House Magnificent

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Each house, however ordinary, has its own story to tell.

Stories which recount the mundane, sometimes interesting lives of the people who once called it their ‘home’.

It’s strange to even think about it, isn’t it? All that which transpired within those four walls…

Once with a beautiful half-timbered façade, now with an ivy-covered derelict frontage – Doesn’t it speak volumes of the years that have passed by?

All that remains now are memories – memories in bits and pieces. In trinkets and old cardboard boxes accidentally left behind by overly careful moms during relocation…

Take for instance, those Scrabble pieces that lie scattered on the basement floor.

Oh, those Sunday afternoons! How little Diya used to watch her parents play the game against one another, sometimes spelling more words than they said to each other.

After all, words sometimes aren’t meant for a conversation…

Then there were the Sharmas and their heated, verbose dinner time conversations.

Impositions over healthy food, contradictory political opinions and what not!

The debates used to then shift around their ancestral box of betel leaf out of which Mr. Sharma would prepare ‘paan’ for all interested members.

That ancestral, overpriced, now tarnished silverware sadly sits in the corner of a dusty cupboard, forgotten by all.

Speaking of the forgotten – old toys…

Old Lego pieces. Tired of being built into a new house each time. Ragged dolls with missing eyes.

Car tracks, the ones which formed the Hot Wheels oblong; now just lying there, existing without any meaning.

Lost in the depths of space and time…

Just like the bunch of those vintage childhood photographs that are now torn at the edges and faded white.

Carelessly tossed away along with an undeveloped camera roll; dying a slow inconspicuous death.

None of them are historic, funny or remotely classy.

One of those is the couple photograph of a husband and wife taken by their young son of 6 who was holding the camera for the first time.

Awkward angle, awkward lighting, awkward smiles pasted on their faces as they tried to put their arms around each other in front of their little boy.

Another one, this time, of two brothers. In their underwear, catching tadpoles by the murky pond surrounded by dirty puppies everywhere.

Funny though, now that both of them are all grown up and don’t even prefer talking to each other.

The overbearing silence of this empty house unfortunately mirrors their restrained relationship.

There are so many words they want to say to each other, but are perhaps too disconcerted to actually say it out loud.

After all, words sometimes aren’t meant for a conversation…

Stuffed up in a bubble wrap, a box full of cassettes from a bygone era lies in an unused cabinet.

Cassettes, which used to serenade a mixture of sweet and melancholic undertones on a rainy day…

A chance look inside the cabinet would also reveal a myriad assortment of such antiquities.

Posters, rolled up with the double sided tapes still carrying bits of wall plaster,

Broken doorknobs, still carrying the imprints of the last person who ever touched it,

An old diary, not carrying the secrets close to someone’s heart, but monthly budgets and balances of a typical middle-class family.

Small tidbits here and there, a little drama in the air…

Countless fights and meaningful romances

Fits of hysteria and lost chances.

Tragic demises and manic depressions

Overjoyed parents and wicked obsessions.

The monotony, the morning blues and tiresome drudgery

The frailties and wonders of human life in its full glory!

This house has seen it all.

Yet, it now stands derelict. As inglorious and rundown as it could ever be.

Poor thing…

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Dark Was the Night

“I had a terrible day. We say it all the time. A fight with the boss, a running nose, the traffic. That’s what we describe as terrible when nothing terrible is happening.

When the really terrible things happen, we start begging a god we don’t believe in to bring back the little horrors and take away this. It seems quaint now, doesn’t it? The flood in the kitchen, the dead cell phone battery, the fight that leaves you shaking with rage. Would it have helped if we could see what else was coming? Would we have known that those were the best moments of our lives?”

Cheryl stood there, unflinching, unblinking, staring out of the window. It was a scene of torrential downpour outside. A sudden flash of lightning revealed the massive thunderclouds rolling up in the sky. The firmly rooted oak tree outside creaked dangerously while the merciless stormy winds whistled past. As the weather raging outside continued to worsen, a part of her could hear the faint sounds of the television installed in the hallway just outside the room. It was the frantic reports by Chad Myers, the CNN weatherman, proclaiming that this was the biggest storm the West Coast had encountered in the past decade. From the window, she could see two people, a couple, emerging outside the hospital building. Braving against the rain and the winds, she saw the husband holding his wife’s hand, guiding her towards their car in the parking lot. And for one brief moment, her already puffy eyes brimmed with tears again; her chest ached with terrible yearning, and her mind began to spin. She forcibly tried to track the car outside with her watery eyes as it veered out of the parking lot and sped away onto the dark road leading to the city. Moments later, the car vanished into the darkness and then, the time stopped again. Now, it was just the sound of raindrops pattering on the window pane and the occasional hospital P.A. announcements calling nurses back to the station. Cheryl simply stood there, flinching at each thunderclap, rapidly blinking her eyes to drain away the tears, trying to stare out of the window.

