25

A KISS that never happened

A KISS that never happened…

“Will you be my Dance Partner for Life?” was all I could muster. She cautiously mentioned, “I need some time to think as I am not sure what exactly I am looking for”. 

Some days back while I was in Dubai…

I: See my intentions are very clean and pure for you…but I guess we are not on the same page…at least at this time and point in our lives. You are on my mind and thoughts always and I am not saying this to flatter you. It is really the case.

She: I think we should sit and talk about this. I would want to settle down for sure but I don’t know what I am looking for and even if I say I will think about it I am uncertain how will you take it plus I am skeptical about what I want.

I: Okay then lets sit and talk.

I came down to her town. Was there for about a week and tried to reach out to her everyday and plan a meeting. She was either too busy or too busy, but all in all didn’t meet me. I was hurt and on top of that she forgot my birthday. The only thing that came to my mind was it’s all about the priorities and my name wasn’t on that list. “When she has her priorities cut out then why are you busy trying to woo her”, the mind questioned. The mind understands and takes a stand but the poor heart gives way.

When the meeting finally took place

I drove to her place and from there we went in her car to a Gurudwara. Just before leaving She had washed her face and forgot to put any makeup. Her kohl-less eyes were really piercing. Her face was looking simplistically amazing and serene just like the face of a newly born. She wrapped around a ‘duppatta’ (Indian Scarf) around her head before entering the premise. I am not finding any words to describe her. It’s in my memory and every time I close my eyes I can see her. She was looking like the perfect wife that I always dreamed off. She herself was not at peace from within but for the first time I noticed that there was a lot of calm on her face, which was actually getting transferred on to me. In fact the peace returned to the Gurudwara once she arrived. After she prayed we sat on a bench inside the premise.

She began, “I guess you are not planning to shave off your beard anytime soon”. “I celebrated a very dear friend’s birthday in January and that was the last time I shaved”, I said mischievously. She interrupted me mid sentence, “yayayaya…I know I know…it was my birthday only”. I smiled sheepishly and began:

You said that you are looking for someone who is mature…who is elder to you. My question to you is what is the guarantee that a person who is elder to you is definitely more mature and a guy couple of years younger wont be. A guy who has shouldered a lot of responsibilities and seen a lot in his past and who has tried to do justice to each one of them would have some level of maturity and understanding to do it.

All this while I have loved you…the form might be different. I never judged you for you being you. I never judged you for your scores, I never judged you for your lifestyle, I never judged you for how you dress up, I never even judged you when you went after other guys, I was always with you…but now I believe I should be given a chance to prove my worth. How can I convince you to be mine?

Her puzzled look conveyed that she wasn’t ready with an answer and the talkative me continued.

I love the way you are. The complete you…not a percent here and there. I guess I have fallen for this imperfection. I love your innocence and at the same time your carelessness. I love your smile and at the same time your temper. I love your giggles and at the same time your anger. I love your warmth and at the same time the way you shun people away. I love the genuine friendliness in you and at the same the difficult being that you are. I love your dance and at the same time the flaws. 

he found peace and solace

What my heart felt

I believe love is binding together of all perfections and imperfections of two souls. If it’s too perfect then it can’t be love. That way it would be become too boring and the love will slowly find its death. The beauty of it lies in it only. What’s the point of happiness if there is no sorrow…what’s the point of day if there is no night…what’s the point of good if there is no bad. Imperfections bring a sense of realism to everything. The most important thing would be how we use all these to our advantage…to our bond…to our relationship.

“I feel there isn’t any spark. We don’t have that connection and on top of that I am myself not sure what I am actually looking for”, she reasoned.

Irony of my life would be our relationship getting burnt when there was no spark in it 😦

I Continued, “It took a lot in me to bring back to life that part which died 3 years back and I decided that I wont consider anyone to be my soul mate ever again. But with you I can see a future, I can see a way and above all I can see a life. If I can do that so can you. In any case you are going out to screen candidates for a perfect arranged marriage. In the first couple of meetings can you imagine kissing someone, that spark might be there…but how would you make sure of his nature, behavior and his real self? At least with me you don’t have to make any guesses. You know who I am or is it going to be another case where a guy who is friends with someone for so long, will lose out just because he was a genuine dear friend.”

I thought people seek someone who never asks them to change and accepts them the way they are. I have heard many of my friends complain that they have found a husband and he loves them but they haven’t found a friend in him. I totally believe that if there is love and no friendship then a marriage might flounder but if there is a strong bond of friendship between a couple where they can share each and everything with their partner without the fear of being judged, a marriage can withstand any storm.

“You do not understand my point of view. I can’t force myself to love you or even like you”, she was beginning to sound desperate. I listened to her reasons but they weren’t making sense…I guess for the first time I was finding it really hard to decrypt the fairer and better gender.

I tried to reason her out, “See in 99% of the cases when two people fall in love with each other, its always that one person falls in love and then woos and convinces the other.” We fall in love with our puppy or the recently gifted sapling. It’s all in the mind. It just takes one thought to be in love with someone.

I could sense that she was now very edgy and was beginning to lose her patience. We got up from the bench and headed towards the car.

You won’t believe but this year whatever decisions I have taken were totally based on us. I have not been able to make the next career move because you are not sure how you want us to proceed.

I am ready to love you with all what I have…with all what I am. And if you don’t know it I am already in so much love with you. I want us to dance together, to travel to see the world together, to laugh together, to fight together, to make each other feel safe, to complete each other and to grow old together, and in the process to love each other so that our bond of friendship grows forever.

“I cannot imagine kissing you”, she shouted back irritatingly while putting car in the top gear.

There was silence in the car after that. After a while she said in a dejected tone, “Now you will go quite”. I shyly mentioned, “I am thinking…”

We reached her place. I chose its better to bid goodbye and let her be happy the way she wants to be. I leant forward placed a safe kiss on her forehead, tightly hugged her and whispered; ”All I wanted was a chance and I really wanted this to work…anyway…this is the final time that we are seeing each other”.

