Stalemate

I would wonder what kept bringing them back to me. With their fists clenching and unclenching softly in unknown anticipation, they would look at me, their lips apart, panting as if to about to say something extremely exciting. But they would be silent just like my pursued lips as I shoved them away. I still remember the grime that they would be covered with. Was it their fault? Is not dirt and dust the rule of the world where there are no walls nor roofs?

Childhood is a fancy world to live in. Everything is important. You know everything and life is a wonderful story unfolding before your eyes. You are happy to believe that the world is a small place with a set of rules that you know well how to bend to your wishes. You have textbooks and goals. You have manners and ambitions. You know poetic verses by the heart and your imagination is vivid.

It is often at such an age that you believe you are going to change the world for good one day. You see problems and you see solutions. Simple solutions, believable, achievable, doable. And then you set out to make things right. There’s a fire within that burns, and you believe its insatiable till you make your journey right, and get the goal you aimed so hard at.

One morning, as I stepped out of the home to make my routine walk towards the playground, Neela broke her silent companionship, which I never realized when I was endowed with, by asking if they could play with us. I did not hesitate, I was not the one who would. I was rebellious, going against the dictates my parents had presented me with about staying away from them.

e4 … e5

We would play often after that day. On rainy days my friends would fail to show up. It was for the reason that their catching cold was an unsuitable proposition to their mothers. Who was I to complain, who had been branded unruly by his parents? And why would I complain, when I had another set of friends who would simply join my walk towards the park, springing out of nowhere with something interesting to share every day. They liked to ask about my day. I liked talking about my day.

Nf3 … Nf6

I once took a gift for them. It was not much, just a pack of Uncle Chips (yes, this story is of old days, and that brand was all rage back then). It was delicious, and it would crack on the tongue inside the closed mouth as the upper jaw pressed close on the lower. The tiny specks of salted potatoes was a bliss. I gave it to them when they appeared, while I was on the way to the park. Did they love it? Yes! Which kid does not love Uncle Chips? I promise myself to bring more for them in future. Not like I would get it every day myself, but 2-3 days of cajoling and good behaviour in the house did the trick.

One day Zimmidar asks out, enquiring the cost of the pack of Uncle Chips which we had devoured a few minutes back. I revert back with the 10 rupees price of the item. He is lost in thought for the rest of the evening, often missing the catch to my annoyance. Later at home, when I retrospect over the incident, I realize he must feel I was doing some sort of favour to them by sharing the chips with them. I decided not to do that again.

d4 … Nxe4

My regular ‘forgetting to bring’ the Uncle Chips must have made them suspicious. One day the first words Neela greets me with is if I can bring some Uncle Chips the next day. She goes on to describe how tasty it is and how they are missing it. She even says that she has had dreams of the Uncle on the green packet coming to life.

I ask her to bring one herself for a change if she was missing it so much. Her smile falters for a moment but then is back in a flash. Next day she carries a small tin tiffin box. I wonder if that contains Chips. To my delight it contains kheer. They refuse to have a share, saying their mother sent it especially for me. I am delighted, and the weight of the Uncle Chips lifts slowly, as the tiffin empties.

Bd3 … d5

But something had changed. I would carry the Uncle Chips less often now. Something coming from Neela and Zimmidar’s home was more frequent now. It was on a similar walk to the park when Zimmidar excitedly told me that his mother was getting a new child. That was thrilling, and I immediately expressed my interest in seeing the newcomer kid.

Neela looked less excited. Her face carried marks of weariness. I brought this up with the question of whether she didn’t want to have another sibling. She stayed mum. I joked that then they would have to share my Chips with another person. Maybe it would be better if I instead gave the entire pack to them. There was a momentary glint in Zimmidar’s eyes which I didn’t quite catch. It kept haunting me for the rest of the night. Was it happiness? Or jealousy? I decided to confront him about this the next day. He told me it was generous of me to think of giving the entire pack to them. I thought I registered some pain in his tone and asserted I was only joking. He said his life was full of jokes. I found it funny so we had a good laugh.

Nxe5 … Nd7
Nxf7 … Qe7

The innocence of childhood comes with the gift of forgetting. It was several days before I noticed Neela was very frequently absent from our playtime these days. I asked her about this the next time I met her. She asked me who takes care of me when I am sick. It was the mother, I replied. And who takes care of mother when she is sick, as asks. Father, I answered. And when both mother and father are sick? I told her that never happens but I thought about it for a long time. I concluded her parents were sick. I decided to visit them at goodwill.

