Friday, 31 December 2010

mercenary winters


winter in Delhi was almost too much to handle. I only survived because I knew I would be leaving. Chennai has spoilt me, kept my body and heart warm too long. maybe a few years in a mercenary place like Delhi would do me good.

I end this year determined for a big change this coming year. my hometown is warm, but it's also comparatively sedentary, not big on change. I could live here forever, work at the same place forever, have the same routines till I die. I don't intend to. I'll come back, obviously. it *is* home, after all. well, I intend to at least. but it's time for a break, some mercenary cold, and a big change in routine. I deserve it for slacking off so much in the last year or two.

here's to change! *clinks beer mug/whiskey glass*

Sunday, 26 December 2010

the end


it's the end of another year and I find I haven't learn a lot of new things. especially with regard to human beings. they baffle me. truly. especially boys. I'm pretty sure they can't wrap their brain cells around us women either, but hell, why create heterosexuals then?!? I honestly think life would be so much simpler if I could just marry/hook up with one of my female best friends. meh.

but. bright side of the coin. I just returned from holiday, a good holiday despite the strange behaviour of the opposite sex [well, not all of them, poor things.. just the one] and hope I'm ready to tackle a new year. there's so much to be done, I was afraid just listing them out while I was on holiday. but I have to do it all, no compromises. well, maybe a few compromises on what *other* people want me to do.

hopefully, next year this time, I will be freezing my rear end off in a far colder place where I will be studying. the good thing in those places [no, not hot firang men] is CENTRAL HEATING. a concept which is alien even in our country's capital maybe. but yes, central heating coupled with a delicious firang men would not be bad either. though I'm not crossing my fingers or holding my breath given my history with men till date. confounding, they are.

this year has been ordinary and boring only because I made it that way. I should have written more. in every way. creatively, at work, to people, for people, for myself more than anything else. maybe I should resolve to write more this coming year. 2011. the year of the pen. or keyboard in most cases. and hopefully, not the year of the wedding. although it certainly already looks that way. four of my friends are getting married by the time I turn a resounding 24 [ouch].

here's to me writing more, being a little less confounded by some men [boys, really], for my family to be happy [considering the emotional tsunamis there seem to have been in the last year or so], and for my friends and I to figure out what we're looking for, and to try and find it as well.

oh yes. that was another discovery I made while travelling. I don't know if I want to be a journalist anymore. thanks Niira Radia and co for disillusioning me even further. I also met a very inspiring man this year. the fact that I considered a profession in saving the environment has nothing to do with the fact that he's hot [he's not, really] but just that he's so damn inspiring and hell bent on saving it that he puts people to shame. and by people, I mean the rest of humanity, aside from the Jane Goodall sort.

so if journalism is out and writing and the environment is in, how the hell do I go about it?

wow. who cares about confounding men now! :D

Saturday, 13 November 2010

could really use a wish right now


I feel like my life is never going to end. I feel like it is going to end tomorrow. I feel like maybe it has already ended.. or it never began?

This is what happens when I am not swamped with work, sitting in the beautiful industrial area my office is located at, without people around me. And when I hear things about people, things I never expected to heard about people I genuinely like. Things that shock me, make me think, make me re-evaluate every damn thing about myself and the person I've discovered something about.

I don't like finding out I'm wrong. I really don't. Not this way, especially. Not through someone else.

And I'm beginning to loathe the opposite sex. In school I would have probably been voted "most likely to verbally or physically castrate a boy", had it been the sort of school which voted or gave titles to people. But the truth was, I was young [I still am, people say, but I don't feel it] and though I had issues, I had some hope, somewhere. That men [and women] were worth getting to know and fighting for.

Hope. Snigger. Whassat?

Now I think hope is a very distant sentiment. Women are bitchy, insecure and terribly complicated. Men are... I don't know what. Stupid? Uncaring? Insensitive? I've learnt to handle the Complicated, ignore the Bitchy and help the Insecure. I can't do anything about Stupid, Uncaring and Insensitive.

I look at the title of my post. It is a song stuck in my head, which was playing on the radio while I drove to work. And I wonder.. if I *did* have that one wish.. what the hell would I wish for?

I'm tempted to say "indifference".

Friday, 12 November 2010

why I will never bake a cake


Cos’ you just make me feel.. like I’m the only girl in the world.. the only girl that you’ve ever loved..

I was singing and setting the sugar and butter on the kitchen counter while my friend tied her apron, ready to show me how to whip up a great dessert for my to-be-boyfriend. Okay who am I kidding. For myself. The boy wouldn’t last longer than a month anyway – none of them ever did.

“Open the flour,” Anna instructed sternly. This was going to be a looong afternoon, I sighed. “Can we at least listen to some music?” I asked the Nigella Lawson of my life.

“Why? You’re doing a brilliant rendition of red-haired pop stars.” I stuck my tongue out at her. My red hair extensions were something I was proud of, not at all inspired by character-less American pop stars. Though Rihanna’s red hair *was* a little cool, I thought to myself.

Anna grabbed the scissors out of my hands. “I’ll do it myself while you contemplate a witty reply,” she said. I stuck my tongue out at her again and headed to the bedroom to find my iPod.

And then I heard a scream. The loudest, shrillest one I had ever heard outside of scary movies and in real life. My parrot started flapping its wings madly, getting agitated too. Wonderful.

I sped back to the kitchen to find Anna standing as far away from the kitchen counter as possible. Her palms over her mouth and nose.

“What? What happened?”

“She… Je.. Oh my god..” she pointed in the general direction of the kitchen counter.
“Whaat? What is it, woman?!” I shook her.

“The flour packet..” she breathed, so I headed towards it when I saw… when I saw *it*.

A cold, dark bluish human finger. And I screamed and leapt back in to Anna’s arms.
“Oh how useful *you* are!” she huffed, her fear suddenly forgotten.

Someone began knocking on the front door. Not a surprise, given how eerily Anna’s scream would have echoed in the friendly apartment building.

“Wait,” I held her back as she fled towards the door, “What do we tell them?”
She froze and turned back. Her eyes were shooting fire.

“You tell them exactly what happened you imbecile!” Nigella/Anna was spitting now, “This is real life. This is not a reality show or crime show or Dexter or anything like that. We just found a fricking finger in my cake!!”

“Weell.. it’s not cake yet, I mean it’s just…” I trailed off.

Anna went to open the door and I could hear her re-enacting the scene for whomsoever was concerned [or curious] enough to come and check on us.

I sighed and slumped into my grandmother’s rocking chair. It was going to be a loooong day.

--
Anna was squawking, much like our disturbed parrot Chechi. “Why are they so suspicious?! Why would I plant a finger in my own cake?”

“It’s not a cake, Anna!” I finally shrieked.

She paused while pacing the room and went back to pacing within a few seconds. Not that she had much space. There were cops floating around my home and the place was swarming with “concerned” neighbours because my family was away.

Someone even called them and shouted at them for not being on the next flight home. That’s how they found out what happened. Then they called me and shouted at me. And hopped on the next flight home.

I sighed. It had been six hours and counting since the actual incident occurred. The police were questioning everybody, had almost drawn tape at my kitchen and put a chalk circle around the finger. I couldn’t wait for them to leave.

At the end of it all, nobody had a clue how this had even happened. One neighbor had even called up the flour company and complained, so they were also sending a representative to look into it.

Strangely enough I didn’t even care that a dead man’s finger had been found in a bag of flour, in my house of all places. I just wanted a damn cake.

I sighed and slumped into the rocking chair again.

---
I had to get it back. It was all I had of him. But how was I going to do it? That stupid girl had screamed like a crazy person and attracted the whole neighbourhood and now it was with the police. I’d never get it back, even if I confessed.

What if I did confess? Would they put me behind bars? Would they burn his finger? Would they do both? Or just throw it away?

I heaved a great sigh as I stroked my cat’s fur. I was a stupid old, woman. As stupid as the young girl whom I thought lacked grey matter.

When my husband of 47 years died, I cut off his ring finger and wanted to preserve it. When my silly neighbor walked in one fine morning, right into my house, asking me for something. I had quickly dumped it in the flour. She did not leave. So I made a big deal out of wanting to close the flour packet, seal it and make it airtight. She helped me, quite innocently and it seemed fine. And then her maid walked in demanding where the flour was. The lady looked sheepishly at me and said, “May I please borrow some flour? Just a cup would do.”

The maid insisted she needed the whole packet and took it with her saying, “I’ll get madam another packet in the afternoon.” Which she did. But I lost my husband’s finger in the process.

I made several attempts to retrieve the packet. But everytime, the silly neighbour’s parrot would start shrieking “zeef, zeef” like it was Russian or something. And now I had no idea what to do. Should I just let it go?

I sniffed and wiped away a tear.But I had to crack a smile. Somewhere in the heavens, I could hear the darned love of my life cackling his over-intelligent Bengali guts out.

Monday, 8 November 2010

on moving on

I'm terrible.

Death is a fact of life. Oui? And everyone must get used to it. Somehow, when people around me have to handle things when people die... I find I am not sympathetic, so much as resigned. I sympathise, yes. In some sort of strange way. I found myself telling a friend today, "Time helps. It's the only thing that does." Erm. Gee, thanks. That's really a mood-booster.

The poor soul sent me a smiley and said thanks.

This is an improved version of me. It used to be, hmm yes, so people die. Deal with it, man. And I would think to myself, life is short, the longer you cry over the inevitable, the less time you'll actually have to live it.

And that cliched thing about the one who has passed on wanting zin** family to stop grieving and get on with their lives.. that is also true. To an extent. It's probably also good that one cries as much as possible for a while so that a) you just get it all out and move towards moving ahead, and b) maybe so that the one who has gone can feel glad [in a weird, narcissistic way] that people won't forget zin** forever.

