Night of the untold

In case you have been reading the story I started writing last year, here is the next installment.


Pranav looks at her, smiling subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So maybe I am still yours.”

Namrata looked at him with disbelief and prompted, “Pranav?”

He met her eyes and affirmed, “I quit my job to take this trip.”

“You can’t be serious.”, she responded.

“Why not?”, he asked her.

“You cannot quit your job that simply.”, she proclaimed.

“From my experience Nam, keeping a job is a much more tedious task than getting rid of it.”, he quirked.

“Am I supposed to find this funny?”, she asked annoyed at how we wasn’t giving her any details.

“What you should or should not find funny is solely at your discretion.”, he answered testing her patience further.

Namrata could not take another circumvented response; she held his hand and reminded, “Pranav remember you wanted us to talk a while ago. I want you to cooperate. Tell me why you quit.”

“I quit because I wanted to come here.”, he replied.

“You could have applied for a leave.”, she suggested.

Pranav chuckled at her response and spoke, “You can really underestimate my brains Nam. Of course I could have asked for a few days off; that was the first thing that occurred to me. But here’s the thing, my calendar was blocked that week and it wouldn’t have been long till it was blocked for the next two weeks also. I was sick of sugarcoating my words with Nitin to get things done. I wasn’t sure of how I should approach the situation. But I was sure that I did not want you to travel to Kashmir alone. I sat for an hour considering the means and the words to open my schedule. And I realized that I did not care much about retaining my job any longer. So I wrote down a formal resignation and handed it to Nitin.”

“And Nitin accepted it?”, she asked him.

“No, it came as a huge shock to him.”, he told her.

“I don’t blame the man; I still cannot believe my ears.”, she exclaimed.

“I remained vehement that I cannot continue working any longer. I will serve the notice period and be out of here peacefully. He tried rooting out the motivation behind the abrupt decision. After quite a lot of persuasion and negotiations we agreed that I can take a break for the 10 days following the weekend, after which I begin my 6 week notice period.”, he informed her.

“After the break, your decision to leave is subject to revocation, right?”, she confirmed.

“Yeah, he believes that I may be able to clear whatever is it that is troubling me. But, if I decide to maintain my decision even then, he will not coerce me further and make it official.”, he asserted.

“So you haven’t quit in the literal sense of the word as yet. This can all be a charade in the end to avail a ten day vacation.”, she argued.

“It could be, however I have made the choice Namrata, I am quitting my job. You may believe it or not, it was your impulsive decision to take this trip that has led me here.”, he maintained.

“Pranav, what are you going to do?”, she quizzed.

“I have to think about that.”, he responded.

“Will you take another job?”, she questioned him.

” I hope not.”, he said.

“It’s difficult to digest that you haven’t thought out the biggest decision of your life. Where are the plans, the trajectories, the risk analysis, and the charts plotting the returns? The man I married was the man with the blueprint.”, she asked him bewildered.

He smiled at her and said, “I have none this time Namrata. Remember that episode from FRIENDS, where Rachel keeps on complaining about working as a waitress and Chandler suggests that unless she quits her waitress job she will never be able to muster the drive to pursue a career in fashion. I thought of that episode and as erratic as the advice seemed prima facie, it works for Rachel. I acted on that advice.”

“Pranav, FRIENDS was a show, written by people like you and me. They found the premise of a character following her passion promising. So they made it work, deliberately.”, she reasoned with him.

“I understand the deliberation there Namrata. But, if you think about it, it does make sense. In order to do what you yearn for, you cannot continue to be complacent. I cannot even recall why I started working in the first place but I know why I kept working. Because I got accustomed to a certain lifestyle, a certain sense of comfort that I was to scared to lose. But now I want to do something that satisfies me, something that I believe in. And I cannot do that with luxuries and the restraints of my job.”, he explained to her.

“What do you believe in Pranav?”, she asked him.

“This trip, to begin with.”, he replied.

“You mean us.”, she confirmed.

“I mean you and your decision to come. I believed in it.”, he replied.

“What if this doesn’t work out like last time?”, she cross questioned.

“I did not try last time Namrata.”, he responded.

“And you’re confident that you will try this time?”, she inquired.

“I have no other options.”, he told her

Nmarata looked at the sky, she shut her eyes and after a brief consideration, she spoke, “Now that I see us making some progress, I have something to tell you.”

“Let me guess, that your Sherlock brain had long ago deduced that something’s wrong at work because I have not been getting any calls or mails.”, he said in an attempt to out wit her.

“Yes, of course I knew something’s fishy; also I have been seeing a shrink.”, she answered in a self assured tone.

Pranav could not understand if he heard the last bit correctly, so he asked, “What?”

“I have been going to a therapist for almost a year now.”, she replied.

“Wow, do we even know each other anymore.”, Pranav exclaimed.

“Going by this conversation, I think not.”, she chirped in.

