Thursday, August 14, 2014

The story of a bottle!

Have you ever experienced your mind go blank? I did, that day. It was, as if, for a moment, I was nothing, no one. I did not exist, and I did, at the same time. It was as if my mind was pausing for a moment, and then, the thoughts, they came rushing, from every direction. I wanted to scream, and I wanted to feel the silent agony, at the same time. I wonder now, if I screamed then. Wonder if any one heard me.

    Sitting on the kitchen floor, slumped against the counter, I stared at the bottle lying on the floor, right in front of me. The pretty lights from the balcony seemed to bounce off the bottle, making the bottle look so much prettier. I felt transfixed, staring at it, couldn't take my eyes off it. I started seeing images, moving images on the surface of the bottle. At first, these images, looked like me. Avoiding the paparazzi, shielding my face from the camera flashes, and then flashing a reluctant smile, just before getting into the car. The big beautiful posters with my face all over those. The magazine articles, talking about how I maintained to stay fit, and stay so beautiful. The numerous photo shoots. Then the images changed. And it was now all about my movies. What was that bottle trying to do? It seemed to have a hidden agenda.

    I wanted to bring my hands to my eyes, rub them vigorously, and wake myself up. I wanted to pinch myself, and tell myself, that bottles don't tell stories. But I was too exhausted to lift up my hands. My hands felt so heavy, as if made of lead. The images continued their game. Showing me my movies, my fans, my awards. It was as if, I was watching the story of someone else's life. Then came the men. That one particular director, who saw the star in me. That actor, who thought I was the most beautiful girl in the world. That businessman, who wanted to marry me. Just fleeting images, as if the bottle was taunting me and laughing at me, making a mockery of the relationships that had lasted just as long, fleeting images. Then the bottle seemed to lose it's sense of humour. And the story took a dark turn. The days of loneliness, the days of no men, no friends, no movies. The days of drug addiction, the days of rehab, then the days of drinking, all flashing past my eyes. I could no longer make out, whether the images were still flashing on the bottle, or elsewhere, or in my mind. I tried to see clearly, but everything was a blur.

     I felt exhausted. I wanted to close my eyes, and go to a deep sleep. And never wake up. I felt that sometimes, when I had a bottle too many. I felt that so many times, these days. I was no longer concentrating on the flashing images, and I was losing consciousness. But as I closed my eyes, I saw that image. Then, she saw that little angel, walking on her own, for the first time, holding on to the couch, looking wide eyed at her. Her first bicycle ride, her first school dance. Her prom. These were the last thoughts, and I think I closed my eyes, with a smile on my face. Probably the only thing, that had made me smile, during the entire day and in a long, long time.

     Moments later, I felt as if something was bothering me, pricking my closed eyes, and I opened them to see sunlight filtering through the balcony, right into my kitchen. Hours had passed, and I had spent my night, lying drunk on the floor of my penthouse apartment, lonely. I saw the bottle, lying right in front of me. Turning around, I saw my phone lying on the floor. I sat upright, and grabbed it,frantically dialling a number.

     After a few rings, I heard a groggy voice on the other end saying 'Hello! Who is this?'. Reluctantly, and with a little fear, I responded, 'Hi! Honey'. And then, there was silence. She responded, uninterested and with contempt 'Hey mum! What is it this time? Rehab? Hit and run? Anything else you might want to add to that list?'. I swallowed hard, and said, 'It's nothing this time, darling. I am at home. I just woke up, on the kitchen floor.' 'You are at home? And you are not in any trouble?'. She seemed so surprised and a little shocked, and didn't want to believe me. 'No.' I couldn't think of anything else to say. After another brief silence, she said 'I will come see you in a while. Will grab some coffee on the way.' After a small pause, she added, 'I have not seen you in ages, mum.' She sighed. 'It's been good to hear your voice.' And she put down the phone.

     Getting up from where I lay, I started tidying the kitchen. Empty takeout containers, and the bottles went to trash. I picked up that last empty bottle lying on the floor. Deep down, I felt, this would be my last bottle, after all. I stared at the bottle now. Just another bottle. It looked plain now, no colourful images danced on it, no light reflected on it. I lovingly took it to the sink, and washed it, rinsing it, and then I put it out in the sun to dry. I did not want to throw the bottle, that had told me a story, and then showed me the only thing that mattered, that should have mattered all along. My angel was coming home.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The storm within!

