nostalgia hit me when I thought I had left all that behind? The strangest of times, it triggers of memories, it could be a whiff of a perfume, a few words, a touch, the salty taste of one tear, a fragment of a song,a meadow filled with purple cornflowers, the rain laden gray clouds and it all comes crashing down on me.

I think it’s the nomadic existence, all that I left behind, keep leaving behind, all those dreams I dreamt, the castles in the air I built, the people I bid adieu to, my favorite haunts in the different cities. It overwhelms me in times like this. This drifting that has given me solace for as long as I can remember has become the bane of my existence. Ordinary me and my ordinary life, where do these underlying poignant thoughts come from. I’ll never know and I’ll never be here again.

“We may loose and we may win
But we’ll never be here again
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Take it easy, take it easy”

May 23, 2007

Delhi is not too far away

I am sitting at my desk in office enclosed by the cubicle. This is just another corporate establishment. The interiors are done up in white and brown with clinical precision which in someways is rather insipid and dull. We employees are the only ones which add colour to this place and breathe in life into it. The conversation in my department centres largely around the contracts my company is entering into with other corporate houses or the arbitral awards we are trying to secure for the company. Once in a while when the work load is less does the place become a little lively and we discuss the latest happenings in the country and the legal world. Its one of those rare times when I get involved in the discussion and look up , trying to crane up my neck and make my presence felt.

Or else I am in my own world.a thousand different places at the same time. My mind keeps wandering from one place to another like a gypsy. I try to confine it,constrict it to the document I am reading at a certain point but to no avail. My mind has a mind of its own :). The other day it was visting Delhi. I was wondering how different it would be working there. I won't have to look for excuses to meet people. We could chill at mocha and indulge in harmless bitching and gossiping sessions over a plate of delicious jamaican omlettes. We'd shop at lajpat nagar and janpat,buy colourful jholas,chappals and trinkets ,haggle with the shopkeepers over a measly sum of 5 rupees. After work we'd catch up for a cup of coffee and exchange notes about how horrible and tiring our day was and try to out do one another and make it look as if "Your day couldn't be worse than mine" :).

Chet and I would walk to karol bagh and have chaat and stuff ourselves to the brim with golgappas.How can i not mention the delhi winters? Whining and waking up in pitch darkness at 6 in the morning . The comforting warm water baths and covering ourselves from head to toe all geared up to fight the cold . Our first step outside the house and being hit by the icy blast of the chilly wintry wind . The shivers down my spine and the heady combination of goosebumps on my hand and the cosy warmth of my shawl over me. Loving it absolutely or rather revelling in it. The beauty of Delhi on a winter morning. I remember the India Gate shrouded in mist. The structure looked just as majestic even on a misty morning. The giggles and the hot chocolate fudge at Nirula's . Watching Harry Potter at the newly done up PVR or going for a drink to Morrison's with Akku.

I soooooooo miss that one month I spent in that city or maybe I just miss living a life I want to. "Boss is calling you". I look up trying to hide this piece of paper. My colleaugue doesn't really care. He walks away with a sarcastic expression on his face. I get up and enter my boss's cabin. After the usal exchange of social niceties and asking me how am I am finding it here I give the cliche answer. He is an adorable, fatherly man. He cannot imagine why would I want to work here of all the places so far away from home. On the pretext of listening to him I am looking out of the window nodding my head while he talks to me . The sun is out finally. Wasn't turning out to be a bad day afterall. "So next week you shall have to go for your training." I'm jerked back into reality. "Yes Sir ofcourse". "Then you can decide what you are interested in and decide where you would like to work". I am taken aback. "Really Sir!!!!!!! So where would my training be?" "Well Bombay, Calcutta ,Bangalore and Delhi. Hope it won't be too tiresome for you." "Did u say Delhi sir?" I asked him with bated breath. "Yes Delhi. Why? Do you think you don't want to be working there?" I couldn't believe my ears. I wanted to scream out loud and say "Are you kidding dude!! I'd love to go there."

Sadly I had to make do with a sedate and sober response like"No Sir . Not at all. I am fine with whichever city you send me to." I thanked him profusely and for the first time its was an honest and genuine thank you. I am elated or should i say jubilant. Its as if all the chains binding me had broken.My spirit was soaring somewhere up in the sky . I could do what I wanted to for a long long time. I could fly away again.Alas Delhi was not too far away ever.