July 22, 2013

A Lot Like Love?

We all have loved, at some point of time.
We all have lost, too, at some point of time.

The luckiest of us have made it already. Few of us have changed courses. A lot of us have been hanging by a thread. Some are still figuring out what to do.

The idea of love is as cloudy to us since we heard about it the first time on TV. If you are a girl, you might have seen DDLJ a dozen times, played in your mind how your soulmate would bump into you in a train in Europe.If you are a boy, you might have stood outside a certain girl's tuition classes to catch a glimpse of her.

From those days when we had half-baked dreams and pimples to now, when almost all of you out there are either looking for, losing or fighting for love; we need to know..things change.

It starts with rainbows and butterflies. You hide the cellphone from your mother. You pretend there is no girl, in front of your father. You type out lousy emoticons because you fall short of words to express to your special one. Your phone has a contact saved as "," or "@".
You start saving pocket money and remembering dates on the calendar.Your friends think you're acting like a blithering idiot but you are more happy than embarrassed.
There is always a window blinking with new messages. SMSes flood your inbox. Your phone needs top-ups every week. Books are opened and closed after hours, without turning a single page.
The last page of your notebook has a name that has been scribbled over to avoid scandal in the classroom.

You look into the mirror in the morning and touch up your make up a few extra times. That messy haircut is gotten rid of. Metallica is replaced by Backstreet Boys in your playlist. Some perfectly grown up person in the world has suddenly become your "baby".
You talk for hours and your battery cries and dies in writhing pain. You charge it up and sit tethered, close to a safe plug point and talk some more. Seems lame when you look back at yourself years later but it's really important when it's being done.
Teddy bears and roses and cuff links are bought and sold all over the town.

Time goes by and the rainbows start fading. The butterflies look like moths and the garden of love looks weedy. Those eyes don't seem magical anymore. That hairstyle looks hideous to you. You find a couple of more "punctuation marks" saved on your partner's phone and all hell breaks loose.
Your parents wonder if it's the hormones or peer pressure when they hear you screaming within your room. Some gladiators among us break objects. Some dramatic ones wail into a pillow. Some head for the bar. Some slash their wrists. Valentine's Day is creepy now. Birthdays are forgotten. Phones are switched off to avoid that special someone.
You unfriend him/her when you have been hurt. Yet you stalk them online, hoping to see them miserable without you. You never grow up.

Still further in life your priorities change. Love is no more about dates and Valentine's Days or teddy bears. Now you can't take work pressure and relatonship problems and worries of future all at the same time.
You bend, often break. You snap, often at the people you supposedly love. You rethink your entire life and the choices you made.
You are attending weddings before you know it and you know your turn is coming up. If you have made through all this, you still fall apart when the families don't agree. You don't know whose side to take: the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, or the people who brought you into the world and raised you to be who you are today. Some crumble, some elope, some give up and take the easy way out. Before you realize, it's no longer a fairy tale. You are struggling to move on/ start over. Sometimes you walk back make amends. Some times it works, other times it doesn't. You lose hearts and you break them.
If you're lucky you are back to the rainbows. But then, very few are that lucky.

Things change, people change. Priorities change and everything else does, in due time.

You still made it further, and managed to tie the knot. The honeymoon went great and you have albums full of memories. But now you feel that's all there is. There are bills and mortgages and in-laws gnawing at you. There is a kitchen that needs cleaning, a house loan that needs to get paid. You work hard to make ends meet and are planning ten years into the future. You keep wondering how your own Mom and Dad dealt with it and go back to them for advice. Meanwhile some where a bunch of people are waiting for a grandchild/niece/nephew. You don't know what to do once again.
Career is going downhill at one end and there is a leak in the bathroom pipe. Between the two you don't have time to tell your wife she looks beautiful. And amidst the job, housekeeper and kids, you don't have the mindset to prepare your husband's favorite dish once in a while. Egos clash, unkind words flow and you think that DDLJ was the stupidest movie you ever saw in your lifetime.
By the time you have figured out what has happened, you have a kid who has a contact saved as "QTpie" on the phone and is bunking classes.

A meeting can wait for a few minutes. A TV can be turned off to listen to someone. A call can be taken during lunch. A message can be sent once in a while to find out how he/she is. 
Maybe she shouted at you because she had a bad day at college. Maybe he didn't take your call because he was with his boss. Maybe she is just emotional, not a psycho. Maybe he is silent because he's hurt, not egoistic. We have to spare a moment to understand the people we value.

