I could just tell you about a toaster that’s been in the family for five years only to be snubbed and sidelined by the new waffle maker the family buys, it is sidelined and nobody seems to want to have toast as the whole family is gravitating towards waffles and pancakes as breakfast foods. The toaster watches them enviously, his heart filled with pangs of longing and an illogical rage to destroy the waffle maker. The toaster sidles up to the bright, blue shiny waffle make and despite himself he cannot help be taken in by her perfect angles and squares, how she demurely smiles at him and carries herself. The toaster and the waffle maker hang out after dark, talking about the family and the kids. She sighs in understanding when he tells her of his glory days with the family, she says she is over worked to the point of exhaustion and wishes she could shed tears like them. He takes their wires together, and tells her that he will take her someplace quiet and relaxing. She doesn’t realise something is horribly amiss till she hears the tap running. By that point, it is too late. Her friend has betrayed her, and pushed her into a bubbling tub. At least it was smelling of lavender, is the last thought she has as she goes down…
Her eyes hold the entirety of existence in their glimmering depths. Her face so fine, it could have been carved from the finest block of ice. Within her soul is a deep, unquenchable ocean of fire. It is where her desires are formed. It is where love is born. Her kisses are magic, she soothes away pain with her tender hands. She is draped in a peacock green kimono of the finest silks. She is an enigma. She is the solution. She is the most remarkable woman I have come across in my forty plus years of existence and I think for the first time, the icicles around my heart are beginning to show cracks. I think I am starting to fall in love with this uncommonly funny, smart, talented, beautiful geisha girl.
I did something foolhardy and dangerous yesterday. Perhaps to those thrill – seeking types who constantly live on the edge, what I did may not even register as a blip on their radar. But I am not one of them. For me… the idea of doing something is way more exciting than the actual execution of that idea.
I have a fear of heights. What I did yesterday was that I first climbed a ladder as a warm up act to the real thing I was going to perform, walking the narrow ledge on my terrace. That is about a twenty – feet drop on to concrete if things had gone bad. So, I began by holding on to the parapet wall, crouched carefully to get in to a posture where I would be able to maintain my balance, the best way I could. I did have a family member close by, whose hand I could hold if I felt like I was losing my balance or had this sensation of falling over backwards. I walked cautiously but boldly, the wind in my hair feeling incredibly powerful and liberating but I dared not look down lest I get all dizzy. I ducked to dodge a few wires and continued. At one point, the wind was a bit strong and while I logically knew that it was not strong enough to have blown me away, I did have a slight sense of having to re – centre myself and felt fear settle heavily like a rock, in my gut. The video I made is liberally peppered with mentions of deities, swears and some total randomness I made up on the spot, convincing myself all along that I could do it. As great as the feeling of having done it is, truthfully it is very momentary and fleeting. Afterwards kicks in the feeling of “Meh”. At least for me, it did. I didn’t feel like I had conquered some huge thing, I didn’t feel particularly triumphant. I was glad to be back on firm ground again.
Here’s the thing about these kinds of things though. All we want to do is The Thing. We do not pause to think what we could have lost. Especially considering that I had no proper supervision or safety harness/ equipment when I did it. It was incredibly selfish of me, this idea that I could do whatever I wanted, and I didn’t care about the consequences of my actions. If things hadn’t worked out the way they did, the best and worst-case scenarios would have been equally bad, for the people who would have been involved in the situation and me. Whatever the reason may have been to spur me on, it is never enough to justify an idiotic action like that. I just happened to get incredibly fortunate this time.
This post is an open admission of the failure of forethought and consideration on my part, as also my appreciation of the concern of my loved ones who were upset at my thoughtless action and an apology for causing them needless worry.
(This is the first, and the more realistic version of what might happen in these sort of scenarios. The second one, the happier version is to follow… shortly.)
