Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Last Hug

The handshake crushed her. Not just her hands, her whole soul. What could have been a hug remained just at the handshake.The familial touch was missing. The goosebump-inducing touch was now a cold, firm handshake.
'Hug me now, I'm right before you', she was silently crying. But he simply looked past her and walked away.
She lowered her eyes and turned away her face, only to hear the beloved voice call out in the exact same way her name used to be called - "Shona".
She turned immediately, eyes red and tear-rimmed. But no, the hallway was empty. What was happening? Who shook her hand? She tried to remember. It was him. It was definitely him! Or was it?
Dr Mittal opened the door to his chamber, which was one of the doors in the hallway that read 'Senior Psychiatrist'. He called out, 'Sonali, please come in, we'll begin your session. I hope you're feeling better after taking medication for a week.'
'Does the medicine which you prescribed have any side effects, doc?' she enquired, feeling unsure of her entire being now.
'Ah! It's a very strong medicine. It sometimes accompanies a slight headache and sometimes even hallucination in rare cases. That's why I had written very low dosages for you. I think the medicine has worked for you. You look much better today Sonali', Dr Mittal remarked.
'Now let's move to our session. Is there anything specific you'd like to ask or discuss?'
'I met him today, doc', Sonali replied, still looking down as if guilty.
'Where?' Dr Mittal asked calmly.
'Just outside, in the hallway, while I was waiting for my appointment with you.'
'Did you talk to him?'
'I couldn't. I just froze. He just shook my hand and left.' Her eyes welled up. 'I can't take this anymore, doc, no more. I want him so bad. I want us to be together again' she broke into intermittent sobs. 'Enough!' she said and hastily wiped her tears. 'He's mad at me, I'll apologise. He can't deny me. He just can't. I'm his weakness.' A faint smile appeared between her sobs.
'He can't be with you', Dr Mittal said even more calmly.
'Why not?' she asked indignantly. 'What have I done so bad that he would leave me for good? I'll make up to him.'
'He's dead. You're hallucinating, dear. He was bashed to death saving you when the goons attacked. Don't you remember?' Dr Mittal pleaded with her.
'Why aren't you believing me? I just shook hands with him!' she said in a whisper thinking to herself, 'Am I hallucinating now or was I hallucinating then?' and ran out of the doctor's chamber, to catch up to Rohit before he vanished again.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

And that's monsoon!

A perfect sunny day with nice, soothing warmth and perfectly azure skies.
Sitting by the window, you're reading.
When you look out the window after finishing a page, all you see is darkness.
And while you're still thinking when did this transformation happen,
you feel droplets lashing against your skin.
Rain is the stimulus for lovers and writers.
It's the catalyst that washes away the masks and unveils the vivid colours.
And while you're gazing out the window,
an unpretentious smile has already taken rest on your lips.
Gradually the skies become brighter, you notice.
The velvety grey clouds making way for a patchy blue sky.
And only the drenched leaves quivering as the raindrops slide down
to make splashy puddles on the drunk ground.
Because monsoon is not when you run to take cover;
it's when you rush outdoors to take a swig of life!

Monday, May 30, 2016

Broken Walking Stick

The lady was in her late thirties. But she looked nothing like it. The courtroom audience assumed she must be around sixty. She looked composed, more like dejected. Not a hint of relief, that justice was going to be met out that day. Through the proceeding, her head was propped up on her left hand, while she gazed at the floor before her, like a fatigued old lady. When all allegations and cross examinations concluded the fate of the convict, she was asked if she had anything to say. She walked with a slight stoop, to the witness stand and took her place. And for the first time, looked at the man across the room in the opposite witness stand and spoke.

“She was only four. She hadn’t learnt to walk one foot before the other. She tottered as if balancing each foot on two parallel lines. She hadn’t caught up with the latest trend of pouting. She opened her thin lips and grinned showing her milk teeth for the camera. She wore an oversized frock, nonetheless. What did you see in her..”, her face was flushed and her voice choked on the last word.

