The writer 

“Pssst, Karthik. Over here. Got a minute? “ , she called out. 



It was a lazy day even by my usual lazy standards. It’s not like I had anything better to do. Her call forced me to abandon my precious delivery plan of sitting all through the day and accomplishing just about nothing. 


I’m new here. She and I cozied up. I guess it took us very little time to move on from being acquaintances to good buddies. She was the boss. She did enjoy my utter disregard for authority and hypocrisy in the form of structured dogmatic hierarchy. Truth be told, I think she enjoyed being viewed as something beyond a boss. She enjoyed the air of inclusion that I offered. We were good buddies alright. 


“What up” , I said. 


“I’m writing this new story. Wanna hear all about it? I have a few chapters already penned. Would be nice to hear your views on them”, she brimmed with pride. 


I guess I could stake my reputation and state that she didn’t care much about my views. She liked narrating her tales. Being the conversationalist that I am, she enjoyed arguing with me and enjoyed a happy tenacious discussion. I got off my comfy bean bag , shrugged my shoulders to shake off blissful indolence. 


“Sure. Lay it on me girl”, I offered my warmest flirtatious smile. 

I sat beside her on the bench. She liked the makeshift private lawn that was a part of her office. She didn’t mind her team using the lawn to bask on a warm sunny day. The workbench was an extension of her desk. She got most of her work done sitting on that bench. She enjoyed the view. The view was spectacular indeed. The view reminded me of why we do the things we do. It reminded me of the purpose of clocking in work each day. It was a wonderful assurance of sorts, that view. 


“So you have your basics”, she started her new tale. 

“But of course. I don’t expect you to dole out a supernatural thriller of any kind” , I teased. 

Her skilful smile ignored my jibe. It was her way of saying ‘Whatever’ to shoot of my sarcastic comments. We did enjoy that jousting on most days. 


“Yeah, same old. So the story kicks in this rehab centre. The guy has survivors guilt and the girl..” she continued. I interjected and denied her the peace of completing her sentence. 

“What’s with you and second chances!!! Every story you’ve told me so far always takes flight in some rehab centre. The last dozen were in this alcoholics intervention thingy. Then we had that phase of drug rehab. Then you went nuts over the oncology department and we were doing a few rounds around the hospital. Seriously, what’s with you and life changing issue deus ex machine thingy!!! That plot is soooooooooooooooooooo much reused that it makes me want to gag” , I whined. 

“Fine!!!  she exasperated. She took a deep breath to calm herself down. “Ok, fair enough. Let’s keep it simple. Boy , girl, they both meet in their school. Is that exciting enough for you? ” 

“That’s a start”, I said.

“So this one time, after years of being together as friends, they have this , you know, their moment of clarity.” 

I could see the excitement in her eyes. The smile in her voice couldn’t contain itself. She did love writing about tiny romances which make a world of a difference to characters and not much to others. I guess her readers could connect well with that normal, realistic simple moments of life. 

“Moment of clarity. Interesting”, I responded.

“Yeah yeah”, she burst out her narration once again. “So they are at this game right. something small, something simple. They are separated by a small crowd. They both still enjoy the game but they keep stealing each other’s glances. They both don’t make much of it. It’s just the tiny insignificant assurance that they both are there, they both feel connected in touch through their harmless glances from time to time. It’s their moment of clarity. They know it deep within their hearts that in time, their hearts would beat a lovely rhythm for each other. Ohhhh, it’s going to be so surreal and lovely” , she concluded.

“What????” I quipped. 

“They both are at this game. They stand apart. They look at each other!” , I paraphrased her plot in a mocking tone. “What’s clarity got to do here! Its like I go for a walk and let my dog run in front of me. From time to time, my dog turns back and looks at me. I look at him too. It’s not like instant love that blossoms. It’s just he likes to stay assured that I haven’t ditched him. This is by far the lamest of plots girl!!!!!” I said

“Oh shut yup. What the hell do you know of romance” , she rebutted. “That, my friend, is the moment of pristine clarity. Deep down, they both were longing for each other and finding assurance in knowing that the other was around and would continue to be there for them”. 

Hmmmm, “ I succumbed to her argument. I did feel like protesting but decided against it. 

“So, then what. How does that tale end”, I asked.

“I don’t know “ she said as she shrugged her shoulder. 

“What do you mean that you don’t know” , I shot back.

“Exactly like what I said. I don’t know” , she carelessly tossed a bunch of hair that fell over her face. 


“You know right”, I started “Being god and all, you really suck at your job. How is that tale complete. We are talking about the bloody fate of two people!”. I was a little irked by her tardiness. 

She smiled her warm motherly smile. “I’m god, yes. I write everybody’s fate. Yes. But it’s more like a framework. I set the plot into motion. The whole deal of universe conspiring, well, that’s the plot that I just read out. Humans are driven by freewill and the choices that they make. Even as god, I don’t have a say over it. It’s their life, you know”.

I really did love the way she’d take the time out and explain it to me in a way I could understand. She’d always explains things to me as one would explain to a child. There was this clarity in her thoughts, the way she articulated words which were simple and easy to grasp and accept, she was the master of the game indeed. 

“You know what?, you still write lousy tales girl” , I teased her once more.

