Tag Archives: life

Of Hopeless Tales of Hope

It had been raining for days. Days and nights.

The eternal mist had settled in front of the windows, draping a cloak of darkness for the people who wished to see the light.

To the tune of ferocious winds, the lifeless trees would sway all night.

To some unheard crescendo of a low moan, the rain would come battering down on the roofs like bullets.

The river would swell each night. More and more. Wiping away everything on its path – every bridge and every house.

Radios would chatter on evenings, coupled with feverish prayers of people.

The nights were scary. The days were as dark.

Each night, under the little light from the candle, as she’d prepare her bed, she’d hope for a miracle.

Each night, before falling asleep, she’d look out at the misted window panes and believe, deep in her heart, that the next day would be different. That it would be bright. That the rain would stop. That a miracle would happen at the dead of the night.

The next day, even though the day would be darker and the rain even worse and no miracle would have occurred, before falling asleep, she’d look out at the misted window panes and believe that the following day would be different.

No matter what, at the end of the day, she held onto the tiniest bit of hope.

No matter what, at the end of the day, she believed.

No matter what, deep in her heart, despite the thousand voices in her head that told her otherwise, she believed.

Of Twisted Tales Of Pain

She wanted to live a happy life.

But each night, after the enchanting chaos of the city had dwindled and the orbs of light blurred in her vision, she found herself walking down the narrow bridge. At times, she’d stop abruptly and lean over the wooden rails to see her reflection in the dark waters. The planks under her feet would creak slowly under her weight as she’d gaze deep into the fading reflection of herself. Her eyes lacked mirth. Her lips were always twisted, painting a frown.

At other times, she’d walk and walk until she’d reach the willow tree at the end of the bridge. Leaning against it, she’d quietly slip into the gravel road and watch the world walk past her.

As the night would slowly merge into darker shades, the tears that she’d been holding would give way and into the silence of the night, she’d scream out all her sorrow. She loved the way the night hid her pain. Never did Darkness let anyone know about the one poor girl who cried into its embrace. Alone.

When the colours would slowly start to melt and dawn would arrive, she’d pick herself up, wipe away her tears with the back of her hand and pretend as if everything with her was just all right. With that brave face of hers, she’d face every dawn, no matter how much she was breaking on the inside.

One Friday night though, when the neon lights at every club were bright and high and oven timers pierced the thick air, and she walked down the bridge, she wasn’t alone. For Darkness followed her step.

When she stopped to look at her reflection, Darkness looked down too.

“You are here, every night, without fail,” it said.

“This is the only place that never fails to make me feel lighter,” she answered.

“And you are the only person here,” it said again.

“It probably seems like I’m the most disappointed person around, doesn’t it? A broken family. Unsatisfying life. A stressful job. And when I get back home, there’s nobody to hear me out. So, I come here, thinking that someone will understand. No one does. They sleep silently, tucked inside their blankets and wake up to loud alarms in the dawn. And they face the day. As for me, each morning, I wish to go back to bed and sleep away forever.”

“It wrenches my heart, dear, to hear you say like that. How I wish I could tell you otherwise. How I wish I could tell you of the stories that hide in the light. You see people, walking straight, heads held high, their shoulders straight, and it is as if they’re afraid of nothing. I’ll tell you a different story – they are afraid. Deep inside, each one of them is a mess. When they talk, they are still thinking of a hundred different things in their brain. When they laze back in their beds, they think of the world. They have broken hearts. They are lonely people. And they hide their true faces under the bright light of the dawn, pretending that nothing’s wrong.”

“It is okay,” it continued,”to be a little sad, to a little frustrated and to be a little broken. Each one of them is. Some of them keep telling themselves that there’ll be brighter days, holding on to the minuscule glimmer of hope in their hearts; while some of them come here on fateful nights and end their stories. What you need to do, is face the dawn. It holds surprises for each one. But if you are busy grieving about the night, you’ll never relish what the dawn has in store for you.”

“It won’t make my life any better, will it?” she said.

“You’ve to hold on to hope and live yet another day to find out.”

That morning, when she walked amongst the crowd of people, she didn’t feel lost. Deep inside her heart, sorrow lingered, but just like the rest of them, she knew she had to keep going on. The very hope that she held was that, the next day was going to be even better.