Love is not for the impatient. It's not for the weak-hearted. It takes you, breaks you and makes you into a new person, often a better person if you've loved the right one.
And you often don't realize that your family has taught you the kind of love that lasts, the kind that movies don't teach you. You need to share that with the people you add to your life, along with the people you already have in it.

Life is short, though it doesn't seem so. You never know what will happen next, that's for sure. You don't want the last words to you guy to be "I wish I never met you!", before something happens to either of you.
You don't want to come home with roses a day too late, and find out that she has packed and left for good.

It is not always a garden of roses, it is a complete mess sometimes, waiting for you to get up and clean it up, together. It's for those who can admit mistakes, who can be honest and accept. Those who can take the sunshine and the rain alike. If you have not found that person, keep looking. If you are not sure if this is the person, get out. If you have someone and something's wrong, fix it. 

The tiniest things you do can save the rainbows that grow old with you.

Love is always there, you need to bring it to the people around you. You may not know, but they need it as much as you do, maybe more.

May 7, 2011


"Parul!!", I heard Nilima screaming my name from somewhere. I felt myself disobeying her and walking in the opposite direction.
"Come back here! The bus is about to leave!" I heard some other voice calling after her. I sensed my feet taking steps towards a familiar bench in the college campus. I heard the voices dying down and the buses driving away. I sat down in the shade of the tree and glanced at my watch. He should be here any minute now. 

It seemed like I had been sitting there for ages but no one came.
I felt absurd thoughts coming to my mind while leaves decayed and dropped on me and the sun set down...
Why hasn't he come yet? Am I alone in the campus? How do I get back home? I have an assignment to finish and submit tomorrow morning! How do I get back home?

Suddenly in the distance I see the silhouette of a tall figure walking towards me through the twilight. I feel a sense of deep relief and anger at the same time.
I see him coming and I start shouting at him, he stands still.."You know how long I've been waiting?? You're not supposed to leave me alone like this, you know that?!"
He smiles and absorbs my abuse, which he always finds sweet rather than annoying. I realise he's looking as cute as ever in the same shirt he wore on the day we first met.
I don't let that dilute my fake exasperation and I continue scolding him. All of a sudden he turns and walks away. He waves as he goes and doesn't turn in spite of my frantic shouts. Somehow even I'm not able to go after him. He fades into the twilight just as he came and it turns dark. He's gone! How am I supposed to go back home?

I wake up with eyes bloodshot and body shuddering. I feel my head reeling and realise I am breaking down into uncontrollable sobs. It turn and look at the clock to my bedside: 5.23 AM. I turn and look to the other side: an empty side of the bed. An unused pillow. I bury my head into the pillow and cry till I drain out all I can...

It's 11 in the morning when my eyes open again. My head feels heavy. My heart feels heavier. My spirit feels heaviest. I wish there was one hour each day instead of twenty-four, so that I could spend the remaining 50 years of my average life expectancy in...what would that be...fifty times one times three-hundred and sixty five hours....still a lot of time to spend alone. There was no work to do today, and it has been the same since around a month. No alarm set at 6 AM,  no hurry to prepare breakfast for two and lunchbox for one. No keeping the shirt and trousers pressed neatly. No tea in the bed and newspaper by the bedside for my lazy husband. I lied motionless on the bed, thoughts and scenes circulating through my head...

         "Wake up, Pari!"
         "Yeah....5 mins more....lemme sleep...shoo..."

         "Aww...aren't you cute?! now get up and get me bed tea."
         "Get it yourself. ...can't you do it for jus' one day, mister?", I mumbled in irritation.
         "Pleeeejjj", he said with a protruded lower lip, "Plijplijplij!!"
         "Okay! Stop it!!" I laughed and left him there, and he winked and hogged my pillow and snuggled deeper into the blankets.

I could watch him all day sleep like a baby, holding one of my hands and hugging a pillow, all at the same time; as if he'd get lost on the bed without both. I'd give anything to watch him sleep next to me today. I'd give anything to have him here with me...today...any number of teas and breakfasts in bed..whatever he asked for..
Tears flowed again..

I didn't enter the kitchen these days. There was no one to cook for. Me, I don't remember when I ate last..... my mother told me I was looking really sick and deprived. In spite of a million persuasions I refused to go back with her, but promised to come down after I came to terms with Abhijit's ...departure....till then I needed to be by myself. I promised I wouldn't take my own life...he wouldn't have liked it..she was relieved but she was in doubt. But thought it was best to not disturb me further against my will.