We both laughed about it. 

“Tell you what Karthik“, she said as she punched me on my shoulder. 

” Tell me what, Ms Boss ?” , I asked her curiously.

“I have no bloody clue about how you managed to sneak into heaven. I really do need to revamp that screening process man!!!!!!” , she taunted me. 


“Good luck with that” I said and we both sat in silence to see the soft blue ball of life in front of us at a distance. Damn straight good to be an angel! You get to hang out with the coolest kid of em all 🙂


Karthik

Advertisements

Kingdom of Dirt

crown-of-thorns

 

 

“You can have it all, My empire of dirt

   I’ll let you down, I’ll make you hurt “  Hurt, Johnny Cash

 

If I had to confess the story of my life, I’d probably say that I spent a few years wishing that I was cool, wishing every night that I was accepted and treated the same way as other kids were. I was in no way any more special or gifted as they were. I was me and that made me an outcast. And so I cribbed for a while, I whined for a while and before I could realize what had happened, I had cultivated a good sense of humor that was both my golden ticket and my defense mechanism.

 

And so starts my tale of stardom and fame and burning out by having it all. Before I could realize what I was going through, my motor mouth and keen sense of humor had pretty much warranted that I became the center of attention. Attention soon ceased to be a thing that I wished for. Attitude, as what others would later on remind me, was starting to take shape and before I realized I had one, I had one.

 

Years later, decades later, as I now sit and listen to the songs from this movie RockStar, I am reminded of how much I’ve lost in my pursuit of wanting it all. Almost famous ? Yeah one could say that. Well, almost.

 

I’m popular. I make friends very easily. Folks have a tendency to trust me. I keep my mouth shut and I mind my business and in time, I’ve always never failed to keep myself surrounded by people. Both new and old, familiar and strange, I’ve always managed to have people in my life.

 

A decade ago I did realize something so significant and something which now feels so pointless. I have something that most people cherish and covet. I am a people person and I manage to get that acceptance by virtue of my smile and wit. A decade ago I also realized the curse that I was sitting on.

 

The worst of the curse that I’ve endured is when I realized that while the world around me was waiting for the world to take a note and pamper an existence, for me the world has always been a bloke too many. I’ve always longed for just a pair of eyes and ears. The million eyes of the world have not interested me in a very long time. Yet, I find myself gifted with the million pairs instead of the one that I’ve longed.

 

I find myself at the center of a series of jinxes that have plagued me. At the cost of sounding like a whimsical child, I do admit  that there are days I feel better about myself , if only I had no skills with either words or wit. Would I have found oblivious comforts by being ignorant and stranger to the adulation that I’ve worked towards? Would I have found peace in not knowing a means to express my despaired mind? Would I have found comforts in staying wistful for a life of acknowledged acceptance?

 

It’s a tough call. On days like today, the way I see things, My grapes feel sour because I have access to them grapes. I choose to lament about fortune and fame and the fool’s golden paradise because I have them to whatever degree that I’ve deserved. Maybe the word is saturation. When you have it, it loses shine. Maybe if I had never had the mettle to express myself, the extent of my torment might have been miles different.

 

The irony of life smiles again. It’s those who have it who see the pointlessness to having it. Those who aspire it, spend sleepless nights  and sweaty efforts dedicated towards it. It’s wisdom and tears that ink my words today. I’ve paid the price of an alienated mind and a heart. I’m but a senile preacher whose words seem a tad bit condescending to naive eyes. I don’t blame them. This state of saturation is fair and just.

One day, when we’ve slogged time away, lost moments to time and people to tasks, when we’ve tasted the salt of success, it’s only then and then alone, one finally sees the albatross around the neck.

You can have it all, this empire of dirt. I’d gladly have this kingdom of nothing exchanged for a few moments of a blissful smile. What I wouldn’t give to go back to being ignorant and without ambition!

Maybe it’s not the devil that’s in the detail

I like chaos. I prefer random chaos rather than structured order. There are days when I feel assured that there is nothing more unsettling than a nice neat laid out routine that most of us find comforting. Or so I thought.




Routine is the life’s way of saying that it likes certain things in a certain way and in a specific certain order. I choose to challenge that status quo from time to time and there are days when I let the routine take control. All of this brings me to the point in discussion. Maybe it’s not the devil which rests in the details. Maybe there is something else. 


There was this week. I got up early everyday that week. I’d rub my eyes furiously. I’d then raid the refrigerator for a tetra pack of flavoured milk. Time would drag between 6 am and 9 am. The necessary, obligatory phone calls would be made in quick succession to get the routine checked. I’d make my mind about hitting the desk and bail out by half past nine. 

Instinctively, as I would unlock my car , I’d bob my head up towards the third floor. The balcony’s meshed windows would continue to remain closed. I’d still look and shake my head and make my dash towards the day’s rat race. That was my routine of sorts which I so hypocritically would never bother disputing. My mom would always make it a point to wish me luck and wave me a pleasant bye that would keep me protected and missed through the day. I didn’t miss it much. And then the week came when my folks hit the holiday home. I was left with nobody to wave me that bye from the balcony. I looked at the closed meshed window and smile a silly wistful grin and board the car to make it to work. 


