A Ghost Story?

It was a chilly February of 2014. I was in college and had participated in a robotics event at the IIT Kharagpur Tech Fest with my team of four- consisting of my then-on-and-off boyfriend and a ‘new couple’. As awkward as it was, we are not going to talk about any cute love stories or get into the inner workings of our earthquake detector bot. This is about a series of strange events that started during our 2-day stay at Kharagpur.

College fests are a foreign concept to many outside India, so I will tell some more about it. Most reputed Indian colleges conduct fests that are 2–7-day events at the home college open to participants from universities across the country. During my time, fests had two major nomination categories – Cultural/ Arts fests and Tech fests. I was a member of the Robotics Society, and our team often participated in competitions during our engineering days. Our finals were on Day 2, and that’s where our story begins.

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Meet my Grandma

My grandma is older than India’s independence. She’s no taller than 4 feet 9 and I call her ‘Amma’. She was married at 16 to my grandfather, who she says looked like a Bollywood superstar. I have no memory of my grandfather but judging by her pride, I bet he was a catch!

Recently, I got a notification Amma was live on Facebook and I instinctively clicked to see her singing one of her favorite songs too close to the camera. The other day, I got a concerned call from her when someone commented on my display pic, “This is sick!”. She religiously explained to me how to make the perfect herbal tea to feel better. She also insisted I send her pictures of me drinking the tea for the next five days. She is addicted to online games and I often see her posting her results from quizzes like “Which Game of Thrones character are You?” or “How will you die?”. Now she’s on Twitter and her tweets crack me up every time.

Growing up, whenever I would come home after my day’s shopping, try on the clothes once again, and show them to my mom and her, she wouldn’t hold back and tell me the dress looked absolutely awful. Her complete lack of tact in ripping off the bandage amazed me every time and I would look at my mom who would say I looked beautiful anyway. That’s also the reason why I could not trust my mother with things like these!

Although deeply spiritual, Amma was never the religious type and when I would see my dad and mom going these extra miles organizing religious rites and rituals, I would see her sitting nonchalantly in a corner munching peanuts. There was a constant tiff in our house for the TV remote between my dad who wanted to watch news and godmen, and my grandma who wanted her daily dose of Ekta Kapoor soap operas. She told me one day, “Your dad is really superstitious and morbidly boring.” I mean between the two, definitely my grandma knew how to have more fun!

She was my best friend growing up and she still is. As a kid, I would look forward to accompanying her to local markets because I would get my pick at anything I wanted. Everyday before school, she would pack my lunch. She was also my go-to home tutor for Math, English, Hindi and Sanskrit. I remember asking her the same question every other day and her explaining it to me over and over again, with the same enthusiasm as the first time. She has not been cooking for years now as her health deteriorates, and I stopped eating ‘Malpuas’ the day she stepped out of kitchen.

We have our own secret handshake that ends up with me hugging and kissing her cheeks and her pretend annoyance with the whole goddamn thing. Once I was late for my flight and left the house in a hurry just kissing her goodbye only to learn later that she cried I forgot about our secret handshake. So, I made sure I did it right the next time and I saw her getting worked up and annoyed and absolutely thankful at the same time!

I have been seeing her less and less over the years and we’re not even in the same continent anymore. I try keeping up with her, but she can barely hear me over the phone. Whenever I video call her, she tells everyone I came home to visit her and my heart breaks a little. I know she won’t read or understand this anymore, even if I tell her myself, but I really do hope she knows that I carry a bit of her with me every day wherever I go!

A Harmless Dance

A Harmless Dance

Every morning, after he left, I would rush to the window and watch him close the door behind. With my heart still beating out of my chest, I would recount the night again and see the sky blush until she would melt into a sea of sunlight. She was my friend and my confidante, and I loved mornings!

I would wait eagerly for the first rays of the sun to knock on my window sill, and as it seeped through the glass, I would retract my hand coquettishly. I would place my hand on the nook right next to the sill and look the other way until, like an old habit, I could feel the very first rays gently caressing my fingertips while the warmth slithered up my bare arms. I would pause a bit, and then offer the rest of my hand in submission.

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The Carnival

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“So, did you ask him? What did he say? What..tell me!” chimed Kiara excitedly.

“Umm..yeah.” replied Diya avoiding Kiara’s piercing gaze.

“So?”

“So…umm…he said he likes you…kind of, I mean.”

