Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Unsleeping controversially

My being online at this hour does not mean that I am e-dating yet another eligible candidate from the list but the mischief in friendly voices reminds me "Silence is golden".
So I wink with them, excuse myself and hit publish.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

When the world shook

Also linking with Alphabe-Thursday: letter W

She had not had her breakfast. And so her first instinct was to ignore the slight reeling of her head. The moment passed and she did not think much into it. With three cases running simultaneously in her mind, she had room for nothing more in there. The next time the reeling lasted a little longer. She thought she might faint. She decide to grab a quick snack, just in case. So, she got up from her seat, grabbed a file to be dropped on a colleagues’ desk en route and marched towards the office canteen. The confident straight foot falls that had garnered their share of head-turner when she had been new in the place. Two years and a couple of months later, people had gotten used to her presence.
As she crossed by her manager’s seat, she heard her name being called out. “How come you’re walking around? It’s an earthquake for goodness sake”.
Ah! An earthquake. That explained her revolving head. She relaxed. She was not fainting.
Her team-members “isn’t she weird look” made her realize that relaxing was wrongly-timed,
But, she did not feel the panic. She did not feel the fear. And now that she was standing, her head did not swirl. Somehow she could not relate to the scare that had people clamoring for stairs.
But then she had never had a history of conforming.
The table-fan at her colleagues desk was definitely springing now. And so there was no point left to disagree. She knew she would be following the commotion.
The fire exit was teeming with crowd from eight floors.
No further than a couple of stairs, she stopped again. Her manager looked at her with those “no way, you are not planning to go back in there”?
Over the din, she shouted the name of her bestie, Sanjula, to the manager.
They both stopped “what about her”?
“ I have to go back .. she … her … “ Oh great … when she needed them the most, the words left her.
She looked at the crowd. Sanjula, where are you?
When she saw Sanjula’s team on the stairs, she went weak in her knees. She asked them all, but they said something that died down in the noises. She panicked. Sanjula was on family way. Advanced stages. Last trimester.
She looked ahead. Her manager who was urging her on. Encouraging her to move. She looked back. There were people all over.
But no Sanjula.
She went up to her manager and told her the facts. Narrated them. Like she did on the court’s affidavit. Factual position without emotions.
Oh silly girl, just call her up.
I am trying but the call is just not connecting.
Well, then keep trying and keep moving.
The oncoming rush swallowed her.
As they neared the ground floor, she felt guilty. Of leaving Sanjula behind. She looked back. The friend circle was walking down the stairs. She mouthed Sanjula’s name. They had not seen her either.
Desperately, she called again. Unreachable. The fear that she had not felt for herself gripped her now. She prayed as she dialed again. Nothing. No ring. No buzz. No Sanjula. She looked at her phone, it still showed dialing. And then after infinity 0:01where are you” “ you tell” “ …. …. … open“ she said something but the voice cracked. She kept the call going.
Upper ground. She slowed. Moved away from the exit. Towards the cubicles. Away from the crowd. Her manager. Her friends.
Where are you?
Just reached outside.
Already in the ground?
See you there.
Sprited, she joined the crowd. Her manager and her friends. The courage that had left her for the moment made her feel weak. Or perhaps it was the lack of breakfast. And five flight of stairs.
When they made it to the open, her eyes searched and saw Sanjula smiling over something. Their eyes met and acknowledged each other. She relaxed and joined the nearest conversation.
Has it passed”?
“Did you feel it”?
“God, look at all these buildings, we were better off in there”
“Do you plan to go back and work”
“Yaar, anyways, it is Saturday”
Frivolous banter. Anything to keep their minds off the temblor.
And then she found herself following these people back to the cubicles.
Nobody wanted to wait in sun for aftershocks.
Files, and statements and deadlines were calling out to them.
And just as she was typing out the last lines to some important letter, she heard the rumpus again. The table-fan was dancing again. And people were gathering near the fire exit.

