Return – Chapter 2

I knocked on the door. I knew what was impending, and even as I knocked again, I felt it would have been a relief if I could just run down the road beside, and keep running until I was tired. But then, I wanted to face what reality had in store for me. It wouldn’t be easy, I knew. In fact, the next few minutes could be the most tough moments of my life, something that I could pass on to my grandchildren in anonymous stories. I waited. A lady shouted from inside, which roughly translated to “I swear this is the thousandth time since morning someone knocked on my door. I will break this door someday.” She opened the door, and for a while she kept looking at me. I realized she wouldn’t know me; when I had last left her, I did not have a stubble. My hair was neatly combed that morning as I left for school. That was four years back. I smiled at her, hoping that would remind her of the past. She did not look a day older. She was the same old woman that I had left a few years ago. Same white sari, same white hair, plump but weak, fat rimmed spectacles, nothing had changed; except time. “Namaste Taaya,” I said, which meant, “Hello, Taaya”. Taaya was what I called her when I was small. I did not know how I came to learnt that name, and why no one asserted a problem to me calling her by that name when she was in fact not my taaya. In relations, taaya refers to an elder aunt. But she was not an aunt of mine, neither did she have any nephews. I was the only person she had, and only had she been the only person I had, nothing would have ever gone wrong. She was my mother.

She looked at me melancholically, kept looking at my eyes for about a minute, and then shut the door on my face. I couldn’t expect anything less or more than that. When I was young, sometimes we used to fight over small trivial matters. Then I used to pretend I was angry and would shut the door of my room and lock myself inside for hours. My mother would cry, thinking I was really angry. I felt sad about that, but I didn’t want to break it to her. If I did, she would never again think I was angry, and things wouldn’t work out. So many incidents flashed into my mind. But then, things changed. Today we played a role reversal. I was crying, and she had shut the door. Only, she literally did it. There was only one person I could now go to. I didn’t know if she would remember me at all, or whether she would give it any thought if I stepped up in front of her, but I owed it to myself, and I owed it to her, to meet her once more, to try to set things right, and to live my life as I should have done before. It was late, but they say it’s better to be late than never. I was praying they said it right. As I walked down the road, an old friend met me. He looked at me strangely, as I stood, stagnated, not moving an inch. He hugged me for a while, and as we walked, he narrated all what had happened in the interim that I was gone. I was gone. I had never thought anyone would put it that way. I was not gone, I was right here. All the while, I was right here. But I couldn’t explain that to him, nor could I talk about it to anyone else around. So I just nodded. He left me after a while, when he saw the way I was headed. “Don’t do it,” he said. “For your sake.”

I strolled on. I had to see if there were a life that I wished for, if there were a destiny that defined me. So I reached her house. And I knocked, hoping she would open and recognize me. I hadn’t been away that long that she’d not recognize me. Unless she did it purposefully… The door opened. She looked at me with her shining eyes. So much of her had changed. Except her eyes. They were still the same. They still said the same story that they said four years ago. And her tears still pained me as it did in my dreams. She had grown thinner, and she looked prettier than I could have ever imagined her to be. “I still love you,” I said. She put a finger on her lips, indicating me to stop talking. And she hugged me. “I’ve missed you,” she said. “I’ve missed you too, Shaena,” I said.

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Return – Chapter 1

As I sat there, watching the black of the sky fade into deep maroon, the sun rising between the clouds, more crimson than ever, and watched it light the sky into an orange, the chirps of the sparrows, and the caws of the crows who had left their nests already, the alarm in my watch buzzed. It was five in the morning, the iron bench on which I sat still cold, drops of dew settled on it, and on my coat, and the sun slowly started hiding behind the clouds, turning the sky into a black, and in a few minutes, the drizzle came upon me. The grass looked greener than ever, as if it rejuvenated in the morning mist and rain, the dogs running back into their shelters where they slept, and the road in front of me, empty. Only after the drizzle had stopped did I see old couples back on the road, some walking, and in some, one pushing the other around on a wheelchair. A guy in a raincoat rode a bicycle, had roses to sell, and newspapers too, but the papers were all wet already, and he didn’t have anything to protect them from the rain. He reminded me of a time long before, when I used to see someone else exactly this way, only the face was different, rest everything same. Or was the face same too? I didn’t remember. It was six o’ clock then, when I rose from the bench, and smiled at the guy who had been sitting beside me for the past two hours, never making an introduction, never saying a word. It was better that way, no one liked to talk early in the morning, he was out for some reason, I for some other, or may be the same, who knew. I had to return, I decided.

