Daddy Diaries : Tribal dances and progressive words

Dear Diary,

Anika is three months old now. She has turned into a Bonsai Sumo wrestler. The doctor says its baby fat and we should not worry much. Silly man! He should try picking her up for half an hour. I even suggested enrolling her in a gym and reducing her diet to half but everyone thinks I am crazy. No one pays any heed to her ever growing double chin and her as-thick-as-Qutab-Minar thighs. Her cheeks are like double scoops of butter-scotch ice-cream. 

I do not understand why we Indians cannot bear the sight of our crying child and rush to pick her up. Geet and I wanted Anika to have a habit of sleeping in her own cot without any assistance. Of course she cried a bit but that was natural and we had to give her some time to get used to it. Instead of allowing her to adjust to this format, the whole family (including Geet and I) rush to her aid the moment she releases a high decibel sound. Everyone is falling on top of each other to grab her, just like a bunch of zombies who have spotted a living human after months of starvation. Dear Diary, things stand at such a point at the moment that she is now unable to sleep on her own. Geet and I have devised new strategies because the put-her-in-cot-and-be-done-with-it strategy has failed miserably. 

Now there are two plans available to put her to sleep –

Plan A.  Geet does a very complex tribal dance with Anika lying in her arms. The dance has a lot of squats, jumps and swaying steps. It also includes a weird song that sounds different every time she sings it. While dancing, she looks like Neo dodging the bullets. I am thinking of gifting her with a spear on her next birthday. It will give an authenticity to the whole act.

Plan B.  I am a tyro as far as the tribal dance goes but I have devised plan B in case plan A doesn’t work. I take Anika in my arms and move her rapidly in random directions. So a typical manoeuvre will be up-left-down-right-up-up-down-30 Degrees-120 degrees-side… and so on. The immediate effect is that she feels dizzy and faints, which basically solves the purpose. Everyone in the house is amazed that I can put her to sleep in 10 minutes but they have no idea that she succumbs to a rapid change of frames. It is our little father-daughter secret.

Dear Diary,

Another splendid development in the last one month has been that Anika has started saying a very progressive word. Now I call it progressive because even adults shy away from saying something like this so frequently. The word she speaks is – Akuu. Initially I was not very sure what that meant but then one fine sunny day the bulb switched on in my head.

What she really means is – Fu*k You.

And to say that every time with a smile on her face is no small achievement.

“Anika, would you like to have some milk?”

“Akuu.”

“Anika, why are you so cranky? Go to sleep immediately!”

“Akuu.”

“Anika, why do you have to always wake up when I am eating food?”

“Akuu.”

“Anika, why do you drink so much milk and vomit it out?”

“Akuu.”

“Anika, take your hand out of your mouth immediately! Now! Now! Out!”

“Akuu! Akuu! Akuu!”

She even tell the ceiling fan to fu*k off when it fails to entertain her. She loves to watch the fan and the family rotate above her. I think she will go a long way as she has already learnt the one word that is essential for your survival in the world.

Dear Diary,

I think Anika will become a singer. Her wails are raga based. She always cries in a “Ga” moving to “Pa”, “Ma” and “Ni” rapidly. Her hands and the little fingers attached to them move like those of a seasoned classical singer as she gives her performance after staining her diaper and warn us that we better change it. It is a delightful sight. I can right away imagine her performing in an amazing concert and ending it with an Akuu to the audience. Imagine their faces! They will be shocked out of their skins.

Anyways,

I have to go now. The performance has started and it is a full house. I will have to execute Plan B very soon. 

Anika with her 2 friends. One of them works for the Queen of England.

Anika with her 2 friends. One of them works for the Queen of England.

A failed suicide attempt

Suicide

I held the blade close to my wrist. Its cold, sharp edge ready to slice my skin and spill my blood. It reminded me of cold winters. I tried hard to slash it, to end everything. My hands did not tremble but that was not courage. Courage is much more than that.

I do not remember my parents forcing me to become a doctor or an engineer. Maybe they were confidant that I will choose either of the professions eventually because I topped every year in my school. I, on the other hand had pretty much no idea. It is sad that we are asked to make important decisions of life at such a young age, when we do not know our mind and the implications of our decisions. That is why it is so easy to mold a person into thinking that what the rest of the herd is doing is best for him too. I did not prepare for the IIT entrance exam with much zeal and failed. My parents, teachers and friends felt bad. They always thought that I was destined for bigger things, like I was supposed to be the Prime Minister. 

During my stint in Delhi University, I saw everyone prepare for the GATE exams conducted by IIT. Yes, the mammoth was again in front of me and I was supposed to tame and ride it. Everyone in the college believed that our best shot at a decent job was to somehow get into an engineering stream, otherwise you would end up being a PhD student which a lot of us abhorred. My parents were silently observing my moves. They had too much faith in me. And so I started preparing for the GATE exam.

I gave it a year and put my heart and soul in it. I would study for hours and lose track of time. I would study travelling in the bus to college. I would study late at night till I would realize with a start that I was drowning the book in my drool. I believed that there was no college mate of mine who was putting in so much hard work as I was. I found out later that everyone had the same notion about themselves.

I took my entrance exam with half of India. Thousands of us were fighting for a few hundred seats. When you see such a rush of students who sit with you and solve those questions, you are always hit by a wave of doubt. Maybe you should have prepared more. Maybe you should have prayed harder so that God would have sneaked in an extra one hour in your daily routine.

I was at a friend’s home when the results were announced. Both of us immediately went to an Internet cafe near her house and checked the results. My name was not there. I checked again and again. Maybe there was a mistake. My friend looked at me with pity and rubbed my shoulder. I checked the result for another friend who I believed had studied very little. He was selected. I got up from the seat and told my friend that I was leaving for home. She ran after me and called my name but I was not listening. I kept walking towards the bus stop. I felt desperately lost. It was as if my life had come to a grinding halt.