The mirror showed me what I couldn't believe, a tear-stained face and drooping red eyes, my features had never looked so ugly before. For a moment I couldn't recognize myself. No wonder Mom was panicky! I look horrendous! For a split second I thought, Abhi shouldn't see me like this and almost started clearing up my face when I again realised that he wouldn't.

Papers and letters lied untouched on the study table...mostly related to Life Insurance and claims. Some medical reports. Some official documents of his that I couldn't make sense of. They all had typewritten statements of how he died, but none of them mentioned when he'd come back...

My wardrobe had a few additions in white and deletions of colours. So many other things had lost colour that the fabric mattered the least now.

I sat down on the sofa and turned on the TV. Led by some instinct, I switched to the Discovery Channel, like I usually did, and he'd come out of his study and settle down on my lap while watching life in the rain forests of Africa or vegetation at the Coral reefs in the Pacific. I'd gently massage his scalp while he'd be engrossed in the polyps and sea urchins, but would immediately react if I stopped.
I turned up the volume, still expecting he'd hear his favorite show beginning and come out of somewhere. No one came...
I turned the TV off...tears flowed again..

The scorching sun slowly started going down, as I stood watching the street  from my window, where the kids came out to play after school hours. I hadn't left the house in days...not since Abhi's accident. I hadn't seen the neighbours after the funeral. I didn't answer the doorbells or phone calls anymore, but they were relieved to see the shades of the windows going up and down, signalling that I was 'fine'. 
The kids cackled with happiness as they played...for a brief moment I smiled when I remembered something..

     "I want a daughter. I want only ONE daughter. Period.", he said, playing with my fingers. I loved it when he did that.
     "Why? What if we have a boy?", I asked, watching how nicely my hand always fit into his, and our fingers locked as if meant to be.
     "No...no ..not a boy, Parul. Just one girl. Cute, little baby girl. Your beauty and my brains."
     "Why not a boy?"
     "Arey...they are so messy, baba..they scribble with crayons all around the house walls, they keep falling off bikes, they keep splashing in mud and catching frogs...they always stand outside classrooms and lag in studies...always restless and destructive...so many reasons! A baby girl on the other hand will sit quietly in one place in a pink frock and piggy-tails, with a Barbie doll, all day looking unimaginably cute. So, a girl. Period."
     "Ha ha....that we can do to a boy, too, but then I can't say much about his future..", I heard his laughter echo through my head...my own laughter tinkling in tandem with his. Bliss..happiness..


The clock struck six.
It was time when other husbands came back home to their wives. Cars came driving back from work and backing into their respective garages. Our car didn't come back to the garage that day. Neither did my husband...

Somewhere in the distance I could hear a clock ticking...slowly, and time wouldn't pass. The silence was deafening.
There was this emptiness that wouldn't go away...a void that would remain no matter how you tried to fill it up. I tried to stop thinking and flipped open my cell phone which I had thrown against the wall a few days back. Thankfully it still worked fine when I put the pieces together. It was weird not finding missed calls or SMSs from his number any more, a habit I didn't seem to grow out of. I wondered if I should change the wallpaper now. The picture of us together, both smiling in it like this is going to be forever, was stinging my eyes again. But I let it be...
I went to the Inbox and read the last one I had received from him:

'Booorriinnggg day at work baby, really tired, miss u..wish i was home :( wat r u up2? lunch was awesome, ur finally a gud cook ;) luv u. c u in evng <3'

I smiled. From Abhi's messages no one  could guess how long we'd been together. The same cute SMSs since the days of our early love that blossomed during college, till five hours before he would never message again...the same amount of affection in each one, knowing how important these little things were to me.....frequent messaging and calls every couple of hours.
Some days he would forget. I'd be very upset then and refuse to take his calls when he tried to make up.
He'd repeatedly call me till I picked up, and promise me he'd never forget again. Dozens of sorries later, I'd forgive him.
I thought of all the times when I ignored his calls and gave him the silent treatment. Somewhere inside me I had the urge to hit myself, thinking of all the precious moments I had lost, when I could have heard his voice, heard him say my name, heard him laugh, heard him say a thousand times that he loved me..