It couldn’t go on forever like this. I had tried long and hard for four years to stay away from her, and had thought that maybe we both would forget each other, get on with our lives, move ahead, never looking back at the path we had left. And yet, God works in mysterious ways. Sometimes, you run so hard away from destiny that you don’t realize you’ve taken a full circle back to where you started. Maybe in a parallel universe we might have never met, and had been much happier than right now, but then, I needed to live in the present. I needed to be happy. Spring was around the corner, small green leaves on each tree, wet with the morning fog. I liked the winter rain. It made the surrounding slightly colder, and nothing could be better than going back inside, cuddle a quilt around, sip a cup of coffee, and get engrossed in a novel. However, right now, that didn’t seem the best option. In fact, going back didn’t seem a viable option at all. Going back now would mean getting back to square one. When one has read a story one didn’t like a bit, he is less likely to want to read it all over again. I was somehow the reader of this very bad book, and it seemed that someone had just thrown the book on my face again, only with a new cover, or maybe not even so much a new cover than a reprinted one. Yet if I had to read it, it were better I got started and get done with it already, rather than procrastinate it so much that it would seem to have gained more importance in my life than it should have.

I plied a bus and took a seat near the window. A few stops later, a man got up and took the seat beside me. He was roughly middle-aged, and smiled at me congenially, which was perhaps the first good thing that happened to me in the day. I was too flagged to make a good conversation with him, so I decided to let him speak if he wanted to, assuming he would get tired after a while and try to lessen the small-talk. But when he stopped, I felt miserable. It was nicer when he was talking, and so I started talking to him. He was a father of two kids, he said, had been living here for the past three years and found this city extremely affable. I laughed at my destiny. Here I was, listening to a person telling me how pleasant this place was, when it had succeeded in giving me nothing but nervousness of what was impending. A few stops later, he got up, we shook hands, and he left. A beggar got up in the bus, pleaded for some money, and I gave him some. I had always been lenient towards them, perhaps it was because of the way I was brought up, or maybe just because I had a soft corner for everything, or maybe, I really didn’t know what spurred me to spare something for them every time they asked for something. Perhaps deep inside, I wished that if ever I had asked someone for something, may be they would also give it to me, just as much as I wanted it, nothing more, nothing less. But life, strange as it is, hardly works in the ways you would have wanted it to. When I got down from the bus, the place was completely new. It wasn’t how I had remembered it, and not really how I would have wanted it to be. My memories raked up the old place, and superimposed it on the current. The entire scenery looked misplaced now. I realized that time indeed does change things. It might not have been weird to see it grow into what it was today, had I been through it entirely. But right now it felt as I had time-travelled into the future, and that somehow twenty years had passed since I had last seen it. There was no smoke from the chimney of the tavern, instead air-conditioning machines placed on the roof. The trees used to bear orange leaves perennially, yet now they were all green. Something was different about this place.

Perhaps it was time to embrace the change. Perhaps it would be better for me to go back to the point where I started again. Maybe this was the way it was all supposed to be. If so, then life was giving me a second chance. If not, it would be the most terrible mistake that I would ever commit in my life. I only hoped that this time the journey would not end so soon, like it did before. My mind was firm, and strong as ever, but my heart wasn’t ready to accept this fate. But when it saw the spring, and how the trees bore new leaves again, it sometimes found solace in nature. It realized that this is how life was supposed to have been in the first place. Make, break, make, break. It was an endless cycle, and how much ever you wanted to get out of it, at the end, it was inevitable to get sucked into it. Because that was the difference between God and us. We could not control everything. Because if we could, then we would have been as powerful as Him, as stoic as ever, never wandering from our path, and never being forced to choose anything. But now that I had made my choice, I would live by it, and live it good. Or so I wished. I would soon set things right, but before that I had one last thing to do.

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New Plans

Hello everyone. So July is almost here, and you will be pleased to know that this month, I intend to reach the number of posts to 200. This will require a bit of effort, since I don’t want to fill garbage in here. Nevertheless, I will try my level best to reach my goal.