I can say all this because I've seen several people close to me die, during my childhood and formative years. It affected me, I admit. And still, when/if someone close to me passes away today, I'm sure I would not be able to behave with such rationality.

One can try though. One can certainly try.

----
**zin: a word made up by author; a gender-neutral pronoun to use instead of him/her.

---
Note to imagined person reading this: I unofficially vowed never to get into too many personal rant-y/opinion pieces a la a lot of other blogs. Not because I disrespect that, but because I simply dislike talking too much about myself or my own views... but I thought it better to write something [even if personal and insignificant to the existence of most, if not all, people] rather than not write anything at all. Sigh. Some fiction/non-fiction will come soon. I vow!!

Saturday, 23 October 2010

burning not-so-bright


I will never forget the day I met Arjun. He was the most beautiful creature I had ever laid eyes on. Menacing but beautiful eyes, 500 pounds of pure, natural muscle, limbs that could tear through you. But at the same time so dignified and truly awesome. Deep in the reserves of Ranthambore, he was a three-year-old male tiger; one of the handful left in the one well-populated forest reserve. And I mean well-populated in terms of tiger population. If you look at human numbers, the reserve was flourishing, filled to the brim with tribals and collectors of fruits and whatnot from the forest. Collecting was their prime occupation.

It took us a while to get used to Arjun. My mentor had much more experience with tigers and was a natural tracker. I on the other hand nearly got killed when I ruined an almost-kill for Arjun. I stepped on a twig and scared off his prey. He was furious. With that I pretty much ruined any chances I had of him allowing me in his territory.

After several months, the fierce king of the forest was ensnared in a trap. Literally. I was setting up the tiger counting system when I heard strange, almost pitiful noises from about 50 feet away. Our hearing improves vastly in the silent parts of the forest where the animals tend to live, away from preying poachers and humans. I followed the noise and found Arjun.

It really was pitiful. His front left leg had got trapped and was mangled. He was patiently trying to stop the bleeding by licking it but I knew that would not help. He snarled at me and tried getting up, but he couldn’t, and fell back down with a cry. He would not let me help him, so I did something I promised myself I’d never do.
I sedated him with a dart. I stitched him up, managed to saw off the trap, gave him an antibiotic shot and prayed he would be ok. Then I noticed how skinny he had become and set off to find him some carcasses. I wandered for what felt like several hours and managed to get a deer’s carcass which had been ensnared in another trap. The poor thing had bled to death. I noticed it was a lactating female and could only hope that its little ones would be looked after by the herd.

When I took it back to Arjun, he was in the same place. He refused to eat it in front of me. He limped away, presumably to his hiding hole. I wanted to check on him desperately, over the next few days. But I held myself back.

My mentor told me finally, after about a week, that I should go look for him. I found him near his hole, lapping from a tiny, almost non-existent puddle of god-knows-what. And I started weeping, cursing humans furiously. He looked at me with his big eyes and did not make any move towards me. Nor did he snarl, though.
The trap had caused damage in his limb, which may never heal. As I followed him around the reserve, I noticed he found it much more difficult to find his own food, and began helping him. Slowly he grew to trust me.

By that time I had also got a tigress to soften towards me after I rescued two of her cubs from another male tiger, and once prevented her from eating a poisoned cow. In the former situation, she found the carcass of her first cub and wandered the forest with its body for almost two days before letting it go.

After a few years, when Arjun healed, he even managed to mate a few times and began to regain his stature in the ecosystem much to my joy.

Arjun died nine years after I first saw him, when I was away from the reserve. He was old by tiger standards, 12. His arthritic limbs did not allow him to hunt very well anymore and he was weak with no food and high summer temperatures in his environment. A combination of those two killed him quite fast, I judged when I saw his body.

By that time we were strong friends. I had developed a mechanism to call him and once he even managed to find me when he was in trouble, in his last years when his arthritis was bad and he was starving. I cried publicly and privately for the first tiger who ever let me in to his home, when I was just a novice in Ranthambore.

People say I’m crazy when I say my first real love was for a tiger. A dead tiger now. But other environmental conservationists will understand exactly what I mean.

-----
anyone can support tigers.
read more: http://www.truthabouttigers.org/home/?page_id=5

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

let's not talk

I have learnt it’s always better to keep things to yourself. Never mind if it weighs you down, never mind that you cry alone, never mind that you see people proclaiming their bowel movements on the internet and in office but you keep mum about most of your life. It’s the simplest, and best, thing to do. And these days with the effing internet, you never know when someone is going to put something up in a secret entry on a blog, or make a vague reference on a status message or god knows what.

I like keeping my secrets well, secret. No, I don’t have issues. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my friends and family, or that I don’t trust them, or that I’m weighed down by my private thoughts etc. It just means I like sorting out stuff on my own. It’s easier. When I want opinions, I ask. That itself, sadly, finds me in not very pleasant situations, albeit only sometimes.

I need my friends and family. I love them to pieces. So like I said, when I'm in supremely dire straits, I will seek help. I'm always afraid though, that if I do, people will be too busy with their life to give me a hand. And may go crazy helping me and supplying me with constant pearls of wisdom -- and may ask me to break down all my walls in their enthusiasm to help. My walls are a part of who I am. There’s a reason they’re there. It’s warped logic, but it *is* logic. I don’t think I’ll ever meet that one fictitious person supposed to break down all of a person’s walls with one look or kiss. If I do, I’ll probably laugh my ass of instead of doing any tiring labour work.

I like putting up a brave exterior even when I feel like a dark cloud about to spew thunder and endless water on an unsuspecting planet. And I like writing about it, or sweating it out at dance/on a treadmill, crying my eyes over it behind a firmly locked door much to my Labrador’s consternation, and annoying people by not telling them what’s going on. I like trying to work it out on my own. I think I’m fairly intelligent and logical, and when I’m not feeling so, I may ask for a second opinion, one that is rational. But it’s difficult to explain, and too close to my heart to be analysed by ones that do not know all the workings of my mind and thus my life. And really, I can handle it. I always have and have been through the very worst on my own.

So really, make what you want of me. If you think I’m a certain way because of you, sorry to disappoint, but that’s not true. It’s because of my own past and the way I've constructed myself. If I get drunk and cry, I’m sorry, it doesn't mean I'm weak or dying to talk; it's the alcohol. If I don’t say much when you’re pouring your heart out, I’m sorry. But I do listen well and damn, I analyse well. I’m sorry I annoy you with “I don’t wanna talk about it”; I really don't.

Sorry for it all, but I doubt it’s going to change, so let's try and deal with it.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

straw on my back

I always wondered about the phrase, the straw that broke the camel’s back. How could straw possible do that? As a child, metaphors like this baffled me. I never understood the human language. Maybe it had something to do with me never hearing it. It didn’t bother me, not being able to hear. I immersed myself in my art the only time I was ever bothered about being different – when I was a teenager. And since then I had never felt out of place again.

I seemed to be raising a normal child, I was a fairly well to do artist and graphic designer, I was happily married. The second time around seemed to be treating me better. My first marriage was a disaster. He beat me, made me feel like it was my fault I could not hear, he thought I couldn’t tell when he spoke to his mistresses on the phone, in hushed whispers, that bastard.

But one day, I understood the camel’s predicament. That poor, godforsaken camel. When he found out I was pregnant, he beat me till I bled. He did not want a child with "defects" he said. I miscarried.

I left that night with everything in the world I could ever need: my essentials. Since my fourth week of marriage I had always kept a small bag with clothes and my jewellery, ready to make a dash. That, along with my most prized canvas, and a camcorder which had footage of me trying to tell my first husband that the pregnancy was a mistake, footage of him then beating the pulp out of me. I had my lawyer friend on speed-dial. And once she arrived, I left with those three things. Oh yes, and my self respect. The most essential of all.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

remember me

I think I can now fathom those statements made in my BA English classes about art, specifically theatre, leading to catharsis in the audience. And now I appreciate art a little bit more. Or rather I’m reminded why I love some forms of art – music, movies, whatever.

I saw this movie which made me cry. Not small sympathetic or empathetic tears, but the way I strangely, and without explanation, broke down in school near the evening tiffin after I read the Harry Potter book in which Sirius Black dies and Potter loses his godfather.

Losing a biological parent and never having a replacement is not something one can simply ignore. Usually you can. But sometimes – only sometimes if you’re a tough nut – you are reminded of it. Or rather, it is pointed out to you that you are different from others in this regard, that you have feelings you forgot existed [or maybe never knew existed]. And you wonder: will they ever go away; will I ever forgive that parent for inflicting xyz on the other, remaining parent, on my sibling; will I ever forgive him for not leaving me a normal kid, for leaving me with daddy issues the size of the Arctic, forever?

And then one remembers – everything happens for the best. [this is something one can only appreciate in hindsight.]

Life is always so strange, so bloody unpredictable. We try to predict it by getting our palms read, by reading our horoscopes, by making plans for the future, charting out things we want to do, by creating bubbles around ourselves and only letting a few things inside, by visiting psychologists, or we try to avoid it by eating our favourite pizza, by getting drunk, by popping a Valium and sleeping for 15 hours…. But we can’t escape life, or its unpredictability and seeming callousness towards us.

It’s always there. Always changing. It’s always gonna trip us, make us realize we have feelings we didn’t know about, make us cry for joy, want to freeze a moment, help someone cross the road, scratch someone’s eyes out, and so many other things I don’t even know about.

I don’t know what I’m saying or trying to get at. I’m not saying I believe in fate or destiny. It’s hard to believe in anything or anyone these days. But I’m beginning to believe that if something hurts us, it’s for a reason.

