Friday, 18 January 2019

7 minutes - IV


Six years ago…

I’ve just woken up and am late for my college. Mom didn’t wake me up today. But I don’t yell because we’ll get into a fight and I don’t have time to prove that I am right.  So I brush my teeth and come to the kitchen to make some tea for myself. I need tea, when the first sip of the steaming, hot tea touches your soul. . .

            I take my cup and go to my room and take a quick shower and then drink my tea. I’m all ready and set to go, when I come out of my room and see that mom’s door is just closed yet. Is she still sleeping? Worse, is she sick? I’ve been so busy with myself since I got up, I didn’t even go to see her. I’m such a terrible daughter.

            I open the door of her room when I hear hushed whispers from the balcony. I go near the balcony and I hear the words ‘I love you’ and it feels as though the joy in my life has just returned. I’m so overjoyed, I go with my mom for two minutes, just so see her, and she’s startled. She says she’d call later and hangs up. I look at her with a smile and ask her who she was talking to, and she says Sunita aunty and I’m confused.

            “Why’d you say I love you to Sunita aunty?” I innocently ask, and that’s when it hitys me. My mother is having an affair. I go numb for a minute, mom says something but my mind doesn’t register it. I’ve just realized. I feel my head get heavier and I feel the blood circulating in my body. My mom and dad weren’t on the best of terms, but I’d made my peace with that, but this new information, what should I do with it? I feel like I’d explode, the temperature of my body rises and I silently say, “You weren’t talking to dad.”

            “You’re having an affair. How could you? I know dad isn’t the best man in the world, but he doesn’t deserve this. Why, mom? Tell me.” I am crying as these words leave my mouth. You never think of your mother in this way, she’s the perfect lady for you. Your parents are the ideal couple for you, and that image just shatters off, leaving nothing but a void.

I don’t know for how long it’s been going on, if dad knew about it, if the reason why dad was the way he was because of this. “I’ve never been happy in my entire life. When I got married, I was very naïve and life catched pace up since then, I had you, I had Mish. But now, both of you are growing up, and that’s when I realized how lonely I was. I’ve never been hap[py with your Dad, Alisha. I’m happy with my life now. This man, he understands me. He talks to me and makes me feel loved. You tell me; don’t I deserve to be happy?”

What do you say when your mother asks for her happiness from you? You can’t say no, you can’t say yes.  You’re stuck. I’m stuck. It feels like I’m going to throw up. “Does- does dad know?” I mumble, to which she moves her head from left to right three times, saying a no.

I’m stuck here, I have to lie to my dad for mom’s sake, when what mom’s been doing makes me purely nauseous. I know the man; I hadn’t expected this from him. Oh, forget him; I hadn’t expected this from my mother. I’m stuck and I can’t do anything.

Since then, mom and I weren’t on good terms ever. I got a job a few months later and moved out with Mish. I couldn’t leave her in the mess, alone. Dad had found out and our home was a battlefield. Mish couldn’t have stayed there. She’s mine, my headache, my responsibility, my little sister. With time, I told her, but I shouldn’t have. She hates my parents, I don’t exactly hate them, but I’m not on excellent terms either.


Sam presses my hand hard enough to let me know he’s there through everything, too hard because the ring he has given to me hurts my hand a little. I haven’t spoken to my mother in five years, now she calls me for my birthday. Amazing.

“I’ll pick up, Di. Don’t worry.” Mish initiates and I let her. I’d melt if I hear her voice again, and I can’t afford that. Sam hugs me and Misha goes to the balcony to talk, but doesn’t come out for solid five minutes, when I finally tell Sam that I have to get to Mish. He lets me, he’s very supportive and I love him. I go to the balcony and Mish and Jenny are already there. I love how Misha and Jenny are friends because of me.

“What’s up, guys?” I ask, and Misha says mom’s been crying for an hour and wants to see me, and puts the phone on loudspeaker. I hear her voice after ages, it almost soothes my ears, but she’s crying. I hang up the phone and tell Mish that we’re going to Mom’s place.  I need to see her; it’s been too long I have been without a mother—without a family. I need to tell her I forgive her.

I take out my Activa and Mish sits behind me, and we start driving off. We are both crying. It’s late night, and the breezes have turned cold. We reach and intersection but the signals have gone off now, it’s just an orange light blinking I see from a distance so I speed up, and as I am about to get away, a truck hits us.

* * *

They say when you die, you have 7 minutes of brain activity left. Your entire life flashes in front of your eyes. My flash is almost over. I’m on the hospital bed, clenching the sheets with my hand. I didn’t reach my mother, I want to make things okay with her and dad. Sam, I didn’t tell him I love him for the last time and. . .

Thursday, 17 January 2019

7 minutes - III


As usual Jenny’s late; I’m waiting for her at G’s, a café we both love. I am bored alone, so I take out my phone and call her. It rings, but she doesn’t pick up. Must be driving, I say to myself. It’s because this has happened so many times, I’ve learnt to carry a book for myself whenever I go anywhere, so that I can at least read to keep myself entertained until Jenny comes.

Mindlessly, I turn the pages of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, unable to concentrate. I’ve just started the book, and now Roger has invited Dr James Sheppard for dinner. I’m trying hard to focus, but there’s music being played in the background very loudly, making it difficult for me to do so. I look at the time, 04:26 pm, she’s almost half hour late. I decide to call her once again and ask her whereabouts, but I see her coming towards me opening her arms as for me to get up and hug her, so I do.

“You’re half an hour late,” I tell her.

“Sorry bro, I came late because, well, I left late. That’s just who I am as a person.” She laughs. I smile too. I swear her life motto is ‘Always late but worth the wait.’