If only poor Chad Myers knew that the storm had devastated not only the entire West Coast, but also Cheryl Todd’s fricking life…

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“Mom, Pat’s pulling my hair again!” Jo complained aloud from her room.

“Not true! Mom, it’s her! She’s pinching my hands!!”

“Oh, that’s only because you are pestering me with your annoying riddles!” Jo retorted.

“Only if you could answ-

“Stop it, both of you! Not today. Patrick honey, mommy has a terrible headache. Don’t make me shout at you guys.” Cheryl interjected. It had been one of those serious bouts of migraine. And she felt really weak. And the fact that Ryan hadn’t called yet was now starting to trouble her. Having made a mental note to try on his cell phone again, she got out of her bed and proceeded to the kitchen.

“Jo, Pat!!” She called out her kids, “Dinner’s ready, come downstairs.”

“Ham & eggs! Ham & eggs! Friday means ham & eggs!” Patrick came yelling down the stairs.

“Stop being so loud. Mom, really, you need to stop treating him like a 5 year old!” Jo whined.

Cheryl merely smiled. Both she and Ryan really adored Pat’s antics. And even though he was close to being 11, they would never mind him being mischievous. Jo, on the other hand, was the serious one. Focused and driven, responsible and caring. Perhaps it was because she was the elder kid. Ryan would always be remarkably proud of her whenever she stood first in any of the competitions in her school. All in all, Cheryl and Ryan had always felt blessed for having such great kids.

“No ham & egg today, son. Mommy told you she had a headache, right? Jo, please help me serve this casserole.”

“Any word from dad yet?” Jo asked, setting out the dinner plates.

“Nuh-uh… Phone’s switched off. He’s never been negligent with his phone.” Cheryl said, her eyebrows still frowned, visibly worried.

“Stop worrying, Mom. It must have slipped his mind.”

“It’s been 6 hours since I last talked to him. And I just heard the channels; they’re saying a big storm is heading this way. And if your Dad has taken Route 67…”Cheryl’s voice trailed off. She had started to panic. Terribly. Route 67 was the worst choice at this point of time. Did Ryan know that a storm was heading? Maybe he would have changed his course after hearing about it on the radio. Maybe not.

“Mom, get a hold of yourself. You know Dad, right? Probably he would just stop at a motel for the night or maybe stop at a phone booth and give us a call. In fact, he may be making a call right no-

Just then, the phone on the wall began to ring.

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“The problem is, fairy tales don’t come true. It’s the nightmares that always seem to become the reality.”

“Can I talk to Mrs. Cheryl Todd?” Voice of a man (not Ryan) crackled on the other end of the phone.

“Yes, you’ve reached me.”

“Mam, this is Joseph from the emergency medical services. Our ambulance found your husband’s car wrecked against a truck on Route 67. We’ve recovered his body from the debris and are heading straight to Fresno Presbyterian. Please reach there immediately!”

They say lightning never strikes twice, but that is a myth. It doesn’t happen often, lightning usually gets it right the first time. When you’re hit with 30,000 amps of electricity, you feel it. It can make you forget who you are. It can burn you, blind you, stop your heart. And cause massive internal injuries. But, for something that happens in only a millisecond, it can change your life forever.

Cheryl couldn’t speak for a few seconds. Her mind stopped processing her surroundings for those few seconds. She felt numb. Her deepest and darkest fears were violently writhing, and she started breathing heavily. This couldn’t really be happening. “It’s just a small deal that I gotta finalize, honey. I’ll be in and out in no time. And before you realize, I’ll be at home for dinner…” That was what Ryan had said. That was just what he had said. And now, everything started to feel unreal.

“Mam? Mam are you still there? Mam? Mam?” Joseph’s voice crackled again.

“Yes… Uhh yes… Still here. He’s… he’s still alive right?”