She sat at the study table, doodling something on a sheet of paper. Her husband was saying something to her, but she wasn't listening. Her thoughts were elsewhere. Her husband took one look at her, and left the room. She sighed in relief. She wanted to be left to her thoughts. But that was not to be. She heard him calling from the kitchen, and she could hear clanging of the dishes.

She stood up and walked towards the kitchen. He stood there, with two empty dishes in hand. His expression said 'Why haven't you cooked anything?'. She took one look at his face, disgusted. She said, 'I am not your maid' and ran out of the kitchen , going into the study and locking herself in.

Yes, she was not his maid. He had other women to pleasure him, drinks and friends occupying his times of leisure, and the smell of tobacco lingering about him always. Was he the man she had married, so stupidly married? Now, she was trapped, in this, playing the role of his maid. It hurt. It had hurt, from a long time. But then, why was she bursting out today, like this? Was it all the bottled up anger? Or.. was it guilt?

Yes, guilt. She remembered the previous night. It had been raining heavily. She was worried and had been waiting for him. And then, the telephone rang. When she received, she heard a distant voice from the other end. It was not him, but it was one of his many friends. The voice merely said, 'Bhabhi, your husband is at my place. Hmm... the thing is, he is slightly drunk, so I thought he could stay here today. It's raining anyway...'. She simply put the receiver down. The drunken bastard!! She sat still for a while, till she started feeling warm tears running down her face. What a miserable wreck she had become!!

She had wanted to talk to someone, let out all her feelings and ask for some help. If not one, she needed a friendly shoulder to lean on. She grabbed her old shawl, and her umbrella, and walked out of the house, locking the door behind her. She walked steadily in the rain, holding her umbrella with a strong determination, to not let it fly away. She knew that there was one person who would listen to her, who would understand her. She lifted her hand to knock at his door. But noticing that it was open, she entered, looking for him. He sat there, on the floor, with a glass in front of him. She cleared her throat, and he looked up. He merely said 'Hi, why don't you come in?'. No surprise! A mere acknowledgement of her presence. She looked at him. 'Since when did you start drinking? You are also becoming like him.' He pushed his glass away, and motioned her to sit down, on the floor. She came in, keeping the umbrella near the door.

He asked, 'He hasn't come home tonight? Again?'. She hung her head in shame, as tears threatened to roll down her cheeks. He said 'I am sorry you married him. You deserve better. He doesn't know your value. You are a wonderful woman, Ahalya. I know what you are going through.' He looked into her eyes. Tears were welling up. He said 'I pity you.' Then, her anger got the better of her. 'Everybody gives me pity. You are his good friend, his well wisher. Do something. Talk to him. I do not want to be this miserable all my life.' she shouted. He looked at her, alarmed. And then, he took her hand in his, and held it firm, trying to calm her down. And she had leaned in, to lay her head on his shoulder, to calm herself. As she did so, a storm erupted somewhere inside her. And as he breathed, close to her head, in his rhythmic breathing, she heard him calling out to her. And she had responded, matching her rhythm to his rhythm.

Sitting in the study now, remembering the events of last night, her heart started racing. She got up, feeling suffocated, and ran outside. It was raining, heavily. Her husband shouted, 'Wretched woman! Why are you running into the rain? Are you mad?'. She did not respond. She just stood there, feeling the rain drops, which seemed to be trying to calm her down. He again said, 'Crazy woman, if you want to stand out there, at least wrap yourself in your bloody shawl. I hate to have you coughing and sneezing all over the house.' Then she turned to him, smiled, and said 'I lost the shawl... last night'.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


She sat there, by the window,at her desk, watching the snow fall. Her head was full of thoughts. She was confused. She did not know what to write next. Every sunday, she would read the chapter of her story published that day in the paper.Then, she would know what would come next. She would know what had to happen next, to her characters, and that's how she wrote it, every week, making sure she had her story ready for the press when they wanted.