We’re best friends. She knows me inside out, and I know her. We’ve been together since the fourth grade, and now we’ve lost the count of the number of years of our friendship. Jenny’s family. She asks me what’s up with me, and honestly there’s nothing, the typical office stuff, and the students I have to deal with and then that’s it. There’s also stuff like what I’m going to cook for dinner tonight, or how the bills are due and I’ve to pay it, or how I have to be of Misha’s help in her projects. I’ve a handful of stuff to take care of, but I’m excited to tell Jenny about how I met Sam the other day. I already have texted her, but she’s not the texting type of person, she mustn’t even have seen the text yet. I’m used to it.

She talks about how the locals get her inner devil to haunt everyone in the train, her boss’ wedding reception she attended last night, and a bunch of other things, but as always I zone out. I stop listening to her, and she knows that. But she still keeps talking, to not embarrass me.

“I met a guy.” I snap. Just as I say these words, I realize I have been thinking about him all the time I’d zoned out. I have replayed every minute in my head of the time I was with him, and I feel like it has never happened before.

"Oh goodie," she says, "I'd thought you'd never get over the last guy."

She's right. It took me a lot of time to get over the last guy I dated, we only went out for a couple of months but it'd had a deep impact on my being. But today is the first day in the last whole year that I haven't thought about him by myself, not cared if he'd have eaten his breakfast or not, not worried if he'd been well or not, not even cared that it's his birthday month.

"So, what's this new guy up to?" She asks again, she talks a lot. In fact, between us, she's the only one who talks. I just talk in verbs and she gets my nouns, adjectives and adverbs, and constructs my feelings in her mind with just absolute coherence.

"His name is Sameer." I tell her about everything that happened the morning I met him, and she's pleasantly surprised that I'm actually liking this guy. She tells me she thinks he's the one but I ask her to calm down, as it's only once we have met, and that I don't even know if he reciprocates or not.
"Of course he does," she snaps, "who wouldn't like you?"

"Well, of course." I say and wink, and then laugh. She laughs too.

* * *

Misha is late again. We are supposed to go dinner together, but these teens, I tell you. They want the world to turn according to them. I try to watch Netflix, but I'm kind of angry; I'm up since 6 and haven't eaten much just so we could eat and be together for some time in the evening. But Misha has, of course, taken her time and is 2 hours late.

It's 10, and I'm sleepy already, so I just make Maggi and just am about to eat, when she makes her grand entrance, throws her keys on the floor, opens her hair and flicks them, takes down her sunglasses down to the tip of her nose and says, "Guess who's home."

"The maniac. Who wears sunglasses at night?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Di. We'll go for an amazing dinner tomorrow. I forgot today. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry." She says, making her puppy face and I instantly melt.

"Get a spoon." I say.

* * *

With time, Sameer and I get really close, move in together and Misha stays with us. It's my birthday and I know they're arranging a surprise party, but I choose to stay mum and not ruin it.

I walk in the house and there's no one, the lights are off, and I see nothing. A part of me feels dejected as to how trash birthday party must this be, with no one here, nothing. As I'm walking in my room with dismay in my eyes, I hear chuckling, and I instantly know Misha and Sam have been doing something in there. I open the door of my room and Sam is down on his knees, saying, "Ma'am, would you like to have a dance?" with a hand out to ask for mine.

I grin widely and nod a yes, and give my hand in his, while the other hand covers my mouth, as I'm really overwhelmed.

Sam is wearing a tux, black colour, and Misha is in a purple gown, and there are all my close friends and acquaintances and Jenny just looks at me from a corner and smiles and I know, somehow she has done the most in this. She has invested more energy than anyone else because the satisfaction of it being a success is evident in her eyes, even from a distance.

Misha gets me all dressed up, and Sam and I have our due dance, and we're having fun, me in his arms, Misha and Jenny having food as both of them eat as much as an elephant, and the weather is perfect, the lights are dim and I'm with Sam, slow dancing as the music fills up the air with love, and that's when it happens. My phone stars to ring. Misha has it so I look at her.

"Who's it, Mish?"


We look at each other, suddenly anger filling up inside us, Sam holds my hand tight, but I'm evidently mad. She shouldn't have called me today.

Friday, 11 January 2019

7 minutes - II

The Meet

“Alisha, what’s wrong with you? Wake up! Wake up NOW.”

That’s Misha’s voice, my younger sister. As I open my eyes, I’m at my home, my alarm beeping loud enough to wake up everyone in the building but me. Misha’s on the bed next to mine, covering her ears with her pillow, getting cranky and screaming her lungs out at me. It’s 6 in the morning, and last night, I’d decided to go for a morning walk today. Misha had laughed at me the very minute I told her and twitted me about how I cannot do it. That’s why I wanted to, even more. There’s no joy in the world that can compare to the one you get when you prove people wrong. It’s like The Joy. I’m a little overweight, but that’s how I’ve always been. My friends would pull my cheeks and call me names, and ask me not to wear certain clothes because they didn’t look good on me because of my size, but I didn’t care until now.

Yesterday I’d been out with some of my friends, more like mere acquaintances, and I was walking past a store with glass doors and windows -- all fancy, and I happened to see my own reflection there. I didn’t look good but I wanted to. And that’s when I realized I needed to work on myself. So I set an alarm for the morning, and decided with all my heart that I had to get in shape, not for anyone else but me. I love myself for just what I am, you see, but improvements never hurt anyone.