“Barely breathing but yes, alive.”

Pat had begun to sob. But there was no time to console him. She immediately called Pam to take care of the kids, grabbed her car keys and rushed outside. It had begun to rain. As she fumbled with the keys, Jo came rushing outside.

“Mom…” Her voice trembled.

Cheryl stopped. For a moment, she had completely forgotten how difficult it must be for her kids. She was just too busy thinking of the worst. Jo was always the strong one and seeing her cry actually caught Cheryl off guard. She hugged her tightly.

“Dad’s gonna be okay, and I’ll call you immediately on reaching him. Alright?”

Jo simply mumbled.

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Cheryl had reached the hospital just in time to see the ambulance orderlies unloading his husband on a stretcher. There was a rush of doctors and interns waiting at the trauma pit for the ambulance.

“All right everyone, multiple blunt trauma protocol. Let’s go.” It was the Head of Trauma ordering everyone else.

“Tachycardic and hypotensive en route. Obvious head and chest injuries. He’s haemorrhaging.” The ambulance staff informed the doctors while transferring Ryan.

Cheryl shouted, “He’s my husband, he’s my-

“Where’s that blood coming from? Is that coming from his chest?” An intern remarked.

“Okay, someone page cardio immediately. Let’s move guys. Everybody clear! Incoming!!” And in a flash, they transferred Ryan on to the hospital wheelie bed and rushed him within the hospital premises.

Cheryl just stood there, horrified. “He’s my… He’s my…” She tried to speak but couldn’t. The sight had been too much for her. All the blood and injuries on Ryan’s body… It was getting harder and harder for her every second.

“Mam, are you related to the person who was just brought in?” One of the interns who had remained outside went on to ask her.

“He’s my husband.” Cheryl replied in a broken voice.

“Mam, please come inside the building. I suspect the weather is going to get a bit harsh. Plus, we’ll keep you updated on his condition.”

She showed her the way directly into the Emergency Room where they had taken her husband.

The E.R. was a mess. Every doctor was rushing about attending to various patients. Cheryl was hearing a lot of medical jargon in that area, and that further made her uneasy. She scanned each and every bed there. But her husband was nowhere to be seen. All she could see was bandages, suture kits, medications, severely injured patients, and doctors trying to pacify them. Suddenly she saw him. Through the window of a nearby Trauma Room. She immediately tried to rush inside. However, her path was blocked by a nurse. “Sorry mam, you can’t go inside.”

All Cheryl could do was to wait at a distance while the Trauma team tried to stabilize Ryan’s injuries. Her heart cringed as she saw them hack through his body, pushing in fluids, slicing open his chest, inserting needles. She started to feel dizzy.

“He’s lost a lot of blood.”

“Ryan, can you blink for me? Extra-ocular movement intact. Pupils are equal and reactive.”

“Somebody set up the chest tray. Okay, hold on and apply pressure here.”

“Depressed skull fracture with a probable bleed.”

“I’ll do a trauma ultrasound. Somebody ask C.T.  to get ready for him.”

“No obvious spinal deformities.”

“Hang in two bags of O neg.”

“I’m getting no breath sounds on the right. Did somebody set up the chest tube?”

“Left upper quadrant is clear. I want those drapes to prep up his chest.”

“Sterile drapes and betadiene! Now!”

“Should we start mannitol?”

“He’s got blood in the upper right quadrant. He needs a central line.”

“I’ll do a subclavian.”

“Call O.R. 2 upstairs and inform them we are coming!”

For most people, a hospital is a scary place. A hostile place. A place where bad things happen. Most people would prefer church, or school, or home. Standing there, Cheryl started feeling sick. This was the last thing she ever wished for. Her whole world was crashing right in front of her eyes. She couldn’t bear looking inside anymore. As she turned her back, the monitors inside the room suddenly started beeping rapidly.

“Oh god, V-fib, he’s crashing!! Somebody get a crash cart and an intubation tray, immediately.”

“Starting C.P.R. right away.”

“Charging to 120. Clear!” Everybody stepped aside as one of the doctors stepped in to defibrillate him. As the charge seared through his chest, Cheryl saw Ryan’s whole body heave upwards in shock.

“No, No, No…” She screamed.

“Still V-fib. Okay, charge the paddles to 200.” The doctor commanded seeing no change in heart activity.

