Monthly Archives: March 2005

Living dangerously

She glanced nervously towards the buildings towering over her. Her hawk eyes scanned the parapets and terraces for any movements. “You never know, when they might strike.”, she thought to herself. Even though she had taken cover from the overcrowded parallel streets, by switching to the narrow bylanes between blocks, she was still feeling uneasy. It was already difficult to make her way through the seemingly desolate streets, trying to keep an eye on the road as well as an eye above for ariel strikes too. The feeling of being watched was constantly dogging her. She was walking in such a hurry, it seemed that she was almost running, but since she didn’t want to come into notice, her gait was a funny sort of “fast walk”. The past instances of being hounded kaleidoscoped through her mind.

And with this background dear reader, here’s wishing you a very HappyHoli. Please don’t throw balloons/eggs/what-have-you’s at passersby.

Growing up

We all have our notions of the birds and the bees. Here’s one.

“Stop! Cross the road carefully”, said Twilight Fairy.
“Don’t you know you might have an accident if you are not careful”, wise TF admonished younger sis.
“And then you’ll be taken to the hospital and you’ll have kids”. More wise words uttered by TF – age 7, to sister, age – 4.

Flashforward “bees saal baad”.

TF – age 27, sister age – 24.

Giggle giggle.. chuckle.. gasp. chuckle.. giggle .. giggle..

“And did I tell you I used to think that matches for marriage are made if the bride and groom physically resemble each other?”

That’s some more gyaan.

Playing truant

The weather always makes for a topic which people come down to when they don’t have anything else to say except murmur some pleasantries and to keep some polite (and obviously boring) conversation going. In fact in college, we had this superior-than-thou attitude whenever we came across anyone who could not utter a single intelligent word in the conversation and would try to make it up with weather reports. Little did I realise then, that there would come a day when I would choose the same as a topic for a post! But that’s not due to a lack of things to say on my part but because of the way the weather is behaving. More like a precocious child with a mind of its own really.

It’s true that the weather or rather the climate has been changing slowly and gradually but the past one year has raised a whole series of alarms. There are the terribly tangible ones like the Tsunami, Snowfall in Dubai and grass growing in Antarctica kinds..and then the not so tangible ones. I distinctly remember celebrating Diwali during winters i.e. one needed to wear *sweaters* or warm clothing while lighting crackers and it wasn’t as if I was at some high altitude place, the place remains the same – Delhi. But since the past few years, it’s summery and pleasant during diwali. As a kid I remember that winters used to definitely start by October or maximum by November. Since quite a few years, winters have started showing the chilly factor only after Dec 31. Lohri was supposed to mark the coldest day of winters. This particular year it was *so* warm on Lohri, it seemed that winters had actually “forgotten” to happen and on sudden remembrance that they were supposed to freeze people, they came back with a vengeance right after Lohri. Basant Panchami is supposed to mark the onset of spring, but the particular day instead marked the onset of summers. Taken unawares, I had not put on any sunscreen on that particular day and got sunburnt to my amazement! The next day I decided to take it easy on winter clothing and as I set out for office at around 8:30am, the sky suddenly went jet black as much as in late evening. It actually looked scary because it was just too dark for daytime and reminded me of complete solar eclipses. All vehicles had their headlights on, on high beam. It was impossible to see anything at 8:30 am in the day! And suddenly the expected happened. It RAINED. Like hell at that. It rained so much that the wipers of my car could not keep pace with the influx of water hitting the windshield. It suddenly got very difficult to drive. Forget driving, I almost felt as if water was hurtling inside towards me, seeping in from all edges. I almost bumped into a divider. I felt like the hero in a particular rainy scene from ‘Woh Kaun Thi’ or some such movie, where the only sound present is the ubiquitous sound of wipers and of torrential rain. The hero wasn’t able to see *anything*. Zero visibility. With such conditions, one is forced to peer closer to the windshield, screw one’s nose, frown in concentration and deduce whether the direction headed in, is indeed the same as that of the road. I somehow managed to get to office that day. Needless to say I felt foolish for having discarded my usual winter attire of jeans, thick sweater, thick jacket, thick muffler and sneakers. I had suddenly felt like emerging like a beautiful butterfly from my winter-clothing-cocoon and had ended up wearing a delicate suit with a chunni to add to the rain nuisance and open sandals, which obviously got sploshed in the muck. Learnt the lesson of not taking the weather “for granted”.

