Intruder Part 4

IImage result for Woman with a phone and a parcel sketcht was nearly two weeks since we had a conversation. He had told me that he was going to Delhi on some work. I did not want to message and disturb him even though the desire to get in touch was strong.

After one week, I started getting angry. I mean I was not exactly sitting at home and twiddling my thumbs. Yet I found time to hold a conversation with him. What was so important that even a few words like “Good morning”  or “Hello how are you” could not be shared? Finally, I swallowed my pride and sent him a long text asking him what he was doing and if everything was alright.

I kept looking for the blue tick against the message that indicated it had been seen or read. But there was nothing to indicate that.

Gazing at my phone became an obsession after some time.

At times I felt shocked at what was happening to me. I was behaving like a crazy woman, running to check messages every time the whatsapp tone went off!!

I lay awake at night feeling depressed. After another week had passed I dialed his number with the intention of speaking to him. But the message I got at the other end was that his number was switched off!!

It was at that point that I decided to begin dealing with my feelings. I thought back about what had happened in the last six months. I had moved from being an anxious and depressed middle aged widow to a happy middle aged woman. I wondered if I had fallen in love with him. I was not sure. What we shared was something beyond friendship and probably just short of love. And I was feeling hurt and let down that it had suddenly ended with no explanation – just about as suddenly as it had started!

Three weeks were over and I began to slowly get a better hold on myself. The phone no longer held the interest that it used to. Life began to settle down and move at its usual pace when suddenly it again turned topsy turvy.

I had just come back from the workshop in the evening when Riya handed  a parcel to me saying that it had come by courier that afternoon.  I took my own time opening it.

When I did open it I found inside a book “Bridging distances – conversations with my beloved” . The author was someone called Arundeep . I had never read anything by him but I somehow remembered seeing a book  by this writer on some book shelf somewhere.  When I opened the first page and read the acknowledgement everything fell into place… the book was dedicated to “Bee- who I have never met but who has been the source of inspiration for this work”

My hands were shaking when I opened the envelope. There was a letter inside. The handwriting was bad, almost a scrawl. But the message beckoned.  So I read on

“My dearest Bee

You had often wanted to know what I did with my life. I had told you I was a writer. You had said that you had never read anything written by me. So I decided to write a book especially for you. Every word in this is dedicated to you. I have never seen you or met you but I could always feel your beauty. In my world where there are so many shallow people  you are that one genuine person.

I plan to be in Bangalore next month for the launch of this book. Will you come and meet me?

Hoping to meet you soon.

Yours Shab”

My hands were trembling as I read the letter. Should I meet him, I wondered. But when? Next month, he had said, when was that? The letter was undated so I had no clue. And his phone continued to be switched off…!!! My head was swimming with questions.  I sat down at the dining table and closed my eyes.

“What’s up Mom? Are you okay” asked Riya as she sat down opposite me

“Oh.. nothing I am fine” I said rubbing my eyes

“Hey, who sent you this book?” she asked grabbing it from me. I was glad that she had not seen the letter.

“A friend. Who is this writer? I have never read anything by him” I said carefully

“Mom, Arundeep or AD as he is called is the most happening science fiction writer in India This book of his is something out of his usual genre. It has been attracting a lot of good reviews. Can I read it first ” she asked flicking through the  pages.

Science fiction!!! Well…! No wonder I had never read him. I guess I must have seen his book on Riya’s shelf.

I was still unsure whether I should go for his book release… And when was that I wondered.

“Riya, is there going to be a book release in Bangalore” I asked her

“Yes, this weekend. ” she said, not looking up from the book.

“Shall we go for it?” I asked her

“Are you sure? You don’t like these events I thought” she said

“No I want to go.” I insisted.

I was utterly confused now. Why was he inviting me for his book launch when he did not respond to my messages or had his phone switched off? Was this invitation a way of saying thank you for inspiring him to write something different? And anyway what was it that he had written. I was hoping that Riya would finish the book soon so that I could read it.

But first  I needed to  acknowledge receipt of the book and send him a thank you. If he replied to the message then I would go for the book launch.

My phone was lying on the counter. I picked it up , typed ” Thank you for the book” and pressed send. Within minutes I received a response “ My pleasure”.

“Shab” – read the contact.  The display picture was the cover of the book.

I waited with my fingers poised over the letters on the keyboard. On one hand I was happy, on the other I was angry. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.

A minute passed before I saw the message that said he was typing

“Sorry for the long silence. I had lost my phone. It caused a lot of problems in communicating with the publishers. Had to manage with a land line. The place where I stay has no mobile phone shops. So I had to wait until I came again to Delhi to get a phone and reactivate my number. I know I could have contacted you through other means but I was too preoccupied with the publication. You must be terribly angry with me”

“I was. But you are forgiven now” I wrote, adding a smiley

“Then please come to your front door. I am standing outside” he said

I walked up to the front door pausing for a moment in front of it, wondering how I would explain his presence to Riya.  I was utterly confused by the suddenness with which things were happening.

But Riya was already there getting ready to go out. And just as she opened the door, both of us were face to face with a tall man with grey hair wearing glasses.

“Hello, you must be Riya. I am Arundeep” he said looking at her with a smile

“AD!!! Oh my God!! Mom, do you know him!! “ she asked excitedly

I stood there wondering what to say.

“Your mother and I are very old friends” he replied “Just that she knows me only by my nickname”

“Ah…yes. No wonder she asked me who you were“ said Riya looking at me with amusement.

“To friends, we are just people. Not celebrities. That is the nice thing isn’t it Bina” He said looking at me with a twinkle in his eyes

“Yes Shab!! Please come inside” I said walking up to the door and opening it wide.

An Intruder had just become a guest!

( Concluded)




Intruder Part 3

It wRelated imageas very strange how we got round to conversing over Whatsapp!! Everyday I would find a “Good morning” message followed by a smiley , sometimes accompanied by a photograph of a flower, rising sun or even a cup of tea! A “Good morning” deserves a reciprocation was what I told myself, the first time I responded to the greeting.

And then during the day there would be some random messages – funny questions or observations! Sometimes these led to some interesting conversations

“Hey Bina, would a woman feel very special if she received flowers or a card with a verse” was an example of an odd question.