Things had changed this time. She had just written the penultimate chapter of her story. It had been published that Sunday. And according to her usual routine, she read her story, reading it the way it appeared in the paper. And then, she waited for thoughts to flow. This would be her last chapter, the climax to her story. The ending had to be good. She knew. A good story, with a bad ending or an unsatisfactory ending could never be a good story in the first place.

She felt pressured. As the thoughts came to her mind, she dismissed every one of them. The climax had to please all her readers, or at least most of them. People would remember her story and people would remember her for her story. Tuesday came and went, and she still had no story ready. The press was in no hurry. The paper would come out on Sunday anyway. She had time till Saturday. Day by day, the pressure mounted. She could come up with no proper ending chapter to her story and it took away her sleep. When she went grocery shopping, people would pester her about it, asking her how the story would end. She locked herself in, not able to handle it all. Days went by just like that, and it was Saturday, and then, Sunday came.

All over the country, people opened their Sunday morning papers, looking to read the conclusion to that thrilling story. But there was no story there, where it should have been. Her readers frantically rushed through the paper, searching for the story, but it was nowhere to be seen. But tucked away at the corner of the second page was an obituary. They would never read the ending to that story.

She had died while writing that last chapter of her story, the story that would immortalize her. A heart attack had instantly killed her. People were sad. And also disappointed that they wouldn't get to read the final chapter. That great story would go unfinished, after all. But it was not over yet. The newspaper, sometime during midweek, asked for an opinion poll of it's readers. They informed the general public that, she had died while writing the story, she hadn't completed her last chapter. Would the people want that semi-finished chapter published anyway? Most of the people voted yes. And the story would thus appear in the Sunday paper. The last chapter, the incomplete one.

Sunday paper arrived but the excitement was low. As they flicked through the pages, they saw her story, that last chapter. And they read it. And read it again. It was indeed incomplete. There were unanswered questions. But the incomplete story, had, in a weird way, given the perfect ending to her story. It had pleased all her readers, leaving them pondering over it, thoughtful. By being incomplete, her story had indeed reached the level of expectations she'd had from it. It had become immortal, a story that would be remembered. In death, she had achieved, what she couldn't have done in life. In death, she had immortalized herself.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Two of the many faces!

Leela was an expert in her field. Her fame in the field of Sugam Sangeeth, as music and as a composer was unparalleled. Her words about Sugam Sangeeth meant, 'authority'. No one questioned her, usually. Fame and praise had become a part of her daily life now. Humility, she practiced. Never once, showing to the world, the pride that she felt at her work. She remembered that day, what a famous poet had quoted in one of his speeches. He had said, 'We poets write poems to express ourselves. Not always do these poems reach the common man. But because of musicians like Leela, our poems become famous and people remember us, along with her, when they hear her music.' She had felt so much pride at this. But it wasn't always as flowery and nice, as she would soon see.

Just as she was remembering this, her name was announced on the microphone. She remembered, that she was, on a stage, in a big program in Bangalore. She was supposed to give a speech, on Sugam Sangeeth. She felt like a proud mom, talking about her own child, as she stood up and walked towards the microphone. She started addressing the audience, telling them about that particular field of music, how it had grown in the past few years, etc. She quoted the words of that famous poet, making sure she eliminated her own name. She was quoting a fact indeed. Sugam sangeeth does do the work of popularizing these less known poems, and sometimes, poets too. They were great in their own way. Without their poems, her music would be futile too. But the common man would pay more attention to the poems when sung to him as songs, rather than when he is asked to read those poems. That's what she quoted that day. She found most of the people nodding their heads in agreement to her words.

From among the audience, suddenly a man stood up. He said 'We poets, we write poems, only to express ourself. We don't want you musicians composing them into songs or anything. We don't write for the sake of that' He said. The auditorium became silent. She had seen this man before. Yes. His name was Ram, a new age poet. She remembered. Not wanting to cause a conflict, she said, with a little smile, 'Sir, I will make sure, that at least I, will never tune your poems.' He didn't know what to say and he just sat down. A few smirked and a few laughed. But the silence was broken and she continued with her talk as if nothing had happened.

