Rainbow

“It’s going to rain,” she smiled slowly, “the weather isn’t being fair”

He looked at the sky, holding her hands, “And you think you are?” he murmured.

“What did I do?”

“You thought I’ll miss those earrings?”

She flushed. “I had to..you know..today..” she said, averting her face to the other side, trembling.

It started to drizzle. He took his jacket from her hands and covered her with it, holding her close.

“I’m going to keep this with me,” she said, rubbing the jacket, “it has your scent in it”

He gently pulled her closer to him. “Of course” he said, “You’re trembling so much” he said, knowing better.

“The weather, you know”, she lied.

She inched closer. He held her fast by the shoulders, “Listen, before this goes any further, I want to say something”, he said.

“What is it?”

“Can I have a dance with you?”

She burst out laughing.

“I can’t believe you could be so..I have two left feet” she said, flustered.

“I know, love, I’m sorry. But that is only because..”

“I know” she said, laughing and crying, all at once.

They danced in the rain, laughing, clinging to each other.

A few moments passed, they continued to sway lightly, kissing in the rain.

“Goodbye, love” she said, not leaving him.

He said nothing, wiping her tears in the rain, and pecked her forehead.

And off they went their separate ways.

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We had been to the hills

“Where to?” he asked me.
“You’ll see” was all my grin said. Averting my face, I tried to hide my shy smile, for it felt like the first time- I could feel my heart banging against my ribs, so hard, I thought it could jump out of my throat and in my hands; I couldn’t stop smiling. He took my hand, gently tugging at it to make me look at him. He was smiling too.
We had walked up the mountain, it was drizzling. Walking along the railway tracks, I had been humming a Maroon 5 song; he started humming Ghulam Ali. That made me think of a certain Jagjit Singh ghazal, indeed I was feeling high and was in love; his words suddenly made so much sense- Mr. Singh sure knew how I felt. The valley was visible now- foggy, hazy (like my mind) and beautiful (like his smile). We stood there for a long time. I clicked a picture of the valley and one with him. We kept walking up the mountain road, hand in hand. My hair was loose and the breeze kept it company. I saw him laugh like that after ages. I read out a Ruskin Bond poetry to him, a poetry on mountain rain and how it makes the mountains all the more serene.

We picked up random colored stones and clicked tiny flowers. I told him stories of when I had been here last time, with girlfriends. That amused him, I could see. It was slightly clear when we reached the forest. I could hear many birds and even frogs. We weren’t talking much after a while, it was peaceful. I clicked lots of birds. And him.

Finally we made it to the lake. It was in full force as I had expected. We sat by it for a long time, enraptured by it. A few college groups there were enjoying themselves a lot. “This.” I told him. We could only hear the commotion of water in the lake, for it was flowing at a high speed. Not even the college groups. He squeezed my hand and said “Thanks”. This is the only place here which has no monkeys, I told him. So we had some cookies and chips there and soft drinks. We happily played a little in the water like a bunch of kids. He clicked a few pictures of the little waterfall and the lake. I was checking my phone (for some network) when a girl asked me if we wanted a picture. I did. He made a face but agreed. He always did that. It was tough to not smile at the look on his face, and, when I could feel his arm around my waist.
Him, rain, the lake- I look like a besotted puppy in that picture.

I picked a few flowers on the way back. We gorged on cheese Maggi and omelette at a little store off the main road. And tea. It rained while we were having tea. One or two rain drops fell in the tea- I love rain, I was beaming. Following the railway track downhill, we were on our way again when we spotted a few monkeys. He did some ninja style moves with my unused umbrella to ward them off, which made me crack up and I unapologetically let the laugh out. I asked him to dance for me.
“Here?”
“Yes.”
“I don’t do all such nonsense”. He stuck his tongue out.
“Yes you don’t, but who is watching us here?”
He was sort of considering it when I played a lousy upbeat hindi number on my phone for him. I waited. And to my surprise, he started moving to it after a while. Then, in full swing. I was laughing so hard my stomach started to ache. And then we danced to that silly song together, laughing at each other, in the rain, singing along, not caring a dime about who can watch or hear us.
My hand was full of tiny wild flowers by the time we made it to the taxi-stand. He clicked those flowers in my hand and said, “This will remind me of this day”. I put them in my bag, held him close and said, “Until next time”.

