Author: Anu

Painting In My Garage

I was painting an abstract art in my so-called garage. Well..it’s was not an abstract painting nor was it a garage in the literal sense. It was a just one room with old battered walls. They might have been white once, but now the walls have turned a dirty grey with age, some blocks of brick chipping from here and there, and the stains of paan spit a zillion times adorned them.  And in this little room with iron tiles as roof, I had half-heartedly decided to restart my passion for painting after my Intermediate. I was waiting for an admission into any degree college that wouldn’t happen until three months from now.

I feel comfortable in painting objects that have definite edges. I was painting one such picture on a bright sunny and hot day in March.

‘What are you doing’, I hear the voice of a little girl. I turn around to see a girl of about eight. She is in her school uniform that desperately required washing.  ‘I am painting a picture,’ I say.

She comes into my garage and was about to sit on a stool that had my painting brushes on it. I brush her off. She is still standing there. ‘What color is that?’

‘Yellow’

‘But that doesn’t look like yellow to me’

‘That’s called yellow ochre’

‘Ohh, you know our arts sir at school asked me to draw a horse. But I drew like this’, she removed her notebook to show a horse whose muzzle had become rather too stretched. The legs were good. She had managed to draw hoofs and a saddle too. This kid certainly had imagination. The eyes were wide and teasing – something you see in cartoons’

‘Not bad’, I thought for an eight-year old.

‘Can you paint a beautiful horse for me? It should be better than Vihaan’s sketch’

‘But how will I know how Vihaan sketches’, I say

‘You don’t know Vihaan? He’s our class topper. He thinks he know everything. Teachers praise him all the time’, she says.

‘Do you think our arts teacher is going to like my horse’, she says.

Now, I cannot lie to this little girl. ‘Yes, you sketched something really good’, I say.

She smiles and I notice that her two lower teeth are missing.

We were silent for a while with the little girl keenly observing my painting as I keep doing it.  Just to keep the conversation flowing, I ask, ‘Do you like my painting?’

‘Huhh..not much..it’s like the rectangles and triangles I learn in my maths class’, she says.

I don’t reply and continue my painting. After watching for some time, I hear a honking of a school bus. The little girl quickly bade me good bye and runs to the bus stop. From that day, she more or less has become a frequent visitor to my garage. On Thursdays the school bus comes a little late and she stays a little longer.

Some days I allow her to hold my brush and paint along with me. We became friends.  She shows me drawing book. This girl surely has a lot of imagination. In one picture I see mountains with ice over them and a helicopter at one end with a little girl getting down the helicopter. We continue chatting for some time.

‘Today also you will paint yellow to those rectangles?’ she asks.

I didn’t expect this question. I wanted to tell her that they were not mere rectangles but didn’t see the point in explaining to an eight-year old.

To this I merely say ‘May be other colors too’

She looks at my painting for some more time and finally says ‘I don’t want to become a painter like you’.

‘Why?’

‘These things that you are painting are so boring. It’s straight all throughout’.

I feel offended.

‘So what will you paint if you become a painter?’

She rolls her eyes up for some time as if thinking and says, ‘In Doraemon cartoon once Nobita is caught in a sea while he’s trying to swim. But luckily some people on a ship save him. I think I’ll draw that’.

I keep looking at this little girl for some time. After a while a boy comes. Looks like the girl but older. I immediately guessed it was her brother. He must be around 10-11 well-built for a boy of that age, playing sports maybe. He quickly scans my so-called little garage and observes that it is in very bad shape, but is too decent to say it.

‘Sorry that my sister comes here too often and disturbs you,’ he says politely.

‘What do you do with all these paintings?,’ he asks directly coming to the point.

‘Sometimes I sell to small hotels or offices for their interior decoration,’ I say.

‘So people buy your paintings’, he says as if in disbelief.

I could see that he wasn’t impressed by the fact that people buy my paintings. But again was quick enough to compose his face to not show his emotions. The schools nowadays train children well on behavior and decency I guess.