We’ll figure out the godforsaken reason later, sometimes never if we don’t keep our eyes open… but if we wait long enough, there’s always a reason for every shitty incident in our life, every crappy person we meet – we maybe blind to the reason or logic [if you can call it that]. But it’s there somewhere.

I don’t know if there’s ever just one obvious reason – but it’s like forgetting something. Suddenly one day when you stop thinking, racking your brains to remember what it is, it comes back to you. And you smile. For the first time that whole day, a genuine smile. For yourself, not for anyone else. And you feel happy. And if you can’t think of anyone you can share the forgotten thought with, someone who’ll understand its significance or randomness, it doesn’t mean you’re friendless, lonely and will die alone. It probably means you just need a moment alone to be grateful on your own – remind yourself you exist for yourself. Not for others.

It’s easy to forget that sometimes, that it’s alright to be alone once in a way even in the age of Facebook and microblogging. At some point, even I forgot.

**I realise Gandhi Jayanti is a strange day to remember I should live for myself but I hope Gandhi gets what I mean. I still intend on helping helpless little animals [I’m not a people person] but humans, well, never mind. No offense, Gandhi.

Monday, 27 September 2010

the l-word


We were on the phone. He was at the opposite end of the country, perfectly illustrating how different our viewpoints were at the time. I was in Calcutta, he was in Bombay. He was talking to me about a girl. It was one of the few times he ever did.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this but I really think I’m in l…”

“Ahh noo! Don’t say the l-word, please, please. I’ll lose all respect for you and whatever little love I have for you.”

“Wait. You just said it. What’s the big deal?”

“No, but see, what I feel for you is genuine friend to friend lowe,” I tried to explain, using the pronounciation used by half the pedestrians in the country.

“Uhm. Your point?”

“It’s biological, my dear Watson.”

“Oh god…” and he started muttering something in Hindi which I’m guessing were cusses.

“What, what? No, listen. I’m not saying it’s fake, I’m just saying it’s not what you think. Ok, wait. How hot is this chick?”

“She’s not a baby hen. And she’s pretty hot.”

“Ok. And you’re a 25-year-old, fairly good-looking (I got a sarcastic “thanks” at this juncture) red-blooded male.”

“Yeesss?”

“It’s hormones.” I paused, waiting for his eruption. All I got was silence.

“Hello?” I asked.

“Waiting for the rest of it. Or is that it?” I rarely got sarcasm from him so I was a little taken aback. He must really have liked that girl. It came as a slight shock to me and I was surprised at myself for being, well, shocked. But I never really analysed that. Maybe I should have. It would have saved me a lot of time. Anyway, getting back to the scene at hand.

“So see. Our friendship is not based on hormones. It’s real, it’s right there, based not on chemical reactions in our body, but on the past few years.. whatever we’ve shared has obviously made us close and well, I’m very fond of you.” I cleared my throat.

“Uhm. Are you telling me you’re in love with me?”

“No, jackass. I not in love with you, I’m just differentiating what you feel for her and what I’m presuming you feel for me.”

He sighed. I took it as a signal to continue.

“She’s probably nice, you’ve said she’s good-looking. Now you’re seeing everyone around you hook up with people. Get married, have babies, or have amazing sex and consciously or unconsciously, you’ve felt alone. Let’s face it. Humans are not designed to be alone. Mentally and emotionally.”

“Whoa wait, I thought this was physical. Now you’re saying it’s mental and emotional? Make up your mind, woman.”

“I’m not done, sweepea. Shut up and listen.”

Grunt.

“It’s social conditioning and your er bodily needs. Don’t roll your eyes. So, anyhow, what I’m saying is… you maybe really fascinated by this girl, but don’t call it love just yet. Have as much sex as you want, date her for at least a few months, then tell me you’re in love with her and I won’t burst an artery.”

He never did tell me about being in love again. I don’t know if it was because he knew I’d argue him out of it, or because he knew it hurt me slightly. Or maybe I give him too much credit. I never saw him as a potential lover. He was always the shoulder I cried on. When I was frustrated with my life and how it wasn’t going anywhere, when I hadn’t painted in months because I was too busy designing lame advertisements, when I fell for my best friend’s extremely messed up cousin.

And sometimes I could go weeks, even months without really talking to him. A few text messages here and there, but not much communication otherwise.

I loved Calcutta. Even when it was re-named and more people moved there, and the city expanded. It was my home. So when I started feeling restless, I blamed it on my failed friendship with aforementioned cousin of best friend. In hindsight, I am relieved it never happened. Hindsight is one of the most satisfying things in my life. When I can look back on my irrationality and smile over having the wisdom to know better now.

But we never really do know better.

After several years of being single, trying to figure my life out, having a few one night stands and never having them again, I finally realised it was possible I had feelings for Kashyap. It made no sense to me. At first. Which is why I re-visited the above conversation several times.

Imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that I had probably always had feelings for him. More than just good friend to friend feelings and “lowe”. Why was it I hated discussing my problems and weaknesses and irrational behaviour with all the other people I knew, but could always bank on him if I wanted to discuss these things? Why did he always know just how much to push me if he thought something was bothering me and he felt I needed to resolve it? How in god’s name did he know I needed a break from a city I loved? All this and much more in next week’s episode of Sleepless in India.

Oh wait, this isn’t a television show. It’s my life. Sigh.

So it’s been almost seven years, and it turns out that the thing I’ve been both avoiding and looking for all this bloody time, could be right under my nose. And it’s possible I’m too late. You see, once I discovered all this mush in my perfectly scientific head, I did something irrational. I planned a trip without telling the person I’d be staying with, or rather, the person I’m hoping to stay with.

Kashyap is now in Singapore, studying. I haven’t really spoken to him since the last Skype conversation we had two months ago, which lasted three and a half hours, after which I found myself strangely yearning for him and proceeded to realise I am probably in love with him. I managed to get his address under the guise of posting him a fabulous book I wanted him to read. But in fact I’m being incredibly irrational and surprising him in Singapore. Possibly with a declaration of my undying (well considering it’s been seven years, it could last another seven years. And 14 years is practically forever) love. If he’s alone in his apartment, that is. I was too scared of the answer to ask him whether he was seeing anyone seriously.

I’ve practiced the declaration several hundred times but still haven’t figured out what exactly to say. I’m hoping he knows me as well as I think he does and interrupts me before I make a blundering ass of myself.

I wonder how I’m going to feel about this in hindsight.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

faith

“Have a little faith.”

That’s what he said.

So I did.

And look at me now. (Come on, you knew this was coming. If you didn’t… Well, grow up honey.) I’m three, almost four, months pregnant. Which is fine. We were married after all. But now I’m HIV positive too. Sounds pretty dramatic, huh?

I don’t think it’s sunk in really. Not quite. I’m more worried for the baby now than I am for myself. Me, I come from high society. I married an older man, one who had two marriages before me. I’m not saying don’t marry older men who have married before. I’m not saying anything really. I’m too worried for the baby. You see, I’m 37. And in India, some women are grandmothers by that age. They get married really early. Starting from the age of 18. Boys get married as early sometimes, though not as early. So there are very, very few women to manage to get to the age of 33 without showing the slightest inclination to find a husband, let alone marry and start reproducing. I should thank my family for that. They never put any pressure from me. They never even disputed the fact that Ajay was too old, or that his background was too hazy. (He’s 17 years older than me, and a “businessman” with I don’t-know-what businesses aside from extra-marital sex). My parents were in fact extremely supportive all throughout my career, my single days, my early days with Ajay and even when he was rumoured to have begun screwing around behind my back. (once even in front of me…….. don’t ask)

My brother was a little unsupportive. I took it as normal brotherly over-protectiveness. Ajay never struck me as the type who would stray. I think I was stupid and in love. Because once he got past my initial, extremely well-built defense mechanisms, there was no looking back. I think his desperation was what made him stick around long enough to break my barriers, in fact. We met two years before I married him and I slept with him after two dates because I thought, what the heck, why not have some fun. I never even told him about my mommy issues till about a year and half after we started seeing each other. Once I let him in though, there was no looking back. Even when I caught him in bed with my brother’s cousin-in-law’s niece. Yes, niece. She couldn’t have been more than 25. Even then, when he explained himself tearfully, I moved out for a few weeks but eventually took him back.
My parents were disbelieving and not entirely supportive but after they figured out I was in this for the long haul.. they stood by me. Hell, yes. They stood by the 36-year-old meandering artist (meandering professionally) married to a philandering and dubious “businessman”.

After I caught Ajay in bed with a different woman, I left. My father withdrew support from the bugger’s company (I never knew the details) and I packed my Louis Vuitton bags, took Bunny (my Irish Setter) and left in my Volkswagen Jetta.
A month later I discovered I was going to have a baby. I decided to keep it. Two months later my blood tests turned up HIV positive. And now, after confirming it with my gynaecologist and another specialist, I don’t know what to do. My mother is weeping, my father is on the verge of tears, my brother drove off so fast that I think he’ll crash his car… and I’m not telling Ajay.

The reason I say it’s not really sunk in yet is because I don’t care if my brother crashes his Audi or that my mother is weeping. Well I do. But more than that, much more than that, I’m horribly torn-up because my baby could have the virus too. And I’m not going to know till after it is born. So, what do I do?

I’m sitting on my terrace, dying to pour myself a really strong drink, and thinking: is it worse that I’m high society and not from some slum somewhere? I have middle class friends who have it easier than I do. More of them got married as and when they liked, to whomsoever they pleased, than girls whose parents are members of XYZ clubs – the types who hobnob with the rich, successful and famous.

