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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Poem: He, you and me

He thinks of us as stories walking all around him,
And it interests him to note the links amongst us.

Our lives are only pages in a novel that he reads.
And our problems, mere tangles in the ball of twine.

His hands itch to unravel the knots that he sees,
And he yearns to turn the page to see how it all ends.

So, at times, he manipulates us into fast forward mode,
But that’s ok ‘coz, only what’ll happen’ll happen anyway.

He talks of us to others with the pride of possession,
And we exist to some strangers strictly on his terms.

Still, we owe him something

For, however long they slept deep under ground,
Only stories come alive every time they are told. Read More......

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Littlest One

My first glance of you this visit - you stare at me wide-eyed from the safety of your mother's arms. You have a cold and your mum is naturally worried. You are so small, so frail, so blindly trusting - it must be overwhelmingly scary to be responsible for you. It doesn't help that your Mum and Dad are doctors and know every tiny thing that can harm their darling - they don't have the blessing of ignorance. I lift you up carefully. I wonder if my sequined dress would be too harsh on your soft skin. I hold you with care. You are still a bit shaky and as I quickly learn, at a stage when you want to put everything in your mouth. You grab my hair and pull hard. Whoa - you don't seem sick to me!

I carry you around to let you look at things and I look at them with you. Even the patterns on a leaf seem to fascinate you for a moment. But, I am not left alone to enjoy this time with you. Needless to say, everyone is out to catch your eye. You don't seem to care who holds out their arms - you are happy to be with anyone. We call out to you and use anything around to grab your attention – all you need are flashy colours and squeaky noises. We figure out that if we call out your name at a strangely high pitched tone, you laugh. Everyone tries it out. Stern old men break into a smile when they see you, their voices strangely softened to an extent that I don’t recognize them.

Sometimes you cry and we fervently hope that whatever we do soothes you down. That would be something, wouldn't it - to do something just right so as to calm you down?! We pride ourselves on understanding some of your gurgles. Of course we don't, but your mum does. She seems like superwoman to me - constantly feeding you, cleaning you and the mess around you, carrying you around, dressing you up and so on. You aren't easy to care for, you know.

A multitude of aunts, uncles, grandpas and grandmas spoil you rotten - the house is full of bright toys and cheerful clothes. We click pictures on mobiles and gush about you to all our friends who'd care to listen. Grow up fast, little one. Grow up enough to recognize us all as people rather than comforting pillows. It's going to be so much fun! And you should know this right away – you are the darling of so many. We’ll always see you as the little baby we held and crooned to. We’ll go crazy when you sit up, walk and talk. You’ll grow up and we’ll probably give you unsolicited advice at every step, get unnecessarily over protective, completely embarrass you by narrating your childhood incidents and generally behave as a family will.

Get ready for the ride of your life! Read More......

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Story - Just another day

Another story written in 2006. I think story writing was just a phase for me.
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He sighed as the signal turned red just as he was approaching. She laughed. She found everything amusing. He loved the sound of her laughter. She sounded like….everything nice…you know.

This was one of those long stop signals. No point in keeping the engine running, he thought and turned it off. Thank goodness it was a pleasant morning. He adjusted the side view mirror so he could see her face. He always did that at signals. It was so amusing to see her look all around, trying to take in the sights around her at a single go. She’d look at vehicles all around and tell him which ones she liked, she’d stare with unabashed curiosity at every person on the road, she’d crane her head up to look at the tall office buildings, turn this way and that trying to read the billboards. She’d giggle and whisper something about someone to him. She’d lean over and check out her reflection on the car nearby. He hoped she’d stay that way for ever – childish, happy and full of laughter.




