55 of 365

Do you care?
she asked.
Her questions
were met
with silence.

Can you see
our plight?
she begged.
Silence, again.

Her battle
began 14 years ago
in a remote part
of the country;
in the heart
of her home.
The part
hidden from
mainstream eye
and conscience.

We speak of her
in whispers
and only
a little.
She remains
till date
in a prison
of a new kind.

Her strength
terrified
the State,
shook it
to its very bone.
Yet,
little heed
was paid.

Terrified
of the blame,
they would face,
if
her life
came to a pause.
A revolt would rise,
a generation
would come alive.
To continue her fight,
they thought.

Were they right?

But the story
was neither her,
nor her protest.
The law
had extended
its arm
and hurt
too many a soul.
Woman, man, child
killed, raped
in numbers.

Impunity granted
to the criminals,
The silence
of the State
reeked of its fear.
Its actions
smelt of indifference.
Not just to
her plight,
but others
like her.
In a land
she called home.

In a country
we swore
was a democracy.

54 of 365

She clutched the urn with his remains. Graveyards gave her the spooks. She didn’t want to visit them every time she missed him. She couldn’t bury him next to Dash in their backyard. That must definitely be some violation of the law. Doggy burial grounds at home are common, but humans seemed unheard of. With no choice left, she cremated him. She would keep the urn on the living room shelf. Would visitors refrain from coming over because of this, she thought. But she couldn’t be bothered by this. She had lost her husband of 50 years just day before yesterday. If she wanted his ashes inside her house, she should be indulged.

They had married in their early twenties and been together ever since. Old age had broken him bit by bit before finally taking his life. For several hours as she sat next to his body in the hospital, she debated ending her own life. They never had any children and had spent most of their lives entertaining the other. She couldn’t imagine living at home without him. Who would leave the toilet seat up repeatedly? Who would make her delicious coffee and scones? Who would fall asleep reading the newspaper in the rocking chair? Who would she look after now that he was gone?

She debated adopting another dog. Living alone would make her very lonely but she was far too old to chase after a dog. And god forbid she died soon, the dog would be left without a home. Should she get a cat, she wondered. Finally, she set the urn down on the shelf and wished him goodnight before leaving the room.

She lay awake for hours together that night. It was her first night alone; it was bound to be restless. She ached to hear his gentle yet terrible cough. She sat up in bed before walking into the front room and returning with the urn. She placed the urn on her bedside table next to her bottle of water.

She felt an emptiness but she was yet to shed a tear. Even while she delivered his eulogy, her eyes were dry. His memories would keep her company always; just like the void she felt.

53 of 365

Read part one here

… He held the paper up to the light when he noticed some writing on the back. On turning it over, he read out its contents. “Report to the address by 8 am on 13th June 1986.” He glanced quickly at his watch to notice it was 7 already. He would need to have a bath and drink some coffee before he could leave. All along, the two sides of his brain fought between each other questioning the validity of the note.

Images of the red devil flashed before his eyes as the cold water washed away his headache. He pulled on his green tee shirt and work pants before rushing out the door. There was no time to enjoy a bite. He needed to get to the bottom of the note. He arrived at the address with ten minutes to spare. He noticed the huge fields behind the house. It seemed impossible to acquire so much land in the middle of the city. Intrigued and suspicious, he knocked on the bright blue door of the tiny wooden house.

The door was opened by a radiant creature dressed in the same outfit as in his recollections. Her smile triggered a memory he had suppressed. It dawned on him that it must have been her in his room last night. “Yes, it was me,” she responded. The entire string of memories came rushing back to him. She led him into the house that was brightly painted in red, yellow and orange colours. The ambience made him feel at ease and spread warmth throughout him. It looked like a child was given pots of paint with no limitations given. “Children have no limits,” she dismissed his thought. She led him through a series of blue doors to the backyard. The entire house was wooden and he could barely take in all the imagery. “Behold,” she said.