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This is the 14th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

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Presently from inside my head VII

  • I was once facing trouble solving a problem in an accounting lecture because I had missed an earlier lecture. A friend then argued with me that sometimes it doesn’t hurt to ask for help. To which I told her that somehow I prefer figuring things on my own and not depending on others. She did not understand my point and felt that I was being a snob pretending to know everything. However, we don’t even talk now, which substantiates my belief- try not to depend on others. Because the fact is that people leave. They leave for better people, better environment or better opportunities. When you begin to depend on people and then those people decide to leave, it is troublesome to go through the process of un-depending on them. Not that I blame them for leaving, because sometimes had I been in a similar position, maybe I would’ve left too. Or maybe, I wouldn’t leave which makes the process of people leaving all the more unsettling.
  • I have always failed to understand what comfort do people find in raising their voices. If raising your voice could render your mistakes correct, could prove a person guilty of a wrongful act or could give you a moral high ground, then trust me all of us would have simply raised our voices to solve all our problems. The reason that I will not lift my volume against you is not because I don’t have a valid argument against you but because I understand the difference between a loud argument and a meaningful argument.
  • The most exhausting task in the world is to sit idle. Imagine you are made to sit in a place for a fixed number of hours. There is nothing that you can do but sit and stare ahead. Also, you have to keep doing this for a period of 3 years. That perhaps is the most daunting task in the world.
  • Why don’t they make shows like Gilmore Girls anymore? Why do all our shows have to be about power play and vengeance? People are being killed, people are being overthrown, people are being tortured, people are being exploited for personal benefits and people are being subjected to substance abuse. That pretty much sums our shows these days. Gilmore Girls is simple- it is centered on families, friendships and young love and a lot of coffee. It is warm and identifiable. Unlike today’s young shows, it is not juvenile at all. In spite of it being so straightforward, you are so invested in the characters that sometimes it is difficult to pick a side. Should it be Max or Luke? Should Rory go to Harvard or Yale? Should Lorelai be so unpleasant with her parents? The underlying point being that sometimes ordinary lives make for appealing plots.
  • Never be polite with an inconsiderate person. Because, it gives them the assurance that no matter how discourteous and self centered they be, their acts of unkindness will never rebound to them. If you want to be good, there are a lot of people in this world who could benefit from an act of kindness.
  • Have you ever been in a situation where you are surrounded with people who are acting stupid? These people are nice to you otherwise but their stupidity is hurting you. And then you find yourself in a conflict on whether you should resent their stupidity or ignore it because at the end of the day they are good to you.
  • I have almost a hundred ideas in my head that I want to write about. But, I will never be able to make time for any of those. Sometimes, I think that I should cut them short and include them in a random post like this one but at the same time I think that will such an inclusion do any justice to those ideas. Ultimately, I end up not writing about those ideas at all and they lay in that silent corner of my brain, consistently reminding of my negligence.

 

 

 

Deep Waters

When I was 17, I read a chapter in my English textbook called Deep Waters. It was an account of a man’s intense phobia of swimming. As a child, he had attempted to learn swimming. However due to some unfortunate circumstances he lands on the deep end of the pool struggling for life. ‘Deep waters’ is an account of that man’s fresh attempt in the pool as an adult, his constant labor to emerge triumphant against his deepest fear. I could never relate to that chapter. There were other chapters as well that I could not relate to. Like the one on resuscitating a still born or about two Armenian boys and their fascination for horse riding or that poem by Kamala Das called ‘My mother at 66’. I could never associate with these stories.

Within the past six years, I have come to one understanding that you have to be at a certain age or maturity to appreciate some stories. You have to witness that certain trajectory of experiences or that nuance in your emotions, to feel what the writer feels. Now, I understand some stories better but even now Deep Waters seems an alien territory to me because waters have never troubled me.

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I was 11 when I learned swimming. My mother and I, both of us had zero faith in the prospect that I will shine at any activity that requires me to make use of my physical faculties. Yet, we both believed we’d give it a try. By the end of that week, I could swim freestyle. My mother was so surprised that she came to the pool next day to confirm with coach if I have managed to overturn history. The coach confirmed that I indeed have. I swam for that summer and for the next summer. And like that I learnt my first sport and my last so far.

My hometown houses the National Institute of Physical Education. For my 15th summer, I went there for swimming. That marked my transition from looking at swimming as a recreational means to a formal sport.  Our session began with a ten minute warm up session, after which we were taken to the pool. Depending on one’s skill level, we were divided into three groups- beginner, intermediate and advanced- found swimming at different depths of the pool. I wanted to relearn swimming so I joined the beginners, pretending not to know how to swim at all. Swimming here was strict business; there was absolutely no room for sauntering in the pool or making small talk. So for 45 minutes everyone just swam. Given this level of dedicated concentration at the sport, my act did not last for more than a week. The instructor believed that I was picking up the sport much faster than the rest and within another week I found myself at the intermediate side of the pool.

I was in class 10th that year- the year that every Indian student first appears for the board exam, read, the first level of academic validation for every Indian student. I was an academically inclined individual then, who believed that marks could make or break your life. During those summers, I had an early morning science class followed by a mathematics class- that surfaced in my life courtesy lousy Physics and Maths teacher at school.  Every day I would sleep after attending the class and then leave for the swimming class in afternoon when the summer sun would peak at its extreme best. On some days, I would be exhausted and in spite of being inside the pool I would not commit to swimming because at the point it would never seem significant to me. The instructor started teaching me the backstroke and as far my memory helps me it came fluidly to me. I showed no signs of effort on balancing my body over the surface. And like that, I stepped up a level at the only sport I have known.