So what else have I been up to? I have been trying to figure out many things of late. But most of it is boring and does not qualify to be put up here. I have been wondering why my nine-chapter story ‘Quick’ turned out to be a failure when ‘Shaena’ was well appreciated. I finally settled down with believing that the reason is two-fold. Firstly, there wasn’t a concrete plan as to how the story would end when I first started it, which may have led it to sway from the original motive and go to an undesired end. The second, which I think played a bigger role was that there was a one-year gap between the first half and the second half of the story. This gap included a year of tremendous change in my mindset, as well as my favorite genres, which may have swayed the entire concept wrong. But again, there are some people who did like it and I am grateful to each and every one of you who spent their time reading my blog.

A more important question here is what is next. Now that Quick is over, what is the next new project I have at hand? That brings me to this discussion. As most of you might have known from my earlier posts, I am now employed by Samsung as a full-time engineer. However, as much time as that will take off me, I do maintain a plan to write consistently for this blog as well. That brings me to my new set of posts, which I call ‘Autumn’. I am very excited about this series. It is because I personally like what I am writing. I am going to spend some time writing it before I put it up, and may be it will get extended from what the plan is as of now, but this is a personal recommendation to read the posts categorized under ‘Autumn’.

That much for now. Let’s read more, and write more, so that the world never falls short of things to read. Bye bye for now!

Shaena – Chapter 6

An evening of June, we were returning from our tuition. Our tuition had become much more fun now, at least for Shaena and me. For once, I was feeling now, that things were indeed going in the right direction. Two hours of the tuition, under the table, our legs would be intertwined, mine on hers on mine on hers. And we sat like that, without ever caring to care what went through our minds; it was just normal. Then this day came.

Our tuition got over around seven thirty, and it was raining heavily that evening. Like all girls, Shaena had an umbrella, and like all boys, I couldn’t care less; I didn’t even have a bag to carry my notebook, leave alone an umbrella. Since we lived in the same campus, we decided to walk together. We walked, and on our way, we talked random things. It was queer we never mentioned anything ever about what had happened, what was happening, and it seemed as if she did not care as to what was to happen. As for me, I had had a lesson once, and I had promised myself not to repeat it again, ever.

We had almost reached my house when the power cut off. As it was raining, I suggested to wait for a minute lest we step on something on the road. She agreed, which was obvious, since she was afraid even of the butterfly. 😛 Whilst we stood, waiting for the lazy workman to go and switch on the generator, a thunder struck. And, instantly, Shaena caught my shirt tightly and hid her face in my arm. It was all too fast to think or to react, but the next thing I knew I did was push myself away from her. Not that I did that voluntarily, it just happened that I spotted her mother coming towards us. The moment was gone, it was dead. And although I had given a clear sign of disapproval to what Shaena had suggested, I never wanted to.

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Shaena – Chapter 5

[5]

A morning of January. Cold, dry and silent. It had been eight months now. Nothing much had happened in this interval. Shaena and I had not been talking since that night, and except for the moment each day when we crossed each other while entering the class, she didn’t look at me, and neither did I. I had assumed that it was destined to be so. Only if it was!

The computer lab gave us a chance to come on talking terms again. It was there that we said ‘Hi’ again, and pretended as if nothing had ever happened. She probably must have felt that it was the appropriate thing to do. I tried to behave as normal as possible. “So which book are you reading now?” I asked. “The Namesake”, she said. “Oh, you know what, the boy at length realizes that it doesn’t matter what his name was. Moreover, he starts reading the book of Nikolai Gogol his dad gave him on his birthday.” “You weren’t supposed to tell me that,” she said. Deja vu.

Things turned normal in a few days. We talked as and when needed, not more, not less. “The rains will come and they will go. But you can’t afford to get wet in it every time, can you?” she said one day. And for the first time, I understood what she said.

As our class had a small strength, talks of Shaena and I getting back on talking terms spread. People hardly knew why we had stopped talking, yet they seemed happy when they got to know that we were talking. We never talked of that evening. Shaena had left the coaching classes six months back, so there was no chance of such a repetition. Things went pretty normal for some four months. The day’s brightest before dusk, they say. Something similar was to come.