“She was going to be my walking stick after a few years. Instead, I had to bury her in a small coffin. You killed two people that day. What you did to her will flash before my eyes every day, for the rest of my life. It’d have been better had you chosen to assault me and not her. I might not have been alive today. But that little one, who had just begun her life, would have lived to fulfil it. Maybe, I’d have survived. This is an old rugged body, it might have endured your abuse. Then might be I would have taught her forgiveness someday. But now, forgiveness has forsaken me.” Her voice had become a croak. She muffled through the cloth that she kept dabbing her eyes with.

“She would have been twelve this year, and grown to be a compassionate, strong girl. But today, you have snatched all compassion from me. These eight years while you bragged about your conquest over my little girl, I writhed in pain and shuddered at the glance of every person who looked at me a little longer than usual. I had never seen you until this moment. I only knew your name. I didn’t want to put a face on my most excruciating horror.”

“It is not mine to show compassion seeing those tears streaming down your mute face. You grew up a vagabond, never knew who your parents were. Is that even an excuse you offered in pleading not guilty? Nobody is bereft of conscience, my boy. As you can’t stop those tears today, my daughter too must have..” she squeezed her eyes shut, and gripped the bar of witness stand tightly as if saving herself from being overthrown off a precipice.

“I’ll not demand a capital punishment if the court decides otherwise. A life for a life would leave the whole world dead. And your death wouldn’t give life to my daughter. But given the prerogative, I’ll not let you roam the streets free. Else people will get the idea that taking a life in such a brutal manner is not a big issue. And that it can be attempted again and again to satiate one’s lust, and then one can walk away scot-free.”
“Had I been more relieved if this case hadn’t taken eight years? Definitely. Am I satisfied that you’d be finally condemned today? Not exactly. Nothing gives me satisfaction anymore. Nothing gives me hope anymore. My world was crushed and broken that day and nothing has been any better since.” She fell on the floor, wailing inconsolably.

Also published at The Dilettante Author.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Conversations #2

"I am not going to sit quietly and take your crap" she fumed.

"You have me, but you don't want it", he replied mollifying.

"After all these years, is this all I'm worth? she demanded. "We're talking alimony here. This is not some joke."

"You're worth my life", he replied.

"Oh stop it!" she banged the table between them. "I'm no more the besotted in love, naive girl, who fell for the broody genius of college."

"But I'm still the nerd who fell for the matured and extremely beautiful college fresher" he quipped.

"Do you think you can woo me by such gushy, eloquent speech of yours?"

"I did that once. It was extremely difficult. I know how hard it is to convince a strong lady like you. I don't know how to do it again for the lady who can see through me now."

"Remember, our daughter stays with me. We can discuss your meeting arrangements with her once my lawyer comes”, she snapped, ignoring his statement.

“Can we work out an arrangement where I can stay with you too?” he grinned apologetically.

“You find this funny, isn’t it? I am leaving! Do you realize that?” she said exasperated.

“I know that”, he replied gravely, “and I desperately wish you don’t.”

“We can’t work it out” she said, looking into his eyes.

“We’re meant to work it out. You just don’t want to see it” he sighed.

Silence ensued for a whole minute.

“We don’t talk anymore”, she complained in a tone barely audible.

“You’re right. And when you thought of putting that right, you didn’t say it to me, but got a lawyer instead” he retorted.

“Were you even there to listen to me?” she felt the anger, hurt and neglect welling up inside her again.

“Okay. I want to propose something again, today. And this is a promise”, he said, going down on one knee and taking her hand in both of his.

“I am sorry! I am extremely sorry! I went back on all our marriage vows. But today I promise you, from now on, I’ll be a husband and father first, before anything else. I am not a man of letters, you know that. But I strongly hold the adage that when something breaks, we mend it, not throw it away. So, trust me if you still can.”

She was sobbing uncontrollably by then.

A minute later, her lawyer walked into the room. He saw both of them holding hands across the table and talking. Confused, he hurried towards them.

“We won’t be needing your services anymore, thank you”, he smiled at the lawyer, and turned towards his wife and winked.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Conversations #1

"Don't dance before my eyes," he said.

"But I'm just sitting and reading," she replied, glancing up at him.