For how long had he known her? He knew the exact date he had met her. That date was etched in his heart forever. It was on her birthday. It had been nearly 10 years now. Her birthday was coming up now. He’d make it special. 10 years since he’d met her. That was something special, wasn’t it? His life had been so different before she came along. But right now, there were very few people on earth whom he knew the way he knew her. She had turned his life topsy turvy right from the first day. He hadn’t minded that. Coming to think of it, he had hardly noticed the changes as they happened. He had had so many other priorities in life 10 years before. Now it all reduced to just these - Her laughter and her happiness. She had made his life so simple yet so complex. Fears surfaced in him day after day – fears that he had never known before he knew her.

They usually didn’t drive this far out on the bike. But she had insisted and he gave in, as usual. She loved going out on the bike. She loved to feel the breeze on her face as the bike sped over the road.

He watched her face, those dancing starry eyes as her head whipped impatiently from sight to sight. Suddenly, she froze. She was looking at something. She tilted her head a bit and stared. Then she turned away and continued her inspection of the vehicles around them. He looked up from the mirror, in the direction she had been looking at. It was a huge billboard. A pretty model - maroon and white silk – lovely patterns running at the bottom of the cloth – gem work and embroidery above the border – god knows what they called it – some work or the other – It was beautiful. For a moment he saw her wearing it. She’d look perfect. It would suit her perfectly- the colour and the style. Besides, her eyes had lingered over it just a tad longer than over anything else. She liked it. That was all that mattered.

The signal turned green and he started the bike and they were off.

The next day, he drove to that same place again. He left the bike at the corner and walked over to the other side of the road. “Thank god they put in a camera in these things”, he thought as he took out his mobile phone. Of course it was her picture on the wallpaper, what did you expect? He positioned himself carefully and took a few pictures of the billboard. Then he drove to his office. He was 10 minutes late. He didn’t care.

The next weekend, he went to the shop. God! He had forgotten how crowded the garment shops would be on a Saturday. Where on earth was he supposed to go? This place was huge! He stood there looking miserable. “Your wife in there shopping? She won’t be out for some time then. You better find a chair and settle down with a magazine like me.” said a genial voice. He turned to the speaker and mumbled, “No. I just came…to shop…you know…”. The man opened his eyes wide in disbelief and turned to look at the crowd behind him. “Oh! That’s very brave of you. I should wish you luck.”, he said in a voice that was awed and sympathetic at the same time.

He went to the security man standing at the door and showed him the picture on his mobile, ”Excuse me, Can you help me please? I want to buy this. Where should I go?”. The man smiled, “Surprise, is it? Just go to the first floor. Its on the right side of the stairs.”. Relieved, he thanked the man and made his way up the stairs. It was amazing how many people came up to help him out. They found the sight of a man in there very amusing and rather sweet. Half an hour later, he found what he was looking for. It looked even more beautiful than in the picture. He ran his fingers over the smooth material and hummed as he went over to pay for it. At the entrance he smiled and lifted the bag up to show the security guard and the other man. They grinned back and applauded. More conspiracy and the stitching was done without her suspecting any thing. They had gone shopping for new clothes for her birthday long back. But this was a special birthday. And this was a special gift. He couldn’t wait to see her wear it. It was her birthday the next day.

He had woken up at midnight and left the dress on the table near her. She had been fast asleep. It would be the first thing she’d see when she woke up. Morning came and he was woken up by squeals of laughter.

“Daddy ! Daddy ! It’s beautiful. Oh! How did you know I wanted this? Oh! It’s so pretty! Can I wear this dress today? I saw it that day when we went out on the bike on that sign board. How did you know Daddy?” She danced all around the room holding the dress in her hands. She twirled around and ran out of the room. His wife watched the child, amused and turned to him “You do spoil her a lot you know?”. He smiled, “I know. I have only you two to spoil, don’t I?”

His daughter came back after awhile, wearing her new dress. She looked perfect. Just as he knew she would look. The three of them went for a drive on the bike. She settled down on her seat on top of the petrol tank, in front of him. Her head hardly reached to his chest. They stopped at a signal and he automatically adjusted the side view mirror. She looked lovely, like a little princess - His sweet little princess. He felt his wife’s hand on his shoulder. He put his hand on hers and then bent down to kiss the top of his daughter’s head, just as he had done 10 years earlier; on the day he had first met her.

