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Of Some Days and Others

..some days, she wants to fly. higher and away. beyond the skies. she wants to stand atop a hill, surrounded by gushing waterfalls and pink and purple sunsets and take flight and fly beyond several moons and suns. to a world of radiance. to a world of bright and happy. to a world so majestic and so beautiful. on days like those, she’s happy; a smile teases her face every now and then, curling her lips only slightly and yet, inside, she’s as happy as the world. she wants to soar. beyond and far. higher and away. and discover. some days, she feels like she’s invincible. some days, she feels like doing a little twirl and laughing out loud. some days, she’s filled with hope.

and some days, she feels sick and dead. tired. almost as if the the last drop of energy has been taken away from her and she’s cold and helpless. on days like those, she doesn’t want to fly. the sunsets and mirages don’t appeal to her. nor does the mosaic sky. she wants to curl up next to her window, covered in her blanket and drown a little deeper into the darkness of the day. by the solitary candle, she cries and lets the lone tear hide her wry smile and breaking heart. she feels like a person on the road, surrounded by buzzing landscapes of cars zooming right across her, and she stops and kneels down on the gravel and screams and yet, the world just walks by. some days, she’s broken. some days, she sits next to misted windows and talks to nobody. some days, she’s hopeless..to a point where she doesn’t want to keep going.

only, some days.

Picture Credits – Siddharth Mohanty

Of Sad, Lonely Days

Curled up in the bed, her face plastered against the mess of her own hair, clutching the pillow, she peeked out from the duvet and looked out of the window.

Drops of rain lazily trickled down the frosted windows, blurring the world outside. Only flashes of red taillights were all she could see.

Sighing, she buried her face into her hair again, smelling the faint aroma of her shampoo and for a moment, her eyes fluttered close. The very next moment, she woke up, fumbling for her phone under the sheets; found it, and sighed again as she stared at the screen.

Wasn’t anybody bothered, she wondered. Would anybody ask for her if she disappeared the other day?

Curled up in the bed, her face plastered against the mess of her own hair, she waited a little longer. Up until another dawn.

But there were no calls. There were no voice messages.

Curled up in the bed, her face plastered against the mess of her own hair, all she wished for was somebody to whisper her words of joy; somebody to call her up and ask her how she was; somebody to tell her that they are there and that she is not alone.

But the evening sky merged into inky darkness and darkness faded to give place to the sunshine and yet, her phone never rang. Nobody called her up to tell her that they’ve got her back. Nobody called, bothered about her. Nobody called.

Curled up in the bed, now in a pool of her tears, her face plastered against the mess of her own hair, she waited only to realize she was all alone. So, she stood up, and went out for work, sad and tired..

Of A-Table-For-One

He had been asked to manage the reception counter for the day. Sitting lazily at the plywood desk, he answered the calls from excited, impatient people, asking for table reservations and the special menu for the night. He hated the task. He was better off serving customers in his oversized T-shirt and his brother’s baseball cap. Somehow, the tightly fitted blue shirt with its crisp collars and intricately tailored black pants made him feel suffocated and out of place.

The evening was setting in and the buzz of crowds could be heard outside.

Pulling up his plastered smile, he greeted the first people who entered – an elderly couple with greying hair and wrinkled smiles. They walked to his desk and peered at the laminated sheet of paper displaying the reservation list. Then, the woman smiled and pointed at the sheet to draw his attention.

“This way, ma’am,” he replied with a polite smile, pushing open the huge oak doors to walk into the dimly lit room with its huge chandeliers and slow music. The forks and plates had been neatly arranged over the red chequered table clothes.

Walking out from the room to his desk, he felt the transition of the aromas. The other room had been smelling of the mystic roses while the waiting lounge smelled of lavender and his own, cheap deodorant.

People started filling in, some being escorted inside while some sat back in the plush leather couches, flipping through journals and waiting. The night had set in. The music in the hall was louder. And amidst the clink and clank of cutlery, he could hear the roar of lightning outside.

But it didn’t intrude the excitement of passionate souls. They ate their dinner, staring at the misted windows and murmuring and smiling all the same. They talked and for some reason, they were happy. While, he was not.