I turned around…got on my bike…with moist eyes…had a joyless smile on my face, which echoed with my broken heart…rode away.

Image Ref: Poetry Language

Image Ref: Poetry Language

For all those who have suffered heartbreaks,

For all those who are with their love,

For all those who are friend zoned,

For all those who still can’t convince her,

And

For all those who smile in that pain…

It’s not a GoodBye…

But It’s a GOOD BYE

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

 

6

The LAST BENCH

The LAST BENCH…

It was the start of summer of 1997, and I had successfully completed sixth standard and got myself admitted in seventh. Usually the session began from April and all the new admission happened by then…but there were a few who would join the session a bit late sometimes in May and some even later than that after the summer vacations got over.

Our class had a rotation system, in which every row of student got to sit in the front row once in a week. By then most of the class knew my ways…I had the last row just to myself…with no one ever asking me to rotate.

The Place where it all began

The Place where it all began – Image Ref: Neha Uttam Kumar (www.craftoon.in)

It was a sunny morning and we had returned to our classes after the morning prayers. My south Indian Class Teacher who happened to be our English teacher was taking the roll calls. She had reached midway only…when a female voice interrupted her, ‘Ma’am!! May I come in’? She was another of those late admissions. Hardly had I known then that this girl would turn out to be one of closest friends I’ll have for two decades. (Yeah you heard it right…TWO DECADES).

‘Ma’am!! May I come in’, she asked for the permission again. The sound of a girl’s voice was more than enough for all the students to gaze towards the entrance especially the boys from all the rows…from first to last…and hence my vision was also scanning her. The first thing I noticed (which I remember) was her free flowing golden brown hair on an unusually tall girl for a seventh grade. Modern would be the wrong word to use here, as she looked more urbane than others. When the length of other girl’s skirts tip toed with their matching socks’ she stood out with just knee length ones. Her tall, waxed (I should not mention here but was uncommon in those days) legs added to the allure.

The teacher gave her permission to enter the class. She got her name registered in the attendance register and started looking for a place to sit. Unfortunately for her the girl’s row was full (Yeah we had a separate girls row  ) and Fortunately for me I was the only one sitting on my Last bench. She walked between the girls and the boys’ row and everyone from the first seat to the last followed her with their salivating stare till she reached my bench. I was no dud either but never…ever had any girl asked me, whether she can sit next to me…and hence with my unprepared nervous look…I nodded. That’s how my last bench friendship started…

The girl with the brown hair - Image ref - and-beautiful-blue-drawing-favim-com-1624755.jpg

The girl with the brown hair – Image ref – and-beautiful-blue-drawing-favim-com-1624755.jpg

She came across as a brat to me and would carry the fanciest of things you could imagine…from glitter pens to different type of colorful pencils…from unusual hairpins to…colored covers for the notebooks. There was a child in her who decided never to grow up even to this day. She was careless at times…was extremely pampered and amusingly clumsy with things and at times with herself too. The more I got to know her…the lesser that feeling got, ‘where it was a big thing to sit next to a girl’ and in no time we were like buddies and had our gang.
Giver her height, she took the utmost advantage of it…she was an athlete and played a lot of sports. When other girls were busy chitchatting and playing stupid games she would be around us on the field or on the basketball court. This made our bond stronger. Whether it was recess or sports period or just chatting in the canteen we were everywhere.

All this gave a tomboyish feel to her. There would be occasions when we would be standing in the canteen and she would have her arm around my shoulder and it was the onlookers which made me realize that it’s time to take that arm off from there. She hardly gave a damn about those kind of people and that was the most likable thing for me in her. She knew what was good to her and always followed that…though that can’t be said for the bad ones.

Slowly the standards n years passed…the gang got bigger…and we were something BIG back in those days. From academics to extra-curricular…from dance to sports…from good to bad…our group had a presence.

I was always worried for her as she was a bad judge of friends…she was very poor in knowing people’s intentions behind their smiling faces. And more often than not she ended up in tears…which infuriated me a lot.

At times she found scoring marks a little hard in the science subjects and hence opted for commerce stream as our sections changed. She found new friends…newer interests…and newer connections. Our time together lessened…some of the recesses went in just waiting for her…and soon the group began to decrease in size. Meeting her on rare occasions…seeing her happy…enjoying and having fun with her buddies…made me realize that it was in her best interest that we don’t force her to join us.

Though we were still in the same school but the last two years passed with the minimal of interaction between both of us. We knew we were still good friends…she knew I would be there for her every time she needs my help and the same was for me…but sadly the ‘fizz’ was gone from the bond.

As it happens in most of the cases the people who were best buddies in their school time…hardly are in touch after that. The same happened with us. We both were busy pursuing our own bachelors in different cities…we hardly spoke leave alone meeting, as the era of social media was yet to begin. Just an occasional visit to her house on festivals or public holidays and it was still not a guarantee whether I would see her.

Image ref: Google.com

Image ref: Google.com

Some two years later we were accidently in the same city and decided to meet up that evening in a mall…but on one condition that I will have to drop her home as it would get late by then. It was our chance to catch up on those lost years and to put a dressing wherever the cracks had begun to appear in our sweet special bond.

She shouted out a long ‘Hiiiieeeeee’ with her ever-sparkling smile the moment she saw me. She was wearing a white ‘Punjabi’ salwar ‘n’ kurti and was simply looking flawless. A small ‘bindi’ amplified her beauty many folds. In fact this was the first time I was noticing the feminine qualities hidden in her. She was more confident and surer of herself both in her looks and talks. For the first time I saw a beautiful girl in her and not the tomboyish brat who sat next to me.

I still remember, after about eight long years, each and every word she spoke…the conversation we had…where we sat…what we ordered. After the initial hi and hello…we began opening up about our lives…the harsh realities that she encountered during the last few years. I could see and sense the matureness, though it was not a lot, in her. She was not the same careless kid anymore. I personally believe, no matter how rich or happy you are…but the meaning to one’s life add only when they have had their share of the bitter truths.