They were not ready to take me with them. I figured out they probably needed to get to know me better so I invited them to my place. I could go to theirs once they realized I was worth the trust. Mother would not like it at all if they floor were dirtied by their grime-covered feet, so I brought them two pair of my footwear – an old pair of shoe for Zimmidar who was nearly a foot shorter than me, and my bathroom slippers for Neela, who was the same height as me. I remember the china clay plate mother threw at Zimmidar when she saw him entering the house. The plate and my faith in my mother shattered with the same chime of destruction. Zimmidar and Neela broke into a run and me into a quickly defeated fight with my originator.

Nxh8 … Nc3+

I broke my piggy bank that night. With the clinking of coins in my plams I determined to make my amends to the relationship that had undergone a hard blow. The following day no one followed me to the park. I had 3 packets of Uncle Chips in my hand. This repeated for a few days, till the packets started thinning and I was worried they would get damaged. I decided to make a trip in the direction in which Zimmidar and Neela would disappear. I must have walked some 15 mins when Zimmidar came running up to me and asked me to turn back. I told him I had brought Chips. He refused them and insisted on me turning back. I was stubborn. But he had aimed a rock at me with a determined expression and I retreated.

Kd2 … Nxd1

My house then saw a few tense days, with me on an indefinite hunger strike. The perpetrators of crimes would have to make their penance. When mother made kheer and put it into a neat plastic tiffin box, I kept my part of the deal and acquitted her from the charges I had pressed against her. But Zimmidar had again held a rock at me, and I returned more defeated than my mother.

Re1 … Nxf2

That was almost everything I was going to try. The Uncle Chips packets were eaten in the comforting privacy of my room, and going to the park was a lonely affair. For a few days, this did feel good. I was free to do or to not do. What drew me towards the route to Neela’s house was the excitement of seeing the newborn baby.

I spotted Neela first. She was laughing, sitting on a very low stool beside a makeshift stove made from bricks, burning cow dung. She was talking to her mother, who lay on a cot dangerously near the burning stove. She had a huge bump on her belly, which I realized was the upcoming guest to the home. If that is what we could term the yellow plastic sheet in the shape of two-sided sloping roofs, with sticks propped up on either side holding it up.

Bxh7 … Ne4+

Neela spotted me a while later. She smiled weakly, looking more worn out than the last time I had seen her. She leaned towards her mother and murmured what I assumed was my introduction. Her mother motioned me to come closer, asked what was it that brought me there. I replied I was there to see the baby. She sighed and looked at her belly, then looked up at me and smiled, asked me to be patient as it would take a few more days. We talked for some time, mostly about how the baby could become a doctor or an engineer one day. And then I left for home.

Rxe4 … dxe4

A few days later which I thought would be enough to have a baby I went over to Neela’s place with a fresh set of 3 Uncle Chips packets. The cot was missing. And so was the occupant. Besides the brick stove lay Neela nursing a baby on a sheet of plastic taken from some soft drink commercial banner. The newborn too was grimy. It was a girl. Neela did not get up when I sat down beside her. Her eyes had sunk in and she looked like she had lost weight. I asked her where was Zimmidar. Runaway, she replies. Will most likely come back soon she improvises, reading my startled face. Father? Walked out some 3-4 years ago. And the mother? She cries.

Bg6+ … Kd8

I return home in agony. Life had been cruel to Neela. What would become of the baby? My mother declined the idea of adoption without a moment lost in thought. I tried to reason with her, I made promises of being good. I went to my friends’ places on rainy days to convince their parents. I tried collecting money. I did raise some but Neela was no more at her home. The brick stove was broken and the yellow roof sheet is gone.

Nf7+ … Ke8

Neela and Zimmidar turn up every now and then, in the faces of these kids who come clinging to my now grown pair of legs. Sometimes I even find the newborn. They keep coming back in some anticipation. I do not know what I could give to them. I can no longer buy them meals at the cost of an Uncle Chips packet.

Nd6+

Whatever fire had burned inside me about making a difference, about being a harbinger of change has died away. Or maybe simply buried in the layers of ‘understanding’ of the world I had developed. I no longer walk to the park, no one accompanies either. The Uncle Chips packets too are a rare sight. I have dreams now, ambitions and friends who can come out to me on rainy days. Every yellow sheet beside the rail tracks reminds me of a home in which lived a Zimmidar with no land and Neela who played mother when I was only learning to colour mountains green and rivers blue.