"Yes, but the way your lips move silently, as if whispering a reticent prayer. The way your eyes vacillate from the pages, to the open window, and to me. The way your fingers slip through your auburn hair and you rest your temple on the heel of your palm. And your words weigh down, carefully aimed to knock down any defence of apprehension. They are nothing less than a rendition. And you say you're just sitting?' he said amused.

Also published at The Anonymous Writer

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rape Is Justified!


And why not?

Ours is a country hailed for its rich cultural values. Ours is also a country where marriage is treated highly sacred. And to protect these values and the sanctity of matrimony, our leaders, (whom unfortunately we have voted into such absolute power) have decided, marital rape cannot be criminalised.

But sadly, ours is also a country where any form of sexual harassment (especially towards women) is overlooked. Ours is a country where the husband is (supposed to be) treated like a god. Ergo, there can be no complaints against him.

Not even when he forces himself on his (supposedly) better half. Not even when he derives sinister pleasure inserting objects inside his wife and wounding her within and without.

In a written response to MP Kanimozhi’s query, whether the government will amend the Sec.375 of IPC which does not include marital rape within its purview, the Minister of State for Home Affairs stated-

“It is considered that the concept of marital rape, as understood internationally, cannot be suitably applied in the Indian context due to various factors, including the level of education, illiteracy, poverty, myriad social customs and values, religious beliefs, mindset of the society to treat the marriage as a sacrament.”

When we say that poverty and illiteracy, our social customs and values, the mindset of society, doesn’t admit the concept of marital rape, we faintly agree and accept the wrong that goes on in our society. We not only shy from taking notice after the UN had suggested that there is a huge number of marital rape cases in India, we take no responsibility to change it. We can only sit comfortably before our TV sets and participate in the women empowerment debates through the LED screens.

The Nirbhaya disaster was not the first of its kind. It was one like the many unreported incidents that, fortunately, everyone took notice of. The Verma committee which was constituted as a result of this, assumed a maternal fairness in dealing with such heinous crimes. Barely any of its recommendations have been made law. The lowering of the age of juveniles, for instance. So now, if a 16-year-old rapes, he can be tried as an adult. But what about the 14-year-old boy who rapes his 10-year-old classmate? Doesn’t that count as gruesome an incident? Or, the victim isn’t actually a victim because the culprit was a ‘juvenile’?

There should be a crime-based justice system, not an age based one. A juvenile and an adult for cases like rape should be tried equally. When a juvenile can commit an adult crime, why not be punished like one?

Although the Verma committee suggested criminalising marital rape by doing away with the exception to Sec.375 of IPC which states-

“sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife, the wife not being under 15 years of age, is not rape.”

The lawmakers again dismissed it as a piffle saying that- “it would destroy the institution of marriage, perhaps doing more injustice”.

Well, isn’t it already an injustice to not only be bound to live with a rapist but also acknowledge him in the society as one’s husband? The exclusion should anyway be done away with, since, at the outset, it permits a wife to be of 15 years, whereas the legal age of marriage for girls is 18. Contradiction!

The other arguments in favour of keeping the law as it is have been coming thick and fast.

  •   If accused, it would be difficult to prove charges. -- So, make no law against it at all?
  •  Let injustice prevail because we cannot take the pains to examine the charges?
  •  Many might misuse such a robust provision. – So let the majority suffer this prejudice?
  •  It defiles the sacrament of marriage. – So keeping mum about the ruthless debasement of women preserves the sacredness of this divine institution of marriage?

·      We have voted our leaders into power to represent us. Not to refute us. And this is the voice of the 620 million Indian women. Let’s not wait until it’s too late!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Between Us

Just a wink-full of sleep
To evade the fears,
And this pluvial season
of resilient tears.

The jarring reminder
of his last words,
Imposed sleepless nights
on her weakly bod.

He glid through her phases
like an ubiquitous shadow;
And lay interwoven in her being
like a sequin tad old.

"Between us, the world doesn't
stand a chance", she thought.
"Between us, we'd make
the best", she hoped.

