Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Beautiful Beginning

I travelled for forty hours and bam, I was in Santiago, Chile, the other end of the world. The frowning family at the other end of the world, a futile relationship, the social pressure of getting married, a boring job, it was all staring at me from the other end of the world and from nine and a half hours in the future.

Santiago and its beautiful hills

I did not dream to become a teacher, but yes, I did teach English stories to trees and to an empty classroom in my pre-matured childhood. My passion for English Literature was ever increasing. Reading and writing would go on for hours in my own little world. Then I grew up and nothing changed.

Me and my sister's parrot. She made my fear of birds go away

Yes, I was laid off. Don't judge me yet, it was not related to issues I had with the new dictatorial manager whose butchery skills were the favourite topic of gossip amongst all his subordinates. Everyone warned me about the importance of pleasing the manager but I was not paying attention then.  I would have still left the job if he had not fired me. But I get to be cooler now and say, I got fired. Though my parents didn't feel any better about it. I did thank him when I over stayed in Thailand and paid the fine from the salary I was still getting without going to the office, while crossing the borders into Cambodia to see the largest Hindu temple ever built and while moving through the lush greens of Vietnam without worrying about money. Stories from my South east Asia trip are yet to come. 

A beautiful night in Hanoi, Vietnam

There were definitely a lot of bitter sweet goodbyes while leaving home, but this time I was sure that I would not be malleable. I left with a bag full of spices, pickles, sweets, and warm clothes, thanks to my sister as I was not ready to bring anything apart from my under garments and a few clothes ( maybe ).

My lovely sister, her daughter and me :)

Chileans are the nicest people I have ever met. I am loving it all; The superb google translate mic using taxi driver who got me to the hostel when I landed because the program won't give me a ride and the program hostel for the first night as I was reaching one and a half hours before the suggested time, the girl in the hostel who helped carry my stuffed unbalanced backpack two floors up, the school director who specifically wants to visit Punjab, the chileans who helped and smiled at us in Santiago,  all the new crazy friends that I made during the first week of the program, my English head teacher who never stops laughing, Luis and his wife who arranged a car so that all of us with our over stuffed luggage didn't have to carry it on our backs from the bus terminal to our new home, the amazing crazy new mama Chilota who hugs and feeds me all day long, and starts teaching me Spanish when my eyes are not even open, and the teachers, director,  and the head teachers who welcomed me with coffee, cake and left me with super warm kisses on my cheek and their warmth in my heart, the students who are rowdy during the class but plant big kisses on my cheek while leaving, and all the people who stop their cars to let everyone walk by even if they themselves are running late.

My crazy friends whom I met in the program and with in two days it felt as if I knew them for years. I am so glad that I have them
Doesn't she look like a bunny or some other cute animal. Alison from Canada :)

The cute little Indian girl Debbie. 

Crazy American with Tarrot Cards who does all kinds of random stuff

With Mama Chilota. Cecilia is a crazy old lady, and makes a lot of food. She welcomed us by hanging up these flags in her dining and one in each of our rooms.

I have fallen in love with Chilean people and how they sit around and talk at speed of light about me for hours in Spanish and when I ask them, they say that they were discussing how cute I am. I love the fact that they are so happy that there are going to be so many men for me in Chile as I am not seeing anybody back home.

My head teacher, Marcia. She is so crazy and can't stop laughing.

I get ready and run towards the head teacher's car who comes to pick me up while I make way through rain which has not stopped for the whole night, and then back to a lunch of Casuella about which I didn't know until a day before, teach an English class which has been conducted in Spanish until now and the students are asked to remember english conversations as if it is Biology, and then come back to a home full of energy, love and "once" where after I make way to my room thinking I have many more things to do but in my heart I just don't get enough of the people I am staying with.

My room. Its cute and little. Exactly the way I wanted it.

