“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.


“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.


Karaoke and Kinesis

Chand si mehbooba ho meri kab

Aisa maine socha tha

Hann tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaise maine socha tha

He sang to me as I scooted inside the gates of The Grand Dragon, Leh. His lips inching closer to my helmet clad face, his breath lingering on  my neck, his grasp slightly firm on my waist and his voice solemn, more solemn than with any other song that he had sang earlier. His eyes sincere as they met mine and his embrace reeked affection as he held me in his arms and shrieked gaily, “Yayyyy, we made it alive.” And then he withdrew, and then he was at the reception and then inside their room tossing his shoes in the air and then he slept. And she simply looked on, replaying the moment, the last song in her head.


Many many moons ago, Pranav had perched himself on the balcony of their honeymoon suite and sang for me this song. He had taken me in his arms and said, “I know this is not Kashmir but I promise that a day will come when you will have your dream. Perched atop a hill, I will nestle you closer and sing to you this song.”I had laughed then, arguing that my dream is not a five minute sequence from a Yash Raj movie. He had countered me, “If not yours, then this is mine, both a dream and a promise to you.”

It was his idea that we sing songs to keep ourselves engaged in the journey and so w had. He had sung a lot of old romantic songs, particularly Mukesh‘s because he was such an oldie with music. No tadak bhadak, just raw emotions and melody. I was enjoying the choices he was making with the songs. Because they were beautiful songs and beautiful songs are meant to be relished with every lyric. But never during those four hours, had an emotion stirred in my heart because at the end of the day, they were mere words strung together for recreation. Until he sung the last one and a box in the back of my mind flipped open, the memory resurfaced and a riddle took siege on me. Was it simply a song or was it a message that he was hoping to deliver in the guise of a song?

When they were getting to know each other better, Pranav would often remark what a nightmare must it be to born with my brain. The kind of brain that is always looking out for symbols. Every time I would over analyse a fact, a gesture an occurrence, he would chastise me saying that not everything is a code for you to decrypt, some things can be taken at face value. But I would make a mental assertion that maybe it is a code after all, a jigsaw puzzle to be brought to order. How ironic is it, that today he had played on what he once deemed nightmarish to earn a second lease on our marriage. That after all, I had left no doors for him to reach to me but through a code. Talk about friction, someone.

What if it was only was a song, an innocent song that was being read into excessively. Among the many things that we have both forgotten over time, the promise could have been one. When we had begun on the path of estrangement, he would tell me in the middle of arguments that my knack of reading between lines has deluded me into misjudging his actions and him; that it is this that will cost us our relationship. Come to think of it now, if it is that, what comes as natural as a reflex to me, then it is his words that hold veracity in the end. And this night has been nothing short of being a futile exercise in the hope of holding onto a relationship that I have rendered dysfunctional.

When did my life come to sound like Clouds in my Coffee? Deep poetic words ought to be liked on pages not begin to parallel your life. If only, I could stop thinking of this song, that would ease the muddling in my head. Once I had read on Quora, that the trick to stop singing a song was to think of how it ends. But before I can reach the end, I get stuck on,

Iss duniya mein kaun tha aisa

Jaisa maine socha tha

Haan tum bilkul waisi ho

Jaisa maine socha tha


This is the 11th chapter of the story I had begun to write as a part of AtoZ Challenge. To make more sense of it, hop onto the page Anniversary and Kashmir.


Just in time

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I can’t sleep.

Screw that, I want to sleep.

God, why can I not sleep.

Pranav’s brain was buzzing with continuous calls for sleep, “The last time I felt so helpless with sleep was in that wretched Economics class in 12th standard. I would sit and yawn incessantly during the entire class and imagine if there was a sleep suppressing device consisting of two small sticks that you could fit in between the eyelids. The sticks would hold the eyelids apart, thereby preventing them from meeting and making it difficult for a person to sleep. Fifteen years hence, and there is still no sign of such an equipment. God, what would I have not given to sleep then. God, what would I not give to sleep right now. Why am I never able to do what I want to do? Why do I always have to turn a blind eye to what I desire?”

“Pranav, be a man and let this be an exception. Be a man and follow your heart. Carpe diem, if all that you yearn for is sleep then you will sleep, right here right now.”

Pranav closed his eyes. He could feel his mind come to a blank. He was coming to enjoy the ease but his relaxed stance had let the motorcycle freewheel ahead. As the road turned slightly, his helmet collided with Namrata’s and  they were going to fall. He opened his eyes just in time to take control of the bike and save them from tripping. He braked and parked in a corner to catch his breath and recollect his thoughts.


Namrata got off the bike, removed her helmet and as she stretched her arms casually she told him,”Pranav, I know that there must have been a lot of occasions lately when all you must have wanted is to get rid of me; and if killing me is how you have decided to achieve that, I just want you to know that I don’t want to die in an accident especially not so far from home, especially in a secluded valley where my corpse will rot unattended for hours before a living soul realizes of my having passed to a higher abode.”

“Namrata, can you save the speech please. I did not intend to kill you, I just lost hold of the brakes for a minute, that’s it.”, Pranav rattled back at her.

“Don’t lie Pranav, I know you dozed for some seconds and you were knocked out of it when your brain cells registered that we are going to trip and not very pleasantly.”, Namrata asserted with confidence.

“That is absolute crap. You are sitting behind me, how can you say for certain that I was about to sleep.”, he argued.

