Unexpected Encounter 

   
 The family had just moved to Darjeeling. The husband’s was a transferable job so they led a nomadic life for a long time but now he was told it was permanent. At least for a while anyway. He was always told so, so he had very little faith. The wife, amongst many other things, was also a housewife, and as in many other things, she was very good at it. The son, oh the only begotten son was a little bit logy. He was always thriving in his virtual world. 

Now as much as the family hated moving around every three years or so, and having differences of opinion about the new place, this time it was different. All three loved Darjeeling. They were all excited. This was new. 

Theirs was a disconnected modern family. Disconnected because they hardly had interaction among them. Family? Only because they stayed together. Like any other modern family, there was no shortage of love among them. They all cherished being one. The only problem was that they had very little time for each other. Much of this was on account of the internet. The only thing common between the father and the son was how they both spent all of their waking hour staring into the digital screens, pressing buttons, and having, sometimes a look of awe on their faces. This of course had its toil on the duo. The father sometimes suffered burnouts trying to keep up to his hectic work schedule and for the son, the social network, rather ironically took away his social life. The mother was worried at times but she figured this is what the civilization has come to. She demanded that the family should spend more time together, but there never seemed to be the time for that. Once when there was a three days power cut in town (which is so common in the monsoon), the whole house was in the brink of falling apart. The boys had no idea what to do. It was like they were left out in Mars. The delicate balance the World Wide Web had struck in the house, was blown out of proportion. It was difficult. 

They had been allotted a beautiful cottage in the Kutchery (Court) road. It overlooked the whole Darjeeling town all the way upto the Japanese pagoda and beyond. Sadly, the family had never had the chance to catch the glimpse. They just didn’t have the time.  

It was a fine morning when the husband was getting ready for his office for which, he had a set routine. The clothes and shoes he were were predetermined. The only constant in the equation was his hairstyle which had stuck on from his college days. He had some of his college friends in town but never really could catch up to them. •ping• his IM buzzed. He checked. It was Ira. His ex-girlfriend from college. He froze for a moment. He dreaded to slide the notification bar down. All the memories flashed in front of his eyes in a jiffy. It was not at all a smooth breakup. He had loved her dearly, but in the end she had pulled the big old “it’s not you, it’s me!” gig.  That was when he had hit rock bottom in his life. Is was only up from that point on. Coming to think of it, he had her to thank for. All these blue-mellow thoughts ran in his head all day long. He dare not reply though. Not yet. 

In the evening, when he reached home, he was feeling much better. A warm cup of tea from his wife, and he even felt nice. That’s when the phone pinged again. It was her. This time he replied. 

Hello Ira. Long time.

Ira: Hello yourself. I saw you the other day. I must say, you’ve not lost your touch. Handsome still. But why were you dressed up so old. Did your wife do this to you? 😜

He didn’t know what to say. There were so much he wanted to talk about. So many questions. He just didn’t know where to begin. 

Later that night he received another message saying that he should wear his blue cardigan tomorrow. She’d be watching. 

The next morning was a strange one. He woke up early and went for a walk which had not happened in so many years. Later he cooked breakfast for the family. When his son and his wife saw this, they were in utter disbelief. A pleasant one though. They all sat around the dinning table and ate breakfast and talked. Even his son seemed to be getting along as for the first time in as long as they could remember, no body had their faces burried in the gadgets. 

After that, the whole day went amazing. While the father was getting ready, he announced that he’ll be needing his blue cardigan that he almost never wore. He looked at the mirror and even flicked his hair around to try out something new, settling finally to really funny hairdo which he thought looked good on him. His wife was just too delighted today to barge in. 

In the afternoon he received a text from Ira. She said that she saw him today near Singamari syndicate and that her heart leapt. She proposed to meet to which he complied. 

Meanwhile, his son seemed to have been impressed with the new him and picking up. He too, like his father, decided to head out to town. He did some shopping for himself and a little something for his parents. He enjoyed. He even made a few new friends and met a special someone on Facebook. He felt excited. 

Ira and the boys father were meeting at Joey’s Pub this evening at 6 when the pub opened for business. Now, Puran (the owner of the pub)  and himself were college friends. They had a band called the “Forbidden Fruit” to which he was the durmmer and Puran the guitarist. It was during the splitting of the band that he had met Ira or was it because of Ira that the band split. He couldn’t place it. It was so long ago.  He was having second thoughts though as to whether he should go. He had not seen Puran ever since the band split, and to meet Ira there, if at all just didn’t seem right. God forbid should they turn up married. He shuddered. Nevertheless he decided to go. 