Right now, I dismiss my alarm and still am lying in the bed, contemplating if I really need to wake up and go jog. It’s winter, and my blanket is more comfortable than it has ever been, and I know that if I don’t get up in a minute or two, I’ll fall back asleep. I think of postponing my plan, but then I see Misha on the next bed, snoring and sleeping peacefully, and I know if I don’t wake up, she’ll mock me even more than yesterday because she would be proven right and she would get The Joy, and I really hate when anybody mocks me for being lazy, which is true, but still. So after a lot of thought, I finally wake up, still half-heartedly. I can feel the unwillingness in my bones.

I take my toothbrush and go to the washroom. There’s a full sized mirror in there, I’d gotten it customized when we had first moved in here, around five years ago. I brush my teeth and put the toothbrush on the sink, and look at myself in the mirror. I see myself head to toe, every detail. My hair’s all messed up considering the fact that I’ve just woken up. The patch beneath my eyes is a shade or two darker than my chubby cheeks, and I remember how everyone tells me to get enough sleep to lessen it, but what they don’t understand is sleep evades me. There are a thousand things running on in my mind, it’s difficult to shut everything and actually sleep. I can lie in the bed for infinite time, thinking and scrutinizing, but sleeping is tough. Most of the nights, I’m up until 4 or 5, just thinking. People ask me to get ‘human’ sleeping patterns. I laugh. Moving on, my lips are pale, almost dry. I touch them and the tip of my finger feels itched. I run my tongue over my lips, but they’re still dry. My neck has always been darker than my face, I don’t know why. I see myself wearing a plaid pyjama and a black coloured full sleeves t-shirt. I put my hands over my waist, and breathe in, and look at myself again. Turning to the side, I again breathe in, my belly still a little out. I have to work on myself. I rub my hands on each other, and then over my face. I tie my hair, change my pyjama, and get my earphones and put on my shoes, and finally leave the house.

It’s a chilly morning, and as I climb down the stairs, I see a group of children waiting at the gate of the building. They’re all wearing the same school uniform, except for one girl. But all of them are wearing the same sweater. They wave at me, and I smile and wave back. I sigh a little, and I can see my breath. Damn, it’s cold.

I plug my earphones in and start my playlist. It’s completely full of Imagine Dragons’ songs; they’re my favourite band. I don’t really remember how and when I first heard them, it’s just suddenly one day I realized I have a lot of their songs and I happen to like them. So I searched even more, and every song I came across felt like a missing part of my soul. Each song with a deep meaning, incomprehensible by a lot of people.

I start walking without a direction, but it is fast enough to make me shed a kilo or two, because that’s what I am sacrificing my sleep for. My town isn’t really very big, and I almost know everyone that stays around, by face. I’m really bad with names, so whenever people come talk to me, I respond to whatever they say, but don’t initiate any conversation on my own because how am I even supposed to talk to someone without taking their name to say hello first? It’s silly, I know, but I always have been this way. So even when I’m walking right now, a bald man in his mid-forties comes to me and greets me a good morning. He stays in the C wing of my building, I know that, but I don’t remember his name. So I talk to him for a bit and keep walking.

I get bored of walking on the street, so I go to a jogging track that’s a little far from my house. Polaroid keeps playing in my earphones and I start stretching for a bit as my laziness hasn’t still left my body. I still have to psyche myself up for a good, weight-shedding walk, so I just stand on the track, staring at it, tilting my head and with a soulful look in my eyes, almost dreary.

“I can’t imagine losing my sleep just to come here to stare at the path.” A deep voice behind me says, startling me. I don’t instantly turn back, as I have my doubts. What if he was talking to someone else, and I respond stupidly, making a fool out of myself? I take a moment to look back, and within that moment, thousands of thoughts run across my mind, the first one being that I really liked the voice. A part of me feels ridiculed, one stranger said one sentence and I’m not even sure it was to me, and here I am liking the sound of their voice. Simply stupid. The second thought that’s a bit harsh says that he should be minding his own damn business, what I do or do not do is none of his concern, but I don’t say that out loud. That’s the thing about me. I cannot be rude to people. I can hate them all I want, but I cannot just say it to their face. Another thought that surfaces is that I don’t even really want to turn back and look at him and talk to him, that’s for two reasons. One, what if his face isn’t as good as his voice? I don’t want to be disappointed, but what I don’t understand is I’m disappointing myself even now, thinking this stupid thought. And two, I don’t want to talk to any new person so early in the morning. I don’t really like conversing with even people that I know, why should I waste a few minutes of a perfectly good albeit a little chilly and I-have-unwillingly-gotten-up morning talking to a person I’d never even see again? Little did I know. . .

I finally turn back and sense him standing right behind me, so I don’t directly look at his face. Instead I look down at his shoes, blue and black, a little muddy. As I start looking up, I see his sweatpants, his wide, masculine, really attractive chest hidden under the jacket he’s wearing, his hands - carrying a water bottle, and finally his face. The first thing I notice about his face are his eyes, they’re really little. They’re beautiful. He’s wearing glasses and the voice I had heard about a minute ago so corresponds with this thing that’s standing before me. I’m just in the moment, it’s dangerously struck me and I find myself unable to utter even one single damn word. I just raise my eyebrows as to respond and ask if it’s me who he is talking to, and then I hear his magical deep voice again.

“Well yeah, I saw you standing here for the past couple of minutes just looking at the track, so I thought of asking you if you had any intentions to walk or run. You could’ve slept really peacefully otherwise, instead of coming out in this chilly, silly, stupid morning.” He says, forming creases on his forehead and his eyes getting even smaller than they already are, and oh my God. I giggle in my mind over chilly-silly.

