To the little girl who was afraid of the sea

When you were six, you hardly ever spoke. When in the company of strangers, you would hide behind my back and hold on to my shirt. When you were eleven we went to the sea and you were scared of how the waves splashed against the shore. You were terrified of the sound and smell of the water. You held on to my hand and refused to go anywhere near the it.

When you were five, we went on our first flight together. You were so shy that whenever any passer by tried to talk to you, you would squeeze my hand in a death grip. The nights they fought, we would lie close together on the bed holding each other while we shed tears.

Now you have grown up and I know are a strong independent woman. You were always the brains of the family and you always tried to do good by everyone. You are my little over achiever who aims to please. But amidst the world of thick books and medals, I hope you don’t leave your childhood behind.

Don’t make the same mistake I made at your age. Do not aim to please. Enjoy the sunshine after sleepless nights of hanging out with friends; enjoy the hangovers and the love pangs; enjoy the school dramas and the world of movies. Get your fill of sleep because after eighteen, you can bid goodbye to that. Get your fill of your family because people grow old and apart with age. Explore territories that you haven’t before. Fail once, fail twice and fail again because failure is a better teacher than success.

Dream a dream and then change that dream the next day because now is when the possibilities are most. Fall in love and realise the difference between love and infatuation. Get a job at McDonalds and understand that there is a lot of value in the smile of the boy who is given a happy meal by his father.

Join a cause and fight for it because if not now, when? When they ask you, “what do you want to be?” tell them that you want to be happy. When they ask which university, tell them the name of all possible ones because there is no end to learning.

Learn that experience is more valued than mugging up facts and that you can always change what you want. There is always a new dawn after a bad day.

Dear kid, don’t be sorry for not knowing what you want to do and for wanting something no one wants to give. It is okay. You will fail. You must fail. But you will come out of it shining, just like the time you boarded the plane on your own and made friends with the other passengers.

If a shy little kid could become a confident woman, there is nothing in this world you can’t do. I wish you knew how proud I was of you and I wish I could be the one you had your first smoke with and told all your secrets to.

But alas! It is what it is. All I know for a fact is that I will always watch over you even if it is from behind a screen.

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Cafe Bonheur

Verona in Christmas is a treat for the soul. Twinkles, warmth, yellow lights, Santa caps, woolen mittens, snow flakes and resounding carols from the nearby church. There was a cup of hot chocolate with hazelnut flavor on the oak table in the Café Bonheur. It had been sitting idle for a long time waiting to be tasted, to be touched by the tongue; to feel the warmth of a human. Waiting- it just waited patiently. After about 30 minutes of this arduous task, the woman in grey brought her well-manicured fingers to it.
She had been sitting and contemplating- something that was commonly seen in Café Bonheur. People who were tired of the rush and hurry of the streets came to rest. It was the oasis for the weary traveler. There was something in the very air of the place that inspired retrospection and reflection.
Her name was Eva. She had wrinkles around her once-pretty face. Her laugh marks were almost extinct and there was a song playing in her head- ‘Between the Bars’ by some American guy whose name she couldn’t remember. These days her memory had gone weak. She needed to think a lot to remember where she put her overcoat and muffler. Once she had forgotten to pay her electricity bill and had to survive without a heater in the winter for about a month. But she didn’t mind. She rarely got angry or irritated.
Her eyes gazed into the warmth of the fire place. The fire was beautiful; the patterns of the flames reminded her of the lover’s embrace and ecstasy. It was a happy memory she remembered. One such winter night, a lifetime ago, she was also like the fire- in Pierre’s loving arms, below the Christmas tree. The year she couldn’t recall and the time of the day was hazy. All she knew was that it was yellow and warm. She could smell the chocolate cake and the wool on her back. Yes, she was happy.
She heard the wooden door of happiness being gently pushed open by another’s hands. She wished the passerby a similar peace of mind. A husky, rusted voice spoke to the counter man and asked for a hot chocolate with hazelnut. There was something in that voice. The chocolate had come out as ‘shocola’ and the ‘h’ was missing from the rest of the words. Eva was intrigued. For the first time she felt curiosity after ages. She turned her neck slowly to glance at the passerby.
Those eyes were honey and the laugh lines were almost extinct from the man’s face. For a heartbeat, the hazel met the honey and the warmth came back into the cold souls. It lasted a heartbeat only. They looked away and Eva got back to admiring her fiery lovers and drinking her hot chocolate. The old man lingered around for a little while longer. He didn’t touch his drink; just kept looking blank as if there was an invisible curtain between his eyes and brains. He saw yet didn’t see. After sometime, there was another push of the door and the gentleman with honey eyes was gone.
And so life carried on in café Bonheur of Verona.