She picked up both her handbag and phone. And was already calling Sanjula as she joined the hoo-ha.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Savoring the symphony

I fell for her.
Rather crashed,
While going at 30,
With practically no control.
My helmet saved me.
That and 'course, Cupid.
His love-jab
Surged through my veins
Like lightning.
Andante, the amphetamine.
The backdrop blurred.
We savored
The symphony, moderato.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A taxi ride

The sun was nearly gone. So were the last of his passengers. That was what he thought. Driving the cab at snail-pace through city’s traffic consumed him. Totally. But his wife and four little kids depended on his toil. And his life depended on them.
He drove his cab idly. Homebound, he was in no rush either. Just as he reached the sacred banks of Yamuna, he slowed down his car to say his prayers and take in the evening.
It is then that he noticed her. Kangana hair. And a mild jacket to suit the slight chill in the evening. She tried hailing an auto or two but they sped by. Not their fault. This was not a track where they expected to pick up passengers.
He brought his cab to a halt before her.
Preet vihar?” the velvet voice asked.
Wow! That was on his way. He nodded (inside he was bursting with happiness at the prospect of making extra bucks. A lucky 170/- Perhaps he could take home some ice-cream for the kids. They had been nagging him for long now) as he turned on the meter and the FM. Old hindi songs provided the background score to his drive.
The twilight was now aglow with street lights and headlights. He carefully maneuvered the cab through shortcuts to avoid being stashed in a traffic jam at this hour. Then as they neared the destination, she guided him through the lanes, now nearly vacant. She directed him to stop near a seemingly upscale residential society. And then sat there toying with the zipper on her jacket. Clearly, she was in no rush to get off the cab.
“All your cash and all your money, now” the velvet voice commanded
All your cash and all your money, now” she spelled out the words slowly and singularly.
“Madam ji, your destination has arrived, 170 bucks please” stern but cautious.
In the silence, he heard the zipper moving.
Now you don’t want me to go beyond this, do you” her eyes shot the question.
He got down, opened the door of the passenger seat and demanded his money again.
In the dead silence, he heard the zipper move again.
You know they won’t believe a word you say when they see me in shreds and tatters”.
And for a minute he did imagine it. Her clothes rumpled and ruffled. Disheveled as she would be, her shouting for help would bring the people out of their posh apartments. Her every word would be believed. Taken to be true. Who would care for his version? A taxi driver ferrying a single lady across the town on lonely dark lanes. He imagined himself behind the bars. The media flocking to his home to cover the story. His family would be disgraced and his kids –
He shuddered. With fear. With panic.
“ Wh .. what… what do you want” he managed finally.
All your cash and all your money” the velvet voice unfazed
It is not much, really”. The zipper was undone.
“Please lemme go” he felt her shrugging off the jacket from her shoulders.
“Here you .. you can have it all, every single coin from my pocket” he counted out his day’s earnings. In her perfectly manicured hands.
Every single penny. The price of his sweat and blood. All in her groomed hands.
She got off the cab. The jacket thrown casually on her arm.
As she darted across the society gate, she looked back at him.
The wink in her eyes boiled his blood.

He started the cab. A man was rushing out of another gate, frantically hailing him but he sped past. Ignoring everything and everyone.

by Gustav Johansson
Courtesy: Picture it and write

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Vagrant mind

Courtesy: Image forwarded by a cousin on what's app

The hills beckoned her. So did her home, sweet-home, the serpent-trail of river, hovering clouds and fresh crisp air. Her name echoed in the valley. Distant. Resonant. Again. This time, closer. Authoritative. Her manager rattled off some paragraphs of instructions. Ah! The reality-bite. Disheartened, she began the speech-to-text conversion. Almost verbatim. Shot a furtive glance on desk calendar. One more week and her paycheck would be arriving. Scrimpy incentive to stay in that concrete jungle. Another furtive glance. 4th May blared in her otherwise subdued schedule. Already she could feel the bus taking that last bend on the circuitous highway.
Courtesy: Friday Fictioneers

