Archive | September, 2013

Letters

16 Sep

image

“Letter for Manisha Jain”, the postman calls out. The little girl runs to the door, tripping over herself in her haste to get to him first. She eagerly looks up at the old postman with the ever smiling face and stretches her hand out. He hands her the envelope, and there it is, her name at the top. She feels important, like she is almost a grown up person. Beaming, she scampers back inside and tears the envelope open. Inside it was a letter from her brother. She reads it over and over again, till she almost has it memorized. Her sister writes to her too, always telling her little sister how they would not fight and play a lot of games when she comes back home this time. The little girl felt overjoyed every time the letters extended to more than a page. She immediately sits down to write a reply, beginning, ‘Dear Bhaiya, how is your fever?’, never agreeing when her mother corrected and told her it was not an equivalent for the Hindi, ‘tabiyat kaisi hai?‘.

 

This is one of the happiest memories that I remember from my childhood. Obsessing over picking out the prettiest letter pad, laboriously arranging my limited vocabulary of the English language into sentences, fretting over the writing not being cursive enough. And the the wait for a reply. There was a sort of nervous excitement about never knowing when the postman would come bearing a letter. It was magical.

 

And then there were the Diwali greeting cards. The little girl would watch awestruck, as her sister drew beautiful diyas on the cards, with the flame being a perfect blend of yellow and orange. She would proudly hand her the crayons, and run and fetch the scissors and glue, almost in a frenzy. There was something about sending out letters and greeting cards that thrilled the little girl.

 

But then, something happened. technology took great leaps and bounds and brought to us the comforts of instant messaging. Why go through the trouble of writing on paper, when you can just speak to your phone and it does the writing for you? Why wait for weeks for a reply, when you can get one within seconds, even when you are continents apart?

It does make life simpler. But does it really? Agonizing over someone not replying even after reading the message was not there when we waited for weeks for a letter or postcard. There was no compulsion to reply to the letter the moment we read it, worried that we might offend the other person. No one needed to appear invisible just to avoid talking to certain people. We were invisible, thousands of miles away.

 

The new year greeting cards have been replaced by a broadcast message on WhatsApp. Handmade birthday cards are now status updates on Facebook. Fingertips on fancy mobile phone screens are now what fountain pens on letter pads used to be.

 

Technology made everything faster, easier, better. However, it lost out on one thing.

 

The magic.

Who’s there?

15 Sep

 

It was 9:30 PM on a Saturday night. There was a power cut and I was sprawled on the bed fiddling with my phone. Suddenly the silence of the night was pierced by someone banging urgently on the door of my single room on the terrace of a religious and peace loving family. My body tensed. I immediately sat up, my heart thumping against my ribs. My brain went into a tizzy, trying to pinpoint who it could be. The banging continued. “Just a second”, I called out. The banging still continued, creating an annoying pressure on my head, not letting me think logically. I realized that I still sat frozen on the bed. Why was I so scared? Half a minute later, I reluctantly unlocked the door, my eyes searching for a sharp object close by, just in case. As I opened the door, the 6 year old boy who lived downstairs walked in, asking me if he could borrow a blue ballpoint pen. A nervous smile of relief came on my face as I handed him the pen with still trembling hands. I realized then that if I would have thought logically, I would have known that it could only be someone from the landlord’s family and that there was nothing to fear.

 

I had always been one of the bravest among my friends. Willing to sleep alone after a horror movie marathon, always ready for adventurous trips bordering on being dangerous, all the while never worrying about any possible mishap. It might have been naivety mixed with courage, nonetheless, a knock on the door never left me so flustered. What then worried me so much about the possibility of an intruder at my door in the safest of situations?

 

We all know that terrible things can happen. Rape, murder, domestic violence, they are all as common as petty thefts in today’s times. We read about them in the newspaper, express disappointment, frustration, pity and engage in heated unending debates and discussions about where the society is headed. Mid conversation, we look at our watches, exclaim at how late we are for a task, and hurry to continue with our lives. The news article we read a few hours back is soon forgotten amongst the haggle with the auto wala, the loud honks in the traffic, and the sweat beads rolling down the spine characteristic of the terrible heat in North India. As we go on with our daily business, the fear of being the victim in the heinous crime in the newspaper article does not cross our mind. Why don’t we shudder every time we step into an auto or a bus? Maybe it is the optimism and faith instilled in most of us that reiterates that the worst may never happen to us. It is a mechanism that helps us function effectively in a world where the crime rates only seem to be going up.

 

What was it then, that made me freeze at the banging on the door? What was it that shattered the belief that the worst may never happen to me? What was it that made me realize that the unfortunate girl in the newspaper could very well be me?