“Charging to 200!!”

“Clear!!” Another huge jolt of electric pulse jolted through Ryan’s body. The monitors finally started beeping rhythmically.

“Okay everyone, I see a sinus tach. He’s back. Get the ambu on and let’s move him to the O.R.”

“Move, move, move!!” The doctors jostled together to get his bed moving upto the Operating Room. Cheryl stepped aside the door and watched her husband been taken away.

“Wait, is he- is he- Will somebody tell me what’s going on?” She yelled at those doctors.

One of the doctors stepped aside while the others rushed him to prep for the surgery. “Mam, I need you to calm down. He has had a serious accident, and we won’t know the extent of his injuries until we open him up. For now, we have stabilized all the bleeders. I request you to kindly wait in the waiting room. I’ll personally keep you updated.”

“He was- He was fine till the afternoon. And suddenly this…” She began to sob uncontrollably.

“Mam, is there somebody I can call for you? You need somebody to be with you right now. This is going to be a tough night…”

But Cheryl was barely listening. Depressed skull fracture, tachycardic, hypotensive, V-fib, chest tube… A montage of those moments was running like a reel inside her head. Besides, the doctors weren’t specific. Everything here was hanging on chance. Chances her whole world was hinged on to. What was she supposed to do when the life she knew was right now spinning out of control?

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“When the ground gives way and your world collapses, maybe you just need to have faith. And to trust that you can survive this. Maybe you just need to hold on tight. And no matter what, don’t let go.”

The weather outside had worsened. People were talking about this being one of the biggest storms Fresno had seen. Ever. The winds outside were growing stronger by the moment and the rain was pattering harder on the car windshields. And it was only the beginning.

Cheryl was sitting on one of the benches in the waiting room. The tears had long dried away. Her near-perfect life now lay in tatters and she had finally come to terms with it. She did not pray even once. She (and Ryan) had never believed in God anyway. Ryan always used to say things like carving one’s own destiny and striving hard to achieve what one wants and searching for God within one’s own self. Things she thought only she had belief in until she had met Ryan.

Cheryl and Ryan’s story was the most ordinary one you could ever come across. He had bought her drinks in a bar and they had connected instantly. They had talked for hours on end and by the end of the month, they were crazily in love. A year later, when both of them were standing at the wedding altar, taking vows, that was when Ryan had said those heart-touching lines which she still carries close to her heart, “Today’s the day my life begins. All my life, it’s been just me. Just a smartass kid. Today, I become a man. Today I become accountable to someone other than myself. To our future. To all the possibilities our marriage has to offer. Together no matter what happens. I’ll be ready for everything. To take on life. To take on love. To take on responsibility. Today Cheryl Cowell, our life begins, and I for one, can’t wait.”

It had been the perfect day, and the start of her near-perfect life. They were Cheryl and Ryan, the perfect example of an ideal couple. And though people think of this as an overstatement, things had actually begun to fall in place for both of them after marriage. Almost like a dream…

Until today’s nightmare.

“We can survive this.” She kept muttering under her breath. “We are Cheryl and Ryan and we will survive this!”

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“Imagine my surprise, when the patient for whom I am giving an Ortho consult turns out to be your damn husband!!”

It was Dr. Vanessa Cuellar, Head of Ortho. She had come storming into the waiting room and called out for Cheryl, who was now standing beside the window.

“Vanessa, I-

“Just stop, don’t say a word! I am your go-to person for a reason. And you didn’t care to inform me about all this??” Vanessa was now fuming. Then suddenly, she tightly hugged her. Almost on the verge of tears, she asked, “How did all of this happen?”

As Cheryl related the day’s events to her long-standing friend, Vanessa, her anxiety eased out a little bit. Having another set of ears to understand the medical stuff really made her calm. Though she knew Vanessa worked here at the Fresno Presbyterian, yet somehow, she had completely forgotten about it during those moments of frenzy.

“Oh sweetie, don’t worry. We’ve got a whole team of doctors trying to give their best shot inside the O.R. Try not to worry until you really have to. And besides, you guys are everybody’s idol. The perfect couple living the perfect life! Even God wouldn’t wanna mess up with your life, for he rarely goes handing out people with blissful lives.”

A doctor came rushing into the waiting room. “That’s her!” Cheryl told Vanessa as she buckled up, ready to receive the update.