I continue my painting. After a while, he taps his sister as if he wants them to leave.

That night I have a strange dream. I was in a beautiful place surrounded by mountains and trees. The mountains are brown mostly with snow patches here and there. The trees are tall very tall touching the sky almost. There’s a very narrow path among the trees and I take the path. This time am not scared as to where the path is leading me. I am just happy walking along the path, listening to the sounds of the birds, and looking at the tall trees.  After walking for a while, I can hear the sound of water, maybe there’s a lake nearby. As I keep walking the sound of the water becomes more distinct and alive. It’s the sound of flowing water. I approach the stream and as I bend to touch the water, I am pulled into the stream and being swept away. I shout desperately for help and see a boat at a distance that is approaching me very rapidly. On the boat I see the little girl smiling and throwing a life guard at me.

I immediately wake up.

I neither see the little girl nor her brother for three weeks. It is a hot Wednesday when I see the little girl again.

‘You know Sandy uncle who lives way down the street..they are going to America.’

I had sold one of my paintings to them. I wonder if they had packed it too along with their luggage. Or had they thrown it as trash?

She seems to gaze at my new paintings..not yet complete. ‘Aren’t you painting triangles and circles any more?’

‘No I guess’

‘Then what is it that you are painting?’. She moves closer keenly looking at my painting.

‘Wooww..mountains, water, trees..like we had seen in Khandala..very nice..very nice’

I couldn’t help smiling. ‘So, you won’t be painting like you used to anymore?’

‘Maybe sometimes, but I want to paint other things too..other beautiful things’

‘Do you think I’ll be able to?’, I ask her mockingly.

She smiles and says, ‘Maybe’!

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Lipstick, eyeliner, and makeup

It’s 9.15 am. I take a final look briefly at the mirror. A sad lifeless face stared back at me. These days I cannot stand my own face. It’s getting late for office. I try to eat a quick breakfast – the idlis are way too hard and the chutney had no salt altogether. ‘These idlis taste like rubber, I can’t have them’ I shout at my mom, take my bag and run for my car.

‘Damn it, you haven’t cleaned my car again today’, I yell at the watchman.

‘I am sorry amma, yesterday Chinnu was running a high fever..so had to take him to a doctor’

‘Always giving excuses’.

I started my car and didn’t turn back. Damnn traffic.

At my office, the reception guy says with a broad smile, ‘Good morning ma’m’. I give a curt nod. I wonder why he smiles so much.

My colleague, friend, and reportee Divya is waiting for me.

‘Morning gal, take a bite at these sweets – I made them myself. Hubby and kids loved them’, she says.

I gently push the box away.

‘Divya, the last report you sent to the client had so much incomplete data, and the grammar was bad too. Sorry to say this, but you need to get serious about work gal. You always seem to take work too easily – you invent all sorts of excuses when I ask you to do something..

’My kid isn’t well’, ‘It’s my husband’s birthday..’this just won’t do.

I knew I had hurt her. But I didn’t care. She stared at me for some time in disbelief with her eyes flooded with tears. ‘You already knew that my grammar wasn’t good. But then you told me that I would pick up along the way. And about the client, the requirements are just evolving. The client didn’t bother when I sent that sheet with incomplete data..’ she told silently.

‘And reg my family, everybody has one and moments with them’..she said between sobs.

At the word, ‘moments’, I felt paralyzed as if stuck.

‘I had my moments too Divya, but now they are gone. Gone forever’, I thought.

I do not know what went wrong between me and Arun. Or have I been too blind to not take notice? He’s not meeting me as he was before. No texts. No whatsapp either. And whenever I call him, which is very frequently nowadays, I reach his voice message. And these times, when I had to talk to his answering machine, I get a knot in my stomach. He keeps reassuring me time and again, ‘I am just busy with work dear’, …but why do I sense a coldness in his voice..surely it is not the same voice that used to bustle with energy at my voice.

‘What have I done wrong Arun?’

‘If I was not good enough for you, you should have told me before – I cannot go back to what I was now’.