The dining and the kitchen of the house I am staying at.
Oh! life is so much calmer here. I am sure that has nothing to do with the fact that I am living on an Island! :)

Santiago. It has got a busy life and I didn't like it that much.
The stilt houses or palafitos in Spanish. I love Castro :)

I thought of a new country, food, culture, experience, travel, teaching but I never thought of anything about doing this as a service to the society. The day Jeremy ( program coordinator ) was telling about his student who told him that Jeremy's letter of appreciation meant more than his parents careless attitude about his achievements, I knew I was in for something good. I also realised the sort of feelings I am going to experience when the students kissed me on the cheek while leaving the class and said ciao miss.  I felt the relationships I am going to form with  my students and how difficult it would be to leave.

Mama Chilota and her house. This is my home for the next four months.

I don't know how much am I learning in this new life when I snuggle up in ten blankets by the end of the day in  my small cozy room and the wind blows so strongly that I feel the roof might fall, but I know that I am living an experience that people get only once in a life time. I know I am going to become a better person, will develop more patience, will get to know that I do have a lot of patience, will become kinder, and might start loving teaching.  This is definitely one of the best times in my life.

A view point in Castro. It is beautiful.

Casuella de mariscos ( Seafood Casuella )

Church in Castro. 

Rainbow. It is always cold and rainy in Chiloe. 

Puerto Montt. It is like a painting.

Puma. In one of the national parks near Santiago.

Sunsets are always so calming. It was in a town near Santiago.

National park near Santiago. Isn't it beautiful

Me and Marcia, my head teacher in Puerto Montt. Beginning of something good.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