Eventually, ten minutes before closing the session, another instructor would gather us to dive into the pool from a height of 5 feet. On my first time, he told me that he wanted me to stick my arms close to my body and jump straight into the pool. But I did not jump. He coaxed me, but I did not yield. Ultimately, he warned me that he will have to push me and to that I smiled and said that I wouldn’t mind. So he pushed me and I landed in the pool. This became a routine. Every day he would coax me, every day I would not yield and every day he would have to push me. One day, he tried explaining to me that my rigidity is finally hurting me. Because every time that he pushes me, my body cuts across water in a non streamlined position resulting in an agonizing soreness on my limbs. He presumed that I was scared but he did not know of what. It was never the water or the height that I feared, but I feared having to take initiative, I feared that I did not know how to jump, I feared that I would do it all wrong and that is the fear that I have carried all along.

The institute arranges a closing ceremony where the parents are invited to see their children swim and in the end the students are given a certificate. I missed the last two days and the ceremony because I had an extra class. Being the academically inclined student that I was, I placed marks above swimming and skipped those two days where the instructor was going to help me focus on my breathing pattern- my Achilles heel at swimming. You may ask me why? Because I had an extra class on the chapter on electric current those three days. At that point in life, it was more important for me to understand what resistance and potential difference meant. To me, that was going to be of more aid in future than swimming could ever be to me.

This Sunday I swam after 9 years and all I remember is how to kick my legs in the water. I cannot use both my arms and my legs together. If I try to move my head to breathe, I end up completely disoriented with my limb movement. I cannot balance my body on the surface while attempting the backstroke. And the funny thing is that I don’t even remember what I learned in those extra classes except for that the unit of resistance is ohm and there are two types of circuits- parallel and series. And that is how I unlearned the only sport I knew.

For all my life, I placed my education over everything that life had to offer me. I cried in the classical dance class, I forgot how to do paper mache crafts, I rushed through my strokes while coloring, I skipped the physical education periods conveniently, I prioritized text books over all the half read novels and I lived under the illusion that I will be able to build a life on the basis of my education. With every passing day, that illusion is falling apart and forfeiting a piece of my mental peace in its wake. Every difficulty in my life currently stems from the education I chose for myself some six years ago. I am standing at the final juncture of my education and while I merrily make jokes on how by the end of this I will be rid of this gigantic albatross on my shoulder but inside I am not even half convinced that I want to continue this for another year. The problem is that my choice of alternatives are scant and even if they aren’t as scant as I have deemed them to be, the bigger problem is what it was back then, I still fear taking an initiative. I often think, that I could have done better at my life, had I been more agile with my choices and actions.

While I may not find deep waters troublesome, I have found my very own deep waters in breaking the status quo. And while the author managed to turn the tables on his fear, I don’t believe if have the ability and the luck to do that.

I will not be going to the fair this year

I don’t remember how young I was, maybe 9, maybe 10. But I distinctly remember my brother’s excitement as he pulled me to the fair’s newest ride. It was called the ‘Dragon Coaster’ – a miniature Roller Coaster. Unlike the Roller Coaster, this ride did not turn upside down rather it took side-way turns which made for 3 complete rounds. To my younger self, that seemed such a great high. I was thrilled and that thrill was matched in my brother’s eyes as he rushed me for a second time on the ride.

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This is the story of my last ride at the fair. I have been going to the fair every year but not once have I taken another ride, not once has my brother accompanied me and not once have I acknowledged to anybody that I go to the fair. You may wonder why is that? Because I grew up and the fair did not fit the bill of being cool. There were cooler options like the amusement park or the mall. Then, why would someone want to go the fair? The shops no longer excite, the bubble blowers no longer excite, the food no longer excites and the dolls that dance on threads also no longer excite. So, no one ever talked about going to the fair. But anyway, I have been going every year because my parents enjoy the fair and their company still excites me.

What fair am I talking about? The trade fair that runs in my hometown during January-February every year. We are not a traditional family per se but we do uphold ‘our’ traditions seriously- like the mandatory after pooja drive on Diwali, Friday night movie and our Saturday visit to the fair.

The Trade Fair has something to offer to every person. Divided into sixteen segments called the chhatris -canopies- there are local electronic, furniture, automobiles retailers running great discounts on their products, there is a Shilp Bazar (Craft Fair) that features dainty artifacts, hand woven carperts and rugs, varieties of silks and pashmina, there is the infamous ‘Bombay Kitchen Gallery’ and other not so famous kitchen galleries displaying fancy tools for the kitchen, there are the pastel shaded kurtas with Chikan embroidery from Lucknow, the Kashmiri embroidered long phirans and ponchos, pashmina shawls and stoles from Jammu, every possible manifestation of street food and very cheap rides that fancy amusement parks boast of.