When he left, he left her
a glade of pain;
Left her abashed, tumultuous,
that she couldn't draw rein.

And so again she tried to catch,
Just a wink-full of sleep,
To evade the fears.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I speak for my people

My voice sounds like a whimper amidst shouts of “NaMo! NaMo!” I fall back on my seat, tired from pacing in eagerness for the declaration of results. Now, what was I expecting? The exit polls showed a gaping margin of win for BJP. And from the start of counting, it was toppling all the stalwarts of the losing party.

To conceal who is your candidate (party) of choice is a thing of the past now. We citizens of the largest democracy of the world were so desperate for a dramatic change that we not only announced proudly who deserved to win, but also tried to influence those who didn't agree with us. Yes, the lotus appealed to where the hand failed. It promised to rectify all wrongs. I trust it will. That is the need of the hour, to regain the respect we rightly deserve.

Even before the lotus showed leading in the counting charts, the mere anticipation had the sensex shoot up, the neighbouring countries reconsider their stand and the chances of another recession look bleak. This looked like the heralding of an economic and political stability. I definitely want a government that can lift India out of the quagmire. But I also pray for a government that wouldn’t allow the atrocities that my people were a victim to, agonize them again. 

The hand had looted us at gun-point. All statistics blare out the disparity what our country enjoyed a decade back and what it has been reduced to now. If I have even an iota of patriotism, I wouldn’t want to be shamelessly robbed anymore. But I’m fearful of my safety now.

I don’t want to be another target just because I have a cross around my neck, or a white cap on my head or because I wear a turban. Nobody chooses bigotry deliberately. We are not Hitler. But at times, the passion to advance our beliefs so overpowers us that everything different from us seems not worthwhile to exist. I’m terrified of becoming a victim to this phase of communal wave. 

Mentioning each of those incidents, which send a shiver down my spine, would be futile because they have been discounted as ‘just another accident’ or one of ‘those riots’. But when we delve a bit more, we see just how those in power abetted such incidents.

It’s hard to influence people as such. Everyone has their own structure of priority. I thought for a moment if my worries were irrelevant? I spoke to people who shared the same fears. And I understood, not everyone can be biased. And I saw why everyone was opinionated alike. There must be a recollection of dread which is deep ingrained. 

My people have been a minority and will remain as such. I don’t demand for quotas or reservations or even any special privileges. I only ask to belong to this ‘secular’ nation, I proudly call my motherland.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high...into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."
~ Rabindranath Tagore

Jai Hind!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

This doesn't seem the end..

Howrah Bridge from Howrah Station

Every time I've come to Kolkata, it’s reluctantly. And every time I've left Kolkata it’s even more unwillingly.

The numerous trips have been for work, studies & holiday too! Notwithstanding the heat, I remember having come to Kolkata for a holiday during summers once! But, there is no particular time to be in Kolkata. It’s all the year round.

The dusty pale roads that suddenly become crowded and jam-packed during pujo seem just the place to put your feet on. The innumerable melas on every open ground. The paper-boys selling old newspapers for a Rupee to sit on the wet ground when it rains during the pandal-hopping days. The festivities do not die. “Come rain, come sun, we won’t cut down the fun!” This seems to be the motto of every Kolkata-dweller. 

Would you rather be at any place other than Park Street during the Christmas? I bet not. The festivities capture you and you just can’t go home. Nobody seems to mind the night out on the streets, stretching into the next day. The lights, fun and food beckon you.  The entire street closes to traffic from evening on, and every shop glows up in merry Christmas lights. The carnival here is a never-miss!

Calcutta University, opposite which the historic Coffee House is located

Old city Calcutta is a storehouse of historic assertions. It is full of buildings, old and dilapidated. But each of those is a heritage with some story that etches it’s connect with its past glory. I think the College Street Coffee House is probably the only place that allows smoking inside its premises. But again, it’s the only place that had the geniuses of Netaji Bose & Satyajit Ray come for a cuppa coffee too!