Namrata smiled, she tucked a hair strand behind her ears and began explaining to him, “Pranav, you have a horrible hand at automobiles but what you have demonstrated in the past fifteen minutes with the Royal Enfield is even shameful for your grotesque riding skills. Now, renting a bike to Leh was your idea, so you’d commit your life to validate this idea; which means you should not be riding this bad. But you are, so that means something is meddling with your attention. On a usual day your brain is occupied with three things, work, food and sleep. You haven’t thought of work since the day we flew out of Delhi, you aren’t hungry because we just stopped at a dhaba an hour ago, which means this most definitely has to be sleep. You haven’t slept in the past three days, because we had an early flight, the next night you woke up at around 4am, the next night we had an argument and you spent most part of the night in some part of the hotel I know nothing of and then last night you woke up early to arrive at this amazing plan. All of this strengthens my theory that your brain wants you to sleep and you obliged to its demand.”

Pranav exasperated at her well founded theory, let out in a hurry, “You’d give anything to prove that riding a bike to Leh was a bad idea.”

“You think I need to voluntarily prove it. This was an exciting idea Pranav but not in your context. You abhor riding/driving and for you to ride a motorcycle from Pahalgam to Leh, for eight hours straight, on an uphill road, that does not sound anything short of torture to me.”, she told him.

Pranav was left with no energy to contest her theory. He sat down on the road and with his face between his hands, he agreed, “You are right.”

“About you having dozed off or this being a torture?”, she asked him.

“Both.”, he answered.

“Haha, I knew it.”, she cried out.

“Do you really think this is the time for your evil laughter and that ‘I told you so’ expression.”, he asked her.

“You dragged me out of bed at 5 to pursue a plan based on a 3 second impulse. I think I have earned a minute to relish my victory.”, she replied with an air of pride.

Pranav shook his head in disbelief. How important is it for her to be right, he thought to himself and called out”What a kid you are, Nam?”

“That coming from the person who drew up the most childish plan in the history of mankind.”, she teased him.

“Now that’s an exaggeration.”, he said.

“Who said I believed in subtlety and accuracy.”, she reasoned.

“You can take pride in your foresight for the rest of your life but right now we have to decide what we do next.”, he reminder her of the problem at hand.

“We have to keep moving ahead.”, she articulated without a doubt.

“But I can’t do this anymore.”, he informed her.

“But you have to.”,she stated matter of factly.

“At the cost of killing us both, do you want me to do that.”, he stated in a more matter of factly tone.

“Pranav you can’t chicken out of this plan in the middle of nowhere.”, she argued.

“We are in Dras, we can stay here for the night.”, he suggested.

“Do you know a place where we can put up for the night?”, she inquired.

“We can look for one.”, he replied.

“Another 3 second impulse, is that? What if we do not find a decent accommodation, we will have to revert to the original plan, go to Leh. So why take a detour?”, she contended.

“I cannot ride Nam; the odds that I will die with the monotony of riding are far more than the odds of dozing off while riding. Not that the latter is not lethal but the former has a more venomous factor.”, he explained to her with a tone of exhaustion in his voice.

“Wait a minute, why don’t you ride us ahead.”, he proposed.

“Absolutely not.”, she answered.

“Why not? You love roads, you enjoy every twist they throw at you and at one point you fancied taking an exotic bike trip.”, he insisted.

“That was 25 when I nurtured such fancies, much before my back began giving up on me in the absence of proper support.”, she explained.

“Oh Namrata, don’t present yourself as a 66 year old. You know you can do this and you know we have no alternative and you know it will be a delight for you.”, he said with conviction.

“Okay but only because you have left us no other options. But there are two conditions.”, she announced.

“What?”, he asked her.

“You cannot sleep and you have to keep me entertained.”, she told him.

“As long as I rid myself of riding the beast, everything is fine by me. Even not sleeping and even brainstorming what can I bring to the table for your entertainment”, he told her.

“Sounds like we have a deal then.”, she voiced out as she smiled and fastened the helmet on her head.







“Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam. Nam, wake up. Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam please wake up.”, Pranav utters, shaking her forearm lightly.

“Hmmmm. Shush.”, she tells him covering her face with duvet.

“Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam, Nam.”, he goes on calling out.

“Hush. Go away. Go far away.”, Namrata says irritably.

“Nam, Nam, Nam, you have to wake up.”, he repeats to her.

“Pranav, what is wrong with you. We just slept some time ago.”, she asks him.

“Nam, it has been four hours, four whole hours, since we slept. Please get up, please. Nam, Nam, Nam, no don’t sleep again, we have to leave Nam, we have to leave right now.”, he tells her.

“Hmmmmm. It’s not even morning yet. What’s the rush? Let me sleep.”, she replies.

“The sun’s going to be up any minute now. If we have to go where I have decided for us to go, we will have to leave now. So, get your lazy bum off the bed and get going.”, he tells her with a sense of authority.


“Firstly, I am not a lazy bum. Secondly, what place is this that we are going to? Thirdly, wherever this place must be, the roads that lead to it will not change locations like the staircases in Hogwarts. So whenever we leave, we will reach just in time. So get your head off of me and let me sleep in peace.”, she snaps at him as she sits down with her head leaning against the headboard.

“Nam, I have a plan, for the plan to work, we have to leave now.”, he states to her.

“Why did you not tell about this plan last night?”, she questions him.

“Because, I had not figured it out until last night.”, he answers her.

“Then, when exactly did you arrive at this plan, in your sleep? No wonder it sounds so absurd right at the start.”, she articulates sarcastically.