I let things be as they were. It was a stalemate of my today and past.

Being Replaced

In my early teenage I was struck with the novelty behind the idea of being irreplaceable. It was simple – make yourself such, that when you leave, it is just too difficult for them to keep functioning.

And I lived by the idea! I became all that was supposed to make me
irreplaceable – and every time, I gave in efforts which to my knowledge would never be matched by any. Yes, I was determined, I was consistent and I was creative – finding a new way to make an impact, everyday.

I was everything they could probably ask for – ranging from being a clown to terminator-serious, from being being the element of joke to cracking jokes till their bellies hurt, you get the idea.

And I was expressive, honest and straightforward 🙂 Trying hard to not cause a headache. But then, I was the showman too – knowing exactly how to make their hearts beat wild.

But apparently, something was amiss.

Something was so not right. And the worst of my fears took realization – I was replaced. Like a breeze, there was someone else filling in the role that was mine.

And what did I do? Nothing. Nothing because I couldn’t see it would make a difference. Nothing because when you’re replaced, after baring your soul, after placing all your cards on the table – you’ve nothing to fight back with.

So that’s how I let them damage me – by destroying a belief I grew up with.

I am tired of being replaced. I have exhausted all my little ideas of giving love. I have learnt to believe that it’s not just the value you bring into someone’s life that they’re looking for – people, are always looking for that which you can’t give them.

What you do matters not. What you couldn’t gets counted.

And that is how I realized, that in this world full of people – how tough it is to be a human.

Forgiveness

There is an ease in forgiving.

Hard as it may sound, the heart is often at more anguish when one holds on to a grudge like a smoldering piece of charcoal which slowly burns away the hand that cradles it. Forgiveness, on the other hand is painful, yet simple. It comes naturally – we humans were (fortunately) not made with forever memories. We tend to forget over time – joy or pain. It is only conclusive – if the pain for someone’s act shall fade away as time passes, why to hold on to that burning charcoal of anger?

Just like keeping a relationship is a difficult task, holding on to a grudge too is. One has to keep reminding themselves of the wrong that was done to them. Forgiveness is a one time decision. As easy as that – you decide to forgive, you forgive, you forget.

And at the end, it all comes round. Forgive someone today, seek forgiveness tomorrow. Good things happen to people who do good. At the next opportunity you get, forgive quick.

चलो

कहते थे,
साथ चलो

ये गलियाँ तुम नहीं चीन्हती,
हाथ पकड़, पास चलो

हम कहाँ आ पहुँचे,
तुम भी तनि आज चलो

दूर सही तुम दूर रहो,
चाहे हम से दूर चलो

कहीं थम जायेंगे, मिल जायेंगे,
शायद, इसिलीए चलो

जब साथ नहीं तो क्या गम़,
तुम लौह, एकाकी चलो

हम अपनी,
तुम अपनी राह चलो

We

How would we be, if we were we?
Would you be just you, would I be just I,
If you looked at me, as I look at you,
And we knew?

Would the skies be glittering more,
And the breeze be cooler still,
Would a falling star know, my wishes, yours,
And we knew?

A twisted tale of simple kids,
An unknown tale of dream,
For long hidden in my lips,
A truth it yearns to scream.

Not easy, it’s not an easy knot to make,
But eyes, the eyes are yelling, hear,
Be not deaf, make not me mute.

And there will be a time you’ll know it was me,
And me it was all along, you’ll know,
How I sat when the moment asked a stand,
So you could walk, and not collide,
With me.
As we.

Quirrellmort

Quirinus Quirrell thought hard, his wand in his outstretched hand shivering like a withered twig. He knew, from the wisdom passed down by the thousands of great witches and wizards before him, defending another spell was not in the list of his options. Death was, on the very next move of his enemy but the next move would be soon and it pained him to go before he had brought to life all his dreams of glory, reverence and importance.

He stared into the vicious black infinity of the Albanian forest. Lighting a light would mean instant death. He could hear the stillness of the wind and the beating of his own heart. Making the slightest noise would mean instant death.

Quirrell felt like crying out. He wanted to laugh at the moment he thought he could tame the Dark Lord in his weakened state. His venture could not have gone more wrong. Continue reading Quirrellmort

Go Away, With Me

If we could, would you go,

To somewhere unknown, unheard of,

Some place the men do not know,

Some place the map knows not.