I think I was destined to meet you.

I just realize the words that I think in my mind and it bewilders me, what’s wrong with me? For God’s sake I don’t even know the guy. In Hazel Grace’s words, he could be an axe murderer. And I’m thinking about destiny. That’s so not me. I want to give a perfect reply to him, this time using words. So I breathe in and say, “Yes, I could’ve. But I really wanted to walk.” Perfect reply, eh? The inner Alisha laughs at me.

“I’m Sameer, by the way.” He thrusts out his hand, hoping for a handshake.

“Alisha.” I say and nod, not shaking hands with him, I don’t know what got into me.

He looks a little embarrassed, looks at me and his hand, and I suddenly realize I should shake hands with him and so I do, and both of us smile awkwardly. What the hell am I doing?

“Want to, uh, walk together?” He asks me, forming those creases again, this time smiling genuinely. I almost hate everyone I meet, and he is the first person whom I’ve not hated in the first five minutes of meeting, so I think, why not?

“Sure,” I say and nod, “yeah.” Why am I nodding so much? I realize I should stop, and so I grab the back of my neck because I guess my brain is not sending correct orders to the rest of me.

I look at him up and down again once before we start walking, I just want to. The first lap we walk, he’s a lot faster than me. I already have started panting and the muscles in my legs below the knee seem to have tightened, making it rather difficult to continue walking in that pace.

“First day?” He asks me, to which I nod again. “Walk a little slower then, don’t strain yourself so much on the first day, or you’ll not want to come from tomorrow.” He smirks, but how can I not want to come again, knowing he’s going to be here. I sigh and smile too, and start walking a little slower than before, and he slows down with me which I think is really sweet. We walk for three more laps, and he asks me to sit on one of the benches as I look tired, which I am. He says he’ll run a couple of rounds and join me back. I oblige.

I go sit, and see him start running, well, jogging. I keep looking at him as he goes farther away, and then disappears. I keep thinking about the last half an hour of my life, and what has taken me over, what has gotten into me. It isn’t that it was love at first sight or something. I just feel something weird and nice and powerful, a connection to name it. I wonder if he feels it too. I wonder if this feeling will fade away, or will stick by right with me until my very last moments.

He appears from the other side again, and signals me that he’s going to run another round, and I simply blink in response, as if saying a yes. I don’t feel cold anymore, the temperature is still as low, but I think I’ve had the time to adjust. I rub my palms over each other and run it over my face, that’s just something I always do, and realize that the tip of nose is still cold. I remember how when I used to go to the school in winters, this used to happen almost every day, and Misha and my mom and I used to laugh our hearts out on the same nose-joke every day, every year until it stopped. I don’t want to think of sad things, I actually feel good today in forever, because I met Sameer today, and I don’t want memories of the past to haunt me and clasp me today.  I don’t want to fall into its clutches, as they take me to the Dark Place in my mind and today, I feel brighter after a long night.

The reason why I’m calling it the Dark Place and not the dark place is because it’s a ground full of bad memories and sadness and grief. I’d read a book called Dark Places by Gillian Flynn, which also is a movie, by the way, and she had used it somehow and that had really struck a chord with me. Speaking of which, I always have wanted to write a book. But I never found anything worth writing about. So many things happening around me, so many people with so many stories inside them, and still I didn’t feel like anything or anyone was worthy enough that I’d write about them. I also didn’t want to write about sad stuff, yes, it’s really appealing and people relate very much to it, but I don’t know any sadness except the Dark Place and it’s really scary for me. So I never wrote about it; never even told anyone. And I’d read somewhere, ‘The bigger the issue, the smaller you write.’ So I really had given up on the idea of writing about my Dark Place. Also, writing a book requires dedication and consistency, and I had neither of it, nor did I feel like I was deep enough to write anything that people will actually want to read, or will stick by with them. I had started a lot of times, well, I’d at least tried, but I just couldn’t weave words to resonate them into something meaningful. I felt I wrote rubbish.

As I’m lost in my thoughts, I see Sameer coming towards me. I get up and smile at him, and he doesn’t, rendering me feeling stupid. Instead, he just comes up to me and asks me, “What do you keep thinking so much about?” I’m flabbergasted at such a question and it takes me a few seconds to process it.

“Why do you ask?” I counter question him, the surprise clearly visible on my face, I guess.

“I passed through here two times after I told you I’d run a round more, and both the times, you were so lost in your thoughts, it seemed like you lost touch with what’s happening around you.” He simply stated the fact, and I knew it was true because I know I zone out many times even during the day. It was just my thing, and I’m too lazy to zone back in so it takes a few moments to persuade myself to come back to what’s real. And it would just happen, with no real or coherent reason, so I don’t have any answer to give to Sameer. So I decide to stay mum, like I’ve done for the most of the time that we’ve been together. He guesses that maybe he got a little personal, so he apologizes and says that he didn’t mean to intrude. I say that’s fine, but still am partly lost in my own world, thinking about nothing in particular, just losing myself in incoherency.

As we are about to leave, he asks me if I’d like to have tea. I bite my lower lip, and breathe a little deeper, realizing the tip of my nose is still a little colder. So I agree.

“There’s this place I go to for tea, almost every day. It serves the best tea in the world.” He looks excited. I smile, and we start walking again, a casual walk with conversations.

“So, Alisha. What do you do?” As these words escape his mouth, I feel my heartbeats race. The connection, you see. This has never happened to me before.

“Well, I’m a teacher. I work at a study abroad institute, and am involved in a little admin work, but mostly, the emphasis of my work is on teaching English, IELTS to be more specific.” I say a complete sentence and instantly feel proud of myself.