“Always have the energy to ridicule my plans, don’t you? But, I am not going to give you the pleasure of ruining what I have thought for us. I had decided on this with a lucid mind. I have been up for half an hour. I was walking outside, reading random articles stored in my Pocket. One of it was about the 3 second rule, if one does not follow their gut instinct in 3 seconds, then they end up doing what social conditioning dictates and pass on on what they really want to do. Then, I was walking outside, thinking about what should we be doing today and an idea struck me and I decided that this is it. This is what I want do and I shall do just that.”, he explains to her.

Namrata grabs his arm, moves slightly from where she is sitting and says, “Pranav, sit down, I believe the rum is messing with your brain. You need to sleep.”

“Nam, I am fine, my brain is at its functional best and I have a sound plan. The only thing messing with me right now, is your stubbornness. You have already delayed us and trust me you will regret this later on. Go get ready now.”, he emphasizes to her.

“Okay, I just asked myself, ‘Do I want to leave right now, do I want to be a part of your amazing plan?’. My instinct said no and in the three seconds that follow, I have decided I will value what my instinct has to say. Good night Pranav. Catch you later.”, she announces to him and lies down again.

“Why do you have to argue so much?”, he asks her with helplessness building in his voice.

“Is that a question, you should be asking a lawyer? I make a living out of arguments.”, she responds with a smirk on her face.

“Fine, go sleep. I gave you ten days of my life because you decided to come to Kashmir on an impulse. But my impulse does not even one warrant day of your life. Let’s abandon my plan. You sleep, I will see what I am going to do.”, he tells her with a dismal look on his face. He gets up and starts walking towards the door.

In a minute, Namrata’s entire body tenses up.He had played the minority card. Let’s assume their marriage was a democracy, she the majority and he the minority. He’d always say like the minorities do, we are unheard on our own land, we are not cared for, in our own country. She could never think an argument on this. She knew he could be faking it but then a part of her would reason, what if he is not. What if he actually feels neglected. That is when her gut instinct triggers her to make it up to him, to do what he wants her to do.

“Wait, I am going to get ready, we will leave in fifteen minutes.”, she utters, sitting cross legged and rubbing her eyes, her face resembling that of a seven year old who has just lost all her marbles in an unexpected strike.

Pranav turns around and smiles at her meekly. He thinks to himself, ‘Look who is having the last laugh after all, the one who does not make a living out of arguments. She always melts at that one.’

How I met your mother

Dear Kids,

It was the evening of May 31st, 2004 and I was bummed. It marked the first weekend of my summer internship. I had been 97 weeks away from what everyone called Bombay and from what I called home. I was 51 weeks away of what others called becoming a BA Hons. (Economics) graduate and what I called good riddance. What Kartik had led me to believe, that weekend, “Dono bhai, club jakar bhand honge (Bro, we’d both go to the club and get pitch drunk)” and what he was delivering, “Bro, the people from my school’s book club have arranged a reunion, come along, it’s gonna be fun. The Modern girls, you’ll find them cool.”

Before you judge me as a birdwatcher, the only reason Kartik said what he said was because I didn’t read books, I knew nobody from Modern School but him and the only incentive that he could find for me were the girls. But the last thing on my mind at that time were girls, let alone a Delhi girl with a rich stroke of liner on her eyes, straight hair, accent that you could not identify with any place on the globe but Delhi and demeanor bordering on snobbery. If I was mooning over the XX chromosome in Delhi, I’d find plenty in SRCC, some who did not correspond to the description I have just laid out, some who I found exceptional, some who I looked up t. However, all with a typical vibe that Delhi-ites exuded, that made me uncomfortable, that made me feel out of the place, that stopped me from making long term associations with them. Needless to say, I wasn’t thrilled about the reunion.

That evening I met your mother, It wasn’t raining, she wasn’t wearing red, I wasn’t on a white horse, there were no moonlit castles and red roses, no romantic songs being played on the piano and no blue french horn. It was in a living room of a flat in Vasant Vihar cramped with people, their lit up faces and exuberant voices, notes being exchanged on books, on their lives and on others’ lives, spiked cold drinks being served in disposable cups and samosas, sandwiches and dhoklas laid out on the central table. I was sitting on the couch munching on sandwich after sandwich and mentally sorting people into pre defined categories. Then I looked at your mother, she was wearing a dark blue 3/4th sleeve T shirt with an acid washed light blue jeans and a beige scarf looped like an infinity around her neck. I was stuck at the scarf, only a demented person wears a scarf in May, in Delhi, when it is freaking 42 degrees outside; unless of course you are hiding a love bite or a vampire bite or a zombie bite or warts like Nurse Matilda. Her hair tied in a lose bun, her well rounded eyes looked sunken, as if, they were in immediate need of sleep and the perfect curve of her lips made for a captivating smile. It brought a spirit to her appearance and how she talked. But she had a air of confidence to herself, that made her look like a Miss Know it all. To me, she looked self indulgent who considered her opinion far above others. She was holding Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix which did nothing good to my opinion on her. Because the world was reading Harry Potter, it was the ‘it’ thing to do and so there she was another victim of another cultural phenomenon; ‘why cannot people do something original, at least make a decision on reading independently’, I thought to myself. Shaking my head with disappointment, I walked out to the balcony, plugged in the iPod and looked around vacantly.