My parents have already got enough whispers because they had a daughter marry late to a man much older than her. Then it didn’t turn out to be a Katie Holmes-Tom Cruise thing (who knows how that’ll turn out anyway) so we were gossiped about even more by page 3 people who had nothing better to do. And now. Well they’re bound to find out. Our circles aren’t too big so Mrs La-dee-dah who comes to the club to have high tea with Mrs Fla-bah-doo will be talking about it in a few months.

My parents can manage. I can. And my brother can, if he survives the drive home tonight. But what about Baby? Baby whose mother will not live longer than a couple decades at most. So Baby not only has daddy issues and trust issues as a result, but Mom-is-dead issues too. And that is if Baby does not die in the first few years herself. Presuming she’s a girl.

I never considered having a baby but once the stick turned blue I realised what women mean when they say, “John is the best thing to have happened in the marriage.” John the son, not the womanising husband.

Oh the phone rings. Who is it now? God? Where have you been you son of a cow. A female cow who did not have HIV I presume – smart lady. Now. Tell me what I should do. Have a baby who will inherit the fortune and the HIV perhaps, and be constantly under the societal gaze, or abort and save everybody the trauma… and me the will to live?

Oh sometimes I really wish I was poor and had a simpler life. More than that, I wish I hadn't had so much faith. In the wrong person.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

to study or not to study

It's ridiculous. The average fees for a taught Masters programme in England for a resident or European student is not more than 3,000 pounds. And the fees for the same course for an international student is 11,000 pounds. Given our exchange rate, that's like buying an Audi Q5. At least I can show off an Audi Q5 and have men and women alike fall at my feet. But that doesn't change the fact that I will be applying to universities in the UK for a highly expensive Masters degree at some point [hopefully when the exchange rate is not too high].

Why, though? I know my reasons [some may call them excuses]. Since my chosen topic has no takers in India, there really aren't any Masters programmes in it. I've come across one three-month course but I doubt that's even a certificate course. Sigh. And some people like my editor-in-chief even asked me "But why would you want to study Creative Writing??"

Why, indeed. Because I'd rather not do a media and communications course and waste my time and mother's hard-earned money? And because I'm the sort that believes you aren't always born with everything -- if you're born with a talent, maybe you could try nurturing it and sharpening your skills a little. And oh god, I'm bored of working everyday. Honestly. I know my job is interesting to a lot of people, and it is to me as well, on most days at least. But who needs an expensive Masters in the nuances of journalism and communication when all it takes is a) a pretty face [for television], b) ability to aggressively hunt down stories, c) ability to get people to talk even when they don't want to, and preferably say things that you want them to say so it fits with your story, d) time management skills, e) excellent contacts, or the charm and intelligence to make new ones if you're a beginner, and f) ability to keep boss and [maybe, if needed] colleagues happy.

Yes, that's a little harsh but it's mostly true. What else do you need to know... writing skills? *guffaw* That's what sub-editors and editors are for. Hmm, what else. Ethics? What's that? No, really. The journalists I know with ethics kind of have it instilled in them during the course of their childhood. If they don't have it... well, they don't. And those are the ones more suited for television. [Having worked in television, I think I can say that without a moment's doubt].

Coming back to a postgraduate degree. No point in doing it in this field honestly. And I've always dreamed of working at my own pace, in my own space, and simply writing. No news briefs and whatnot. [no offense to news briefs - they're wondrous in comparison to hunting down pointless sound bytes for idiotic stories on security threats which exist only in the minds of executive editors at TV news stations]

I want to write. Sigh. You may say one does not need to study that. Well I *want* to study that. [No no, that was not said a la child throwing a tantrum in supermarket demanding ice-cream]. I honestly would rather study something I'm enamoured with and would want to pursue, than something pointless like, say oh I dunno... anthropological media and communications studies.

Which brings me back to - why are Indian students willing to pay so much to study HR and the like, and why are universities abroad charging so much from people from supposed developing nations? Colonial hangover, much?

Monday, 12 July 2010

amazing


so the Sunday Scribblings prompt for this week is to honour someone I think is amazing. one part of me thought, nah I can't do them justice. there was another part which didn't know what the definition of 'amazing' was because I realised I know a lot of fabulous people. finally, it occurred to me that not one of them is a heterosexual male.

I'm wondering when that will change and who it'll be.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

sorry I'm crazy - someone broke my heart


ok perhaps the title is a bit mean-hearted. but still. it's no excuse.

--
Being rejected by a romantic partner triggers brain activity linked with motivation, reward and addiction cravings, revealed a new study.

Led by Dr. Lucy Brown, Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, the study is the third from her team to demonstrate that primitive reward and survival systems are activated in people who look at their beloved.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers recorded the brain activity of 15 college-age adults who had recently been rejected by their partners but reported that they were still intensely "in love."

Upon viewing photographs of their former partners, several key areas of participants' brains were activated, including the ventral tegmental area, which controls motivation and reward and is known to be involved in feelings of romantic love; the nucleus accumbens and orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, which are associated with craving and addiction, specifically the dopaminergic reward system evident in cocaine addiction; and the insular cortex and the anterior cingulate, which are associated with physical pain and distress.

By tying these specific areas of the brain to romantic rejection, the research provides insight into the anguished feelings that can accompany a break-up, as well as the extreme behaviours that can occur as a result, such as stalking, homicide and suicide.

"Romantic love, under both happy and unhappy circumstances, may be a 'natural' addiction. Our findings suggest that the pain of romantic rejection may be a necessary part of life that nature built into our anatomy and physiology. A natural recovery, to pair up with someone else, is in our physiology, too," said Brown.

The study has been published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neurophysiology.
*article courtesy http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/spirituality/self-help/*

Sunday, 4 July 2010

when laila met pan


It was bloody hot. Much hotter than the earlier year I thought. So naturally when there were downpours in the middle of a blazing summer, I was extremely thankful. I was not amused when I read a news report one morning which made references to the ever-changing mind of a female, when Laila (the cyclone) decided to change course. I was particularly unamused because Laila had caused me enough trouble already.

Let me rewind.

I love cars. And I love driving. Luckily for me I have an extremely wealthy, expatriate friend who has the most gorgeous cars which she allows me to drive. Well also because she is rather accident-prone. One fine morning I get woken up by her screeching, supersonic voice. That was the morning that Laila came on to the horizon. Apparently my friend was driven to Pondicherry, got dumped by a boy and had no way home. Her parents thought she was with me and she’d parked her Porsche Panamera outside my home the night before. I groaned. Not because I wouldn't mind driving Pan (I'd named the car that) to Pondicherry but because it could have been scratched by god knows what on the crazy roads of Chennai. Even if parked outside a residential complex. I updated the disapproving father, retrieved the keys from our hiding place and set out to fetch Nutty aka Natalia.

Pan was beautiful as always. And the roads terrible as always, especially with the drizzle Laila had brought to the city also known as a furnace. But I didn't give a damn. I hopped in, revved the engine and turned up the Lady Gaga as I sped towards oblivion. Or Pondicherry. Whatever. And as I'd expected, my thoughts returned to the previous night. I involuntarily shuddered. My usually cool behaviour was seriously affected by the amount of vodka I'd consumed and I had no idea what transpired in the head of the boy who one declared he was "irrevocably in love with me". But I have to admit, it was probably my fault. I lead men on – I flirt with them endlessly and the minute they realise they want something more, I back off. It keeps my father and me happy, but well, how many boys can I run through without something unpleasant happening.

I think I may have caused a scene at the pub the night before. The aforementioned boy found me flirting and showing off my dimples – to my best friend's brother who knows better than to expect anything from me. Then the boy launched into a tirade about me being a black widow and strongly advised the friend's brother to stay away from me. There was a fist fight. Rather, just one fist and a palm involved. Crazy boy hits calm boy, except calm boy saw it coming and with strange Spider Man-like reflexes, whips out his hand and stops the fist. Or maybe I was too inebriated to remember exactly how it happened. Calm boy then twists crazy boys arm, growls something into his ear and sends off a very pissed off crazy boy.

Luckily the friend was busy saving a girl from throwing up all over her Prada shoes, otherwise I would be in deep... vomit? Also because at that point I realised I wanted the one boy who had never hit on me in my entire life – the calm brother of the best friend. Complex, yes?

I sighed, changed the music to something darker (all I could find was Goo Goo Dolls.. damn you, Nutty) and put on my shades. I realised I felt sick. The vodka and the sudden realisation and changes of heart I suppose. I stopped somewhere, bought a bottle of coke, two litres of water, some idlis, I managed to find a Green Day CD in some shop, and set off again. The idlis helped actually and so did the water.

I was dragged away from my thoughts by a hysterical call from Nutty. The boy who ditched her had returned apparently - in a drunken rage – and had hit her. I was fuming. My father was the loveliest man in the world and he would never hurt a fly, but I was often baffled by how different boys of my generation were. My poor old daddy would probably also be shocked if he knew. Anyway, I pacified a wailing Nutty (who was ranting in Russian at that point) and told her I'd be there soon.

I dug my heel into the accelerator and wore my seatbelt. I was going to rescue my friend, I'd be damned if me, a fricking ICEBERG, was going to get distracted by thoughts of some boy who would never be interested in me, well because he knew better than to be.

After all that pacifying, I was thirsty. But I didn't want to stop. Supremely confident of my driving skills and the smooth as silk East Coast Road, I did what I never would have done otherwise. While racing down the ECR at 120 kmph, I helped myself to my bottle of coke. Murphy and his law of course quickly acted. Something decided to attack me while I glugged my aerated drink. Something which was buzzing loudly. My reflex was to swat it and I did, spilling coke all over Pan's interiors in the process. A car worth Rs 1,499,999, I thought as I tried to dab up the mess with some paper napkins. Pan was at about 100 kmph now and I decided to stop the car. Then I realised I was on the wrong side of the road, freaked out, saw something grey, freaked out even more and swerved. The drizzle had increased, the road was slippery, use your imagination for the rest.

