Writing 101: Day18 – The Last Good bye

I love sitting on the rocking chair on our balcony. I can look at the entire neighborhood from here. And I love the sound as the chair rocks against the floor. “Khat, khat, khat”, I love to close my eyes and think that I am sitting atop a horse galloping to some far away land.

Suddenly, I hear the agitated voices of many grown-ups together. I look across the street and see that it is coming from Mrs. Pauley’s house. Mrs. Pauley is an old lady staying just opposite to our house. She makes the best cookies and whenever I visit her, she gives me one. Of late though, she hasn’t been baking any cookies. Not since Mr. Pauley “passed away” three months ago. I don’t really know what that means but Mom says that we move on to a better place than this world.

I see some policemen looking very serious bringing out Mrs. Pauley through the door. Is she crying? What is she saying to the men? And why is there a small bag in her hand? I have never seen her going anywhere ever. The only time she would be out of the house would be when she and Mr. Pauley used to go to the Church every Sunday.

I call my Mom, “Mom, come to the balcony. See where Mrs. Pauley is going.”

“What? What are you saying?”, Mom shouts back.

“Come outside now Mom”.

Mom finally comes out and tries to figure what is happening. By this time, I see some more people in our neighborhood coming out of their houses to see what is going on. I also see Mr. Smith. He is the landlord of Mrs. Pauley. He never used to come here before but lately, I have seen him many times here. I don’t like him. He speaks very rudely to Mrs. Pauley.

By this time, I see Mrs. Pauley is walking towards the gate. “Mom, where are they taking her?”

I look up to see that there are tears in Mom’s eyes too. “They are taking her away because she could not pay the rent. She doesn’t have money. I can’t believe that none of her sons helped her. Six sons and not one of them have the good sense to do something for her after all she has done for them.”

I suddenly remember the place where Dad keeps his money and start going inside. “Where are you going?”

“Mom, we can give her the money. Then they will not take Mrs. Pauley away.”

“It’s a good idea honey, but we don’t have so much money as to pay her rent. We can hardly manage ours”, Mom says in a broken voice.

“But Mom, can’t we stop them?”

“I wish we could baby”, my Mom says sadly.

Just at that moment, Mrs. Pauley looks up at me and waves sadly.

 

Three days have passed since Mrs. Pauley was taken away and it is Sunday. I want to go meet her today. I rush to Mom to remind her.

“Baby, I didn’t tell you but we can’t go see Mrs. Pauley”, Mom says very softly.

“But Mom, you promised”, I wail.

“I know but honey, Mrs. Pauley is no more”

“What does that mean?”, I don’t understand what Mom says.

“That means that she has also passed away like Mr. Pauley. They are together now.”

“Oh that is good then”, I say. Though I will not get to eat any of her delicious cookies, I am happy that Mrs. Pauley is with her husband. She was always happy with him.

Writing 101: Day16 – The Notebook: Lost…only to be found

She steps into the attic. It has been a long time since she has last come here. She notices that all the boxes are neatly stacked but covered with dust. She has been accustomed to seeing every nook and corner of the house absolutely clean. Her mother had been an athlete once and somehow she has always felt that her agility at getting things done results from there. But recently, her mother seems to have slowed down somehow. She had never paid much attention before because she was too busy with her job and her boyfriend and her own life. But this time, with both those things very effectively removed from her mind and life, she has not been able to overlook the fact that both her parents seems to have aged a lot. She has realized that she has been selfish and negligent with them. And the way that they have welcomed her back knowing that she has resigned from her job and been dumped by her boyfriend, has only made her feel more ashamed and guilty.

But, it is better late than never. Now that she has come home, she plans to get the house renovated at once, something her father has wanted to do for a long time. Her father has never been good at such commonplace and worldly things like money and construction. So, at the request of her mother, she has come up here at the attic to clean the place and remove the important stuff so that the rest of the things can be disposed of.

Looking through all the boxes, she notices that her mother has not thrown away a single thing that belonged to her. Every school text book, scrap book, every uniform that ever belonged to her has been neatly packed in boxes. It is almost as if her whole childhood has been preserved in these boxes. Going through the things, she feels like she is peeping back into her childhood days.