It must have been thirty minutes when I returned to the living room. Everyone was seated in the center of the room for discussing that week’s read. On the arm of the couch, was your mother speaking about Harry Potter, about Hermoine unearthing Voldermort’s plan to Harry when they leave for the Ministry of Magic, about Phineas Nigellus’ words to Harry about young being judgmental of the aged, about the irony in Sirius’ words on judging a man’s character on how he treats his inferiors and ultimately befalling to his doom on account of his hostility to Kreacher, about the possibility of how differently things would have panned out had Harry discovered the mirror that Sirius had given him earlier. There was a light in her eyes, a composure on her face and passion in her words. Her voice brought me to peace. I wondered if I could achieve a tenth of her passion on the book, in anything that I do. I listened to her and felt that she was magic, magic that I did not have the words to define.

For days, I thought of her, her voice rang in my ears, the curve of her smile flashed before my eyes. I yearned to see her, to listen to her speak calmly but to speak with a spirit. It was October when I witnessed the magic again. It was the departmental fest and she was participating in the Paper Presentation. I was informing the participants about the order in which they will be called and that is when I saw her dressed in a white shirt and beige trousers, her cut in a medium bob making her look all the more endearing. I told her that we had met on the reunion, she gave me a concentrated glance and pointing a finger at me remarked, “Oh you are the judgmental guy who sat on the couch, ate most of our food and sulked all evening.”. I nodded sheepishly; she chuckled and said, “Don’t worry, I was just kidding.” I did not skip an opportunity to be around her that day, I abandoned the arrangements and took her for a lunch in the campus and somehow managed to exchange numbers before she left. Occasionally, I would text her  asking about sight seeing in Delhi or making a conversation on a well known book at that time or about DiCaprio and his Golden Globe victory for Aviator or on the truce between Israel and Palestine. She would always reply and always supersede my parameter of an interesting conversation.



In the summer of 2005, with a stroke of luck, I began working my first job in Bangalore, luck because your mother was studying law at NLU Bangalore. On the weekends, well some of them, she would take me to clubs or theaters or restaurants or street groups with zero heads up, deciding on the place spontaneously, while driving past signals or turning into lanes. She was a delight for company, spinning magic with every word that she spoke. Her company was the wildest that I had ever been and the most adrenaline I had felt in this life. When she would focus her attention on the task at hand, I would look at her sideways with awe, with respect, with longing and with love. She was what I wanted for the rest of my life.

On one evening a month before her graduation, we had gone to a cozy South Indian cafe. Over filter coffees and butter dosa, she looked at me with purpose and asked, “When are you going to muster the courage to articulate what you feel for me?”

Caught off guard I choked on the sambhar that I was gulping and asked in bewilderment, “You know, already?”

She answered with impatience building in her voice, “Of course I do, Kartik knows, my friends know, your flatmates know and even my mother has doubts.”

“I love you Namrata.”, I uttered in a rush.

“That is how you do it, without going down a knee, without a ring and without a kiss. I can see your planning skills giving up on you.”, she said.

“I am telling you that I love you, that I do not desire anything out of this life but you, that I have not been able to see the world in the same light since I heard you speak at the reunion and all you focus on, are the dramatics. That is very Delhi of you.”, I teased her.

“If there was anything Delhi about me, you’d not be circling  me for the past two years with a sense of admiration in your eyes.”, she answered back.

He then knelled down, took her hand and said, “Namrata, I love you and love is too small a word to define my emotions for you. Will you be with me through long ticket queues, through the hour long traffic jam from work to home, through boom and through recession, through sheets from the sketch book being tossed in the bin when charcoal fails me, through lousy attempts at being poetic but authentic affection.”


“Yes, yes, yes, yes, to all of that and this life with you.”, she replied and smiled that perfect smile.



Kids, you may ask, why am I writing to you about us. Because I have always loved you, even before being committed, even before deciding to settle down. I have always loved all three of you but Namrata doesn’t want kids. She doesn’t see kids for what I see in them. Given the person that she is, a day before our marriage or three years down of being hitched, she is going to wake up with a bout of guilt on depriving me of the the family I had imagined for us. And that day, I will hand her this letter so that she can read what my voice often fails to spell out for her, read how much of the world for me is simply her. What she has given me- read a certain calmness, stability, love, happiness, a feeling of being whole- no child in the world can measure up to that. So, we will not bring you to life, dear children, not as long as your mother does not desire that, not in this life and not in other lives if she so wants. Her love is what I seek for the rest of my existence and other than that everything stands diminished.

Only your mother’s forever



Going Places

There was a point in the morning, as they drove past the Achabal, when she heaved at the sight of the magnificent gardens before her. It was the kind of sight that you take a picture of and post it on your Instagram with the caption, ‘Spring is right outside the (car) window!’. She wanted to turn and nudge Pranav and say, ‘See, see, this is what I wanted to come to Kashmir for, to sit and let nature surprise me’ but passed.

They were driving uphill on a steep road, a road that arched every turn, and arches that blindside as you turned into them. This was the kind of drive that gives  Pranav the goosebumps and accelerates his heart beat. From the corner of her eyes, Namrata could see his subdued gasps and his fist tightening against the handle on the door every time they took a blind turn. She had an instinct to reach out to him so that he could tighten his hold on her palm and talk to him to ward off his attention from the road. But she passed on that instinct.

As much as Namrata enjoyed the drive, she was confused as to where they were headed. This could not be Gulmarg because Gulmarg meant green meadows, snow and a chill in the weather and all she could see ahead of her were green meadows but no snow and no chill. This could not be Pahalgam because Pahalgam should mean people and all she could see ahead for company was a dense tree cover. She wanted to ask him, where were they going to but she passed on that instinct.