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Shaena – Chapter 4

[4]

There were reasons why my friends said that I liked Shaena, though I never gave much attention to them. For example, when they asked why her name in my contacts had double quotes enclosing her name, I had no answer for them. And surprisingly, I had no answer for myself. “Go and tell her, how long will you continue this way?” they used to say. “Tell her what?” used to be my regular reply. They stared at me and went away.

We had our board examinations, after which we were promoted to the eleventh standard. Whilst most of my friends had left the school for other schools, I decided to carry on in the same. Coincidentally, Shaena had decided the same, though we had never talked about it. I went on a leave from school for a week, to attend a marriage. Her regular calls convinced my cousins that there was something fishy. How much ever I tried to explain, they wouldn’t understand. Whilst we were returning, something happened. It was nothing great, nothing momentous. I was moving from one platform to another. Since the path was a long way to go, I decided to get down on the track, and cross the width. Whilst I was on the track, (no, no train came and hit me), she called up. I could have crossed the tracks, moved to the platform and received her call. Instead I received it then and there. When I reached the platform, my cousins stared at me. “So you say you don’t have anything to do with her?” they said. I realised almost instantaneously that I had been lying to them, and to myself, for a long long time.

The twenty-third of April of 2008 will remain in my mind for almost the whole of my life. It was the day that changed everything. Shaena and I went to the same coaching class. Topics for the IIT syllabus were covered there, of whose I didn’t understand a word. While returning, Shaena and I chatted all the way. Suddenly she asked me, “Who’s your girlfriend?” I was startled by the question, not because I never got such questions, but because I hadn’t expected it at the moment. I said, “No one”. “There must be someone who you love, right?” I was in a fix. I couldn’t tell her that it was she, for I feared losing her friendship. I couldn’t afford to lie, because it would be very apparent. Plus, I didn’t have much time to decide. “Tell me,” she insisted.

After two minutes of silence, I spoke up. “I’ll tell you on one condition. When that girl gets to know this, she shouldn’t stop talking to me. Nothing should get bad between us.” She promptly said yes, though I knew this promise was not meant to be kept. I said softly, “I love you,” so that no one else would hear. Okay, I had done it. I had said those three words for the first time, and I had no idea what was to come next. She took it rather calmly, or pretended to be calm until we departed. She asked “Are you serious?” for about ten times within a minute. And when she realised I was serious, she said nothing. Her house came, she bid goodbye and left. And I waited for the night to end, not knowing what the morning had in store for me.

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Shaena – Chapter 3

[3]

“There lies the garden, full of flowers and grass. You can see it and please your heart. But at the same time, you might as well pluck the flower and keep it with you, because today or tomorrow it has to die, be it with you, or be it on the plant. And similarly, you need to cut the grass and keep it at your feet, for otherwise you won’t realize what is underneath.” A pause. I tried to grasp in the words she said; I had already told her umpteen times that I was poor at English, and had asked her several times to speak straight, but no, she reveled in her speech, in her flowery language, and had succeeded in confusing me for the thousandth time. I said plainly, “No, I don’t understand,” and she replied in return, “Only if you would!”

Shaena. There were things about her I would never have known, if not for our sole common friend, Khurram. That she had a boyfriend, that she was not at all the girl she tried to show in front of others, and that she intended to use friends for her advantage, were few of the various accusations that I had decided to dispose of the minute I heard of them. In fact, I hardly cared about who she was. I wasn’t intending to spend my life with her, nor was she, and the seven hours of school that we spent together would have had no effect on me, whosoever she was. So I decided to let everything go the way it was going.

By the end of the year, we were good friends. We did not care about what people said when they saw us walking together after school, it hardly mattered to us when they was a rumor of something going on between us, and we decided to forgive the boy who said she was my slut. Everything was going well. Only if were destined to be so!

“There’s a light which will shine on you every time you do something good. There’s another light which will shine on you every time you do something bad. It’s up to you to decide which is the light that shines, whenever you do something.” Another nonsensical blow from Shaena. When would she ever learn to speak straight! We were at the canteen waiting for our lunch to arrive. Whilst she sipped coke out of a glass bottle, I stared at her eyes which never stopped moving, they spoke so much. It was a tinge of brown in black, which suited her to the utmost. She was pretty, very pretty. And the next moment, I decided to go buy myself a drink lest I do anything extremely foolish sitting there.

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