Of A Bright Little Dark Story

“I want to be a failure in life,” she spoke slowly.

Against the backdrop of enticing beauty of majestic fountains and dense forests, her words never echoed. Yet, she spoke them again. Clearly. Slowly. Waiting for someone at the other end of the cliff to hear her and say the same.

But nobody did.

Of course, nobody would. Everyone wanted to be successful at life. Who would even want to be a failure!

“I want to be a failure in life,” she said again.

The vast emptiness that stretched above her was soon merging into a gorgeous shade of dark. The sun had gone down. The breeze slowly danced to some unheard rhythm. And Venus glimmered across the horizon.

She was supposed to be scared. She was supposed to stand up, get away from the steep cliff and return back home. She had been afraid of heights. She had been afraid of the dark. She had always wanted to be in the light. Strangely, that evening, the cold and the dark didn’t bother her. The steepness of the jagged rocks on which she sat, didn’t worry her. She knew that it was better there. The illusion of merry and peace that she had built right in front of her eyes was far better than the reality that awaited her on the other side of the world.

“I want to be a failure in life,” she spoke for the umpteenth time that evening  and yet again, there wasn’t an echo.

How she wished somebody would hold her hand and tell her that she wasn’t alone. She couldn’t take the competition. She couldn’t keep up with the expectations of people around her. They all wanted her to be a winner. They all wanted her to be at the top, never having a fall. And she was slowly making them lose their faith in her. Each time she was trying to get up, she was falling.

She was scared. Right around her, she watched people fight their way to the end. She watched people with dreams glimmering in their eyes, not giving up until they reached their goal. She watched people fall and then pick themselves up. And it scared her to know that her determination was not enough. That she was never going to get anywhere in life.

She could never be a winner, she felt. Instead of keeping people in dark hopes, she believed that it would be better if she became a failure in life. Nobody would place their deepest faith in her. Nobody would be bothered. And she could just walk. Peacefully. Without having to feel sad.

“I want to be a failure in life!” she spoke again, loudly. Again, there wasn’t a single voice that followed back. “Doesn’t anyone want to be a failure? Why does everybody want to be a winner? What’s so great about winning, anyway? The struggle continues, despite the wins and the losses.”

“The struggle continues, despite the wins and the losses,” someone uttered back finally.

She stood up and took a step back. She understood. The “winning” and “losing” were transient. They were like the waves that arrived at the shore and then retreated. The struggle to get somewhere – that was only constant. The struggle to reach the final destination – that was constant. There were going to be ups and downs. Sometimes, there’d be a high tide or two. On other days, sunshine. The storm didn’t always last.

That night, when she got back home and fell asleep, she dreamt of the sunshine that was about to arrive. Deep in her heart, she knew and she believed.

Of Beautiful Tragedies

“I can’t do this. I’m sorry. But I can’t. I can’t be the person who can lead the crowd. I can’t be the person who walks along with the crowd. I’d rather sit at the sidewalks and watch them walk past me.

I can’t do this. I can’t be the person you want me to be. I can’t be this person who the world looks up to. I can’t be this person who is instantly recognized amidst a buzzing crowd. I’d rather be one little person, lost in the same crowd, looking at others.

I can’t do this. I can’t be the person you think I’ll turn out to be. For I don’t want to be this person. I don’t want to be the person who has perfect grades, perfect scores, perfect job, perfect family, perfect house, but not a perfect life. Perfection is delusional. I don’t want to be this person who doesn’t have the courage to chase after their dreams and is instead driven by a crowd. I don’t want to be that person.

I can’t do this. I can’t bottle up my dreams and throw them away. I don’t want to be one of the hundred people I meet on the road everyday, who don’t have dreams glistening in their eyes. Each one of us has a dream. And happiness lies in reaching that dream..in reaching close and grasping it and crying in joy. I have a dream. And I do want to hold on to it.