He was astounded by the stretches of plush green fields and a backyard full of large trees. The end seemed no where in his vision. The varieties were numerous and endless; mango, papaya, jackfruit, apple, chickoo, guava and more that he had never seen before. There were huge banyan trees in a corner. Under the shade of the canopy, many younger ones were seated. Dressed in similar outfits, they seemed to be preoccupied in their own world. It took him several minutes to catch his breath and find his voice. “Where are we?” he finally managed.

Her smile lit up her eyes as she said, “The answer to your qualms about this world!”

She let him wander aimlessly in the gardens of Laro for many hours. It took a while to get accustomed to the surroundings. She watched as he bent down and smelt every flower. The purple ones seemed to fascinate him more. Fortunately, he didn’t try to pick any; he would be in for a shock when they would bite him. The flowers in Laro didn’t like to be picked and the trees didn’t approve of cutting. They functioned on their own. But they needed to be given love and affection apart from their daily dose of water.

She cooked snacks for the house and her visitor as he explored the garden. She waved her lasso around and watched the splashes of silver explode from it. The kitchen was sparkling clean when she was done. Jack had returned from his walk by then. He stood silently at the door watching her movements, lost in his thoughts. Without turning towards him, she said, “Sit down and we can talk terms about your new job.”

Even if he got used to the magnificence of the garden, he wouldn’t get used to the mind reading. He sat down on the star shaped table as she placed some snacks on it. Much like everything else, they were bright and looked surreal. “My name is Squeendie. I own this house and belong to the land of zealots. It has been around for many years. We mostly never leave the house, unless there is a plea we cannot let go of. The house is invisible to all those who are not personally invited by me or one of the tiny zealots. As you can see, I try to maintain it with some help but there is a lot of ground to cover,” she said.

He smiled as she continued to talk. “Would you be up for the job?” she asked confident that he couldn’t refuse. “Sure. I can start work today itself,” he replied. She called out to the tiny zealots and introduced Jack to them all.

He proceeded to tend to the garden of Laro with kindness and compassion. He couldn’t have been happier.

52 of 365

Often, he craved for some divine intervention. He had somehow convinced himself that it would solve his problems. He begged, pleaded and even prayed to send a sign to fix the mess that was his life. One day, he kneeled next to his bed and said, “Is there a power greater than me? If yes, can you hear my pleas? Please come to earth to fix my life. Make it perfect, free of troubles. Make me a man who cannot sin or err.”

Tears streamed down his face blurring his vision. He then noticed a tiny apparition over his bed, by the window. She had pointy ears and wore red boots. She had a golden lasso and a sharp tail. Her dress was short and fit her well. She looked less like a saviour and more like the devil. He spoke to her directly, “You are going to save me?” “Do not be fooled by my petite figure,” she replied, “I will help you find your way.”

He remained unconvinced and hoped she would return where she came from. Instantly. “No. I am not leaving,” she said. “You just read my mind!” he blurted. “There is no other way to ensure our relationship stays transparent,” she replied with a smirk.

“So, tell me what can I do,” she asked floating around the room like a ghost. How was she going to help him when she had no clue what was bothering him, he thought. “I just need you to vocalise your problems. I know what is bothering you,” she said.

Taken aback, he realised it was not easy to block his thoughts and just talk. “Fine. I got thrown out of my job for turning up drunk to it five times in a row. I drink cause I am buried in mortgage and will soon sell this tiny house. Since they blacklisted me, I cannot be a gardener in the area I used to. I have been rejected for a month and my savings are now scanty,” he mumbled. A few seconds of silence later, he screamed, “Are you happy that I said it?”

She sat on top of his dresser and watched his agitation increase. She floated down and slipped in his hand a folded piece of paper with an address scribbled. She tossed the lasso in the air and it landed neatly around his leg. She tugged at it, three times. He elevated off the floor and landed on his bed, fast asleep. She looked at him one last time before she snapped out of the room.

Jack woke up the next morning with a horrible headache and faint memories of a pretty looking devil. He lay in bed to analyse the dream. It had to be a dream and a really confusing one. At that moment, he felt something in his palm. He opened it up to see a crumpled piece of paper with an address. He had no recollection of how it had gotten there.