It was not a pretty swerve. The puffy, white bag which erupted from the steering wheel, and which I've only seen before in American movies and TV serials, saved my life. It also may have given me my first black eye as well. I groaned for the second time that day. I had no idea what the damage to Pan was or how I was going to rescue Nutty from the Pondicherry drunkard now.

My phone rang. I groaned for a third time. It was probably Nutty. I reached out from behind the magic white balloon, fumbling about while trying to find my phone. Once my hand made contact with it, I brought it closer to me and blearily looked at it. And I groaned a fourth time. It was Calm Boy.

I picked up and groaned. By now I'd lost count of how many times I'd groaned.

"That bad, huh?"

Mumble.

"Call me when you're awake."

That brought me to my senses.

"Nuh, whnut."

"Huh?"

"Ai nuhd shum hulp."

"Dude. Are you alright?"

"Shuddup. Lissen. I nidh your helf."

"Where are you? What happened? What help?"

He understood my gibberish. Part of me exulted while another part screamed at the top of my voice in fear. It was at that point I realised that was the boy I wanted rescuing me every time I crashed crazy expats' Porsches – for the rest of my life.

it’s about me


I think I killed Donny Haywark.

As I looked at myself in the mirror while I brushed my teeth, I felt a pang of guilt. Well, several pangs of guilt actually. But then I shook my head, looked at my reflection fiercely and pointed at it. “It’s not your fault you’re a human being with a conscience.” Oh yeah, if that’s how you want to look at it, my conscience spat back at me.

I sighed. After finishing with my nightly ablutions, I turned the telly on and tried not to watch the news. The other options were depressing - black and white movies of women and men overcoming all obstacles and living happily ever after. I was already feeling vulnerable about the Haywark incident and it didn’t help that I was 43-years-old, childless, not in the best of shape and single. On most days it didn’t affect me because I met almost a dozen other people with gargantuan problems and issues.

Donny Haywark for instance. He’d been coming to me for about eight months now, when he first discovered his lover was bisexual and wanted erm, more experimenting in the bedroom. Haywark discovered he was supremely homophobic and couldn’t look at her the same way anymore. This despite the fact that he was actually fond of her, they had great sex and she didn’t want anything more from him. A no strings attached affair with a hot Spanish woman, who then wanted to bring other hot women into their bedroom would be almost any man’s dream come true. But not Haywark’s.

We’d tackled that pretty well, but things got bad after the oil spill happened. I knew there was a bit of remorse under his 1,000 pound suit… well, somewhere deep within him. But some of the stuff he said… I let my emotions get to me.

I’m a doctor. A certified psychiatrist, which means I went to med school and have been a rationalist all my adult life. But some things make me emotional – watching pelicans drown in oil, baby seagulls smattered with oil, workers knee-deep in oil and fishing out a dolphin’s carcass… you get the picture. And listening to Haywark, something finally snapped within me after six months of his whining about how much shit he was in and how much money he had lost and how he was going to lose everything.

After six months of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, and by then the Atlantic, he brought up something he made me sign a confidentiality contract for. Some of it was personal stuff – there was too much at stake, he didn’t really want to plug the spill, but then again his wife was getting screamed at in the supermarket and had oil thrown at her, and he didn’t want people digging deep, finding his Espanol mistress and doing the same to her, yada, yada, yada. But some of it was directly related to clean up efforts and his core team. They apparently didn’t want to plug the spill because once it was done, they would never get the oil. And that meant an even more gigantic loss for his company.

This was something I heard months earlier, from a photographer friend who had visited the Gulf of Mexico. Now to hear it from Haywark jolted the bejesus out of me. But I looked neutral, as always, and tried to help him with his problems like I was paid to do.

Nothing seemed to help though. I thought it was remorse that he couldn’t see within himself because it was too deep, and hence he couldn’t handle the remorse. But in time I realised it was as plain as it seemed – he had no money, his family was threatening to leave him and he needed the oil to rescue him. “It’s me that I’m worried for, doc. It’s about me. All about me,” he wept into a silk handkerchief.

That’s probably when it became about me and not my patient. I hypnotised him, saying it would help. I took him through a cycle of hypnosis sessions where sometimes he would oops unwittingly become say, an oiled pelican on its way to death. Of course he had no clue what happened during these sessions. Hayward began to feel guilt, combined with worry for the future.

About five and a half weeks after the sessions began, he had reached the lowest of lows. I was careful not to give him very strong medication, in case he decided to swallow some pills. But I knew what was coming when he told me he was settling all his finances and sending his family on a weekend trip to his in laws’ place.

I sighed and poured myself a whiskey. Then I turned back to the news. I wouldn’t be able to sleep for a few months.

“…Haywark allegedly consumed a litre of alcohol and overdosed on medication he was receiving as treatment for depression. His body was discovered this morning in his London home. Sources say he was dead before he reached the hospital. Meanwhile, National Petroleum representatives say there is a Board meeting scheduled for tomorrow morning to decide on his successor…”

I knew who the successor was. Haywark had told me unwittingly in a session. Luckily for me, it was someone who was also a patient of mine. I was good with patients you see, and many came via word of mouth. This one had come through Haywark himself. Tears came to my eyes as it occurred to me just how evil I had become. But somebody had to try and save the world right. It’s not just about me, I thought. I did this for humanity.

I poured myself another drink. It was going to be a long night.
--

this post is entirely fictional. no offense is meant to any living (or dead) person. the author holds no opinion, nor is trying to make any statements about anything. no, honestly!! come on.. read the tags!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

thoughts during one teenage patient's session


There was a time when I wished I could switch lives with the boy I had a crush on. Life must be easy as a clueless boy, I thought. Completely oblivious to the raging hormones and deep, secret desires of a desperate teenage girl. I spent three years of school pining for him and he never even realised. He was good at sports, the topper in Math class, cute and wasn’t even that evil – he was just plain clueless. Even his girlfriend wasn’t your proverbial ditzy, manipulative cheerleader practicing celibacy only so she could have him wrapped around her little finger. She was intelligent. Intelligent enough to see that I wanted him so badly I froze everytime I smelt him within a five kilometre radius. And she was nice enough not to malign me. Instead she tried to help me out once in a way, when she found me alone, sobbing under the stairs of the football field.

I was fat, covered in spots and I thought that if only I lost some weight, dressed better and got him to notice me… well then everything would work out. He’d realise what a wonderful person I was (yes the clich├ęd inside and outside) and be with me forever. Needless to say that didn’t happen. We are friends now. He is no longer with the beautiful, intelligent (now a surgeon) girlfriend but I no longer want the perfect boy. I continue to occasionally want boys who are not available, for various reasons.

When we are young, we do stupid things. We think even stupider things. And we come across questions in school interviews like, if you could be one person, who would it be? My answer to this question changed about a million times over the years. It went from characters in my favourite television shows to fictional characters (because live people were not perfect enough) and then real people who had almost perfect lives. But nobody has the perfect life.

Take the man sitting across you in your office. Never noticed him, right? He thinks you’re hot. He jerks off to thoughts of you pretty frequently. Well it’s either you or the other well-dressed, attractive girl in your department. Except she doesn’t come in to work as often as you do. She’s prettier than you and she’s doing the boss. Well not literally. But in a way she is, because your boss does not order her around and when she smiles at him and twirls her hair while talking to him once in a way, she makes him feel alive. And no, of course she won’t literally do him. She’s better than that. And he’s married with a kid on the way. Come on, she has some morals. Now you wish you were her. Or more like her. You probably wouldn’t if you knew she had been abused by her grand-uncle as a child and never realised till she was an adult and it was too late. The only man she’s ever been with was him. And she can’t bring herself to trust a man after that. Doesn’t seem such a perfect life now, does it?

My point is, don’t think silly things like “I want to be like my mother one day”. You don’t know what hell your mother or even Mother Teresa have been through. Which is why the only person I want to ever be is my furry Golden Retriever, Madonna. Yes, her name is Madonna and she’s practically revered in my household. When Madonna is hungry, she gets food. When she yawns, she’s given her blanket. And trust me, her life is better than celebrity Madonna’s. How the hell would I know that? Well, because I’m (celebrity) Madonna’s therapist.

My tryst with schoolboy made me think, and wonder why we women suffer from such pointless yearnings sometimes. I delved into it and found the topic fascinating and voila, became a therapist for the rich and famous. And miserable.
Madonna is luckier than we humans will ever be. Trust me. Here I obviously refer to the retriever who does not retrieve.

Monday, 21 June 2010

small spaces, loud noises

I was sweating. Profusely. And I never sweat. I “perspire” like my aunt says. Women do not sweat profusely. They perspire gently.

Whatever. I was dripping. Drip-drop. That rhymes with tick-tock. It occurred to me randomly. If I suddenly started singing a disco tune sung by a blonde with a bull-ring through her nose, I might have killed myself. Rather than have the director kill me.

I tried not to sigh visibly. My line came. I said it with utterly convincing emotion (while dripping sweat off my forehead on to the tip of my pert nose) and walked off stage. In the wings Hema stood, ready with a powder puff. “What the hell is wrong with you? You *never* sweat!” “I know right? Hell. Gimme that,” I grabbed the powder puff and the compact fell to the ground with a loud clatter. We froze. I’d better kill myself now. Keshav was certainly going to chop off my limbs otherwise and watch as I bled slowly to death. The image came to mind. While I pictured my painful death, Hema picked up the compact, powdered me and sent me back on stage.