I can’t do this. I can’t wake up each day and live another person’s life. The person inside me..the real person struggles to express itself each day, but I shut it out, because I’m not sure if you’d like this person. This person is scared and vulnerable. This person is clueless and driven by dreams and not by plans. This person wakes up to enjoy today and not spend the day planning for tomorrow. This person takes a step first and then thinks. This person is different. This person finds hope in the dark. This person cries and never holds back. And you’d probably not like this person.

I can’t do this. I want to be something different..something different than the facade I pull up each day. I have a million dreams. I want to stand at a crossroad and take a leap into the unknown. I want to know where that way leads to. I don’t want to take the safer road. I want to take a risk and see where it leads me. If I fall, I’ll bounce back, I believe. If I fail, all is not lost, right?

I can’t do this. I just can’t. I want to be someone different than the person you want me to be. I want to be someone different than the person others consider me to be. I want to be the person I want to be.”

There was a knock at the door, and a moment later, someone entered. In the palpable darkness, the figure moved towards the little light at the corner of the room and bent over the table to peer into her notebook.

“What are you doing?” the person asked.

“Just revising notes,” came the reply.

When the person left the room, she ripped away the paper from her notebook and went back to being the person she didn’t want to be. Back to the same person, who ran away from her own dreams.

Switching off the little light, she fell back on her bed and slept away the night.

The other morning, she wrote the same thing again in a different sheet and tore it apart before anyone arrived.

For days, she kept writing the same thing over and over again. For days, she looked for a chance to scream out her words at the world. For days, she waited for someone to hear her. For days, she waited for someone to understand without her having to say a word.

Somewhere down the lane, over the years, her habit was lost. So were her dreams. Her words were muffled. The pieces of paper withered away, the ink got smeared due to the rain. The pieces of paper were trampled on, yet some remained.

And one fine day, when the world did know about this person she had always wanted to be, it was too late. She had already become the person she’d never wanted to be.

Of Twisted, Random, Crazy Tales

During Christmas nights, when the moon was high up in the sky, she and her children would sit near the window above the fireplace, their noses pressed against the mullioned windows, waiting for Santa and his reindeer to fly through the dark winter sky. Halfway through the freezing night, their mother would find them fast asleep on their beaten leather couch, their lips curled into smiles and dreams fleeting in their little hearts.

The mornings that followed Christmas nights, they’d sigh and grumble for having fallen asleep so fast. Perhaps, Santa visited them then, they’d reason. Their mother would be standing near the corner, listening to their every talk, feeling pangs of burning pain running down her heart when she revelled in their infinite hopes. Her kids never had any gifts. They didn’t have proper mittens and sweaters. They never had pies for Christmas desserts. Yet, they would never blame Santa. They would never question his existence. Every Christmas they went by, they would take the blame on themselves.

“Santa left perhaps, when we blinked!” and “Santa didn’t visit us perhaps, because we haven’t been so good this year!” They would tell each other. Dreams never died in their eyes. Hopes lit up in them with each passing day.

“Ma,” they happened to ask one night. “Have you ever seen Santa Claus?”

What could their mother say? Her heart broke in sorrow. How could she tell her kids that she didn’t know if Santa did exist! How could she tell them that the fairytale they look forward is a mere illusion! How could she tell them the things that could only bring pain?

“Yes,” she lied.

And every Christmas after that, she watched them wait.

Until one Christmas night, when they had no roof over their head and starved. The night was vast. Snowflakes covered them in its snares. To the occasional howl of a street dog, they slept. Santa was forgotten that night. When hunger scratched their poor bellies and tears dried against their cheeks, suddenly the fairytale they had dreamed of for so long, metamorphosed into a painful reality. They realized, with a heavy heart, that the fairytale was gone. The freezing winds, the lonely streets, the hungry groans – how did they even dare to think that their life was going to be a fairytale?

“Ma,” they asked again. “Does Santa exist?”

“Yes,” their mother lied.

They slept without any food. They slept to racking shivers and mumbles. They slept without waiting for Santa. In the back of their minds, they knew they wouldn’t wake up again for another Christmas.

When the morning arrived, they found themselves in a warm house, next to the fireplace. Lavish breakfast awaited them. Without a bother, they ate and cried in joy.

Santa was remembered again.

“See! Santa gave us this, Ma,” they cried in giddy happiness.

Their mother nodded in agreement.