That is what routines can do to you. Routines have a way of keeping us warm, fuzzy, comfy and assured. 


Today was a pleasant day of sorts. I decided to skip the gym. My dad had to leave early on account of this audit that he was a part of. Since I had skipped my morning routine of gym, I also happened to catch up on an early breakfast. My mom was making small talk while she was serving me food. My dad’s cab driver had arrived and a quick call later, it was time for him to run that rat race of sorts. 

My mom and I wished him all the best for the day to come. My dad conveyed his byes and got ready to leave. It was almost like watching a happy kid leaving for his school where he’d get to meet all of his friends and have a day of fun. Yeah. My dad loves any opportunity that keeps him travelling. 

“Wait”, My mom suddenly interrupted her small talk. The other auntys in the world, the million other brides to be, my grand father in Coimbatore, the miracles of gods, all the stories were now placed on a perpetual hold. My mom apparently was missing out on something and her sudden realization lead to the current moment of a pause. 

She dashed towards the door and saw my dad off. 

A minute later she joined me in the kitchen. “I always make it a point to see him off at the door”, my mom sheepishly admitted and grinned her warm lovely smile.


Maybe it’s not the devil that is in the details. It’s the care that goes into making each day a day of mundane routine, but one filled with all the love and care that can possibly exist in this entire wide vast world.

And so once again, as I unlocked my car’s door, I shot a glace towards the third floor. The meshed window of the balcony was thrown wide open. My mom waved her usual smile and her byes to help me kick start the day. 

Ah the sweet boring comforts of a routine. We so massively miss it when we are robbed of it. 🙂

Karthik

Be and beens 

Was a thought and I couldn’t help but ponder a little more over it. If I could recount my life, the last 33 years, I’d broadly reflect upon it through two very specific filters 


1. Has-Been

2. Wanna-BE



These two biases often dictate our state of mind in the present. While we were young, and I do recognize that most of us are still young enough, we were filled with a deep desire to be a Wannabe. I wannabe this, we’d wannabe that, Maybe someday, we’d wannabe that specific something. The pursuit of what we’d want to be would have had a very strong influence on the choices we’d go on to make. 

It’s this pursuit which leaves us with memories in the family album, those rare moments captured on camera, the tales of where we were , doing what we were doing instead of doing something that we’d have rather done. All those thoughts get reconciled as an acceptable barter of time in course of time when we manage to reach the wannabe state that we so fondly cherished and worked extremely hard to attain. 


Wannabe is mostly a young bloke’s game. 


The other side of the spectrum lies the life of a Has been. Welcome to the club of dinosaurs. We are the folks who at times say, been there and done that. We reminisce about the time when we ‘DID that’. Yeah, good times. We had a lot of laughs , we tackled a lot of challenges, we fought, endured and survived. Today, we look back and smile at the fond memories. 

That neatly does sum up the tale of a has been. Has been requires a certain mileage to be covered in order to kick in. 


Not that either states are wrong. I have nothing against either. I’ve been through multiple cycles of staying a wannabe and seeing myself as a has been


The last few days, I’ve been introduced to thoughts and been through conversations which had a profound impact on how we are at present. How we coast through the day juggling the baggage of being a has been and holding on to dreams of being a wannabe. 

One such question that put me on a train of thoughts was along the lines of “Since when did you start loving yourself karthik? When did you realize that you had to respect yourself first in order to gather respect from others ? Are you what you are today because of your choices or did you follow the current of time and that led you here? ” 


I mulled over the thoughts and in time, I came to realize that somewhere along the line, I chose to break away from the cycle of being a has been and staying a wannabe. The thought took me to a wonderful moment in Mumbai where I asked one of the most significant questions that I’ve ever asked ever before!

“Why am I not making new memories? “


Like everything around us, a little balance helps restore sanity in our lives. Being a has been is ample evidence of life lived in full and a resistance to continue living it that way. The limitations could be many, they could be diverse. There is still a reluctance to fight living the live we once enjoyed living. Staying a wannabe is a wonderful reminder that we still have dreams and aspirations plenty. There is a resistance to fight the odds and making things happen. There is still a reluctance to brave and pursue what we really want to pursue. 


I’m not wise, I’m definitely not mature enough to disburse a wealth of wisdom. I strongly feel that when we continue to go with the flow, we make a choice to exist rather than making a choice to live. As long as we exist, our cycle of has been and wannabe continues to live and breathe another day.

I guess the unappreciated truth is that, there is no revisiting the has been state in its entirety. Past is meant to be retold, it’s near impossible to relive it in all its vivid glory in the present. Between then and now, everything has a capacity to change. Even us, we’d have changed. There is no telling that our wannabe state is something that will keep us happy forever. Once we reach that milestone, we shift gears and set out new dreams and aspirations and kick off another cycle of staying a wannabe. Between right now and the time to come, everything has a capacity to change. Even we’d stand a chance to change! 

The states, they both exist and they both really don’t. One cant sustain life on either of these states! 

Our choices and more importantly , our resolute to act upon our choices, helps us swim our way to a destination of our choosing 🙂

Somewhere between the Has been and the wannabe, there rests a wonderful state that I’d like to call, I AM


Karthik

Mulligan  : a golf life story

Golf is still  a sport that I can’t afford. I tried my hands at it over PlayStation 3. 