Listening to her story…sharing my own…saw her eyes brim with tears…my heart went out to her and just wanted to hug my old buddy with whom I once shared that bench. But I refrained…don’t know why. We spoke for hours and then I dropped her home. She hugged me while I was still on the bike (such an idiot I am). My mind couldn’t detach itself and my thoughts kept on lingering with what all she told me.

We met a couple of more times after that, in fact on one occasion I met her with my girlfriend. But again the years passed…I left the country…she went back home…changed cities…changed professions. This time luckily the technology had taken the leap and we were in better interactive stage than last time.

Recently I got to see her again, this time on a promise of a Royal Enfield ride back home. We met at a café where she reached before me. Dressed casually in a jeans and top with a tinge of reddish color to her hair…she was looking cool. It being lunch time and the café not serving any intoxicating beverages…we opted for a pizza and ice teas. We chatted and chatted about…life…jobs…not getting married…parents…pressures…everything. Her eyes brimmed a couple of times and I refrained and restrained myself again.

It gave me goose bumps when I realized how time flew and it’s been like two decades when we first shared the bench together. For a moment I felt as if we were those kids back from the school days. She told me about how she enjoys her single status by learning all kinds and forms of dance and how it has made her a dance freak…that I actually love.

The sun was about to set and she had a dinner plan…so finally we got on my Royal Enfield and headed home. I did not make any efforts to prove that I am lesser of an idiot now and again hugged her while sitting on the bike. Gifted her some chocolates, which I got from my eurotrip for her. While hugging her, my cheeks accidently felt her cheeks, which were already being kissed by her hair. For the first time I felt like kissing her…felt as if that moment should remain forever. She crossed the road and went inside her home…I was still standing in that moment…wishing her to come back. Would have got down from my bike…removed the hair strands playing with her face…embraced her nicely…looked into her deep dark eyes…made a promise to them that no tear of sorrow will ever hug them…all your worries are mine now…and…would have asked, “Will you be my Dance Partner for Life”?

For all those who were back bencher,

For all those who were first bencher,

For all those who still can’t convince her,

For all those who had a brat as their best friend,

For all those who never had any,

For all those who love her smile,

and

For all those who want her as their dancing partner for life

It’s not a GoodBye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE…aur han Happy Women’s Day to her and all the women out there as everyone is special and beautiful in their own way. Cheers!!!

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

13

The 28 ‘Something’ Bachelor

This Post is among the 12 Best Blog Posts of 2015 in India.

Best Blogposts of 2015


The 28 ‘Something’ Bachelor…

Are you 28 years old or above??
Are you single??
Do you get nervous these days before you login into social media with the fear of somebody posting a status or a pic of their engagement…marriage or even the birth of their child??
Are you avoiding paying a visit to your relatives??
Or are you simply fed up ducking the question of WHEN ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?? Then this one is truly for you.

Remember the famous dialogue from the Rani Mukherji starrer movie ‘Hum Tum’ where she ends up confronting, ‘Jab tak ek ladki ki shadi nahi ho jati…logon ko chain kyu nahi padta’ (why doesn’t anyone finds peace till the time a girl gets married) but I personally believe it holds true for everyone. I think life isn’t as easy as everyone thinks for boys even.

The Settle down logic

The moment you are in that age bracket everyone from your mausi (aunt) to your chachi (Another aunt)…from your milkman to even your maid ask or I should say poke you with the same question or to put it nicely with a caring suggestion, “Beta why don’t you get married now?” why don’t you settle down, as if I am a dust particle and the only motto of life is to settle down at a place. Unknown…Unseen…Unheard people appear from all corners of the world with their logic of why one should get married and they try to convince you with all their might. I think if you ask a person who has been married for let’s say about 50 years…I am sure he/she won’t be able to answer the question how can marriage be related to the concept whether a guy is settled or not?

Image ref: suburbanbachelor.wordpress.com

Image ref: suburbanbachelor.wordpress.com

‘Budhape ka sahara’  (Old age policy) 

If you try really…and I mean really hard to explain your side of the logic of why you are not getting married…some of them actually end up agreeing with you but then come up with their own philosophy of, ‘Beta!! We understand that these days marriages are not lasting as long as they used to but don’t think about the present…think a little ahead…think about the future when you will be 45-50 years old.’ ‘Then at that age you will surely need someone to share your morning walks and evening talks.’ But then how can one make these people understand that if anybody wants someone at that age then he/she can find someone of that age…at that age…rather than screwing up your life some twenty odd years before.

‘Responsibility se bhag rahe ho’ (You don’t want to shoulder your responsibilities)

The third most common ‘stirrer’ used by the world against you…or in other words for you to get married is that you are running away from your responsibilities and you don’t want to shoulder them. At times it angers me but most of the time it muses me when someone says this to my face…because the same people forget…what the hell a guy is doing when he tries to fulfill his parent’s dreams of becoming a successful person…how is he running away when he is the one who is already taking care of his parents and closed ones or will be taking care of you in your old age. According to these people the only logic which survives is that ‘if a guy is married…he is responsible otherwise he is just a loafer who is busy dodging bullets of responsibilities.’

‘Shadi ki ek age hoti hai’ (The right age for marriage factor)

Everybody has plans…and he might also have some plans…and marriage might not be on the cards on an immediate basis. Having said that, I know, there is a right age for marriage and if the plunge is not taken at the right time, it will surely have an effect on the ‘Quality’ of offspring but given the current lifestyle and the expenses of settling in a metro requires some planning…some savings and a lot of mental toughness. What if the guy is simply not mentally ready??? In any case these days’ people are deciding to get married at a later age when they feel that they have at least tried to cover all the corners.