      "What if I die? What will you do, sweets?"
      "Come after you. Follow you around like a Vodafone pig."
      "Haan, whatever."
      "C'mon, seriously!" 
      "Remarry, of course! I'll get lonely you know!"
      "Get a pug, then! Or better still....I should leave around some thousand chits and letters here and there to keep you busy...'PS I love you' style...what say?"
"Wreally...tell me then, what should leave behind to make you feel better if something happens to me?" 
     "Shut up." 
     "Tell me tell me tell me...What if I die first??" 
     "Shut up!", he said and hugged me tight. I remember being scared by the tone of his voice back then.

This was no 'PS I Love You'. He didn't get the time to leave any hope behind. And the things that he did leave behind were too heavy a burden to carry for me.

It was already 10 in the night and I still hadn't done much throughout the day, except brooding over things. I knew these would only pull me further down, but I had to live with it. There is no way you can erase someone from your memories after spending half your life with him. If I had to follow the classic technique of getting rid of his things so that they wouldn't provoke memories, I'd have to burn the whole house down.

There was his presence everywhere. There was a strong absence, too.
The favorite cup he always had his tea in. His shirt thrown on the chair. Shoes lying in the corner of the room. His watch on the desk. Notes scribbled in his handwriting pasted on the door of the fridge. The books he loved neatly arranged on the shelves. The ring I wore on my finger. His backpack on the sofa. His spectacles on the study table. The photos in the frames. The marks I got on my hands during a playful banter in the kitchen when hot oil charred my skin in a minor accident. The left side of the bed. The sheets he used to sleep on. His CD collection. The walls in the house that he had painted himself. The aquarium he loved.

He's left everything he loves here, in this house. Wherever he is, he's certainly missing his belongings. Suddenly this thought strikes my mind...he can't sleep without my touch. He can't eat vegetarian food. He needs to be pampered like a baby all the time. He must be missing his books, there were quite a few he hadn't finished reading. He's too clumsy to take care of his own..He's not happy...he's not in peace...he's without me...he can't live without me..if there is life after death, then both of us need to be living the same life together, that was what I promised him...to follow him like a Vodafone pig pug...

My hand involuntarily reaches out to the bottle of sleeping pills I had hidden from sight. I drain them down with cold water, and try not to think much in the next few minutes as sleep overtakes me.
The window shades won't go up tomorrow, the neighbours will know. I won't be dead and decaying, that's a good thing.
Ma will understand. That I need to go..She'll not cry too much, I hope.
This will be the first night, since he left, without nightmares, particularly the one from the first day we met in college, where he left me waiting without a bus to go home...

I can sleep peacefully today, even if the left side of the bed is empty..

Half in sleep, half delirious, I think I have texted something to his number: 

'C u in mrng. luv u. gn :-* '

May 6, 2011

Dead Line

Click, Click...clickclickclick...

I try to shut down the slow PC in irritation when the clock strikes 9 in the night.
Another frustrating day at work...uncountable volumes of emails flooding my inbox, more than half of them having my name in To:,demanding immediate action on my part with subject lines  
screaming out urgency. The ones having my name in Cc: also sit in my Inbox helplessly because the person in To: gives a damn...

The CPU whirrs and doesnt seem to die as soon as I want it to....I kill it with a five-second press on the Power button. A sinister smile creeps on my face, like I avenged it for having made my day  
I thought to myself as I waited beside the lift ..."Good god, what was this routine I have fallen into? Is life all about mouse clicks and MS Office now? How many lunches have I skipped? How many  
breakfasts have I missed? 4 cups of coffee a day from the vending machine was all I had one day! What is this life!?! Nothing but deadlines!"
The lady embedded in the elevator moans again..."Ground Floor..Please close the door"...repetitively...I feel like pulling the woman out of the walls and slapping her real hard.

Life wasn't like this before..There was time. There was hope, there was the enthusiasm to wake up and live life each morning. There was no worry about missing the bus to college because there  
would always be a friend who'd stop the bus midway till you caught up. These days no one cares. Everyone wants the others to miss the bus.

        And then you could laugh at a joke..you could crack a joke..you could show sadness, you could show anger...you could avoid people you didn't like, or get close to the ones you did. You knew people  
by faces and names..not by their email addresses or employee IDs. Your smile didn't use to be so plastic.
       Now mornings are dull. You wake up, look at the watch and wish you didn't have to wake up and go get dressed. You wish you could have five more minutes of sleep, your mother keeping your  
morning tea beside your bed, and nudging you from sleep. You wish it was that sort of a morning which makes you want to wake up and embrace the day. But what days? They all seem the same  
now...days of the week no more have names, it's either a working day or a weekend you have on your calendar.