Days after this, one day, she sat at home, listening to the radio. It was time for the song of the month. She heard the name of a noted composer, and lo! and Behold! the poet was none other than the Mr. Ram. She listened to the song. It had been done well. The lyrics and the tune complemented each other. She remembered the incident during the speech. Had he been just bitter? Or was he a downright hypocrite? She wanted to find out.

Incidentally, she met him soon, after a few days, at another program like one of those. She wasn't the type to keep quiet. So, directly, she went to him when she saw him. He greeted her, as he saw her approaching. 'Namasthe, madam. How are you?' She replied 'Namaste, Raam ji, I am fine. Thank you. I hope you're doing well too.'. He smiled. And she continued, 'I heard the song of the month on radio. Good work, sir.' She said. He gulped. He knew what she was referring to. For him, the time for defence had come. He said, 'Yes madam. The song has come well.' And he added, defending himself, 'A poem, madam, is like a child. Till it's in the womb, it belongs to the mother only. Once it's out in the open, it has been given to the world. People who visit the child, they want to play with the new born, they keep it on their lap and cuddle it. But it still belongs to the mother. Only, the mother can't really stop the others from playing with it.' He said. He felt proud of his analogies.

She smiled. He had been a bitter hypocrite. She just nodded at his words, silently and made a move, as if to leave. He stopped her and said, 'Madam, can you tune a couple of my poems, I would be honored'. To that, she replied,' I made a public statement, Mr.Ram. I am going to stand by it. I am sorry. But I wish you all the best.' And she left, leaving behind, a dissapointed man. She had seen, the typical two-faced human, she thought. But then, what did she know, these may have ben two of the many faces. Many, may be, indeed, but all harmless to others, except to his own reputation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Eternal search!

Yet another fight, a fall out, with yet another person. She was being forced to question herself. Was something wrong with her? Was she the cause of the fights? She fought with her inner self for the answers. As her questions were met with silence, she sighed in despair. At that moment loneliness seemed to bite at every bone in her body. She got up and walked towards the gate. She stood at the gate, one hand on her chin, and the other firmly gripping the gate. She watched the road, the people. Whenever there were spaces of silence like this in her life, questions arose from inside her. Was she such a bad person at judging people? Did she trust people too easily? May be, yes. She thought. But then she fought, arguing with herself. As a teacher, wasn't she supposed to trust her students?

As she recalled the repetative events of the past few years, a tear escaped her. Where was she going wrong? Even today, she could recall that day clearly. Her doctor has diagnosed her throat problem, she wouldn't ever have the same voice. She would never be able to sing and perform in public. It had hurt. It had taken almost a year, for the pain to pass. And then, with his support and encouragement, she had decided to take up teaching music. It had opened new doors, new possibilities. When students started pouring in, her spirits had been lifted. She no longer cried for what games fate had played with her. She had found a new purpose in life. She had become a teacher.

From that day, she nurtured a wish. A wish, a hope,a search. She hoped to find one student, one day, who would carry on her legacy of music. That one person, who would be a dedicated student, a wonderful, creative singer. Through that one person, she wanted to live her dreams. She would pour out all her knowledge in music, to that person. She would make them practice. She would bring out the creativity in the person. And thus, she searched. She hoped, she wished and lived for the dream to come true one day.

Then again, her palace of dreams seem to fall so often. When some new promising student came in, her hopes would soar. 'May be she is the one I have been waiting for'. She would teach her with dedication, with love and care. She would make sure that she left no stone unturned while imparting knowledge to her. She would give them ample opportunities to grow on their own. She would steady them when they stumbled, catch them when they fell. She would see them perform on stage and feel proud. She saw herself in them. And then, the day would come when the growth of the student would stop. That day would be the day when the growth of the ego usually started. The bloated ego would find problems with her, the ego would have grown beyond her teaching. And then they would leave, having grown more than their teacher, or so they thought. They left her, because 'they wanted to make their own mark'. There would be fights and falling out when they left. They all grew too fast, so did their egos. She thought of the many similar incidents in the past and decided then and there. It had been years. It was time to give up that dream and just teach. If someone was humble enough to grow, they would, she thought.