51 of 365

I remember the excitement when I was told I will have to start using pens to write in class and exams. I was fascinated to watch the ink come out when the pen was pressed on paper. It felt magical to me as I didn’t comprehend the science behind it. A decade later, the magic behind it has evaporated. I have replaced the pen with the dependable pencil I had earlier rejected. The shades of black that it creates as I scribble in my notebook comfort me. A dull grey when the nib is blunt and a pure black when the lead is pointed.

Today, I have many pencils in my stationery set. Some bright coloured, some black on the outside, some short, some very long. But all of them, unanimously, remind me of innocent times. The times when a rubber could be used to fix the errors on the page. The pen made it all finite. Even when there was a mistake, the eraser didn’t clean it up without leaving an abrasion. Using the whitener was out of the question. How can one not notice that extra white patch? This aversion to spotting the errors had forced me to tearing the pages and throwing it. (Something that I found myself doing extensively.)

However, times have changed. There is no longer the need for a pencil, pen or paper. The quick fix method of the computer and typing seems to be the alternative I am offered. Though I have to admit, scribbling on a book with my pencil gives me a strange kind of comfort. The sound of the keys, the smell of ink, the pile of crumpled paper or even the numerous draft word documents, just don’t meet the standards. Or I am just sentimentally holding onto the past?

50 of 365

For a long time now, she had a sneaky feeling that she had been lying to herself. It is better this way, she thought. It isn’t really a big lie. A white lie or maybe a fib. You know that lie that looks like a lie, feels like a lie but is masquerading as the truth? Yes, that one.

Lying was easier than admitting the truth anyhow, she thought. Oh wait, did this mean she had admitted it was a lie? It is surprising how easy it is to perpetuate the lie. Just continue the pretense and tell everyone that it is the truth. Soon enough even the person making these statements would believe it is the truth. Simple isn’t it?

Or is it? She had to pretend to fake her emotions towards the people involved. She was forced to engage in the futile conversations. The effort needed to recognise these relationships as significant parts of her life was exhausting and infuriating. She had retired herself to the faith that the truth would never materialise. Her lies would be accepted as the truth. Knowing herself and understanding her need to avoid controversy, the truth would never see the light. Unless she dared revolt; that being a remote possibility ten years from now. But today, the lies she would live.

49 of 365

“I lack
the strength to fight more,”
Ailamma said.
“These rights are yours,
this body yours,” I said,
“The decision too,
should be yours.”

The struggle had begun
many moons ago,
when she refused to be sterilised.
But the law was forcing
its might on her.
She refused,
she put up a fight.

They offered her gold,bribed her with land.
Poverty stricken
she yearned to give in.
“But it is my body,
I will not concede,”
she said.

Her man was poor
and weak.
He would soon be oldand grieving too.
“You have two girls,
You need no more,”
they said.
But poverty needed
more hands
to plough the fields.
They wanted to study
and learn,
not work to earn.

Confused and lost,
she turned to me.
I couldn’t save her.
But I insisted
she not pay heed.
The bribes they
persisted,
Soon she gave in.

“Money is the need
right now,
with him aging
and their tender hands,
I am left with no choice
but to abide their plan.”

Once operation was done,
the money never showed.
They had tricked her
to fall for their gimmick.

48 of 365

Faraway, there was a land where there was only one season. The monsoons. The sun came out only to dry up the land. Once the job was done, it would rain again. The people of the land had been blessed with no shortage of rain by a goddess. When they created a wonderful water harvesting system, she pronounced them with rain for all times.

A lot of the inhabitants of this land were tired of the rain. Not Thara. Thara loved the rain. The smell of their arrival, the sound of their downpour, the scent they leave behind. She liked the drizzle. She enjoyed the persistent patter. They made her sentimental as they remind me of how she enjoyed them as a child. The art of making paper boats was lost on her. But she loved watching them flow down the road. The children of today didn’t make them as much. They stayed couped up at home during the rain. They didn’t like getting wet. They were missing out on a wonderful part of being children. As an adult, she was shunned for running around in the rain, jumping in puddles. It is seen as boisterous.

