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 Simple Story of Life

It’s rather boring in the morning when the first thing you have to do is to wash the dishes. Kushal did it every day. He had no choice if he wished to have his breakfast. Thus, the day began with washing dishes.

It used to be lot more interesting post the dishes though – he would deliver the milk in the nearby town after breakfast during which there was a lot of beauty-spotting, fantasizing and a lot of specialized flirting that only the milk-boy can do. Calling them ‘didi’ or ‘bhabhi’ was a necessary annoyance though. The best time to deliver the milk was early in the morning, not because the customers liked it – even the newspaper is delivered early as of that fact – but because the men of the house would be busy dressing up for offices and the (beautiful) ladies would come out to receive it. And this was why he secretly loved his present job with Gurudas. Gurudas – the dairy owner for whom Kushal worked.

Kushal had come a long way to finally settle here in Allahabad. It had been some 9-10 years now. His father would get drunk – beat the kids, beat his mother – the same old common story destroying most of the rural households of India and forcing free-willed-unruly-kids like Kushal to run away from home. It was easy to escape the liquor-induced-hell for the kids while their mother tended the vomiting father under the pretense of ‘running away to get some breath from this bullshit’. So on fine night, when the scene occurred again, Kushal simply put on his best pair of clothes, took the little bundle of money he had secretly stacked up since the last drama in the house, took a last fleeting look at his mother wiping the floor with one hand and clutching an end of her saree to her face sobbing in silence, he stepped out.

The life ahead was not going to be easy – having a father had its own benefits, having a mother completed it. But not having either instead of a dying father killing the mother was a lot better. The second step was firmer, third even more and then there was no looking back. The clenching in the throat ebbed away noticeably with the whiffs of fresh air as the train speeded, leaving behind the Meja Road platform.


Mahesh was happy. It had been a good sale today. It always was during the reaping days. The farmers were happy because the crop had brought in money and the babus were happy because it was their ego to be happier when everyone else was happy. And the best partner of rural happiness was Mahesh’s lifeline – the wine.

There had been a clash between three of the biggest players today – Awdhesh, Kamal and Suraj. They were the lads of the self-proclaimed richest families in the town and when they decided to prove their metal by making more men drunk – Mahesh’s heart danced like the peacock in the monsoons. It had rained today, in cash.

And cash in a happy father’s hand has always meant gifts for the family. His daughter jumped with her new cell phone. She had been craving for one of the likes they saw on the TV. She had her previous Nokia was too old-fashioned for a college girl and that with a smartphone, she would be able to video call her elder sister who was now in Delhi, married happily. It was the latter reason which really fell on his ears and after much thought, he decided he too wanted to be able to see his dear daughter once in a while and got the phone off Ram bhai’s shelf.

Khushi had jumped away to her room after planting an affectionate crocodile-tear analogous kiss on his cheek, he reclined on the armchair. Mahesh himself wouldn’t drink. He was too wise to burn his own house with the very fuel he sold. He felt sorry about it sometimes. There was Kushal, son of some farmer who would get drunk and wreck violence at his home, who had threatened Mahesh more than once to not sell his stuff to his father and probably, many others who suffered similarly but hadn’t come to complain on their fathers. He heard that a few days back Kushal had run away from home. Not surprising, he noted indifferently. Yes he felt a bit of sympathy for the boy but then, none of his other businesses brought in more profit than this. There was a season for buying clothes, there was a season for buying grains but there was no season for glum and happiness – it happened all the time in here.


The 2 mile Shastri Bridge spanning across the holy river Ganga at Allahabad is solemnly studded with lights which glow only when a minister of importance happens to be passing over it. It was in this darkness that Khushi found a refuge from her recently shattered bright world.

The events of the past days kept flashing in her mind. The party that came to ‘see the bride’ at her father’s place, to her father’s great and her none delight, the desperacy in Varun’s voice as he asked her to not marry someone else while he tried to persuade his parents to accept her, her leaving Meja and coming to Allahabad and finally – Varun had disappeared. Network was tragic on the outers of the Allahabad railway station. So, it was with a huge, stupid grin that she had texted him informing of her arrival here…she had added a small kiss at the end – which unlike the ones she gave to her father were actually meant.