Mulligan is a term that I learnt from golf. It stands to mean – A mulligan is a second chance to perform an action, usually after the first chance went wrong through bad luck or a blunder.


There are times when life throws you the same event to relive and experiment with. The times are even rare when we stand to recognize this second shot at dealing with the same event differently. I had the opportunity in the recent past. 


The context : 

There is this retail outlet in my ODC where folks tend to pick bits and bolts to check things off their shopping list. I stood waiting in a queue for my turn to get billed. And just like that, we had a person shamelessly cut through the line and approach the counter to get billed. 


Outcome 1 : 

That was a day much similar to most days that I’m used to. I was not in a foul mood. I was myself. Chirpy and sarcastic. So when I found myself being snubbed by the queue jumper, I approached the bloke and said that they should be very proud of themselves for being civic sense challenged. I said it must be hard being a lousy individual with no regard for social norms of being polite and civil. I also had the audacity to tell em that they knew I was right and they knew what they had done was wrong and there was nothing they could do about it because they were guilty as hell. 

The bloke had to listen to the sarcastic accusation and still not do much about it. I was right, they were wrong and we both quite understood the status quo.


Outcome 2 : 

Only this time, I smiled and said, “I’d like to believe there is a queue”. The bloke shrugged their shoulder and asked me if there was one. “I’d like to believe there was one”, I sheepishly admitted. I was in no mood to confront in whatever capacity that day. The bloke quietly stood behind me.

This time, I got my things billed, I picked up 2 chocolates and got them included into my tab. Once my bills were settled, I turned around and handed the bloke the chocolates. I said “Thanks a lot for valuing my thoughts about a queue. I take immense pride in gifting you this chocolate”


Both outcomes did instigate a response in the heart and mind of the offender. Outcome 1 was the age old practice of doing something wrong and getting punished or reprimanded about it. My response was engineered to insult and offend, no matter how I chose to mask it. 


The latter, it was a reward for being nice. It was an appreciation of making that choice in doing something right. I felt happy doing it. I felt better adopting this. The bloke’s smile and surprise over the chocolate assured me of the value in the choice I had made. 


I liked outcome 2 better. 



More often than not, when folks do something bad, when they break rules, it’s the consequence that puts them on an Aggressive and Defensive mode. People would make that choice to stand out and Assert themselves to avoid being insulted or offended. This reflex reaction is so strong that it forces them to add on to their offensive streak. 


People want to be good by default. When they break rules, that doesn’t make them evil. It only reflects that they see certain things as acceptable. A smile and a sensible negotiation might do the trick better than screaming our lungs out. 


Next stop, try experimenting with violators on the road 🙂

Karthik

Machine and learning 

Was an obscure point in time. I reached out to my smart phone which claimed to be a lot smarter than I have ever been. Ten digits dialled and a voice that reminded me that I had not paid my bills later, what I heard next left me in a shaken state of a mind. Fear gripped my heart and I couldn’t help but imagine a series of things that might have gone wrong. The automated reply said “The subscriber’s mobile is switched off”.



Was an obscure point in time again. This time around the ten digits of magic dialled resulted in an assurance that there was a delay in the making. The answering machine had kicked in. Or as we call them today, Voice mail. “Hello, you’ve reached……… please leave a message after the beep”. And beep. I shook my head in frustration and that was there. There was nothing that I could do to reach out that that obscure point in time. 


Obscure point. Only this time, the phone rang and the call was promptly cut. I refused to let my pride and ego kick in. I dialled the digits again. The same experiment, the same results. A few emotions ran high in my mind and I tossed aside my phone like it was the harbinger of doom. Anger’s first ever reaction has always been a burst of violence. The cushioned comfort of my car’s seat kept the mobile alive that day. I reached home. I wasn’t quite myself that evening. 


A million obscure points in time. magic digits dialled and a smile on my face after I heard the living human answer the phone. And smiles indeed.



Something happened today that made me recollect these few moments where I’ve stayed amused at the play of the act of calling and the calls being answered. What triggered this , is nothing short of a rude awakening of sorts. 


“Dude, can you please pray for me.” the message had read. My friend of twenty years, my brother at arms when we screamed our lungs on a stage riffing loud guitars, my friend who was as crazy as I was at music concerts, today wanted a humble prayer. “Call me when you can man”, he had messaged. We both are rockers, macho guys at heart. We don’t believe in male bonding by talking to each other and sending silly messages and forwards everyday. We both have lived assured that we are friends and will always continue to be. We have never ever felt that need to catch up from time to time. Moments come , and we crash gates at our houses. We chill out. That’s us.


Prayers. “I no longer question if prayers go heard and answered anymore. It offers a comfort that only a heart in pain can understand. The cynics will never know the simplicity of such a warm comfort” Karthik


I will da. I comforted him. I meant that. Sincere too. The call left me wondering. If I were to compare the nature of prayer , which is a means to dialling magic digits to reach god, then one of the following happens

1. The subscriber’s mobile is switched off – as in God aint around to answer. Exists, but has made a choice to disconnect.
2. The subscriber is busy – As in there, but busy! duh! your call is important to us, you are placed in a queue. We will get back to you. Voice mail
3. The call that gets cut – Guess god don’t like ya anymore! 
4. A smile after we witness a miracle. 


