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.

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

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

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

The Last Note

He was always like that. Melancholy sort. We knew it, every single student of our school knew it, every single teacher knew it and even the sweepers and the peons knew it that the day you saw the ghost of a smile on Sridhar Sir’s face, there has been some sort of confusion over the sun’s rising from the east. And it can be very well said that if he seldom (or better: almost never) smiled, he never grinned. But then it was well known to (again) everyone that his foremost 2 teeth were missing; something very noticeable in his small face which didn’t have much to place eyes on except his (improportionally) large head and in it his missing 2 teeth. It was very delightful to us 6th standard to fantasize him losing them to some honestly rational and good guy, for almost all of us had at least once in our career in the school thought of being the reason of another 2 missing teeth, thanks to his boring play of music while we tried to sing like Lata Mangeshkar (anyone wants to sing like her, be it a girl or not!).
Continue reading The Last Note

The One Thing I Never Dared. Never Did.

“Its not that I don’t have the power, it’s that I can’t find myself strong before your eyes”, I looked at the unsent message for a long time. This was the truth my soul craved to scream out. And once more, I felt weak. It was her, the feeling that she was my God left me powerless, I knew I had no power against my God. My friends said I had changed, I, I had known the name of my life. I’d realized it was the name of my God, my life, my soul, my everything – Padma.

And such a great name it was! Padma. Padma. Padma. (I would really go on typing that one, I won’t destroy the magic the name creates by ‘Copy-Paste’-ing it. But I don’t write this story to expose my stupidity to the world, I write this to let the world know how important a person could be for someone) The name itself made me think for hours. It was the type of name that strikes the soul and for once, however less you believed, would make you put your name on sake that God does exist. And then her beauty, it was beyond anything any mortal could have seen anywhere. And the reason why I had no favorite actress, to the great disbelief of those of my friends who would find something to lust for in any girl, was that no actress ever touched her beauty. I always dodged one question, and sadly anyone of any age could ask me that – “What’s your aim in life?” I knew the answer very well and it felt good to feel that I had an aim. But that solitary aim was such that it would never be accepted by the so called Educated- society. And I would have to lie every time to save myself from facing the consequences of saying the truth – my only aim in life was to get my life Padma.

My friends said that every lover can deliver dialogues like- she’s my life, I can’t live without her and so on. This hurt. I said that only when I greatly underestimated my feelings for her. Unfortunately, the only 100% true person in this world is the person himself. She was the one ultimate truth I’d learned. And then, there was no reason to lie. I’d loved her every atom with every atom of mine. And when it came to the chemistry, I was terrible in it. And she, she was like she had everything pre-installed in her. She knew everything. And I, nothing. And that troubled me greatly whenever I had the nightmare of seeing her go away from my life. That was the greatest problem, she was simply perfect and every time I said that, I remembered some fool had said that nothing in this world is perfect), and I was full of errors. The more perfect she was, the more foolish was I.

Once, someone had said to me, “You should be a lawyer!” and I didn’t understand why. Today I did. I understood how much I’d been thinking and how accurate those thoughts of mine were which I feared the most. I never liked to think they would be true. But today I realized how correct it was of me to think I was nowhere good for her, she was not for me. And the thing that contributed to it, I had been thinking like a lawyer.

I knew I would never get her. It was impossible for me. But I knew it was worth trying. I did. But I never did it directly; I went for the indirect way and directed my life to a point where it was absolute dead end. And when I looked back from there, I saw the perfect chain of perfect mistakes I had made one after the other and found my way here. The point where I had two options, one, to leave her and live a life full of malice and wrongs, second, to accept her as the only aim of my life and to live a life of hope, regret, modification, pains, but above all, love. And that one thing pulled me the hardest. I gave up that part of my life which I had found the strongest. I left living for what I’d dreamed of, power. I dreamt new dreams now, new hopes, new
aim and had a new life. And the period of this
metamorphosis snatched away a small thing which I
missed the most after it was completely lost, my smile.
I forgot how to be happy. I felt the pain. And I made it a
part of life. This was a hard life, but it suited my
condition of hopelessness. I had not talked to her for
above a year. I had decided to face her only when I
could smile. I had grown so habituated to the pain that
the faintest smile would make me feel strange. I won’t
be doing that when I’d talk to her again. I won’t make
myself go mad only because I couldn’t smile. No, I
would be happy, as she never wanted me to be sad.
Else, I would be dead.

The day I saw her first, not in the wildest dreams I had
thought that one day, she would be why I continued
living –

In class 1, if someone is not small, it’s a problem.
Thankfully, I was, so was she. I sat quietly in one
corner when she entered the class. I didn’t care. Why would I?…
In class 10, if someone is small, it’s a problem.