On my journey home, I thought about various ways to commit suicide. I thought of jumping off the terrace but I knew I would never be able to do that because of my fear of heights. Drinking poison was also out of the question because that might turn extremely painful. Finally I came up with slashing my wrist at night when everyone was asleep. I thought that I would bleed to death by morning and no one will know.

When I reached home, I did not disclose the result to my parents. After dinner, I sneaked into my parent’s room and took out a blade from dad’s shaving kit. That night, when everyone was asleep, I held the blade in my hand and tried to cut my wrist. I tried for almost the whole night, building up courage again and again and then failing like a coward. I imagined the scene in the morning. I imagined my mother crying after seeing my corpse and the bedsheet stained with my blood. I imagined my father and sister going in an uncontrollable grief. I imagined their world crumbling to pieces. I imagined their life ahead.

I was not able to slash my wrist that night. I was awake when the sun arrived, when the birds started their morning rituals, when people started coming out of their homes for a morning walk. Then I got up and kept the blade back in my father’s shaving kit. It was not worth it. My death would not have been an isolated incident. My family would have died with me.

It has been 10 years since that incident. Now when I look back, I understand what a fool I was. I was about to kill myself because I did not pass an entrance exam. Had I done that, I would have missed everything that happened in my beautiful life in the past ten years. The bonds of friendship that I created during my stay in Kurukshetra (where I did my M.Tech and finally became an engineer) would not have existed. All those amazing memories of the time I spent in Bhubaneshwar and Chennai would not have existed. I would not have visited Kodaikanal, Rameshwaram, Munnar, Pondicherry, Konark, Agra, Amritsar, Goa, Manchester, Paris, London, Scotland and Switzerland. I would have never seen snow falling like soft cotton from the sky. I would have never got married and fallen in love (yes, it happened the other way round). My daughter would not have existed. I would never have seen those tears in the eyes of my parents when they held my daughter in their hands for the first time. 

When I think of all the beautiful memories of the past ten years, I shudder to think of the consequences if I would have slashed my wrist that night. And then I burst with happiness that I didn’t. I have realized that our life is too important to lose it over such minuscule hiccups. It is more grand than any of us can imagine. It has so many unknown twists and turns that it can leave us breathless.

Trauma hits everyone of us and we do certain things in the heat of the moment that we later repent. For better sense to prevail, it is a good strategy to allow things to cool down. Maybe I would not have taken the drastic step if I would have thought about it for a day or two.

Nearly a million people commit suicide every year. They leave behind a trail of destroyed families who might never recover from the shock. I wish everyone is as coward as I was that night. They would then know that Forrest Gump’s mother was right. Life is indeed like a box of chocolates.

ssp (1)

[image from here]

Related reads – Suicide Warning Signs, Suicide Awareness Day

Blogging For Suicide Prevention Badge

USC’s MSW Programs Blog Day.

Message in a Pen – III

fork-in-path

Read part 1 & 2 of the story here –

Message in a Pen – I

Message in a Pen – II

Neelam came to take the exam. She was flanked by two burly cousins who did not allow any male to come near her. She had a chat with Ruchi, Sneha, Amrita and Kiran for a few moments. The girls were left shaken. Neelam’s left eye was surrounded by a black patch. There was an ugly red bump on her forehead and her lower lip was swollen. She was walking with difficulty. She took the exam and went quietly back to her home in the car. No one saw her slip a pen in Ruchi’s hands which she later gave to Saahil.

The five of us gathered in Saahil’s room as soon as we reached the hostel. He opened the pen and a paper protruded out of it. There was no refill inside it. The paper was folded multiple times and pushed in the base. Saahil pulled it out and opened it. It was a message from Neelam. He read it and passed it over to us. 

Saahil,

I might not be able to write again. They have locked me up in a room. Dad beats me up everyday. I don’t feel the pain anymore. My left hand is numb. He twisted it too much.

My love, I have agreed to marry someone else. Dad says that if we try to elope, he will dig us out and hack you to pieces in front of me. He can do that Saahil. I am not able to sleep at nights.

Sweetheart,

I want you to go and find happiness without me. Our friends were right but we were hopelessly in love. I will never regret loving you but I cannot bear the thought of seeing your dead body. I will live happily knowing that you are alive somewhere.

I know what I am asking will be unacceptable to you but time will heal everything Saahil. You will fall in love again. And me. Don’t think of me as heartless. I have to think of happiness so that I don’t go mad in these walls.

Give my love to the gang.

Neelam 

                                                *           *           * 

“You think I chickened out that day, don’t you? The day the message came in the pen?” Saahil asked.

“No, I don’t. This is not a movie,” I said. The breeze was still playing with the swings.

“You think ours was not a true love?”

I remained silent.

“I loved Neelam. The day I saw her during the exams, I was furious. I wanted to go and kill her dad. How could he do this to his own daughter? And what would it have solved?”

“It’s just that I think you and Neelam gave up too easily. It’s like…”

“It’s like Neelam and I am glad that we parted, that I do not live with a sad expression on my face, that I do not always remember my past, that I do not  make my wife realize that there was someone else in my life earlier and was snatched away from me,” Saahil completed it for me.

“I am sorry but yes, that is what comes to my mind. It is as if both of you were relieved that you got rid of each other.”

“No. We were not. You saw how I barely passed the exams, how I used to sit in the hostel room and cry all day.  You were there. Do you expect me to do that all my life? Our happiness is not confined to one person. I had to dig out my happiness again after she was gone. I had to because I was going nuts. And now I should feel bad that I tried to find love again and succeeded?”

On an impulse I looked towards my left and saw Kirti standing at the door of the house and looking at us. She was far away and could not hear us but her expression said it all. She then smiled and went inside.

“Did you talk to the others about it?”

“Of course I did. I wanted to talk to you too but you were so unapproachable. You had drawn walls around yourself. We barely talked in the last three years. Thank God you are back.”

“I was completely shaken up by the incident. I always thought our country was progressing.”

“Outsourced jobs, more money and shiny cars cannot change the mindset,” Saahil said.