“Ma, Santa does exist, right?” they asked for the third time again.

“Yes,” she said. Only this time, she didn’t lie.

Of Returning Home

The train jerks to a halt, the metal wheels screeching against the rails, momentarily piercing through the drone of noises in the station. Picking up my duffel bag and grabbing the door handle to steady myself, I stare out at the maddening crowd of people all around.

Hawkers and taxi drivers and stationmasters and masses of men – it surprises me as to how the ground doesn’t crumble under their weight.

Stepping out of the train into the light of a scorching autumn sun, I take a moment to look around and breathe in the air. A smell if roasted peanuts coupled with a faint aroma of lemon oil teases the breeze.

Somewhere a hawker screams at the stray dogs that are running away with s piece of his bread. To my right, a coolie picks up the luggage of an old Lady, wincing under the weight of the blue suitcases. He complains and asks her to pay more as he starts walking, dragging the other bag behind him. Somewhere far away, a little boy sells newspapers, shrieking wildly, running after every person, hoping they’d buy a copy.

Silence is evasive as a xerox machine next to a shop, whirs and clicks, throwing sheets of paper all around. The owner shouts at the boy who is serving customers at the counter and he immediately comes to the rescue. Together, they slam the metal top to shut the machine.

Heels click against the gravel pavement. A little boy who us wearing a pair of oversized bunny slippers, jumps on every drying puddle, clapping his hands in excitement.

It is an unusually noisy Sunday.

But amidst all this, I find a deep sense of oblivion.

Nobody seems bothered. Everyone walks their own wat, occasionally stopping by to take a look here and there. Children hold on to their mothers, tight, while the men load the luggage into the train. Some people are leaving while some are returning back from where they had arrived.

As the evening air quietly blows, I can’t help but spread my arms and take a deep breath. It smells of home.

As if on cue, a frail man dressed in a pair of white pants and a grey shirt, approaches me.

“Madam ji,” he says. “Are you looking for a taxi?”

A slight gasp of surprise leaves my mouth as I withdraw my hands and shove them into the pockets of my overcoat.

“Why,yes!” I reply him after some time.

“Where to?” he asks but doesn’t wait for a reply. Instead, he picks up my bag and motions me to follow him.

“I’ve parked my taxi just there,” he talks as he manoeuvres around the people who’ve fallen asleep on the platform.

As we walk past the swirling rush of people, hearing a plethora of noises zooming into a drone, I can’t help but feel a strange peace within me. The noises don’t affect me.

With a slight spring in my steps, I walk out of the station into the slightly thick air of the parking lot. Every second fills my heart with profound happiness.

I watch him put my bags at the back of the car. Before he gets inside the taxi, he motions me to take the backseat.

Pulling open the door, I glance back at the station again. It seems as if it is moving away from me with each passing second.

Soon, I tell myself, I’ll be home. The little daisies in the garden will greet me and a bowl of corn soup will be waiting at the table.

Mom will be sitting in the living room, sipping in her usual cup of tea and flipping through the pages of some random magazine. Outside, on the street, my brother will be playing with his friends, crying in joy with the other children. And Dad will be glued to the TV screen, watching the latest political debate. They will be waiting for me. They will be calling to each other and sneaking glances at the clock, waiting for me to ring the bell. And when I will, they will rush to the door and hug me like there will be no tomorrow.

“Madam ji,” the driver’s gruff voice breaks me from my train of thought. “Where to?”

Slipping into the backseat and peeling down the windows, I feel the same air brush against my face again.

“Home,” I say and he smiles.

Of Finding A Piece Of Yourself

Have you ever noticed a person closely? Yes, they do look different; they have different tastes; a myriad mindsets… but look closer.

Inside, their souls, you’ll find yourself.

They are running scared; fighting for a place; living through each day, smiling and crying all the same. Inside, they are confused. Every time they find themselves lost amidst a crowd, they panic. They have dark days. They have brighter ones as well.

And look at you! Amidst the chaos of the city and dwindling light, you sit and watch the world go by. You are looking for your world. You are looking forward to a day when you’ll own the stage and the spotlight will be on you. When you have dark days, you are not afraid to cry. And when the sun shines bright, you rejoice.