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(Originally published in Facebook Notes, dated 2nd November, 2013)

All yours

Hushed conversations, long hugs
Uncontrollable laughter, vodka mugs
Surprise kisses, secret vocabulary
Sweet promises, endless memories

Love, what would I do without you
I am, and I’ll always be with you

Some day all of this will be old
It’ll be forgotten and pushed aside
To some dusty corner of the heart
We’ll have matured, and have moved ahead

Even if I’m far away from you
Far enough to be not able to see you sleep
Far enough to be not able to hear you laugh
Far enough to be not able to feel your skin

You’ll find me, love, always with you.

And when some day
You’d be cleaning up to create space
Or looking for something
You’ll find me, love, with you again

On the last pages of your books
Far inside your busy inboxes
In your cramped up drawers,
In those hidden gifts and letters

You’ll find me, love, all yours
Sticking my tongue out from old pictures
My words from those notes teasing you
Things sent to make you laugh, to tickle you

It will take you back, to the time gone
To the faded memories, with a lot of gaps
You may want to fill them, without much help
In those fleeting memories, love, you’ll find me

In your laughter, in your joy and happiness
In your idiosyncrasies, in your loneliness
In your quiet moments, in your boisterous ones
You’ll always find me, love, all yours

tum

(Originally published in Facebook Notes, dated 10th February, 2014)

Are you honestly looking forward to your wedding?

I love attending weddings. Who doesn’t?
I love the zany vibe, the colors, the music, the never ending ceremonies, the elaborately choreographed dance sequences (which have to goof up at least a hundred times), the food, mehndi, watching people look their traditional best and obviously, meeting family and friends there.

In fact the best memory I have of attending marriages is the free flowing conversations I’ve had with my cousins. While the ceremonies dragged on and we kids understood the significance of none, we remained in our own world until the dance floor lit up!

But then, things changed. We all grew up, got busy in studies and hardly attended any family events, let alone weddings. By the time I started understanding things more around me, I slowly began hating weddings. Sure, as a guest I still enjoy myself a lot at weddings, but I started seeing other things too. And they irritate the hell out of me.

Most of my female friends and cousins got married and/or engaged in last two years. On one of the visits to a friend’s place to see the wedding shopping and arrangements, I happened to speak to her mom. ‘All this is so..thoughtful and elaborate and beautiful, Aunty.’, I said, touched and overwhelmed. ‘We have been putting everything together since she was born, beta. Your parents have also done the same for you, with the same amount of love’, she said. I smiled back, thinking of all the weddings I’ve attended as a grown up, and of all the wedding conversations I’ve happened to hear since I was a child.

Parents leave no stone unturned to make sure the wedding day is something their children never forget in their entire lives, that relatives find praiseworthy, that is enjoyable enough while sticking to societal norms. And in the process, they completely forget to enjoy the most special days of their children’s lives themselves. In all the weddings I’ve attended since I started understanding things around me, I saw this happening each time. But then all weddings looked crazy and had the same vibe to them. I thought if not the immediate families, at least the couple getting married likes it, all this is for their sake. And here comes the shocker- not all of them enjoy the madness surrounding their wedding.
‘We were so tired of smiling and being photographed. We in fact badly wanted to eat’
‘I’m so sure I haven’t ever seen half the relatives I saw at my wedding reception. And I’m 26!’
‘We didn’t even meet our friends properly’
‘We were dying to put on the pajamas, eat and go to sleep.’
‘What sex?’
‘Run off to Goa and get married there. At least it will be as per what you two like. It’s your wedding day!’

Isn’t this day the reason our parents religiously saved all these years for?
Isn’t this the day we thought about, as children, when we saw boisterous Bollywood weddings?
Isn’t this day supposed to be the happiest day of our lives, and for our families?