She resisted and continued to enjoy the rains. The sound of the thunder would scare those around her. They would run indoors and shut their windows. She was puzzled by their actions. They didn’t welcome the rains. Instead, they complained, “It just stopped raining!”

Thara would open her windows wide and stick her head out of the window with her eyes shut. First, one drop would reach her. Then, many more. With the frequency of the drops increasing, her heart changed its rhythm. The rain was here. Yet again.

47 of 365

I needed to rant, uninterrupted. I contemplated a visit to my neighbourhood church. My Catholic friend had told me about the feeling of relief she felt when she returned from confession. I craved that feeling at this moment. But being an atheist forced the thought away.

After weeks of feeling melancholic, I called Catherine. “Ever since you mentioned your confessions to me, I have been wanting to go. I am hesitant since I don’t believe in God,” I blurted. “Honestly, it makes me feel better. Sometimes, it is nice to imagine someone will listen to you and never be able to hold it against you. Or ever use it against you in conversation. I feel alive at the moments when I speak and relieved once I have left the church,” she responded, “It is a way for me to empty my thoughts and recoup.”

I quietly hung up.

The next day, I took a stroll near the tall, white church. The building brought back memories of the last time I had gone. I was 16 and my mother forced me to tag along with her. I was disturbed by the prayers my mother chanted; I felt a deep disconnect to this God that everyone revered. I had never felt the urge to return. I stepped in precariously and walked straight to the confessional rooms. They were wooden rooms along the front of the aisles. They were craved and divided into two halves; one for the priest and one for the confessor. I opened the wooden door, pushed aside the bright purple curtains and sat down. I left the door a little ajar for my mental comfort. There was a tiny window with wooden mesh on the inside. I slid its door open and I could see the profile of a priest on the other side.

“What is on your mind, child?” he said. “I have begun to question who I am and what I am going to do with this life. I feel hopelessly lost and I walk around aimlessly,” I replied.

There was no response from him, not even an acknowledgement that he had heard. Exasperated, I continued, “I have a life, but I am too disturbed to live it. I cannot seem to assess what upsets me but I feel an ache deep within. The hope that this life will end haunts me too.” After a few moments of silence, I blurted, “That’s all. I have nothing else to say.” I could sense his deliberation through the wooden walls. He then said in a cautious voice, “You could keep coming till you feel better.”

I was too speechless to find words. I muttered a thank you as I left the room. After all, he had listened to my rant albeit a short one. I felt confused and wondered what I hoped to gain from the confession. I had no idea what sin I had committed. Did harbouring the hope that this life would end amount to a sin? But was that really a confession? Sitting across a stranger who isn’t allowed to judge my thoughts is tempting. Perhaps, I needed a few more sessions before I can confess more freely. Though, I was unsure if I could convince myself to go back into those solemn halls again.

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I stared at the delicate earrings hanging in my dresser. They were in a myriad of colours. I tried on one and tucked my curly hair behind my ears. They suited me well; though I rarely wore any. Every time I wore them and stepped out of my comfort zone, I regretted it. Their extra beauty coupled with a saree and a bindi often brought unwanted attention. The uncles and aunties at parties always noticed these things. Their tone was worse than their words. For them, the decoration was a sign that I am ready ‘for the market’. At my age, such signs are awaited with delight. However, in my case it indicated no such thing. My family had given in to my resistance and stopped prodding me about finding a man. The extended family, however, would not spare me. They insisted on introducing me to ‘eligible’ men. I was yet to meet one that didn’t make me hysterical. Over time, I have found some humour in it and masked my true emotions.

It made me ask myself if such signs existed for men. If society waited for them to be ready for marriage? Could I not wear my feminine side with pride without worrying about these agonising encounters? Or if I didn’t get dolled up, did it make me not suitable for marriage?

It is disconcerting sometimes to observe how many of my choices are truly my choices. And how many of them are society forcing my hand.