He entered the pub. The house was mostly full as always. He went across the hall an met Puran. Puran took a while to recognize him but when he did, boy-oh-boy, did he feel happy. They talked of old times. Friends, foes but mostly about the band when suddenly it hit him Ira was coming any minute. Just then, the pub door opened and entered, his son. They both were surprised to see each other and spurred out synchronously, “what are you doing here?”, to which Puran smiled and said, “I think I might have the answer!” He then excused himself into the staff room and brought in a lady. It was not Ira as he was expecting but his wife. The boy couldn’t understand the situation. She then explained. I’m Ira. She turned to her son and said I’m also Ridhima, your Facebook crush. You see boys, I had made this whole plot up with the help of Puran. To bring you out of your caves. Just to show both of you what you are missing. That we are in such a beautiful place and not enjoying it. The boys realized how boring and dull they had made their lives to be. 

Puran brought a guitar and they started to sing songs from yesteryears, from Elvis’s can’t help falling in love to Bob Dylan’s tambourine man. It was much fun as the evening gradually faded into night. 

To know more about Puran and Joey’s pub click herehttp://www.darjeeling-tourism.com/darj_00006d.htm 

This is a work of fiction.  

You Will Be Missed

  

Today morning, I had a dream that a lady was stabbed in the stomach. So we had to rush her to the hospital. The dream was broken by a phone call from my mother who said that she has a terrible news. I immediately understood. Our Aunty, was no more. She died this morning around the same time as I was having that nightmare. 

The one thing I’ll remember about her is that she always smiled.  A beautiful woman, who always wore a beautiful smile on her face. Her hairstyle. It was so very ‘her’. She looked like a pop star from the 80’s. I don’t remember her putting on any make up ever. She didn’t need to. She liked to keep long finger nails and paint them red. She was one of the good souls. 

When we were little, me and my cousins used to play cricket in the backyard. This was such a big annoyance for the rest of the family but not her. Infact, she made us paper balls to play with. She always had something funny to say. She was fun to be around with. 

Once a year, we had a family get together and she used to prepare some delicious dumplings for us. I used to wonder how could she wrap those dumplings with her long nails but she did it with such ease. She and I had a secret understanding when it came to second helping. I used to pretend to look away while she filled up my plate with another heavy lot of dumplings and I used to pretend to look surprised. She winked. 

She used to pass each one of us with some jaggery candies called ‘lall patthar’, that she’d prepare. They were a mouthful land so very tasty. 

She had been having health issues for a long time which we only recently discovered. She just wouldn’t bother anybody with her worries. That was not a part of who she was. Both her kidnies had given way and her condition went worse from bad. She needed a respirator to breathe. I visited her last week. I could tell she was not comfortable with me seeing here like that. Nevertheless, she smiled. She was having a hard time breathing but she tried to make the conversation as normal as she could. I felt bad for her. She was too young to be in that condition. She even said that the new medication was working and that she felt much better. I was hopeful she’d be better soon. 

We will miss you. You will be in our hearts. I hope you knew how much all of us loved you, deep within, I think you did. 

Dear Me…

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See things from a different view,
What they say shouldn’t matter to you.
Keep in mind, they’re just as confused.
Fear not, for these times are new.

This dark night it may be only you,
And tomorrow may rain instead of skies blue.
Forgive yourself, there was nothing you could do.
Fear not, for these times are new.

There’ll be hurdles and problems and critics few.
Heck there might even be a mountain to move.
Toil hard, you have yourself to prove,
Fear not, for these times are new.

November desideriums

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Although her birthday was the following Sunday, she felt so excited that she thought it was today. He was coming to see her today after five years. She was surprised at herself as why was she acting so stupid. She had almost no sleep last night. A million thoughts ran in her head all night. She wondered if he has changed. She had a big grin on her face from the moment she woke up this morning. She had not been this excited since he asked to talk to her over the phone when he had called home from his hostel in his senior year. It was on her birthday. He apologized for not calling on her earlier birthdays but assured her that he had not forgotten. This meant so much to her. She remembered she had tears in her eyes when she heard him say that and promised herself she wouldn’t cry today.
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They were born around the same time and had practically grown up together. She was very bright from early childhood and would help him out in his studies. From school projects to home works to everything in between, she was always there for him. His father was a high official and her father was his driver but he was always considered family. She and her father lived in the servant quarters. Her mother had died at her birth so she had to help around the household chores.