She is sitting edged against a tree, her legs laid straight, her feet washing off in the spring, her eyes set on the sunset, her camera lying idle on her side. It is the kind of sunset that you photograph and caption on Instagram, ‘Sunsets show us that endings can be beautiful too’. But her mind is too befuddled to focus the lens on the sunset with clarity. She thinks that if Pranav and she are approaching their end, then this trip marks the beautiful climax to their story. So, after all endings can be beautiful too. But if they are ending she does not want to end with spite, which is ironic because it is the spite that has consumed them. She laughs a mental wry laugh on the trail of her thoughts. They are in Daksum, she has walked far from the bungalow they are putting up in, she has an instinct to make him sit next to her and talk to him so that she can restore clarity in her brain. She wants to cry first and then she wants to talk and before anything else she wants to apologize to him for yesterday and for other days when she is just being a bitch to him.She will pass on this instinct as well and simply sit here and cry.

Before she could do that she hears Pranav say, “Show me how have the pictures come.” He sits down next to her and reaches out for the camera.

She tells him, “I haven’t taken any today.”

He asks her, “Why is that?”

She replies, “Because there are other things I want to do first.”

He asks her, “What would those things be?”

She says, “I am sorry for over reacting last night. I am sorry for having misled your parents. I am sorry for worsening our situation. I am sorry for being the judgmental bitch on most days.”

Taken by a surprise, he replies, “I am sorry for putting you in the difficult spot with them”

“It’s not your fault, I had voluntarily sought a relationship with them and made them believe that it was all love between the two of us. I feel so relieved to finally talk to you about this.”, she answers him.

“If I only I could have walked up to you earlier, you would have been relieved just in time to capture the sunset. You know what, I miss being your knight in the shining armor.”, he remarks.

“Haha, were you, ever?”, she asks him with a raised eyebrow.

“But you still are. You know what else have I been relieved about, you coming for the trip with me. I would have been clueless how to go about this vacation without you.”, she then confesses solemnly.

“I miss planning things for you.”, he utters longingly.

“Do you, really?”, she inquires.

“Yeah, more than you can imagine. I miss doing things with you. I miss coming home to take you on a surprise long drive. I miss doing the lamps with you on Diwali. I miss listening to you talk about the book you are reading or the TV show you are watching. I miss coming back home in the morning and bringing coffee for you in the bed to make it up to you. I miss going for a movie every Sunday morning.Why did we stop going for the movies together?”, he questions her.

“Because you missed out on three consecutive Sundays and on the fourth one when you told me that Before Midnight sounds cliche to you, I took the liberty of going alone. Somewhere, in between the movie I resolved I will never ask you to come along and you never told me that you wanted to.”, she responds.

“I miss being able to sit next to you and talk. I miss how we could bare our souls to each other without having to worry about our words being lost in transit.”, he expresses in a dispirited voice.

“I miss drinking with you. I miss how you monitored the number of glasses I take and how you  would scold me the next morning on my indiscretions with it.”, she reminisces.

“God, you drink like a sixteen year old.”, he teases her.

“God, I can see the reproachful maternal instincts resurface in you.”, she retorts.

“I don’t know about the rest of the things, but this, we can do again.”, he told her producing a bottle of Old Monk from his bag., he announces to her.

“Rum”, she moaned in a glum tone, “Who brings rum for this exotic a vacation.”

“You better be quiet, you don’t have the stomach for whiskey and functional taste buds to appreciate wine. Besides this rhymes with your name, Rum for Nam.”, he playfully remarks.

“Haha, I miss when you had wits functional enough to make a laughable joke.”, she says taking a jeer at him.

“Fine, if you don’t enjoy my sense of humor, then I will not impose my company on you. I will find another spot for myself.”, he mumbles moodily.

“Now who is throwing a tantrum like a sixteen year old. Take the glasses out you idiot, it is only this much of your whim and wit that I can take without alcohol. Also don’t act like you haven’t brought glasses with the rum. Your planning would have made space even for two packets of chips, roasted peanuts and bars of Toblerone.”, she tells him authoritatively.

“Ms Know it All.”, he calls out to her.

With an expression that resembles a pouting five year old Namrata sticks out her tongue to him and so does he. They laugh and she pours Rum in two glasses.


Holding on to his glass, he tells her, “I miss being a kid with you Nam.”

She meets his eyes, smiles an effusive smile that she had long put behind her and says, “I miss you calling me Nam, with love.”



Fault Lines


“Why did you have to sound so cheerful on the phone?”, Pranav asked Namrata as she shut the laptop after having talked to his parents over Skype.

“How else did you want me to sound like?”, she questioned back.

“Namrata, those were my parents you were talking to, why would you paint a false picture in their heads about us. In few days we have to tell them that maybe we don’t see a future together.”, he stated to her.

“In case you haven’t noticed, we are on a trip together for our fifth anniversary that they have partly sponsored. How disappointed would they be had I not sounded thrilled.”, she explained to him.

“The problem with you is that every time you talk to them, you filter out the disappointing bits, the sadness that has crept into our lives. In a way, you have worsened it for both of us, because when the time comes, they would question the disparity between what you have led them to believe and what reality is.”, he told her.

“How convenient is it for you to pin the blame on me every time. They are your parents, if trouble is brewing between us, you should be the one talking to them about it. But for that, you will have to make time for talking to them, at all. The sole reason that you have parents to talk to or count upon is because I have sustained a relationship with them for the past five years.”, she retorted back.

“Here we go again, 101 on how great Namrata is. Did I ever ask you to be in touch with them or implicitly expect you to do so or impose it on you. No, it was your own choice to build that relationship. They are my parents, they know me, they know that I would never commit to something which I cannot hold up to in the lung run. They have made peace with the limited touch I have sustained with them.”, he countered her.