As she was about to go back inside, she saw someone approaching her gate. A mother, and a daughter. May be the girl was about five years old. She waited at the gates as the mother approached her. The mother asked 'Namasthe Madam! My name is shyamala. I adore your music madam. I was wondering if you could teach music to my little girl.' The teacher nodded, looking at the little girl. The girl was looking at her, wide eyed. The teacher geve the little girl a pat on the head, opened the gate and let them in. As they came in to the drawing room, she asked them to sit down. And she spoke to the little girl, 'What is your name, sweetie?'. In a soft voice, the girl said, 'Veena'. The teacher looked at the mother and asked, 'Does she sing? Does she seem to like music?'. The mother nodded and said 'Very much. She sings every song that she ever hears. I don't know much about music madam, but I think my girl may have some potential.' The teacher looked at Veena and said, 'Child, can you sing a song for me?'. And then, she sang. The sweet voice of that little kid, did wonders to that heart that bled in pain. The young girl had potential indeed. After listening to that song, the teacher said. 'You have brought her here at the right age. She has potential. I will teach her all I can. Bring her here on the coming monday and I will start classes.' The mother, very happy with the answer thanked her profusely and left.

She went till the gate and bade them goodbye, giving the child a little kiss on the forehead. As she stood at the gate, looking at the retreating duo of the mother and daughter, she thought. May be this girl was the one. She would nurture her from her childhood. She would teach her all she could. She would make her a good musician. She hoped for a new beginning. Yet again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Savithramma sat on her chair, gazing at the sky through the open window. She could see dark clouds moving nearer. With a sigh, she tore her eyes away from the sight, and looked back towards the door, bending a little. No one. She sighed again. Such a quiet time in this house was rare. The kids were at school. Jaya was in the kitchen, cooking. She willed herself to get up and move towards the bed, a bed that used to be comfortable years ago. Now, it was lumpy. Sleeping on it was such an ordeal. But, she had barely any choice. She grumbled about Jaya, cursing her under her breath.

She remembered the good old days, when she and Jaya would sit and talk, watch tele serials and laugh together. Things had been good then. And then, the twins had come along. Initially she had been thrilled. Her grandchildren!! The little ones, a marvel. What beauties they had been! And then, the nights were filled with wailing and crying. Shivu's income had suddenly started to seem so limited. The house had suddenly felt small. Jaya spent sleepless nights, taking care of the kids. She grew impatient, and tired. Jaya got too busy for her. No more laughters shared with Jaya, no gossips and long conversations. Jaya had no time for her. All she did was cooking and taking care of the kids. The distance seemed to grow between them day by day. Little did she realize that the distance that she felt was only in her heart. The distance had increased, day by day, and then, there were fights. She tried to boss over Jaya , thus pushing her further away, which left her feeling unwanted. In quiet times like these, when she was left alone, her past came back to her, to taunt her, to haunt her.

Her father, actually step father, had died, leaving this house to her. When she got married, this house had been given to her husband. Dowry had been so common then. It was just another custom. Not like these days. The step father had been alive. Her husband, the one whom she had ignored in order to take care of her aging father, to take care of her growing children, had now passed away, leaving her alone. She knew she was to be blamed. She had not taken care of her diabetic husband. Even though she knew he always needed food on time, she had ignored his pleas. Along with her father, she had teased and taunted her husband, when he had gone out alone to eat in restaurants. She had made him a laughing stock of the relatives, and friends. Little did they know of a diabetic man's hunger. Slowly, he had died out emotionally, and then one day, he was gone. Diabetes had taken him. The guilt had begun that day. Sometime later, Her father had withered away and died too. She had taken care of him well till the end. He had taken care of his security by making his son-in-law a laughing stock in the eyes of his daughter. But had he thought of what would happen to her, later on?

Everyday now, she would sit and think of all the 'if's and 'but's. She had lost her husband, way too soon. If she had paid him a little more attention, today he probably would have been with her. She was the one getting ignored today. She knew, how her husband must have felt back then. But then , she corrected herself. His wife, his own wife had ignored him. She would never know how he may have felt. Here she was ,sitting, at ten in the morning, waiting for breakfast. Hunger was gnawing away at her stomach. But then, Jaya had been busy getting the children ready for school, and packing their lunch. Shivu had been at work since early morning. With almost no help, Jaya had to handle all the household chores. She understood Jaya's constraints too. But then, she felt ignored. She felt the pain, being at the receiving end . She knew, heart of hearts, that Jaya was not ignoring her on purpose. But ocassionally, the feeling surfaced,haunted her, that she was being ignored, not taken care of. And she cursed and fought, thus increasing the distance. Making herself lonely, further. She knew she was digging her own grave. But then, it was a mind that had been poisoned. A poisoned mind would never think straight. Would it?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Where she belongs!