        I look at my face in the mirror each morning and seem to age by the day....I look at the newspaper while sipping the cold bitter tea, a page features a young executive all bright and bushy, carrying  
a fat briefcase full of dreams fulfilled by an education loan from some bank. I find myself not relating to the model in the advertisement in any damn way, and turn the page away. I'm getting late...
          The moment you step out into the city, people barge past you. Thousands like me all around, each sharing common woes but not having the time to recognize the commonality. Every ID card (I call it  
'Noose with a nameplate') hanging around different necks seems to mark us out, pathetic people with boring jobs, trying to make themselves count in some industry..

               Your best friend in this phase of life weighs around 100 g...may or may not be 3G enabled, but loses its battery life everyday to keep you connected: to family, to love, to work, to friends....
Or when everyone else is gone plays the FM/MP3 to cheer you up. I love my phone now, like I have loved no one else before.

              When after all the trouble of making it to the gates of your workplace is over, I stand and wonder...What if I turn back and leave? The organization wouldn't crash with me missing for 9 hours, would 
 it? The crowd behind me doesn't give me the time to wonder any longer, and I move ahead.
If it was college, I could have implemented something called a "bunk" without leading to HR issues.

The 12 hours of misery start there and then...the noise of elevators singing...the cramping of 20 people into each one, getting out, getting in....I realize I have spent much more time traveling  
vertically in the past couple of years than horizontally in all my life.

          You walk in through the building, greeting everyone whether you want to or not. They give you a corporate template for making anyone's day by saying: "Goodmorning, 'First name'!" with a smile  
that can give hope to the dying. The speaker and the listener both know it is most unnecessary, but the ritual is carried out each day, without fail.

The day crawls by, slowly...the clock at the corner of the desktop seems to be showing the same digits all the time. The printer prints, the monitors flicker, the vending machine churns out coffee  
beans in a messy heap, I feel like a little crushed bean in the disposed heap as I fill up a paper cup with Cappuchino...

Calls keep coming, extensions keep buzzing...discussions keep going, mails flow...things are prioritized, and deprioritized, people share Excel sheets more than feelings..."Minutes" are no longer  
relevant to time, but meetings..

I look at my own handwriting scribbled in a notepad and fail to recognize it. Back in college it used to be beautiful...I realize I havent lifted a pen anything except putting down a signature in a long,  
long time....

A poster on the remote notice board beckons employees to take guitar lessons, or salsa classes, or karate sessions....many a people who once loved strumming their guitar walk past it...people who   
loved to dance don't have a second to spare for the notice, Black Belts now come with a Blue Tie...no one cares...no one has the time...there's work to do, lot of it...

Your existence is lost among Word Docs and presentations...You Copy whenever you inhale, and Paste everytime you exhale...
I look at myself...trapped inside a 4 by 4 cubicle...a seemingly ergonomically well-designed armchair that swivels, bends back, goes up or down, but doesn't prove good for the health; doesn't add  
anything but flab to my body after spending 9 hours in its lap..

The PC looks at me and I look back at it with disgust....for having it shoved in my face: the instrument provided to me for displaying all skills I have acquired, all knowledge I have gained, and  
showcasing what I received in 20 years of education behind me...with this one tool...sheesh!!

               I relax by sending and receiving forwarded emails...with subject lines like..."Amazing nature snapshots", "Tips to avoid Carpal Syndrome", "Amazing Love story", "Open only if you can fwd this!!!!!", 
 to "Corporate cartoons that can make you laugh!! :D"...I open the last one.....and find myself somewhat resembling the characters...
I close the mailbox in a hurry when my supervisor walks by....these will be the parameters considered when you're evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5....
                 I find it funny, how your performance gets more broadly categorized as you grow up...from 1 to 100 in school....to a grade system from 1 to 10 during graduation....and finally ending up on a scale as  
narrow as 1 to 5...which generally means, that in a thousand,if you are rated three,  there are at least 500 other people working as good as you, 300 better than you, and 200 doing worse...really  
funny if you come to think of it.... 

You can't find a moment to spare a look at your family photo pinned up against the wall of the cubicle, or the idol of God you placed beneath the LCD monitor the first day of a job you thought would define you...Your bottle of water supposed to be filled up remains empty till you get the time...
Work comes and gets completed, deadlines get met, some get extended, today's headaches are saved for tomorrow...leaves are asked for, and rejected...keyboards clatter, mice click, CPUs  
whirr, windows & tabs open and close...all in a day's business..somewhere you try to distinguish one day from the another based on some incidents happened, some faces seen, some people met,  
some issues resolved....life goes on... days without dates, faces without names....coffee with sugar, or without sugar...come and go..