One Summer Night

Abha twisted and turned in her bed and yawned. 
Aditi whispered, ”let’s go now.”
“No, Mom might be up.”, Abha mumbled.
“Mom slept an hour ago.”, Aditi said in a mocking tone.
“I could hear the ringing of her anklet”.
“Abha, shut up and move your ass.”, Aditi ordered.
They slowly walked towards the drawing room, which was adjacent to their room. The door was latched, as always. Their father locked ground floor doors and latched the doors on the first floor, where they lived, if the rooms were empty. Aditi unlatched it while making the least noise she could manage. Abha kept turning while entering and Aditi slapped her back.
“Stop worrying. Just be quiet and it will be all right.”, Aditi said.
“Don’t hit me.”, Abha pleaded.
“Let us look for remote control.”, Aditi said while switching on her phone torch.
“Papa would have kept it in the television cabinet.”, Abha used her wisdom.
“Switch on the fan also.”, Aditi said while wiping sweat off her face.
“See”, Abha smiled while taking out the remote from the Television cabinet and swung it in front of Aditi. 
“Which movie might be on today?” Abha asked with excitement.
“I don’t know. I hope the new Shahrukh Khan one.”, Aditi said cheerfully.
“I hope the new Amitabh Bachchan one.”, Abha gleamed.
“Yeah that old man is good for nothing”, Aditi laughed.
“Shut up. It is Shahrukh Khan who is good for nothing”, Abha glowered.
Aditi switched on the Television and instantly muted it. The pirated movie channel from the local cable came up.
“Did you hear that sound?” Abha asked while looking in the direction of the window.
“Will you stop worrying. They are sleeping.” Aditi scolded her while increasing the volume.
“It is coming from outside”, Abha rolled her eyes.
“Shut up. I didn't hear anything. You make all of this less fun.”, Aditi said in a frustrated tone.
“Please listen carefully. It is coming from downstairs.”, Abha stood stiff.
Aditi muted the Television again and walked to the window and stood behind the blue curtains. 
“There is some sound. I don’t know what it is though.”, Aditi agreed.
“Someone is downstairs.”, Abha replied.
“Maybe. It might be coming from some other house.”
“Can’t we check?”
“We can peek down from the balcony but it is dark outside.”
“See the moon is so big today that things would not be that dark.” 
“You might be one scared little girl but you know many things.”, Aditi smiled and said, “Okay, let us go out.”
“We will have to unlatch one more door.”
“I am an expert.”, Aditi winked.
She slowly unlatched the other door of the drawing room which opened up in the balcony. 
“Kneel down and crawl to the side. No-one will be able to see us that way.”, Aditi said.
They both kneeled down and crawled towards the balcony railing. They peaked down.
It was a full moon night and the garden was well lit by the moon light. The sound of the many hidden crickets, the croaking of the frogs, and the rustling of the tree leaves was clearly audible. The guava tree and the neem tree swayed in the strong wind. 
Two men were trying to work their way inside the ground floor godown by cutting the locks with a bolt cutter. 
“What do we do now?” Abha asked.
“We should wake up Papa”, Aditi said.
“Can’t we do something on our own? Maybe we can shout and they will run away.”
“We don’t want them to run. We should do something so that we can catch them. “
“We can't go downstairs. What if they harm us?”
“Let us wake up Papa. He will call the police and neighbours.”, Aditi suggested.
“Good idea. They are still trying to get inside so we have enough time.”
The sisters crawled back inside.  They crossed the drawing room and the hall to reach their parents room. It was never latched from inside and a light knock was easy enough to wake up their parents. Both sister exchanged glances and Aditi knocked. 
“Papa, papa”, Aditi said in a low voice.
“Why are you both up?” her father said drowsily while moving the door curtain to the side and slightly opening the door.
“Papa, there are two man downstairs. They are trying to break into the godown.”, Abha blurted out.
“What? How do you know?”, Their father got up from the bed and stood upright.
“We heard voices so we went and checked.”, Aditi said while walking inside their parent’s room.
What is happening?” Their mother also woke up with their conversation.
“Rajni there are some people downstairs trying to break in the godown.”
“Hey Ram! What do we do now?” She asked while sitting upright.
“We should call the police and the neighbours. The neighbours would block them from outside. But let me check first.”
He put on his slipper and walked towards the balcony. 
“They are two of them and are trying to cut the godown lock.”, he said while walking back into the room a few minutes later. “We can’t hear in this room as it is inside but if you go out, it is quite audible. These thieves do not look very experienced to me.” he said while picking up his phone.
After a quick phone call to police he called Mr Sharma, their neighbour. He didn't pick up. He called again. After quite a long ring, Mr Sharma picked up.
“Mr Sharma, sorry to call you so late. There are two people downstairs who are trying to get into our godowns. I have called the police but until they come someone would have to guard the gate from outside so that they don’t run. I am not going down, they might have knifes or some other weapons. “ Their father finished in one breath. 
After a few seconds, He thanked him and hung up the phone.
“He will guard the door with few other neighbours until the police comes.”
“Lets go in the balcony and see what they are upto now”, Aditi said
“No beta, stay inside. I will go and see”, their father commanded.
“We are not so young papa, please let us go and check. After all, it was us who informed you else you would have been still sleeping”, Abha chuckled.
“Come along.”
They walked towards the balcony and kneeled down. The thieves had been successful in cutting the locks and were inside the godown now. 
Their neighbours were keeping a watch on the thieves from outside. Some of them were on their roof, hidden, and Mr Sharma along with Mr Nawab were outside their gate with sticks. They were hiding behind the Banyan tree outside the gate. 
A few minutes later, there were many police man outside their gate with torches, and lathis. Police Inspector had a pistol in his hand. They climbed up the main gate as it was still locked and were all inside one after another. They went inside the godown and walked out with the two thieves in handcuffs.
“Thank you sir for coming on time.”, their father thanked the police inspector who was holding one of the handcuffed thieves.
“Good you called us on time. How did you come to know there were thieves?”, the inspector asked.
“Sir, my daughters told me. They heard noises.” He looked up to the balcony where Abha and Aditi stood gleaming.
“Haha. All right. You should be very proud. I am taking them now. You will have to come tomorrow morning to the station to file a FIR”, police inspector said and walked out dragging the handcuffed thief with him. Rest of the police men followed.
“Did you look at the thieves?” he asked the girls later.
“We did Papa. They had big beards and looked very shabby. But I was not scared”, Abha smiled.
“I am very proud of you today. Now, go and sleep. Do not watch television.”, he smiled, “I am your father, I know what you do. Anyway, you already have a thriller movie for today”, he said and kissed them on the forehead.
Both the girls walked towards their room.