People had started moving out too. By the time the clock had struck nine, the crowd was dwindling. Perhaps it was the rain or maybe, they had other plans, the hall wasn’t as crowded as the other Saturday nights. There were no more calls. All the people in the waiting lounge had been accommodated. He took the time to lay back in his seat and breathe out.

Just then, there was an irritating creak as the door opened and a girl, drenched in rain, clutching her beige overcoat tight, walked inside. Her sneakers dragged, screeched against the marble floors in a painfully slow stance. A mess of wet hair, with trails of dirty rain water running down her cheeks, she was everything he had never seen.

“May I help you, ma’am?” he asked in a slightly irritated tone, mentally wondering if she had entered by mistake, perhaps seeking for shelter.

“Uh,” she stood in front if the desk, her eyes wandering. For one fleeting second, she peered into the hall through the slight opening of the doors and then sighed.

“Table for one,” she muttered.

“One?” he croaked, his voice embarrassingly loud and rude. It took him a moment to gather himself. Then, he spoke again. “If you’re waiting for someone, it’s all right. There’s not much of a crowd today. So you may as well ask for a table for two.”

“One,” she said.

A strange curiosity gripped him. Why one? Didn’t she have a family? Perhaps a circle of friends? Or maybe one old friend she wanted to catch up with on that Christmas night?

Despite the mental outburst of questions, he tore away a piece of paper from the notepad and set it on the table.

“Your name, ma’am?”

She took the pen from him and scribbled her name hurriedly.

“This way,” he spoke and pushed open the doors for the umpteenth time that night to lead her in. He spotted that one empty corner in the room where the lights were not too bright and the music not so loud. Often after the people would’ve left, the boys would huddle there and sing their miseries with bottles of whisky or rum. He was afraid that the table perhaps smelled of rotten bread and alcohol, but then she had asked for a single seater and that was the only one in there.

Yet, somewhere, he didn’t want her to sit there. That corner felt cold and lonely. The flowers were limp. The candles had burnt out.

As he pulled out the chair for her to sit, he couldn’t help but ask, “Will you be okay here?”

She smiled. A painful smile. He could recognize those. Hadn’t he smiled those almost every dawn?

“I’ll be more than fine.”

“And what do you want to order?”

“A cake. A big, chocolate cake. Maybe it could’ve those little flowers on it and lots of ice cream?”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but a cake? A full cake?”

“Yes,” she snapped. “It’s my birthday! Am I not allowed to celebrate my birthday with a cake?”

“Indeed, ma’am,” he replied in a timid tone and scribbled her order on a piece of paper. “Anything else?”

“And can you just let me know if you see my group of friends arriving?” she said, almost hastily.

“But ma’am, you only told you are expecting nobody?”

She pretended not to here and pulled out her phone. Taking it as his cue to walk away, he slipped into the kitchen and passed the note to the cook.

“Who orders a full cake for one person?” the hefty man guffawed, but got down to work, nevertheless.

Though she had asked him to keep a check, he didn’t. For deep inside his heart, he knew she was living an illusion. He could see through her pretence. She was broken. She wasn’t happy. She was expecting people who’d never come. She was sitting in silence, yet her lips curled into a smile every now and then as if she was really happy. Even in the faint light, he could see her glimmering eyes. He could hear her breath hitching. He could see her trying to hold herself back when she was on the verge of breaking down.

The tables were empty by now. People had left. Paid their bills. Had their food. And they had walked out, happy.

And then, there was her who didn’t know whether to stay or to leave. She wasn’t bothered about the cake. The rain didn’t matter. The people she was waiting for, did, but they had still not arrived.

“Ma’am,” he spoke, placing the little cake in front of her, dressed with chocolate florets and berries. She gave him a little smile and looked back at her phone again. “And ma’am? Your friends aren’t here yet.”

That made her lose it. Turning away, she took a deep breath but ended up coughing and crying.

“Ma’am?” hesitantly, he put his hand on her shoulder. “Hey, are you okay?”

“I wasn’t even expecting them,” she spoke in muffled tones. “Why would they be? I’ve visited them umpteen times. Been there when they needed someone. Talked to them for hours when they were down. But is that enough?”

She refused to look at him. So kneeling down, he offered her the crisp, white handkerchief that had been tucked inside his breast pocket.

“I’m sorry,” he muttered.