Before I realize, it's already 9 in the night....and I decide to call it a day...by the time I get home, it'll be too late for dinner...hope to just grab some sleep and straighten the aching backbone before  
another day starts..another deadline to meet...

The CPU whirrs and doesn't seem to die as soon as I want it to....I kill it with a five-second press on the Power button. It whirrs its at its loudest before suddenly falling silent. A sinister smile creeps on my face, like I avenged it again for having made my  
day hell..and my life meaningless.

May 5, 2011

A lot Happens Over Coffee

The phone beeped from under a pile of papers on his desk.
Gaurav fumbled through the mass of confidential documents to find it buried and weeping, in small, violent vibrations. He picked up the call and whispered, 'Hello?'
"Yaar, Saturday free hai na? Chal party karte hain!"
The dreaded voice was from the other end where his college buddy Vivek was again in an obnoxiously festive mood. Party. Most probably without a reason, or with a frivolous reason, again.
"Yaar, I'm not sure....kuchh kaam baki hai....waise party kaahe ka, dude?"
"Aiiwein hi!! Party ke liye bhi koi reason hota hai??"
Hota hai, you filthy rich spoilt brat of a living being, Gaurav thought to himself.
"Ok, I'll confirm on Friday? Abhi office mein hun, slightly busy...mind mat karna, haan?"
"Main bhi office mein hun...what kind of a company you work in, dude? Phone pe bhi whispering as if Aunty Ji will catch you speaking to your girlfriend...what's her name...Sangeeta?"
"He he...Strict work ethics you can say", Gaurav tried to laugh, and mentally added, "With peanuts of pay, half of which you munch on when you conduct parties! And her name is Kavita, and she's not my girlfriend, yet", came the silent afterthought.
"ELL OH ELL, chal call me before Sat then, Bye."

Gaurav hung up and held his head with both hands. He mentally calculated the status of his budget for that month.
  • House rent: 4000 INR.
  • Food 3 times a day from office canteen or restaurants: 2000 INR.
  • Daily conveyance: 2000 INR.
  • Self-indulgence and shopping: 5000 INR. (Reduced from 8000 INR earlier)
  • Desperate attempts at dates with Kavita: 3000 INR, extensible to 4000 INR.
  • Partying, voluntary or forced: 5000 INR.
  • Emergency face-saving expenses: 5000 INR.
  • Savings: 0 INR. (or whatever is left at the end of the month by God's grace, to be sent home)
    After 24 carefree years of his life, now that he worked through days and nights to earn whatever he did, he realised the value of each penny that he had to spend. It was no more about pocketmoney; now it was his means to survival. How the hell did Dad manage a household with such a meagre salary?? And Mom never complained! They were all happy! I was also happy! And he never refused me the pocketmoney even when they knew it was just for having a good time...I wasted away his hard-earned money which could have brought extra meals to our tables...
    These thoughts pinched him...he tried not to think further...

    It was nearing month-end, and just as he was about to pat himself on the back for being able to save a couple of thousands from his monthly pay, Vivek threw an odd party now and then, which in turn threw his savings at the bartender.
    He couldn't say no all the time either. The ratio of party invites accepted to rejected was a shameful 1:4, which made him lose popularity among the circle of friends who had a ratio of 2:3, and him being almost friendless ever since he landed in the big city, he had to improve the count to 1 party accepted for every two or three invites a month. Unfortunately, the circle of friends had a good reason to have such a high tendency of saying yes to expensive liquor: Amir, literally Amir, by virtue of his father's money, taking care of family business; Jay, believed in work hard, party harder even if he had to beg, borrow or steal, so frustrated he was with pressure at work; Milan, a miner who had struck gold, was about to wed into a relation with an obscenely rich father-in-law soon, and had no worries about reimbursements; Pratik, worked in a huge MNC and thought that he was too young to start saving any of his fat pay; and finally Vivek, having joint benefits of being both a child born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and landing a job with a pay that Gaurav's boss' boss could boast about.