‘Kab tak akele rahoge – khana kaun banayega’ (Till when you will stay alone…and for God sake who will cook for you)

I guess the day my mom realized that my dad can’t even put on a gas stove she decided that her son will be able to suffice all his cooking needs. Still the so called caring relatives…the ones whose life is already hell…try to make sure…yours is surely one too. ‘Now that you are already have a good job…a four-wheeler…and you have already booked a flat…why don’t you get married?’ ‘At least when you return from work someone will be there to share your day and more importantly till when will you cook by yourself.’ My logic, if I have to stay…’happily married’…in a big city…both the partners need to work to meet out the expenses and the expectations and in that case a maid needs to prepare the meals for both of us…so if I have to eat maid cooked food after marriage too…why not let me cook my meal…and stay… ‘Happily unmarried’ 😉 .

‘Duniya kya kahegi…jarur ussi me kuch kami hogi…baal bhi kam ho rahe hai’ (The world will think that there is surely something wrong with him only…and more importantly you are losing hair day by day)

If you take too much time to decide on your marriage…the world will think that there is certainly something wrong with you. Some may come up with wild medical guesses others will somehow link this to your old heartbreaks and believe me this definitely happens. Even your friends begin to taunt you, ‘bhai sab kuch thik hai na…kabhi field me cricket ball to nahi lag gayi’ (is everything totally fine with you medically). My simple reply to this is a silent…stern…smile.
Then there are the ones who really treat you as their son. The moment you reach their place they will have a newspaper cutting saved for you with new Ayurvedic hair oil, which can increase obviously your hair growth. And you slowly fold that paper…into your pocket…with a genuinely ‘fake’ smile…’Ji aunty main kal hi ye tel kharid leta hu’ (I’ll definitely buy this one tomorrow). But I don’t blame them only…it’s the ‘awesome’ mindset of our society that the moment a guy starts losing his hair…he is considered old…an uncle. I really pitied my cousin who had to get a hair transplant just to get married…sad.

The ones who have taken the plunge also begin to push

Even the ones with whom you have shared your childhood…your bruises…your secrets and your memories begin to push you to get married. Sometimes for the simple reason because they themselves don’t want to be the one who have to swallow the pill alone. ‘Yaar tu kab tak akela rahega…bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’. You call them in the middle of the night with some of your issues and the only resolve they will come up with is, ‘Bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’. You will say…these days I don’t find interest in office with the profile that I am handling…and their reply, ‘Bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’ (Dude!! Get married).

Infact these days…some of the long-lost friends ping me only, either to share their CVs so that I can refer them or to check on me…when I am actually getting married. My ‘bhabhis’ (Sister-in-laws) have found even a newer way to harass…every time I wish them…their only blessing is ‘Jaldi shadi ho bhaiya’ instead of ‘Jeete rahiye bhaiya’. I remember recently attending a school friend’s marriage and out of all the friends who turned up…I was the one who was single…but I guess that should not be the reason to get married…Right!!!

Image ref: prokod.com.tr

Image ref: prokod.com.tr

The Emotional Attyachar

The list will never end for the singles out there…but the last one…the big one…which I believe the parents use to get daughters as well as their sons married is ‘the emotional attyachar’ (the emotional blackmail). ‘Beta!! Hum marne se pehle pote-poti ka muh dekhna chahte hai’. It’s so pathetic that they use their death to blackmail their kid for marriage…leave alone their choice for the marriage. It’s so convenient for them…they decide all your childhood…they decide more or less what career you choose. I believe the decision with whom you want to spend your life with…whether you want to spend it with someone or not should be yours.

For all those who are going to ask me after reading this whether I am actually going to get married is, my reply would be, ‘Arrange marriage main karunga nhi…aur pyar humse koi karta nahi’

For all those who are 28 years old or more,

For all those who face similar issues,

For all those who are married,

For all those who are bachelors,

And

For all those who believe Singlehood is awesome

It’s not a GOODBYE,
But its a GOOD BYE…Aur han…Believe me I still believe in the institution of Marriage…

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

9

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter – 12

The PEN WARRIORS

The PEN WARRIORS

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter – 12

“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7Chapter 8, Chapter 9Chapter 10 and Chapter 11

The evil, which by now was sown in him, was growing in strength day by day. He wanted this madness that was swallowing him blink by blink…thought by thought…to come to a halt…to an end. It was becoming unbearable for him and with all those noises in his head…’that’ evil was on the verge of taking complete control of sense in his sane mind.

Shekhar got up from the sofa with urgency in his steps…pulled out his laptop from the laptop bag…but this time not to write something. He wanted to get on with ‘it’ as soon as possible. For the past three days…the hours he spent trying to find ‘particular’ information, were the only hours he spent on his laptop. His browser was over working with tabs open with every social media platforms that are out there. The whole scene had a frenzy look to it…as if a drug addict is searching for the last sniff. From Facebook to Twitter…from Instagram to Blogs…from Pinterest to Google+…he was hunting everywhere…searching desperately for that one clue. In fact he didn’t even spare Orkut in an attempt to reach him.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

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15 minutes back…

She put on her dancing shoes, as today…was Sunday, she didn’t had to go to school. Roohi was unusually happy today…was being her real self after a long time…her heart was smiling which her lips…her face was mirroring. She put on the latest number from a recent super hit. She was not the best dancer and she knew it too…but today…’who cared’. She was doing step after step…move after move without a single worry of anything. The next soundtrack started and she started too with big ‘Yaaaayyyyy’.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

15 minutes back…

To everyone’s surprise and for Roohi’s happiness…Tara decided to stay back at home today. Although it was a Sunday and she knew that the weekends are even more hectic than the usual working weekdays but she had to…had to take a break…for Roohi…and more significantly to get this money issue sorted out asap. She was in a pensive mood glaring at her bank accounts through online banking. ‘I will have to manage this huge amount someway or the other’, she reminded herself.