I cried and cried in the washroom, with my hand kerchief pressed to my mouth. Surely, I cannot let anyone at office discover my grief. I could hear the voices of Swati and Bindu discuss Bindu’s wedding next month.  Bindu seemed to be saying Swati – something naughty about her fiancée, and both were hugging each other and giggling.

I felt another surge of knot in my stomach, and had to puke this time.

‘Divya, I have an important work to do. If there’s anything you need me for, call me’.

She looked cold at me with an expression that said, ‘Isn’t this taking excuses’? but said nothing though. These days I have been too aloof and boss-like for her to take that chance.

‘We have a client call at 7.30. Would you join?’

‘You manage for today. I have something important to do’.

I felt sorry for Divya. She had no other choice but to put up with me. We were the only two employees of the company working from India. Even if my behavior sucked, she had nobody to take the issue to. Further, I was her lead.

‘Why are you home so early?’, my mom asked. I let it pass. Didn’t want to answer. My mom is now aware of my mood swings and is very concerned. Every time she tried to broach the subject, I avoided it. I went to my room and closed the door. Nothing could control me now. I was hitting the wall, swearing silently, and crying. The gift that Arun had given me a few months ago, a brownish-red handbag with a cute ‘hello kitty’ on it. was lying in the corner. When I was planning to buy a new handbag a couple of months ago, he had silently put it in my car. That day I wouldn’t have exchanged the bag for anything in the world.

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Days passed. I didn’t know how nor I cared. Looked like life had a way of going on even if I didn’t want to. I talked very less at office or home nowadays. Divya told me that she could take my ire but not my indifference.

Usually I love winter the best. But this winter just didn’t seem to pass. My only solace was the walk I went alone to a nearby park. I had known this park since I was a child and nothing about it seems to change – the cool winter breeze, kids playing, the familiar trees, and my favorite bench from where I could see most of the neighborhood without being seen. Maybe this phase is called ‘moving on’.

Dec 20th

Major changes were going on in our company – acquisitions, restructures, and letting go of dormant/non-functioning depts. All these kept me and Divya very busy. We had been clocking 12 hours for the past one month. If I lose my job too now, it would be a total disaster. Wrecked as I was, I didn’t want Arun to see that. So, I was damn bent on saving my job, and me and Divya searched every nook and corner to identify something new that we could do for our dept. We were to give a presentation to the CEO who was visiting our office on 20th Dec.

At 8.30 a.m on Dec 20th, before leaving for office, I took a final look at my face. My cheeks went hollow due to not eating enough for many days, dark circles were forming around my eyes. I decided one-thing – opened the left drawer in the shelf. This drawer was my favorite place until a few months ago when Arun decided to ditch me. It contained all my make-up items. I slowly and very hesitantly applied cream and foundation, massaging my face gently and carefully. How I missed these simple things that were always a pleasure to me. The foundation managed to hide my dark circles to a great extent. And the new eyeconic Lakme kajal did a magic to my eyes. For the lipstick, I was hesitating between light brown and mauve. Then, on a second thought, I opened the drawer on the right and took out a bright RED LIPSTICK which I had saved exclusively to be worn when Arun was around. Maybe the color was too bright for an office presentation, but I didn’t care.

A new, beautiful, and happy face stared at me. The week looked very busy – I need to catch up on my old friends, take Divya for a lunch treat, movie with my mom..

I remember our time together

I remember our time together

Do not say I ditched

I was the one who always compromised

You were harsh, rude, and aloof a lot of times

But remember? I talked to you, wanted to cheer you and see you smile

I might not have said much – but you know my actions might have told you I cared

Much more than your hollow ‘I love you’s that didn’t match up to the actions!!

Now, don’t blame me for your choices

You were never serious; emotions didn’t mean much to you anyways

Otherwise why would you go after other girls, knowing fully well how loyal I was!

It was you who didn’t mind breaking my trust and heart

You gave impassive replies when I was opening my heart to you

Anyways what’s the point in talking to you about feelings? You cared less!