    While Gaurav silently wept at every penny thrown into the city's gutters, he felt that Kavita was the only investment that would possibly bear returns. She was a school friend he had recently bumped into when he landed in the city and his childhood love got rekindled over one coffee. 'A Lot Has Happened Over Coffee', the tag line of the coffee shop appeared to him every time he left the coffee shop, with couple of hundreds less in the wallet and buckets of hope more in his heart. He knew she was a classy girl, and would loathe him if he didn't take her to nice coffee shops where everything was priced in 3 digits. He didn't mind, as long as he could be with her.
    "After all, she earns well enough to pay for her coffee as well as mine, but I'm the guy here! Chivalry is my virtue!" He brought that thought to his head to motivate himself when he saw the bill. She offered to go for Dutch on occasions but he gave her a Let-the-Gentleman-Pay look.

    Kavita, on the other hand would wonder why the guy keeps coming back to these expensive restaurants. She always tried to insist, but not too much while payment, that she'd contribute. "What if he said, 'Ok, you can pay this time!' ? Why does he get me expensive gifts on my birthday? That obliges me to get him an equally costly gift on his!" She thought to herself while standing in a crowded City Bus to her way back home. She'd bargain with autowalas everywhere, she'd save a buck today and use it tomorrow, feeling proud for her savings. She didn't go out much with her friends fearing unnecessary flow of cash here and there, and preferred to watch a movie in her laptop than on a wide screen with popcorn that cost like gold in her hand. Walking back to her hostel, she thought of her monthly budget that had gone haywire by end of the month:
    • House rent: 3500 INR.
    • Food: 1000 INR.
    • Daily conveyance: 800 INR.
    • Self indulgence and shopping: 2000 INR.
    • Emergency funds in case I need to pay for dates: 2000 INR.
    • Birthday parties, accidental shopping: 1000 INR.
    • Education loan and other liabilities: 8000 INR.
    • Savings: At least 5000 INR (part of which to be sent home)
      Plus, she had to save for higher studies, or at least preparing for entrances that could be her ticket to a better life.

      Gaurav always found her too good for himself and vice versa. He'd boast of his job like he was in a position to influence everybody and she would smile and sip on the cup, finding it hard to gulp them both down: the coffee and his story.

      Today it went differently. The date was over and the bill came to the table....lying totally unwelcome at the centre. Gaurav did his usual charming act of pulling the disgusting black file-like thing towards himself, peering into the amount and trying to hide a bitter smile, and pull out his card and jab it into the same file. A snap of his fingers and few minutes later the waiter came back and said what made Gaurav want to merge into the floor tiles. "Sir, it seems there are not sufficient funds in your card."
      Kavita frowned for a second and then smiled as if she connected with him more than ever before. She slipped in the cash and handed him back his card and said, "I guess God's sign that we've had enough of Cappuchino...."

      Gaurav wished she would have a bout of amnesia there and then. Nothing happened.

      "So...where and when do we meet again?", he asked with a sheepish smile outside the coffee shop.
      "There is this great Pav Bhaji stall near that traffic square...I hope you don't mind street food...", Kavita replied with a trace of uncertainty in her voice.
      "No! Not at all! Anywhere with you!", he blurted out and realised he had said a few words too many.
      "See you then, tomorrow, same time. Bye."

      He walked away with a smile, thinking.... she had never seemed more perfect to him.
      And she stood there and looked up at the coffee shop's tag line and thought, "A lot has happened over coffee." :)

      May 4, 2011

      The Little Joys in Life

      We all live simple, ordinary lives...or at least, most of us. But our lives has the same pattern and shades of emotions attached with each moment. There may be a hundred different bad experiences we have always whined about, at one time or the other. But there are some tiny moments of joy in our lives that we seem to overlook, and do not realise that maybe, this was the moment in the twenty-four-hour day that set our spirits high and brought a smile to our face even in the middle of all the chaos. Some of those moments I've listed below, which come and go, in each one of our lives, maybe everyday, but we fail to notice them...The list is small, you may relate to one, few or many of them, but I am sure you will relate :) and I would love it if you also add to the list after you've read it ...

      ...Here goes!

      1. When you wake up on a cold morning not feeling like going to college AT ALL...you check your cell-phone for the time and you have 
      1 New Message'Holiday 2day.strike.njoy! :)'

      2. When you look up at the scorching sun, irritated with the heat and humidity and suddenly a strong breeze of cold air form behind makes you turn...and you see pitch dark clouds coming in your direction..

      3. While streetshopping, you pick up a thing you absolutely fall in love with and then this happens:
       You:  Bhaiya, ye kitne ka?
       Bhaiya: Ek sau pachaas
       You: Kya??!!! Itna?? :O ...50 mein dogey??
       Bhaiya: Nahi...itna kam mein nahin ayega.. :|
       (You turn around and walk away, dejected... suddenly you hear Bhaiya's voice from behind..)