“I guess you are right. I am sorry for everything. I should have talked to you earlier. I don’t know what I was thinking,” I said after sitting silently for a dozen heartbeats.

“I cannot live my life starting every thought with a what-if. I had to forget Neelam to live. That does not mean that I did not love her and that does not mean that I love Kirti less.”

I nodded and looked up at his face. Both of us smiled and then stood up and hugged.

“Welcome back,” Saahil said. 

As we moved towards the house, I slowed my steps so that Saahil got a bit ahead of me. I took out a folded piece of paper from my pocket and tore it in two. I then crumpled it and threw it away. The wind took the pieces towards the swings. There was no need for me to preserve Neelam’s message anymore. It was time to move ahead.

“All ok?” Rajat asked as we entered.

“All ok,” I said.  

Saahil went and sat with Kirti and put his arm around her as she placed her head on his shoulder. 

                                                *           *           * 

The train entered the tunnel and a cool breeze brushed my face as I mulled over what had happened today. It came to me that the way we look at it, our definition of love is quite monochromatic. But when you go through the layers of your life, you begin to realize that our understanding of love is very similar to our understanding of the universe. Unimaginable dimensions of it will always remain unexplored and so our characterization of love will always remain elementary. It is not just the warmth that spreads through our heart; it is not just the pain that obliterate our soul. We discover it when we are not searching for it; we find it in remote inaccessible corners of our heart, when the light of hope has almost diminished, when we believe that our soul is too ravaged to mend by its touch, when we are sure that we are done with it.

[image from here]

Message in a Pen – II

angst-of-existence

Read Part 1 of the story here – Message in a Pen – I

The gang of ten was now two concentric circles – eight of us as a surreptitious circumference around Saahil and Neelam.  We savoured their melting. We were elated when their meetings multiplied, when their eyes oozed their enviable blissful future. I kept raising doubts at intervals in various octaves, sometimes guilty of vehemence because I was scared for them. Neelam and Saahil would then sit with me and pacify me. They were devastatingly optimistic. It almost broke my heart but I always smiled in the end. Sometimes the gang agreed with me that the gap between their communities was too wide to be filled up in our lifetime. Honour killing was still a rampant reality. But Saahil and Neelam were sanguine, with a thick veil of love settled on their existence. 

“If the need arise, will you contemplate running away?” I asked both of them once over a cup of coffee in the canteen. It was just the three of us.

“We haven’t thought about it but we might,” Neelam said.

“You haven’t thought about it or you are scared to think about it? Do you realize what will happen to Saahil’s family after both of you elope?” I asked. Both of them looked at each other.

Saahil had discussed the relationship with his family and his parents had no problems with the match but they made it very clear that their family getting insulted will never be a part and parcel of the deal. If Saahil had to elope or marry secretly, then he was on his own. 

The couple persisted. The courtship was now about to complete a year. It was the first time that I had seen a woman blush a beetroot red at the sight of a man. The smile won’t leave their faces as their fingers found each other’s hands. Their eyes gleamed with dreams of their future together.  

                                                *           *           * 

The lunch was eventful. The five of us talked about various lecturers and professors who taught us during the one and a half years we studied together. There were too many people we had mimicked and made fun of during that time. We lived it again, choking on our food as we laughed. Arnav clapped his hands while Kirti moved her head from one side to another and smiled. Our past danced around the dining table but the girls were not in it. It was a tacit decision to erase them. I had no idea how much Kirti knew and so I went with the flow.

I loosened up a bit by the time we finished eating. We clicked a few pictures. One of them had Rajat and Saahil sitting in front while I, Gaurav and Sumit stood behind them. It was exactly like a photograph clicked during our college farewell. The faces were not the same. Mouldings were seeping into our pictures with time.

“Arnav needs to sleep. I am going in the bedroom for a while,” Kirti said to Saahil and went inside.

“Come,” Saahil said as he held my hand and asked me to get up.

“Where are you guys going?” Rajat asked in alarm.

“We are taking a stroll in the park. The three of you can take a nap,” Saahil said.

I got up and went out of the house with Saahil as Rajat, Sumit and Gaurav gave difficult-to-comprehend expressions. 

                                                *           *           *

We had a preparatory break twenty days before our final examinations. Most of us stayed in the hostel because they were our last few days together. Neelam went home as Saahil would not let her study. She talked to him in the evening after reaching home and that was the last time any of us got a phone call from her.  

No one had any idea what had happened for almost four days when a call came on Saahil’s phone one evening. The five of us were in his room discussing what to do next when the phone rang. It was Neelam’s father on the other side. He was shouting so piercingly that all of us could plainly hear his words. Saahil tried to reason with him but his reasons were not working against death threats. Fifteen minutes and an avalanche of swearwords later, the phone was abruptly disconnected. We sat in stunned silence. It was a perfect I-told-you-so moment but I kept my mouth shut. Saahil was blinking away tears.

“I have to go home and talk to my parents,” he said as he suddenly got up and started packing.

“Tomorrow,” Gaurav said.

“No, I have to go now.”

“I said tomorrow Saahil! You are in no position to ride a bike on the highway,” Gaurav said.

Saahil threw his bag violently on the floor. The clothes tumbled out of the bag. I got up to pick them up and kept them back in the bag.

He went home the next day to convince his parents to talk to Neelam’s family. They were very clear that Neelam’s family has to spit out the anger and talk to them in a civilized manner. Saahil called up Neelam’s father to convince him for a meeting. He was told that the next time he calls, his family will not find a single piece of his body.

“Please tell me if she is alive,” he pleaded. The line went dead.

I kept calling Saahil that day but he did not pick up his mobile. Optimism was now an unrecognizable corpse buried deep within the soil of practicalities; the practicalities of staying alive. I had never thought that I would wait for Saahil in our hostel room with my heart ramming into my ribcage with a deafening ferocity. I imagined reporting him missing to the police and then identifying his body. I imagined Neelam hanging from a ceiling fan, her battered body swinging slowly. Love had turned into a blinding pain from being blind.