Unfortunately, when we call fellow humans, the act of getting a busy tone, a voice mail or even the call getting cut off, it’s a sign. It’s an acknowledgement that there is someone out there who is very much alive. 

The concept of God does not work that way. There is no voice mail in place. Our prayers are usually unidirectional. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the voice that says I’m on queue or a busy message. It’s a moment of a leap of faith. 


I’m no doctor. I’m not even the nicest person on the face of this planet. I sure am not on God’s nice list. In fact, my prayers don’t really stand much to deliver. Yet, it served as a medium of comfort when my friend needed it the most. 

Why question logistics, proofs, semantics , and derive logic over something that is built on emotions. Hope, faith, belief, comfort, assurance. There is no logic in the world that stands to rationalize the comforts we derive from something that is so volatile and that which changes rapidly. Emotions!


I learnt a wonderful lesson from a machine today. The answering machine. If god chooses to have one. It’s not about prayers going answered or miracles unravelling in front of our eyes. It’s about a moment of peace which may stand to give us courage to deal with what is to come next. I’d like to believe in that. I choose to believe in that. I could be wrong , but hey, it works and I’m not going to go about tinkering with things that are working! 


Karthik

Lost and found

It sure was a hectic evening of sorts. Shopping does take a toll. The moderated temperature in the mall makes the strenuous job of shopping a little easy. Armed with carry bags in my hand, I stepped out of the automatic glass doors only to find that the Chennai skies had opened up. 



I was amused by the play of weather that day. I had walked into the mall on a sunny afternoon. When I returned, the scorching bright sky had given way to darkened clouds hosing out droplets generously. A little annoyed with the rain, I quickly reached out to my purse to make a call. 

“Where are you”, and I patiently listened to a few excuses. “Fine, I’m waiting by the entrance. Hurry up ok?”, I ended the call. 

There wasn’t much that I could do about the rains now. I found myself a little too lazy to head back into the mall as well. Maybe, deep down, I really enjoyed the rain. I took a fancy to watch the hurry-burry of the city trying to cope itself to the unannounced intruder. Little boys were splashing over dirty puddles on the potholed road. Women were cautious and carefully made their way through the challenge. 


Bikes went parked and crowds gathered around any available overhead shelter. I saw a few folks reliving their childhood memories of stretching out their hands and catching drops of the water on their open palms. The sight did cheer me up. I no longer felt as grumpy as I felt a few moments ago. 


There I saw him. A middle aged, starved , malnourished man battling the rain. He had a torn plastic carry bag that he refused to use to protect his head. What a fool, I wondered. He didn’t seem to mind the splatter of drops hitting his body hard. As the rain intensified, his steps slowed. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember the time when I endured such an adventure. I’ve always looked at the rain behind windows. I wanted to step out at times but that was all there was to that desire. Of course, I wouldn’t dare to step out with the public in the rain. One, it was icky, and two , seriously!!! Naah, I wasn’t that wild a child ever! 


The drenched bloke was now my source of amusement. My eyes quietly followed his move. I climbed down the stairs a little to view him walking down the road. He paused near the dirty trash bin. The rain had managed to clean the dirty bin. We could all see it’s color finally. I giggled at the moment. Even the trash bin was clean and yet the city was so dirty.

The guy paused by the bin. He quickly handed over the contents that he so fiercely protected against the elements. She must have been his wife. She looked rather young to be his mother! Anyways, I dint care much. 

She took something from his hand. I couldn’t guess what it was. What ever! 

He then took the plastic bag and held is wide and open against her head. I saw her gobbling up food. The hole ridden cover was not a fool proof protection from the rain. But yeah, it sure kept her dry enough to eat in peace. The man stood against the rain. He stood tall against the elements. He carried out his task to perfection.


I couldn’t help but wonder if he had had anything to eat himself? I couldn’t help but stay amazed at his resolve to stay a provider. The way he cared for her, it stirred something up.


I got yanked off from my thoughts by the red BMW’s blaring horn. It was ours. I walked towards the door. I opened the door to find Arjun busy on a call. We didn’t say much to each other. He quietly shifted the gear and the car set to motion. We took the same road that the other guy had taken. I saw them up close now. She was his wife no doubt. They both had the most satisfied smile, if I ever saw one. 


Arjun, I interrupted my husband,

He signalled me to wait. It was a whole six minutes before we finally could talk. 

Tell me , he said.

I smiled . Arjun, I’m thankful for what we are. you’ve made me feel like a queen. It’s just that, sometimes I wonder, after we married, did I find a husband in you and did I ever lose that lover that you were before we married?


I don’t know. I said as I wiped my tears with grace. Never mind, I guess I’m tired from all the waiting. 


His phone rang once again. 

He let it ring. He didn’t bother picking that call this time around. He placed his hand on my hand. 

Felt like a warm assurance on a cold rainy evening!

The rain was all set to stop. A rainbow was all set to appear. The evening was young. 

Karthik

Not possible 

“Not possible” , the little lady of the house screamed. 