“Wow, that’s something.” He smiles.

“What about you?” I ask, almost feeling liable to ask him the same question in return.

“Sasha and Joe’s. It’s a restaurant and I’m one of the three partners, but I’m a dormant one, so don’t really have to participate in any work. I usually play guitar, and read books, oh I love reading.”

“So no job?”

“Perks of having a rich father and an elder brother.” He winks.

I instantly think of him as a spoiled brat, living off his father’s money, doing nothing significant in life and spending time and money as if it’s nothing. I regret my decision of walking with him, and talking to him, and now, agreeing to have tea with him. The connection, I bet he has had this connection with hundreds of women before me, and will have with hundreds of them after me. Why did I have to like him at all?

Soon enough, we reach this place he loves and while walking and talking to him, based on my opinion, I’d assumed he’d take me to some rich people place, the one I’d not be able to afford, but now that we reach there, I see it’s just a shack, with one man doing all the work. I’d not expected this, and it actually relieves me that this supposed brat might have a human side. A part of me also changes my opinion and thinks that maybe I judged him a little too fast, I don’t know him at all except for what he’s told me. I decide that I won’t conclude anything, and let time do its work.

We order two cutting chai’s, and sit on a wooden bench that’s so fragile, that it seems would break. “Tell me something about you then,” he says, “you seem deep.” I’m spellbound because of his straightforwardness, how easily he says what he’s thinking. “What’s Alisha’s story?

“I don’t know about that,” I say, “but I think a lot. Maybe that’s what made you think that.”

“Maybe. What do you think about?”

“A lot of things. Life, love, friendships, daily chores, and a million other things. Why do you ask?” I ask him, realizing how I’m answering all of his questions with ease, without thinking twice about whether or not I should say something. I don’t have to think if I’ll say something inappropriate, or if this even was the answer he was looking for. I just say.

He looks at me for a minute and smiles, as if thinking something. It makes me wonder how someone can do that for a person like me. I’m shallow, and pathetic, and have a very low opinion of myself, but I love myself too. Complete paradox, you see. And it makes me feel weird and happy and confused at the same time, weird being the dominant of all.

I raise my eyebrows, anticipating an answer but he just smiles and turns his head from side to side, as if saying a no. His smile is nice. Only nice. I’m not even exaggerating. He takes off his glasses and hangs them in his t-shirt, as he sees our tea coming.

We remain silent for about five minutes, and it gets a little awkward, but he makes no effort of lessening it, so I guess it’s my turn to say something now. My thoughts race and think about what to say. I am really bad at this, I know. Conversing with people has always been a weakness, certified conversation killer, if you will. So I look here and there, and try to search for a topic to talk about.

“So, Sameer --” He cuts me, and thank God he does because I didn’t know what I would say after his name. “Call me Sam.”

Okay, so now I’m supposed to call him Sam but what do I say to Sam?

“Oh, okay, Sam. Where do you stay?” I mumble, words barely escaping my mouth and feeling inexplicably embarrassed. Why the hell can’t I say something coherent for once?

“Just a block away. And I bet you don’t stay in the neighbourhood or else I’d have known you, at least by face. I can’t remember people’s names. It’s very annoying.” He says.

“Oh my God, it’s the same with me. Remembering names is a challenge, I tell you!” I exclaim a little louder, getting excited.

“Oh, yes. And you were, uh--?” He says, pretending not remembering my name and I playfully punch him on his arm. It’s firm. Why did I have to do that? I instantly regret and withdraw my hand, feeling a little awkward.

“Heh. I remember your name of course, Alisha.” He smiles and looks at me, and takes the first sip of his tea. Oh, oh my.

He asks me if I’m going to continue walking every day, or today was enough of an escapade to me. I ask him if he comes every day, to which he says he does, but it gets boring to wake up and come out so early all by himself, but no matter how unwillingly, he does come, and he says so should I. So, we decide to meet 6.30 every morning at the gate of the track, and walk together every day. Seems like a plan!

Once we’re done with the tea, he pays and we start walking again. He’s a lot taller than me, I barely reach his shoulder. I like him. It’s almost 8 and people have started going to work and the day has started, and people have come out and the street is now getting busy. I tell Sam I’ll see him the next morning. He side-hugs me, but I feel almost enveloped in him because he is that big, but it feels nice. Everything’s just nice, plain. I start walking towards my building, but he calls me from behind.



“It was really, really nice meeting you.” He says, running his fingers through his hair, smiling from the left end of his lips. “I’ll see you.”

“You too.” I whisper, but he doesn’t hear it as he’s left by then.

There’s this unexplainable feeling in my heart, things have suddenly started to seem better than ever. Today is going to be a good day, I say to myself and I realize that it’s the first time I’ve ever said such a thing and that makes me happier than I was a few moments ago. This guy’s got something. I just keep walking till I reach my place. As I open the door with my keys, I hear my phone notify me of something, but I’m not in the mood of people right now, because I’ve experienced something extraordinary this morning. It’s not that I haven’t had boyfriends before, but this guy is something different. I want to meet him again, and I will. Calm down, my dear, dear heart!

I go in and wake Misha up, and once she’s finally up, I tell her about Sam. She’s seeing the difference in me and tells me that she’s happy that I’m happy, and we dance on the bed with no music put on. Typical sister stuff. Then we go off to our own respective lives, but what I don’t know is how much our lives are going to change from this point.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

7 minutes - I

The Event.