New place, new hopes and a new life and to think it would be with Varun was the icing on the cake. The first thing she had done on reaching here was to call up Varun. He hadn’t picked up. She wasn’t much worried, though irritated somewhat. Firstly, that he wasn’t here to pick up her and secondly, at least he should have taken the call. But when the sun had sunk where the tracks met the sky and he still hadn’t picked up, instead, the network response was constantly of ‘User busy’, it dawned on Khushi that she might have made a mistake.

Standing on the Shastri bridge in the dark of the night, Khushi was thankful that none would be able to see her tears if she cried. No, she was determined not to cry for the fact that all of this had been her doing. She was the one who had run away from her parents and came here uninformed. It was not Varun’s fault if he wasn’t in a condition to accept her. There was none to blame but herself and so, none would suffer but her. It requires a strong heart to suffer – she never had one.

“This is the last leg of the journey,” she told herself and jumped off.


At this point of time, my wife, who unknown to me had rolled to my side of the bed while I wrote the above sections, gives my ear a playful bite and asks, “How much longer do you plan to stay in Meja? Come back, I’ve got something very interesting for you here in Allahabad!”

What happened after her words is a different story of entirely different genre. But now (3 hours and a long shower later), I hear the doorbell ring. Our maid responds to it – while I type this and Aditi (yep, she was the one who bit me!) dresses up behind me. She is always the one to leave the bed first only to pull me out and get me ready for office. ‘She treats me like an LKG school kid!’, I had often complained to both our respective mothers but the concerned authorities only found it giggle-able.

The maid brought in the coffee. Morning was always better with coffee and Aditi. But today there was this extra element –Kushal.

“What does he want?” I asked.

“He wants to talk to you,” Khushi replies with an evident blush.

I smiled and then wider when I realized the situation. Khushi had been living with us since the last 3 years. She had been saved from drowning after she had jumped off the Shastri bridge. She had come to Allahabad on the calling of some Varun who she had befriended at some cousin’s marriage. She ran away from home in fear of her parents marrying her to someone else and once she reached here, Varun had. With no money and strength to turn back, she had decided to end her life. Kushal, our milk boy brought her to us – our home being the nearest from where he rescued her.

We had asked her to return to her parent’s home. But she had refused. She was afraid of her father. “He will kill me,” she would say. So, we didn’t force her and let her stay with us as a maid on her and Kushal’s combined insistence. But then, she was like a daughter to us and today, Kushal had come to ask for her hand from us, and my smile reflected on Aditi’s face, even wider.


Mahesh had bought another smartphone to be able to see his daughter once in a while who lived in Delhi. He didn’t have a second daughter now – she had died for him the day her room was found empty upon breaking the door with a bullshit note on it. He didn’t want to remember its contents anymore.

The wine shop had shut down after a series of his frequent fights with the customers who were insensitive enough to ask repeatedly about his eloped daughter. Some cursed fool had decided to set up another wine shop by the support of the babus. And then people stopped coming to his shop altogether. Happiness was less in his life now that his income depended on the cloth shop and granary. But he was content with a little less of ‘Khushi’ if god willed it that way.

The phone rang. He hated unknown callers. The stupid town lads prank called him often enough. He picked up.

“Shri Mahesh Srivasatava?” the voice quivered.

“Ha..who’s this?” he grunted in anticipation of a wrong-number.

“Ji, its Kushal”, he responded. “Remember? My father was your regular customer…”

“Kushal Chauhan? Yeah, I do,” Mahesh wondered what he had to do with him. “Say, how are you?”


The world spun around him. His eyes flared up as she got down from the auto holding some man’s hand. The man came and touched Mahesh’s feet. Stood up, joined his hands and said, “Babuji, I am Kushal.” Mahesh could but utter some unintelligible blessing as Khushi’s mother ran up to her and embraced her to never let her go. His eyes flooded as she planted a real kiss on his cheek this time.

A Mourning in my eyes

Infinite as the sea I’ll be,
Indefinite as the rainbow dreams,
Another day I’ll rise, today I fall,
I’ll trickle down your eyes!
Like a dewdrop on the wall…

You’ll find in my spaces,
A world of unborn streams,
Nimble, swaying, a cotton ball,
I’ll live; I’ll die in your eyes,
Like a dewdrop on the wall..

Again in time you’ll search,
My touches, my praising prims,
Mayb you’ll fail, maybe you shall,
Find me, melting into your eyes,
Like a dewdrop on the wall..