“Depends on the woman”  I replied

“She is middle aged, sensitive and intelligent” he said

“May be a verse then” I said. But I couldn’t hold myself back from asking “Who is this woman? Your wife or girl friend”

“Neither!! But I wish she could be either” he replied

“Then please work on it” I advised

“No… I don’t think I will” he said , making me wonder what was the point of sending someone a verse if he did not want to have a relationship with her.

And then we had our funny moments. Like when I was out buying vegetables and he wanted to know what I was buying. I must say, messaging on the phone in the middle of a crowded market place was an experience in itself.. So I sent him a photograph of the bottle gourd I was buying. And then when I got back home, I found a request from him asking me to make a “kofta curry” and send him a picture.

So I sent him an image of the curry , in my best crockery, making Riya ask me why we were having dinner in our special crockery considering it was only bottle gourd koftas and chappatis? I had to tell her that I was hoping that this boring vegetable would taste better if served in a nice bowl.

I was  curious to know his reaction to the photograph. Sure enough I saw it just when I getting ready to sleep “The gem does not befit the setting” it said!! I couldn’t help telling him that it was exactly what Riya had also said.

“What about her father ?” he asked.

And that was when I told him about having lost my husband a year ago.

I have never really shared my feelings openly with anyone about the pain around the loss  but I was surprised how easily I was able to share it with him. I must say that he was most sensitive !!! At one point he asked me if he should call me so I could speak. But I was not ready to speak about it , even though it might be to a stranger.

That conversation was like a watershed of sorts because, it led to a regular pattern around our interactions. Besides, the “Good morning” wishes, we would have a conversation through whatsapp late into the night.

I had told him a lot about myself but he was very cryptic when it came to sharing about himself.

He did tell me though about being an only child. From his conversations I gathered he was well educated and had traveled around the world.

I wanted to ask him if he was married, whether he had children .. but something kept me back. I think I did not want to appear like I was too interested to know about him.

It was not exactly a romantic relationship .. more a friendship I kept telling myself. But I could sense something between the two of us that was beyond friendship!!!

For example, when I down with fever, he messaged me a number of times to find out how I was. I thought that was very sweet of him!! And then when I traveled to an old house near Hyderabad to buy some antique furniture, he was very concerned that I was travelling in a transportation van on a highway after sunset.  No amount of reassuring that the driver was well known to me seemed to allay his worries. When I finally reached home at Bangalore around midnight, I messaged him saying “Reached home” .  I was very touched to find a response immediately that said “Thank God! I was worried”

That was when I did something very uncharacteristic of me. I called his number. Just when it started ringing I had a doubt whether he would take my call.

But he had answered within two rings!

“ Hello Shab, its me Bina” I said

“ I know, your name popped up when you called” he said with a laugh

If  written conversations with him were  witty and interesting a spoken conversation was even better! He had a soft and husky voice.

We spoke for nearly an hour…!!!  I learnt that he lived in the hills near Nainital. I also found out that he lived alone. But I was not sure what he did with his life. However this was good enough to begin with. At least I knew something about him!

I finally asked him why he was behaving like a worried father, messaging me while I was on the road.

“Because I care” was what he had said. I wanted to ask him more but I had to hang up  when I heard the sound of the flush coming from Riya’s bathroom. I switched off my phone and did something  odd… I put a password on my phone and locked the screen!!!

I would have to find a way to explain this to Riya if she used my phone like she sometimes did. I am not sure how she would take it…!! I felt a bit guilty about it!

Shab and I did not have a spoken conversation again after that night but our written conversations continued. For a man who I had dismissed as a  character with a whacky sense of humor,  I must say he was very perceptive. We discussed about what made us happy, what saddened us . He sent me links to his favourite songs which I listened to using earphones, late into the night. I sent him some lines from my poems which he read. He sometimes gave me  feedback which I did not always like.

And then one day suddenly, he started referring to me as “Bee” !! He said that was his image of me- a busy bee who was always doing something or the other. I found it very amusing that he should think of me like that, but I guess he was right. As a woman who ran a business and a home, I was always on the move, between my workshop,  home and my sourcing locations.

So, at the ripe old age of forty nine, I Bina, who had such a short name that a nick name was never needed, suddenly found myself with a strange nick name!! But I must confess that I felt closer to him in some ways after that.

I felt a perceptible change come over me in these three months that I had known him. I could sense myself getting happier every day. Even Riya remarked about it “Mamma, those creases on your forehead are finally gone” !!

But I lived in the secret dread that they might reappear one day. After all, this relationship was like a feather floating in a gentle breeze. One never knew how long the breeze would blow for  it to stay aloft!!!

( to be concluded in part 4)









Intruder – Part 2

Image result for sketch of woman texting on a mobile phoneRemembering to do something and actually doing it , I realize now are two different things.  I guess I am growing old and with so many things on my mind, I can be forgiven for not remembering to  block an unknown man on whatsapp.

So here I was ten days later at the new year party with my school mates. No, we did not have “male strippers”( for those of you who might be curious!!). What we had was a DJ who was playing remixes of songs from our times which was annoying me no end!! But my friends did not seem to mind as they were jiving away to “Yeh ladka hai allah” that definitely did not sound like the original. To tell you the truth, these women were beginning to irritate me!!! I wished I had not come for this stupid party!!

But Riya had been insistent. She was going out with her friends and she felt that after her  Pappa’s death,  her Mamma was becoming reclusive. She had almost forced me to go for this. And so here I was with twenty five other women my age, some of whom had come with their families and some alone like me.  I looked at the fat paunchy husbands and was thankful that my late husband, however anti social he might have been had never been undignified like them!! He was fit and never got drunk like some of these fellows. His only weakness was his temper which he often lost. But I had eventually learnt to deal with that.

I felt sad and lonely as I walked out of the room into the garden outside. It was a moonlit night and a bit chilly. I pulled my shawl around me and sat down on one of the chairs outside gazing at the moon. Suddenly the fireworks went off  and there were shouts from inside… I guess the new year had come in!!

My phone suddenly started to buzz with the Whatsapp message tone… once, twice, thrice and four times. One from Riya wishing me a happy new year and hoping that the new year would make me smile more. I felt tears prick my eyes. This nineteen year old was so much more mature than her years!! And then was a message from my brother and sister in law in Delhi wishing me for the new year which I reciprocated. A third message from a former client. And finally the fourth message – from none other than Mr. Smiley face!!

“Hi!! Happy New year” it said

“Thanks same to you” I replied.