Ok, you may ask me why I loved you

In spite of knowing all along that you didn’t love me?

Well, the truth is I wanted to love you even if you didn’t love me back

Wanted to just be there for you, around you…

With a hope that one day you will love me back!

The day you left me crying and turned your back to me – a part of me that yearned for you died!!

I couldn’t stoop any lower than that!!

So, decided to move on.

Needed to set right a lot of things ignored – people who really cared. Things that mattered.

I didn’t do any wrong.

Now, do not say I ditched.

Being Out of Place

”Yes, I will definitely be there in 20 min”, I said when you called me again to attend your birthday party. Put through a lot of strain to feel cool and casual in your presence, that too in case you had noticed me! You will never know that I had tried every dress in my wardrobe, before I remembered that once you had told me that your favorite color was pink and that girls looked cool in pink. But my pink anarkali dress had a stain at the bottom, and I couldn’t take the risk of letting it show. Well, not that it was the first time that I was meeting you, but off late I started to feel very nervous and weird in your presence, as if I really do not match up. But I try, nonetheless!

After spraying the perfume, I realize that I might have been late already. I walk hurriedly the distance towards your house. A lot of things go in my mind – how do I greet you, what do I talk about, will you notice me, comment that I looked good (even if you didn’t mean it)..

I hear the sounds of a lot of guests and activity as I reach your home. The sandals outside the door oozed wealth and height of fashion, the first hint I got as to what the party was going to be!!

And then I saw you!! How astonishing you looked in that maroon sherwani! ‘Hello Preeti, I am happy that you could make it’, you said. Your voice sounded very hollow and devoid of emotion to me.

Then I saw your mother and said ‘”Hello aunty!”

”Hi Preeti”, her face remaining impassive. It was as if she could penetrate my heart and guess what I felt for her son, and didn’t approve of it!

“Go and join Sanjay’s friends there”, your mother said. I slowly make my way towards a group of girls – your friends obviously. How elegant, beautiful, and rich they all looked. I felt as if even the house maid was better dressed than I was. As soon as I sat among them, they all were staring at me, or rather I felt so. I started feeling nervous. Until then, I couldn’t recall one friendly gaze or word-not even yours! I spotted your friend, Aarti among the group and said, ”Hi Aarti, I didn’t know that you were coming”. Immediately a few of the girls started laughing. Aarti, laughed too, along with others, rolled her kohl-made eyes and said, ‘”How can Sanjay have his birthday party without me?”

That kind of sent a chill down my spine. I didn’t speak to anybody else after that nor did anybody bother about me. You seemed to be too occupied with all your other guests, talking and joking. And when you joined us, you immediately sat beside Aarti-you guys looked way too close for ‘just friends’ that you told me about. You forgot me as if I didn’t exist!  What happened to the Sanjay that I knew, full of humor, natural, and who liked me?

Although I had been in your house for many times, I felt as if I was in a new place! Inside I was just dying with a thousand thoughts, each wanting my attention at once! Why did Aarti slap your hand in response to what you said? Did you say something romantic? Is Aarti just your friend or more than a friend? Do you still like me, or did you even like me before or said things just casually? And most importantly, why is your behavior to me so forced, cold, and emotionless today? Why isn’t anybody else talking to me today?

The lump inside my throat was forcing outside..

More than liking you, the worst thing would have been to make it obvious to everybody. I didn’t want that to happen.

Then suddenly, out of the blue a thought stuck me, the truth of the situation..

I DIDN’T BELONG THERE

I excused myself before I could show my tears and make a complete fool of myself, and left the party.

Memoirs of a brief journey

Good, bad, happy, unhappy, embarrassed, cool, easy – those were my post-graduation days!!Today, after many years, I still remember the moments as if it was yesterday!