“No!” she laughed. “Why are you apologizing? It’s not even your fault! I’m just expecting a lot too much from people.”

He expected her to push him away but she didn’t protest. Instead, she continued speaking.

“I remember their birthdays. Be it New Year’s Eve or summer breaks, no matter how busy I am, I bake them a cake. I make them cute little videos. I send them handmade collages wishing them. I do everything that they never bother to do. But now I wonder, why I ever did so? Why did I ever take so much pain to bake cakes and cookies? To ping everyone in our friends’ circle and ask them to make cute birthday videos so that I can compile them into a movie? To travel miles to meet them, to be with them? When I’m here, empty and sad and there’s not a single one of them around?”

Though her voice kept breaking, he could feel the pain in her words. He could understand how lonely she felt.

“It’s Christmas. They have plans. They just forgot my birthday. No big deal. They’ve been doing this for years. I don’t get the sweet cards. I don’t get the midnight calls. I don’t get those long text messages. It is as if my place in their lives is not that significant at all. It’s more like they are important for me, but I’m not for them. I woke up late in the morning. I checked my phone, thinking about the hundred messages in my inbox, but there were hardly any wishing me a birthday. I waited for them to call, waited till late afternoon. I looked out at every random car on the road, secretly wishing for them to come over to my house and surprise me. Did I hope for too much?”

He kept quiet. He couldn’t form words. He didn’t know her. She didn’t know him. Yet, it surprised him of how loneliness made people bare their soul out to strangers. She clung to him like an old friend. She didn’t mind him seeing her messy hair and puffy eyes. All she needed at that moment was someone to be there. Someone beside her, so that she didn’t feel as lonely as she already was.

“Table for one,” she huffed. “It sounds like a dialogue from a bad movie.”

“It doesn’t,” he replied. “It speaks to me about a lot many things. I can understand.”

“Everyone says so.”

He nodded. Indeed, she was right. No matter how much he tried, he would never understand her pain. He would never feel the same. His story was different. So was hers.

“Happy birthday,” he said.

“Happy, indeed,” she mumbled and turned around to the table again.

“Why the cake?” he asked.

“What do you mean?”

“It’s obvious you didn’t want the cake.”

She pulled out her phone and turned on the camera.

“I’ll just take a picture and save it. So tomorrow when they do remember, I’ll show them this and make up a story of how great my birthday was and how much I enjoyed!”

Hours later, the staff had left and so had the cook. He quietly locked the doors and walked out into the dark, empty street and slowly trudged along the sidewalks.

Minutes later, he stood in front of a dilapidated house with a broken sheet of asbestos acting as the roof. Opening the old, tin gate, he stepped into the darkness, hoping for the one voice he knew would be never there. Yet, he smiled. In his head, he heard his little brother’s voice and it was enough delusion to make him live through the night.

Two people spent that one winter night, lonely, sad and empty.

Of Remembrance

Lucky are the people who are never pushed into oblivion. Someone who stirs your soul without even trying is rare to find. Someone who tells you things you never considered before, who agitates and soothes you at the right times, someone who you helplessly give in to, someone who makes you question your own thoughts and come off with a better outlook, someone who just doesn’t know you but sees right through your soul. You have a few moments to remember but them, you remember clearly. There is nothing extraordinary about them but the fact that ‘they’ did it, changes every single perception. Their memories doesn’t fade. Just becomes harsh because with passing time, you miss them even more. You wonder what it would have been like to have spent more time with them, to have explored them a little more. Lucky are the people who are never forgotten without putting in any efforts. Well, sometimes, just sometimes the people you cannot forget are the ones you spent the least time with.

Of The Things We Finally Remember

Sometimes, it comes down to the little things, the little mistakes and the little failures and the long rainy days that linger awhile longer in your mind.

Sometimes, you don’t remember the stage with flashing lights. You don’t remember the people who cheered. You don’t remember the overwhelming moment of pride. At times, all you remember is of that one rainy day when you broke down in the middle of the road, dejected and devastated. All you remember was telling yourself that it’ll be okay.

Sometimes, when it’s dark, that is all you’ll ever remember.

Of Nights Like These

She sits alongside the pavement, hugging her knees, waiting for the night to fall asleep.