Rain started pouring down suddenly and Rekha ran up the stairs to collect the dry clothes from the roof. Radha was still sitting on the cot in the covered verandah next to the animal barn.
“Radha, Radha! Come on, get up. Help me. Bring Nandi inside and tie her in the animal barn. She will get wet outside.”, Rekha shouted from the roof while trying to keep herself dry with a plastic sheet which she held with one hand above her head. 
“Didi, I am scared of her.”, Radha shouted. She was looking at the rain water getting collected in the small puddles. She dropped a few leaves in the puddles to see their movement. It was the first rain of the season and the smell of the wet mud was very refreshing. 
“Beta, please get up. You won't do it for your didi? She would say nothing to you.”, Rekha convinced her. 
“Only for you”, Radha stood up half heartedly. 
She ran out of the house into the front porch towards Nandi. She tried to befriend her by patting her shoulder and then untied her. She had been afraid of Nandi since her childhood. Nandi mooed as she got drenched in the heavy rain. She followed Radha peacefully into the house and Radha tied her in the animal barn. As she walked, the bell tied around her neck ringed. Radha mixed fodder for her in the big stone enclosure. Their father brought Nandi home when she was just a couple months old. She was a beautiful white cow. Her mother had died and Kishan’s friend, whom she originally belonged to, didn't want to bring her up. So, Kishan, their father brought her home. He said that the girls should have fresh home milk in abundance. Nandini and the two motherless girls, were brought up by Kishan. 
Their mother died when she was giving birth to their youngest sister. The village dai could neither save the mother nor the girl. It had been five years. Rekha took care of the household. Preparing meals, burning the stove, cutting down wood into smaller pieces to put into the stove, feeding Nandi, milking Nandi, cleaning the house, washing clothes, and taking care of Radha and their father were her day to day chores. 
She came down with a pile of clothes in her arms. She was almost wet and was sneezing uncontrollably. 
“Come, didi. Sit near the stove. You are completely wet. Let me get a towel for you”, Radha said affectionately. While rubbing Rekha’s hair with towel she hummed their favourite song, “Barsa pani, barsa pani, ayi megha, ayi megha”.
“Let me make some tea. When will Baba come back? It is raining so heavily outside.”, Rekha showed her concern.
“I don’t know. Didi, can you also make some pakodas?”, Radha gleamed.
“Okay gudiya, I will make some. Baba will also be back from the bazaar by then.”, Rekha said while getting up to go to the kitchen.
Tall and slender Rekha with her brown complexion and big eyes looked beautiful while moving around in the house. 
“Beta, are you all inside and where is Nandu?” Kishan called out while entering the house.
Nandi mooed. 
Kishan said while laughing, “oh! She registered her presence. Now, what about my darling girls?”
Both the girls giggled. “Papa, you can see us. We are making Pakodas and tea for all of us”, Radha said smiling. 
“We?” Rekha questioned while laughing. “How was Bazaar today papa?” she enquired her father.
“It was like always. We have made enough to keep living. See, what have I got for both of you!”, Kishan said.
Both the girls ran towards their father and waited for him to open the brown bag he was holding. 
“What is it Papa? Open faster na.”, Radha said impatiently.
He opened the bag and took out books from inside. He handed some of them to Rekha and a few to Radha. 
“Beta, I know, I have not been able to send you to the school. After your mother, you have been looking at the house and nothing else. What would I have done without you? That is why I keep bringing books so that you can read at home. You will read the books na?”, Kishan asked with wet eyes. 
“yes Papa. I have already read the ones you bought last time.” , Rekha hugged her dad and then went to the kitchen.
“I thought these are some toys. “, Radha sounded disappointed. 
“haha, you are so naughty. Books are the trunks of wisdom beti. You should read a lot so that you know everything in the world. Okay?”, Kishan asked Radha.
“Yes, papa”, she stood up and went to the water puddles ad started splashing the water with her feet.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How Welding made me blind