You have goals like them. You have dreams gleaming in your eyes. You are as beautiful as the merging colours of the sky. You are looking for your moment to shine; they are looking for theirs!

Amidst the crowds that buzz past you, you take a breath and look at every person closely. You are blurring more and more into the crowd. And they are blurring more and more into you.

And as the sun drowns against the city line casting silhouettes across the horizon, you take a deep breath and stand up. Indeed, you looked closer and what did you find? That there’s a piece of you in those blurring faces in the crowd.

Of Friends

He never understood why she had to look perfect. He never understood why she had to spend hours in the mall, shuffling through a thousand dresses. He never understood why she had spend so much time gazing at the rearview mirror of his car, trying to fix every strand of her hair. He never understood the girl that she became after stepping out of his car and entering the school premises. He never understood why she’d scurry off in another direction and leave him alone.

But the day he walked into the cafeteria and found her sitting amidst the bunch of popular kids in their grade, he understood why. He understood that she no longer wanted to be his friend. So, he stayed away.

Each day, he would see her walk past him, chattering merrily with her new friends. He would see her flashing smiles and laughing endlessly with them. But he could tell, those smiles were not hers. During lunch breaks, he would see her skip her meals along with the dozen other girls in their group. Every day after school, he would see her at the bleachers, cheering for some boy he didn’t know she knew.

He wanted to tell her to stop being the person she was not. He wanted to tell her that she looked all the more beautiful without the make-up. He wanted to tell her those people were not real – their façades his a hundred truths. Their lives were not so perfect. The people they were were not the real them. He knew because he had been there.

But he kept quiet because clearly, she didn’t want to hear him.

One autumn evening, however, he met her on the street. Her hair was messy and her eyes gleamed. As they walked past each other, she held him back. Words never left her throat. Instead, she broke down next to him.

Amidst busy people and muffled voices, he held her as she cried. She spoke things which made no sense. Yet, he listened. Her shoulders fell and she sobbed against him.

The lights above then rippled below their feet on the slippery, gravel road, breaking into a million rays.

“Why?” she asked, her gaze burning into his. “I listened to them. I was there when they cried. But why was there no one when I needed them to be?”

How he wished he could tell her all the things he wanted to, ever since the day she left him! How he wished he could tell her about her friends’ sheltered lives! How he wished he could tell her all this and more without causing her more pain!

“You,” she continued in a broken voice, “are the only person who has always stayed by my side. But now, I’ve lost you, I guess. I was so stupid to leave you for them!”

He smiled, but inside, he was breaking.

“Everything about them is like a carefully scripted play,” she complained. “I don’t want to be them. I’m just happy being whoever I am.”

“They are nice people,” he said. “It’s just that, at times, they are misunderstood.”

Shock spread across her features.

“I know because once upon a time, I was one of them,” he spoke carefully. “I went from one party to another and drank till dawn. I laughed to jokes which were so bad. I did all that because I wanted to fit in in their group. The popular group. But half way down, I realized that there’s no such thing as that. I didn’t need to be in that group just to be popular. I could be popular in my own league!”

Amidst the bright city lights and increasing unrest, they sat in silence, thinking of things which made no sense.

“It’s getting late,” he spoke, first.

She nodded and stood up and began to walk.

A pang of sorrow ran through him. How he wanted his old friend back! He waited for her to turn around, but she never did. So, he turned and walked his way.

Only, she called him back.

“Did I really lose you?” she asked.

He didn’t know how to answer that one. So, he kept his back to her.

“Can we go back to being the friends we were? Will you forgive me this time, please?” she said.

He turned around and saw her smile.

“That’s what friends are for, after all,” he smiled too.

Of Grandma’s Stories

I bet no storyteller can beat the way grandparents tell stories to their grandkids. Stories of lions and tigers, of brave kings and beautiful queens, of hardworking farmers and intelligent women – their stories have a different charm.

Now, I remember that during summers, when there’d be no classes, Mom would send us off to our grandma’s house.

When dinner would be over and Grandma would be done with her daily chores, she’d come into our room and tell us a story.