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I joined a good-enough college for my post-graduation. On the very first day, we the new joiners were seated in the big conference hall for one of those boring lectures, where every professor/lecturer would talk about the rules, the protocol, their standing, and about how lucky we all were. On the joining day, I was not interested in the prestige of the college, or stuff like that. I just wanted to scan the faces around and see if I could make friends with anybody. I scanned the faces around me. Some of them were talking, laughing, and were having a good time. While some, like me were looking at everybody else with whom they had to spend the next two years. I was seated among a group of girls, who didn’t find it too difficult to introduce, talk, and giggle to each other. I tried to do some talking, but nobody paid any attention, or so it appeared to me. The second day was no better either. I talked to one girl, and was expecting to be seated beside her, but she had changed her place on the third day.

In a few days, it looked as if the entire class had arranged itself, and found somebody to talk to, or make friends with, except me! When you are a college girl, having friends takes a priority over everything else. Being a wallflower is the last thing any college girl would want! Worse than being the last in the class is being left out!

Thus continued my days..me going, sitting alone in an isolated place, just doing nothing, and going home dot on time, when the rest of the class stayed back and had fun. I hardly had a girl friend to talk to. Crushes or infatuations were totally out of question!! I was miserable!!

It was then I guess I made my first friend in months…another loner like me, Selvam. Selvam hailed from a small town in Tamil Nadu. It was easy to see how he remained a loner…he was too loud, too obvious, cracked silly jokes, which all of us were done with by the school level. And worst of all, he tried really hard to impress girls!! Maybe he too knew that the others didn’t like him much, but never showed it. But there was one thing about Selvam that wasn’t so obvious at the start – he had a great brain and a great heart too!! Although initially I kind of was not comfortable with Selvam around (I much preferred one of the other cool guys), I guess I kind of got used to him eventually. Slowly, two others joined our little group – a guy, Subramaniam (Subbu), and another girl Lakshmi (who again hailed from another little town in Andhra).

Slowly, I learnt that Selvam’s knowledge on various matters, current affairs, business, and companies was immense. Not just that – he was able to analyse the market and the business strategies that companies followed. We, the new little group – Subbu, Selvam, Lakshmi, and me used to hold little discussions. Selvam had a way of contesting everything you say, he could argue ‘for’ and ‘against’ something with equal logic. Easily, if you ignore the English-speaking skills, Selvam was the most intelligent guy in the class.

We used to walk the 1 km distance from college to the main road, and talk, laugh, or debate on the way. It was a beautiful stretch with trees on either side. I could feel it – we guys were developing a very deep friendship.

In an effort to impress girls, Selvam would talk too much, and make a spectacle of himself. Girls would laugh very directly at him, some would roll their eyes as he tried very desperately to talk something, and some would even pass rude remarks at him.  But Selvam neither understood, nor changed! Not just the girls, guys didn’t like him either. He was not included in any of the committees, or there were even instances when guys said ‘I will quit the committee if Selvam joins’..and so he had to back out. In those instances, I found tears in his eyes.

Here was an honest guy who had a heart of gold..so what if he didn’t know the niceties of life? Why doesn’t the world accept him as he is? That’s the way the world functions I guess!!

The days went on. I no longer was embarrassed of Selvam. In fact I was proud of him.

Campus placements!! Tension everywhere. For a big MNC, all the guys were filtered, until it was Selvam and one more guy. As Selvam was attending the interview, I kept my fingers crossed and prayed that he should get through! It was a huge opportunity. Not just me, the other guys in the class who didn’t like Selvam until then were also hoping that both of them should get through. The big news came to me – both the guys got through!!

Selvam came running to college (as was his habit when he was too excited), found me, and was all smiles. Our little gang celebrated Selvam’s job opportunity in our small way – samosas and chai.

A few days later, I too got placed in a reputed MNC. Selvam was even more excited than me, and was telling everybody he could find and who could lend an ear about how tough the interview was, and how I had managed to crack it. He was definitely exaggerating, but I didn’t mind a bit :-). Even Lakshmi and Subbu were super-excited, although they didn’t get placed by then!!

With friends like that, I honestly didn’t mind being a wallflower.