“So are you girls partying like you had planned” he asked

I wanted to type “None of your business” but instead went on to write “Yes.”

“Strippers?” he asked with a winking face icon

“OF COURSE  NOT” I wrote in full caps!

“ I think you are not enjoying the party” he said

“Why do you say so?” I asked

“Because you are having this conversation with me” he said

“ No I am not!! I am just answering your questions” I typed

“That is how conversations go… questions and then answers” he typed. I did not need to see that laughing out loud icon to guess that he must be actually laughing.

I could feel my lips part in a smile in the darkness as I typed “Well you must also be bored with your  party if you are finding the time to chat me up”

“I don’t party…!!! Can’t handle so many people together” he said

“I don’t mind them as long as they are not a nuisance” I said

“ Who is being the nuisance? Tell me I will come and beat him up” he said with a smile.

“Don’t bother. I know how to handle the nuisance affecting me” I wrote.

He  “Ah!! Independent lady!”

Me “ Yes!  No clinging vine. Never was !”

“You are an interesting lady…Bina” he said

“ You remember my name?” I asked surprised.

“ I never forget names or faces” he said

“Why? Are you a detective or a spy” I typed

“Neither!! I am an observer of people. I watch them and recreate them.. I am a writer” he said

“Really? Tell me the names of some of your books” I typed

“No…!! Not at this point any way” he said

“Why not ? Are you going to reveal it only when there is a twist in the tale” I asked adding a laughing out loud icon for effect.

“Is there going to be a tale ?” he asked

I paused for a while…! This was a tricky question. Should I answer? I saw the word “online” against his number. A few seconds went by… It still showed “online”! The man was waiting for my answer.

I had got myself into a strange situation  indeed!  Had this stranger penetrated my defenses or had I allowed my guard to come down ? Whatever… it was not something I should do .  One heard about a lot about crooks chatting up women online. But somehow, he did not seem like a crook.

“Hi, are you there” he typed.

“Hey, I need to go now. They are calling me inside” I said hastily trying to end the conversation.

“You mean, you were outside until now? Did you see the moon?” he asked.

“Yes, beautiful” I replied.

“Look for me by moonlight , watch for me by moonlight, I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way” he wrote

“Highwayman”!! I responded.

“Happy to know that you read poetry” he said

I wanted to tell him that I also wrote poetry- four notebooks full of verses! But I held myself back. As it is , I had opened up too much with a stranger.

“Bye Mr. Smiley. Good night and a happy new year” I typed, determined to end the conversation now.

“The name is Shab” he replied.

“Whatever may be your name, good bye” I said

“Good bye Bina. It was nice talking to you” he said

I exited whatsapp and made my way inside.

People were getting ready to leave. Sana was looking for me. She was going to drop me home.

I got into the car with her and put on my seat belt, adjusting my hand bag on my lap. “Bina, put your phone into your bag” said Sana as she put the car in gear.

“Ah.. yes” I said getting ready to put in.. But just before I put my phone away, I did something completely crazy.

I saved the number of a complete stranger under the name “Shab”!!!\

( Part 3 to follow )




Part 1

Image result for images of whatsapp conversationIt was Sana who had created that whatsapp group and added me to it.

According to the group information there were twenty seven of us in that group – twenty seven women who had been together in an all girls school sometime in the 1980s!

It felt  nice to be in touch with all of them once again.. though it was difficult to imagine some of those fat women in the profile display pictures as the slim beauties who attracted admirers like bees to honey! Time as they say is the best leveller.. I looked at the group icon with a smile .. it had our school logo .

There was a lot of chatter going on –  some plan to get together for the new year. I scrolled through the messages, I was quite new to the group and also to Whatsapp. Riya, my teenaged daughter, had made me download it since it helped with my business. You see,  I am a dealer in antique furniture and my clients wanted photographs of the items before they came around to see them – an image transmitted through whatsapp was way quicker than email.

“Lets go for a picnic outside the city.”

“Yes.. lets hire a place outside.. We can stay overnight and have a party.”

“Lovely!!! We can change and dress up nicely for the party”

“ And How about getting a band and asking them play songs from our times”

Some discussion now on the venue options.. there were at least five options being discussed and voted for based on distance from the city and cost when a message suddenly popped up causing I am sure, all fingers to stop on key board

“ How about getting some male strippers ?”

“What!!!” typed Rani, the self styled conscience of the group. She followed it with an emoticon of a gasping face .

“Who is this” I typed. The comment seemed  to be so out of context in what was a group of women from middle class  conservative backgrounds in their late forties.

I looked at the number in the group member list – it did not have any name against it and had a smiley as the display picture!!

Who was it .. I wondered as did many others I am sure. In the silence that seemed to engulf us all  momentarily

“ What is the problem. No harm in looking…. right? I can give you some numbers”

I couldn’t believe it but some of these silly girls actually said “he he” and posted emoticons laughing out loud

But the question that was still bothering me was who was this?

I messaged Sana separately

“Hey who was that “

After a few minutes she replied “I don’t know. Must be one of our classmates. But I must say I was mighty tickled at the idea”

Well I wasn’t so tickled…..

When I went back to the group I couldn’t believe the conversation that was going on …!!   It seemed like we were back in school – a bunch of male crazy girls!!

I know I probably sounded like our headmistress (or at the worst Rani) when I said

“Girls what is wrong with you!! You can’t  be serious!”

And then again the smiley face icon responded “Stop being so uptight! You are behaving like you are decade older than what you are “

Really!!!! I was mad now… I mean who was this….?  But ofcourse I did not show my anger.  Twenty six years of being married to a man with a hot temper had taught me to keep mine tightly in check…  Besides, now that he was no more in this word and it was my business that paid for our day today expenses, I could not afford to antagonize anyone because my experience had taught me that everyone was a potential customer!! And anyways, hadn’t I joined this group also with an ulterior motive- of expanding my network?

“Okay so we agree to get male strippers!! But how are we going to go about finding some” I asked posting a lot of laughing out loud icons to mask my irritation!

“When you want something it finds you” said smiley face

“Oh really? You mean some strippers are looking for us right now in the hope that we will hire them for our new year’s party in the next few days” I asked hoping the sarcasm would come through despite my inability to find an emoticon (Oh how I hated this way of communicating in words that had to be accompanied with images !!!!!)

Some of my friends seemed to be giggling with “ha ha” popping up along with “Lol” and some moronic stuff.