“Awww, don’t be like that. I said I’m sorry na” . The power of apologies never ceased to amaze me. I hoped against hope to salvage the situation at hand. 


“NO. No means no. Not Possible. N O T “, the little one took a deep breath and gasped out ” Possible”. 

And that was that. Set in her ways and nothing that I could say or do would change her mind from that point on. Not possible were the words that I got introduced to that day. A little girl of seven, a little knowledge of newly acquired words, and it left me beaten and amused. The tiny voice of my little one, carrying them words with a fanatic like conviction. It was a day of new memories being forged. It was a beautiful chapter between two friends, between a father and his princess. Not possible, there are days where I still reminisce over it and smile. 


The words were there to stay. The early years were adorably cute when she’d find the opportune moments to express her favourite words. Not possible had become her favourite response in time. Those mornings when she lacked the motivation and the drive to get out of the bed and go to school, the words made a cute appearance. ” Not possible daddy , I have a FEBER today “, she’d reason with me. 


The park by the house was her playground. She loved hanging upside down by this tree’s branches. The evenings when the sun went down leaving behind a soft subtle sliver of orange streaks of light, I’d patiently look to her and ask her to get down. ” It’s time to go home now darling “, I’d appeal to her. 

“Not possible ,pa”, she’d protest. “5 minutes”, she’d negotiate. She’d carefully hold on to my index finger as we both walked back home counting stars and gazing at the jealous moon. 

As she grew a little more older, she was embarrassed by the same words which were her only vocabulary for the longest time! She was too cool to use those words. “I want that cycle!!!! all my friends have that.. please please please get me that one, appa”, she’d negotiate with me over the dinner table. 

“Not possible princess“, I’d tease her. “NO. No means no. Not Possible sweetheart”, I’d say. It was a beautiful sight to watch her soft gentle face turn fierce. I never imagined how cute a frown managed to look on her. I’d silently grin a thankful grin for the gift that she was in our lives. 

The age old trick of misdirection did work like a charm. Her smiles on her birthday on seeing her brand new bicycle were worth the trouble of trolling and tormenting her. 

“Thank you thank you thank you sooooo much. I love you papa”, she said and hugged me tight. It was the time when my little girl earned her tiny wings. She was all set to fly free in this vast wide world. Her step towards independence. The big , rather not so big, gap between a father and his daughter was taking shape. I was no longer her entire world. I was still a significant part of it. Her world had just expanded. 



The years rolled and the way we stayed in touch changed. ” When will you be home?” , the phone read. I replied back saying that I’d be late and told her I was sorry that we couldn’t catch up on the movie that she was so excited about for a long long time. “I promise”, I replied. “We’ll watch it this Saturday”. 

“Not possible”, was the message that I received. The airhostess instructed us to turn off our phones. 

I walked in home late that night. I found her sleeping on the couch wrapped in her like blue duvet. I gently kissed her forehead and let her sleep. I switched the television off and wondered the choices that I had made over work. It was for her, I reminded myself. Money , the killer of dreams and the founding stone of many other dreams. I secretly promised myself to make it up to her.




And so as we hugged today, I couldn’t help but wonder about the beautiful journey of life as witnessed by those two words. My little one was dressed in red. All set to start a life of her own. “Don’t forget your dad baba”, I told her as we embraced. 

“Not possible daddy”, her voice trembled as tears completed that sentence. 


I wished her luck. Prayed for her happiness. She was all set to start a new chapter in her life. Vishal was not a bad kid. They both were friends for a while. I wasn’t surprised when they let me in on their thoughts. 

I looked towards the heavens and left my wife a little smile. She’d have been proud. She would have loved to watch both of us grow through the years. 



Karthik

Three words 

“Dark or milk ? ” , I grinned sheepishly. I was way out of my depths. It was a blind shot. I hoped that I’d have a 50% shot at this. 



****************************


The day was the same. Work wrapped up earlier than what I had expected. With nothing else to do, nobody else to hang out with, I decided to head home. The commute back home was a routine of sorts. Crowded trains, getting squeezed and squashed. Some where deep down, I had lost myself down the line. A lot had changed the last one year. Life happened. Life progressed and while things were changing rapidly around me, I felt I was stuck in the same spot. I couldn’t help but feel cheated and helpless at the same time. Nothing made sense whatsoever! I hadn’t planned for any of this. I wanted none of this to be fair. Things just happened and one could say that I choose to go with the flow. 


The early exit also meant that I could quite comfortably manage a seat on the mildly crowded train. It was probably the silver lining to the day. I sat and pulled out my phone to fake pretend an interest over the American elections. Like hell I cared. It didn’t matter to me. I never did understand the global economics of things. People around me poured in copious opinion around the matter. They all had a theory on what might happen. The only thing that I managed to conclude was that irrespective of what happened, none of that mattered to me. 

“Hi..”, an introduction interrupted my defeatist chain of thoughts. 

“Hello..” , I replied politely.

“Couldn’t help but notice, You do look sad man. Just one life you know. Don’t squander it over things that don’t matter” , the young lad said. 

I felt offended by his blatant intrusion. What the hell did this bloke know about my life. I was both appalled and irked by that observation. Truth is, I felt so exposed and naked to this stranger’s eyes. 