She checked her every bank accounts even the ones, which weren’t known to Shekhar and tried to hoard the amount in a single place…so that a single transaction would do the needful. A nervous sheen of sweat had formed on her temple by then. She made a quick glance to make sure whether any one was watching her…with what she was up to.

Ting tong…it was the doorbell…

The moment Roohi heard the doorbell…she hip-hopped towards the main entrance still humming the track that was interrupted by the doorbell. She saw her father with his laptop and tried to locate her mom…but she wasn’t visible behind the slightly open door of her room. She opened the main door with ‘Who is there’ cry to complement it. It was their neighbor, Aryan Ahuja. He picked up Roohi in his arms the moment he entered and in his peculiar way planted a kiss on her cheeks with his stubble stabbing Roohi’s soft pink cheeks. Roohi always hated him for doing that. She grunted, ‘Leave me Aryan Uncle…Leave me’. ‘My sweetie’, he said while letting her go. She immediately ran towards her mom’s room. Shekhar’s chain of thoughts, was brought to a stop by Aryan’s greetings. He immediately shut his laptop and greeted back to Aryan with his effervescent phony smile.

Mommy that Aryan uncle is here’, Roohi announced gasping for breath. Roohi made Tara to rattle out of her current wave of thoughts. With certain reasons of her own, Tara never seemed to be comfortable when Aryan was around…today he just added to nervy feel of the air surrounding her. She walked out to the living room and greeted him, with Roohi trying to playfully hide behind her. Moments later, the room suddenly went quite and it was the air conditioning, which turned out the loudest. Glances were exchanged with courteous smiles.

One look at Aryan…you knew he had something up his sleeves and he was not here just for a Sunday brunch. One look at Shekhar…and you knew he looked at Aryan with genuine friendliness and to whom he can always reach out in case of any help. One look at Roohi…and you could very easily make out her disliking to this ‘ever-kissing, stubble rubbing’ uncle. One look at Tara…and you knew she had some other plans with a clear sense of unease with Aryan’s presence…

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“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at BlogAdda.com. #CelebrateBlogging with us.”

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19

14

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 9

The PEN WARRIORS

The PEN WARRIORS

“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4 , Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7 and Chapter 8

Note: This Chapter was written by Mr. Anirudh Shetty…he wasn’t available because of some unavoidable circumstances so i am filling in by posting 🙂

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 9

The room was not very large and it didn’t help with stacks of newspapers piled and scattered everywhere. Dimly lit and windows bolted, the room was shut and had a distinct pesticide like smell. He sat at the center with newspapers stacked all around him. His eyes looked around the room, before it settled on a particular stack which seemed fresh.

He checked the date.
18 September, 2012.

He pulled the stack towards him and kept them on his lap. His eyes were now frantically scanning the paper, searching for something.

Indian Newshouse

He took it from the pile and read a few headlines of each page. On reaching the last page, he kept the sheet back.

Indian Daily

He pulled it by its ends and started reading at a faster pace. Few headlines, rest of it was small news articles squeezed between advertisements. He placed it back on the same pile again.

Times in India

He crumpled the papers now as he lifted the newspaper. His mind couldn’t register any words anymore and he was now searching for pictures. Many photos of accidents went by. He turned the pages but none seemed to fit his required criteria. He threw it carelessly.

Deccan Havoc

He tried lifting the next sheet by its edge, but he dropped it midway. Agitated, he threw the rest of the newspapers which were on his lap and he had reached his saturation a little too early today.
He extended his feet and kicked away the stacks in front of him. He fell back, keeping his arm below his head and stared at the ceiling.
He couldn’t read or search anymore.

Gathering 20-25 different newspapers from the newspaper stands spread across the city, and scanning them page by page for the expected news had become his everyday routine. Every morning for ten days now, he started this task with an excitement and ended it with disappointment.

The expected Headline was not there!! Oh how sure he was that night. After what he had seen, there were no doubts.

He closed his eyes and the scenes replayed in his vision.

The screeching of the tyres, BMW toppling and doing somersaults, the look on the driver’s face. At last the silence inside him with chaos and crowd around.

Business Tycoon found dead, drunk driving mishap
A Perfect Cover Story, yet missing in those worthless pieces of scrap called newspapers.

He was agitated, it was not that he wanted a show but he was looking for a proof.
He knew that there was no evidence, but he was searching for a testimony in those newspapers.- a confirmation!

Else what would I tell her?

His face twitched and he furiously scratched his chin. Did he survive? Did I bail out too early? I should have stayed to confirm maybe.

It didn’t seem logical that the news-hungry journalists could miss to cover the story of The Joseph Kurien’s accident. He would always be in the Business news section, It was now his time to find space in casualties, or at least an obituary.

He may not deserve veneration of an obituary, but in this fast-paced world which always goes behind money, it was not about what you deserve. Rather, it was all about what you could buy.

Interrupting his thoughts, he heard someone banging at his door.

Though startled, he remained quiet. He crawled into the bathroom, opening the door slightly and made way inside. He hid there.. till the visitors at the door were tired of banging.

Even after they were gone, he didn’t come out..

 

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19

18

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 4

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“Read the previous part of the story here – Prologue, Chapter 1, Chapter 2 and Chapter 3 “

Too Late For Atonement – Chapter 4

He was going insane…typing drafts after drafts but with no success. ‘This article has to come up this week otherwise I will lose this job too’, Shekhar thought, frantically typing at his keyboard. The thought of not being able to succeed at anything was now engulfing him day by day. He felt exasperated…never imagined that a day would come when he would be losing his ‘Midas’ touch to the only thing, he considered, he was good at…writing. Realising he was not going anywhere with the current one…he simply banged the laptop screen shut.

In a desperate need for a break…he took a shower…but the thoughts were not yet ready to spare him.

Seeing his reflection in the mirror, he notices what this Mumbai lifestyle…all this stress…all these EMIs…have given him – a receding hairline and more importantly what they have taken away – the genuineness from his smile. The smile never left him…but the sparkle and the truthfulness was now being replaced by the plastic and phony smile.