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the email. “Dear Maya, it has been fourteen months since you dropped that incisive, amusing and insightful critique of my book. We have been corresponding since then. I think your acerbic wit is delightful, you have a way with words and our mutual love for symbolism brings me to this decision. I will be in your city next week, and I thought of sharing a first draft of my next release. I want to gather your thoughts on it, I will be there for about ten days. So, think about it and we can set it up. As always, I hope that the odds have ever been in your favour” This was followed by a ten-digit number. Had he given out his mobile number? Surely not, it was probably his P.A. or agent. My hands were trembling only slightly as I picked up the phone and headed outside to the Cherry Blossom cafe and sat at my favourite table beneath the rose gold lights casting long shadows, even as the Sun was about to go down in the distance. I gestured to the waiter that it would take a while, I had run here all the way, patting the paper in my chest pocket. I took out the print of the e-mail and re – read it several times. “Irish coffee and a slice of the red velvet indulgence” I said to the waiter who nodded smilingly, looking curiously at the paper in my hand. As he walked away, my head was full of questions. My heart was palpitating as I pressed the numbers on my phone. “Hello? ” a smooth baritone said. I dropped the phone in shock. No Way! This was his personal number! I could still hear him saying hello, before the line was finally disconnected. I took a fortifying sip of the scalding coffee that had arrived and winced. He would think I am such a wuss. I called again. He was busy. Of course, he would be, he was a best-selling author. Not a carefree teenager sitting by the phone, waiting. I wrung my palms, trying to stay calm and I started counting to a hundred. I had gotten to 86 when Shape of You by Ed Sheeran rang out loudly. My phone, it was him! He had called back! I blew on my cold hands before answering. “Hi?” I ventured nervously knowing who was on the other end of the line. “Maya, hey! How are ya? This is Amit” he said. What followed was a delightful eleven minute conversation with me oscillating between excitement and nervousness. We fixed up a weekend meeting.
The weekend couldn’t come soon enough.
“I went over to Sunshine Cafe, smoothing my hair nervously as I walked inside. He was already there. Smiling slightly as he sipped from his own cup. I held out my hand, smiling a little too brightly. We sat down. I looked around, the whole room held one table. Ours, and the setting reflected the very same as that of the first time Pedro and June, my favourite characters from his novel go on their first date. First Date? Wait, whoa. Why was this room done up in this fashion? I backed away slightly, feeling a bit strange as he took in my appearance and his eyes held a strange light I didn’t understand. I tugged at my “Owl Always Love You” tee self – consciously. “Nice choice of attire” he said, smirking at the reference to a quote from a novel by one of our favourite authors. I shrugged. He then took out a slightly voluminous bundle and handed it to me. “280 pages, I trust that you will not show it to anybody. We will meet just before I leave to discuss your thoughts on it. Okay?” he asked. I nodded. Then talk shifted to politics, books and movies etc. As we parted ways, he said “I really enjoyed meeting you. I think there is a pretty good author hidden away, somewhere within you.” I waved to him and began walking away rapidly in the opposite direction feeling happy and floaty, as I clutched the black bundle tightly to my chest.”
Oh, how lovely if that had been the case. But it was not. For the truth made the headlines. The body was found in an alley, close to the highway. There had been no sexual assault. A bunch of titles by Amit Dwivedi had been found, along with an email, and a phone number, the address of a cafe. When the police questioned the author, he claimed that he had never known the victim or corresponded with her. He did not understand the diary entry either, had she written a fictitious and hopeful account of what she thought their meeting was going to be like? He had been in Bangalore, sure but not on the dates mentioned in the email. That was not his phone number either, and he furnished sufficient proof to back up his claims. The police were satisfied and let him go. They looked at the CCTV footage of Sunshine Cafe where they were supposed to have met. The baffling thing was that she had never showed up there. They looked at the call records, there had been a bunch of calls suggesting some possible last-minute plan changes. She was an extremely private person, or had not confided in her friends about the change in plans. Tracking the phone was to no avail either. The killer had gotten away scot – free. What the police, the author and media couldn’t figure out was why someone would spend over a year impersonating the author, and then fix up a meeting only to kill the girl. The sight of the mangled corpse was a grotesque one, one that would haunt the author for years to come. He explored it over the course of several years through his various stories but was never able to come to a satisfactory conclusion. Neither did the police.
Finally, the case file was closed and put away with the rest of the cold cases rotting away in the precinct’s Records Room.
(The word of the day, incorporated in the following story: Apple polishing)
“Jonathan, you obstreperous child! Come back here. I will tell your mother what you have done! My joints aren’t quite what they used to be, boy! Manipulating your old aunt into making those Snickerdoodles, gambling and stealing money for a corsage, just you wait till I catch you” the old woman gave chase to the young boy, breathing heavily. The boy and the family dog, Coco ran around enthusiastically. Being a worldly and self-aware young man, Jon was quite aware of his failings. His weakness was the ladies, and his auntie’s Snickerdoodles. The two had inexplicably combined when on a hot Wednesday in May, Miss Lucy walked in to Grade 6 and introduced Katie, the new girl who had been smart enough to skip fifth grade and be promoted straight to the sixth grade. Jon felt a not entirely unpleasant swooping feeling in his gut, when Katie looked at him and gave him a smile. “This must be love” the young man decided and began to develop a strategy of courting her so he could ask her to be his partner for the Estival Formal, two weeks from the day. He looked around and noted with dismay that those insidious devils, formerly best mates of his – Tom, Nate and Henry were making similar plans too, looking at the love light that appeared to have kindled in their eyes, also. They seemed to have adopted a strategy of apple polishing to gain her attention, and let her sit next to them. She was looking doubtfully at the cheerful, earnest faces. Jon schooled his face into an expression of nonchalance, but his heart threatened to explode all over the place when she laid down her beautiful pink and white backpack with flowers on them, on the seat next to his. As she settled in to her seat, he mouthed ” How about that?” to his now rivals for the hand of Miss Katie. They shook hands, and by God! He was smitten! Cupid had aimed his arrow deftly at young Jon, who fell hard.