Saahil came to hostel the next day. His face was different now. He had woken up from the dream. 

                                                *           *           * 

We sat on a bench in the park. The weather was agreeable.

“Neelam is in America with her husband. They went to Egypt on a holiday. She loved the Pyramids,” Saahil said. I stared at his face for a while.

“Are you in..”

“No. Rajat told me. He got an e-mail from her one day. Now she writes to him sometimes to let us know that she is happy.”

“What about you?”

“What do you think?”

I silently stared at the swings moving slowly with the winds.

“You really don’t get it, do you? You saw what I went through, what Neelam went through. You saw her when she came to write her exams. After going through all that turmoil when I had no intentions of staying alive, here I am sitting with you. I am married and I have a kid. Would I be able to lead my life like this if I still loved Neelam?”

“But how can you fall out of love with a person like this Saahil? You were crazy about each other.”

“I am in love with Kirti and Arnav. Right now that is all that matters. Our life is not as one dimensional as it seems. The seasons change for a reason my friend. The pendulum swings without rest. The first few months were difficult, when she was forcefully married but there was nothing I could do. Her house had turned into a fort. I tried reaching her. You had left for Chennai. Rajat, Sumit and Gaurav were there but I knew that I had to come out of it or I would have gone crazy. Even then, when Kirti was refereed for an arranged match, I said no initially.”

“I know.”

“I told her about Neelam the first time we met. She was very understanding. She told me that she liked me but I cannot enter her life with the burden I was carrying. We started talking and said yes a month later. Neelam was already in America by then.”

“And now?”

“I am madly in love with Kirti. Don’t you see? She healed me. I was never so much in peace with my life as I am now. When I see Arnav’s face, I don’t remember any sadness that existed in my life. It was always about Kirti and me. This is where the path was destined to lead me.”

“I am happy for you,” I said as I caressed a piece of paper in my pocket. 

to be continued…

[image from here]

Message in a Pen – I

meetingBased on a true story. The names have been changed to protect the identity. This is a 3 part series. 

I stared at the flaps as they extended. A few moments later the wheels were kissing the airstrip amidst roaring air. It was a strange feeling. The city felt alien and that too in just three years. My parents were waiting outside the airport, scanning strange faces for a glimpse of familiarity.

“You are dark,” mother said the moment she filled her hands with my face.

“Don’t worry, winter is almost here,” father said and smiled. I smiled back. 

Even if you have lived in a city for years, there is something inexplicably uncomfortable when you see it after a gap. The sunlight feels different. The air smells strange. New bridges and buildings have sprouted. There are monstrous pillars on road-dividers with trains snaking on them. Faces are buried in more lines. 

Rajat called in the evening. The cheerful baboon wanted the gang to meet even before I had unpacked my bags.

“Where shall we meet?” I asked.

“Saahil’s place. Tomorrow,” he said. 

The four of them have been meeting regularly. I was the outcast, thrown away by destiny. I had been to Delhi twice in the last three years but the trips were fleeting, not stretching for more than four days. I haven’t seen any of them. Saahil was married now – the only married man of our gang. Who would have thought? 

I was late. I bought a box of chocolates and a kilo of apples. Kirti opened the door. I had never met her before. There was a one year old in her hands who was playing with her gold chain.

“He is here,” she turned around and shouted at the living room.  

There was a sudden roar from the sofa and a crowd of faces filled my eyes. The moment was surreal. Rajat, Gaurav, Sumit and Saahil encircled me like an eight armed octopus, the way they had done three years ago on our last night in the hostel. I was engulfed in sounds of laughter, questions and recollections of the better days my complexion has seen.

“Chennai does that to you,” Gaurav said.

“I will be ok in a few weeks. It doesn’t matter,” I said.

“Really?” Gaurav asked raising an eyebrow.

“It’s just skin.”

“How is the job?” Sumit asked.

“I pay my bills regularly,” I said and smiled.

“We missed you. Every time we met, we always wondered if the five of us will ever be together some day,” Rajat said.

“At least all of you met. All I did was sulk.” 

I tried not to look at Saahil and he noticed the gesture. My face was brimming with questions. It would have been an embarrassment. He was holding his son as Kirti had sprinted towards the kitchen after greeting me.

“I am still angry with you for missing my marriage,” he finally said as Kirti appeared with a cup of tea and some biscuits.

“I know,” I said staring at the tea. 

There wasn’t any reason to be cross with Saahil but I was. I could not explain it to myself. It was immature. He made a choice and he was blissful but then how could he just whisk away all that had happened? I wanted a moment with him to give my mind some rest. 

“Is anyone in contact with the girls?” I asked. Chatter fell off the air and everyone looked up at me. The question was a mistake.                                               

*           *           *

Kurukshetra was a scary place. The fact that I had to travel through unknown villages and towns of Haryana in a roadways bus to reach my college made it scarier. I had never lived alone in a hostel and my parents were failing miserably to put a brave front. My mother behaved as if I was a soldier going to war. Dad tried to be emotionless and strong. The college was three hours from Delhi and I promised to be back every weekend with loads of opportunities to use the washing machine.

Dad went with me to the hostel and helped me clean the room. Thankfully I did not have to share it with anyone. He gifted me a Nokia mobile so that I can call them in case someone was trying a sword on me. Certain narrow-minded communities in Haryana were famous for their flair for weapons. Dad stayed for the night in a hotel in case he had to take my body back. He was relieved to see me alive the next day and bid me farewell. Suddenly the fact that I was all alone in a town in Haryana manifested itself in all its glory and I went weak in my knees.

I met Rajat, Saahil, Gaurav and Sumit in the hostel. I clung to them as I found them surprisingly calm. I was later told that this was not their first time in a hostel. Saahil and Rajat were from Sonepat which was another small town in Haryana. We were ragged incessantly by our seniors but the versions were mild as we were post-graduate students.