It had gone rotten in the end. She stood there, where bright lights had been before. She surveyed the rows of empty seats, remembering the days when the auditorium used to be fully occupied. I remember seeing her there, on stage, for the first time, that day. I was in the 'Second row, third seat'. When she had come on stage, I had stood up to clap. Somebody beside me had silenced me, asking me to sit down. She had given me a faint smile, before walking towards the microphone. The smile that had made a beginning. I remembered. I smiled to myself, then.

She walked to the centre, where the microphones used to stand. Stood there, remembering the days. She extended her hand as if to touch an imaginary microphone. Her hands trembled. A tear escaped her eye. She made no effort to wipe it. She noticed me sitting at the back, silently watching her. She gave me a faint, assuring smile, as if telling me, 'everything is going to be alright'. I smiled back at her. I wasn't sure whether she could see me. I just smiled back anyway. I knew she would be able to feel the smile. I knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again. She probably did not know that yet. Or may be, she knew.

I heard some noise and turned back to see some guy, walking with quick steps towards the stage. He didn't see me. He walked towards the stage, shouting, as he neared, 'Who's there? This is an auditorium, ma'am. You can't just barge in here.' He stopped as if to look at her, or probably he was waiting for an answer. But quickly added 'What business do you have, here?'. His voice was gruff, probably due to too much shouting, I thought. She opened her mouth as if to say something, but quickly closed it again. She looked so vulnerable there, standing there, alone. So vulnerable in a place which had been her temple, her battle field. She had worshipped there, won there, lived her life there. Everything had changed now.

I got up from my chair, the sudden noise made that guy turn towards me. I was right in thinking that he hadn't seen me before. He said 'Saab jee! Who are you? And now what are you doing here?'. I had reached near her, by then. Her eyes, pleaded me for help. I replied to the man, 'We just came to look, bhaiyya jee! We will be leaving'. To which, he replied, 'Saab, this is no monument for you to come and visit like this. I am the caretaker of this place for the past twenty years. I will be responsible if anything goes wrong here.' He had moved closer to where we stood now. He had been addressing me all this while. Now, he looked at her. He looked and he moved closer. He stared.

'Madam jee! Aap! It's you. I can't believe it.' He took her hand, and shook it vigourously and said 'Big fan, madamjee. Big fan. I have heard so many singers on this stage. Not one as good as you madam.' I slowly wiped the tears off her face and put a firm hand on her shoulder. She whispered a weak thank you to that man. He continued 'Madam jee! This is your home. You can stay here, for a few more hours and look around. I won't tell anybody.' On hearing these words, she freed herself from my grasp, walking away towards the seats in the auditorium, slowly, nostalgic, recollecting everything.

The man, was still standing beside me. We were both looking at her. I had tears in my eyes, seeing her this way. The man, turned as if to say something. But then he stopped, noticing the tears in my eyes. He said, 'Saab jee! What is wrong? What happened ? And why do you have tears in your eyes?'. He knew he was prying. But he was a 'fan, big fan'. I said ' She lost her voice after an accident. Things aren't the same as before. She can't even talk properly, let alone sing'. I couldn't bear to look back at his face at that moment. Saying it out loud like this, had triggered some emotion in me, something I had tried to suppress. I looked back at the man's face. He looked devastated, crestfallen. He looked at her, and then at me, in despair. He shook his head as if, in utter disbelief. As he turned back to look at her, I followed his line of sight.

There she was, sitting in the second row, second seat, with a smile on her face. She patted the seat next to her, asking me to come, with a nod of her head. Puzzled, I walked over to her, and sat down. Second row, third seat. Then, I realized, she was trying to tell me something. In a weak whisper she said, 'Thank you for having been here, that day. Thank you for being here now.'