“You ‘think’ that they have made peace with it. This is your side of the story. But have you tried learning their side of the story. No, because for that you will have to sit down and have a conversation with them, like an adult.”, she responded.

“Look who is so high on the significance of communicating, somebody who decided to take a 10 day trip to Kashmir so as to avoid the possibility of facing her parents and apprising them with the reality of her marriage. I may not come across as an adult to you but at least I am not an escapist.”, he hurled back at her.

“I have told you earlier, the only reason that I decided to come to Kashmir was that I needed a break, I needed a chance to ease my head and because I have always wanted to come here.“, she reasoned with him.

“Ease your head, my foot. I saw how relaxed you were on the airport when the flight was delayed, I saw how eased you were when you did nothing that entire day but sulk till you fell asleep.”,  he retaliated.

“You were itching to rub it into my face, right, itching to voice your disapproval over my impatience and anger. But why did you hold it in for so long, why put up a facade of courtesy with the food and books on the airport and the flowers this morning. “, she answered feeling gutted.

“Does all of this look like a facade to you? I have bent tens of schedules to make it to this trip with you,  so that you do not have to do this solo.”, he replied in a tone of agitation.

“I did not demand that out of you. Just like being kind to your parents was my choice, this was yours. I have longed for to be here and I would have managed well on my own.”, she snapped at him.

“You must have longed to be here however you have no idea how to go about this vacation, you have no plans, no idea to define what was it that you had desired to come to Kashmir for. Had I not been here, your trip would have been come to Srinagar and chill in the hotel, go to Pahalgam and chill in the hotel, go to any fucking place and chill in the hotel. But anything that I do for you is inconsequential, anything that I bring to the table is worthless because Namrata can manage everything alone.”, he told her, voicing his frustration.

“I don’t know about everything but this element of unrest in our lives, this hostility, I could not have managed on my own. Thank you Pranav, thank you so much for introducing spite in my life and for managing to infiltrate this vacation with bitterness as well. Here’s to a delightful vacation.”, she said drawing the argument to a close.

Pranav picked up his cross body bag from the dresser and walked out the door.

“Where are you going now? Have my words left no choice for you but to abandon me?”, she called out to him.

“You know what the problem is Nam, the problem is that you count every action of mine as an attack towards you. But sometimes, I do things for my own satisfaction and not to mete out pain on you.”, he replied with a tone of exasperation.

She sinks deeper into the couch and sighs, “The problem is how petty have you come to think of me!”.

Pranav was seated in the balcony of tea lounge. His sketch book laid out on the table, the page bare, the pencils placed diagonally on top and his vision directed to the lake. He had decided to sketch again, to sketch the Dal and that evening all he wanted was to tell Nam about it and listen to her say, “That is amazing Pranav” and watch excitement (if only, a small fraction of the former self) for him resurface in her eyes.

He recalled a story called ‘The Adventure‘ in his class 11 English Textbook, in which a man Gangadharpant is knocked into a reality where India and Pakistan remain undivided. On perusal of history, he comes to know that the alternate course of events is triggered because the Marathas defeated Ahmad Shah Abdali in the Third Battle of Panipat. The defeat helped Marathas strengthen their hold on India, following which the Britishers were forced to suspend their plans to colonize the country and were reduced to the position of trade allies. The story introduced the concept that there can be many manifestations of reality. Because we witness a certain reality, we cannot rule out the possibility of other parallel realities that exist at the same time.

Pranav began analyzing the chance of a present where they were both still in love, far withdrawn from the discord that had come to define their relationship. The riddle was to identify their Third Battle of Panipat, the point of inflection, after which their marriage transformed into a disaster.


Read the previous chapters here:

  1. Anniversary and Kashmir; maybe, maybe not
  2. Between boarding, books and bickering
  3. Contrast
  4. Daybreak and doubts
  5. Envy



Pranav had just made it in time. Not just with the flowers, but in picking her up as well. As she left from breakfast, he called to tell her that he was waiting in the parking. He had planned a Jeep ride to Dachigam National Park. They would spend the afternoon here and return to the hotel by evening. If they manage their time well, they’d witness the sunset on a shikara in the Dal, if not, they would witness the sheer beauty of their surroundings on a shikara in the Dal. Initially, they had toured the park on the jeep but decided to walk for the most part.


“Did you have any other plans for the day?”, asked Pranav.

“No, nothing as such.”, Namrata replied.

“If you did, you can tell me about them, we can skip the shikara ride in the evening.”, he suggested.

“No Pranav, the only plan that I have made lately is to come to Kashmir and with that, a part of me believes that I have exhausted my annual quota of planning things in advance.”, she retorted.

He giggled meekly, she looked at him and sighed.

“What, now my stupidity also does not strike as amusing enough for you to crack up into a hearty laughter.”, she asked him cheekily.

“Just like on many other fronts, there is room for improvement here as well.”, he answered back.

She slapped him on his arm and they both chuckled.

She had entirely forgotten what walking and bantering with Pranav felt like. For that matter, she had entirely forgotten what being with Pranav was like. Pranav brought a sense of organization to the table. He always functioned with a plan. All the trips that they had taken together were a product of his meticulous plans. This was one of the first things that had drawn her towards him, his management skills, his sense of control. And this was the one thing that had validated her belief that they were meant for each other, that they fit together. Because she was a free spirited soul who functioned on an impulse and impulse almost always backfires or leaves room for an error. So every time she was in need of a blueprint or a modus operandi, he would pitch in.