He put on a casual T-shirt, imprinted with ‘why so serious’ in blood and a joker in the background, along with his regular track pants. He picks up his specs…pours himself some coffee and walks over to the balcony of his high-rise overlooking the Powai Lake.

‘What has happened to me and above all who has done this to me’, his mind still lingered. The only rejoinder that came back to him every time he put this query to his literary mind was…’I myself’

His inability to make peace with his past…or their past…was now getting the better of him. ‘Did I make the right decision by quitting my job?’ he introspected. ‘Will this writing, no matter how good I may be with it, ever gonna take me anywhere’, he continued. ‘Some days I feel as if I am less of a writer and more of a home stay dad’, remembering the laughter of his friends from a friends’ birthday party. Those snide remarks…those passing comments behind his back was beginning to become painful for him…but still he kept that smile going.

In search of the wall clock…his eyes met their huge wedding portrait, which decorated their living room. He remembered how happy he was when he proposed to Tara. She was still pregnant with someone else’s child but he thought that his love was more than enough to overcome that feeling and sail through this lifetime.

‘Was it this that was taking his peace and sleep away’, a troubling thought queried him. ‘Or was it the fear of his wife again going infidel’, keeping him awake at nights. Or was it simply that he could never come to terms with his wife being ever so efficacious…climbing the ladder of accomplishments day by day…while he was on the same ladder…just was climbing in the reverse order. The ambience of such feelings and reflections…was embarking to distraught him…minute by minute…sec by sec.

Remembers what his mentor told him once…that creativity is at its peak…when someone is loneliest in his life. Initially, when Tara was not around he devoted more hours to his writing…the more Tara drifted away…the better he got at his craft, which was certainly giving a boost to his freelancing career. But today there was no success to be seen around…just unfinished documents and drafts and a lot of frustration looming over in the atmosphere.

Next to their portrait was a huge frame of a smiling and a chirpy face…their daughter…or Tara’s daughter. Finally a soothing thought. Roohi gave him that indispensable comfort. Shekhar walks over to her room. She was taking an afternoon nap after school. He walks over to her bed, sits just next to her taking all the precautions not to wake her up. He leant forward and kissed her hand before moving to her forehead and removing that naughty strand of hair, which was making her uncomfortable.

No matter how much he tried to lessen the effect of his past…their past…he was reminded of it whenever he looked at Roohi. On many occasions he found himself simply gawping at her and trying to find any feature, which resembled him…in his desperation. Even if she is not from my seed…what is this angel’s fault? Or is it…

He sensed a cocktail of rage; frustration, infidelity and failure rise within him. Those tender and caring eyes were now shadowing a tinge of evil in them. He felt that it is his past…or her past…that is making him uneasy and realised that he had to do something before this whale of distress and antagonism swallows him completely…

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“ Read the next part of the story here – Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9 Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12, Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16, Chapter 17, Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 

 

5

MADE for EACH OTHER

Made For Each Other

The screeching ringtone of my Nokia 3310 rattled me off my sleep…I disconnected and went back to sleep. The phone rang again… this time I made an effort to check who it was. With one eye closed and with the other one half opened…I tried to ogle at the name in the fluorescent green background. It was mom. I sprang up and sat at ninety degrees to the bed. I checked the time and it was 5 30 in the morning. I wondered why mom was calling me at this time. I answered the call… mom’s voice was shaking. “Please come to Ambala…he wants to see you”, was all she muttered in a feeble tone. I immediately realized that now is the time to go as his condition was very serious.

Mom was in her maternal home, Ambala. He was struggling with his life after a serious of paralytic attacks and prolonged illness. Mom didn’t talk for long but it was clear that the time had arrived for me to be there in his last days. I was at home in Lucknow during Holi break of 2005 and it was due in another three days. My father was still out of station. I informed my sister about the conversation with mom and told her that I will have to leave immediately. I, without even getting confirmed reservation…boarded a train to Ambala. It took me twelve long fretful hours to reach there.

My parents had parted ways some three years ago…and hence it became more so important for me to be around him in those days. As soon as I reached Ambala…mom came running towards me…started crying…hugged me…and immediately took me to his room. I saw a longing in his eyes…as if he was waiting for something…or I should say ‘for someone’. Mom told me that, “off late he has developed this habit of looking towards the entrance in anticipation of your father”. “He is really worried for me and wanted to see you before he finally rests in peace”, she continued. “He thinks that your father will have a change of heart and will surely pay him a visit in his last days”, she added. The doctors had given up any hope of recovery and they informed us that he barely had a week with us. He was my maternal grandfather.

The next day as soon as I woke up… I was at his bedside… and decided to spend all my time with him. He wanted to speak continuously but because of his medical condition he was struggling with words. I advised him not to talk a lot but he kept on insisting. His eyes guided me towards a packet of candies which was kept on an old small wooden table near the bed. He told me that he distributed candies and sweets every day without fail to kids after my maternal grandmother had passed away. People made monuments…wrote books…donated money…did many extravagant things in their lover’s memory…but this was his way of remembering and paying a tribute to his love, my grandmother. I was moved by his love…and don’t know how but ended up blabbering, “How did it all start between you and grandma”?

He glanced towards me and then turned his gaze towards my grandma’s picture that was hanging on the opposite wall. With flickering eyes…trembling hands…quivering and broken words he began…

I was born in Plassi village near Nangal in Punjab on 28th august 1932 to Sardar Shyam Singh and Kushal kaur. My father was a railway engine driver. We were financially quite well off compared to other fellow Indians in those days. We had a good home accompanied by large farms and real estate properties. My childhood was decent and got educated up to eighth standard, which was considered fine especially in the pre-independence era. It was not long before I was asked to marry, as the practice of child marriage was very much prevalent in those days. I was just eleven years old when I married your grandmother, Bibi Charan Kaur.