My father who is a ‘I don’t walk I drive’ person will enthusiastically walk for a good 2-3 hours as we move across the chhatries, picking groundnuts and popcorn on his way. We walk into electronic stores to see a certain appliance let’s say an induction plate but end up being hooked on a coffee machine that produces a brilliant froth during demonstration. Throughout that evening we toy with the conflict of need vs greed on the coffee machine. Every year we hunt for our favorite bhel puri vendor, every year we make a mental note of the chhatri he sits in and every year we end up forgetting it. We check into blanket stores to quiz the vendors on the prices and then my mother very smugly informs them that she is from Punjab where she gets a better quality at 3/4 the price.

We know of a Pashmina vendor who comes from Jammu to set up a stall here. The mark of a true Pashmina is that no matter how long it is, it can pass through a tiny ring. We visit this stall every year and every year the old man passes a shawl through a ring, expecting for us to be fascinated like it is the very first time. This act is then followed by him showing us his treasure- a silver embroidered Pashmina shawl which he has to dishearteningly keep aside once we tell him that we are eyeing something less luxurious. Sometimes, I think that he is constantly on a hunt for a match for the treasure- that being a self actualization milestone for him. So, it is customary for him to show that shawl to every one who comes with the hope of finding the one who can truly appreciate it.

My mother ardently looks forward to the Crafts Fair. A part of the clothes section operates on the Flea Market principles, the deeper you go, the more likely you are to find finer printed fabrics at throwaway prices. Our eyes are constantly on alert for interesting pottery crafts that can make their way into our living rooms. There is a swing that I see every year, the more I see it, the more I yearn to own it- if only we had a bigger balcony. For the last three years maybe, I see these low coffee tables and chairs-that are all the rage currently-that I place in my imaginary garden for imaginary high tea coffee. When I am done doing that, we peruse through the many warm stoles and silk pieces to zero in on the subtle colors and patterns.

Another mandatory visit is a stall that my mother stumbled upon an accident, a happy accident because they sell Pinterest worthy bedding, rugs, mats, mittens, comforters and covers again at very reasonable prices. You think of a home furnishing item, they have it, provided you are willing to spend some time looking because like everything good in life, their intricately embroidered pieces demand effort. If my hometown had a Little Black Book website, they would necessarily feature this stall as the Commercial Street of home furnishings, and of course the Crafts Bazar for offering some dainty artifacts.

I have been going to the fair every year. Like anything that you have been doing on a constant basis, the fair has made for many memories across the years. The reason that my nostalgia has surfaced today is because my parents went to the fair today but I did not. In fact, I will not be going this year because I am 1800 kilometers away from my hometown. But even if I cannot go this year, at least I can talk about the very little talked about fair, about the skilled workers who travel thousands of miles annually to find a market for their art, about the unappreciated labor that goes into organizing and running a fair every year, about how family dates can be fun too and about how the humblest of places you visit can make for a number of stories to tell. Among other things, I will sit on my imaginary swing in my imaginary balcony sipping on to coffee and munching cookies, till it is 2018 and the fair opens its doors again.

Presently from inside my head V

  • I have recently started watching Gilmore Girls. It revolves around the lives of a single mother Lorelai and her 16 year old daughter Rory. On their third month anniversary date, Rory’s boyfriend shows her the car that he is making for her because he wants her to spend her time studying for Harvard rather than wasting it waiting for the bus. They both lie down in the car looking at the stars when Rory tells her that this is such a perfect moment that no moment in her life will be able to match up with the beauty of what they are sharing in that moment. Looking at them, I wondered how many of us have known or would know of a moment as exquisite as theirs.

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  • It is very easy to find fault in how another person may live their life or point their follies. Some of us take the first chance to highlight it to others- you waste a lot of time, you are indecisive, you procrastinate, you don’t think about your family, you are being childish, etc. However, when it comes to their own lives, they are all culpable of doing the same mistakes. When you point out those to them, they attempt to persuade you that they are caught in a myriad of small complexities that have to be resolved before they can arrive at a decision or act upon something. But, if it can be a myriad of complexities for them, then so can it be for the other person they were pointing a finger at. Then why not give people a benefit of doubt before criticizing them or charting out a path for them because let’s face it, everyone tries to make the most of the resources at hand, it is the small but significant considerations that hold them back.
  • I have a friend who works on software that runs on casino machines. Recently, she told me that at one point in her life, she would visit a casino and play on a slot machine with a sense of fulfillment that this is the product of her hard work. I looked at her and wondered that maybe this is what I am ardently looking for, this sense of pride in my work, this sense of satisfaction in what I do for a living. There once was a time when I took great pride in my education but now when I think about it, the only emotion that surfaces is dissatisfaction- on how little it helps me to solve any real time problems or on upholding my individuality.
  • I use Uber Pool/Ola Share on a regular basis. What strikes me is how little do both the cab companies think about their customers because their software evidently has no parameter for route optimizations when matching customers for the shared rides. I have taken a 7 km detour to drop my co-passenger in peak Bangalore traffic hours. There is a bridge that I have to cross everyday on my way to work which costs me a good 15-20 minutes. Imagine, I have been half way through the bridge and Uber tried pooling me with a rider whose society was on the service road adjacent to the bridge. Meaning which, I got off the bridge, took a U-turn after 2 kms, picked the rider and again had to go through the ordeal of passing that bridge in another 20 minutes. It’s difficult to fathom on how little thought has gone into the technology that forms the backbone of their shared services.
  • Making someone work for you is a skill, a skill that I don’t possess. Because, the time and energy required to induce another human being to work is twice of what it would take for me to complete the task at hand. Like, for example, I can ask my maid once to empty the dustbin in the room, but if she cannot recall to do the same everyday when the dustbin is parked right in front of her eyes, it goes on to reflect how little is she invested in doing her job. She has ignored it once, she will ignore it again. The more I try to remind her, the more it irks me because if I have to expend energy on making her do her work, then what good is her presence.