And then she discovers it, the fat hardbound notebook which used to be her diary. It was the notebook which held her every secret, her dreams and aspirations, her thoughts and imagination. She thought that she had lost it but it seems her mother had found it somewhere and preserved it here. She goes through the yellowish pages reading the poems that she had composed as a teenager, the fictional characters that she had created in the stories, her thoughts and ruminations. She remembers the time when writing meant everything to her.

That was before she understood the value of money. That was before she understood the struggles her parents had to go through to put a proper meal on the table because her father had no “real job”. He is a painter and though he is quite well-known now, it was not easy for them during her teenage years. That was when she had decided that she will not grow up to be like her father. She will earn money, lots and lots of it. And her parents would never have to suffer any more. However, the more she became involved with her career, the more she moved away from her parents. Thinking about those childhood dreams now brings tears to her eyes. Really who has she turned into? Who has she become?

Her father may not have earned a lot of money, but he has always followed his heart and dreams. He has remained true to himself and to his wife. Who has she been true to? So involved is she in her thoughts that she does not hear the footsteps of her father entering the attic. She suddenly feels his hand on her head and looks up with tears brimming in her eyes.

“What’s wrong honey”, he asks in his ever gentle tones.

“Nothing Dad”, she whispers” I just found something that I had lost a long time ago”.

“What is it?”

“Nothing much, just myself”.

They look into each others’ eyes and smile with total comprehension.

Writing 101: Day13 – Finding the lost..

She moves around the kitchen like a well-oiled machine. Cooking two curries simultaneously is something she has managed to do over the many years. In fact, on the festive occasions, she still manages to cook a three course meal without any help from anyone. Trying to take out some spices to put in her simmering curry, she opens the bottle. She takes some coriander powder and sprinkles it all over her curry. Now she has to mix it with the rest of the ingredients with the ladle. But wait, where is the ladle? She turns a cursory glance around the counter. No, it is not there. She goes towards the shelves where all the bottles and spices are. She must have put it while looking for the spice. But no, it is not there as well. Looking frantically now, she starts searching the entire kitchen.

And while searching for that lost ladle, she is reminded of all the things she has found. She is lucky to have found a husband who loves and respects her, more so now after twenty five years of marriage. She had chosen a man for herself who, a lot of people thought, was not right for her. She is a practical soul, a woman who moves on despite all the obstacles, a go-getter. On the other hand, her husband is an artist, a man who lives in the world of imagination and who is apparently irresponsible and impractical. But, she knew what she was getting into. He may not seem to care about normal worldly things but he loves her with a passion that an ordinary man cannot comprehend. In fact, she herself cannot believe sometimes that such a talented man could fall in love with such a simple woman like her. Together, they have built a beautiful home and raised a wonderful daughter. They have seen ups and downs in life but everything has fallen in place.

But somewhere down the line, while being there for her husband, tending to his needs every day, giving birth and taking care of her daughter, she has indeed lost “herself”. She has sacrificed so much. Once a state-level athlete, she gave up sports on the insistence of her father. A girl is supposed to marry and become a mother. She cannot spend her entire life running around and collecting trophies. No, that just doesn’t work. Her husband gave her much happiness. But when she thinks about the feeling of freedom that she used to feel while sprinting across the tracks, the wind caressing her hair, her every muscle and instinct in tandem focused on the finish line, she feels like she is a loser. She should have fought a little bit harder. Now, the only place where she uses her skills is while juggling with the utensils or sprinting across the hallway to get to the milk before it overflows while boiling.

“Krrriiiingg…kriinnng”

The sound of the telephone breaks into her thoughts. Getting out of her reverie, she sprints out of the kitchen and grabs the phone. “Hello”, she says breathlessly.

“Hello Mom”, the voice on the other end says. It is her daughter. “I am coming home”.

Suddenly all the feelings that she has lost something, vanishes. She feels as light as the air. And she realizes that what she has found in life is far more precious than what she has lost.

Walking down in a daze of happiness after this realization, she enters the kitchen and her eyes fall on that very thing that she was searching for, her ladle. She had put it in the other bowl where the other curry was cooking. She picks up the ladle, smiles to herself and continues cooking.