         Bhaiya: O Madam....60 mein le lo!

      4. When you did not get time to eat a thing all day because you didn't get the time, and you come back home hungry as a wolf, and smell the aroma of your favorite chicken curry on the stove.. Mom saying, 'Munh haath dho lo...khana garam hai, kha lo fir doosre kaam karna' :)

      5. You reach the bus stop, running, panting, six minutes late than you shud, but find the bus came 8 minutes late than it should have...

      6. You go near a frightened, cornered kitten who hisses at you like its mother taught it to, but once you stroke its little furry head for a few minutes, its purring and rubbing around your legs with tail high up in the air!

      7. When someone is in a very bad mood or really upset...you say something awkward to break the silence, and that person stares at you for a moment....and breaks into a smile :)

      8. You sit down with all your books the night before your examinations, and the power goes off...you think to yourself, "God, it's gone for the night! What the hell am I supposed to do!?" Suddenly the lights are back on.

      9. The results are out, you're praying for even average scores, but you don't have access to the internet to check it....then someone calls you to congratulate you for scoring really high...

      10. You open your payslip, and find a few hundred bucks extra this time.

      11. At the end of an interview, you are convinced that you couldn't have acted stupider, and the interviewer shakes your hand to say, 'Alright, we're done...Welcome to the organization.'

      12. At the end of a huge argument, a third person confirms that you are actually right.

      13. A few extra chocolate chips in the Hide & Seek biscuit you are holding in your hand.

      14. You pick up something really expensive at the mall, hate to leave it behind but it is certain to drill a hole in your pocket if you buy it, nevertheless you walk with it to the counter. The man at the counter scans the barcode and tells you "50% Discount".

      15. In the dullest of days you are thinking about someone special, wondering where they are, what they are doing, and your cellphone beeps. It's a message from the same person, "Hi,wassup? Feelin really bord. Wat r u up2?"

      16. You found your favorite pen, which you thought you had lost, inside a different bag...the one in which you had never looked for it before.

      17. You ask someone to click a photo while you pose, and when you check, you think you are actually looking really good in it.

      18. A tighter dress that you stopped wearing since a long time now fits you.

      19. You have something handmade on your desk. A colleague comes and asks you, "Where did you get this?? It's really cool, can you get one for me, too??"

      20. You prayed to God for something in the morning, and it came true by evening.

      21. You give a 100-rupee note to the auto driver and ask, "Bhaiya, change hai??" and he says yes.

      22. When you open a gift, you realise the person has at least tried to find out what you would like to get on your birthday.

      23. Someone who used to be formal, has now started calling you by your nick name.

      24. Rains cats and dogs all of a sudden and you have to take shelter in a roadside chai ki dukaan. You spend the next half an hour watching the pouring rain and thundering skies with a cup of hot tea in one hand (and probably a fag in another, for guys!)

      25. You ventured out to a new place all on your own and found out which routes to take and by what means...and came back without forgetting any of it. Now if anyone asks for directions, you can give it to them!

      26. You go to www.google.com and find that it has a new doodle today. You quickly hover the mouse over it to find out what it is..

      27. An Indian batsman hits a 6 when they need a 4, in the last few decinding balls of a crucial match.

      28. You spent breakfast, lunch and dinner worrying about some problem you could not solve...Out of nowhere, the solution suddenly occurs to you.

      29. When you rescue a puppy from cruel children.

      30. When an old friend you were desperate to meet suddenly lands in town, days ahead of schedule and calls you..."I'm already here, let's meet!"

      31. Cutting a cake, no matter what the occasion! Getting a wrapped gift, no matter what the occasion!

      32. When you like someone and think they are not aware of your existence, but one fine day you find them not only looking in your direction, but turning away, embarrassed, when you catch their eye! ;)

      33. Somebody puts up a scanned photo of your school days, and you smile at your size and looks back then..and all those memories triggered by the image!

      34. Standing beside a sea...the sound of waves driving away the noise in your head, the winds so strong you have to hold yourself up, the sand under the feet and the water sweeping across, the feeling of being a speck compared to the huge mass of life you are standing next to...

      35. You call someone and ask, "Are you busy?" and get 'Nope, not at all!' for an answer and not 'kinda', 'not really', 'lil bit, you say' or 'too much yaar, can we talk later?'.