They say when you die, you have 7 minutes of brain activity left. Your entire life flashes before your eyes, like a slideshow. You see the things you have done, the people you have loved, the ecstasies you have experienced and the tragedies you have lived through. It’s a precision, really, everything but in a flash. You don’t feel it being a flash though. All you do is simply relive your life through the stages -- all the highs and lows -- concisely. You see the things that made you, the things that broke you and everything in between. But mostly, you see the happy faces of your beloveds: something that calms you even in your last moments. I think everyone dies a satisfied death. A dying person doesn’t hold any grudges, I guess, they let it go. That’s what I have heard until now.

                The ringing I hear is very loud. I lie on a hospital bed; sheets stained of blood. There’s a sharp, shooting pain in my head. It seems that it would burst. The stringing ache in my left arm and chest is unmistakable, I can feel the blood dripping out. Every drop I lose makes me weaker and weaker. Things are blurry and vague, but the doctors are trying, I can see. My breathing is becoming heavier every passing moment. The pain that I feel right now is just too much to bear for a single time. I don’t understand a thing that’s happening. A drop of tear trickles down my eye, but I cannot feel the trace of it. I have become numb, yet am as vulnerable as I can possibly be. It’s weird.

All I can think about is how much I don’t want to die. There are so many things I yet have to do. I still have to make so many amends, I cannot even begin to tell. I never even got to say my goodbyes. But the next thought that finds its way in my mind is that no one really does. Life is so impermanent, yet we assume we have forever. One’s life is the most extensive thing they experience, but it is just ephemeral in cosmic terms. Everyone matters, but somehow, nobody does. You die in the middle of your life, in the middle of a sentence. John Green never fails me. I smile in my head.

I hear the sound of the machines around me and the doctor’s voice saying something but I can’t quite figure out what. I open my eyes a wee bit more, but it seems like it consumes all the energy I have left in me. I still cannot see clear. Near the door, I see people standing. I can tell they’re crying. Despite the loudness that’s deafening my ears, I can still make out the sobbing noises coming from where they’re standing. I want to cry too, but this pain that I’m in right now is making me incapable of doing so. Or maybe I’m even crying, I don’t understand. Everything is hazy and I still lie on the bed, unable to move, unable to feel. I don’t even feel my heart beating, or my lungs breathing air. It seems I am on the verge of stopping, maybe I’ve even stopped. Have I?

The one thing I do understand is this experience – death. You hear people talk about it, you read it in great books, you see it in award-winning movies, you even see people die in front of you. But it is nothing like one can ever imagine. The feeling of you just not being after a few moments is terrifying. Completely unexplainable. I think about what would be more painful – dying yourself or dealing with the death of your loved one. I get no answer. I don’t know what Sam, Mom and Dad, Misha and Jenny would do. How would they deal if I don’t make it today? Suddenly, I feel even drowsier. My eyes are closing and I struggle hard to keep them open. I’m passing out, maybe because of the fluids being injected in my body or what, but what if I close them now and never open them again? It’s horrible to even think about it.

Thinking about dying doesn’t really help. So I decide to divert the course of my thoughts into some other, happy direction. Happy. I smirk in my mind. I think about books, my most favourite one being The Fault In Our Stars, I think about Hazel and Augustus, I think about their love, their numbered days; about people, and the first person who comes into my mind is my mother, surprisingly, as I haven’t talked to her in forever; about places,  I think about the little vacation Jenny, Misha and I had taken and how wonderful it was; about love, about Sam and about how better my life has been since the day I met him and how I never want to lose him, but then I realize I’m going to lose everything and everyone today, and they’re going to lose me, and somehow every thought integrates back to dying, to me lying on this bed, with needles being pierced through my veins and a burning sensation on the surface of my wounds. I didn’t want to admit it before, but I am scared. All I want is one chance, one tiny opportunity to take my loved ones into my embrace and tell them that despite everything, I love them. But that seems undoable now. My heart somehow sinks at this thought.
I try to think of my happy place – Sam and I in our living room, cuddling, watching some random show on television, talking about nothing in particular but everything in the world. I love being with him. I remember fighting with him over silly things and teasing him until I’d see him lash out on me and me laughing so darn hard at how his face would get red due to irritation and anger, and we’d just run around in the house and cuddle later. I loved kissing that face. I still love kissing that face, if only I get a chance. . .  There’s peace with him. Once in a while, he’d always kiss my forehead, and I loved it. It always has been a gesture of the love we have for each other. When I’m with him, I never want to be anywhere else. But right now, I know I actually am somewhere else, trying to search for that calmness, that peace in my thoughts, and with this, reality hits back. My lungs have become incapable of holding any air inside and I have started palpitating. This is it. Is this… it? I don’t want to die. This time I feel the tears that escape my eyes crawl through the sides of my cheek, over the sides of my neck and hit the pillowcase under my head, it becoming instantly moist. I grasp for air, but I cannot. I clench my fists, holding the sheets and with it, I feel done.

So this is death, I think. Suddenly everything has quietened down. Moments ago, everything was so loud and now, it’s all just so dead silent that I cannot bear the sound of that. I want to breathe again. I want to live again. I’ve had a lot of thoughts about not wanting to live all my life, but I’ve learnt my lesson now, I was wrong. I do want to live, to love, to be. Is a second chance too much to ask for from life? How the hell am I thinking if I’m dead? Maybe, they’re right. People have souls. Maybe this is my soul thinking, hoping, wanting to live but nothing makes sense to me. Everything just seems to have stopped, inclusive of me.