 

Stumbled upon I yester night,

A lovely island stood alone,

An unfound folly of foamy beaches bright,

A glowing emerald among sapphire tides.

 

There no eyes would see you, but mine,

No other would hear your velvet voice,

You’ll be none’s, but mine,

We’d be one, if you would, go away, with me.

Identity

Ishita stopped. The unruly bush along the sidewalk casting shadows, like the horns of the devil, grey with the winter dust raised an alarm in her mind. Looking far up the road, which gently rose to split into two opposite paths, bordered on the other side by the 7 feet wall of the Corporation, seemed familiar.

Deciding that she had only missed the bushes earlier, maybe preoccupied with regretting her life, cursing each day she had spent at the bar, she trudged on.

‘Like I do everyday’, she told herself.

She wrapped the long jacket around her tighter, the thin fabric of her shirt unable to fend off the chill of the darkening evening. Her skirt flapped with the wind and she cursed the bar uniform, followed by the bar owner who had decided upon it and finally the bar owner’s teenager son who had found it pleasing to his perverse nature that the female waiters not wear any leggings under their skirt even in the winters. And then a ritualistic routine commenced of cursing her life, her existence and the very existence of the entire universe.

Continue reading Identity

A Round World

Nayan

She locks the door behind her. He smiles, knowing full well the moments to follow; he takes all the time before making the attack. His prey is behind him. He sets his bag down on the other bed and dives onto the one at his right, turning in the process so as to face her, seeing the distance between them reduce, only too slowly to please him. He holds her by her waist and pulls her close. She stands, resting her arms on his shoulders, smiling gently, while he wraps himself around her waist, resting his head against her belly.

‘Her aroma…it always does things to me…’, Nayan smiles to himself, lifts his head up to see her beam down a smile at him, and kisses her belly over the clothes. Pulling her closer he lays back on the bed, bringing her up on the bed, lying over him, her lips pressing tightly on his. He lets his hands on her back wander inside her top, pulling it up in the process. She lets her hair fall over his face as they continue kissing, deeper with every gasping breath.

An hour later they lie tucked inside the blanket, having shivered on entering the air-conditioned hotel room after having a long shower together. The television before them plays the latest songs of the industry, while Nayan is busy playing some silly game on her mobile, and she cuddling him, watching him play it, giggling.

Suddenly, he rolls her over him, looks deep in her eyes, “You are beautiful!”

She shrugs, blinking her eyes, “Tell me something new!”

He reaches under the mattress, while she’s busy kissing him all over his face, both grinning wildly, brings out a handgun, places the nozzle at the back of her head.

She freezes, “What??” Continue reading A Round World

Going Away

I always knew I would let her go away when the time came.

*****

“Vindu!” I hissed through the hole in the wall. Mud walls in the village have holes for two purposes – one, to let the air come in (as per adults) and two, as a secret communication portal (as per the younger generation).

The scorching sun on the back matters not to us kids here. When we’ve decided to play, which happens every day without the need of much thought, we do it with all possible determination and honor. The aftermath of which later in the day results in no dinner is a different thing.

Presently Vindu sneaked out. Her mother, who Vindu shared her bed with, slept on peacefully. And her peaceful sleep for us meant a nice long play. Not that it would matter if she was to wake up some time later. Once we were out of eyesight, play wouldn’t be interrupted.

Vindu dashed towards the little canal and I followed. Beyond the canal were the fields and groves. And beyond that were the railway tracks on the horizon. It was ritualistic for us to race to the mango grove near the tracks. There were two very good reasons for this – one, this was our latest hideout which no one knew about yet and the faster we reached, the least probable would be our parents spotting us and two, mangoes.

She would not win this race. It was half heartedly that I ran and found her struggling to get across the canal, I smiled to myself. The water in the canal had risen overnight and the only ways to cross it were either to jump over it or to walk through. She could not jump over it, nor could I and she was obviously in no mood to wet her new frock which some relative had brought her recently. She stood fumbling there with a wry expression.

I walked up slowly to her, purposely making her feel that I was taking this race quite easy as long as she was stuck there. She looked at me teary eyed, I grinned.

But oh! Childhood friendship! The valor kicks in harder than mockery at this stage in life. Grinning still, I walked to the middle of the canal, turned my back to her and bent low. She leapt, landed on a feet on my back and took another leap to the other side of the canal.

Competition kicks in even harder than gratitude. While I came out of the canal, she ran toward the end line, looking back and giggling wildly at times. I smiled, she was so going to lose. Continue reading Going Away