As much as she had been demonstrating agony on his decision to come to Kashmir, a part of her is relieved because he will take care of the itineraries and arrangements and the must visit spots and the little known places, while she could simply breathe free. The ability to breathe free defined what she wanted out of this trip.

On days she would admire his forethought and on days she’d envy him. Envy because she suspected that if they fall apart, he would have a plan even for that contingency, unlike her, whose plan could be summed up into two words- fall apart. But what good will envy do to her, she knew she was always much less than what he deserved.

Pranav peeked onto the DSLR, some of the pictures that Namrata had taken  were brilliant. He was surprised and asked her, “From what I can recall, you were a lousy photographer.”

“Yes, I indeed was.”, she confirmed.

“Then, how did this happen?”, he asked her, pointing to an endearing picture of a black bear on the camera.

“I looked up for photography workshops online. I had joined a bird watching group last year and I used to take my camera along on Sunday mornings. Then earlier this year, when you were in Brazil, I would go to Mughal Gardens and photograph the gardens in full bloom. I had started because I had had idle time on my hands and eventually I began to enjoy it.”, she told him.

Namrata takes the camera from him and slyly walks ahead to photograph a musk deer, while Pranav looks at her in awe. When he had bought the camera she had protested, knowing that he was buying only because they could afford it not because any one of them was driven towards photography. Out of them both, she had taken time to make use of one of the many things that were of no use to them. But it was not only her efforts that he admired but this lack of restraint that she exercised, this sense of liberty that was ingrained in her being. How she wants to try her hand at a number of things and how she accommodates them in her schedule. With her, nothing is unattainable. This quality of her was what he had fallen for in the first place, the boundlessness of her spirit. On some days he admired it and on some days he envied it. Envy because he suspected that the day she would call it quits on them, she would move on another project and she would go on to do that till something comes to satisfy her, till something makes her feel whole again. But what good would envy do to him, he always knew that she deserved much better than him.

He continued to walk and think, until he hit a rocky patch when his feet staggered and he was knocked out of the string of thoughts. He saw the sunlight easing and a hue of crimson drawing in the sky, he stopped where he was, and called out, “Namrata, if we go back from this point, we may make it in time.”


Love dwells in mutuality, but what if the mutuality roots in the belief of not being good enough for each other. Does that count as well?


Daybreak and doubts

Namrata had 45 seconds to decipher the code and save the spaceship from exploding. If this spaceship does not reach earth, then our entire civilization would stand endangered. The timer was ticking fast and she had to work her neural muscles faster. However, when there were twenty seconds in hand, the spaceship was filled with a blinding noise of a beeper. How could this happen to her. She still had time, then why has the explosive alarm set off. She began to move her hands in every direction frantically to get hold of a device or a button or something that could put out the sound. She reached her phone and she tapped on it vehemently but the sound stood unabated. She made a few ruffled steps out of her bed to discover the origin of the sound and finally realized that it was the am/fm clock set out on far the end of her table that had triggered the abrupt culmination of her space warrior dream. Why, oh why would anyone bring her back to life when she was twenty seconds away from emerging as a hero. And who had set an alarm in the first place. Of course it wasn’t her because she was strictly against alarms and deadlines on vacations, which meant that it had to be Pranav. She wanted to burst out on him, which was a constant sentiment these days when she looked at him, only right now she had a stronger urge than usual. However, Pranav was nowhere to be seen.


On a 360 degree perusal of the room, she collected clues, 4 cigarette butts in the ashtray meant that he had been up for a long time, long enough to have read the newspaper from front to end in the balcony and to have made himself a cup of strong black coffee. The wet tiles in the washroom and the used towel reflected that he has already bathed. The boxers on the hanger meant that he has headed out of the hotel because Pranav on vacations preferred to be in boxers/shorts unless he was exposing himself to the general population at large. And since she could not smell his cologne in the room, she knew that he has left at least an hour ago because Pranav doused himself with copious amounts of cologne. As Namrata sat on the bed again, she came across a folded white paper placed under the remote on the bed which read as


I know you must already be cursing me for the alarm but I had no other choice. I would have set one on your phone but I did not know the unlock pattern. I was up since 4 and after having exhausted every measure of recreation within the room, I decided to step out and explore the place a little. Also, I was slightly (read very :P) hungry so I was as it is going to get ready for breakfast. I won’t go far and by the time you’ll be done with breakfast, I’ll be back and then we will jot out a plan for the day.


P. S. Please don’t decide to take a quick nap because it must be 10 by the time you read this and breakfast closes at 11. See you soon.

Namrata could not define the emotion she was feeling. It was disappointment mixed with deja vu mixed with exasperation. So, Pranav had decided to head out alone, on a vacation that they were taking together, on a vacation that he was taking primarily because he did not want Namrata to go alone. And he had come up with a perfect defense for the desertion, pin the blame on her, it was because she did not wake up on time, it was because she could not match his unearthly sleeping standards, it was because for her a holiday meant unhinged relaxation. She was thinking, “Why am I disappointed, this is not the first time that he is dong this to me, this is Pranav pulling a classic Pranav on me. He did this when the local bar had felicitated her for helping bring about landmark improvements in the canteen and compound of the Supreme Court chambers and he was nowhere to be seen. He did this when she was redoing the interiors of his parents’ home and wanted his assistance in buying the draperies but he had booked her a cab because the cab driver would be more informed on his parents taste. He did this when she was down with jaundice two years ago  and he had to inevitably fly out of Delhi for a meeting. He did this three years ago when her friend had called them for a Diwali party and he just was not in a mood to socialize. This was a pattern and she will not let him throw her off guard this time. If he can head out alone, so can she. She does not need his support, she does not depend on him, she knows how to manage on her own and she will do just that. She may not be as organised as he is, she may not come up with the perfect itineraries like him but she has a good instinct and sometimes that is all you need to for making a day worthwhile.”