She used to spend all the time she could make with him. If one was seen alone, everybody used to ask about the other.
They loved the winters as during the vacation, they could be with each other all the time. They used to sit in the sun and would move with the patch of sunbeam that would stream through the network of trees and roofs. They knew the exact route that it followed. Sometimes when she could, she would prepare some vermicelli and bring for him and he would devour it with considerable relish. She loved to watch him eat.
Whenever he came to meet her, he would mess her hair up and laugh. She pretended to get angry but she liked that. They would talk for hours at a stretch. They knew every little secret about each other. They did everything together. They even smoked a cigarette once behind the storehouse when they choked to tears and laughed at each other. She was happy.
Once, on his birthday, he had received a portable movie player as gift from his parents. They would sit in the open watch movies all day long until it was evening and she was called back home. She used to hate going back and thought how time flies with him. He was the only friend she ever had and she was happy it was so. The first movie they watched together was ‘Charlie and the Chocolate factory’. She really liked the movie and demanded to watch it over and again, and he never said no to her. She had nicknamed him ‘Willy Wonka’ from the movie and he would call her ‘Charlie’. They would even enact her favorite scenes from the movie. It was so much fun.

They were in their late teens now but nothing had changed between them. However, now when they hung out together, a few eyebrows were raised, but she couldn’t care less, as long as they were together. His parents decided for him to join an engineering college in the city. He was very upset with the decision and was hostile not to go. His father called her to his study and had a separate word with her.
“You understand that it’s for his future, don’t you? I wish he was more sapient like you. He listens to everything you say, so I want you to talk to him. Make him understand. After all, we all just want what’s best for him”.
“Yes Sir”, she replied in an almost inaudible voice and left silently. Her heart sank. She cried all afternoon. In the evening she gathered herself up and mustered all the strength she had and met him. She tried to act normal. She even hung a crooked little smile on her face and tried to convince him. He would retaliate to every point she kept, so finally she had him swear on her life to go. He broke. He could never refuse that. He hated her for doing that and never wanted to see her face again, then he grabbed her and hugged her tight. She hugged him back and they both cried.

Everything changed for her after that. She joined the government college in her neighborhood. She had no friends and she seemed to lack the skills to make any. She was a social outcast in her class. They said she had no taste in fashion. “He never cared what I wore!”, she thought to herself. There was no day that went by without her missing him. His memories and books were the only two friends she had. It wasn’t long that she realized that in fact, she loved him with all that she had. Yes she did, and this fact gave her courage. She didn’t need those morons as friends, she already had the best one there is as a friend. She smiled again.
She did excellently in her studies. After all, that was her only solace. She counted days when they would meet again. Whenever he called home, she would eavesdrop to try and know his well being, and when she missed him terribly, she would take permission from his father to borrow a book or something and spend some time in his room. She would breathe in the air which hung a faint smell of him. She would run her hands over the curtains and miss him more. There was no doubt. This was love.
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He had arrived. His car parked in front of their bungalow and he went in. She could only catch a glimpse before he vanished into the mob of his friends and relatives that had come to meet him. Her heart was racing and she was short of breath. The last time they talked he had asked her to meet him at the hilltop where they always used to meet, and so she did. He came there by the evening. It was so mesmarisingly beautiful that evening. The moon had just risen and the day was slipping into the darkness as the colors of the sky changed by the minute. It was perfect. He had to know her feelings today. She would tell. She had to.
“Hey Charlie”, he neared her smiling. She felt giddy. He then messed her hair up which she had taken so long to do, just for him. “Wow, I wanted to do that for so long”, he giggled and pulled her in to hug her. The leather jacket he was wearing felt cold to touch and with a concoction of cigarettes and his cologne, he smelled differently. She had not even seen his face properly yet. He had become more talkative, or maybe he just had five years of catching up to do. Nevertheless she loved to listen to him. He had brought a backpack full of goodies for her. As he showed her the contents he would jabber about his college, friends and the city life. He even promised to take her there to see for herself and they would watch movies and have all the fun just like the old times. From within the bag he pulled out a packet full of Willy Wonka candies, just like from the movies. She always wanted to try those. He remembered.
The evening went so perfectly. They were talking, laughing, giggling and reminiscing of the days and for a brief while, they thought, they were kids again.
“It’s late Charlie, you should probably head back home”. He said. She looked at her watch and panicked. She always hated how quickly time flew when they were together. “I have some errands to run, so I’ll see you tomorrow ok?” He shouted. She nodded.
A little further down the road she saw that he was patting all his pockets as if searching for something. He then ran up to her and handed over an envelop and said, “Almost forgot to give you. This is an invitation to my wedding. It is on your birthday, just as you had me promise. Hey I have to run now but you have to, have to be there. You are my bestie after all. Ok?” He exclaimed. She nodded with glistening eyes. He never noticed.