Classes commenced and I met inhabitants of the girl’s hostel. There were five of them – Neelam, Ruchi, Sneha, Amrita and Kiran. The fact that the ten of us were away from our families brought us closer. Also, there was a hope that five love stories might blossom in the process. It was too much of a coincidence that the gender equations were so levelled out. Our dreams were shattered a few weeks and a few unsuccessful wooing attempts later when Ruchi and Sneha confided that they already had boyfriends while Amrita and Kiran were too scared of their families to even think about it. Neelam gave a mysterious smile and did not disclose anything. Their heartbreaking revelations were made during a game of truth-or-dare in the ruins of Sheikh Chilli’s tomb, a Mughal monument in Kurukshetra. By the time we reached hostel that evening, Saahil was having great difficulty in breathing.

“Neelam is not engaged to anyone!” he screamed with joy the moment the five of us were alone in his room.

“Yes, we noticed that and also the drool from your mouth reaching your foot,” I said.

“I am going to propose to her tomorrow,” Saahil said.

“What!” the four of us shouted. The windowpane vibrated.

“What is wrong in that?” Saahil asked innocently.

“What is right in that? She belongs to a Jat family from Haryana. They are influential businessmen,” I said.

“So?” Saahil said.

“If you want it so bluntly loverboy, then here goes. You belong to a Scheduled Caste community. If her family comes to know of your affair, your family will end up collecting pieces of your body from farms all over Haryana,” I said.

Rajat, Gaurav and Sumit nodded. There was silence while the news sank in.

“I think I love her,” Saahil said.

“Oh for God’s sake!” I got up and threw my hands in the air.

“They can always talk to the parents. They might agree,” Sumit said nervously, with an unconvincing tone.

“Don’t encourage him! He will die!” I shouted and stormed out of the room. 

*           *           *

“Lunch is almost ready,” Kirti said from the kitchen. She and Saahil were making the chapattis. Rajat, Gaurav and Sumit were cutting salad while I was playing with Arnav, Saahil’s son. Arnav held my finger firmly in his hand and was staring at me as if trying to place me from his previous birth’s memories. It is said that children remember their previous birth till they begin to speak. I looked at Arnav’s face and wondered if that was true. And then I wondered how his face would have turned up had Saahil married Neelam. I suddenly felt ashamed.

“There was no need to ask about the girls,” Gaurav whispered.

“I am sorry,” I said.

“As you know Ruchi and Sneha are married to their respective boyfriends and happily settled in Bangalore. Amrita is divorced as her parents married her to a jerk and Kiran is in Sonipat, married to a businessman,” Rajat said.

“Amrita is divorced? When did that happen?” I asked a bit taken aback.

“Two months back. She is in Gurgaon working in an MNC,” Rajat said.

“And…,” I said.

“And nothing,” Sumit said pointing to the entrance to the dining area where Kirti has appeared with the cutlery.

“Why are you so glum? What has happened to you?” Gaurav asked.

“I don’t know. All of you have moved on but for me our life together is frozen in that hostel. I can’t time travel,” I said.

“Pretend to be normal. Ok?” Sumit said. I nodded. Rajat wiped tears from his eyes. He was slicing onions.

Read part 2 here    

[image from here]                        

Daddy Diaries : Mind Un-pooped

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Dear Diary,

There are some things more scarier than L.K. Advani becoming the Prime Minister of India and him dozing off in his swearing-in ceremony. More scarier than him suddenly waking up and saying – Now I can die peacefully – and then doing exactly that. I wonder how our President will react to that. Wait! Who is our President nowadays?

Sorry Dear Diary, I went a bit off track. I was talking about scary things. Right.

Ever since I have seen parents handling their kids, the one thing that has scared me the most is the act of cleansing the child off undesirable and discarded belongings. I have always found the act repulsive and the mere mention of a diaper would give me cold sweat. I really could not understand eager parents who would open the diapers at the drop of a hat to examine the insides, the same way they would examine their child’s report card years later. There are some who do not take the pain and simply sniff the diaper as if they are strolling in the annual flower show in the Mughal Gardens. Then there are some who put their hand underneath the diaper and weigh it to guesstimate its approximate weight and act accordingly. There are times when I have seen parents indulge in incredibly horrifying and nauseating multitasking like eating Rajma Rice with one hand and handling the diaper with another.

I must admit Dear Diary that I have turned my face away with aversion whenever I have seen the act. But as they say – You can run, you can hide but you can’t escape God’s sadism.

When I discussed it with Geet, we hugged and cried with relief because she felt exactly the same but was always afraid to discuss it with me. She told me of one lone incident when she tried to change her nephew’s diaper and then could not eat anything for the rest of the day. There was a soothing calmness in knowing the fact that we were equally hopeless. Dear Diary, you cannot believe the burden it took away from our shoulders.

The fear returned when Anika was born. Geet was too weak to do anything for the first few days and it fell upon me to do the inevitable act that I have dreaded all my life. The moment of truth had arrived. I waited with bated breath for the sound of release. I had no idea how it would sound like or whether there would be a sound at all. And then I heard it. It sounded like a dormant volcano that has come alive. My heart was in my mouth as I opened the diaper with trembling hands. Beads of perspiration were glistening on my forehead. Geet looked at me with an expression that smelled of pity, helplessness and amusement.

Dear Diary, what happened next was so unexpected that I still find it hard to believe. My mind was un-pooped. There was no feeling of revulsion or disgust. I did not choke. In fact I smiled as if I have discovered diamonds in the diaper. I cleaned her, changed her diaper and then closed Geet’s hanging jaw.

I don’t know how it works. How does your mind behave in an entirely different way when it is your own child. I have been fighting this phobia for such a long time but when the time came and things actually happened, my mind behaved as if it was the most natural things to clean butts smeared with refuse with a straight face. I guess, there are a few switches that are turned on after you become a parent.