And then suddenly some links to certain websites popped up… Smiley face again…!! I opened the links and was shocked to find they were actually taking me to some sites that might have what I had scornfully dismissed some time ago.

“My God!! But who is this…..please identify yourself” I typed.

No response….!!! I was now sure something was wrong.. though I did not know exactly what it was that was bothering me.. except that it did not seem like any response that I would expect from a former classmate of mine!! I considered asking Riya but I wasn’t sure how I would be able to explain all of this to her.. Besides, my nineteen year old daughter was not someone who I wanted to see what had transpired.

May be I was just too new to this virtual world.  I had read somewhere that people often behaved differently when they interacted with others through written messages. May be it was someone from my class. I was never one of the popular girls and besides I had been out of touch with many of old friends. So it was quite possible that I had been left behind while they had all moved on and changed in this new world.

I decided to put my phone away and get some sleep. It was nearly 11.00 PM.

And just as I was about to switch off my bedside lamp the phone buzzed again with the whatsapp message tone.  I opened the app and found a message that said “Hi ”  It was from smiley face.

Okay so, what I had said had obviously made some impact because here she was messaging me separately.

“Hi” I replied

“You seemed upset”

“Shocked actually!!! I don’t know about you but I am not the kind of person who receives information on male strippers on a day today basis “ I said

“Sorry…. “

Me  “Its okay. But I don’t think the others minded in any way… In a group of twenty seven, you can ignore this one prude. But tell me who are you.”

Smiley” Difficult to ignore someone whose display picture has the image of an amazing antique desk. What is it mahogany or rosewood” ?

“Rosewood. I have it in my store. Would you like to buy it” I asked.

“ I would if I could but I won’t because I can’t “ said smiley

What a cryptic message… “ Did you mean that you think it might be too expensive or that you do not have space in your house to accommodate this piece because if it is the former I can offer you a payment option”.

“Neither!! It is just what I said. I would buy it if I could”

“Okay. Good night” I said getting ready to end the conversation, all the while wondering who was this girl who had been in my class so many years ago.

“Are you from Bangalore” asked Smiley

“Yes.”  Silence.. for some time before I decided to ask the question that was bothering me

“Listen I don’t think I know who you are. Could you please tell me your name. It wasn’t there in the group information”

“That is because I am not there in your contact list” said Smiley

Ah… that explained it..!! I had the names of most of the group members in my phone contact list now after I had joined the group. But this was a number I had probably forgotten to add. But there was an uneasy doubt lingering in my mind .. a question “Why did any of the others not know who you were either” But I stopped myself from asking this.

“I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why I seem like a stranger in  a group of friends”

“Yes. You do seem like you are different. I mean that male stripper comment…”

“Ha… ha.. shocked you ladies didn’t I “ asked Smiley

“ Yes you did … now would you mind telling me your name” I typed out impatiently.

Smiley..“ I will if you promise to tell me yours”

“Bina” I said

Smiley “You can call me Shab… I

“Shab? I don’t think we had a Shab in our class” I said

Smiley “That is because I am not from your class or from your school. I studied in an all boys boarding school in a far off hills station. I must have passed out from school at least three years before you people did ”

I was shocked!!! “ But how did you get into this group if you are not one of us”

I did not have to see those” LoL “ icons he had posted to know that he was laughing..

“To tell you the truth, I do not know either. Must have been a mistake… a divine one indeed. I have been in this group for a week now and it has been very entertaining observing all your interactions. But today I could not control myself and so I did what I did “

I really did not know how to react.. here was a fifty something man confessing to virtual eavesdropping… hell it was close to voyeurism of a certain kind.. !! I mean we had discussed menopause, hysterectomy, fading sex drives and more in that group!! I had not participated in all those conversations but I know we had discussed because the messages were all there for me to see. And now a man was telling me  that he had also read them!!!!!!

I am absolutely horrified. I must tell Sana to delete this fellow from the group

“Bina are you there” said the message

“ Yes!!” I typed.

“Look I am sorry I will exit the group” he said

“Thank you  and good bye” I said closing the conversation and putting away my phone.

Just as I was falling asleep somewhere in my mind a message popped up that said “Remember to block his number”.

Yes I must do that tomorrow. God knows who he was… He said his name was.. no no he hadn’t told me his name.. He had said to call him “Shab” ..

Shab.. night.. How cliched I thought with a smile as sleep engulfed me.

 to be continued …. 









IImage result for actress silhouettet had been a long time since she had stood in a queue. A surge of people waiting to get to the ticket window. The jostling, pushing and the smell of sweaty bodies around her!!!

“One ticket…. to Gaya” she said extending a a 500 rupee note under the ticket window.

“ Give me the correct fare, I don’t have change” barked the man behind the window. She looked into her purse and after going through all the compartments managed the Rs 250 that he wanted.

With the ticket in her hand, and her handbag slung on her shoulder, she made her way to the platform from where her train was expected to depart. Finding herself a place to sit on one of the steel chairs placed on the platform, she wiped her face with her dupatta!

Was it only fifteen years ago that she had arrived by the same train to this metropolis chasing her dreams?

At nineteen she had been a beauty. Not only was she beautiful, she was also talented! All her performances in the local nautankis had run to full houses. It was not without reason that Rajesh had brought her to Bombay. They were both sure that she was going to make it as a star!

And star she had become.. in a matter of four to five years! The casting couches, explained Rajesh were a necessary evil that she had to negotiate. She had believed in him and soon it had begun to pay off…one role leading to another until she was one of the leading ladies of the film industry.

She had bought a house in the city, paid off her family’s debts in the village and invited them to live with her in Mumbai. It had all seemed to them at that time to be a dream come true- except that the dream began to have shadows of a nightmare hovering around it.

Rajesh who had become her manager,  was making her work around the clock!! She had  lost count of the hours she was in front of the camera. And the number of characters she was slipping in and out of. She was an innocent young village girl in one role,  an arrogant rich girl in another, a chaste housewife sometimes, a courtesan, a mentally ill girl… and so many more characters that the writers created out of their imagination.  She was all of them, yet she was none of them….!!

Her family lived with her spending her money faster than she could make it.

It was strange that in the all her movies, she who espoused the cause of love was in reality looking for it. It seemed to be everywhere around her and yet nowhere!!

That is until she had met Yash! He had been her co star, son of a producer and an established hero. Acting opposite him had taken her from the B to the A grade group of films!