Linking with Alphabe-Thursday: Letter V
Linking with Friday Fictioneers

Saturday, April 11, 2015

'Coz one Abia is more than enough

Surprisingly Meira reached office before time. She had spare 10 minutes with her before the day consumed them all. So she thought of taking the stairs. Five flight of stairs but worth ascending. Fair share of exercise in the day.
When she reached her desk, she still had a couple of minutes. The place was largely vacant. Must be because of the traffic.
Karthik sir was already working on his computer. Engrossed. When she greeted him, he replied in a somber manner. Minus his convivial charm. He immediately went back to work and Meira understood he was not in a mood to talk.
As she settled into the day, the morning became a blur. If she were to sit down and reflect now, she would be surprised if she could remember what she had had for breakfast. But thankfully, the horrible taste of sandwich was still glued to her throat. She was not retarded yet.
When she did catch her breath and took a couple of minutes off from her work, she went through the stream of her what’s app messages. Replying to some, sharing others.
It is then that Karthik sir asked her if she could help him. The restrain in his voice tensed her. This was not his usual way. He wanted to discuss about a girl his son knew.
She relaxed a bit. Her office people usually approached her. To discuss career choices. Education tips. This was usual. Her turf.
But when he shared what he shared, she was numb.
It was not the usual run of mill career query.
The girl in discussion needed help. Real help. From somebody who had dealt such sensitive issues. Meira was not that adept.
But because of her work profile she had heard such complaints.
Rare. Occasional. But existing all the same.
Had it been workplace harassment, Meira would have doled out all the relevant steps to be taken.
But this was pure blatant harassment. At workplace. Outside workplace. At social media. On roads. In her commute.
Days and nights of fear and anguish.
The girl was acquaintances with a boy. She never realized that just being friends with a boy would turn into a dreaded nightmare. The guy troubled her at her workplace. She shifted job. He followed. Even got shunted from the place. But still pursued. Stalked. Called. Maligned her on social media. Maligned her everyday living. Her police complaint lay somewhere in the heaps of file.
Meira was listening but not listening. She was back in her college.
Meira found the door of her bestie, Abia’s room ajar. At 2 in the night. She called out. The lights were off and there was not a sound in the room. Warily, she walked in and switched on the light by memory.  Abia was sleeping. The covers were not drawn. The bed was not made. The phone lay by her side. It seemed like she had been talking when she had fallen asleep. Meira proceeded to remove her specs and make her comfortable when Abia woke up. She was running a high fever. She hugged Meira and started crying inconsolably. And between the sobs told her that some people from her batch had made fake mail ids by her name and mailed objectionable pictures and photographs to entire class. She did not know what to do. Poor little Abia. She cried her heart, took a paracetamol and by the morning was ready to face the day and the class.
The other day Abia had forgotten her umbrella in the class. Meira and Abia walked back to the class room and retrieved it. They were in time. Only to find the words “Darling Abia” scribbled on the folds. Abia complained to the class prefect and that was it. He did not know who had done it. Abia washed the umbrella till her hands ached.
And who would forget the day when the “Darling Abia” made it to the blackboard. She was still dusting the words when the teacher had walked in.
Then followed the class notice boards and tables and what not. The messages getting dirtier and graphic each day.
The worst was when they made the fake account on social media. Meira would sit with Abia every night and together they would tell people not to join the invite, would read all the abuses and indecent remarks left on the wall helplessly. Then they would discuss how wrong it was and how it was such a deterrence, being girls in the society. And then silence would fall in the room and Abia would leave. What else could she do?
Yes, it was nothing major. All college pranks. But intimidating enough.
Abia became reclusive and drowned herself in world of books. Could she be blamed when she was the happiest to leave college and move on. Abia was the first to pack her bags.
Ragging. Bullying. Harassing. Whatever it was, it was over.
The girl is planning to leave her job. She is disheartened enough. We fear she might take some extreme steps, Karthik sir was telling her.
Meira came back to the present.
One would think that times had changed. The deterrence had now become a strength. Audacious and intrepid, that is being girls.
Her mind was reeling. Was it over? Would it ever be over? Had anything changed? Would anything change?
Men/boys are still what they were. And deterrence, being girls still is one.
Meira gave Karthik sir a women commission’s helpline number. That sounded so insufficient even to herself. But she knew there were forums now that would help. Platforms that were not available in their times, And with that confidence she returned to the pending matters on her desk.
She could not help but think that only this morning, she had been smiling at the College Boys only scribbled on unreserved seats in the local bus. A smile she immediately regretted.
She prayed fervently that the girl would be helped.
She prayed there would not be any more Abia's in her list.
She prayed for every girl out there to be safe and secure.