Dead? Not yet!

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The stars twinkling above me,
Tell tales from millennia past.
True, nothing stands forever,
But just sometimes, they do last.
That horizon that separates
This hell from heaven above,
Tonight though I just can’t tell
This difference of hate and love.
That evil silhouette of the tree,
Against the black moonless sky.
Standing there, lifeless, motionless,
I feel a cold chill down my spine.
I believed in God and feared death,
Now I die everyday and fear god,
And when they finally put me in hell,
I hope all that I bleed is blood.
Time passes and we near our graves,
Not the last place where we rest.
While we are alive we fear to live,
And finally die with a boulder on chest.
From dead graves and beyond,
I hear mournful voices all the time,
Repentance, remorse and mistakes.
We all have our share and I have mine.
What they don’t have but we do,
Is a chance to make amend.
This life takes turns we never fathom.
Takes us places we can’t comprehend.
I sit here and try to figure out
The meaning of this life unseen
‘Rejoice when you can’, my mind says
We’ll, then friends “Happy Halloween“.

A Smoky Serenade

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When I was small, there used to be a commercial on TV that went something like- “A cigarette in my hand, I felt like a man”, I never really understood why. I never smoked a single puff of cigarette all my life and felt just fine.

This was until 3 August, 2014 when I smoked my first stick of cigarette at the age of 28 years. It was in Kolkata. It had just stopped raining and it was surprisingly cool in Kolkata even in mid summer. Breeze after breeze of cool humid wind was blowing across the streets. The sky was painted in a tint of yellow with the evening sunlight through the polluted atmosphere above the city which turned the whole ambience of the city with it. I had just arrived and was feeling oblivious. The hustle and bustle, the never ending queue of people walking. The honking of cars. For someone coming from a rather quiet place, all these would be overwhelming and I was no exception. The spirit of the city started to overcome me. She lit the cigarette, took a drag and handed it over to me. I drew my first puff, the chaos of the city was doubly. The confusion got the better of me. I felt cornered. She just said relax and told me to take a few deep breaths. Then she offered me another puff. I took an easy one this time. It wasn’t that bad. I could do this. More confident this time and the next and soon I was like a railway engine. My rudimentary days were behind me now. I loved to hold the cigarette between my thumb and index finger and the heat of the red hot tip near my palm felt nice. By now I was questioning myself why did I keep myself away from this feeling of deiform. The obscurity of my mind vanished just like the mist that lifts from the hilltops leaving the scenic view even more vivid, back where I am from. My thoughts were clear. I could think in so much more detail now. A sort of micro carnival in my head. This had not happened to me in a long time. The listless city had suddenly come to life, or was it just me?

Darjeeling.
My friend was astonished and delighted to learn that I had started to smoke. We took long strolls up and down the winding narrow roads which ran like veins throughout the small town with a lit cigarette in our hands and as we walked, I would imagine us to be as the nicotine that was flowing through our own veins. The similarity between the large and the small always did fascinate me, the solar system and the structure of atoms, and the likes of it. I felt my elbow and knee joints loosen as I puffed breath after breath of the poison. Five minutes, they told that each cigarette reduced from my life, how on earth did they know how long would I live?
From the moment I light a cigarette I feel bad that it’s minutes that this refuge will last. I almost mourn it. Almost like this life. We have hopes and dreams as though we are immortal. Why are we hell bent to convince ourselves that we will last forever? Why are we such nonsense?

My room Tonight.
It’s 2:30 am and I’m not asleep yet. I feel like a cigarette but don’t have any with me. The room is speaking to me, and not kind words. The ticking wall clock, whose ticks and tocks are ever ever so loud at the dead of this silent night telling me that that with each tick and tock, I’m nearing my death. “What have you done in life to be remembered by? Where do you stand? Were you a good son, a good friend or as such, a good person?” The volley of questions just doesn’t stop. I always thought I was a sapient one but not anymore. Somebody please quiet them. It is irrefragable that I am addicted to cigarettes now. If only I had a cigarette. It was true, when I have a cigarette in my hand, I do feel like a man.

Life has been trying to talk to me, but in some foreign language. Cigarette has just become that interpreter.

WARNING: CIGARETTE SMOKING KILLS. I DO NOT ENCOURAGE OR PROMOTE THE USE OF IT.