Related imageIt is strange how love can give a person a “high” and then fling them down again into the dumps. A high that had helped her give exquisite performances and a low that left her depressed inside a dark corner of her mind. A roller coaster ride that she negotiated on a daily basis as she fell more and more deeply in love with a man who was married. A man who had told her that he could never marry her! She had told him that she did not care for any social sanction for living in love.  That he cared to spend a few hours or a few days with her was enough for her.

While her parents and Rajesh exploited her financially,  Yash played with her emotions. Days he would spend making love to her followed by weeks when he would not take her calls or even see her!!!

It has all begun to slowly take its toll on her. She was unable to go for work preferring to take solace in alcohol. When she did go for work she would break down in front of the entire crew sobbing her heart out.  That she was making a public fool of herself was something that she refused to accept.

The shooting dates were piling up as she missed work one day after the other. Producers were threatening to sue her. She felt completely trapped within her own life!!

But strange it had to be Zohra Bai who had helped her decide. An elderly woman who was rumoured to have been a dancer and junior artiste but was now a part of the cleaning crew. A strange being , she never spoke to anyone.  They said she slept in the studio and never actually left it.

She was running into her make up  van after a shot as she was feeling nauseous!! Her body was heaving as her guts emptied itself into the toilet when she suddenly found the woman standing behind her with a mop and a pail of water. They had stared at each other for a good few minutes before Zohara bai had said “ You are pregnant!” .

Like a soothsayer predicting the future she had said “Now, don’t think this will bring him back to you”

“What should I do” had been her desperate question

“Save what you have of yourself…!! Get away while you still can” said Zohra as she went out of the van shutting the door behind her.

What a simple solution..! Why hadn’t she thought of it?

She had told her make up man that she wanted to leave. Rajesh was trying to get her to go back to the studio and complete another shot.

But she knew she had leave now….

She had called for her driver and got into the car asking him to take her home. Her phone started ringing frantically. It was the producer of the film. She looked at it desperately wondering what was she to do with it? It seemed to have taken a life of its own as it buzzed and flickered like a demon! She took it out of her bag and lowered the window meaning to fling it out. And then she  saw the man standing with a begging bowl near her window. Yes, let him have it… ! it would fetch him a good amount.

She pulled out her sim card quickly and dropped her phone into his begging bowl. Some part of her brain could not help seeing the humour in the situation as the beggar looked at the phone that been dropped into his bowl!! She threw back her head and started laughing hysterically.

“Madam are you alright? “ asked her driver , looking at her with worry.

“No no, please drive on” she said wiping her tears.

The car drove on…! She would be home in about ten minutes. But then was  home a  place of freedom or captivity, she wondered.

The car stopped as a funeral procession went past. She knew it was now or never..!!

She opened the door and jumped out.  Before her driver could react, she had crossed the road and hailed an autorickshaw going in the opposite direction.

“ Bombay Central” she told the driver.

She looked inside her hand bag. She had a few currency notes, her credit cards and some make up!! Other than the cash, she had no use for anything now.

She had paid the driver and got herself a ticket back to Gaya- to go back to the home that only  existed  inside her head now.

What was she going to do when her money ran out, she wondered. She really did not know. What she knew now was to board the train that was making its way towards the platform.

She joined the crowd of passengers who scrambled into the ladies general compartment. After a lot of manoeuvring she found herself inside the train and bagged a window seat! She rested her head against the window rails and closed her eyes.

After a few moments when she opened her eyes she found two young girls on the opposite seat looking at her and whispering among themselves. One of them looked at her with a giggle and said “My sister tells me you look like  Sitara”

“Really? And who is that?” she asked

“A famous film star” said the other girl

She smiled at them and said “I am flattered” and stared out of the window at the tracks.

The engine was whistling as the train pulled out of the station slowly…. Sitara was history now….!!

She,  Dhano was finally escaping from the life that was no longer hers, carrying within her a life that needed to take its root in peace!!


( Images from the internet)



Between Tonight and Tomorrow


Related imageA November evening that was not exactly romantic, even if it was on the beach. Neither the sun was setting nor was the moon rising. It was a cloudy day with gusty winds..!  The weather reports had predicted a cyclone. The waves were roaring as the tide swept up almost to the boundary wall of the coffee shop. It was about 6.00 PM and the beach was already deserted. The coffee shop also was empty except for me… I

“Madam, would you like anything to eat with your coffee?” asked the Sam, the proprietor as he deposited a steaming hot cup of coffee in front of me.

I shook my head and waved him away.

He retreated as quietly as he had come, going back to sit by the till at the end of the room. A good fellow, Sam accepted me for who I was, an eccentric old woman… My wild and frizzy silver hair and  my crushed cotton sari probably made him think I was an artist or a writer!! But then wasn’t I just that? I may not exactly write or paint but I did create stories.

I stretched my legs  under the table and looked out of the window wondering whether anyone would venture out in this weather!

And then I saw him… rushing out of his car  , holding a satchel over his head as the rain drops started falling…! The door chime jangled as he pushed it and walked in.

Sam,  ushered him in and took him to the table opposite mine pulling out the chair for him to sit.

“Thank you” he said as he settled down and scanned the room. He seemed disappointed  not to find what he was seeking. I cleared my throat from the corner where I was sitting to let him know that there was someone else there besides him.  Our eyes met for a moment as I smiled at him and raised my coffee cup in a toast. He returned my smile , taking out his phone from his pocket and checking for message.

“Would you like to order something Sir” asked Sam

“Yes, after sometime”  he said, his gaze shifting to the window.

I watched him with interest. A middle aged man with greying hair. Who was he waiting for I wondered? Obviously someone very special, for him to have braved the weather and come here.

I followed his gaze and looked out…

I saw her before he did.

She was getting out of a cab and hurrying towards the coffee shop, pulling her dupatta over her head as the rain fell more heavily.

He stood up suddenly as he spotted her and made his way to the door. She came into the coffee shop, a slightly built woman , a flurry of rain drops accompanying her as she entered.

There seemed to be a moment of awkwardness as they stood facing each other. He didn’t seem to know how to greet her. She on the other hand stood facing him quietly expecting some sort of acknowledgement of her presence there.

Sam, the ever courteous host stepped in with a hand towel.

“Madam, please wipe yourself and sit down. You need to drink something warm” he said

“Thank you” she said as she wiped her head and face with it.