Then why doesn’t it feel like the best day of our lives?
Why are all the memories mostly restricted to those 100 kg albums and never ending videos, and not in experience?
Why do we remember the hassles that we went through while planning and executing the wedding more than the happy times?

We’ll run ourselves ragged to the point of exhaustion, but make sure that all the ceremonies are completed. We’ll forget when we last ate, but request all our guests to proceed for breakfast/lunch/dinner. We’ll spend endless hours selecting every single attire for every member of the family and finalizing the beauticians and salons, but won’t take a moment out of madness to admire ourselves and feel beautiful. There’s always some place to rush to, some ceremony that immediately requires our presence.

What’s the point in doing this, I wonder.

The most sensitive aspect of these weddings- the guest list- won’t remember anything. That is, of course, until shitting the next morning. It’s just another wedding reception for them.
The relatives go through so much trouble of booking travel tickets and gifting, go back to their worlds and forget about it in a few days.
The couple getting married finds the never ending ceremonies banal and tiring.
Escapism isn’t the answer. And why should anyone escape from their own wedding celebration anyway?

When did the union of two human beings (and their families, since we’re in India) become such a chore?
Why is this beautiful institution weighed solely on what we wore, what we ate, how much we spent on it, how many pictures we got clicked?
Where is the experience gone?
Where’s the joy of sharing, giving and making memories gone?
I suppose majority of people reading this right now, have a dutifully maintained Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Snapchat account, each being carefully given a personal touch over the years. Why then, something as personal as marriage, has no touch of individuality?
Why has it become the most important event for the society, when it is the most important event for the ones getting married and their families?

I’m not against elaborate marriages, but the fact they are very strictly dictated by the society that one lives in, is beyond me.
Hypothetically, if I’m the one getting married, I’d do away with a few dramatic rituals at my wedding but prefer to have that one last conversation with my loved ones to calm my nerves. I’d do away with a few ceremonies, but prefer to have both the families relaxed a little and enjoying themselves. I’d be delighted to have them soak the festivity and happiness in, to see their joyous faces.

It’s okay if the celebration lasts for three days instead of five. It’s okay if we make only ten dress changes instead of thirty. It’s okay if there are only a thousand ceremonies instead of ten thousand.
It’s okay if I’d rather take both my families out on a vacation.
It’s okay if I’d rather have both my sets of parents indulge in something that they never could all their lives.
It’s okay if I’d rather have an event exclusively for our friends/cousins.
It’s okay if I’d rather get married on the top of a mountain.

I’m strongly of the opinion that wedding should in fact be an opportunity to give back something to our families. It could be a thing, an experience or a memory. Being a girl, I’ll leave my parents’ place to move into my matrimonial home. There will be occasions after occasions, and our parents will keep giving us things after things, out of love, out of years of conditioning. Why not then, we as knowing, old-enough-to-be-married adults give something back to our parents? Why not make it special for them too?

The point is, I’ll remember my wedding, fondly. My parents will remember the wedding. Whenever they’d think about it, they will think about the joy that they experienced. They will have memories other than those of only running around the place, getting some or the other thing fixed. We will have memories that no picture would ever capture.

Isn’t that how it is supposed to be?

Princess

I saw you today, across the road, talking to someone on the phone while driving. Breaking rules, you’re the same. It made me smile when I should have been angry. I should have called you up, barked at you for letting yet another guy ruin your day. Would you listen to me? Would you know how much I cared about you? Ten years, and I still am uncertain. I know you so well and yet I don’t know you at all. You’re as pretty as I remember you were. You still have the same trace of mischief in your eyes, waiting to be unleashed on some poor, unsuspecting soul. And bang! We’d laugh at the boy the moment he’d turn around. All your admirers that irritated the hell out of me, hell bent on having a piece of our girl-time together. Couldn’t they see I didn’t find them worthy enough for my princess?