Above her, vastness stretches far and wide. The cars have stopped. The traffic lights keep blinking. The streetlights flicker to a random rhythm. And the wind blows to a silent crescendo.

She looks up at the million infinite stars above her, light years away from where she is. She looks up and sees them twinkling from up there, looking down at her and perhaps smiling. She realizes that the existence is so vast and she is so tiny.

Placing the glass bottle on the stony pavement, she stands up and manages to find her way back home.

That night, when she falls asleep, she remembers to wake up as a newer being. Her life is so tiny when compared with the eternal universe that she resides in.

Looking up at the stars, she smiles and sleeps.

They look back at her and fall asleep.

Of Dad’s Advice To His Little Girl

“I know how you feel,” he said, clasping his daughter’s hand tightly.

“Scared and confused doesn’t even sum it up, Dad!” she murmured, withdrawing her hand and sighing.

“I know,” her dad says again. “I know you’re thinking that you are taking a big leap into the uncertainty. I know it feels like standing on one footstep and realizing that the staircase in front of you is actually a dead end. It’s not always going to be easy and you know that. It’s going to be a struggle from here on. But remember, everyone has to struggle in some way or the other. Each one of us goes through the same course in life in different little ways. I know you are afraid. I know you want to step back and live under the brighter sunshine. But no, my little girl, you’ve to go. You’ve to fly to discover what exists beyond the sun. And for that, you have to leave the ground. You’ve to leave this known haven behind.”

The speakers spluttered. The lady stated that it was the final boarding call.

“Dad, what if I fail?”

“You’ll never learn to fly, sweetheart, if you never fall. We’ll be there. We’ll have your back. In your darkest times, I promise you we’ll be there. When things go wrong, remember to struggle and live until the end of the day. What will matter twenty years from now is not where you reached but how you made the best of every opportunity you had with you. The next morning will be a new one. You’ve to keep faith and you’ll be fine.”

Her feet trudged along lazily. Her footsteps were heavy.

“How do you know I’ll be fine?” she cried.

Clasping her hand again and hugging her close to his heart, her father kissed her goodbye.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll be just fine,” he said.

Of Edited Pictures and More

She is holding a tattered notebook, close to her heart. A few pages stick out of the spiral bound black book. The letters are fading. Each time it rains, each drop, washes away some more of the pages scribbled with blue ink. She glances down at it from time to time.

He is holding a broken guitar. A small guitar with a string taut and the others hanging loose. He runs his hand over the metal body and then sighs. Biting his lip, he leans over and plucks a chord. The sound makes him twist his face in disgust. He keeps quiet, holds the guitar down and waits for his bus.

She is holding an old camera and a few photos. As she looks down at the rainbow-coloured images that she had once clicked, it takes her back to the happy times. But a moment later, when the rain comes pouring down in a torrential downpour, she forces herself to look away from the pictures. Now they mean nothing to her but blurred Polaroids.

He is holding a broken record player and his favourite pair of dance shoes. He looks at them and feels everything and nothing simultaneously. He feels desperate, almost to go back to the very world he had created with them. But then, he looks away and tells another tale.

I stand there, faking the same smile that I had been long holding on to. But the corners of my lips are starting to hurt. The smile is giving away and I can feel the tears pricking. The bus will be here any moment, I say myself and fake the same smile.

When the wheels screech in front of us, we stand up and take a deep breath. Each one of us walks ahead and boards the bus, leaving behind the things we had brought along. I drop my smile; she forgets her notebook; he leaves his guitar; she abandons her camera; and he walks away without his dancing shoes.

Our pictures are no longer real. The camera will lie from here on. We are nothing but blurred Polaroids and films without our dreams. We are nothing but the images found in the recycle bin. The colours may be brighter, the hues may be sharper, but all we are inside are edited pictures, drowned in black and white.

The bus takes off and we leave a part of us behind.