 

It is only when something terrible happens to someone like us that we realize that the reality is in fact, very real. That is when we realize that we might be the next. We all know about rape. But there is still a part of us that feels that it won’t happen to us if we do not dress provocatively and venture out late in the night. We all know about domestic violence. But we reassure ourselves by reasoning that the victims are only the hapless women belonging to the lower socio-economic status. Our mind wonderfully protects us from these worries, and rightly so, for it actually might never happen to most of us.

 

But is a close brush with the unexpected, the tremors of horror that ran through us as we witnessed something unimaginable, that raises all our guards, and impairs our senses, with just a harmless knock on the door.

Life sucks

14 Sep

My life sucks.

I got drenched in the rain on the way back from work. I forgot to pay my phone bill and now my service is deactivated till tomorrow. I went to the supermarket and they are out of my favourite cupcakes.

Or.

My car broke down and I don’t have enough money to get it repaired. I twisted my ankle and now it has swollen to the size of an ogre’s head. My boyfriend broke up with me after three years of relationship.

We curse our lives for a plethora of reasons. They range from everyday trifles to bigger disappointments which seem monstrous at that particular time. We blame the people or situations that put us through these problems, sometimes karma, and sometimes even God. In the process, we fail to realize that it turns us into wretched people who only wallow in self pity.

We all have been taught to appreciate what we have been blessed with and to always look for the silver lining. But sometimes it just seems too dark and the silver seems to have lost its sheen and lacks lustre. No amount of inspirational words help and it just seems easier to drown in the grief and throw the darts of blame on whoever appears on the dartboard.

A lot has been written on these lines and I don’t claim for this to be exceptionally enlightening. I have cursed my life numerous times for a myriad of trivial reasons. Being an escapist by nature, it only seems reasonable to hurriedly pass the parcel of blame before the music stops.

However, today, I want to celebrate all the joys that have been bestowed upon me and for once, not let the tiny leeches of regret suck on my happiness. Not today.

I am thankful for a healthy and happy family. For people I can always have a laugh with. For friends who I know will always be around when I fall. For the sweet smell of a baby. For the rains in the scorching sun and the sun in the nipping cold. For the joys of writing and dancing. For music. For the gift of sight and hearing and able limbs.

For strawberries. For the smell of new books. For colours. For paneer tikka. For sundresses. For the late night shikara ride in Kashmir. For the smile on the homeless man’s face when you fetch him a bottle of water.

For all that I have experienced and for all that there is yet to come.

For life.

Superhero

13 Sep

Imagine a new born baby. With a face as big as your fist, apprehensive eyes exploring the wondrous expanse of view, it mews softly as we pull and pinch its cheeks and nose.

Now imagine a toddler. Trying to stand up again and again on crooked and shaky legs, it falls down every time it almost reaches the dead bug it had been eyeing for so long. You shriek in disgust and pull her away, with a disapproving look or an occasional reprimand. The child looks on at you with an innocent face that immediately melts your heart.

You see the child everyday, while feeding them, bathing them, changing their diapers, handing them things that are painfully out of their reach. As you stand towering above them, knowing that you are indispensable to their survival, it almost makes you feel like their saviour, doesn’t it? You smile smugly at their helplessness and futile attempts to do simple things like grasping a ball. You feel like their superhero.

Right?

Wrong.

I realized how wrong we are when I met my superhero. My tiny newborn niece. The moment I saw her fresh out of the operation theater, visibly annoyed at being disturbed from her slumber and taken out of her cocoon, it immediately made me want to become a better person. As waves of giddiness washed over me, I resolved to become someone she could be proud of. A 21 year old adult striving for the recognition and approval from a 10 minute old baby.

With their Id ruling over their psyche, infants have utter disregard for your hunger, sleep, emotional state, deadlines etc. When they beckon you with mischievous eyes for a game of peekaboo, even when every bone in your body is screaming for rest, you still go ahead and hide behind the door. You jump out every few seconds, and each successive delirious laugh of theirs drives out all the fatigue out of your body better than any spa in the world.

Many a times have I held my niece and comforted her every time she got startled by a shout or a sneeze, but I wonder if it could ever match up to the comfort she provided me when I held her with tears streaming down my cheeks, while she continued to pull my hair, oblivious to the situation.

It makes me wonder, why is their gibberish babble more soothing than any wise words? Why are their kicks and scratches more reassuring than any warm caress? And why, the 3 second hug that you force on them, while they struggles to escape from your embrace (read: clutches), gives you more strength than a 1 minute hug from someone intending to comfort?

Maybe it is the way they look at you, with unconditional love, whether you shout at them or smother them with kisses. Maybe it is the way they keep coming back to climb up on you, with unconditional love, no matter how many times you push them away. Or maybe it is the way they smile at you, with unconditional love, lost to the notion that you are complaining about them at that very moment.

Yes, maybe it is just that.

Unconditional love.

image