You so loved the impaling look I reserved for them. I loved the way you dealt with them, with your sugar-and-spice demeanor. You hated the fact that I understood nothing about relationships and love. I hated the fact that you would nevertheless narrate the stories to me, with great details. And we would giggle and laugh over them.

I still visit the places that we did on a regular basis then. I remember the times I’ve gotten punished in a lecture because you made me laugh. I remember the way I used to not just meet you daily but also your world of never-ending filmy drama. I remember our conversations on phone that lasted hours after midnight. I remember all your secrets. I remember your signature dance moves. I remember your favorite food. I remember your chat language. I remember your collection of high heels reserved for attending weddings. I remember your favorite songs. I remember your patent abuses. I remember your excitement for wearing a saree. I remember the way you would patiently explain me things that I was more or less was oblivious to, given my naïve little brain. I remember your opinions on what is sexy and what is not. I remember our way of conversing with each other in those day long Physics lectures.

Ironically we never have had a fight, in spite of being world apart in every way. You love attention, I do not. You like being open about things, I’m very private. You are the life of a party, I’d rather hover in a corner. You love doing the regular girlie things, I do not. And yet, we were inseparable. We were never seen without each other. If anyone could not reach one of us, including our moms, all they had to do was call the other one up. We were in our own world, caring a damn about others. We were complete.

But it doesn’t mean anything now, does it? You’re a different person, a stranger. You and I don’t know each other. You had different priorities, you always did. Slowly, I developed mine as well. And now, all we have is memories. Pleasant, colorful and playful memories. I don’t feel anything in that respect now, and I’m sure even you don’t. I may not have been your closest friend, you may not have been mine. But I’ll for ever be grateful that I met you. I still visit your part of the city all the time, I pass by your street often, we have each other’s numbers and we are friends on the internet. Everything perfect. All I want you to know is, I may end up making ten thousand more girlfriends, some as spunky as you are, some wilder than you, but you will always be a special one. A part of me that is alive. A part of my mad side, a part of my matured one. Thanks for making those years memorable, princess.

(Originally published in Facebook Notes, dated 11th April, 2014)

Blind Date

“Have you seen my husband? He must have a sullen face”

“No Madam, I haven’t.” he said, disinterested.

“You’re sure? You look like you are being evasive.”

“Really Madam, you think anybody here could look sullen? At a place like this?” (Pointing to the merry girls on the dance floor)

“Hmm. Why are you on your own?” (Mimicking his action, in the same direction)

“Was supposed to meet someone, she didn’t turn up.” He said, hunching his shoulder.

“She must be very pretty then, as you seem to be still waiting.”

“Oh no. I haven’t seen her.”

“Blind date?” She grinned with excitement.

“Umm hmm. Though our common friends claim she’s mousy, but fine.” he smiled a little.

“And?”

“I chatted with her a little, on phone, and I sort of like her.”

“Did you tell her that?”

“Nope,” he said sheepishly, “I asked her out, for tonight. I thought I will tell her..”

(Laughs without restrain) “So a big guy like you couldn’t tell a mousy girl that he likes her? And instead asks her out just like that?” she asked in disbelief, enjoying his discomfort.

“I thought I’d ask her for a dance and tell her then that I..well..like her a lot. And for a while now. And may be ask her out for a movie next. If she’s comfortable here with me among a hundred people, I guess she wouldn’t mind being out with me for a movie date, an official date, that is.” he blabbered on, a little flustered now.

“Whoa! Big guys aren’t that stupid after all” she said, impressed.

“Hold on, girl. We’re done with my psychoanalysis. Go and look for your husband instead. You came here for that, right?”

“I did. But I can’t seem to find him.” She said, looking around the dance floor and booths hopefully.

“But how do you know he must be here?”

“His sticky-note said he has a blind date at XYZ Lounge with Ms. Mousy tonight at 9 pm. I checked his phone, he asked her to wear that blue skirt he had gifted her four years back” she blushed, showing him off her simple blue skirt.

(Smiling finally) “Did he tell you that it suits you a lot? And that it reminds him of many dates- movies, plays, sea faces- they have had together?” he said, playing with her hair.