This, Dear Diary, has been the most fortunate turn of events. And it wasn’t just me. Geet too did not feel a thing. In fact, there are times when we examine everything closely and discuss various factors like colour, graininess and flow before using the wipes. There have been times when Anika has done a ‘Balam Pichkari’ on my clothes and I have laughed at that too.

I have done it 230 times till now. Yes, I have been counting. It is an achievement dammit. I have also realized the fact that diapers are so expensive. I keep telling Anika to use them judiciously and she has been a nice girl.

Dear Diary,

Time is flying. She is a month old now. Geet and I are already discussing investments for her. Oh wait! There she goes again. Oh! That sound is so amazing. Etna has erupted.

Time to go.

[image from here]

How to survive a pregnant wife

A wise man once said that pregnancy brings out the animal in a woman. I don’t exactly remember who said that but I think it was me. It is also said that pregnancy is the most wonderful period for a woman but whoever said that must have been Justin Bieber. You can mildly compare a pregnant woman with a werewolf. Bring out that full moon of empathy/sympathy/apathy and you might be mauled in unimaginable ways. Those nine months are a litmus tests of patience for not only a lady but her husband as well.  Especially the husband. His situation is similar to a walk on burning coals. But let me not put the whole nine months in a single bracket because there are blissful times as well, like seeing your wife turn into Pamela Anderson.

First Trimester (first 3 months) – The vomit generator

After the initial euphoria of witnessing two red lines on the pregnancy test kit dies, the arduous journey begins. Your wife will turn into a recycling machine. Anything that goes inside her will come out in mashed form. Sometimes food and medicine will come out in exactly the same form as they went inside. So don’t be surprised if you see a crisp samosa lying in your wash basin one fine morning.

Husbands should try to avoid making any remarks in this duration if they do not want to be karate chopped. Here are a few sample conversations you should never make while your wife is producing hot dimsums.

Husband – I know what you are going through.

Wife – Do you now?!? *Dimsum 1* Believe me you have no *Dimsum 2* bloody idea so stop pretending *Dimsum 3*. Go away before I *Dimsum 4* kill you.

Husband – *does the mistake of patting her wife’s back while she is hovering over the washbasin*

Wife – Don’t touch me, you sex maniac. This is all your fault. You have had your fun. Now sit back and enjoy the next nine months.

Husband – This will be soon over. Every pregnant woman goes through this. You will be Ok.

*Big fuc*ing mistake*

The guy ends up with a broken neck.

The best approach during the first three months will be to hug her cautiously when you think she will not split you into two. Such occasions will be rare but they will be there.

Second Trimester (months 4-6) – Pamela Anderson

Your wife will start looking like those clandestine celebrities in this duration. The tummy will start showing in the 5th or 6th month but it will not be prominent in comparison to her other *ahem*. If you are one of those few unlucky souls, she will carry her first trimester problems in this trimester also. Most women don’t. You should be prepared for some extra shopping as it will appear that the last time your wife shopped was when she was in kindergarten. Nothing will fit her. Her bra size will horrify her. She will buy extra large everything with immense sadness.

During this trimester, the husband should be credit card ready. One tiny sound of rebellion and he might be flying out of Pantaloons. He will be reminded that this photoshop-ish distortion of the wife’s anatomy is all his mistake and now he has to ‘pay’ for it. It will not matter when the husband tries to reason that he is delirious with joy at the photoshop-ish enlargements.

Third Trimester (months 7-9) – The planet

By the ninth month, your wife would have turned into a planet. She would eat as if an asteroid is going to hit Earth tomorrow and vaporize all the ice-cream shops. Do not be alarmed because there is a baby inside her who needs all that nutrition.

The wife might find it uncomfortable to sleep. There will be instances when she will complain that the baby kicks all the times.

Do not try this at home –  

Husband – It will be soon over darling.

Wife – Yeah? What do you know? Have you ever tried pushing a baby out of you? OH GOD! I AM GOING TO DIE! 

Husband – Oh! Come on! It is not as if you are the first woman to….. *Was not able to complete the sentence because of a kick in the balls*

It will be during this trimester that there will be times when the husband and wife will be freaked out by the fact that another human being is growing inside the wife. It might sound like those alien movies but watching the baby play football as your wife’s tummy heaves like a turbulent ocean will not help. This might sound absurd but try talking to the baby. Make a paper boat and keep it on your wife’s tummy while making ridiculous storm sounds.

The D-Day

It gets worse once the labour pain starts. It is like a full moon night and the husband is under immense danger of being flung out of the window of the hospital building. Husbands should be prepared for all the groaning curses flung at them and take them sportingly. Sentences like –

–          This is all your fault you pathetic bastard. God will never forgive you.

–         Wait till this thing gets out of me! I will put you in the washing machine.

–         Don’t ever think that you will make me go through this again. I will snap your neck at the mere mention.

A husband might be alarmed that his wife has been possessed and needs an exorcist more than a mid-wife but that is not the case. Try to dab away the sweat from your wife’s brow when you think she will not dig her nails in your hand. Be quick about it.

Once the baby is delivered your wife will be back to normal except that now she has turned into Mother Dairy and will be dripping milk all over the house. The husband might feel isolated at this point of time as the Dairy will be open 24X7 for the baby. Try not to sulk. 

Surviving a newborn will be covered in another post.

p.s. Pregnancy is a beautiful time. A couple goes through myriad emotions during those nine months. They forget all the pain when they notice the child moving in the tummy, when they try to figure out the head and the arms in the ultrasound report, when they do shopping for the baby before the grand arrival. If the post has given you any negative concerns, then that is purely your pessimistic imagination.

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[image from here]

Now that you are here my daughter…

My eyes are adjusting to your presence. The moment when I held you in my hands for the first time seems like a dream. Your being is so surreal that I have to see you again and again to make sure that you are not a figment of my imagination. Your crying sounds like a creaking door and the chap – chap sound you make while drinking milk lands me in convulsions of laughter.  

Yes, you have arrived and now that you are here my daughter, I have a few promises to make. 