I couldn’t see anything in the audience because of the glare of the lights. The performance space was small. It was a weekend and apparently more than a handful of people had heard about the play, so the place was packed. I was either going to be hacked to death by said director or would suffocate. It occurred to me that I should stop thinking about how I was going to die. Especially since every imaginary scenario culminated with a death on the very same day I was thinking it.

After the painful scenes, my heart began racing as we approached the climax. Which involved my death on stage. I said on stage, don’t get your hopes up. The dialogues began to quicken and the pace and atmosphere visibly improved, my heart felt lighter. The momentous death happened. There was pin drop silence. My chest was bursting with delight and I thought “Ah, maybe Keshav will think this stupendous end was worth the sweat and clatter.”

And then I heard it. A loud fart ripped through the not-so-large performance space. And then a roar of laughter. I cracked open an eyelid and saw my fellow actors slowly cracking smiles on stage, and imagined a roar of fury that was my director. And the laughter quickly spread through the entire audience.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

the joke


... that is the "media" today (ah so we used the wrong picture. so what?)

... that is "professionalism" today (read extended whisper conversations/g talk conversations at any office)

... that is "nature" today (extensive global warming and volcanoes erupting in ICE-land)

... that is the "economy" today (extensive global warming and we worry about airlines' losses)

... that is "priesthood" today (masses of abortions, mothers paid for their silence and children molested)

... that is "politics" today (a rally undertaken for price rise and the media pays no heed, but says it disrupted traffic. what about price rise?)

... that is today's "politician" (shashi tharoor. enough said)

... that is "humanity" today (buying a pedigree boxer, sterilising him and throwing him on the streets, to the mercy of speedy traffic, because the procedure went wrong)

... that is "love" today (where do I begin: valentine's day? no, wait: fighting or making up over text messages. or even sexting, which I now learn is sex over text messages)

... that is "marriage" today (pretending you did not marry someone earlier, so you can marry an unsuccessful but notorious tennis star)

... that is "domestic help" today (a maid who raises your bp, talks back to you, and anyway you can sweep your house better than she can)

... that is "writing" today (a three-word poem. come on!)

... that is "office politics" today (you, z, have slept with x and y, who are friends, but broke up with both so they began the "we hate z" club)

... that is "saving tigers" today (putting them in reserves and being paid off by locals so they can bring on the poaching)

... that is "sports" today (IPL. enough said. no, wait. 20-20 cricket. you disagree? go on. let it rip)

... that is a "friend" today (she is on your facebook and you can't stand her guts [read, you both slept with the same guy and she's jealous of you because she thinks he ended it with her because he's into you, not literally, but the truth is he's just an ass] but everytime you remove her from your friends list, she adds you again, or contacts you because she wants publicity for said "boyfriends" professional ventures. oh yes, she works for him now)

... that is "family" today (they love you because you're worth 1,500 crores)

... that is "entertainment" today (watching anorexic models squealing on television because someone chopped off their hair while they slept or asked them to get ready for a marionette shoot and they don't know what that means)

... that is "blogging" today (rants like these. yes, this is a rant. was i so subtle that you didn't realise? i'm sure. [yes, sarcasm.])

blogger's note: is not mad at the reader [if there are any] so please refrain from feeling offended. is just having another fabulous day at office.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

the great australia trip - III


Cairns is the place to go if you want to see the Great Barrier Reef. And everyone wants to see it. We landed there at midnight, went to the wrong backpackers and finally landed up at the correct place well past one in the morning. Nomads Esplanade. The room was dark, someone was snoring and my heart sank when I realised we were sharing the room with a boy and we were all supposed to use the same loo. My heart sank even more when I approached my bunk (I got the one above the snoring boy, what fun) and saw the mess. Then the said heart fell to the bottom of my feet when I went into the loo. It wasn't as bad as some of the Indian bathrooms I've encountered but that isn't saying much really. It was just not what one would like to shower in after a LONG day of moving out of our gorgeous Brisbane backpackers (it was so perfect it even had a bright yellow wall, sniff) meeting koalas and wallabies, wandering in the cancer-causing Australian sun, visiting a windy beach and getting on a crowded and dehydrating flight.

Thankfully the people looked nicer (so did aforementioned bathroom) in daylight. Cairns was not what I had expected. After sleeping almost till noon the next day, we showered and headed out in search of food. I was introduced to Nando's, a popular chicken joint in Australia. I don't eat chicken, but their famous peri-peri sauce is famous for a reason. For vegetarians there are almost no options when it comes to food, unless you cook your own meals. Burgers are almost tasteless, but a dash of peri-peri sauce will go well with almost anything. Post a veggie meal at a chicken joint, it was time for us to check out the lagoon. It was alternately called a fake beach, which made me wonder. But it turned out to be a giant swimming pool for the citizens of Cairns who could not voyage to the Reef to scuba dive and swim everyday. I settled down with my Ian Rankin and the grey skies opened up. They had been threatening to for a couple of hours. So much for summer in Australia, I thought. My two friends were in the pool and sans any towels or warm clothes. For them it was like Wet 'n' Wild (trip 1) all over again, until they decided to go and buy aboriginal print towels (disgustingly over-priced these souvenir shops are I tell you). We wandered around after that, checking out the night market nearby, and tucked ourselves in that night in preparation for our trip to Cape Tribulation the next day. Day one of Cairns was pretty dull you might think, and one might agree. We were planning to join a friend on her tour to the Reef but apparently one needs to book well in advance for such tours. In any case, snorkelling is not a good idea for non-swimmers, no matter what people may say.

Up bright and early.. oh wait, it was pitch dark and we tumbled out of our top bunks and nearly gave the occupants of the lower bunks heart-attacks. (I tend to dramatise things a little. Anything for you readers!) Ok well, it was dark and chilly. Remnants of the earlier day's thunderstorm. Or whatever. Rain on the Great Barrier Reef the one day I want to visit equals to a thunderstorm I say. Anyhow, where was I. Ah right. The Cape Trib tour was one which would take us to an animal reserve, a river (read, place for people to jump into cold, running water to make use of the bikinis they were wearing), a boat ride where we would attempt to spot live alligators (hear, hear, animal lovers) and then finally to the beauteous Cape Tribulation itself. Which I cannot describe because WE NEVER WENT THERE.
Yes, it began pouring just as we hopped on to the boats to spot alligators. So we got completely drenched and cold and miserable on the boat (is that beginning to sound familiar?) and were eagerly anticipating our final destination. Till we were informed that the river had reached a certain height making it unsafe for anyone to travel by it, which is how we needed to get to Cape Trib. So we sighed and went instead to Port Douglas, which is an extremely posh place where TomKat have a beach house.

The rest of the day wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. I was strangely not too depressed by the fact that we were on possibly one of the two tours which would not make it to Cape Trib the entire year. But going on the tour was still barrels of fun. For one, Australian tour guides are god's gift to erm, Australia? No really, they know their s*#^. From which plants could possibly make you unconscious to why the bats were out in the day when it was raining the day before, to every single, minute detail of the places we visit, were supposed to visit and were passing by. And they're fun aside from being knowledgeable. The tours are also a great way of meeting more strange people from all over the world with unpronounceable names, strange eating habits and incoherent accents. Lovely people. This might sound cliched but, as anti-social as I am, I had an incredible time meeting new people everywhere I went and talking to them (or listening to them talk, in my case). And remember: on these tours you represent your country. I still remember the two noisy, catty English girls on the tour. If I'd never been to the UK or met others from there, I'd never know that they all aren't like that.

After our return and teary farewell to our fabulous guide Mark, we headed out for a night about town. To a place called the Rhino Bar, with girls donning feathers on their rear-ends dancing on the table tops. The music was loud, beer was flowing freely (all 17,873 types of Ozzie beer) and I had more foreigners to meet. And an early morning flight to catch to Adelaide.

The next morning (the same morning rather) we missed our 4.30 am shuttle to the airport but made it on our flight. We missed the Reef and Cape Tribulation but it was an excuse for us to promise to return to Cairns in the not-so-near future. Adelaide was surprisingly cold. And the backpackers we were staying at was far-removed from any traveller-friendly (read, inexpensive) shops or eateries. We walked, and walked, and finally found a Subway and a mall where we salivated over beautiful Beagle puppies (and I bought my Labrador some toys), gorgeous stationery and indulged in bubble tea. A discovery made by me, courtesy my friend, in Adelaide. Bubble tea is essentially tea flavoured juice with tapioca balls you can slurp up through your rather large straw and chew on. My definition of heaven in a straw.

Luckily for us, my Indian friend had entertainment planned for us. Friends from Coimbatore who were living in Adelaide proceeded to take us around in their car, and show us Adelaide's alcohol shops and the inside of their living room (where I discovered Saw and loved it). Adelaide was chilled out (literally, also because of the weather) and a break from all our tourist-y running around and lack of sleep. I hadn't realised when leaving India, but usually when we flew from one city to another, we would be entering a different timezone. One forgets that Australia is a large country AND a continent. The Adelaide Fringe was on but we missed it because we went, saw gargantuan drunk crowds, and decided to go home with bottles of goon and Red Label and get drunk ourselves (for a definition of goon, refer to 'the great australia trip -I'). A Greek friend also showed off his driving skills and took us on a 120 mph drive up a mountain. Erm, hill. When one drives at about 150 mph up and down a very steep road, one experiences a feeling similar to if one had been on a rollercoaster. We also visited the harbour, by night, and froze some more.

All in all, Adelaide was fun in an entirely different way. Lots of laughter, alcohol and sleep. A good rest because Alice Springs-Uluru (our next stops) were possibly the most tired I would ever feel in my life. In a wondrous way :D
And that is up next.