 

Mine

How easily do they tell you in stories, that under the night sky all that you can see is magic but all that she sees is mountain, her mountainous marriage that is. Namrata shifts her gaze at him and asks him, “What do you want to talk about?”

Pranav wished he was as  systemized on this conversation as he is otherwise but his reflexes were betraying him, so he casually answered, “Anything and everything that we haven’t talked about.”

“Wouldn’t that be two years of our lives?”, she questioned him.

“What if I have been keeping things from you much before that?”, he asked her with a hint of jest.

“Have you?”, she inquired.

“Do you trust me Nam, at all?”, he asked her meaningfully.

“There is precedent to support that I should not.”, she replied sternly.

“Why do you think did I come with you?’, he proved her.

“I have wanted to know that.”, she answered.

“I love you.”,he tells her.

“I don’t know if that is enough Pranav.”, she replies.

“I try Namrata.”, he reasons with her.

“I do too. I try to believe that this is what love is going to be from now on. Love is sleeping in different rooms, it is avoiding each other every day for the fear of what our mutual contempt may tell us about our incompetency at this relationship, it is taking a trip holding on to the belief that we can redeem our marriage; it is walking in the woods discovering each other anew as if we haven’t been together for the last 5 years, it is looking for symbols in flowers, in songs, in a bottle of rum, it is hoping that simple words hold a deeper meaning inside. But I don’t know if this is enough Pranav. Because I don’t like that it will never be what it was before, that it won’t be Pretty Woman and champagne and cherries, that it won’t be unrestrained flow of words and emotions, that it won’t be rings of laughter that echoed across our home, that it won’t be going to sleep with my head on your shoulder fingers intertwined, that it won’t be the impulse to hold you purposelessly but possessively thinking that you are mine. I don’t know how to be satisfied with this when I have had more.”, she articulates to him.

Pranav looks at her, smiling  subtly he says, “I quit my job to come to Kashmir with you. So may be I am still yours.”

This is the 13th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.

Lessons

“Why did it have to rain today?”, quizzed Namrata.

“I wish I had an answer to that.”, replied Pranav as he flipped the pages of the menu,

“Why does it always rain at the wrong time?”, Namrata wondered.

“Maybe because rains have not stumbled upon the concept of time.”, Pranav told her cheekily.

“Why do my plans get soiled every time?”, she asked him.

“Excuse me, my plans?”, he remarked.

“Okay our plans, why do our plans get soiled every time?”, she corrected herself.

“Isn’t that a question that the Dark Lord should have asked the death eaters?”, added Pranav.

“Can we not do anything?”, she asked him.

“You, for one, can stop fidgeting.”, he suggested.

“Fidgeting, you call this fidgeting. This is a normal human reaction to a problem.”, she replied infuriated.

“Ah, how can I forget your penchant for ‘normal human reactions’.”, he said recalling her restlessness at the airport when their flight was delayed.

“Never miss a chance to take a dig at me, do you.”, she pointed out.

“Try my best not to.”, he affirmed.

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“Why haven’t we ordered already?”, she questioned trying to divert his attention from her.

“Because apparently you have better things to think about than food.”, he answered. Looking at the crimson in her cheeks building up, he decided not to test her fury any further and asked, “What do you want to have?”

“Momos”, she answered.

Shaking his head in denial, he told her, “I will choose to ignore that.”

Shaking her head back at him, she told him firmly, “Seriously, we cannot come to Leh and not eat momos. That is a crime.”

“You know I don’t like momos, unless they are fried and fried momos aren’t on the menu.”; he tried reasoning with her.

“My bad, I had forgotten about Punjabis and their penchant for fried food.”, she said playfully.

“Fine, we will order momos.”, he said before she could play another joke on his North Indian attributes.

“And?”, she asked him.

“Thukpa? I think we should try Thukpa; both of us can use some warmth.”, he replied.

She smiled at him and said, “Getting strong at your puns Pranav, but I am ‘not’ impressed.”

He smiled back at her and pointed out, “But, when have you been?”

“Never, really.”, she added.

“Let’s add crispy noodles and spring rolls to that.”, he suggested.

“How can I say no to that, ever?”, she remarked.

“Never, really.”, he added further.

 

She shifted her attention to the downpour again and said, “Imagine, had it not been raining we could have been in Booklover’s Retreat sipping onto a warm cup of latte and reading.”