I don’t remember what I was trying to make, but it was a welding workshop and I was trying to weld. All engineering colleges have mandatory workshops such as welding, carpentry etc during the first year and so did mine. It was the second semester of my under graduation. I was wearing glasses which were supposed to shield me from the welding radiation. My group which consisted of fifteen students, all of whom had to build the same object, was struggling. While wearing the glasses and manoeuvring the welding machine for four hours, I realised what hell would feel like. The final product didn't resemble the expectation but I didn't care and ran out of the workshop thanking god for saving my life. But I was naive then. I started developing slight pain and irritation in my eyes around evening and I thought it must be normal post welding syndromes. By the time I went to bed, the pain had increased exponentially. I could not sleep and was unable to open my eyes. It felt as if 100 pins were poked into my eyes at once. The pain was unbearable. I walked to a friends room in utter darkness of my shut eyes. Water rolled down my cheeks. She called an ambulance and brought me down the stairs. The ambulance took us to AIIMS hospital and the doctor in the emergency ward checked my eyes. Some pain killers and eye drops brought relief to my sore eyes. 

A slow motion scene - Getting Slapped

I saw his right hand rising, reaching for my temple, slapping me and then dropping by to its side. His hand made a loud thud noise against my cheek. It was the sound of someone clapping hard. My face swung to the side by the pressure of the hand and the left portion of my face along with the forehead ringed. Water rolled down my eyes. He was glowering me when he lifted his arm and his expression changed when he dropped it. His eyes were red through out. When he hit me suddenly, I lost my balance and my body shuttered. My hair swayed and a few of them got stuck to my lips. A part of his palm had impacted my lips as well. I reached to touch my cheek as soon as his hand withdrew. I could see that his right arm was trembling. I could not move forward or backward in such short time and I stood still when he slapped me. For a moment, I could not see anything as my eyes had welled up and my head was swinging. I could then see him standing in front of me while my face burned and lips trembled. People surrounding us had started moving towards us as I stared at him. 

Writing Ritual

You sometimes get up in the morning with swollen eyes, half asleep and half conscious. You struggle with the alarm and snooze it many times. Eventually your own conscience asks you to get up. You have to, else it would get late. You have to get up and write. That is what you do everyday and you can’t miss it. It is part of your routine like brushing your teeth. You tell yourself. You want to become a writer, a successful one. Everyone tell you to continue writing and to continue editing. Doesn't matter if you are not publishing, does not matter if most of the publishers are not even replying to your emails, does not matter if you can’t cover up your rent , you should continue writing and editing. You should not give up or do less of it. Do not worry, things will work out, they say. 
You drag yourself from the bed to the washroom, you do your morning ritual and then you look outside the window to see what kind of day it is. But for you it does not matter. As first, you have to sit and write for hours. Maybe a story, or an assignment or a memoir or some blog post. You have to sit at the desk and take out your computer or maybe you can write with a pen and paper today. There are days when you edit your previous work. These days are even more difficult as you have to cut a lot of your writing, in their language you kill your sweethearts. When you are done editing, you don’t feel that you did something substantial or you created something new. You might have done something, you are not sure. 
You get some breakfast and a coffee in between. It breaks the routine and brings you back to real life. To the almost empty kitchen and to the almost empty milk cartons. It reminds you of the bills and of the grocery shopping that is pending from last week. Once you worked and you never had to think about expenditures or money so much. But now you write and very rarely you make any money. As you finish your breakfast, you bring yourself out of these thoughts and try to focus on the story you were working on. You like the arc of the story but you feel the characters miss something. They need to be more real and then you think about the people in your life. Maybe you can take some inspiration from one of them. They say that characters are mostly inspired by real people in your life. You think about your parents, grandparents, neighbours, friends, colleagues, ex boyfriends, plumber, and the building super. You pick out some traits from your friend’s girlfriend and develop your character a little more. You think of new stories and themes. You think of creating thrilling and extraordinary stories. You think about various deep human emotions and you decide that after you are done with the writing, you will read stories on Granta. 
You think of the number of word you wrote yesterday. You count the number of words you have written today. You compare them with the number of words that famous authors write everyday. You get disappointed and you stop thinking about it. You tell yourself that you will reach there. Your grammar is not perfect. You need to do more revisions. You think you do more of telling than of showing and you need to fix that. You rewrite sentences to fix the grammar. You rewrite the sentences to show things rather than tell. You read the whole thing again. You read the whole thing out loud. You enjoy it. It was more engaging than before. But you still could not fix one important part of the story which is coming out to be a little boring. You are still not happy. You have spent hours and now you are aching for some sun. You glance the whole thing once more. You look at the word count. You revise the different things you have written in the past in your head. You try to pacify yourself. You check your emails. Maybe somebody replied to the manuscripts you sent last week. You find there is nothing. You shut your laptop. You close your notebook and replace the cap on the pen. You take your jacket and you walk out of the house