The sudden heavy snowfall in J&K and not to mention the avalanches, are also an indication of something very very wrong somewhere. Suddenly the whole of north India was now freezing. After a few more bouts of rain and chilly wind, it again looked like summers were here. Inspite of my mom telling me to get back the woolens to pack them, the once-bitten-twice-shy me didn’t. Last night we had a hailstorm again and it’s again chilly. This morning I woke up to thick white fog all around! I feel smug as I look at others shivering slightly in their sleeveless, flimsy summer dresses whilst I am adorned in a thin sweater and a chic shawl to go with it, making use of the fleeting winters before they come to a complete fullstop.

Coming back to the weather the shift is gradual but sure. If it continues at this alarming pace, it wont be long before we would have summers from October to February and ‘desert’ summers from March to September. A very frightening future that.

The red brick house

Warning: a little amateurish

“You are invited. You must come.” The loud comment made in my general direction by that old man in a crushed kurta pyjama, silver hair matching it, broke my train of thoughts as I stared out of the balcony. “Yes uncle.” My sister managed to stutter, as I looked at her in despair. How could I tell him that I was not willing to. He would just brush aside my unfounded fears, so unexpected of someone educated. If I repeated the fact that years ago an old lady was murdered here in the kitchen, her throat slit, her body decaying when found, and that this repulsed me enough to never enter that house again, he would just give me a ‘you know better than to be scared of an unfortunate incident of the past’ look. But I couldn’t help it.

“There would be so many people around. Ghosts don’t lurk in crowds”, I chided myself. “It’s a moment of festivity and I must go”, I reasoned with myself, looking at the string of lights that decorated the ‘shaadi wala ghar’ right opposite my balcony. The vision of an old red brick house surrounded by complete darkness, with just one torch light bobbing up and down the kitchen, made me break into cold sweat. “I must replace that old vision with this new one. See the festive look, the gaiety, and the cheer. That episode is all over now.” I felt a little comforted.

The d-day came and I, trying to suppress my unfounded fears, put on a gorgeous lehenga and a plastic smile to go with it. I was welcomed to the sound of ladies sangeet with a dholak, all of them sitting on the floor. I was given a spot on the duree. Just when I was getting a little comfortable with the feeling that there was no ghost bursting through the roof, I realised to my horror that I was sitting at the spot at which the body had been found. The kitchen had long ago been refurbished and made a part of the sitting room. With an instant jerk, I got up and excused myself to go to the toilet. “Relax. Just stay for half an hour and discreetly pop in back to your house. After all it’s right opposite.” I looked at my own house out of the window and pictured a little girl, scared stiff – me about 20 years ago, looking at the murder spot with horror.

As I opened the tap to splash some cool water on my perspiring brow, I deliberated with myself, “Enough, for how long can you fool yourself. It’s high time this place got some justice.”
I walked purposefully to the pooja room where uncle was now doing his final prayers before coming out to join the ladies. It wasn’t everyday that his daughter got married.

I stealthily tiptoed from behind and shaping my dupatta like a noose, tightened it around his neck. My hand covered his nose and mouth, blocking a scream as well as the air his lungs screamed for. When I felt his body going limp, I let go. I walked out coolly as if nothing had happened, having sought vengeance at last.

With satisfaction I watched as the scene changed from celebration to mourning. No one could understand how the old man got asphyxiated.

“He met his deserved death if what we heard was true”, whispered one visitor to another. “It is believed that he murdered his old mother for the property. Curiously enough, even a little girl aged 6 in the opposite house was also found dead. The police were speculating that she might have been a sole witness to the incident from her balcony. Till date no one could prove anything against him.”