These days you people have all kinds of communication mediums, from telephones to computers…from emails to SMSs. You people at least meet each other…get to know each other…try to understand each other… before you get married. Can you imagine my plight, a boy who is yet to reach his teens…who is yet to even understand what is right and what is wrong…who is in sixth standard…who doesn’t even wear any undergarments (he told me frankly that he didn’t wear any undergarment till he got married) is asked to marry some stranger. Honestly, I didn’t feel anything…I was too small to. I was simply delighted to get the amount of attention and pampering that I was getting and the sweets and the ‘laddoos’ that followed. Everything happened so swiftly that by the time I realized what was actually happening, I was married to a girl whom I had never ever seen before.

I don’t remember the exact date but I recollect that it was around 9:30 am on a Thursday that we got married in a nearby ‘Gurudwara’. I was not even dressed properly for such an occasion. I was wearing an off-white shirt with brown vertical lines and dark brown trousers with a turban of the matching colour. She was dressed in a dark pink ‘Patiala Salwar-Kameez’. Her face was not visible but from her hands I was able to guess her complexion. “I was actually fairer than her”, he said with a naughty smile. If today I have to describe her then I would say that, even before her adolescence, she was looking very pretty and cute as if she was a ‘Punjabi Barbie’.

She was about eight years old when she tied the knot with me. Till today, I don’t know what was her exact birth date…all I know is that it is somewhere around 1935. She was also from Nangal in Punjab. Her father, Sardar Bachint Singh, was a ‘Lambardar’ (a term that doesn’t exist today but in those days it was related to panchayat). She was the lone survivor of the thirteen children that her mother gave birth to and hence she got lots of love and affection from her parents. The first time when I laid my eyes on her face, obviously after marriage, I saw that she was very naïve and innocent. As the days passed by I noticed other virtues that she possessed. I felt she was very tender and caring. She was a very hard working and dedicated family woman. She was brave and courageous but at the same time she respected everyone and obeyed everything what my mother ordered. She was an awesome cook too and prepared meal for the whole family without any help. I loved the ‘Gulabjamuns’ that she specially prepared for me.

We were too little to understand friendship or love of any kind leave alone the whole concept of marriage. But I must admit she really helped me through this. We started spending time together…began to know each other…I shared whatever I did in the whole day…she listened to whatever I had to say. She never complained about anything…just carried on with her daily chores with total devotion and then had an ear for me whenever I needed her. My mother never used to like her…she had a sense of dictatorship to her and she was always tetchy about one thing or the other. She was abusive and sometimes even hit your grandma…but a lady like your ‘Bibi’ (we all used to call her ‘Bibi’) enriched with virtues…suffered through everything…swallowed every abuse and punishment that was dished out at her without even uttering a single word. No one ever heard her raised voice against anyone…she didn’t even share all this with me then and it was when she was about to leave me for heaven that I came to know about all this. Soon we became friends…good friends.

From day one, my mom was extremely cruel to her. When I now think of it…I end up smiling as there were some incidents when your Bibi got the better of her, without even taking a single step against her. Bibi was incredibly fond of tea but my mother always deprived her of that too. Just to cope up with her addiction Bibi used to swallow tea leaves and sugar and consume hot water after that. This maddened my mother even more. It was normal for women to be confined and restricted in those days… but my mother was simply too much for anyone.

I still remember clearly that day…I guess two to three years into our marriage. I was done with my studies as my mother wanted me to take care of farms and help in farming. We (Bibi, my mother and me) were at one of the farms and working. It was late in the afternoon after the lunch that my mom started abusing her on some issue. She kept on hurling abuses at Bibi and her family but she didn’t even say a single word. This infuriated my mother even more. Before I could intervene…In the fits of fury she got hold of a thick bamboo and thrashed Bibi’s head with it. There was blood everywhere…her head was busted…and soon she fell unconscious. I, along with other farmers, took her to a nearby medical facility. This event was the biggest twist in our love story…actually you can say that this is where the seeds of our timeless love were sown.

(Just about then my mom entered and asked me to have lunch with my grandfather. She thought this way he will have something substantial for the medicines, as he was not having proper meals due to illness. He barely managed to have one chapatti. I asked him to take some rest for a while. Around 5 in the evening…he again continued from where he left off…)

Her parents took her home along with them after that incident. They wanted to end all ties with us because of my mother’s never ending brutality. By this time we developed a special bond between us and we were beginning to understand each other. I became a kind of rebel and revolted against my mother. My father loved me very much and was always supportive of your Bibi. He motivated me to leave the home…get a good job… and become someone of reputation on my own. I decided to leave home and go to Ambala in search of a livelihood and to try to get her back with me. When I was moving out of my parents shadow, I never realized that my biggest test…or I should say our relationship’s…our marriage’s…our love’ biggest examination was yet to come.

She decided that she was not going to leave me alone in this battle and made up her mind to support me in whatever manner she possibly could. Her parents were adamant not to let her go this time, so it was all left up to her to help me save money. In order to cut down on my expenses… she stitched clothes for me with bare hands, I hope you know that sewing machine had not yet reached Indian homes. She made suits, shirts, trousers, sweaters and what not… all without anyone’s help…with her bare hands. She tried to save every single penny that could have been saved.

There were days…and weeks…and months when we were not able to meet or hear from each other… and then there were seconds…minutes…and precious moments which we did get to spend with each other after all the limitations that were put on us and especially on her. My friend, Karam Singh, and her friend, Karamjeet, helped us a lot during those struggling days. With Karamjeet’s assistance she came to one of her farms… and waited for me… sitting on a tree for hours ‘n’ hours. When I did finally arrive, Karam Singh and Karamjeet kept a close careful watch to make sure that we were never caught. It was during these seldom meetings that I began noticing how beautiful and wonderful she actually was. I never really mentioned it to her that during these instants I literally thanked God for actually making my parents marry her. She was an illiterate but she was still as brilliant as an engineering graduate today with abundance of boldness and commonsense. During those days only I realized that our unique bond was now tied with ubiquitous love which made us inseparable.