If you had seen him that day, he would have been just one more person in the crowd for you. That day was very special to the three of them but it was just one more day in the calendar for you.

PS: Now, tell me truthfully, who did you honestly think the girl in the story was when you started reading? Just curious. :)
Read More......

Friday, February 13, 2009

Short Story: Betrayal

A post from the past - a story written about 2.5 years back. I haven't written a story in over a year now. :(

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BETRAYAL

He woke up that morning from a restless sleep. He had woken up at least three times earlier and found it was still pitch dark. He had tossed and turned all night, desperate for the morning to come. Now he could finally see dawn approaching when he looked out of the window. He lay there on the mat spread on the floor, watching the colours of the sky change beyond the bars of the window. When he finally got up after a while, he was careful not to wake the others up. It was too early. After about an hour, he came back to the room and called out to wake up the other children. Slowly the corridors of the orphanage filled up, as noisy as any weekday was – with the fifty four children getting ready to go to school after helping out with small chores. The day was usual – he stopped about 3 quarrels, cajoled the youngest kid to eat some breakfast, ordered defaulters back to their chores…


He was dressed in the white shirt and khakhi trousers which was his school uniform. The clothes were clean and neat. Not ironed. The orphanage couldn’t afford those extra expenses. But he had washed and hung up the clothes carefully, folded them neatly and kept them pressed under a bundle of books. Those clothes and books were what made him different from all those children who worked, begged, lived and grew old and died while still a child. Yes. He did not have a family – no blood relations. But what did that matter? He was lucky to be here, to be able to study – to have the means to make a life that he wanted. To choose and not to be led by inevitability. He was the best in his class just because he always wanted to be better. Never satisfied, never complacent.

He stopped for a moment before he picked up his books. Like everyday, he thought of all those people who were helping him to get this education. Those who set apart a small part of their income to reach out to people like him. The ones who didn’t do it out of a sense of duty or a need to feel benevolent but those who did it, as they would throw across a rope to rescue a person about to fall – Not to see the other live because of their help, not to create a sense of eternal debt, but just to see the other person alive and glad to live on. He never saw them. He didn’t feel obliged to them. Their help was a loan that they were repaying themselves for some hand that had helped them once. It was still a loan given to him that he would one day repay to another. He picked up his books and went out. He was among the eldest and had to take charge of the younger kids on their way to that old rundown set of buildings that stood around a dusty playground - the government boys’ school in the area. All the boys in the orphanage went there. The girls went to the government girls’ school a little further away.

The day seemed to drag on and on. He couldn’t concentrate in any of his classes. He wished the last period of the day would come soon. He didn’t even go to eat lunch. He sat in the classroom instead – he didn’t have too many days left to spend here. School life was almost over. He tried to occupy his mind with other thoughts – but his mind absolutely refused to co-operate and kept turning back to the same topic again and again. Ever since he had handed those sheets of paper yesterday, he had been waiting for the answer. He was almost sure of the answer. But still he waited for it. Clinging on to some shard of hope or was it hopelessness? Today he would know the answer to the question that had pricked his heart for so long. Finally.

The last period was English. They had had the same teacher for 4 years now - that was a miracle because people like him didn’t stay to teach in government schools for long. But he had stayed and everyone liked him. The boy remembered the first time the man had taught them. He had made the subject come alive, bringing characters alive with his descriptions. It was magical to hear his voice – that voice that seemed to belong to a magnificent podium in front of an eager audience - not this forgotten school in the middle of nowhere. The boy had taken him to be a person who was repaying some loan of his own. He wouldn’t have been surprised if the man had left at the year end. He’d have been glad that he had met this person at all. But to his surprise, the teacher had stayed on. He found fault with no one, was easy going and praised everything everyone did. He was always smiling and called everyone by name. He wore worn out old clothes, though he could afford better. Not that he did not notice his own clothes. But he seemed to derive some happiness out of being more and more like them. The boys accepted him and that was what he wanted.