With a hint of surprise in his eyes, he asked her, “Is that it Namrata? That is what you want to do in Leh, be in a book store that doubles up as a cafe. We could have gone to Cha Bar in Connaught Place instead, would’ve saved our parents a lot of money and us a lot of time.”

“Being in a book cafe in Leh counts as an important experience.”, she said in her defense.

He could not believe that she was worried about not being in a book cafe right now and she was defending herself on this. He then said, “There are a number of other cafe experiences that Leh has to offer. Right at this time, we could have been scoring some chocolate momos and sipping onto jungli chai in Bon Apetit as the day changed its colors, we could have been in Gesmos gorging onto Yak Cheese Pizzas because you do not get Yak Cheese any place else in this country, we could have been in the Apple Garden Restaurant and eat amidst an apple orchard because it is not everyday that we get to be in an orchard, we could have been in Old Leh walking our way to Lala’s Cafe where coffee and cake comes with a history lesson, we could have been in the German Bakery and eating possibly the most delectable apple crumble. So you see, it is not always experiences with books that are the ones to look out for.”

Namata could not comprehend if he was trying to lift her spirits up or subdue them further by apprising her of the many things that they could have been doing presently. She woefully added, “And now I feel worse, for missing out on everything that this place has to offer and dining in the hotel because it had to rain on this vacation.”

“Dining in the hotel does not take away from the fact that we are still in Leh which is perched at an altitude of 11,000 feet; the restaurant we are sitting in offers a fairly good view of marvel that this place is and if you could just relax and open your eyes to what are we surrounded with, this might come across as an experience to you.”, he tried explaining to her.

Namrata did not argue further, rather she was smiling. He asked her, “Why are you smiling now?”

“I was wondering that I have always been this impatient -which evidently is quite irksome to you-then how is it that you fell in love with me, at all?”, she quizzed him.

“You weren’t this impatient.”, he answered not sure of himself.

“Dates back to my childhood, I believe, impatience is thy second name.”, she told him funnily.

“Haha, I don’t know about impatience but it isn’t every day that you are this good on self assessment.”, he joked.

“Tell me Pranav, did my restlessness not bother you then?”, she questioned him seriously.

“I always managed to talk you out of it or redeem for a cancelled plan.”, he answered.

“How?”, she asked.

“Do you remember your convocation?”, he asked her.

“Ah, you missed it.”, she recalled.

“It was a long day at work, I could not bail out early. I missed the convocation and also the grad dinner date I had promised you.” he explained.

“I was infuriated.”, she exclaimed.

“You weren’t taking my call., he reminded her.

“Call? I had resolved to not look in your direction again.” she told him.

Pranav added, “So at around midnight, I came to your friend’s apartment with a cold pizza, a britannia cake and a bottle of coke to make good on the grad dinner promise and to make you reconsider your decision of never looking at me again.”

“The minute you started talking, my rage began to dispel and we ultimately ended up having a date in the parking lot.”, she confessed to him.

“That was a good date.”, he remarked.

“That was an amazing date. Come to think of it, we made a cute couple back then.”, she admitted wistfully.

“Come to think of it, ‘our love back then’ sounds so ancient.” he admitted with a sense of hurt in his voice.

“Sometimes the answers lie in ancient tales.”, she said purposefully.

“What are you talking about?”, he inquired.

“Maybe, we should talk.”, she suggested.

“Talk about what?”, he asked further.

“Everything that’s going on with us.”, she answered.

“You think that will help in dispelling our rage?”, he inquired.

“If not, relationship reconciliation talks in Leh sounds like an experience in itself.”, she responded chuckling.


This is the 12th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


Image has been sourced from this link.

Presently from inside my head IV

  • Conversations are not my field of expertise, but I have a small advice. When someone calls you, talk to them properly. Talk to them without that air of withholding information, talk to them without giving them the impression that the call means nothing to you, talk to them without rubbing on them that you do not have time. If you are really busy, do not take the call or drop a message or make time later on and give them a call. Because on their end, they had made the effort to reach out to you and hostility was not what they were looking for.