By then India was granted Independence but our country was left in a very corrupt state. I decided to go to Delhi and stay with my cousin and look for some job. You won’t believe when I’ll tell you that I walked barefoot two hundred kilometres from Ambala to Delhi. There I applied daily for various job positions but since I had nothing to pass under the tables or anyone to vouch for me, I returned empty handed every day. One fine day I was noticed by Hari Kishan Shastri. He walked up to me and asked me about my whereabouts and my purpose of everyday being there. When I told him about the entire situation… he understood… and took matters in his own hand. He made me meet Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri, who was the railway minister then.

Her prayers… her efforts… my hard work… my knowledge… and our love did pay off and in the spring of 1954, I was appointed as a train clerk in Ambala for a meagre salary of rupees 60 by Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri. It might sound very less but it was more than enough for me to get my life… my love…my Charan back.

Time flew and few years passed by…

By 1960, she had given birth to our third child. I knew that it was time for me and my salary to get a raise… but for that I needed some decent educational qualification. She encouraged me to go for studies but to leave the job at that time with three kids would have been like committing suicide. She came up with an idea. In those days there was a new concept of night classes. She got me registered to one such class and made me sit with children half of my age. She was the sole motivation for me to study further and I did. With the help of those night classes I successfully cleared tenth standard. I know you will be laughing after hearing this…but in the sixties, just to pass tenth standard or to be able to put a signature in English or moreover to even understand English was considered an achievement and it surely fetched me respect in the society.

Difficult times lasted longer while merrier times just came in short spurts but they surely existed. We were huge fans of the movie ‘Mughal-e-Azam’. It was an epic in itself and the kind of romance that was portrayed in it surpasses the best what today has to offer. I am not sure but I would have watched it more than twenty times with Bibi. I used to go the cinemas even at 4 am just to be the first one in the ticket queue and still found people standing there earlier than me. But let me assure you, none of the shows would have been so much fun and joy if she wouldn’t have been there with me in them.

I didn’t speak to my mother for twelve years but during each of Bibi’s pregnancies I always wished her to be there. I cannot even describe what all pains she took to raise my children… to take care of them… to take care of me. She gave birth to a child in the morning… then by the evening she was again busy with the daily chores. Whether good or bad, my mother received every news about us through our relatives but somehow after all those years… her hatred towards Bibi never shrivelled.

(Mom brought the dinner but he refused to have it and wanted to continue telling me the story)

Five more kids later and some ten years down the lane…

During the 1971 Pakistan war, I simply saw a different quality in her. I knew that she was valiant and fearless but I could never imagine that she could go to such an extent. Because of an emergency she had to travel to Nangal. It was a four hours train journey from Ambala. I was astonished and shocked to see that she travelled all alone in that train as people refrained from using public transport vary of the Pakistan bombardments. It, even to this day, gives me ‘Goosebumps’ just to admire and accept this feat of hers.

After the war in the early seventies everything went quite smooth and okay. But destiny as always had some other plans. In 1975, I was transferred to Bhatinda. I was the sole earner of the family with a loving wife and eight kids. She asked me not to go to Bhatinda and stay with them. I was suspended for not obeying the orders. She said we could start something of our own but you don’t have to leave us and go to Bhatinda. She purchased two goats and started selling their milk. The money was slow but sure. In few months time… we had a herd of cows and buffalos. I was not contributing much; in fact I became a reason for most expenditure and because of me they kept on increasing. I fell severely ill during the summer of 1976. On her own only, she kept me and my family going. I realized that my love towards her increased several folds… and I actually began respecting her which was not how women were treated in those days.

In 1977, due to some turn of events and our good fortune I got my job back and that too in Ambala. I married my daughters and invested in my children’s studies. We went from strength to strength. From a struggling poor household we now had good income sufficient enough to fulfil each and every of my child’s dream.

His eyes began to glitter…and suddenly they turned moist (I saw). He continued, “I guess it was 1987 or 1988 when she suffered from an unknown disease”. No doctor was able to cure her; they even failed miserably at identifying the disease itself. Her body became dead from below the waist. Her legs became numb forever (and the tears touched his pillow). It was as if God wanted me to take care of her and do my little bit for what all she gave me…and did for me. I read newspaper to her…washed her clothes…bathed her…fed her…and did everything possible in human limits to make her feel alive and cheerful. But I guess it was too much for her, she had suffered enough. She was born just to take care of others…love them…make them strong and above all believe in themselves. Her love gave me courage…was my support…and strengthens me even till today. If it was not for her…then I would have died long back. On 8th July 1992, she left me all alone forever. You know, till the day she was alive, she made it sure that we had dinner in the same plate and that is the reason why I hate having dinner without her.

I got up wiped my tears…wiped his tears…kept my hand on his forehead and requested him to please go to sleep. I don’t remember when I, sitting next to him, fell asleep.

Ref: 123greetings.com

Ref: 123greetings.com

I felt a hand rubbing my hand. It immediately brought me to senses. He asked me what time it was…I replied it was 3 am…I enquired if he needed anything? He gently smiled…took a pause…and whispered… “Ikk Gulabjamman khila de” (get me one gulabjamun). I resisted…but his weak eager eyes made me get one for him. He had it like a six year old…wished me ‘Happy Holi’… looked at Bibi’s picture… and with a smile on his face… fell asleep. At about 4:55 am on 24th march 2005, he left us for heavenly abode to be with his love…his best friend…his everything…his Charan.

For all those who love their Grandparents,

For all those whose grandparents have such a story,

For all those who have grandparents still with them,

For all those who don’t have theirs with them,

For all those who miss them,

And

For all those who want a story like this for them

It’s not a GOODBYE…

But it’s a GOOD BYE… aur han go to your grandparents and ask if they have such a story to share with you.

Manas ‘SAMEER’ Mukul