“I’m sorry!!!”, I blurted a rebuttal. 

“Don’t be. That’s the problem dude. You are sorry. What happened happened. That’s just that. I don’t know what happened, and frankly, it’s none of my business. But just a quick glace, I could say that you were unhappy with life”

“And how did you manage to get all that by a glance???” , I asked. The bloke had got me curious now. Was he a mind reader of sorts, I started to wonder. 


“Oh that’s fairly simple. Notice a ring on your finger. Meant you were married. The skin is not that much tanned around the ring finger. So it must have been something that happened not long ago. Considering the fact that you are well dressed and do carry an outrageously expensive bag for your laptop, I’m sure that you are heading home early which is not an usual thing. Yet, there is no sign of excitement in heading home. Home is where the heart is, and your heart aint at home. And I tallied it all up and decided that the marriage was not your first choice. I’m betting on a troubled relationship. Things probably didn’t pan out in your favour. 

All I feel is the resentment in your heart over the whole thing. ” , the bloke paused.


His keen sense of observation left me shocked!!!!! Wow. It felt so intrusive. He got all of that from my ring finger!!!! He was not wrong though. I said nothing. I wasn’t not in the state of mind to say anything. He left me with more thoughts.


“See boss”, he continued. “Lets get certain things straight. You aint a kid. You signed up for the marriage. Your defence could be anything. Whatever that is, it was still a choice that you made. There absolutely is no point in delegating the blame on fate , luck or ever folks in your life. For good or for worse, you chose to let it happen. It’s now done and dusted. there is no changing it. 


You have a choice to make again now. Either live your life, or spend the rest of it with contempt and resentment. You are free to choose happiness and equally free to remain miserable. ” he concluded.


I sat and said nothing. 


“LET IT GO”, he said as he gently tapped my shoulder. He got up and was all set to leave. 


“I’m sorry, I didn’t even get you name? What’s it buddy?”

“I’m named after a god dude. Since all gods are the same, you are free to call me by whatever name your faith you follow. I’m not saying that I’m god, but I think you and I were meant to meet today. You and I were meant to have this conversation today. It’s probably god’s way of telling you to wake up”. 

He smiled and make his way towards the exit.

*******************************************

The conflict in my mind raged violently. The bloke was right though. I couldn’t bring myself to let things go. I denied myself a shot at life. I was busy denying life that my wife deserved too. What did she ever do to deserve this from me!!! Wasn’t her fault. I felt a deep sense of guilt taking over. I had managed to jeopardise two lives by being mindlessly selfish. I decided to set things right. I hit the shop.

********************************************


“Dark or milk ?” I asked Sheetal. I didn’t know what kind of chocolate she liked. I felt very stupid. Married to her for 8 months and I had never even bothered asking her what kind of chocolates she liked. 

I saw her smile. It was probably the first time I noticed her simple wonderful smile without any bias clouding my eyes. 

“I like gems the best” , she said. She smiled and took both chocolates. “I don’t mind having these either. “. She walked towards the fridge. She turned back and shot me a glance. “Thanks”, her delicate voice carried so much love that I had been blind to all these months. 


I hit the shower to freshen up. Of all days, today I felt a lot lighter. It felt like a heavy burden had been lifted off my chest. I could finally breathe. 

“Carrot or Atta? , Sheetal called out from the kitchen. “I’m making halwa tonight. Which one do you like?, Carrot or Atta?

BREAD“, I replied laughing. “I like bread halwa the best. but really don’t mind having either carrot or Atta”, I said. 


And theirs was finally a home. 

Three words of magic indeed. 

Karthik

Nopes….

“Raghav”, I spoke over the phone.

Sunday was usually a routine of sorts. I’d have a lazy breakfast, watch the telly for a while. I’d wait for the time to get to 10:30 in the UK and then make that weekly call to my son. It was the one day of the week where I continued to have a sense of purpose over my life. Things were pretty dull for an old geezer like me. I was pushing 70s and there were not a lot of things to keep me enticed and excited anyways. Sunday was the one day when I sprang back to life. It was an hour worth waiting the entire week for.

I spoke to Niru. Nirupama. My sweet grand daughter who was super pumped and excited about her first dance recital. Raghav had sent me the pictures of her in that light blue tutu. I chuckled over the pawning of the pink tutu stereotype! He had also sent me a short video of her dancing. She was elegant and graceful. I wished I was there with them to see it.

Not that I’d blame either Raghav or Rukmani about it. She was the best daughter-in- law that anybody could ask for. My wife loved her a lot. Rukmani was around during my wife’s last days. She was a daughter to us. I used to often tease Priya about how lousy a mother in law she was. She had denied all of us the opportunity to spectate a miserable mother-in-law daughter-in-law fights.

Niru was everything her mother was. Lovely, well mannered, a golden heart, a life filled with enthusiasm and energy. I couldn’t bring myself to leave this house. For years, I kept turning down the offer to move with them. Raghav and I often fought about it. He did once say that had we moved to the UK, Priya might have still been with us. It hurt. That accusation hurt. I knew there wasn’t much truth to it. Priya knew that too. It wasn’t guilt that offended me. I wished, and still do wish that she was still with us. I do miss her at times.

