Into Dreaminess and Back

on Monday, March 12, 2012

It was an evening quite like today. The scent of the wet earth still lingered in the air. Yesterday, rain was the devil. It had in it's power to destroy what was going to be the most memorable day in the life of this bride But today, the rain humbly withdrew from the limelight. Today's star was going to be this girl, sitting pretty with her hand in his', still counting her heartbeats. In those heart beats she was counting time till when she would finally becomes his', when she can  would finally drop carelessly into his arms.

That night, was her night. I was lost somewhere in the grand crowd of eager faces, each of whom smiled for her happiness and comfort. I did too. It was an evening like today. The musty breeze seemed to be my only companion. I had come wishing for her happiness, but in that crowd, I had found myself to be terribly lonely. It was only the bride's face which was familiar. Rest were unpleasantly strange. My imaginations were running amok. Someday, in near, yet distant future, I shall also adorn a pedestal much like her's. To a sprawling acreage of lush greens, I shall also be the shimmering queen.

But for that day, I was lonely. In the unending multitude of heartbreakingly unfamiliar faces, I only had the naughty breeze for company, which also devoted attention to tickling the ribs of small bright lanterns suspended from each tree in the magically illuminated garden. That naughty, musty breeze might have remained my only companion had fate not been in a playful and yielding mood.

Tired searching for a soul warming cup of coffee from the mad array of exotic delicacies competing for attention, I could finally locate a near empty table which seemed friendly enough to accommodate me. I did notice a lone male figure occupying the seat across my own, but that his features would be breathtakingly gorgeous, I had not expected. Had I even meekly expected, I would have stayed away. A dreamy romantic and a hapless single are a lethal combination for a girl who suddenly finds herself in such a titillating zone. Boredom also plays its role in necessitating a leap of heart in thinking "now begin the bright times".

Was I crazy when I shared the first smile? I promise, I did not do it knowingly. His beaming, spotless face evoked a smile in my heart, which promptly ran to my lips. He smiled back. Effortlessly. No, eagerly. This, because, as I later realized, he was my male counterpart at feeling lonely in the deluge of people. Like me, he knew no one else. Like me, he had no company. Like me, may be he too needed someone like me. Yes!

The conversation began with pleasantries. It moved onto polite inquiries.  Name. Occupation. Weather. Food. Ambiance. The bride. The groom. The match. Back to occupation. And then, inevitably, life. Why I said inevitably? Because a part of me told me it would. He had small eyes, hidden behind rimless glasses, which became smaller when he smiled. He never stopped smiling. Consequently, my once sombre face too, did not stop smiling. Worries about reaching home early dissipated into the cold air as I concentrated on how dapper his black suit over a black shirt looked. Did I say dapper? Casually graceful would be more like it.

I am not a shy talker. I must've been talking a lot. I might have said something which made him remark- "You know, sometimes, its just fair that we count our blessings. Those lines of worry which crease your face will disappear in a nano second then." I did not know why he said this, but that is when I kind of came back to senses. What seemed titillating till now was seeming genuinely nice and warm. There was something about his happy countenance; he made me want to smile. It sounds mad, but it also made me want to show my sadness, for he seemed like someone who could still make me smile. There was an enormous amount of positivity radiating from him. What most soothed a nervous girl's heart most was that he was not being kind to me. He prized my chance company as much as I did his'. And this I know, because he was not interested to even look up when bride and groom readied themselves to command attention from each pair of eyes as they exchange the garlands of sacred flowers. He would have much rather continued the conversation, but I did not want to miss one of my favorite rituals from a traditional Hindu wedding.

I stood there, watching them lovingly garland each other. I loved the clandestine glances stolen. I loved the delirious applause filling my ears. I loved seeing her turn red as he claimed her hand back into his. I loved all this, and yet, I wanted to get back to that one conversation which I knew would ease me through the dreariness awaiting with open arms at home. Somewhere, in the middle of that celebratory commotion, I was commanded to head to the gate. My car awaited me. It was late. And I am a girl. A nervous tingle on my spine saw me running to the gate after saying a quick and polite bye. Nervous. I did not think of it earlier, but how many people had seen me laugh and joke and talk with this virtually strange guy in this crowded, yet lonesome place?

On my way back home, I felt silly for feeling all that I did. Sweet silly. I felt grossly silly for not knowing why I did not exchange numbers with him. We had clicked decently well, it would not even have been awkward. No regrets, facebook is the great savior of today. All I need to know about anyone to permanently invite him into my life is his name. I knew his'.

At night, a night like today, with chill pricking at my bare arms, as I sat with facebook friend finder open in front of me, I decided against 'finding' him. He was the perfect stranger. Straight out of books and poems I had read and fantasized about. He will only remain the perfect stranger if I abandon my pursuit. Meeting new people, good people, people who survive only as fond memory, is a dreamy concept in retrospect. I like the dreaminess of it  I closed that chapter there. Now I only revisit the pages when the blur in my memory turns inviting.

PS-Few days back, he 'added' me. I cursed facebook for interfering with my dreams from the past. Did I add him too? Well, I still am a nervous romantic and a hapless single. Should I?