He was now returning their essays back to them, marked with his comments on the back of the paper. The boy turned his sheet over and read the remarks – “Excellent work. Keep it up. “, scrawled in a corner with a red pen.

The boy waited till everyone had left the class. Then he walked over to the teacher’s desk and laid his paper down on the table. “Do you really think that what I have written here is good?” He asked quietly. The teacher nodded enthusiastically, not looking up, busy bundling up the papers, “Oh yes. It is really nicely written and nice thoughts…quite different, you know”. He looked up smiling but when he saw the look on the boy’s face, his smile slowly faded. He wished he was not sitting down. The boy seemed to tower over him, but he was no giant – just a lean young boy.

The boy looked at the man straight in the eye – “You know that what I have written is total rot. I know it too. Why do you praise everything we do? Do you think that this will give us confidence? You are wrong. It makes us weak and not strong. Do you feel that you are doing me a favor by saying those words? Do you just feel sorry for me and for all the kids here – sorry for our backgrounds, sorry that we cannot afford better clothes, that we don’t have a proper home? Are you trying to satisfy your self by praising our mediocre efforts? ”

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”, the man snapped back irritated. But he did. Oh! He did know what the boy was asking. The questions that his own conscience had tried to ask him long back before he finally turned deaf to that little voice. He didn’t want to answer. He wanted to silence this boy, the way he had silenced his conscience long time back. But he knew he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t do anything at all.

The boy didn’t raise his voice – but his voice was so cold, dispassionate and restrained. The man wanted to look away but something made him to meet that accusing gaze.

“Do you know why you get along so well here? Why everyone likes you? You don’t ask for much. You don’t demand. You have no expectations from your students. You are not here to show us what can be and how to reach for the stars. You think we belong here and this is just right. And the others, they find that convenient. You give us no challenge, no reason to do better. You are damn easy to please. I can write anything in the world and you still give everyone the same comments. ”

“You are afraid aren’t you? Afraid that if you don’t say those things and act the way you are now, you will not be liked? You felt that you were doing some good by praising us even when we did not deserve it. You thought that appreciation would give us strength? You thought that we were hurt by enough in our lives and would find comfort in your words, even though it was unearned and empty? You said them out of pity, didn’t you?”

The teacher didn’t respond. His student was reading his mind well. He found that he was not able to even breathe properly now. How could he? The boy’s words seemed to eat into him and threatened to suffocate him with their truth. He didn’t even dare nod his head. He wished this boy would go away and leave him in peace. He didn’t want to argue. Not with this boy who stood so straight at his desk and looked like that into his eyes.

“I am disappointed in you. You are really good at your job. Not like some teachers who come to schools like these, who are here because they are not good enough to be somewhere else. When you started teaching us, I was so happy. I thought you were someone who would help us to become better persons by being an example to us. But over the past four years, you have done nothing but create false impressions of our selves in us. You have only managed to give us false hopes. What will we do when we go out into the world and realize just how false this is? Why don’t you just tell me that what I have written is nonsense? Why don’t you just throw these sheets of paper in my face and tell me that? Don’t you see what we need? We need you to help us be the best we can be. To reach for something that is better than this. The worst of it is that you want to be like us. You try to hide your own self to be like us. You think that we will be happy to meet more like us? You have no idea how wrong you are. I’m dying to meet someone who is not like us – a person who will not succumb to the pressure, pain and under people’s sneers. ”

The boy paused. He was breathing a little faster from his effort. Not the effort of speaking those words. But the effort of restraining himself while speaking them. He held out the sheets of paper to the teacher.