“Okay mam, the surgery till now has revealed many lesions and lacs on most of his organs. But the primary concern now is the hole in his heart which needs to be fixed right away.”

“That means bypass, Dr. Bailey and it would require a lot of heparin. And with so many lesions all around, it is a setup for a re-bleed!” Vanessa interjected.

“With all due respect Vanessa, you are not even on the case. Let the other doctors handle it.” A visibly annoyed Dr. Bailey retorted.

“Is what Dr. Vanessa saying true, Dr. Bailey?”

“Uh… Yes Mrs. Todd.” Dr. Bailey replied. “But Dr. Vanessa may be slightly out of her depth here. She’s not even in cardio. Our Head of Cardio has given a thumbs-up on this procedure, so you needn’t worry.”

But Cheryl wasn’t satisfied. Vanessa had an impeccable medical record and if she was saying that something wasn’t right, then it sure wasn’t. “Dr. Bailey, this is my husband’s life that’s at stake! And so, even if there is some remote possibility of a risk factor being involved, I’d want all suggestions to be put on board again!” She gave Vanessa an approving look and both doctors rushed outside to discuss the course of action for the surgery with other doctors.

All Cheryl could hear from the room was a heated debate that was going on amongst the other doctors.

“In my years of surgical residency, while I was on cardio rotation, I helped Dr. Warren repair stab wounds percutaneously which drastically reduced the amount of heparin needed! Now that would surely avoid rebleeding.” Vanessa stated.

“But the patient has a contusion, not a penetrative wound. This one’s way different.”

“I’ve read cases where it worked on blunt trauma.” Vanessa defended.

“The cardiac structure will get sheared by that wire loop in the procedure! There is no way his heart would stand a chance!”

“Dr. Warren had avoided that complication by placing an extra stiff wire deep into the pulmonary artery. Sheer genius!” Vanessa exclaimed.

Vanessa was extremely adamant with her suggestion. She defended each and every step of the procedure and after a couple of more minutes, the Head of Cardio agreed. The risk factors were still high, but Cheryl was now assured, given that it was Vanessa who had really pushed for it. As they proceeded to go perform the surgery again, Cheryl came up and thanked Vanessa. “Thanks for being around… I couldn’t have asked for anything more. Go ahead and save his life. God bless!”

“God bless!” Vanessa repeated and went inside the O.R.

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“Didn’t we almost have it all?”

The surgery was now taking longer than expected. “Let’s not worry until we really have to.” That’s what Vanessa had said. Though she was considerably relieved with Vanessa being in the surgical team that was operating on her husband, yet she couldn’t help noticing that the surgery was taking longer than expected. She had lived one of her worst fears in this hospital tonight but now, all that was coming to an end. Any moment now, they must be coming out of the surgery. Cheryl was getting impatient. She called home and checked on the kids. She texted of all of Ryan’s family, updating them on the current status. She had just got up to go to the loo when she saw Vanessa coming.

“Finally! Thank god, that was a really long wait. Hang on, her face doesn’t seem good. Does it mean further complications? How bad is it? I have Vanessa to take care of that anyway, but still…” Many thoughts transpired through her mind all at once.

Finally, as Vanessa drew closer, Cheryl wasn’t able to read her face at all. She wore a blank look and appeared a stranger to her, not a friend.

“So, how did it go?” Cheryl stood up, expectantly waiting for a positive response, wanting to smile.

With a calm voice, Vanessa began, “When we brought your husband into the O.R., we originally thought that doing the percutaneous procedure was the best possible option. However, there was excessive bleeding so we decided to explore further.”

Cheryl was now confused. “No wait, you said that-

“On exploring further, we found a shard of metal that had eroded his pulmonary artery. Dr. Bailey and Dr. Hahn, the cardio lead on your husband’s case, used extraordinary measures-

“No… Uh, no, no, no, no.” This wasn’t right. This conversation was so not going in the right direction. Cheryl began to experience a sinking feel in her stomach.

“-they used extraordinary measures. But his heart wasn’t able to tolerate the excessive-

“No, no, no, no” This couldn’t be happening. Vanessa had a plan. She had a plan to save Ryan. She wasn’t supposed to talk like this.

“-the excessive bleeding. He did not survive the surgery. I’m sorry.” Vanessa just stood there, carrying that blank look, finishing the speech with utmost formal dignity.