“Oh my god, my dupatta is running colour! ” she exclaimed as she took it out from around her neck.

Yes indeed, her beautiful white chikan kurta was now streaked with pink and purple.

The man seemed to have suddenly come to his senses.

“Anu, the washroom is over there . Why don’t you go and clean up. And meanwhile, what will you have? I will place the order so it is ready when you come back” he said

“ Oh, you know…tea” she said as she went it.

“ A masala chai and some Darjeeling tea” he said as he sat down.

Ah.. tea drinkers!! But different teas! The connoisseur and the common I thought with a smile.

She was back from the washroom. Her hair was loose and the damp dupatta was draped along with her bag at the back of her chair. Her face was glowing in the soft light over the table and her earrings swung as she moved her head. Middle aged like him, I could spot a few strands of silver in her hair.

I was waiting for them to start speaking.

“Thank you Anu, for making it. I could have come to pick you up you know” he said

“No Sanjay, it is better this way. I don’t want my students talking” she said softly.

He made a move to hold her hand. But she pulled it away tucking it into the sleeve of her kurta.

“So many years….and you are still the same touch me not “ he said softly.

“You know why – then and now” she said

“ Yes, then because you thought letting me hold your hand would somehow tarnish your virginity and now because you belong to someone else” he said bitterly.

“Sanju, I was fifteen then, so I didn’t know what I was feeling” she said, trying to look at him.

“Do you know what you are feeling now?” he asked.

“I don’t know” she said looking away.

“ Yes, live in denial!” he said, beckoning to Sam to get the tea.

The tension around the table was so thick that poor Sam was looking uncomfortable as he placed the cups and poured out the tea.

“What do you want Sanjay ?” she asked him softly.

“Your love” he said

“That you already have” she replied.

“ Really?” he asked sarcastically.

“Sanju , get a hold on yourself, we are both married and with families. We can’t get involved like this” she said

“But yet you came , braving this weather to meet me” he said .

I couldn’t see his face from where I was sitting but her face told me all about how he must be feeling. She looked confused and emotionally charged.

“Come with me please.. We have only tonight. You are leaving tomorrow. Don’t deny me this moment” he pleaded.

I looked out of the window. The rain was pouring down and lightening was flashing. I could well imagine how charged the night would be for them. A teenage romance evolving into something so deep in adulthood that neither of them probably realized where it might lead them. Or may be she did…Or did she? Her hand was now out of her sleeve and under his… I sensed her defences weaken…

I could almost hear her heart beating.. Or was it mine I wondered….?


Sanjay looked sharply behind him as he heard the cup crash to the ground! The old lady at the next table lay hunched over it.

He rushed to the table, calling out to Sam.

“Oh, my god, something seems to have gone wrong with her” said Sam trying to revive  her.

“Wait let me get the car near the entrance, we will move her to the KG hospital. It is only few streets away” said Sanjay as he made his way to the door.

“Anu, you wait here with Sam, he will need help” he said as he left the restaurant.

“Ofcourse. Come quickly” she said rubbing the old lady’s palms that seemed to have  suddenly gone cold.

Between the three of them they got her into the back of the car.

“Sir please wait  I will lock up the restaurant and come” shouted Sam.

“Don’t bother. We don’t have much time. I will drive her now. You can come later if you want” said Sanjay putting the car in gear.

Anu sat behind with the old lady’s head on her lap.

It was about twenty minutes or so  before they got her into the Emergency Unit  at the hospital.

“Oh my god, hope she is okay” said Anu, holding on to Sanjay’s arm.

“Come, lets sit down there” he said pointing to a waiting area.

“ Wonder who she is. I have her bag with me. Lets see if we can get some ID” said Anu rummaging through the cloth bag, pulling out some dried flowers, a bead bracelet, a notebook and a wallet with a few hundred rupee notes inside.

“Strange, she doesn’t have any ID on her and neither does she have a cell phone” muttered Sanjay as he sorted through the contents once again.

Sam was coming in now into the Emergency.

“How is she?” he asked

“ We don’t know. They have wheeled her inside said Anu.

“Do you know who she is ?” asked Sanjay

“ No idea Sir. She comes every once in a while, orders coffee and sits writing in her notebook” he said

“Anu look inside that notebook. May be her address is there in one of the pages” said Sanjay

Anu looked through the notebook until she came to the last page.

“Sanjay look at this” she said bringing the notebook towards him

“ Leela-Anuj, Ravi- Sudha, Amy- Ajit, Meena- Tanmay – Who on earth are they ?” asked Sanjay

“Do you know them?” asked Anu showing Sam the notebook.

“ Ummm… not really, but Meena Madam and Tanmay Sir used to come to my restaurant often before they got married” he said

“Okay, do you have their number” asked Sanjay.

“ I think, I might have it in the shop on my computer.” said Sam

“ Then please go, get the number and call them’ said Sanjay. “We will wait here”

“Okay “ said Sam as he went out.

The rain had stopped and the wind seemed to have died down.

The TV in the waiting area was announcing that the cyclone had passed along further northwards on the coast. The weather was expected to improve.

“Sanjay, I am feeling so tiered and sleepy” said Anu collapsing on the bench and resting her head on his shoulder.

It seemed so strange that for someone who had always been nervous about her physical proximity to him, she should suddenly seek his shoulder to sleep against. He looked at her sleeping face.. ! The thirty odd years seemed to have been wiped out and it was like they were fifteen once again- he the silent lanky boy living downstairs and she the nerdy girl who lived upstairs. They hadn’t even exchanged words those days but somehow later when they had got reconnected through common friends, there seemed to be no end to the communication.

May be she was correct. It was not right for them to act on their passion. Too many people would get hurt!!

He closed his eyes with a sigh..This was not how he had imagined tonight to be but then like he had said, this was all they had, before she went away and out of his life. Her flight was at eight o clock in the morning.

He looked at the clock hanging on the wall in front of them. It was almost midnight!! He hadn’t realized how late it was. He was glad that his wife and son were out of town. It would have been difficult to explain the situation otherwise.

Anu was moving her head now. She opened her eyes and looked up.

“Sanjay, what is the news. Any word about the old lady”

“No idea. Sam hasn’t got back with any information either” said Sanjay.

“May be we should check in on her’ said Anu getting up from the bench.