Through the years, I had refused to budge from the place I called my home. It was not a pride thing. It was a house that I inherited from my father. My father built it through blood, sweat , determination and love. Each brick was a testament to how hard my dad struggled through life to be a wonderful husband to my mother and be an exceptional father to me. It was not my love for my father that kept me from moving away from that house. My dad was a broad minded bloke. He never encouraged me to wrap chains around my ankles and stay riveted to sentiments and emotional boulders. He was everything pragmatic. God bless his soul.

“Raghav”, I continued. “I’m selling the house da. I think it’s time for me to move on. I’m done staying attached to it now”. I concluded.

This caught my son by surprise. I’m sure he’d have never seen such a moment coming his way. Heck, I never imagined a day when I’d choose to sell the house and leave.

Raghav patiently heard me out. He didn’t protest much that day. He didn’t like the decision of mine to not live with him. I guess after the years of fighting about it, he had quite made his peace with the fact that I’d probably not spend my last days with him in the UK. He wasn’t enthusiastic about my plans for the future. He didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. I didn’t blame him for that.

“I’m an old man Raghav. I’ve lived a life striving hard to keep your mother happy. I did my best in trying to be a good father to you. I have very little to keep me motivated for living the rest of my years now. I have a lot more to look forward to in the beyond than I do here in the land of the living! I don’t expect you to understand this. All I want you to know is that I can’t die with a regret in my heart. I’m doing this for me. Deal with it, for me please” , I said.

The phone went silent for a while. I guess he understood things in bits and pieces. He promised to visit soon. That was that.

The next two weeks were hectic. Selling a property was a tough business. I was glad that two weeks was all that it took. I called in the old age home and booked myself a cottage. It was not a lap of luxury, but was pleasant of sorts. A wonderful garden, an artificial pond. It was more of a hermit-like recluse than a house for affordable old.

*************************************

‘SIR’, a concerned voice called out from a distance. It was Muthu. He was part of the team that took care of us. Helpers, if you may. Muthu was a young kid, enthusiastic and he believed in helping out the old. Care oozed through all his actions. It was never about money or the boundaries of a job to him. He loved spending time with us. I had learnt from others that Muthu had lost his parents to a nasty incident. He made a choice to see his parents in rest of us. His love reflected the love and warmth that shone bright from his heart.

“We’ll be fine, Muthu”, I replied. He shook his head and walked away. I knew he’d probably give us twenty odd minutes before he came back and dragged us back to the hall. Two old geezers sitting with their feet plunged in the pond was something that Muthu didn’t approve. He was worried that we’d catch the cold. He still gave us time to enjoy the moment. The sun was setting in slowly and gently. It would be a while before the chill winds to set in.

“We should really head back”, she said. Her gaze was fixed on the sinking sun.

So there we were. Two old folks catching up on life and the sinking sun. The large round ball of orange was slowly vanishing into the black that was unravelling itself for the night.

“Ignore him. What’s he going to do, tell our mothers about it!!!”, I giggled.

She shot me a disapproving look. She did find it a little funny. She’d have stood up and walked had she not found it funny. Maybe it was the relaxing moment. I decided against thinking about it and trying to understand the whys and motives to the moment. I enjoyed the moment.

“I have something for you”, I said as I reached into my pocket.

“Remember the time we were kids? Probably 8 or something. Remember , we both wrote each other a note, put it in a box and buried it on the backyard of my house? ” , I asked her enthusiastically.

She put her head back to jog her memory. She smiled and nodded her head. It was a sweet shot of sudden nostalgia. Renuka had moved in as our neighbour when I was just about 7. We both were thick as thieves. We were friends for life I guess. We were almost together as one for the longest while. She left when we hit 17. We stayed in touch ever since. About four months ago, things got ‘Challenging’ for her. Her kid checked her into this home. Heaven’s blossom – Old age home.

I made that call to check in to the house and spend the reminder of the days I had by her side. A lifetime worth of memories vs memories waiting to be made for whatever time that was left in life. It was one of the hardest decision I had to ever make. I think I made the right one. She was pleasantly surprised and secretly glad that I was now around again. It felt like the good old days when we were young and there was a life ahead of us. I had shouldered her smiles and tears alike. Now, nothing had really changed. We still sat and spoke of tears and smiles like we had always done.

I handed her the folded note that I had marked as the one that I wrote. I retained the one that she had written. Decades later, we both were set to read into the secret message that we had left behind those many years ago.

‘Forever yours’, she called out. Yeah, that’s so corny and original she teased me.

‘Yours Forever’ , I read from the note that was in my hand.

We both sat and watched the sun vanish. It was a beautiful routine of sorts now.

“So did you really sell that house after so many years, only to spend time with me!!! why bother?” , she asked turning towards me.

I shrugged my shoulder. “I guess I really did mean it when I wrote forever yours” , I said.

“75, and still filmy as hell. You never did change did you”, she joked.

“Nope!!!!, some things never do change sweetheart”, I said.

She gently punched my shoulder and rested her head on that a little later.

The brilliance of the moon overshadowed the ball of white decked away in the sky.

And so finally they all lived happily ever after.

Karthik