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

When Stones Collide

My dreams shall wither away with me,
But my songs will always truest be…

Beyond the mountains of your grief,
You may wait, and wait till time endless,
But time won’t cross me that one reef,
Where I stand, seeking the corals of your happiness.

In the swarthing seas of life you’ll swim,
I’ll wake to the deluge of your depart,
Dare sends grave winds The Mighty Whim,
The winds shall break against my heart.

Time will know, through time we’ll ride,
Your smiles..your scowls, your tunes…your howls,
I’ll meet you there then, life’s beautiful bride,
A song we’ll sing, when two stones collide…

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

On a Misty Bay

At the moment of the end,
I shall breath in your serene sight,
When life is at the one last bend,
I’ll tiptoe into your dreams at night,
And together we shall fly away,
With wings of love to a misty bay.

We shall splatter in the sands,
Castles, of life, and those we make
Sculpted by our entwined hands,
The waves, of time and tide, shall break,
And together we shall shimmer away,
Into the starlets of heaven in a misty bay.

On that side of the mortal trance,
I shall wait for you,
Among the scarlets where dance,
The flittering fairies of flowery hue,
Together we shall melt away,
And delight with the drops on a misty bay.

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…

The Final Phase Of Loving India

Every time she smiled that day, she broke me. And it’s said even breaking glass sounds lovingly musical for a moment.

We sat in the auditorium. The drama competition titled ‘An Ode to Shakespear’ which needed the students to enact scenes from Shakespearean plays and some other bullshit was going on. I sat sandwiched between the two teachers who had accompanied our 23 strong host to the hosting school, the Team Leader with an image of being honest and introvert and thus, good.

I stared infinitely at the stage where School #1, while I didn’t even care to know the school’s name, acted out a scene from The Merchant of Venice, where Portia saves precious scoundrel’s life. And that’s when she came. You know how it happens in the movies, right? A bomb in a red frock electrifying the scene with her amazing smile? Yes…exactly the way you just imagined it!  But then my life hasn’t got the meticulous direction of any internationally acclaimed professional and she made an entry from behind where I couldn’t see her till she was crossing over to the other side of the row of seats followed by her 3 classmates.

I gaped for a moment in the dark and then took the wise decision of closing my fish-like mouth before any special notice of my expression was made. She found me and quickly whispered, “Come with us, what are you doing here?”

I shot up like a dart from my seat. Yes! She had hit the bull’s eye! What was I doing there and then how was I going to endure the next 3 hours in that position? The boy behind her was in for a shock as I suddenly materialized between her and him. And then finally I escaped the little hell of sitting between two highly orthodox lady teachers with a clear expression of triumph on my face.

I found a seat vacant beside her. Wait. Let me introduce her before you deduce something drastic about her: she was one year senior to me and was the Head Girl at school and there was no possibility that I used to have butterflies in my stomach whenever I saw her because she was a senior. Like, who cared?

She caught me stealing glances of her and confronted me red handed, “Did you really mean it when you said I was looking like a joker?” It came rushing to me that I had said she looked like a joker while she climbed down the many stairs of the auditorium sweeping them with her frock, about 2 hours back. I grinned sheepishly.

“You want the truth?”

“You want to lie?” her reply made me laugh and I decided she deserved the truth.

“Well, you looked ‘bhayankar’. Translate it to English and you’ve the word,” it translated to ‘terrific’.

“Thanks!” she said with apparent relief on her face. I stared at her while she tried to get updated with the on goings in the auditorium.

“People will now say a junior is hitting on a senior,” she stared back at me. “I’m wondering if you’re a professor’s daughter,” I grinned.

“Sorry dear, I live with my uncle first, who is a sharp-shooter in the police and second you’re not an IIT fellow yet, so better hold your horses,” we laughed.

“You’re threatening your junior, I can do you in on ragging grounds,” I smirked.

“Hello!” she was apparently in a mood to show this squealing junior the dust in this bout of words. “I’m an Indian lady, protected by more laws than I care to count and I can do you in for a lifetime at this very instant.”

“Save me, good gods!” I feigned scare and leaned back. We had both leaned too close  to the limit of being socially accepted. “This beautiful lady who this ruffian here had been eve-teasing is aware of the all the laws which were never enforced since their birth! What am I going to do now! Save me!” I grinned to her shriveled up nose.