With a renewed sense of purpose, she takes a hot shower, picks out a red crop top with three fourth sleeves and a light blue jeans and looking at herself in the mirror she thinks she looks attractive. She keeps a decent sum of money, her credit cards, her driving license, her power bank and her earphones in her bag and starts walking towards Latitude for the morning buffet. She is going to make this one helluva day. Once she reaches the restaurant, she announces her room number to the waiter standing at the door and he ticks it off the list in his hand. She settles on a table next to a window when a waiter approaches her with a bunch of her pink tulips and tells her smilingly, “Ma’am Pranav sir has left these for you”.


The note on the flowers read,

I saw these and felt that you’d like them. Here’s to the beginning of a delightful vacation ;).

P.S. Don’t read too much into the gesture!

Maybe , she thought to herself, she doubts his intentions very quickly.

Read the previous chapters here:

  1. Anniversary and Kashmir; maybe, maybe not
  2. Between boarding, books and bickering
  3. Contrast




It was 3:30 pm when they left for Vivanta from the airport. If everything had fallen in place since morning, then Namrata would have been beaming, beaming at the prospect of the 20 km uphill drive to reach their decadent accommodation that happens to be nestled in the Zabrawan moutain range and offers picturesque views of the Dal Lake. But she was nowhere close to beaming. She was grumpy and the prospect of an hour long drive before she could sink in the bed added more to her exhaustion. Not once in the cab did she glance in Pranav’s direction, she simply looked out the window as if calling for assistance from nature to soothe her. However, not once in the cab did Pranav take his eyes off of her, as if calling out to her to let him soothe her. Somewhere along the drive, Pranav slipped his hand beneath her elbow to wrap it around her waist. She steered in his direction slightly and partially allowed her body to rest against his shoulder. When the serene view was complemented with the warmth of his embrace, it was only then that her world began to fall in place.

When the door had first opened to their room, Namrata could see it for the beauty it was. However, she knew she could appreciate it completely only once she took a bath so that she could cleanse her mind and body of the memory of the unpleasant morning. She removed her sneakers, stepped inside the bathroom, undressed, turned the shower on and stood beneath it. Pranav followed her inside, undressed and stood behind her. He took her in his hold, gentle yet firm at the same time. This was not about imposing him on her, this was about letting their bodies brush against each other, about caressing her hair and about kissing her neck softly. This was about bringing her to peace again.


She slipped into a comfortable pair of breezy pajamas and a t shirt and he into a pair of boxers and vest. They hopped onto the bed, he snuggled her closer and she rest her head on his arm. She told him that if their room had a bathtub they could recreate that scene from Pretty Woman where Edward and Vivian bathe and talk in the bath tub together. He laughed and cheekily replied that the hotel does have a piano so their hopes of recreating Pretty Woman have not been completely lost. He proposed perching her on top of the piano and making love to her beautifully. She poked her elbow into his ribs, his body jerked off the bed slightly, he coughed, she laughed, he laughed along as if her laughter was infectious and then they laughed relentlessly. For whatever was left of the day, they did not have a desire to step out of the room or the bed even. At some point, there was a Mediterranean Pizza and Greek Salad and wine and at all points there were conversations and laughter. That day was being snuggled in the warmth of their affection and in that day all else seemed no more than a blur.

It was 4 am when Pranav’s Fitbit had begun to vibrate slowly to put him out of sleep. It took a brief moment for the strangeness of his surroundings and his proximity to Namrata to sink in. He is more accustomed to waking up in solitude, waking up to find himself laid in the beige couch in the study, waking up to a tiny cheek rash from the couch’s fabric itching mildly, waking up to the feeling of soreness persisting in his body. He takes another moment to wrap his head around what had he just dreamed about, of being able to ‘talk’ and ‘laugh’ and ‘be in love’ with Namrata again. It had been months since Pranav had last longed for her touch. So it was eerie to have imagined in sleep a world where he could embrace her again. Because in the real world they had not even shared an eye lock since landing in Srinagar; she had hit the showers and slept while reading; he had bathed and then read her book as she slept and somehow succumbed to sleep himself. Maybe it was the undoing of having her lay so close to him in the bed, of feeling her breath in union with his. He tossed out of the bed, walked out to the balcony and lit a cigarette. The darkness of the night and the faint glow of the golden chinar reflected in the clear aqua of the Dal Lake. It felt as if the breathtaking sight before him deserved a much deeper moment to sink than all the ones that he has had since waking up.


As he inhaled the bout of smoke into his lungs, he thought of the Pranav in the dream. The next morning Pranav would have woken up to an inordinate desire to recreate the panoramic view of the Dal from where he stood, go on to reproduce it with Charcoal on as many sheets as it took before he could perfect the skill of tracing the brilliance and rawness of nature. For the next five years, Pranav would have arduously worked towards the pursuit of his passion. Unlike the present Pranav he would not have taken the bait of increment after increment that was thrown at him to keep him lured to his job. He would have not sacrificed his individuality, his liberty and the choices at his disposal to shield his ego, his status and his financial footing.

What did he want for to define his life, one may ask. What does it matter, he replies. All that matters is the contrast that has come to define his life, the contrast of what he sought his life to be and what has he made his life to be.