“I will first drop you at your hotel and then come back to check on her. It is quite late. Shouldn’t you be back there with your students?” asked Sanjay

“Yes I think that is best” she said gathering her bag and dupatta. “You can leave your phone number at the reception in case they need you while you are away”

Sanjay woke up the sleeping receptionist and asked her to note down his name and number.

“Patient’s name Sir” she asked.

“I don’t know. She was a stranger who had a heart attack at the restaurant where we were” said Sanjay

“Sir, in that case you need to file a police complaint. Please come with me” she said asking them to follow her to the emergency section.

There were three beds in the Emergency room – all empty!

“Old lady it? But there doesn’t seem to be anyone here ” said the young duty doctor.

“Please look up your records. There was another doctor on duty when we brought her here” said Sanjay.

“No sir, there is no record of any patient such patient here “ he said showing them the online patient registry for the emergency!! The last case registered was at 2.00 PM- child aged eight with a broken arm.

Them Again

Image result for cupid woman sketchI was happy, that it had ended the way it did. He had accepted the inevitable and her conscience was lighter.

They were now at the entrance to her hotel. She turned around and looked at him before suddenly giving him a hug! He seemed taken aback…!

“Sanjay it was so lovely meeting you again after all these years!! Let us stay in touch”

“Sure Anu. You have a safe journey back and send me a message when you get home”

I watched him getting into the car and driving away as she stood in the reception watching him leave.

I then made my way back to where I came from….I had lot of business to attend to…

A busy cupid, I had my own targets to meet- getting couples together. But sometimes I had to deal with a situation like this – where it was better not to get them together.

I secured my bow and arrow inside my bag, before flying away into the clouds





Full Circle ( Part 2)

The Birthday Dinner

Related imageChitra gazed at herself in the mirror. Yes, she did look nice in these black trousers and the bronze coloured  silk kurti. But she was not so sure that she wanted her hair left loose like that. And wasn’t her lipstick too bright? And ohwhy had Pammi insisted on so much of eye make up?

“Come on lets go.. ! We will lose our reservation otherwise” said Pammi walking into the room, her high heels clicking and her lovely brown hair swinging behind her like a model.

“Pammi, I am not sure that I should go out looking like this” said Chitra getting cold feet at the thought of being seen in public in her new “made over” self.

“ Don’t be silly.. you look gorgeous” said Pammi pulling her along.

Chitra picked up her handbag, only to have Pammi grab it from her.

“No you are not taking that huge thing with you. It looks like you are going to buy vegetables! Here take this” she said pulling out a smart clutch purse from the cupboard.

“But it is too small Pammi,  I can barely fit in my wallet into it.. and  look,  there is no room for my phone or my glasses” protested Chitra.

“Just put some cash and your credit card into it, forget your glasses and leave your phone behind. Anyways, who is going to call  you now? Both your husband and son have already wished you happy birthday in the morning” said Pammi

Chitra realized it was pointless arguing with her now. So she picked up the purse, straightened her shoulders and followed her friend out of the door.

When they reached the restaurant, Chitra found she need not have worried so much about her appearance because most of the others there were very young people who were dressed far more “outrageously” than she considered she and Pammi were.

Chitra picked up the menu and squinted through the fancy lettering. She was now convinced that Pammi had deliberately made her leave her glasses behind so she wouldn’t be able to read the menu and know how the price of everything.

Pammi seemed to have a different looking menu in her hand.

“What is that in you are holding?” asked Chitra

“ That is the drinks menu darling. I am ordering some alcohol for us” said Pammi laughing at Chitra’s horrified face.

“Two bloodymarys” said Pammi to the waiter.

Chitra was now seriously worried.  “What is this bloodymary thing?” she asked Pammi

“Vodka and tomato juice.. remember the geography lessons .. potatoes, Russia vodka ?” said Pammi with a wink.

The drinks had arrived and Pammi was now raising her glass and toasting “To you Chits.. my best friend”.

Chitra took a sip and screwed up her face in disgust..! “Don’t look like that my dear…you are not drinking some medicine” said Pammi taking a delicate sip out of her glass. Now it was Pammi’s face that became creased.

“See, what did I tell you…? You  don’t like it either!“ said Chitra triumphantly

“ I don’t like it because I think these cheats have put very little vodka into this. They must have thought that we are two middle aged  women and so we wouldn’t notice” said Pammi angrily picking up both their glasses and making her way to the bar.

Chitra could see her talking to the , bartender, directing him to put in all kinds of liquids into  two fresh glasses

“She is behaving like she is dealing with some chatwala at Lajpatnagar” thought Chitra with amusement.

Pammi was back now, carrying two glasses with contents that promised to be a more potent version of the earlier concoction.

“Cheers”! she said clinking her glass with Chitra’s.

“Definitely more potent” thought Chitra as she took a sip and then another. By the time she had taken the third sip, her head was beginning to feel lighter .

“Pammi you know, you should get married again” she said leaning across the table towards  her friend.

“ But who will marry a fifty one year old widow?” asked Pammi

“Wasn’t it you who said only this morning that  age is in the mind and not in the years? And anyways widowhood is no longer a stigma” said Chitra angrily

“Yes but I don’t know any man who would want to marry me” said Pammi

“ Why not? You are so beautiful and so kind hearted” said Chitra.

“But I am not as qualified as you are. Remember I never even finished college” said Pammi.

“ Don’t be silly!  Clearing a CA exam and doing up balance sheets does not make me more qualified. You are a successful business woman. Anyways a man at our age would be looking for a life partner not a business associate. And any fifty plus fart should count himself lucky if someone like you even looks his way”  Chitra angrily!

“ You want me to marry a fart?” asked Pammi with a grin

“ Idiot! You know I don’t mean that. It is probably this  drink speaking now! What I meant was, you are a beautiful woman who has always attracted men. Remember those boys from our teens? How many of them used to queue up for your attention” said Chitra, pushing away her near empty glass.

“But the boy I liked did not even look at me. He used to only talk to you” said Pammi sadly

“And who may I know was that?” asked Chitra, wondering seriously whether she was so drunk now that she was imagining this conversation with Pammi.

“ That boy who used to come for maths tuition at Archana Madam’s house near C R Park” said Pammi raising her voice a decibel higher.