(Laughing) “Nope, he needs a dance with me and then a movie date to feel comfortable enough to tell me that!” she said, pulling him with her to the dance floor.

“Your unwanted psychoanalysis” he told her with mock-horror, dancing with her, as naturally as it can be.

“Big guys aren’t so stupid after all. The place is great”. She said, wrapping her hands around him, smiling.

“Mousy girls still never arrive on time” he pulled her closer, dancing to the beats.

“Some things better never change, hubby dearest” she said with mirth.

(Originally published in Facebook Notes, dated 5th December, 2013)

Dudhsagar waterfall and jungle trek to Collem

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August 2015

I stand there awestruck, mesmerized. To call it a waterfall was such a shame, it was so much more than that, a living being, or hitting closer home, a dream. The fact that I was sort of sleepy when I made it there didn’t help either. This stupendously, breathtakingly beautiful place- enveloped in mist, accessible by railway track and surrounded by mountains and jungles- was nothing short of wonder.

Five years after knowing your existence, here I am, dear falls. And even before the sun rose, I was so sure neither my clicks nor my words will be enough to capture your greatness.

 

I lay on my berth in the Pune-Vasco train in the dark, wondering about the falls that were a few hours away from me now. I couldn’t help but grin, thinking how a random Yahoo news strip about Dudhsagar waterfall made me download the images and daydream about seeing this place. I’d sigh on seeing its picture. And now, in less than five hours, I’ll be there.

We got down a little before Dudhsagar Waterfall station at around 3.30 am, where the train took a thirty seconds halt. I was so charged, the lack of sleep didn’t bother me. It was pitch dark, but the excitement of my fellow trekkers, around three hundred of them, was palpable. We headed towards the waterfall, on the railway tracks, illuminating them with our torches. We could slowly hear the sound of waterfall. A few meters more, and woah, this gigantic beauty greets us in the dark by drenching us! Needless to say, we all exulted. On one hand, we had a carpet of clouds hiding the valley, on the other hand, the waterfall welcomed us.

We hurriedly had our breakfast, and waited with bated breath for sunrise. And when it did, it was a sight legends are made of. For the longest time, I kept ogling it. It was so much better than I had imagined it, all these years. The torrential waterfall almost deafened us. I closed my eyes, committing the experience to my memory.

We started heading towards the jungle, along the railway tracks and through the tunnels. At one point, we could clearly see the entire waterfall. I realized when we all were so close to it, we could see maybe half of it. Now it looked way too beautiful, surreal even.

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The 10 kilometer jungle trek was something I was really looking forward to; it was my first jungle trek.  It had everything from tall grass, hills, leeches and pretty streams. We regularly checked ourselves for any sign of leeches on our bodies. Every few meters, we crossed streams, letting them cool our feet. The never ending jungle was very quiet, except for the lovely conversations with the fellow trekkers. We finally made it to the railway tracks, that’d lead to Kulem (or Collem) railway station after a 6 kilometer trek.

By the time we reached the station, a happy realization hit me that the entire day was filled with profound firsts for me. First trek outside Maharashtra, first jungle trek, first trek where I cared a damn about having hardly any pictures in my camera and of course, first experience of the waterfall. I had badly craved for this!

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We freshened up, had our lunch, and boarded the train to Madgaon. Some people merrily left for an extended trip to livelier parts of Goa. The ride from Madgaon to Mumbai was a quiet one, everyone badly needed to sleep. I realized I wanted to stay a little longer, older parts Goa in monsoon are quiet and breathtakingly beautiful. Some day, I resolved, some day..my camera will be delighted! Until then, the memories from this trip will pump some life back into me, and I happily went back to my world.

Dudhsagar waterfall is located on the Mandovi River in Goa, India, and is the fifth highest waterfall in the country. It is 1017 feet (310 m) in height and 100 feet (30 m) in width. Best time visit it is in monsoon (for the unreal view of the waterfall) and winter (for camping experience)

Pictures courtesy, Premkarun Chowdhary, a big thank you!