Crossroads (Urban Shots) - A Review

on Monday, March 5, 2012

Now this is quality stuff. Genuinely. I do not know how many times did I find myself touched and connected and affected by the short stories compiled in this yet another brilliant anthology under the Urban Shots series. I do know, however, that this is one book I will strongly recommend to all book lovers out there, for the 30 stories told by 26 odd authors in this book are fresh, and textured interestingly. And as I stated earlier, this book is a quality affair. A pleasant, yet intense journey.

A glimpse through the foreword written by Rohini Kejriwal reveals to you what this book potentially would be about. As professed in the prologue, this book turns out to be a collection of tales on some very interesting and diverse characters, and mostly pivoted around a centrally important or watershed incident in their life. The simply yet elegantly told stories go beyond just that one incident and often make you stop and think. Each story here is a world of its own. Each character revels in a distinctness of his own.

What is truly commendable here is the selection of stories, due credit for which goes to the Editor Ahmed Faiyaz. This is perhaps the fifth book associated with him which I am reading, and I can now safely proclaim- he is one author who simply does not know how to disappoint his readers. Through this compendium, interestingly titled "Crossroads", Ahmed strings together some intense stories, each uniquely drawing you into the lull of its narrative. These are stories which find their roots in the urbane locales of India; each inspired by a different facet, human or physical, of the carelessly burgeoning and increasingly complicated urban existence of new age Indians. Some characters here pace too far ahead, much too quickly; yet others tell their tales about coming to terms with the world whizzing past them. There are stories here of complicated love, compromised relationships, pulverized identities, pressurized psyches, crushed innocence, thankless altruism, and unrewarded commitments. So many thoughts and emotions have been depicted in these 30 urban stories with such finesse that a constant eagerness to move onto and investigate the contents of the next story keeps you gripped throughout. An added beauty to all these tales is the fact that most, if not all of them are not easily predictable stories even though they build on situations one hears of or faces in real life.

Having been thoroughly satisfied by this outstanding collection, I was reflecting happily on a lot of them to pick my quintet. I have to admit, that selecting only five from a potential 30, each one of which stood as a strong contender to be included in my favorite five, was a task ridden with fond anxiety. After much thought, here are the five stories I found best..

1. Mindgames by Manisha Dhingra
A tale about psychological setbacks, one which turns ripe only at the very end. This was my absolute favorite from the lot.
2. Gautam Gargoyle by Shailaditya Chakraborty
Brilliantly written, beautiful wordplay and extremely intriguing plot. A complex take on what you might be tempted to dismiss as a rather mundane phenomenon. Understandably, this one was the Editor's pick.
3. Songs Of The Summer Bird by Anita Satyajit
I loved this story for its simplicity and  poignant portrayal of a misunderstood but well meaning library watchman. Simple sometimes is richly beautiful.
4. Jump, Didi by Sharath Komarraju
Dark, complex, intense. This story reveals itself to you in layers;. each new layer a whole new dimension. This story is about the innocent baby sitter next door and her forbidden sercrets.
5. Footsteps In The Dark by Mini Menon
A girl, penury, needs and exploitation. A sensitively told story of an aspect of our corporate society we need to feel ashamed off.

Also, Crossroads by Ahmed Faiyaz, the story which lends its title to the book is easily one of the best you will come across. Depicting love, lust, desires and commitments in a seamless manner, this story essentially themes around the concept of infidelity in urban relationships.

As a last thought, this book is one of those which makes me believe that contemporary Indian fiction has come of age. That said, there still are a lot more avenues to explore and experiment with. Crossroads is one book which has something to connect with everyone of you. 3.5 stars on 5 is what I will award it with.

And yes, the cover is totally gorgeous too. Quite prophetic of the gorgeous content waiting to be unveiled.


on Saturday, March 3, 2012

If you are incapable of tears, you will become incapable of laughter. A man of laughter is also a man of tears- then a man is balanced. They both go together. And out of this togetherness of polarities a balanced being is formed.

I have with me a screen shot of my success from about half a year ago. I also have with me a screen shot of a success my name does not feature in. In other words, I have with me a screen shot of my failure. A moment back, I was looking at them together, hoping for some divine vision to alight upon me. None did. I shut both the screen shots, and started laughing. The last I checked, that laughter was genuine.

Three days ago, I was crying. What could have been one of the most important days of my life had turned out badly. I was not able to shine in the one exam I pinned my future hopes on. Cry, I did. In fact, I wailed. But that, I was supposed to. I did not cry because I felt depressed. I cried because a castle that could be had just gone poof. And I could do nothing now to make it real. 

There is only an extent till which we can try; and try we must. With honest and diligent efforts behind me, the tears did not last for long. In fact, some sudden alacrity filled me. Now that this one door had closed, that too not forever, I had with me the opportunity to explore numerous others. Also, I could sense in me an urge to undertake shorter trips on hitherto avoided destinations which my dreams are made of. Stronger resolve, greater hunger. And a smile of my face. 

I always feared failure. I think I feared the ignominy associated with it. I also feared assimilating myself and standing up all over again. The same is now giving me a reason to look ahead with brightness. As one of my friends said, " I am glad you did not peak so soon." I, too, am glad I did not. With no major disappointments in my arsenal, I felt if I was equipped enough to be by my own in the world out there. Continued success makes people risk averse, so quoted Namita Bhandare in yesterday's HT. Even when I was not looking, answers were coming my way.

The tears have now lived their life. The smile and excitement are increasingly becoming subdued. The resolve to turn it around for myself is maturing steadily. Now is not the end. Now is the time to begin.