**pic credit: sanjana soman**

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

the great australia trip - II


After gloomy, rainy Sydney, the Gold Coast was quite a change - hot and humid and left us gasping for water the minute we landed. Our destination was Aquarius Backpackers, a short walk from Australia Fair, which was where we would end up doing our shopping and eating. So this was (un)officially the first day of my Great Australia Trip. We were bursting with energy and raring to go. Which is why we were insane enough to walk, in the blistering heat, from our backpackers to Surfers Paradise. “A ten or twenty minute walk,” the guy at the reception told us. If you’re in the Fantastic Four maybe. It took us three girls about an hour and half. Then again, we were walking at our own tourist-y pace, taking pictures, ooh-ing and ah-ing over almost everything we saw (in our defense, everything WAS pretty marvellous, from jellyfish to whirlpools in the bluetiful ocean), and stopped for slurpies and bottles of water. Then we discovered that Main Beach was not in fact the ‘main’ beach and walked to a hazy spot in the horizon, which turned out to be the said paradise. Metre Maids, surfers (wind and water), women in non-existent bikinis and the shopping complex at Surfers Paradise awaited us.

We collected shells, booked ourselves tickets to the infamous Wet ‘n’ Wild water park, visited a sex store, lost a camera, ate a foot-long (my first foot-long sub!), hunted for a bikini for a friend, tired ourselves out completely and returned to the beach. The long walk back awaited us. Strangely enough, it was as we returned to Main Beach when we heard a bunch of young teenage men hooting at us on the road. Australians of Indian origin. And we wonder why Indians are being attacked down under. In all my three weeks of meeting strangers and running around Australia at strange hours of the night, this was the one time I felt uncomfortable. Ozzies were incredibly friendly, polite and helpful during our time there. Then again, I did skip Melbourne and we were three harmless, pretty and clueless girls from the other side of the globe. Who would be out for our blood? -bats eyelashes-

After a well-deserved, hot shower (every bone in my body was aching by then and I would only find out why tomorrow), we went in search of food. Authentic Chinese food was what we chanced upon first. As expected it was nothing like the 'Chinese' food we get in India. Fresh prawn in subtle ginger garlic sauce, fat pieces of broccoli, cold beer and chopsticks. We slept very well that night. And my Korean friend and I woke up the next morning to discover our sunburn. My Indian friend was sympathetic but she had warned us. My reaction to her warning was, hey my skin is already so dark; I've wandered around for hours in blistering Indian heat during elections and not gotten burnt, so fret not. The Korean friend had slathered sunscreen on herself the day before but got burnt nonetheless.

Day 2 in the Gold Coast was not Golden. But before the skies turned grey I discovered my love for hot, ridiculously soft cinnamon doughnuts. After brunch we headed for Wet 'n' Wild, a water park. And it started raining. We continued undeterred, hopping on rides and shrieking our lungs out, until we realised it was pouring madly. The park officials seemed to realise it too and shut down all rides for the day. And then, the freezing began. Ever been sopping wet, continued to stand in the rain in clothes you wore for a water park (read, not expansive, warm clothes) and waited to freeze to death? My hands turned blue and I thought of distant warm Chennai skies and things like humidity and hot sambar. And I felt like crying. Taxis came one by one, for people named Maria and John but never for us (yes, we called for one) and the buses got pretty packed pretty fast. I didn't mind behaving like a Chennaiite getting on to a 29C but rules forbade it. Finally, finally, we hopped on to a bus and I realised I would freeze for the hour-long drive - in the air-conditioned bus.

Ninety minutes and a hot shower and some warm clothes later, we were sipping on beer and being entertained by a noisy, talkative French girl who was sharing our room. I love backpackers - you meet the strangest of people from the most far-off places. This one called us grannies because we retired to our room early, completely spent. The next day was to be even more tiring. But less cold, thank the sunny lord.

Wet 'n' Wild was crazy the next day. Ride after ride in chlorinated water may not be most people's idea of fun but I love water and cannot swim. Safe Australian rides which will still give you plenty of those tummy-flip feelings (the kinds you get on rollercoasters) are my safest bet. After that we left for Brisbane, which was only an hour away by train.

Brisbane. Well, let's just say if I move to Australia, it would be to Brisbane. The place we stayed at was the best backpackers out of the ones we crashed in - Base Central. Air-conditioned, fancy bathrooms, and it even had its own bar. Aside from that, it was a short walk from everything we needed and wanted to see. Cafes called Pig 'n' Whistle, arty Louis Vuitton displays, cheap and chic stores, a giant ferris wheel, the gallery and museum.. which brings me to, the city doesn't lack culture and isn't as crowded as Sydney. Maybe it's Australia's very own Chennai. But I loved it. It even had a casino.

The Gallery of Modern Art was simply out of any world I have seen. I am not a person who easily appreciates or even knows about art when it's not performed before me. But GoMA was an exception. Enter the gallery and you'll find anyone, from school-kids to grandparents and people with mohawks making an aeroplane. Out of material provided by the gallery, like cellophane, ice-cream sticks, plastic sheets, thread etc etc etc. You'll see the most innovative aeroplanes suspended in and around the entrance. There's so much to see that an average Indian has never seen before and may never see again.

We spent half the day there and were forced to leave when the gallery closed at 5 pm. The museum is right next to it and is pretty fascinating too. Later we drove up to Mount Coot-tha, a scenic viewpoint above the city, froze in the strong breeze and checked out the bar above which we were sleeping in the city. An annoying emcee, free beer and a wet T shirt contest which completely scandalised even me. Ah well.. the things people do for 300 dollars.

The next day we did what I had been dying to do - visited koala bears. Lone Pine Sanctuary was where we headed. I got more than I asked for, in a good way I mean. Endless koala bears! I even got to scratch one's face, but we refused to pose for pictures with the traumatised koala being passed on from one stranger's sweaty grasp to another. (we respect animals, alright) Giant birds, owls awake during the day, infinite kangaroos, birds in all shapes and colours, some members of the reptilian family, and did I mention a giant number of kangaroos? My friends were nonchalant but I'd never seen kangaroos up close and personal before. Babies, mommas with a joey (that's what baby kangaroos are called), big ones, small ones, wallabies and whatnot. Bliss for nature and animal lovers.

Before heading to the airport, we visited Brisbane's beach. Sandgate doesn't have much of a shore, but is beautiful beyond belief. Two walkways led us almost right into the ocean, where the breeze nearly carried away my Korean friend. A bottle of beer, gorgeous sunset, the sound of waves lapping at the shore, and great company. It was heaven. Given we had a flight to catch, we wound up and sighing, left for the airport. Otherwise, chances are we would have camped there forever.

Next up: Cairns and Cape Tribulation. No, that isn't a fake name.
**pic: sanjana soman**

Monday, 22 March 2010

the great australia trip - I

The first time I went to Australia was more than four years ago, when I was at Canberra for one semester. To escape the cold and mind-numbing deadness of the city I would head to Sydney. Canberra is full of people working for the Australian government and the only young people you see would be from my university campus. You can probably guess which of the two cities I preferred. Though Canberra is the capital of the country (no, I’m not kidding), even its miniscule airport was no comparison to the gargantuan Sydney airport, teeming with thousands of people, terminals, shops and some gorgeous Labrador and Beagle sniffer dogs. So this time when I decided to travel around Australia, it wasn’t too difficult to decide where my first destination would be.

I landed in Sydney after two long flights, ruminating over whether Amelia Earhart died of starvation on a lost island or drowned. Three guesses for what I watched on the Bangkok-Sydney flight. When I landed, it was hot and I immediately felt overdressed. Tiny shorts, thongs (read, Bata bathroom chappal lookalikes) and tiny, airy tops were the norm. As for where I would be staying, my friend lives at Bondi Junction, which is walking distance from the very popular Bondi Beach. A posh and very liveable area. Unfortunately for me, it started pouring in Sydney the night after I landed so there wasn’t much I could do. Day one was spent meeting the very friendly French people my friend lived with, watching endless episodes of How I Met Your Mother and walking around the area. If you’re a typical Indian who loves food, Sydney is a great place to be. To say it’s multi-cultural is an understatement. And with several cultures comes several types of cuisine. I have never had the perfect pizza, overflowing with bright, fresh veggies and gorgeous Parmesan on a thin crust, with just the right amount of I don’t know what spices. And in under 15 minutes. Sorry, Dominos.

In between the bouts of rain, I was dragged out of the house and taken on a walk to a nearby “park.” I don’t know if all parks are like the one I saw in Bondi Junction, but this one to me seemed massive and resembled a mini-rainforest. Lush green grass, mammoth trees and rocks all around, running water (thanks to the rain) and little bridges, nothing too hard to climb. A quaint playground and even a couple of tennis courts if admiring nature isn’t your thing. We even found a gorgeous, cosy cave where I’m sure a few kids have been conceived. The strange thing I noticed all throughout Australia is the average size of dogs which people own. The larger the master/mistress, the smaller the dog seemed. Endless terriers and spaniels, a few Daschunds, Pugs, Chihuahuas and miniature breeds. I saw only one Alsation, and that was in Hamilton, which overlooks the port of Brisbane and is one of the most luxurious (read, expensive) places to live.

Another day was spent at Darling Harbour. Though I’ve been there before, it’s always a nice place to visit. Don’t miss the aquarium and also try to catch a movie at the IMAX – it’s supposedly the largest one in the world. If you have enough money, hop on to one of the boats going around the harbour – the view of the bridge and Opera house will leave you speechless. And for some quiet time, to get away from the blazing sun, there are also the Chinese Garden of Friendship*. Note: The Australian sun is not to be underestimated. Yours truly refused to believe than brown Indian skin could be victim to sunburn. I was proved wrong in an hour on the Sunshine Coast.