I promise that you will never learn to accept your gender as weak. The idea will never be taught to you. 

I promise that you will learn to make your own decisions. I will be there to give my opinion, suggestions and guidance but I will not make decisions for you. 

I promise that you will learn to value a human for his thoughts and not for his religion or cast. 

I promise that I will be there to help you get up after you fall but I will never stop you from committing what I think are mistakes. I will never strangulate your convictions. 

I promise that you will learn to defend yourself and your rights. 

I promise that you will know the true significance of this gift of life, that you will value it in all humans above anything else. 

I promise that you will understand the significance of hard work, you will understand that success achieved through shortcuts does not mean anything. 

I promise you will grow without any cultural shackles. You will never be a part of a family that demands dowry or pray for a baby boy.

I promise you will be taught to respect Mother Earth. You will learn that there is nothing like cultural superiority. 

I promise that you will understand that there are only two kinds of humans – the ones who make mistakes and hide them and the ones who accept their mistakes, learn from them and rectify them. 

I promise that I will encourage you to fall in love. My opinion about your choice will not matter if you are convinced and happy with your partner. And no, the gender of your partner will not matter.

I promise that I will neither show you off as a trophy nor treat you as a racing horse to further my unfulfilled ambitions.

I promise that I will try my best to incline your interests towards various art forms. I will try my best to make you fall in love with books.

I promise that I will be your best friend. I will listen to you with amusement when you will tell me that your boyfriend got his ears pierced seven times. I will listen to you with pride when you will tell me that you broke a man’s arm with a karate chop when he tried to harass a lady in the bus.

I promise you my precious Anika that I will love you unconditionally. My love will not change with your successes or failures, your decisions or opinions. My love will not change even if I have to change a hundred diapers a day. It will not change even if I end up being sleep deprived and dream of diapers falling from the sky during my random power naps.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with you. I am looking forward to see you take your first step, call me dad, laugh out loud, fall in love and live your life.

Im busy

p.s. I might be blogging erratically for a while because of my busy schedule of changing diapers and burping the baby. Please don’t mind.

p.p.s This blog might turn into a daddy blog for a while.

A house in the photographs

I believe that our home is like our mind. It turns overwhelming after a while. Maybe because of passage of time or because of the limited capability of our brain to run in a thousand different directions, we end up stacking a lot of memories in boxes and forget them. Ditto for our home.

But then sometimes, while staring at a drifting cloud or a bird going home, there are memories that rush back, memories that we had long forgotten, memories that surprise us because they are still unknowingly breathing inside us. It is a breathtaking moment when you wonder if a particular memory was actually a dream.

And you ask yourself – Did it actually happen?

I shifted home two years back. It was a painful experience. I had spent 25 years of my life in that house. The house has been a silent spectator of the emotions that everyone living in the house went through – bliss, heartache, gloom, love, togetherness, separation, marriage and death. The house was a member of the family; it was where everyone returned, where everyone found each other.

While I packed my life to move to a new (and bigger) shelter, I stumbled upon memories stacked away and forgotten. I opened boxes to have a look into the piece of the past they contained and was transported back. There were tears in my eyes when I fell upon a shoebox full of my collection of post-cards of Bollywood actors and actresses. Like every other teenager, I was madly in love with them. There was a shop that was a ten minutes walk from my home where a kind, obese uncle sat with his kind, obese son as I rummaged through the postcards for my picks.

My family was not rich. My father was barely able to meet ends and so the importance of money was etched in my mind from childhood. But then I had hobbies. So, I collected every single rupee that was given to me. Every coin added to my piggybank was yet another step towards acquiring a postcard, towards buying a second-hand novel from the Sunday Daryaganj market, towards getting that cassette recorded with the latest Bollywood songs from the local music corner, towards buying the latest comic book of my favorite superhero, towards buying Filmfare and reading all that our stars had to say. There were times when I had to wait for days to accumulate sufficient amount to buy a dream but the wait was always worth it.

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My sister always wanted a Barbie – the new doll with wavy hair that had recently hit the market. She would look hungrily at the shiny dolls wearing glamorous clothes displayed in the windows of toy shops. Of course it was too expensive (Rs 100 a doll back then) and we could not afford it. The hair on her doll’s head was fewer in comparison and would come away after a few combs. I decided to make her happy. I took a nice, long needle and some spare wool (left from a hideous sweater that mom knitted for me) and started adding hair to her doll. I took off the head of the doll and pierced her head with the needle from inside. I then pulled it till the end of the wool and then snipped off the wool so that she now had a hair till her waist. I repeated it a hundred times and soon the doll had lush green woolen hair till her waist that my sister could comb to glory.

When my sister saw Aishwarya Rai become Miss India, she had a sudden urge to host a Miss World in our house. I again came to her rescue leaving my Hot Wheels cars and my plastic animals behind. I drew a lot of lovely women on paper wearing exquisite gowns and sashes of their countries. I then cut them and made them stand by pasting a thin cardboard strip near their legs. I made around 200 such drawings and gave them to my sister to play. She made all of them stand on a table and gave them a number and chose the next Miss World. Oh! How she loved it!

I found the lovely ladies in a box, lying on top of each other and smiling at me.

I found truckload of capacitors and resistors that my father used while repairing our old television. He had done a course in electronics and I would gawk at his notes with that immaculate writing and the complicated circuit diagrams. I found those notes.

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I found Mom’s old black and white fairy photograph. When I came across the bag containing all the pictures, I desperately searched for her photo in which she was wearing a black pahari dress. As a child, I used to think that she was a fairy whenever I looked at that picture. I promised myself that I will get it framed. I found dad’s photograph in which he looked like Rakesh Roshan.

I found my old sketch book about which I blogged here.

I found a card with the picture of a village belle in the front and a sher written inside by my father. I found his wooden miniature airplane.

I found my kindergarten report card.