Of Real Attachments

Here’s the thing. We hold on to our principles and beliefs. We make decisions and draw solid lines to see to the fact that everything goes according to our flow chart. But it never turns out just like we plan, does it? We try every possible way to hide our true feelings, remain dormant, close all the emotions in some vault to which nobody is possibly allowed to pay a visit, not even us. We convince ourselves that we can deal with it, go a long way with it. But the fear remains. Self-control is not an easy task at all. But is it always about us? Or maybe it is about the thing we are so hopelessly addicted to? For a moment, we scour for reasons to strike it out. Strike everything out. But then another version of ourselves speaks differently. It gives us a wise sermon about not letting it go. We cling to our hopes. We see vivid images and make movies in our mind. Letting go of something that strong is not an easy job. Because you cannot not notice something that genuine. You cannot strike something out when every cell of your body is reluctant to do so. Because, when it’s real, you cannot walk away.

Of Late Night Talks (II)

“I’m scared.”

“Why?”

“It’s like everything, every hope is slipping right past me. I see people far ahead of me. The race has started and I’ve only barely begun walking. The goal seems so far away.”

“I can relate.”

“What’s your story?”

“Me?” he pauses a while. “Lost, I guess. Everyone around me feels that I’ve no direction in life. That I’d end up useless, probably spending nights sleeping on railway platforms and being jobless. See, I’m alcoholic. I lose my temper most of the time. All I feel like doing to sitting in some cold, empty place..and just being there. I don’t want to move. I don’t want to talk. For once, I want to disappear.”

She tilts the glass and fiddles with the cocktail onions on the edge of her glass.

“It is weird, but I feel the same way too. Sometimes, I feel as if the world is moving too fast. People aren’t bothered to spare a glance at what’s happening around them. All of  them have their eyes set on the goal and they are madly running towards it. But what after that? What happens after they reach their goal? Their life isn’t complete, is it? They start looking forward to other milestones. It’s like amidst the entire career, money, education, we are forgetting about life! Why, if life is about going to a prestigious university, having shitload of money and driving to parties and meeting business targets and getting back home, tired and lifeless, I better not live it at all. Because, that is not life for me! It isn’t about the highs always, is it?”

He shakes his head quietly.

Turning around, he rests his elbows against the metal railings and leans against it.

“It’s about the lows too,” he says. “It’s not always about the noise. The silence carries as much meaning, in fact more. It’s not about how much you earn and how much you work and how much settled you are, sometimes the very essence of life lies in going through the lows and then standing up, ready to face the world all over again. I want a story like that. I don’t want to tread down the known road. I want to get lost. I want to get drunk. I want to be clueless. And I want to fall down, cry and learn. And then, when it dawns, I want to be stronger. I don’t want to be the same person I was the other night. I want to be the person who is happy. And I want to bask under that feeling. I want to really feel the moment. Be right in it. And remember it when I breathe my last.”

She smiles.

“Isn’t it crazy that we all can talk so much about life and give advice on how to live, yet when it comes to applying the very same thing, we back away and go back to being the same people? We embrace the concept of “unpredictability” in theoretical approach. But when it comes to being clueless and not being able to know where we land up and how, we run away scared. I want to breathe.”

He nods slowly.

For a minute, neither of them speak.

They think of the dawn that is a few hours away. But it isn’t their dawn. The sunshine may wipe away their tears, but inside, they will be still sad.

“May be we are supposed to live our life this way?” she speaks again. “Scared. Confused. Driven by dreams. And then, mocked and told that reality is bitter. May be life’s supposed to be this way only? But then, why can’t I be as secure and as happy as other people when I’m doing the exactly same thing as them?”

He shrugs.

“May be life is not supposed to be this way?” he responds. “May be our formula is wrong. May be because people are scared, they don’t take another road and like a herd, we all walk down the same way?”

“I had this strange idea as a kid. I was always thinking that our life is just this crazy dream and we are aliens on another planet and we’ll wake up one day and realize that all this was a dream and then everything will be all right again,” she takes a sip of her drink. “I want to forget everything for a moment and start afresh.”

“I had that stupid idea too. And yes,” he tilts his glass against his parched lips and gulps down the burning liquid, “I want to forget everything too.”

When the morning arrived, he found himself walking down the muddy road, back to his house, three blocks away. And she found herself calling a taxi to take her to the airport.

But they weren’t scared and confused anymore. Although the road in front of them wasn’t exactly a straight road, they knew that if they kept running, if they kept chasing their dream, one day, it will be theirs. One day, the life they had dreamt of, they will be living it.

They faced the morning with brighter hopes.