Jon walked up to her with a playful swagger and said, “I bet you have never tasted anything as good as that of my Auntie Liz’s Snickerdoodles.” She smiled and said “Mummy makes very good Snickerdoodles too. Challenge accepted. Same time, next week?” He solemnly accepted, adding “If I win, you will accompany me to the Estival Ball.” She looked a bit surprised, let out a delightful peal of laughter that had him and the boys around them, hanging on to her every word feeling mildly disoriented as she seemed to float away from him, back to class with her newly acquired gaggle of female friends.
The next couple of days went by in a haze as he convinced his Auntie Liz that he missed his parents very much, but especially Mummy and her Snickerdoodles. He brooded in a manly fashion, and sighed when his Auntie suggested that she make her famous Snickerdoodles for him, and it would be the same since it was a family recipe that had been passed down to both sisters by great Nana herself. “That might alleviate the suffering, some” he said with the air of one giving up something great. She looked at him with pity and affectionately ruffled his hair, drew him up a list to go get the ingredients to make the Snickerdoodles.
Next Wednesday came and he had been baked quite an alarmingly large batch, so he managed to give some to Katie, wrapped in a neat ribbon he found in Aunt Liz’s desk. He also distributed the rest to his classmates and Miss Lucy. The class opined that his batch was indeed the finest. That’s how Jon found himself on a date with the most beautiful young woman in all the universes ever. Katie Corden. He slipped on the corsage he had purchased with the money he had stealthily purloined from the farm’s cash register he manned during the weekends. Katie beamed widely, took his arm and walked inside the school hall that had been decorated to appear like a shindig of the Roaring Twenties. He doffed his imaginary hat to his brothers – in – arms, and walked past them with a supercilious smirk plastered firmly upon his face. The night passed in blissful oblivion, even as the moon shone down brightly upon those two hearts beginning to beat in unison while Cole Porter played on, in the background.
One jealous young ex – suitor, hurt and rebuffed worked out that with the allowance Jon got, and the number of chores he had pawned off on others, he could not have afforded the corsage. He cycled to Merry Farms, and told on his formerly bosom pal. And that is the story of how Jon found himself in the present predicament. He worked out a compromise where he promised to do chores for the next two weeks and skip the school field trip to the zoo, that he had been looking forward to from weeks. He vowed to himself to find out who had sabotaged him, and get even at the person, even while he nursed elaborate fantasies of him and Katie dancing in the moonlight, as they once did before. Hands fitting perfectly, laughing, dancing a little too close for him to be able to smell her warm, intoxicating cherry flavoured scent.
“Two weeks of chores isn’t a bad price to pay for love” he surmised, as he picked up the shovel and went to work in the farm, while the hot sun beat down on his bony back.
“It is not my fault that I am having to do this. I blame my parents, uncles, aunts, and anyone else who does not have the guts to speak up against what is to happen today. You are all equally guilty.” I write with trembling hands, the delicate glass bangles clatter as the pen moves up and down in a hypnotic rhythm, all its own. I was a class topper, I was going to have a fine future. I wanted to be a doctor, and make affordable healthcare accessible to the hundreds of women in my village like Didi who died, giving birth to her fourth child.
I looked at the ornate mirror. I had half a dozen green coloured bangles made of glass, along with a pair of gold ones, that weighed my dainty wrists down. Kohl rimmed eyes, the apples of my cheeks dusted with a hint of colour, lips stained crimson; long, elegant chandelier earrings hung from my ears, accompanied by a matching choker set and an ornamental forehead piece, or maatha – patti completing the look. I wore a forest green coloured sharara suit, the veil carefully pinned to cover every inch of my head. I looked every inch the embodiment of an estival Goddess even though I was just a tool brought in to this world to fulfill the requirements of a demonic, broken down system. The greater my fury grew, the words bled on to paper, as if they were being transferred straight from the recesses of my brain, on to the rich cream coloured paper I had at my desk. Let me tell you, I have never wanted for anything in my life. I go to an English medium school, and get to wear the finest of frocks and dresses that we get from the city. I am popular in my school, admired by teachers and peers alike. I have never thus far had even a minor setback or inconvenience that my father did not take care of, or mysteriously make disappear. So, imagine my shock when I received the horrifying news that turned my life upside down on my 13th birthday. I cried, I stomped my feet and yelled but to no avail. My parents wouldn’t budge from their stance, my father and I had stopped all communication, once or twice I thought my mother looked at me contritely… Like she wanted to say something, but she would sigh and shake her head as was her wont and walk away. She was a firm proponent of our family’s belief that women ought to be seen, and not heard. She had married my father at a young age and completed her schooling with the encouragement of my grandfather. Despite much societal opposition at the time, he even encouraged my mother to pursue and complete B. Com via distance education mode. She now handled the accounts for our business. It seemed as if my fate was fixed. “But, here is the thing about me you don’t know. I push back harder when you push me. I firmly believe that I am the captain of my destiny. Therefore, I am leaving, do not attempt to find me.” I sign my name with a sort of flourish, dotting my I’s in an almost vicious fashion, taking savage pleasure imagining the uproar that would undoubtedly ensue once the wedding party would discover that the bride had gone missing.