“Poor joke,” she finally snapped and looked away angrily.

“Don’t worry, people like me are still alive,” I said in a mix of apology and reassuring tone.

She looked at me momentarily with shining, admiration filled eyes before I continued, “People who love hitting on the beautiful senior.”

If her face was shriveled like a dry brinjal till now, now it was a roasted dry brinjal. I grinned wider than ever.

She balled her hand into a fist, not knowing what to do with it, brought it down on her own thigh.

“Yeah,” I mocked. “Shit happens.”

She stared wide-eyed at me, eyes filled with fury and admiration at the same time. Her lips quivered in the vain attempt of wording her thoughts.

“Exactly,” I explained. “That’s why I though you looked like a joker back then. You see, I have a knack of seeing the future.”

She turned away instantly. Not having anything to fight with, the opposition had called for cease-fire as it appeared. Battle #1 won as the School #2’s performance came to an end.

What was I doing? Why was a gibbering away like an idiot with this girl? I had never felt the need to talk to her much before today, then why today? I saw Macbeth vowing and swearing as the three witches worked hocus-pocus at their cauldron. What was the meaning of me acting so foolish? Why couldn’t I simply collect myself and be the solitary-reaper I once was? This was not the Anubhav Singh I knew, this was the ‘forever-happy genius playboy’ image which Allahabad had forced me to live with.

I held my face in my hands and doubled over in the
chair.

“Anubhav?” she called softly, concerned.

I chose to ignore. There was already too much conflict of emotions in my head. I didn’t need any more.

“Are you tired?” the concern in her voice forced me to look up.

“Yup! This mask is too heavy,” I replied from the trenches of my turbulent sea of thoughts.

She stared clearly fuddled.

“You can’t see it,” I grinned. Anubhav, good fellow, she doesn’t understand a single thread of your heart. Whatever made you flow in that lot of philosophy has gone over her head. “A good mask never reveals the true face.”

She stared clearly fuddled.

“I’m crazy right?” Help her, she’s lost track. This is the moment where you either put her on the train of lies or the one to truth where you must open up. And you know it well that those who don’t understand you, hate you.

“Yes,” something seemed to click in her head. Your jig-saw fit. She’s picked up the easier journey on your train of lies.

I looked up to the cieling. A multitude of lights of various hues danced creating a perfect imagery of the huge mess of thoughts inside me. Why was I lying to her? She can’t hurt me. She won’t. Why was it then that I had come so close to truth and then backed off? What was it that scared me? Was my history so scarred that I was afraid of revealing it?

“What are you thinking?”

I shook my head, forcing an unconvincing smile. Damn her. Why did she have to use the same words as my special someone would? And the tone. Were both of them batchmates in the class of ‘Questioning Boys’?

“You’re too silent all of sudden, so…” she whispered.

I have to think you see, a good actor knows all his lines beforehand.

“I’ve just now found the answer to the question that has been bugging me for an year and a half,” I whispered back, and nodded sincerely.

She sat quiet for some time. I took to calming my mind. Closed my eyes and concentrated on the soft background music while School #7 showed us ‘Et tu, Brute!’.

“Can you tell me what’s been troubling a crazy soul like you for so long?” and for the first I saw she didn’t mean the adjectives.

“You want the truth?”

“Can’t help it,” she smiled.

“Fine,” I took a deep breath. A good breath before the hardest part in the act. “Have you heard of Artificial Intelligence?” She nodded. “There is a branch in it which deals with understanding natural language. Its termed Natural Language Processing.” She listened like a good student. “What troubled me was how to extract information in a multi-dimensional array from a huge paragraph, analyze the extracted information and derive facts and assumptions from it.”

She took a deep breath. You’ve got her again on the other track. Congrats buddy! Well lied.

“Anubhav,” she stared hard at me. “What’s your age?”

“Seventeen,” I replied truthfully. Though my birth certificate showed sixteen.

“Hey!” disbelief ruled her face. “I turned seventeen 4 days back!”

“Yes, you came distributing chocolates in a lovely dress and when I was the lone one who clapped, our class teacher half-killed me with his dagger eyes.” I recalled.

“You’re elder to me!” she seemed to be quite happy about it.