Friday, April 10, 2015

For Boys also

Amidst the ballyhoo for women liberation, the masculine clique feels relegated. But their muted whispers are lost in the shrill and sonorous clamour.
Why, just the other day, fractious middle-aged lady shouted on a young man occupying the “ladies only”. The young lad, visibly annoyed, vacated the seat but his grouse was loud and riotous, “Guide me to the “males only” seats, if you will please!”
Today, slapped on four unreserved seats of the public conveyance were the words “FOR COLLEGE BOYS ONLY”.
The grumble is definitely growing. Perhaps, it is time to indulge the boys now.
Counterbalance and equipoise.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Grieving graves

6 feet beneath
The broken slates,
The souls roam
Naked and grieving.
Their monologues,
Sacred secrets,
Scattered by wind
Across this green glade
Speckled with
Headstones cloaked in
And funds permitting,
The manager arranges fresh flowers,
Oft forgotten with time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Memoirs of Delhi commute

The daily Delhi commute is no mean task.
Jostling, shoving, pushing, squeezing - a week's worth of exercise in one ride.
Conduct and deportment are conveniently erased from memory cells.
Wise words, mere ink on papers bundled together as moral science.
Its always a flurried and flustered start to the mornings.
Today was going to be no different.
All the "ladies only" seats were already occupied.
Meira thought of letting the bus pass by her and wait for another.
But ticking clock held no room for anticipation and she boarded the now almost crawling drive.
She collected her pass while scanning the safest point.
Nopes, today was not cooperating.
Two men were comfortably positioned in ladies seats.
One was definitely nearing the Senior citizen category.
The other was young. Looked more like a boy experimenting with moustache.
She knew she could ask them for a seat. She knew they would be bound to get up.
She had done that on a couple of previous occasions.
But from her first and second hand experience she knew it was better to wait then to ask.
Wait, eye contact, casual glance at the directions marked in red "Ladies only", and then look away.
She would get but two seconds before some other distressed damsel would rush in to claim her reward.
A neat kill, it had to be done in one stroke.
The strategy worked 7 out of 10 times but then she used it selectively.
The boylike occupant seemed a perfect target.
But he was glued to the window savoring the whizzing scenes.
And the other occupant was definitely more needy than her.
She gave up.
Today, Meira concluded for nth time since sunrise, was not cooperating at all.
The bus crawled on the busy ring road and she struggled to maintain a dignified stance amidst all the shoving and pushing.
The young man continued to look out of the window. Oblivious to her dilemma. Oblivious to cacophonous hustling. Oblivious to trials of commuting. Seated comfortably.
She envied him. Her leadened legs edged her to speak up. Didn't they preach the slogans of standing up for one's rights on all sort of media.
The words were on tip of her tongue and stayed there.
It was not that she lacked courage. But it seemed so futile to waste her energy on this petty issue. A table full of files would be waiting for her. And she would need every single drop of her energy to go through them all.
Then as the bus neared the AIIMS stop she heard a lady call out to somebody. The young man looked at her and she prompted him to hurry.
As they waited for their turn to get off the bus, she explained silly little things to him. How big the buildings were. The colors of cars. She even queried him if he was feeling fine. Obvious attempts to strike a conversation. Like she was making up for the time she had had to sit away from him. And then literally cocooned him in her arms so he could get down without hassle. No, the young man did not just appear boylike. He was just a boy. The young lad who could have been 25 physically was no more than a toddler mentally.
Here he was. Unable to comprehend even simple things. And all this while, Meira had been thinking of him as callous being.
Meira was ashamed of herself. She did not have courage to look up. All her strategic planning seemed and sounded so sinister.
She looked around. The seats for differently abled were occupied by the so called normal people. The ones for senior citizens too were occupied. By pretty young things. An aged man had found his place on the luggage rack.
She shut her eyes. To block all of it. Remorse blurred her vision.
She felt a nudge at her arm. A man was pointing towards the now vacant ladies seat.
But her desire had been quenched.
She looked at the old man at luggage rack and encouraged him to occupy the place.
She heard a lady reproach her in the background.
The old man smiled at her. A heart warming smile.
Meira smiled back.
She was ready for the day now.