“You’re saying… You mean to imply that… that Ryan is dead?” Cheryl’s voice had now begun to tremble.

“Yes. Ryan is dead.”

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They say death is hardest on the living. It’s tough to actually say goodbye. Sometimes it’s impossible. You never really stop feeling the loss. We leave little bits of ourselves behind, little reminders, a lifetime of memories, photos, trinkets, things to remember us by… Even when we’re gone.

She felt tense no more. All the raging weather within her was replaced by a dead void. She didn’t undergo any hysterical episodes. She just aimlessly ambled through the hospital corridors, watching the routine around her carry on. Nobody else in the world had realized her tremendous loss. Doctors were busy diagnosing, patients were busy puking, interns were busy charting and the whole pandemonium remained just unaffected. Cheryl felt envious. Even she wanted to be carefree and carry on with her daily work; take care of her kids, go to her office, shop with her friends. Instead, she was now stuck with the depressing memories of her husband. Her late husband. Her eyes became moist again. But she had decided not to cry. After all, nobody was gonna give a damn anyway. Every friend and relative would share her grief and tell her they understand. But nobody would actually mean those words. Why, was it the case that their husbands had died too? That even their lives had turned upside down in a night? Or the fact that the death was so sudden that their heart never got a chance to ever come to terms with it? No, she wasn’t going to cry.

“Cheryl, Cheryl…” Vanessa called up from behind.

“Look, I know you don’t want to talk to me but-

“You’re right. So just go.” Cheryl said calmly.

“I will. But I care for you and I need you to listen. You need a plan. You need to figure out-

“Don’t you dare stand there and tell me what I need. Don’t you dare.” Cheryl was now fighting not to cry. “My deepest fears came true tonight. My marriage ended, my husband died, and now my kids are left fatherless. All I can do now is simply stand back and watch it play out. You know why Ryan and I never believed in a God? Because there is no God! No God would do this!” That was it; tears had now started rolling out.

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry about all of-

“Just stop!” Cheryl cried. “Just don’t look at me with your pity and your guilt! I can’t take it anymore. All the while I stand here looking at you, I see your sunny life, your not-dead husband, your kids, and above all that, I remember feeling assured that you were gonna operate on my husband and that everything was gonna be okay! All of it makes me wanna scream and claw your eyes out! So please!” Cheryl was now visibly shaking with anger, her eyes still moist. “I am so angry at you! And jealous of you! And I feel terrible for feeling this way for you. I want to be okay with you, but I can’t. I can’t because every cell of my body actively hates you. It is so easy for you to feel bad for me Vanessa, but you don’t realize how tough it is for me to hate you!” Cheryl’s voice was now cracking. “I’ve no room left for other emotions on top of all the pain and bitterness that is burying me. I’ve no room left to have any feelings for you. No room at all!”

With a heavy heart, Cheryl continued, “I don’t know if I am gonna make through this, but I know I can’t do this with you around. So just stay the hell away from me.”

Vanessa didn’t know what to say. She wasn’t stunned. She was guilt-ridden. Heading back to her cabin, she met Dr. Bailey.

“How did it go?”

“She’ll never forgive me, Bailey. Never.”

“She won’t forgive anyone of us. Her husband died in this hospital…”

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“We are always looking for ways to ease the pain. Sometimes we ease the pain by making the best of what we have, sometimes by losing ourselves in the moment, and sometimes all we need to do to ease the pain is… Call a simple truce.”

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The Good Road

Oh, she had been such a mess when he had seen her for the first time!

Hair tied up in an untidy ponytail, chugging away cans of beer, her eyes (a beautiful shade of hazel) now looking bloodshot, desperately trying to flirt with the rather dumb bartender (contrary to the popular belief of them being suave), her beer-stained-still-wet tops serving as an eye candy to the strange men grooving past her. The loud music was making her wild. The dark ambiance had not shrouded her, but had strangely added to her gloom, somehow making her stand out to him. He was completely fixated at her.