Writing 101: Day9 – A Triangle of Viewpoint

Girl: It is a bright sunny day with a light breeze blowing, a perfect day to take a stroll in the park with your lover. The greenery around is soothing to the eyes. In ordinary circumstances, she would be delighted but today, all the beauty around cannot calm her nerves. She has been planning to tell him for quite some time now but has been too nervous and apprehensive about his reaction and about where their relationship is going. Now that they are alone walking hand in hand, she musters her courage and tries to get the words out. But they don’t come. Suddenly, they come across a bench where an old lady sits knitting something, totally engrossed in what she is doing. As they come close to the lady, she realizes that it is a tiny red sweater. It hits her. She has to say something now.

“Baby” she whispers, “we are going to have a baby.”

“What?” he exclaims in a shocked shrill voice, stopping right in front of the old lady. Even the old lady looks up.

“I mean I’m pregnant”, she says nervously.

She waits for him to say something. Getting no response, she turns to look at him and sees the streams of tears running down his face. She is relieved to realize that these are tears of happiness.

Boy: It is a bright sunny day with a light breeze blowing, a perfect day to take a stroll in the park with your lover. The greenery around is soothing to the eyes. But for some reason, his girlfriend keeps fidgeting as if she is really nervous and restless. It concerns him. She has seemed a little different from her usual chirpy self these last few days. And that is one of the reasons why he has come back early from office today and brought her to the park. But all his efforts do not seem to relax her. He starts wondering if she wants to leave him. The last two years that they have been together have been the happiest in his life and he has been wondering lately if he should take the relationship to the next level by asking her to marry him.

Walking hand in hand, they come near a bench where an old lady sits knitting something. He squints trying to figure out what she is making when suddenly his he hears his girlfriend whisper, “Baby, we are going to have a baby.”

His mind doesn’t comprehend what exactly she says as he is too preoccupied thinking that the old lady is knitting a tiny sweater for a baby.

Suddenly her words penetrate his consciousness and he exclaims in a shocked shrill voice “What?”, stopping right in front of the old lady. The old lady looks up.

“I mean I’m pregnant”, she says nervously.

Her words are like balm to his heart which was trying to deal with losing her a few minutes back. He feels relieved, ecstatic and totally unable to utter a single word. Suddenly she turns to look at him and he realizes that he is crying.

Old lady: It is a bright sunny day with a light breeze blowing, a perfect day to sit in the park bench and do some knitting. The greenery around is soothing to the eyes. But she hardly has time to look at the beautiful surrounding. She is totally engrossed in her work. She is knitting a tiny little sweater for her grandchild. She smiles in contentment as she realizes that she is going to live to see her first grandchild after all. Her son and his wife have been married for quite some time now and after a lot of efforts, her daughter-in-law is finally pregnant.

As she works on the sweater, she hears someone approaching. She hears a girl’s voice whispering something inaudible and then the boy stops right in front of the bench and says in a shocked and shrill voice, “What?” That makes her look up from her weaving.

“I mean I’m pregnant”, the girl says nervously.

Then she sees that the boy starts crying silently while the girl looks at him with relief and happiness.

She smiles to herself. Another happy couple is being blessed with a child. How wonderful to witness this scene. Then she goes back to her knitting.

 

Writing 101: Day7 – A Dialogue of Conflict – Where we were and where we have ended up now

They stand face to face like bulls locking horns, all ready to fight it out. In a three year long relationship they have had tiffs before but never have they come across a situation where they are so entirely opposed to one another. They have always agreed on all the important things and their friends have always envied their apparent like-mindedness in everything, from which movie to go to how much space the other person needs. They have themselves taken this like-mindedness so much for granted that it has shaken them up immensely to discover that they actually do not think alike in all matters.

“Are you telling me that you do not want to shift to Mumbai?” he asks, as if the thought had never even occurred to him.

“But I thought we had decided to move to Kolkata, where our families are. We are both the eldest child and we got to take care of our parents, especially now that they are getting older”, she tries to reason.

“How can we take care of our parents if we cannot take care of ourselves? Baby, opportunities like this do not come every day in life. You have to understand. If I stay here, I get this promotion and if I move from here then God knows how much more time I have to wait before getting a similar opportunity. I have worked hard. Don’t you think I deserve this?” he tries to make her understand, his voice rising towards the end.

“And what do I deserve? I have always supported you in everything. Three years we have had this long distance relationship, you in Mumbai and me in Delhi. I have never complained. You promised we would move closer to home and I have already left my job to move there. We are supposed to get married in another three months. Now you want to break that promise just because it suits you”, she says her voice breaking with all the emotions that she is feeling.