 

Finding myself

I feel butterflies in my stomach. I try to take very long breaths, but they do not seem to slow down the intensity of a sadness that I feel at this moment. I try my best to gulp and swallow the orange that seems to be forming without control in my throat. I make my best efforts to push back the salty water that’s trying to gush down my eyes. Very soon, it’ll stain my face and start running down my cheeks. People would ask ‘What’s wrong?’ For which I have no answer or do not wish to answer. No, that should not happen. With one last effort, I sip a little water, use a tissue to wipe my eyes, and compose my face to something impassive, if not a smile…because that’s the best I can manage. I am surrounded by a lot of people, but never have I felt so lonely. I do not want to talk or be talked to, if that can be managed.

I look at the people around me..they seem to be happy and content. If not, they aren’t atleast experiencing this turmoil that I am going through.

‘Why can’t I be just like them?’

‘Why do I have to feel the way I feel’?

Is this a feeling the world calls ‘depression’?

Now, why am I depressed? Is it that my sweetheart doesn’t love me back the way I love him? Or the vacant feeling in my life? Or am I in a place where I don’t belong? Or a close friend betrayed me?

Or for no reason at all, but yet I feel terribly low?

If I even make an attempt to talk about it, I am afraid of people judging me and saying,

‘No, you should not be thinking this way’

‘You should be happy that you are blessed with so much. Not many people in this world are so lucky.’

‘You must be kidding! I cannot believe it. Are you depressed for such a silly reason’?

‘Heyyy, this is soo wrong! You are a very bad person’

I try to turn on the logical part of my brain and analyse: ‘Maybe I am blessed better than many others. Maybe it’s wrong and unethical to think this way at all. Maybe the reason is very very silly. Maybe I am really a bad bad person after all.’

As I am thinking these thoughts, this one thought finds pushes its way through full force and strikes me as a blow…’EVEN IF ALL THESE REASONS HAPPEN TO BE TRUE, STUPID, YOU STILL CANNOT STOP FEELING THE WAY YOU DO’ Probably because I feel these emotions at my soul-level, and not my intellect-level?

I feel a surge of tears again, but this time, I excuse myself and just go from that place. I keep walking fast, faster, and running with tears blocking my vision. But this time, I make no effort to stop or control them. They must just flow. They seem to have a mind of their own. The sun is setting now, a sight I would have loved before, but not today. Not now. I lean against a tree that I find. And I weep, weep like I have never wept before. I am not embarrassed to cry now. I am hitting the tree with my fists, crying, swearing, talking to the trees and rocks that surround me. After what seemed to me like an eternity, I feel better than what I had felt in days. I look around and realize that it is dark. But am not afraid. I feel as if something soothing and heavenly is wrapping me, working on my insides. I immediately feel a kinship with the tree that I have been hitting for some time now. The rocks, the wind, the grass – they seem to talking to me..trying to say something to me..

Am I being made aware of the omnipresence of GOD?

I walk back home, feeling better, peaceful with that graceful feeling that seems to wrap me 🙂

The Rain

The rain was just pouring on to me

The umbrella was hardly doing its job

With one hand occupied, I vaguely tried adjusting my dupatta

Wait…there were my handbag and lunch bag too

And that’s not all, my sandles were wet, and slippery

And then..I had to cross this street to find an auto

I wiped my eyes with the hand that held the lunch box and my hand bag

To make sense of the vehicle lights

And find the right moment to cross

I finally managed it to find a share auto

And reached home – a complete mess –  drenched and dirty

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Well, that was an year ago

Today, it’s raining again

But not a drop of rain is touching me

My new dress is as new as I wore it that morning

My perfume still lingers on

I am comfortably seated in the driver’s seat

With my hand bag and my lunch bag in the back seat

I watch the people in the rain from the glass window

I had been among those people an year ago

Did anything change?

I neither feel happy nor sad

I am confused, a bit lost

Was I happier outside?

I do not know

Life just moves on..I guess

No matter what!!