Well this one was definitely a pity-at-first-sight, so to speak. But still…

Initially, there had been disgust at her lascivious pouts, and then slowly, that had transformed into pity at her ungracious demeanor. But gradually, steadily, progressively, he had felt drawn towards her. There was something about her, something disturbing. Something that needed a cure, something that wanted to be heard, something that wanted a good, warm cuddle. Beneath that raving soul, he could make out a sad, silent hum. A hum so loud that she had come to this pub to overwhelm it. And, he walked towards her. Why, you ask? Even he wasn’t sure… He had never been impulsive his whole life; every decision he ever took was cold and calculated. But this time, it was different, he could sense it. And it was unsettling. Yet, he chose to approach her…

Two hours later, he had dropped her at her home. He walked back his way past that silent suburb. Paved, wet roads. Giant, arching trees filtering the moonlight. He kept walking silently. The crickets kept chirping in their monotones. His eyes were moist. There was a deep, uncomfortable, almost heart-aching feeling that kept ricocheting inside his head. The way she had cried on his shoulders! Not cried, wailed! He had most certainly been taken aback at that point. But he knew she had needed a ‘tuning’, a reality check, a bounce back. Big time…

As she had wetted his shirt from her tears of angst and agony, he had felt salvated from his own demons. After all those years, he had finally found a way out. A path towards his redemption. It was a mutual, symbiotic union. Her tears had purged his suppressed anxiety. His shoulders had given abode to her grieving soul. What more could both of them have asked for?

Today, after nineteen years of marriage, three beautiful daughters, and those countless little meanwhile moments, there they were! Strolling out in that open expanse of their ranch, while their girls enjoyed their holiday time back in the farmhouse, they saw the sun bidding farewell to another great day. A great day for the world, a great day for their daughters (thankfully!). But just another day which both of them survived. They stopped. Looked at each other. Smiled. He moved towards her and kissed her. A passionate yet tender kiss. Then they stood out in the ranch holding out each other’s hand watching the sun descend, their healing souls a testimony of the true power of love. And yet, none of them knew how long would it work like this. But for now, they had each other. For solace, for strength, for peace…

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Things learnt along the way…

WordItOut-word-cloud-376600Ok then, after one entire semester and two Nukkad Natak performances, I have come at terms with the level of dedication the Dramatics Club requires. Having keenly observed our seniors and getting into the groove with the underlying reason why we do Nukkad Natak, I have come to realize a thing or two about the dynamics involved. Initially, I used to have this feeling about myself that I have a great passion for performance arts, that I have pretty good skills regarding dramatics and that once I go to college; I will be an asset for the Dramatics Club over there. Only if I had realized how gullible it was to think this on my part! Not saying that I was completely wrong and had made myself believe something like a fool, but that joining the IIT-J Nukkad Mandali has been an eye opener and that too, on many levels.

First and foremost, the club is a great leveler, and quite frankly puts things into perspective. You get to meet people, know their thought processes, and get to develop and maturate your own. No matter what mama said, you are NOT god’s special snowflake. There are 20 more of you in any given area. The only optimistic approach you will need when this realization dawns on to you is to find the people you love and a thing which you love doing and do it. People will notice!

The next pivotal part of this club is scripting. Well, I for one haven’t been the part of this activity being a newbie, but have certainly deduced a thing or two about the intricacy involved. Essentially, an “artist” with nothing to say is “retired”. Going by this adage, you really need real-life experiences, you need ideas and emotions flowing through you when you’re actively creating, and even more so when you are not.

As is the case with most of the acquired skill sets, one should always remember this – you’re not done learning. One simply can’t sport a know-it-all attitude with people he is working with. A highly flexible and personalized outlook is necessary to remain an active, versatile and productive club.

Now there’s something which I don’t associate to having learnt upon joining the club. It is something which I believe in inherently. Showing professionalism along with your passion towards pure, romantic art is not always a bad idea. Adding fresh dash of creative and commercial ideas apart from staying close to your roots will prove to be an added bonus. Having a plan helps, really!

Then obviously, talking about being the part of an extended and a special family, I should say I love being the part of this Bakait group. The level of fun and entertainment we have is surely unmatched. And boy, should I mention the jealous looks of my peers when they see me exhausted on returning from those frequent and well deserved parties?

It has been a great start, so to say. Desperately waiting for what lies ahead…

Afternoon Blues…

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Calm, quite Sunday afternoon . . . Lull ness at its peak. You decide to take a nap. But hang on . . . you look outside the window, golden rays of sunlight are falling on the vivid carpet of green outside, filtered by the dizzy leaves of the giant banyan. At the far end of the lawn, a woodcutter is busy shredding a fallen tree into pieces. The shattering branches occasionally rupture the otherwise beautiful and stupefying silence. A level below, you faintly hear your neighbor softly playing the intermezzo “Dhoop Ke Makaan Sa Ye”. Even you start to hum the jazzy tune and decide to forgo your siesta to admire the apparent beauty and poignancy of the world outside at this odd juncture.