“Exactly 11 months elder. And yet I see that your ears are bigger than mine,” I chuckled.

She quickly covered her ear on my side with her hair crudely and fumed in indignation. I had once said to her, “People with bigger ears are usually stupid.”

That’s enough. Take off this mask, Anubhav. She has the right to know the person she’s talking to. You’re cheating on her emotions with this act. Let her know what kind of hopeless she’s dealing with.

“You know,” she still had the rage in her eyes as I spoke not looking just in them. “A few days back while I was coming back from school, I made a huge mistake. We use to stand under that banyan tree at the crossing. That day when we reached there, I found none of our hang-mates waiting. I was with my two classmates.” I looked at the aurora druggedly pulsating on the ceiling. “Then came this little girl in tatters. She had a infant on her. Probably her brother, both equally filthy. She put a palm in front of me. I didn’t have a single rupee on me. I looked at my friends and urged them to move on quickly. She dogged us a long way. Then she found an elderly man and her palm was still empty as she put it in front of him.”

I looked at her. The colors on the ceiling reflected on her face.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said softly. “You didn’t have anything with you to give.”

“That’s where I was wrong,” I could no longer look into her eyes. “I had love to give.”

She stared at me fuddled.

“I could have apologized to her. Am I that big man I couldn’t even speak humanely to her?”

She stared at me fuddled.

“I am a smaller man since that day. A much smaller man. There are hundreds of them out there. Everyday I see them, wonder about their lives. We have money, we dream of bikes and mobiles, we get them. They don’t have money. But they still have dreams, right? What happens to their dreams?” I looked back at her. “Their dreams die everyday only because they were born where we weren’t.”

“You want to make me cry?”

“I want to give them all a life. I want them to dream and have their dreams come true. There are millions of them in this world. And trust me most of them are much more intelligent than you and me, you can’t deny it. I want to give that intelligence a better option than stealing.”

She stared at me. I don’t know what she thought then. I was too lost in the relief this release of emotions had brought.

“I’m going to call you a ‘Saint’ now on,” she muttered.

“Don’t,” I laughed. “I’m a junior hitting on his senior. Emotional drama is a part of a writer’s life.”

She took a deeper breath this time. Apparently cursed her gods twice or thrice.

“You believe in love at first sight?” I asked her.

“Ummm…no,” she replied after a bit of thought and looked at me, expecting another volley of unpredicted words.

“Wow! That’s a nice miser!” I grinned. “I fall in love at least 50 times a day! Every 15-30 minutes!” I traced a hand around the auditorium. “Today it has been every 2-3 minutes.”

She stared harder. I roared with laughter.

“How is it that one moment you’re something and the other moment entirely opposite?”

I quietened immediately. “Look around yourself. From every student in this room I sense talent. They’re the bests from their school. I fall in love with that talent. And then I think about those children out there in the slums. If these puppy-faced-big-eared-mumma’s cherries have so much talent, then what amount of talent is India losing out there? And again I fall in love. We’ve hundreds or say thousands times the population strength of Japan, yet where are we? Do we even have a percent of refinement in us as they have? What would happen we brought forth all our human resources? And as the final phase I fall in love with the thought of an India which develops at half that population ratio.”

She stared dazed at me.

“What is it that I can do today and now to achieve my dream?” I asked.

“Nothing,” her voice betrayed the dejection. She made no attempt of covering her ears which she had bared in tucking her hair behind.

“We can’t. Right. And that’s why I choose to be merry at the moment. If I were to go down with depression now, will you stand for them tomorrow? No? So, its better I keep myself healthy. They say,” I smiled. “Laughter is the best medicine. Besides, I am not a miser.”

She balled her hand into a fist, knowing not what to do with it, brought it down on her own thigh.

“Yeah,” I grinned. “Shit happens.”

This above all: Be true to thine self

Stand still. Look at yourself in the mirror.

Who do you see? A friend of mine replied to the present query,”I see a son who is the world’s most polite man in front of his father, I see an elder brother who is the most righteous man in front of his siblings, I see a friend who is the most loyal man in front of his mates and then in the mirror I see myself a foul-mouthed rogue who has no rights and wrongs but only self-benefit and is loyal to none including himself”. I ask you, what’s the worth of such a life? Let us name the man-of-many-faces you see as Mr. Other.

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