The Red

I waved at her as she stood flawless in her white gown on the front porch. It seems as if I have loved her since eternity. I felt like slapping Akshay when he told me that he saw her with someone in the movie theatre the other day. How is it possible? She told me she was going to spend the day at home, reading and cooking. Though I saw her new red stilettos kept in the shoe rack that evening. Maybe she was just looking at them and then forgot to keep them back. Yeah, it must have been that as when I asked her she said she was at home the whole day.
That day when I came home in the middle of the day, she was dressed. She said she was trying on the dress to see if it still fits her. She must have been right. She wore that red cocktail dress on our anniversary and that was the night of three times. Her enormous breasts looked even bigger and they peeped out of the low neck just enough to keep me lured. She might also like looking at herself in it.
Then what am I waiting for parked in this dingy side lane near our house? Wait, what? There goes her car. Yes, the red Maruti is hers. But she said she was going to be at home. Maybe, something urgent came up or maybe she is going to the doctors. What if she is pregnant? I follow her while keeping a distance of at least two hundred metres. She would not notice me so far behind. My heart is pounding so hard against my chest that I feel it would jump out. The air conditioning is on full but I am sweating dreadfully. My throat is parched and I feel like I am coming down with high temperature. My arms and legs are shaking. Driving the car would become difficult but looks like she is taking the exit. I take the same exit. Her car slows down and she takes a right near the green house. I slow down near the green house. She stops near a yellow house and gets down. Without looking left or right she straight away goes to the yellow house and unlocks it. I park my car and get down but it is difficult to walk as my legs are shaking enormously. 
I find an open window in the back of the house and I peep inside. The house is empty. There is a staircase going up. Maybe, she went upstairs. I crawl inside the house house from the window. I hear voices coming from upstairs. One is hers and one is a strange voice of a man. Who it might be? Some cousin? No, she does not have any cousin in the city. I slowly climb up the stairs and the voices become stronger and so does the shaking of my legs and my heartbeat. I reach upstairs. Her back is facing me and so is his. They are lying on the bed, his hand is on her naked back and he is kissing it. He is moving up and down, the way I do. Suddenly, the left pocket of my waist coat feels heavy. I reach inside the left pocket with my right hand and grab the metal. I had forgotten about the pistol that I had started keeping when I was attacked last year. They wanted me to sell my company to them on a minimal price. My legs are shaking but my hands are firm. I pull the trigger. She is bleeding, the red blood is pouring out like a water tap has been opened and she is screaming loudly. He looks back at me while trying to hold her but I run. I run down the stairs and out of the house. I run towards my car and never look back.