As you admire the progress your home grown jasmine flower has made, your inner voice sarcastically remarks, “How poetic!!” You sigh . . . From your perspective, there are two types of guys in the world. One lot of them is alpha males, high on adrenaline, unsentimental and forever pissed off at things. The other lot of them is new generation males, often found sitting in the lounges, enjoying books and music, having a good social life. Well, you belong to the former lot (so does your inner voice scathingly reminds you) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . or the latter one??? Aah, you’re always confused about this. You don’t want to delve into this line of thought and decide to ignore your inner voice for this once.

Somewhere in the distance, a few birds have started chirruping a fine melody. The refrigerator’s humming on its own accord and your clock chimes 4. The woodcutter has finished his chore. He leaves. Deathly silence. The day had been busy for you with you completing all the unfinished business of the week. While sipping your kirsch, you gaze around at the houses of your suburb. Your mind is blank. The water in the pool outside your house shimmers weakly as it prepares to bid farewell to the sun yet another day.

Silence is suddenly torn by your cell phone’s message beep. You decide to see to it later. For now, it’s only you and the sleepy silence around.

You begin to reminisce about your past. Those beautiful days and that emblematic feeling of freshness when you first came down to settle in this suburb, away from the world. The world has changed quite a lot from then, but not this suburb. The people hear are good. You sometimes play soccer with the kids; the next-door grannies occasionally offer you home-made brownies; friends frequently barge in your house for dinner. . . It’s a wonderful life out here.

You suddenly notice a lizard on the wall observing you intently. It is distracted by a fly in its vicinity. Zap, the fly is struggling for its life. Crunch, the fly is dead. You begin to ponder over cycle of life and death. Bah, it is getting too philosophical. As for now, you suddenly realize that you haven’t even switched on the fans and yet you are feeling comfy. Symptoms of afternoon blues, you guess. You finally decide to see who had SMSed you.

It’s Yatharth. Your lips curl into a smile. A series of accidental events made him your best friend. And since then, he has been your guardian angel. His camaraderie is one of the few things you cherish in your life because you are an introvert soul, always in doubt. Yatharth’s the one who understands you and gives you a reality check when you need it and … when (you think) you don’t. You remember you have to return Yatharth’s ‘The God of Small Things’. Having made a mental note of that, you decide to have a hot cup of cappuccino (why, pray???).

Within minutes, you are with your mug sitting on the swing outside and feeling the warm breeze ruffle your well-combed hair. As a child, you always loved warm breezes. Cold breezes made you sneeze. Strange why people like cold breezes!

Your suburb is a green haven. Gigantic and wizening trees stand like mighty sentinels on both sides of the road. Parched yellow grass with green patches ornaments the level ground which is occasionally pimpled with small hillocks. Neatly trimmed bushes ….flowers in full bloom ….a peacock strutting majestically along the hedges ….dragonflies hovering about randomly in the air ….little ants scurrying off in directions unknown. You wish that this momentary bliss was eternal. You wish you could dissolve away in the sweet smell of laburnum. You wish you could forever breathe in the intoxicating smell of wet grass. You wish you could be a part of this evaporating silence, away from the sickening pandemonium of daily routine.

As your body bathes in the departing sunlight, you wish this serendipity never ends and that every quantum of your body could shimmer in its exorbitant elegance. This moment is a poet’s dream, you chuckle silently. Romanticism is what is usually delivered in poetry after such encounters!!

A bead of sweat trickles down your face. You glance at your watch. 5:30. Tut, tut, time to go home (!!!), you remind yourself and whistle back indoors leaving a bit of your essence outside which eventually sublimes into nothingness. You seriously think that this mystifying experience has had an indelible impact on you, yet you forget about it the very next day….

It happens with me all the time…

You know when sometimes you meet someone so beautiful and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they’re as dull as a brick? Then there’s other people, when you meet them you think, “Not bad. They’re okay.” And then you get to know them and… and their face just sort of becomes them. Like their personality’s written all over it. And they just turn into something so beautiful….