Inside the College Street Coffee House

The generous bus-conductors will spare you change for a 500 Rupees note even for a 6 Rupees bus ticket, if you call them “Dada”. And the smile never wipes from their faces. Every lady on the street-side chai-cigarette shop is a “Maasi”. She’ll pour steaming tea into an earthen cup from a metallic kettle that we had last seen in our alphabets book where we learnt “K for Kettle”. It is a visual delicacy. And the scent of Kolkata is undisputedly tobacco. Some person will definitely smoke on your face, to give you more than just a sniff.

The numerous puchka-walas at every street corner and the roll shops at the road-sides, every few metres provide the just right evening time snack. And every true-blooded Calcuttan will have a favourite shop in some ‘galli’ of some ‘para’.

One of my friends observed, “This city grows on you”. And rightly so. This city embraces you and doesn’t leave you. In case you still have to move on, it’ll go with you. How often in a new city have we bragged by saying- “But back in my hometown...”? For me Cuttack & Calcutta have been used interchangeably, in a complementary kind. 

Again providence has deemed it fit for me to move out of Kolkata. Still, this doesn’t seem the end. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Closure Quest

What is a good reason to move on?

What a stupid question to ask. But that’s the question at the top of my head when my mind and heart are at odds with each other. But why am I moving on? This would be your next question. Because a change was exigent, for one. Because I didn’t belong to where I was, is another reason. And maybe, as some wise old soul had observed, change is the only constant in life!

Move on, I must. But is it worth? Will I be taking any fragments with me or just shunning everything and leaving?

White earphones plugged into my ear, I sweat away the 45 minutes bus ride to my swanky office. It isn’t tedious, if I get a seat to sit. The rush, the chaos, I had begun to relate to it. Without that my life missed something. I cursed everyday about the congestion; even then, it had a settling effect on me.

The buildings on my way to office seem to have stood from eternity and maybe into forever too. When I left this city on a transfer, they stood their grounds. And when I returned after few months, they had not moved. And now, they seem to be pulling at my heart like magnets. It distresses me to think, how disheartened they’ll be, not to find me looking distractedly out my bus window someday.

Swiveling open the glassy doors and walking onto the glossy floors, that which is a self-contained world in its own, has people from all over the country, who have made it their home. The security lady dressed smartly with a cap, has the usual 30-seconds chit-chat with me. She is the most regular employee on floor. As I walk into my ODC, diffused lights glow brightly down on me and the dry coolness assuages the fatigue.

The late nights at office, the early morning calls at office, the sporadic training sessions, and the numerous mails over phone, were a commonplace. The managers, the mentees, the juniors, the senior, all would be addressed by their first names only. There was no strict hierarchal difference, except the ability to wield power at the appropriate (read ‘appraisal’) time.

The familiar perception about this job isn’t that heartening. Not only people belonging to the older age bracket, but people of our generation too, place an undue (my opinion) worth on other career preferences having any kind of government involvement.

I didn’t understand the abundance of commonality. It was rather a pride to belong to the cohort. I didn’t understand the lack of recognition. It was rather the joy of having the power to fix issues by being privy to coding. I didn’t understand the frustration of comparison. It was rather the surprise of having been chosen into this, in the first place!

It shouldn’t have been difficult. I knew the friends here, were only for their own benefits. I knew the ladder to success had a few rungs broken. I knew the podium of achievement was already a crowd. I knew every boss had his own camarilla.

But I also knew it won’t be the same anymore. I was aware of my efforts to carve a niche in this competitive field. However I hated it, I knew a part of me belonged here. I knew, out of here, I would be like a fish out of water. I knew there were a thousand reasons not to continue here, but that one reason in favour, was enough to dissuade.

There have been so many people who in their own small ways had made an impacting difference to everyday life. Some with their wide-grinned morning greetings, some with their approachability, and some with their ‘always there to help’ attitude. And even some with their unseen backing. 

There is no thorough way to thank them. Even less, with a goodbye-thank you. And when at the inevitable end you take leave, expecting to get a chance to continue to be grateful, you get an “all the best” and “meet you soon”. And that’s when you realize, you had not expected it. You had not wanted all to come to an abrupt end.

Some goodbyes seem so broken and incomplete. And due to these, the quest for closure still remains.