I feel no pain anymore. My eyes are open, but things are getting dark until I can’t see anything. The hospital ceiling seems to get murky, and I feel it slipping. I feel myself slipping through my hands and after a certain point, I am gone. I’m here, but I’m gone somehow. I don’t hear the sounds of the doctors screaming, or that of people crying, or the machines around me beeping endlessly which were so loud a few minutes ago that it felt like my ears would bleed but now, there’s none of it anymore. Nothing. A dark void stretches itself infinitely before my eyes, and even though I’m not, I feel like I’m blinking, and it feels like I can move again. It suddenly gives me hope. I can turn my head and move my hands and my legs and I can breathe but I can’t see anything. Why can’t I see anything?

It seems like I’m walking through a void, I see no ground, no path, no sky, nothing. Everything is pitch black and as usual, I have no idea what’s happening. I rarely know what I’m doing anyway, half the time I’m just as clueless. I think if I ever wake up, I’ll write about it. So authentic, I tell you. But right now, I’m afraid I will stumble and trip because nothing’s visible. Or maybe it’s not that I’m not able to see anything, there’s just nothing to see. This isn’t painful, but fearsome. I keep walking anyway, just to get out of it. I feel like it’s just in my head, but I still have to get out of it somehow. I don’t want to be stuck here for all eternity, if I, in fact, have died. This is a weird place. I have to get rid of this place because I want to see my people for the last time, maybe yes, maybe that is going to be the last time because I do remember the hospital and the bleeding and the not being able to breathe and the pain as well. I remember giving up hope and dying.

As I move ahead, I start seeing a light, literally the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel a little hopeful, and I wonder how I can still feel things in my dead heart. Am I really dead? Well, it doesn’t matter because I am seeing a way out right in front of my eyes. I start running towards the dazzle, and the closer I get to it, the more I feel it piercing my eyes. I keep running anyway until I reach the source and until my eyes can’t hold the light anymore. It seems like I’d disappear into the brightness so I cover my eyes with my bare hands, and wait for what seems to be an infinite amount of time. Suddenly when the illumination seems to have lessened, I open my eyes back.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

I know you.

Hi there,

Probably we have never talked or met. I don't know your story. I don't know what you are up to. I don't know what you do, or where you live, or anything else about you.

But I know, when night dawns upon the earth, you let out a heavy, tired sigh. You think you are all alone. Days are long, and you get through them somehow. It's not like you don't have friends, you do. But there's a lot inside you that they have no idea about. You are all smiles throughout, and you don't brush away the chances you get to socialize. You're always in. But it tires you, doesn't it? Being around people who know you, and yet somehow don't. They know the pretty face of you: the smile and laugh and all that you show. The mask, yes, that's all they know and they have no idea there's more to you. But you know, it isn't their fault. You don't show it, because you think they won't understand. Or because you feel it's a super big deal, letting someone inside your little shell.

Your shell: where you are you and no one else exists. A place where you drift off​ at times during the day, zoning out of your life. Your happy place. And even though you are alone there, you don't feel so. But being surrounded by people all day? Yes, that's what loneliness feels like. You have already decided to struggle. One day at a time. To fight against-

You. You are whom you fight against. You are your greatest friend, and your worst enemy. You are what makes you happy and you are what deprives you of it. You are strange, you think. You don't fit into this world, this world that never stops. You don't talk about what you feel because you think it'll make you feel it even more. So finally when the day is over, you sigh not because you didn't have a good one, but because the struggle for today is done. There's a new day tomorrow, new sunshine, new... A new struggle. It's tiresome, it drains you out.

Nights are peaceful, aren't they? The world slows down, quietens down, and you are your company. At times, you grieve and cry and let it out, but the others, when you yourself have no idea of what you feel, they're the hardest ones. Numbness surrounds you and you don't know what to feel. You make up poems and songs and sketches and try to create something in the form of art because that's what you do. To let things out, to free yourself from the burden that you have on your heart. You create art.

People even appreciate it but they don't know the wounds that you reveal through your art. There are some people who even think that they have you all figured out, and why wouldn't they? You don't show the depth of your feelings to them. People who are your friends, are not really friends, they're mere acquaintances because you're too scared to let anyone come close to you. You listen to what they talk and what they vent but you never say a word about yourself. It's all just inside.

You think nobody knows you. But you're wrong. I do. I know you.

Monday, 25 June 2018


She had a twinkle in her eye, the kind you'd not notice unless you stare into it. Standing alone, she clutched a book in her hands: holding it against her chest, almost hugging it. In the crowd of thousands, she'd easily go unnoticed because she wasn't the prettiest one around, or the best dressed, or the one who'd say something mind-blowing that'd stick by you through tomorrow and even after that. In fact, she looked the exact opposite. She was unapologetic: even though she was a mess, she owned every part of it, and all her attributes simply accentuated it. Her unmade hair, her clumsy demeanor, her long-strained, sleep-deprived eyes, everything made her who she is, and I, I just looked at her from a distance as she stared into blankness.

She sighed a lot, I observed. Was she tired? Maybe, but of what? Each time she breathed, her eyes seemed to startle, yet focusing the stare into her blankness firmly. When she exhaled, her lips parted a little, almost alternatively. She stood fixated, unmoving, undecided. It was a treat to watch her though. My eyes seemed to have locked themselves on her.

Time and again, it seemed like she almost realized to have zoned out, and she'd try and come back to the present moment, but I reckon she must've drifted off too far to return to now. She looked like the one who'd be really shy in large crowds of mere acquaintances; what she craves is a soul connection. She'd look up and around oftentimes, maybe when she'd try to come to right now, but her thoughts seemed to catch up fast and grasp her back. She was lost. She was the girl who you'd easily miss out on, but once you did see her, you'd not want to look anywhere else. She had the charisma, I think she'd keep you hooked once you start a conversation with her. But would you be able to say anything when you know those eyes that are so lost right now would be looking into yours? I wonder.