“Oh, and what about the promise that you made? You said you will always stand by me. Have you forgotten that?” he says in an accusing voice.

She does not respond for a long time. He looks at her and finds her standing like a figure carved out of stone.

“You know, I also promised to myself that I will take good care of my parents. Don’t make me choose”, she whispers.

“Why? Because I know you will never choose me? Go ahead and tell me. I think I don’t even care anymore”, he says in a tormented voice.

“Well then, I think we have nothing more to say to each other”, she says calmly even though she can hardly believe that those are her words. The tears running down her face, she looks at him and finds that he is equally shocked by these words.

They look at each other helplessly, wanting to say something and not knowing what to say. They both wish they could unsay and undo what had been said and done in the last ten minutes. But they feel as if an invisible wall has risen up between them while they were not looking and now they do not have the power to break it even if they want to. Actually they no longer feel sure that they want to break the wall. Feelings of hurt, betrayal, pain and disillusionment prevent them from reaching out to the other. Looking at the other person, they can no longer see the one that they wanted to spend their lives with, but a complete stranger.

All that is left are memories of happier times and broken promises, and an uncomfortable silence.

 

Writing 101: Day5 – The Note…on a windy day

In the growing wind, I’m running home, when a sheet of slightly fragrant yellowish paper hits my face. I read it.

“Dear June,

If you love me, come to “our” place and we can go away. If you decide not to come, know that I will love you forever but cannot see you again.

K.”

Love, hope, anxiety, acceptance all bundled together in two lines. With blurred eyes, I try to look around for the owner of the letter.

It starts pouring.

Writing 101: Day4 – The Loss..Or is it??

With numerous thoughts swirling in her mind, she gets down from the cab trying to act as normal as possible. Trying to balance her mental faculties and her bags at the same time is indeed a big task and she sets about managing it as efficiently as possible. Within seconds after getting down from the cab, however, she realizes that something is wrong. And then it hits her. Oh God, her phone. She looks at the road and sees the yellow cab moving away from her, much like a fast setting sun. She forgets about balance and dignity and runs behind the cab like a mad woman. Oblivious to the attention of the people passing by, she totters on her high heels. Where is the traffic jam now when she needs it? After trying to run for a couple of minutes, she realizes it is all in vain. The cab is gone and with it her mobile phone which contains her favorite playlist, her pictures and the contact numbers of all the people she knows. As her mind goes to the contact list on her phone, she remembers what has happened today.

Working in a managerial post in a major bank hasn’t always been her dream. In fact, she has always prided herself of not conforming to anybody’s standards but her own. But somehow, she cannot remember how, she has become a part of this typical race where having the best paid job, a huge flat and a swanky car are all that matters. And she has done it very well for the last five years of her life. She has given all her energy, her time and her ideas to accomplishing a dream that she has been made to believe is hers. But, since her break up with her long time boyfriend and fiancé, she started questioning the importance of all these things in her life – career, flat, car. Do you really need things to find happiness? She has all these things but that didn’t make her happy. She has been feeling lost, discontent, like she has just woken up from a bad dream.

When she woke up today, she didn’t know she would do this but somehow, now, in the middle of the day, she finds herself in the middle of the road coming home after resigning from her high powered job, a job that many people would give their eye and tooth to have. And now, her mobile phone is gone and with it the contact numbers of all those people she knew – those numerous people in her office who seemed shocked that she has resigned while quietly planning how to get that very desirable cabin where she used to sit till today morning, her now ex-boss who has spent the last two hours trying to convince her that ”just” a breakup is no reason to give up such a promising career, all those clients who have spoken to her for the last two years and will now have to speak to the next career-oriented and concerned manager who will no doubt occupy her position.

She thought about all those things that have gone with her mobile phone and felt a great weight lift off her shoulders. She felt free and light as the wind. Now, she can take that long vacation to Europe that she had always planned but could never take because she could not afford to take leave from office for so many days, she can go back home to stay with her parents and help her Mom and Dad with the repair of their ancestral home that they have been planning for so long but haven’t been able to do because they are no longer so young, she can write like she always wanted, she can even sleep for the whole of next week. She thinks about all the possibilities and realizes that she neither has to speak to anyone and offer any explanations nor has to listen to how sorry they were for her, not her ex-colleagues and certainly not her ex-boyfriend.  And then she starts laughing.

Thank God she lost her phone.