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  • Have you realized that we are constantly surrounded by people who want rationalize everything? It appears as if we have this unspoken obligation to analyze anything that is placed before us. For example, two months ago the internet was going gaga about the success of Pokemon Go- how it has managed to generate the numbers that it did within the first week of its realease. However now, every third day there is an article trying to unearth that why  have the numbers fallen so quick. My point is that it is not necessary for every game to appeal to all sorts of people alike. Just because a certain set of people do not enjoy it does not make the game flawed or the entire segment of augmented reality banal. I never found Temple Run or Subway Surfer or Angry Bird interesting but that does not raise questions on the game. The same goes for Pokemon Go and a lot other things that are incessantly being analysed every day rather than simply being accepted.
  • Something that probably most people do not realize about me is that all it takes me is a minute to feel sorry for people and their problems. I was watching the new Nescafe ad where a radio jockey is struggling to garner listeners for his morning program. I was sad for him. Like I was sad for Roger Federer when he broke into tears on losing the Australian Open to Rafael Nadal in 2009. The interesting bit is that I had never followed Tennis or Federer and his game. I just saw him crying and began thinking if there was anything I could do to save this man from this pain. I don’t know why I am writing this down but often I think that I should covey to the world that I am not as cold and unmoved you perceive me to be.
  • People have a checklist when it comes to looking for a soulmate; I do too. The person that I settle down for, should qualify on those fronts. Among other few simple requirements it includes a good sense of humor and  a patient ear to the many (albeit repetitive) tales I bring home every day. Lately, I have realized that one of the most important (and less talked about) considerations is that he stands by you during shifting homes or a white wash or wood work or any other renovation. He should help you in moving things, in sorting out what to keep and what to give away and in making space for perennially expanding belongings in perennially shrinking cupboards. That is the kind of person I want to be with.
  • There are days when I want to write to the Human Rights Commission talking about how my earnings befit below poverty line citizens and how my apprenticeship leaves no time for something as small as running an errand or how little is my work being acknowledged or how many explanations do I have to give for sick leaves. September is the busiest month at my work. For the uninitiated, I am working in Tax Audits and 30th of this month is the last date for filing of Tax Audit Reports. I have longer working hours (double of my usual) and working Sundays. Most people I know find the months of August and September exhausting. But here’s a secret, I relish Septembers. I enjoy that sense of urgency, the rush to get things done, that tension in the atmosphere- all of which you will never experience on the 1st of October.
  • Here’s a small something else about work. Last year at this time, all I wanted was to be better at what I do, to have a comprehensive grasp on taxation. I have that now, I understand things better and I have a more effective approach to any audit that I do. But I miss how work was last year solely because of the people I was working with, how light the ambiance was around this time last year. This goes on to show how conflicted I am as a person.

 

Transience- Tales from school

Apartheid; I read it again and it reads ‘Apartheid’. I don’t know what it means. I remember reading it in my social science textbook in class 10. I remember the word being thrown in a number of answers in school. I remember a teacher repeatedly explaining what it means and I remember thinking that given the frequency with which the word is brought up in this class it will take some hard work unlearning this. However, here I am, having completely forgotten the meaning of Apartheid.

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I remember having participated in an inter school competition in class 11th. I was sitting in the waiting area with my team when a girl walked over and beamed- yes, literally beamed- at me. She was a friend from my science tuition in 10th. She hugged me and said, ‘Milna nahi hota kya’. I remember feeling warm in that cold foyer. I remember feeling welcome. I remember making a mental assertion that welcomes ought to be this affable, not any less. However, here I am having lost her and  her warmheartedness over the years.

In that very competition, there was a quiz round where in my desperation to win home a few points, I had given two extremely foolish answers. I remember growing red in embarrassment at the sheer stupidity of the words that had escaped my mouth. I had a ‘Sita’ moment, that is, all I wanted was for the earth to break upon so that I could rest inside its folds. However, here I am having forgotten that quiz, those answers and the desire to disappear over the years.

Once in class 7, I had stained my skirt on the second day of my period. The teacher who noticed it behaved as if she had never witnessed anything close to a period. Everyone in my class looked at me with an other worldly expression. I felt stung that day. However, here I am , having completely moved over that emotion.

I had moved to a different school in class 4. I was a quiet kid and I still am, meaning which seldom did I take initiative to participate in class discussions or in interacting with my classmates or a teacher. Often, my teachers would show surprise on how someone with such little zeal in class could score so well. My science teacher in class 5- who taught me Chemistry through the next six years- took special interest in me. She would constantly nudge me to answer in the class or pick a conversation with me or ask me for my notebook which no other teacher has done in my life. I always believed that I shall remain in touch with her. Maybe, I am too lousy at sustaining long term contacts or maybe I am incompetent in conveying my emotions – both the quantum and the content- to others, so here I am, not having talked to this teacher for for a good five years now.

I used to have a best friend in school. I called it quits with her in class 11. It felt how adults feel when they walk out of relationships. It happened because she never meant well or she never meant as well as she tried portraying. At that point in time, I had come to believe that I will never be able to trust another person, their words and their intentions. However, here I am, having set aside those beliefs and having fostered deeper connections in the aftermath.

In English, we were once taught a chapter called ‘The Address’, where a World War II survivor visits her former neighbor- who her mother had trusted with their belongings. However on coming across the artifacts , the cutlery in that cramped, strange environment she finds them alien. So she leaves the house abruptly and resolves to never see them again. I had written a short note on the story, trying to rationalize the myriad of emotions that take hold of the protagonist in that house. That answer was dear to me at that time. However, here I am, reading it again and again, but it just doesn’t appeal to me now. I stand as disassociated with the answer as Marga was in ‘The Address’.

You may wonder, why am I writing of all these long forgotten instances from school; only to bring home the point- that everything passes, whether good or bad, whether dear or heart wrenching, everything in our lives fades, first out of sight and then out of memory. As we make space for newer experiences and newer beliefs (and newer words) in life everything from our past grows smaller and smaller. Things in life have a shelf life and come to think of it, howsoever despondent my present seems to me presently, this too shall pass, soon.