She was the girl who'd go unnoticed, because you'd always hear the loudest person in the room, but in her head, I bet she has things louder than that going on, and someday she'll find people who'd be intrigued, and one day, she will be heard.

I wanted to go near her, towards her, try to get to know her, maybe strike a conversation: hear her voice. It was strange, she didn't look like someone who'd participate in a talk with some random stranger like me; but it wasn't like that. She'd gotten me hooked. I imagined me going up to her and her looking at me, her eyes throwing some magical invisible light at me, emancipating me from everything with just that one look. But I decided against it; just watching her was so pure, I couldn't taint it with reality. I looked at her for the last time, tried to capture the image of her face in my memories, and walked away.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

A fable

I look at my blue shoes as I walk, with earphones put up, some random music playing so loud that it disconnects me from the world. It's day-time, burning hot, beads of sweat are dripping past my left eyebrow. I don't like summers.

Mindlessly, I look around as I reach the bus stop. The crowd is usual, all the known faces staring at each other, trying to make decent small talks that I'm not a part of. I'm not really interested in talking to anyone here, it's too mainstream and I'm too lazy. Pointless conversations seem to bore me. All I want to avoid is normalcy; I want something extraordinary, something epic that I'll be a part of. As I'm lost in my thoughts, scanning every face, I see him.

He's wearing a beanie, has rather long hair for a guy, and has put on a loose t-shirt and a track pant. He doesn't look quite aware of the people around him, and neither is anyone else there affected by his presence. He's standing alone. He looks visibly uncomfortable and itchy; something must be bothering him. I want to ask him but I don't -- I don't have the guts to do so. He's a stranger and I cannot just walk up to him and ask him what's wrong. Maybe I could, but I don't want to. I'm scared. He has pretty, green eyes that sparkle a little as he looks up and around, but most of the time he's just staring at the ground, maybe thinking something too hard. His eyebrows often seem to rise and in turn creases form on his forehead, and that actually makes him look really adorable.

I realise I'm staring at him, so I look away. I think he saw me looking at him. It's awkward, as I think we'll board the same bus. I just hope he doesn't come up to me and talk. I don't want to be babbling the first time I talk to a guy I found cute in ages.

I'm this socially awkward person, really uncomfortable in groups. I can talk one-to-one very easily, but this guy is really cute. That's exactly where my anxiety kicks in, making it rather difficult for me to utter one single meaningful, comprehensible sentence out of my damned mouth. I'm not holding myself back; it's just that I can't.

My mind races about how much I really liked the guy even though he was caught up all in himself, and how much I want to go up to him and talk to him, but my feet seem to have locked themselves to the ground, making me helplessly unable to move. Even though I feel like going up to him, I decide against it.

My bus arrives and I get on, but he doesn't. My heart sinks, I really wished he'd come aboard, but that's okay. I'll probably never see him again and he'll just be a story I'd tell my friends someday.  He stares at the bus as it goes by, and I look at him until I can't see him anymore. Later I feel like I was creepy, but what's done is done and I can't change that. Neither am I going to meet him ever again, so it doesn't really matter. I'm very convenient that way.


The next day, I'm hoping I don't see him again, considering the obvious fact that I made a fool out of myself the last time. He would think I'm an idiot, which I actually am, but I don't like to confront it through other people. A part of me also wants to see him, why would I not want to see a perfectly amazing person like him? But I'm reluctant to face him, when I'm not even sure if I'm even going to face him or not, and it's just weird.

I walk up to the bus stop hesitantly. I look around, I don't see him. As I'm about to let out a relieved sigh, I spot him, making it really confusing for me as to if I should be happy about it or no. He looks exactly like he did the last time, same clothes, the beanie, confused look concentrated on the ground.

'Shit!' I mumble and look here and there, to find something to hide behind. He shouldn't see me today, not today -- at any cost. I'll let a few days pass and he'd forget me, and then I can start all over again with no previous embarrassment. But there's nothing -- nothing I can hide behind, nobody I can talk to. I take out my phone and pretend to be busy on it, when I'm not even sure if he's even looking at me, let alone if he remembers me as the girl from yesterday.

But what the hell, right? So what if he remembers me? I have to take chances in life, how else will the extraordinary stuff I’m missing out on right now happen to me? I deep breathe, which doesn’t help at all, and I decide I’m going to go talk to him. What’s the worst that could happen? ‘He could hear me.’ Monica’s words sound in my mind like a reflex, and I giggle.

But I’ve decided now. That’s it, I’m going to talk. I gather all the courage I have from every fibre that is there in my body and start walking in his direction. He’s still busy staring at the ground. My heartbeats pace up with every step I take ahead, and despite the loud cacophony, I can hear the thuds of it.

I reach up to him – he’s standing right in front of me, and I’m too nervous, and I know I’m going to do what I do best – blabber. I’m still not giving up though. I muster up all my valour, and I’m surprised at how painfully weird my voice sounds when I say –

“Hi, I’m Alisha. I just happened to see you yesterday and I was hoping we could talk but you didn’t get on the --”

He cuts me off with a dead look on his face as he looks up to me from the ground, aghast. To make sure I'm talking to him, he looks behind him and then again at me, and I point a finger towards him as to confirm it for him that it is, in fact, him who I'm talking to. His green eyes reflect the sunlight from the afternoon skies, and he looks at me with perplexed expressions and total horror.

“You shouldn’t be able to see me.” He finally says.