I used to be a big fan of ghost stories. So, when Grandma would slip under the covers with us and ask us which story we’d like to hear, I’d always beg her to tell us a ghost story. My younger cousins would nod their heads gladly, agreeing to my decision because I was the eldest among the bunch.

Grandma would turn off the lights and we’d snicker and scoot closer under the blanket, grabbing each other’s shirt, afraid that some mischievous ghost would hear us and drag us to hell!

I remember those hushed whispers and scared whimpers of my younger cousins. At times, they’d pull the blanket a little tighter around themselves or look around the room, as if looking out for the hidden ghosts.

Squeezed in the middle, amongst her grandkids, she’d slowly pat our heads or run a hand through our hair while beginning the story. When she’d speak in that cracked voice of hers, everything would fall silent. The creaking of the old fan would die down, the swaying of the coconut trees outside would come to a standstill and the stray dogs on the street would stop barking – as if to hear the story she had to stay.

Be it cold Monday nights or freezing Tuesday evenings, Grandma always had the same ghost story to tell us. Strangely, we never complained.

She used to tell us about a ghost who had a strange craving for sweets! He’d visit every house after midnight, dragging away their trunks from under the bed and search for sweets. At times, he’d walk into the kitchen and make a lot of noises. Utensils would fall down from the shelves, spoons would fly around the room and slow wails would be heard all around. It would petrify the people of the town. If only they’d known that the poor ghost only wanted some sweets.

By this time, no matter how many times we’d have heard the story, we’d huddle closer next to Grandma and wait with bated breaths, our hearts racing rapidly.

Then one day, Grandma would continue in a feeble voice, trying to add a tone of dramatic stance, the ghost’s friend who lived on the top most branch of a banyan tree, would tell his friend that people kept sweets in a refrigerator!

The poor ghost would have never heard about a refrigerator!

‘How does it look?’ he would ask.

‘It’s big and rectangular!’ his friend would tell him. ‘It makes a weird noise at times.’

With a firm determination to steal sweets from the refrigerator, the ghost would walk into a house the next night. He would run straight into the kitchen and look desperately for the so-called refrigerator.

Little Tom who would be staying there would see the ghost and ask him what he is up to. To which, the ghost would tell him the truth. Now, Tom would be kind kid and he would open the refrigerator and give the ghosts a few sweets. The ghost would be too happy and would thank the kid.

And then, he would never return.

And by this time, all my younger cousins would be silently snoring. Only, I’d be wide awake and grumble.

‘You tell the same story every night!’ I would complain.

But by then, Grandma would have dozed off too. And after twisting and turning for some time, wondering why the ghost never returned, I would fall asleep as well.

To this day, I never understood why Grandma kept telling us the same story over and over again. Though I know now that ghosts do not eat sweets, nor do they live up banyan trees and have friends, Grandma’s story continues to haunt me. I find myself thinking of how the ghost looked and why little Tom wasn’t scared on seeing the ghost.

Grandma had simple stories up her sleeves. But those stories were the ones I grew up with. And no matter how stupid they sound, I find myself telling the same story when a bunch of kids ask me to.

And on sleepless nights, when the moon would be high up in the sky and the street dogs would go on a rampage and a slow wind would blow outside, I would think of the same story and fall asleep.

Of Not-Yous

…So one fine night, I asked her something.

“Have you ever had an instance in your life that has changed you?” I said.

“No,” she replied.

“Anything interesting or inspiring?” I pressed.

“No,” she said again.

“Something?” I asked.

She kept quiet. Her eyes wandered momentarily, staring into the far horizon. The evening sunset gleamed in her eyes.

“Interesting,” she mumbled. “My life has been way too interesting. I have been broken to pieces and have managed to glue it all together.”

Her reply surprised me. For all these years I had known her, she had never been like this – so lost. She had always been the bubbly teenager who knew what to speak and when; how to dress right and for what; how to live life and for whom. She was this tiny quantum of energy and never before had I heard her so … defeated.

“You don’t sound like you,” I told her.

“Wow, that’s new,” she said. “Why?”

I shrugged.

“It’s just that deep, dark, sad has never been you,” I said.

She sighed. A ghost of a smile flickered on her face. A sad smile.

“If only someone asked,” she said in a low whisper. I heard her, though.