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These days, I am trying to be solicit hope, be it in positive experiences or in an odd trail of thoughts, like this one.

My life is a Red Velvet Cake- II

Here’s what happened so far,

Last December, I had decided to make a Red Velvet Cake on a whim. After a day of recipe hunting, when I arrived in my kitchen to do the actual baking, a new difficulty materialized at every step. Finally, when the butter was posing to be too tough to mix, I gave up and walked out.

When in Masterchef Australia, things don’t go well, contestants conveniently discard the batch of under cooked food and start afresh. But life isn’t Masterchef Australia; there was no way that I could walk out abandoning the half done ingredients without a huge bout of guilt taking control of me. That was a good 200 gm of flour, butter and sugar bound for trash only because I did not have the sanity to melt the butter before using it. So, I took a spoon and slowly began folding the curd mixture into the butter and sugar. I would swirl the butter, then even it with the spoon and then repeat the swirl.

As soon as the butter and curd made peace in the bowl, I added a teaspoon of vanilla essence and beat it with the electric blender once. One monumental task done, it was time for another, I had to add flour to this mixture. The consistency of the mixture was thick already, so I decided to approach with the flour in small portions because I did not have the time to afford another almost walk out session. I split the flour into 4 portions and added it one after the other, moving to the next portion only when the first incorporated well and smoothing out any lumps that occurred. Fifteen minutes in the calling a truce of the thick skinned ingredients, the batter seemed done. For the next step I had to mix 1/2 a teaspoon of baking soda to 1/2 a tablespoon of vinegar and wait for the froth to rise before I add it to the batter. That is how the batter was done.

My brain still wasn’t convinced that I had come this far. So I continued to match the appearance of my batter with the pictures on Gayathri’s blog. Every time I looked at mine, it felt as it wasn’t destined for the oven to rise as a Red Velvet Cake but to solidify as bricks. There wasn’t anything wrong with my batter but that is how anxious I am as a person, I obsessively chase a catch in an entirely catchless situation. I lined the cake tin with copious amounts of oil and flour because now that I had inched so close to the victory I’d prefer it to be out of the tin. I emptied the batter into the tin, leveled it and placed it inside a pre heated oven.

Now that the cake was left to the mercy of thermal energy, I had nothing else to do but pray. Any prudent individual would begin working on the frosting however I decided to frantically walk between the bedroom and kitchen in the half hour that followed. Sometimes, it amazes me that despite of all those business studies lectures on aiming to be efficient – maximum utilization of time- my efficiency has only come to deplete over time. I checked on the cake once after it had been in the oven for 20 minutes. A gooey red line streaked the knife. I pushed the tin inside the oven again and then googled if opening the oven door during baking affects the process. Google cautioned me to keep calm and let it bake but given my impatient reflexes I checked on the cake again after ten minutes. The knife was slightly streaked this time. I shoved the tin inside, set the timer afresh for 7 minutes and turned away. The oven beeped as the timer hit zero but  I did not approach it as anything worthwhile in life demands standing time; if time is all it wants I will give it that.

I took the tin out of the oven, placed it on the platform and ran a knife through it which came out spotless.That, folks was nothing short of a miracle for me.

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That’s how it came out of the oven.

Now that I had a red cake all I needed was cream cheese frosting for it to be Red Velvet Cake. So I opened the tub of that packaged cream cheese, scooped half of it into a bowl. I added half a cup of white butter, half a cup of sugar and a tinge of vanilla essence to it and began whisking it. I accept that this was not an Amul Cream advertisement where I whisk it once and the it fluffs up but I most certainly did not expect it to dilute further every time I beat it. On a closer look, I realized that the packaged cream cheese had tiny bits of ice in it which were melting with the whisking and making my frosting runny. I tried improving the consistency with more cream cheese and more beating which helped slightly but I never achieved the thickness and lightness that defines frosting.

What was done was done and for the lack of any handy hacks, I proceeded with the same frosting. Once the cake had cooled down, I cut into half laterally and spread the icing on top of one layer. I then placed the second layer on top of the first and with a wooden spatula covered the cake with cream cheese as best as I could. I continued spreading the cream cheese icing generously because there was a possibility of the icing to run down. Once the icing was done, I placed it in the refrigerator over night for the icing to set.

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I made it to the finish line, (most importantly) with the cake 😉

I does not look very exquisite but it definitely tasted well and surprisingly so because cooking and I never go hand in hand.

Why I called my life Red Velvet Cake in the title was because presently my life is huge chunks of butter that I am trying to incorporate with flour and sugar and curd. On days, I feel like abandoning everything at hand. But I come back, make fresh attempts and even though the prospects don’t appear to be promising, I hope that their taste will not be any less heartening than my cake’s. So here’s to a shabby Red Velvet that holds the promise of a dainty future.


On a side note, my experiments in kitchen have made me realize that had I been in Hogwarts I would have failed horribly at potion making because of my lack of subtlety and my callousness with exact proportions.

What have your kitchen experiments taught you in life?


Read part one of this post here: My Life is a Red Velvet Cake-I