“This thing I wrote – it is no good. I know that. Because I wrote it that way. I deliberately did my worst. Do you know what kind of desperation I am in to have done that? After all this time, to meet a person like you. Then to slowly begin suspecting what you were doing and to finally see the ugly truth? You’ll praise my pathetic effort though you feel revolted by what you see, just to spare my feelings? Am I supposed to feel grateful to you for not asking more from me? I would have been so much happier if you had trashed me black and blue and ordered me to do better. You are blind. Blinded by your heart’s feelings. I don’t need your pity. I need your mind. When someone I admire appreciates my achievement, you have no idea to what heights that can spur me on to. That belief that the appreciation I had seen was earned by me by the work I did. You must show appreciation only where it is due. For things that your mind has consciously found joy and achievement in. Otherwise your words mean nothing. “

He stopped. He looked at the pale face of the man in front of him. When he looked at the man’s eyes, he knew that he had broken an illusion. He wanted to stop but there was one more thing to be said. To be heard by the wreck of a man who sat in front of him.

“To a person whom you show your appreciation for a mediocre effort, praise it to the heavens because you feel he will be hurt otherwise, he knows deep within that you lie. Just as I do now. And after you do that, if you appreciate a truly well done work – something spectacularly perfect in its creation, in the same way, you insult the creator’s talent.”

The boy turned around and left the room, pausing long enough to drop the papers into the dustbin near the door. His heart was heavy. But at least he knew and was prepared to meet the world. He had enough confidence in his ability and in the power of hard work to create the life that he wanted. What would happen to the others? Would they be able to bear this betrayal?
Read More......

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tag-time!

Picking up a tag from Infyblogs. :) This was fun!

3 names I go by:
# Malavika
# Malu
# Maals

3 things that scare me:
# Loneliness
# Guilt
# Being vulnerable

3 people who make me laugh:
# Charlie Chaplin
# Sitcoms
# My cousins when we gang up

3 things I love:
# Some people
# Reading and writing
# Ability

3 things I hate:
# Narcissists
# Littering
# Closed minds

3 things I don't understand:
# Finance, pricing and economies
# Politics
# Belief

3 things on my desk:
# Bag
# Mobile
# Papers

3 things I'm doing right now:
# Working
# Checking gmail, twitter on mobile
# Writing this

3 things I want to do before I die:
# Write something unforgettable
# Read aloud to a child who listens wide-eyed
# Holiday on an island where the seawater is a clear green

3 things I can't do:
# Dance
# Make friends fast
# Judge a person right on first impressions

3 things I think you should listen to:
# Sonu Nigam’s voice (but, ofcourse!)
# Anyone who needs to talk
# Your self

3 shows I watched as a kid:
# Dekh bhai dekh
# Swaabhimaan (my first and only soap. J)
# Derrick

3 things I want in a relationship:
# Love
# Courage
# Prudence

3 physical things about the opposite sex that appeal to me:
# Well groomed
# Height
# Pleasant features

3 of my favorite Hobbies:
# Blogging
# Movies
# Reading

3 beverages I drink regularly:
# Water
# Hot chocolate
# Err…nothing else

3 things I like about myself:
# My imagination
# Willingness to adjust
# Ability to withstand pressure

3 things I hate about myself:
# Poor memory
# Bad loser
# Over-cautious nature

3 of my everyday essentials:
# Food, water, air
# Internet
# Hot water

3 things I am wearing right now:
# A pair of new earrings
# Perfume – I don’t know the name
# Boring old salwar kameez

2 truths and a lie: (figure it out)
# I am a typical Virgo
# I am good at sports
# I worry about almost everything.

3 people I want to tag
# Anyone reading this. (Please send me the link if you do pick it up) Read More......

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The fallen angel

Short verses from the past again - I wrote these lines a little more than a year back, I think. I hope I haven't already posted it here. Oddly enough, I could write it back from memory - some things sink too deep to be forgotten, right?


Go to sleep now, my dearest
Close those troubled eyes.
You don't have what it takes,
To be able to look into mine.
Just a fallen angel now -
My angel, nonetheless. Read More......