“Really? He said that! Did he say he likes me?” Kiara could barely suppress her exhilaration at this point. Her heart was racing like a juggernaut.

“Yes. Now, shush and get back to your seat. Matthew is a sneeze away from thrashing us out of the class.”Diya said that mechanically, trying her best to look anywhere else, but at Kiara.

“Oh come on! Don’t be a chicken. Just tell me everything he said and I’ll be gone. Promise!”

“But, there’s nothing more..”

“You know what Diya, look here…You didn’t talk to him, did you?”

“Well, I…” Continue reading “The Carnival”

The Bucket List

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It was still dawn when I stepped out of the cab and walked towards the entry gate of the Delhi airport. The early morning February air was pleasantly cold.

I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend a college friend’s wedding. It had been four years since we graduated from the same college. This wedding was also going to be a reunion of our batchmates. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the queue in front of the airline counter.

I was almost sure it was she. Same height! Same long hair! Same complexion! Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then about 60-odd seconds later, when she turned, she proved me right. My ex-girlfriend stood two places ahead of me in that queue. We had never met after the college farewell. Continue reading “The Bucket List”

A Requiem for Transcendence

old-couple-holding-handsI often wondered what love was; it took me a lifetime to discover you were in love, when there’s no going back from loving. That minuscule split of the second when it hits you and you start looking at them differently. You just love them even when they become a different person altogether. You might start disliking them, you might even start hating yourself for loving and disliking them at the same time; but when you take their name, even in your mind, you say it softly and you feel warm. You never fall in love for the sparkle of the eyes or the kick of humour; you fall in love with the chemistry you share. You fall in love with that energy, that aura that wraps you and them. There are no proofs for a few things. All you need to have is a little faith. Continue reading “A Requiem for Transcendence”

My Blatant Plea

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It was a wintry December morning of 2012. I lay snug inside my hillock of blankets. I hated winters. I detested the chills, the piercing stroke of the raw freeze. I would give anything to stay there, inside my cozy hillock for the rest of the day.

Not long ago, there used to be a time when I would sleep like a baby. That day, there was a click and a strangled monotonous beep and I thrust my hillock away sprinting for the fax machine, forgetting my slippers, my sweater and the chills. Desperately, I hit the buttons and finally I had the fax in my hand. I ran with it to the balcony of my dingy one-bedroom apartment and began reading. Continue reading “My Blatant Plea”

Femme fatale

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There were holes in heaven and humongous ice towers swelled earthbound. Chic-clad men, women and children lurched out of tight spaces dug in the tower, belching thick tar and it rained in the realm. There was no land anymore, only bogs of currency soused in oil and blood. The marshes sucked everything in, till the quagmire softened into a decisive reality- a perfect corporate ghetto. The Heaven was hell and the Hell was heaven.

“Silent night, holy night…”, she hummed as she scanned the wall with a scalpel in her left hand. It was almost time, she must hurry. But, the perfectionist that she was, she continued the sgraffito and mellow undertones squinted out. The painting was complete.

“All is calm, all is bright….”

The exhilaration in her sprightly gait reiterated through the quiet mansion. A warm shower later, she donned a blush-coloured gown playing off her skin-tone. There was something very calm about her demeanour. It would not scream glamour directly into your eyes, but kick you in the face in your own sweet time and leave you to gasps. T-strap shoes and a turquoise necklace sealed the deal. That deconstructed extravagance and careful insouciance created a definitive idiosyncrasy, just the drama that makes you want to know the woman more.

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The Vitriol

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I held her tightly, her face right next to my heart. I held her strong in a perpetual grip. It was only a ball of my bedspread that I had curled up in a frenzy, but that felt right. That felt like home. That felt like myself again. With the dying flicker of the lamp, I drifted a world apart, in times bygone, another lifetime. Those were wistful times, endearing times.

I found myself in my parents’ house again. Moonlight sieved in on the bed through the window, hugging my skin. The room boomed with the illustrious laughter of my sisters. The littlest one clung on my back and her teddy clung onto her. The five of us began our little tea-party. I just loved adorning them, making dresses for them and styling their hair, just like mother did. I was fourteen again. I might not have been an absolute angel, but I was prim nonetheless. I laughed and laughed and just laughed. In the darkness of that fetid night, I had found my beacon once again. I danced around it like the psychedelic moths. I let that moment own me. She was me. I was her. I felt safe. I had found the place where I belonged.

Desperately,

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