It was a beautiful day. The boxes that I had stacked away in my mind and completely forgotten were magically opened one by one. As the memories tumbled out, I thought that moving the house wasn’t a bad idea after all. It was refreshing. It took me to another era. It made me realize how much I have changed. It humbled me. But there was a nagging guilt that I was leaving the house behind. And then I felt as if my old house was smiling at me.

“You are not leaving me behind. I am in all of those pictures. I am the wall behind you. I am the floor on which you stand. I am coming with you,” it said.

Sometimes I pass that house and look at it from my car. Someone else is living there now. It is a part of another family.

Does it still remember me?

Forgotten Heroes – Tuffy and Pigeon

TuffyPigeon

There were times when Tuffy could not believe that he was sleeping on the road, fighting with stray dogs over tiny morsels of food. He lived in a mansion once, where everyone sang and danced, where he was once made an umpire in a game about which he had no idea (all he knew was that one of the wooden boards had a bit of chicken tikka masala rubbed on it and whenever he picked it up, everyone screamed and pointed at the sky). Those were the good old days.

Pigeon sat on a wire, curiously studying the familiar dog that gnawed at a bone near one of the huge dustbins. Even though he was dirty and his shiny white mane was hardly visible, the pigeon could not whisk away the inkling that the face was too familiar. Pigeon did not have any friends. The fact that he was white gave him delusions of grandeur. This really pissed off the usual grey pigeons and they kept him at bay. As he saw the dog, the pigeon remembered the time when he was a pet and sighed. He missed how Suman rubbed his nipples while singing. Those were the good old days.

HAHKHe flew towards the dog.

“I hope I am not disturbing you Sir but are you Tuffy?” the pigeon asked.

The dog looked up. It was days since anyone has talked to him.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

“It is a privilege to meet you sir! I am aware of your heroic deeds and how you helped Prem and Nisha in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun.”

“Wait! Are you Prem and Suman’s pigeon from Maine Pyar Kiya?”

“Yes, Sir. I am,” the pigeon said puffing his chest.

“You were quite heroic yourself. The way you helped Prem and Suman was commendable.”

“Thank you Sir. So what happened? Why are you here?” the pigeon asked. Tuffy sighed.

“Well! I got bored. It wasn’t as if I didn’t like the family but they were getting irritating,” Tuffy said.

“Tell me about it!” the pigeon said rolling his eyes.

“Their house was so bloody big and then everyone was calling my name all the time. I have had enough of running. And then they would sing like 20 songs in a day and made me dance on my hind legs. It wasn’t funny,” Tuffy said.

“I know what you mean. I loved the way Suman held me in her hands and rubbed my crotch but she would throw me in the air like 50 times in a day to send a message to Prem. They lived in the same bloody house!” Pigeon said.

“There was always a crowd in that house. It was as if a whole country was living there. And people will pull my hair, pick me up, toss me around, make me run. By the time I went to sleep at night, my muscles would be burning,” Tuffy said as a tear slip down his cheek.

MPK“I must confess something. I hated my owner. She had this permanent begging expression on her face. And the way she said Prem almost killed me. I wanted to peck out her eyes. And she was a tube light. The poor guy took her to the balcony to have sex with her and she won’t let him. She made him sing and dance till he collapsed of exhaustion,” Pigeon said.

“Nisha and Prem were idiots too. She prepared food for him, wore here fancy pink dress and when they had all the time in the world, they danced! Can you fuc*ing believe that! And her sister who fell off the stairs was another idiot. Why did she have to dance all over the house to get into a room? No one in that stupid family knew how to walk. They even danced before going to the loo. I wonder how they reproduced,” Tuffy said in disgust.

The dam was broken. Old wounds were opening.

“Are you happy now?” Pigeon asked.

HAHK2“Hell yeah!” Tuffy answered licking the bone he was holding in his paws, “Of course, I miss Nisha at times.”

“Why is that?” Pigeon asked in surprise.

“Nisha had a habit of touching me at inappropriate places.”

“Really? Suman also had that habit. She would run her hands all over me as if I was a Kashmiri shawl. Since I never had a girlfriend, this was the closest I came to having sex.”

“I don’t know. I was always aroused by Nisha. Once she wore a backless purple blouse and swayed her hips like melons tumbling off a cart. Heaven!”

“Oh! That was classic. Vagaries of the civilized world.”

“Tell me pigeon. Did you actually push that villain off the cliff?”

“I have never talked about this. Well no, I was not trying to kill him. I was trying to kill Prem. When Suman was thrown out of Prem’s house by his father, I had no idea that he would come after her. Oh! How I wanted to put my beak in his nose and pull out his brains when I saw him in the village. Even though I hated Suman’s shrivelled face, the physical pleasures she gave me were too much to sacrifice. I thought that if Prem died, she will be mine. But Alas, that idiot villain could not understand my intention. I was just trying to help him pull Prem down and he thought I was attacking him,” pigeon said with a sad expression.

“I would like to confess something too. When Nisha gave me that letter to give to Prem, I thought that giving it to his elder brother will create a ruckus and he will still marry her and make her life hell. And then she will be mine. She will always turn to me for comfort. But the fool made her marry Prem. I cried buckets that day,” Tuffy said.

As Tuffy and Pigeon were busy being nostalgic, no one noticed a tigress coming from behind. Before Pigeon could spread his wings, she landed her paw on his tail and closed her mouth over his head.

“NOoooo,” Tuffy shouted and jumped at the tigress. He did not see a blurred movement of her paw that slashed against his jaw, flinging him at a wall on his right. Tuffy slid down the wall like a dead fly.

Within seconds, the tigress was licking her claws as a few feathers slid off her mouth.

“Pathetic animals! I can’t believe someone took them as pets. Look at me! Now I am a majestic animal worthy of being a hero. I am elated that Himmatwala took me in. He is kinda sexy too. I love licking his shaved cheek,” the Tigress said fluttering her eyelashes. She then moaned and walked away to find Himmatwala.

The thought of another lick of the shaved cheek was too much to bear.

Himmatwala-New-Poster

[Images from – 1,2,3,4, 5]