Thankfully, I wasn’t…. or as I thought. She sat in the
third bench of the third row from the door. She looked
at me and I knew she was thinking. Thinking hard. I did
care for this. Why wouldn’t I? She was the girl I had
made clear my feelings a day before. I shook from my
inside. I had a reason to do so.

The 9 years that had passed had seen me grow
addicted to her. I now found it hard to think that one
day we would pass out from this school and she would
never remember me but just from the class photos. I
thought I loved her. I felt this, I wasn’t sure. It was
more likely I did because I found it hard to live without
seeing her for more than a few hours, my brain lingered
non-stop over her and only her praises, my eyes never
let go of her image, and all the other things that
happened when one was in love (watching too many
romantic movies had confused me). And then to think
that the day I would have to tell my heart I was never
to see her again….was fatal. Don’t love me, just
promise me I will never have to miss you.
And now I was here, seconds away from the going to
be most valuable promise of my life. I’d failed in
winning her love but I had found the key to find the
truth in me. She made me promise I would change. I
dared. I did.

2 years later, I write this story. I write this cause I know
I had never known anything. I have changed. I felt that
every time I stand in front of the mirror, see my photos
of 2 years ago (and before that) and whenever my
family look at me and shake their heads in defeated
disappointment. And all I’m able to do at that was to
lower my eyes and remember that promise, that love of
mine, that path I had chosen.

She had given me a new life, a life which she owned
and which I felt safer in her hands cause I knew she
would never like me unhappy. But I had lost my smile
in the change and I found it hard to face her without it.
I took my time. I tried madly to get back the smile I had
lost in the 2 years. And as I slowly found it, I
remembered we had scarcely one month to pass out
from the school. And once more, I lost whatever bit of
the smile I had got back. This ate me from my inside. I
would look at her from a distance and fight back the
flashbacks of those few happy moments I had with her.
And the one obvious thing was, I was suffering form
this only because I had loved her. Only if I wouldn’t
have made the mistake of proposing her in class 10,
probably today I would be at her side and say good bye
to her with a smile. Yes, this was the day, the day
when I would be seeing her for the last time in
(probably) my life. The excessively formal Farewell
Party organized by the school was half way. I
maintained the greatest distance possible from her. I
couldn’t find myself strong enough to say good bye to
her. I never did. It felt as if we were never to meet
again whenever I said that phrase. This time we really
would be separated forever and this made saying it
even harder.

I stared at her like a fool and never noticed that
everyone else stared at me staring her. And when she
turned towards me and I tried to hide away my eyes, I
realized the staring intensity of the atmosphere. I
looked back into her eyes. They were damn beautiful.
So-very-damn-beautiful. My mind raced. I tried to
smile and ended up in worsening the previously
happier expression of my face. This wasn’t going right.
And when the Principal ended his final speech to us, I
shot out of the room. I fought back the tears. My eyes
blinked fiercely. I was breaking.

I took my bike and hit the roads in the most reckless
way I’d ever done and that felt normal! My cell beeped,
‘plz cum bck – Padma’ and I looked at it for a long
time. I had no intention of doing so. I replied, ‘m bg’. I
got down at the bar and entered. Everything happened
in slow motion. I drank a glass. My throat burnt. It was
my first time.

Another beep – ‘Plz plz plz 🙁 I dnt hav much tym’. I
looked at it even longer. And drank. And drank. And
drank. My tears had stopped and now I felt stronger.
And I drank.

I had once said to her, “I can’t live without you.”
Today, it felt badly true. I drank. I read it over and over,
‘Its not that I don’t have the power, it’s that I can’t find
myself strong before your eyes’. I erased it. And finally,
I replied – ‘I coming…’ And I drank. The drink did its
work…

——————————–

“Hello…”
“Hello Padma?”
“Yes…?”
“Padma…Padma…” sobs.
“Control yourself…..tell me….”
“Padma…..he…he….d….d…died…” and broke all over
again.
“Died? Who?”
“….A…An..uj…Anuj….”

——————————-

To live without her, I never dared. I never did.

-Anuj

No More

For heavens to slide
To my feet, hells do good.

She’s, than a bird’s glide,
Perfect, for she surpasses,
Blush of love, love of motherhood,
The veils of sleepless nights adore,
Her temples, her lashes
Brew to the burning throat.

Weigh desire, height of jealousy,
A hand in mine, one in Almighty,
A smile to the mightless me, one to the deity:

She looks into my eyes, smiles,
“Live happy, dear, for life
shall give you a hundred me”.
And then is quiet…quiet,
She was, she was, no more
is she, she was, is no more…