“ Who..?  Oh that Bengali fellow  whose mother used to  drop and pick him up?” asked Chitra laughing loudly

“ Yes!” said Pammi

“Look you deserve someone better than that tongue tied fool… What was his name now? “ asked Chitra

“Aditya Chatterjee”  said Pammi gazing into her drink

“ Aditya.. yes!!! But his mother used to call him Babla” said Chitra giggling loudly

“Chitra, don’t laugh. I am hurt” said Pammi pretending to look sad before bursting out laughing.

People in the tables around them looked up  as they heard the loud laughter.

“Shhh! We are talking too loudly” said Chitra putting her finger to her lips

The live band was getting ready to play. Pammi walked up to them and whispered something into the ear of the lead singer who nodded before taking up the microphone and announcing

“ Good evening ladies and gentlemen, please join me in wishing Mrs Chitra Srinivsan a very happy birthday”

The waiters were wheeling in a cake on a trolley and Pammi was raising her glass in another toast as Chitra cut the cake. Her eyes were brimming with tears as she fed Pammi a slice.

Pammi was taking some selfies with her phone as the lead singer sang “Happy Birthday”

When the song got over Pammi went up to the singer and grabbed his mike making an announcement

“Ladies and Gentlement , I now request my friend  and birthday girl Chitra to sing for you. You know she sings Asha Bhonsle numbers as well as Ashaji herself. Come on Chits… !”

While a part of her was shocked and embarrassed at all the attention that Pammi was drawing towards them by making the announcement, another part of her was very excited. The excitement inducing part won the tussle of emotions  because Chitra  suddenly found herself swaying towards the stage and taking the mike from Pammi. The lead singer of the band was clearly unhappy as he prepared to give up his moment of fame to this unknown competitor.

“Ladies and Gentlemen I dedicate this song to Babla- my friend Pammi’s secret crush from our school days” announced Chitra . The audience was clapping loudly.

Bechara dil kya kare” sang Chitra clearly without any accompaniment. In her mind, she was back in  school participating in a talent show.

The lead singer was now seriously annoyed.

As Chitra finished the song, the audience went berserk giving her  a standing ovation! The poor singer  had to wait until people settled down again before he started belting out his rehearsed numbers.

“Chits you were wonderful” said Pammi giving her a hug

“ You know I felt like I was back in school once again” said Chitra returning the hug.

“Poor Babla! Wonder how he would have felt had he been here today” said Pammi laughing loudly.

“He would have pushed his specs back on his nose and gone back to solving calculus problems” said Chitra grinning.

“Well he used to look cute with those glasses” said Pammi defensively.

“If you say so…” said Chitra closing the discussion.

The dinner they had ordered  was ready to be served now. Chitra was not really hungry now because both the alchohol and the excitement had gone to her head. Pammi seemed like a veteran in comparison as she ate the full dinner and the cake despite all the drinking she had done.

“Finish your drink. Remember what our parents used to say? Don’t waste anything” said Pammi, pushing the glass towards her friend.

“ I don’t think I can finish this. I am going to ask them to pack it for me along with the cake” said Chitra

“Good  idea” agreed Pammi as she called for the bill.

When they finished paying him, the waiter brought them the packet with the left over cake. But he was very uneasy about the second item that these ladies wanted packed. He had never encountered such a request earlier. He went in and called the manager who realized that both the ladies were high as kites.

“We will have it sent over to your place” he said suavely as they thanked him and made their way to the parking lot.

As the cold October air outside hit them, Chitra’s head cleared a bit. She was glad that Pammi was not driving them home. But Pammi obviously did not realize that they needed to take a cab back because she was rummaging through her purse for her car keys dropping things from there on to the pavement.

“Pammi you silly girl, stop dropping all this stuff like this. We came by cab and were  planning to get back by cab” said Chitra as she bent down picking up the odds and ends that had fallen out of Pammi’s purse.

“Oh yes.. but I think I dropped my phone along with the rest of the things” said Pammi shaking her empty purse at Chitra.

“Where could it have fallen” wondered Chitra looking through the hedge around the pavement in the darkness, all the while trying to prevent Pammi from putting her hands through the shrubbery in that crazy manner.

God alone knew how they were going to get back home. She should have insisted on bringing her own phone.

Pammi was just getting ready to go back into the restaurant and ask if the management could call them a cab when they heard a voice behind them ask “Can I help you ladies?” A distinguished looking man with grey hair and  French beard stood behind them.

“Yes my phone has fallen somewhere here and I need it to call a cab so that we can get home” said Pammi.

“Okay give me your number, I will call from my phone and we can track your phone when it starts ringing” said the man.

Pammi rattled off her number as he keyed the digits in and hit the dial button on his phone. It was a relief to hear the familiar ringing sound and see the flashing light on the screen. Pammi pounced on it, picking it up from the bush.

“Thank you” she said looking at the man gratefully.

“Please wipe your phone. It is stained with mud” he said extending his handkerchief towards her.

“ If  you can now give me your address I will call you a cab” he said.

“ It is okay we will call a cab ourselves” said Chitra defensively.

“No ladies, my conscience will not rest in peace until I have put you both into a cab safely. Besides, if I book a cab from my phone I can also track your ride and make sure you are safe” he said with a smile.

“ Yes you are right” said Chitra as she gave him Pammi’s address.

It was minutes before the cab arrived.

“Thank you very much Mr…” said Pammi as they got into the cab

“Chatterjee… Dr Aditya Chaterjee” he said with a the cab drove away

“Aditya Chaterjee…. Pammi do you think….?” asked Chitra about five minutes later.

“ I can’t think anything now my dear… my head is spinning” said Pammi

As they got home and crashed into bed, Chitra could not resist peeking into Pammi’s phone and checking for missed calls and messages.

Her guess was right. There was a message from an unidentified number sent in a few minutes ago. Should she read it  she wondered ..? She decided to go ahead and read it anyway because the suspense would otherwise kill her sleep

“Pammi, If only you knew how much I wanted to talk to you those days. But I never had the confidence- Babla”.

Chitra was tempted to respond on Pammi’s behalf but decided that would be taking too much of liberty. She wanted Pammi to see the message in the morning when she was clear headed and respond. She lay down next to Pammi on the bed and gave her a hug.

It had been a memorable fiftieth birthday for Chitra!

Around the same time, somewhere not very far away at Vasantkunj, a fifty year old man was sitting on his balcony and looking at the sent items i folder on his phone, wondering if he had been too impulsive! But then over thinking everything had always been his problem ..

“Probably one of the reasons I am still single at fifty”  he said to himself  as he put his phone down.






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