To make up for her working through the day and for the incessant rain, my friend booked us tickets for Wicked. When I told my sister this, I got shrieks of envy and at the time I knew not why. The tag line for the musical was ‘the untold story of the witches of Oz’. It was pouring, we went late and sat in the rows furthest from the stage, but nevertheless it was completely sensational! What I’ve seen on Chennai stages is really ridiculously incomparable to such shows. You shell out quite a bit for musicals but every cent is worth it, I tell you. The costumes, perfectly synced dance moves, wondrous sets (at one point there was a gigantic dragon’s head which started to glow red above the stage. It had been disguised in the dark so well that nobody noticed it till then despite its size. Pretty neat, huh.), impeccable dialogue and characterisation had me on the edge of my seat for most of the duration of the musical. I didn’t know if one of the main witches has a naturally shrieky voice or put it on for three hours everyday, but she could even sing at that glass-breaking pitch! (Wikipedia tells me the actress was probably Lucy Durack). Add to that, luminous green cocktails which you can buy and take in to the hall. And once the three-hour treat to your senses is over, you want to go back for more. I think I spent the next one week randomly stating things like “green is the new black” and “ohhhh, wicked!” much to my friend’s amusement. (Now seriously, if you don’t get the green connection, you need to revisit your childhood Wizard of Oz memories.) If you’re as mesmerised by the show as most usually are, you could be seriously tempted to buy some overpriced, attractive Wicked merchandise while leaving Capitol Theatre.

Another plus point to being abroad is the easy access to alcohol. And so many different types! Did I mention easy access to it? No creepy men lurking in dark corners around TASMAC bars which smell of… you know. Post Wicked, it was home-cooked Korean food and cheap flavoured wine back at the Bondi house. In my uni days at Canberra I’d had “goon” (as it’s called in Sydney) – casks of dirt-cheap wine – but never the fruity-pop wine I was introduced to that night. Not to forget, the zillion varieties of beer. No, not Fosters. And though I don’t smoke, I discovered that people who do don’t have to shell out as much as I thought one did for smokes. They simply buy their own ‘ingredients’ (think mango smelling tobacco, which was heaven for non-smokers like me) and roll their own nicotine buddies.

After a few days of rain (and some shine) in Sydney, it was time to head to the land of beaches and bikini clad women – the Gold Coast. One thing I hadn’t planned on was living out of a 7-kilo bag for a fortnight. Which wasn’t as hard as living out of 100 ml bottles for that span of time. (Cabin baggage rules are tough there.) After I sampled some Krispy Kreme doughnuts (I was instructed to by a big fan back home) we hopped on to our budget airline seats, half-asleep and ready for some sun. And boy did we get what we asked for.

(to be continued)

Thursday, 11 March 2010

encounters

When you’re at a party in Chennai, with loud music and lots of people you don’t know, it’s one thing. When it’s in Cairns, it’s a different ballgame. You’re less aware of whether your underwear is peeping out from somewhere [actually, if it is, then all the better], you don’t know anybody there, and I mean nobody, the weather is nice, the music isn’t bhangra, other girls aren’t checking to see how good/bad you look [or maybe they’re more subtle?], hell, there are women dancing on the bar-table with feathers and fishnet stockings and guys aren’t trying to feel them up! So yes.. Cairns is certainly different from Chennai when it comes to parties.

There was one difference I didn’t realise, however. Men. The mistake I made was to freeze out whichever poor dude tried to hit on me, the way I do when in India. Yes, I’m judgemental and I think all boys are creepy. Sue me. I’ll win.

So here I am, in Cairns [Rhino Bar to be precise] and I meet one of the most “hmmm” people ever when my friend disappears to smoke. I don’t even remember his name, not that it matters. I was tired after walking around Cairns the whole day and it was 1 am and I was a few beers down, so please excuse the lack of precise details. He looked a little older than the other guys at the bar. Slightly mature, not a beach boy type. White shirt and black pants, I think, and dark hair, with a nice smile.

“Why do you look so serious… aren’t you having fun?”

I’ve heard this line before so I must have rolled my eyes and waited for him to go on his way. He didn’t. He repeated the question. So I gave him a perfunctory “Yes, sure I am. I’m just a little tired.”

“Hmm. Where are you from?”

“India.”

“India?! Wow. You come all the way from India to Cairns and you’re at Rhino Bar saying you’re tired?!”

I had to crack a smile. The man had a point.

“How long are you here for?”

“Another day. I’m travelling with a friend and we’re headed to Cape Tribulation tomorrow.”

“Ah. That’s nice. I don’t get out often so excuse me.”

That’s not a line I hear everyday.

“Why not?”

“What?”

“Why don’t you get out often?”

“Well I’m busy. I live in Sydney and in Cairns and I have a lot of work in both places.”

“What do you do?”

“I own a bar.”

Now I don’t know if he said he owned that particular bar or a bar in general.. they were playing Ke$ha a little too loudly.

“Seriously. You own one. And you don’t visit a bar often?”

He laughed.

“No. It’s pretty boring actually. I prefer chilling in my big house with my horses. My kids occasionally visit but usually it’s just the horses and me.”

“Horses. And kids. Hmm.”

“I’m pretty much a loner though. So, what do you do?”

“I’m a journalist.”

“Oh! So you’re here for a story?”

“No, I’m here on holiday.”

This went on for a couple of minutes (now I realise that was a pretty long smoke-break my friend was on) before he inevitably asked me to join him at his place, horses et al. I actually grinned when I said no, considering this was the first slightly intellectual conversation I’d had with a male in a bar. “Are you sure?” Perfectly sure. At that point a very drunk friend of his came by to ask him where they were headed next. I was introduced. “Are you joining us?”

“No, she isn’t,” John Doe grinned. The friend disappeared into the vast crowd and loud music. “Sorry about that. I have to go and socialise now. Then I’ll make my escape. It was nice to meet you. Really.” Another grin.

“Have fun.”

And that was that. I finished my beer, looked around at people and the girls dancing on the bar and thought, what are the odds of meeting a bar-owner who loves horses and talks about journalism in India with me? I was only shaken out of my reverie when my friend returned.

Friday, 29 January 2010

genes

“How is it possible for these things to be genetic?”

“I don’t know but what other explanation is there?!” He ran his hands through his receding hair and slumped on the edge of our bed.

“Ssh. She could hear us.” Oh God, listen to me. Trying to be practical at a time like this. Practical. Me. After nearly two decades of this, this…

“Do you think it could be possible? Oh my god, what do we do now? She can’t know about me. Imagine how scared she must be.. and how stupid. How fricking stoooopid to do it so utterly stupidly. Shit. The cops came, Mary. The cops. She has no alibi, no friends apparently and we can’t back her up. Another few months, or even weeks, and they’ll put together a case and come and arrest her. What the fuck do we do?!”

“Send her away. Say she is pregnant and ran away.” The answer surprised even me by popping out of my mouth almost as soon as John finished his question. [No, our names aren’t actually John and Mary; what, do you think I’m stupid enough to tell you what my real name is?]

My husband of 24 years looked at me. “You know what.. I can do this. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. And nobody except you knows. I can help her.. teach her to disguise herself, keep us updated and not leave any clues behind… Hmm.”

I sighed and sat next to him. “I can’t believe… our girl.. just like you…”

“I know. Me too.”

“It’s all your fault, John. You should have just let me leave when I found out about you.. your.. your habit.” I spat out the last word. I never knew what to call it. I knew my husband was a psychotic closet murderer. Meaning not murdering in closets but murdering, period. I should have left when I got the chance. That was the only thought that kept running through my head. Strangely enough there was only silence from his side. I looked at him and his face was blank. A sudden shiver went through me. “John? Are you okay? I’m sorry.. I just..” He snapped out of it and frowned. He had seen that look before. But never on his wife’s face. “What’s wrong with you?! You really think I would hurt you?!” He got up and started pacing. “Christ. My own wife.”

“Well.. you never know.. I mean.. I don’t understand these things. I was just scared for a minute. Maybe you thought I was going to rat you out or something.”

“Christ, Mary.. anyway, let me handle Sarah first. What do I do? Just tell her to leave?”

“Yes. We’ll handle that in the morning. Go check on her first. She must be pretty tense after the cops grilled her today.”

While he checked on our 16-year-old closet murderer, I weighed our options. If she left, it would be even more obvious that she was responsible for the murder at her boarding school. And how could she leave without anything at all? We would have to continue providing for her security, but…

The phone rang. Wondering who the hell it could be, I picked up.

“Yes? Speaking. Who is this? Oh, okay. Uh-huh. Yes, I remember him. Oh were they? She’s never spoken of him really.” I could hear John walking back down the corridor towards our room. “MARY?”

“Okay,” I continued on the phone. “What? How could that possible be connected to…?”

John came back. “She’s gone,” he wheezed. I froze, listening to the woman over the phone from Sarah’s hostel. “I see. Alright. Could you call back later, please? Thank you.” I put the phone down.
“Gone?”

“Yes. And I found this…”

He handed me a little stick. “Is it what I think it is?”

“Where the hell did you find it?”

“In her bathroom. What does it say?”

“It’s positive. And the woman on the phone says a boy from her hostel has gone missing. They were pretty close in school. His name is Andrew.”

“So she’s run away. With her boyfriend and their baby.”

“Yes. Now what?”

“We have to find her. She could be carrying another little murderer.”

Obviously the thought had already occurred to my husband.

“She probably is. But if I know her, Andrew’s body will be found in a few days. And then there’s really going to be hell to pay.”

“Oh my God.”