She would never forget that day. In the park, they were sitting cross legged, sheltered from the heavy pitter-patter of harshly falling rain drops by the expansive gazebo. Even now, twenty years down the line she could recollect every fine detail of the exquisite miniatures etched on the gazebo. She remembered his strong clear features and sharp compelling gaze. That dark green shirt that he was wearing that day. The light blue salwar she had been wearing. The harsh words she had tossed in his face. How she had frozen his passionate ardour without knowing its depth. Pausing her pen on the paper, she leaned back, crying unabashedly for here, nobody knew her and she knew nobody. She wept for him, she wept for the love she had pushed away and the even precious friendship she lost. She closed her eyes recounting the scene. His twenty-two-year-old self was holding the hand of her twenty-year-old self. He was saying “I love you. I want to be with you forever.” She got enraged at his choice of words despite knowing everything. She lashed out at him “What do you mean forever? There is no forever, we stay together only till one of us conveniently feels the need to dispose of the other.” He was taken aback, he had never seen her act like this. “Are you okay?” he asked gently holding her. Shaking him off, she got up and continued speaking, going breathless with anger and hurt. “Do you remember what he had promised me? Together forever?” “Where is he now? What happened to the forever? No, don’t make all these passionate promises, please leave, I don’t believe in love anymore. One day or the other you will leave, instead its better you leave me now when I don’t love you. If I come to love you then I’ll only be hurt. Love hurts.” He was dumbfounded, “you don’t love me?” he asked and she replied “Of course not, how can I? It is only two months since we started seeing each other.” She walked away from him, letting him grieve over his broken heart in silence.
Bringing her pen to paper, she continued writing till she finally reached the end of the page. She did not sign the letter, why bother? She had as much significance in this village as the flea she had swatted just a minute ago. Once again, her heart squeezed painfully remembering the glamorous looking lady, who stood arm-in-arm with him at the inauguration of his new hospital a year back. Determinedly she uncorked the bottle and downed the contents in one gulp. She fell from the chair and began writhing in agony, the pain suffocating her. One last jerk of her limbs and the vase fell making a loud sound that attracted the attention of a passer-by who immediately called for the doctor.
She opened her eyes with much difficulty and saw a greying man attending to her efficiently, worry written all over his face. Then he looked at her, she gasped. It was Him. The same bright brown eyes. “What are you doing here?” she asked him, trying to get up but with no success. “We meet again” he said dryly. “Why did you do this?” his voice cracked for the first time and he seemed on the verge of tears himself. She cocked her head towards her left, indicating the letter on the table which she had finished writing. “Suicide note” he thought with disgust, hardly believing it. She was the last person he would expect to think of suicide and yet here she had, inevitably tried to take her life. He could not read through the last few lines, not without the hot film of tears coating his eyes, stinging. He turned back and instinctively knew something was wrong. Reaching out, he closed her eyes which had been looking towards him in an expression he could not make out; her message to him was lost forever. She had loved him too but what a bittersweet moment of realization. She herself had become a memory.
He resisted the urge to break down or pound his fists angrily. He had a wife and family waiting at home, he reminded himself and yet the pain of it was too intense. Her loss was an immense ache in his heart. But he knew what was expected of him, so he picked himself up from the floor and picked up his medical kit, thanking the gods who had given him the opportunity to see her one last time. He walked outside and found that many villagers were peering curiously towards the cottage. “The patient is dead” he announced stoically. They groaned collectively. As the doctor walked away from the cottage, a young girl ran up to him and pulled at his white coat. He looked at her, taken by surprise. “Did you know her? “she asked him, carefully scrutinising the doctor’s face. “No” he said emphatically and went over to his car. The young girl wondered why the doctor had been lying. She had, after all been able to see his unshed tears.