Time

Today I sit looking into the horizon;

the colours are similar-

similar to the day we sat hand in hand

staring at the skyline.

Our eyeballs had changed colors;

our mouths had been shut;

but our hearts rang with music.

You told me that day-

this is not the end.

A goodbye said today

is a hello said tomorrow.

You will live in me

as a vague memory;

An unforgotten feeling;

A half remembered poem.

We dreamt of the day we would meet.

Once again as sailors in this sea;

In an unknown latitude.

Then the memory would turn into reality;

The feeling would spring out from our depths;

The poem would ring loud and clear.

Goodbye- you said- was redundant.

I believed you for the fool i was.

Maybe the latitude and time are non existent.

Maybe your words were mere words.

But all i know, for now,

I remember you in the horizon;

I don’t need your promise.

A goodbye is a goodbye-

full and final.

The next we meet;

If we meet;

We meet as strangers.

The boat we float on,

you forget, is time.

And we are both its victims.

So goodbye my friend.

It was good knowing you.

To my muse

Dear muse,

I started writing to you about you when you left me; when you exited my life; when you stopped calling and asking how I was. This birthday, you forgot to wish me. I haven’t spoken to you in weeks and yes I miss you. You are always there at the back of my mind. You are there in my every thought and action. The day you leave my thoughts, I will lose my art and myself. My only way of keeping you alive is when I write to you about you. My muse- how I owe you my sanity and myself. If you hadn’t come into my life the way you did, I would never have felt surprise. If you had never stayed in my life as you did, I would never have experienced ecstasy. If you never left me the way you did, I would never have known agony. Whatever makes a person a writer is definitely not happiness. My love for you knows no bounds. You will always be my firsts—my first love, my first mistake, my first act of defiance, my first sinister deed and my first awakening. I will never really move on. You are a phenomenon; a storm that uprooted every one of my ideals and beliefs and left me barren. Barren, yet full of knowledge of how the world works. My sweet—you will always be the one. Many will come and many will go, but you shall remain in my heart forever. Maybe one day we will meet in a distant city as tourists who have landed up lost in the same coffee shop. Maybe then we will talk, share a cup of hot caramel macchiato. My touch will remind you of those endless nights we spent together, your laughter will remind me of our innocence and maybe we will relive the past together, as one. Maybe then we will realize what we lost and what we have the chance to regain. Maybe then, we will never let each other go. Maybe then, we can give it a try again. Till then, all I can do is dream—dream of the distant city with fog all around; of women in turtle necks; of men in waistcoats; of the smell of patisseries; of the taste of that caramel macchiato and dream of the taste of a possibility in my mouth. Live long inside me, my muse. I need you for survival. God knows I do.

Airport Diaries

Sitting in the airport after a long flight, waiting for my parent, who were coming in from a different place, to land- I had a rare moment to myself- just me; without any compulsions, no expectations and no work at all what-so-ever. Airports- a place where one can spend a whole day without getting bored. It is a place where dreams come true and all emotion are present simultaneously in a muddled thought of different people. What are the chances that the guy next to you is not thinking the same thing you are or that the old couple in the seat across yours’ is leaving their son’s family and going home just as you are leaving home to get back to your life in a foreign city. Sometimes I feel lonely when I leave home and seeing those families going on vacation to Ladakh absolutely tear me up. Smiling faces, sad faces, indecisive faces, despairing faces, apprehensive faces, ecstatic faces, scared faces, indifferent faces, all of them together under one roof- a sort of collective thought process, all very different from each other and yet have the same underlying feeling- one of change. No other place is a classic example of how nothing in the world is ever constant. Flights are leaving, flights are arriving, flights are getting delayed and flights are getting cancelled. Success, failure, stagnation and death all under one roof called life.

I remember having spent the Christmas of 2010 stranded in the Delhi airport with my little sister. We spent 10 hours sitting on the floor of the airport observing people around us. When some neighbor got even as intimate with us as to say “oh my, how much longer will it take”, their boarding call came in no time. Isn’t that what happens in life? When you get close enough to a person to tell them about your hopes, fears and aspirations- they leave. It’s funny how we teach our youngsters to love and get to know people until you know their every breath and then life turns on a dime and just snatches away that very person you were trying to figure out. Then the baffled elders have nothing more to say than “it’s okay, you are still young. You will find someone…just give it more time. He/she wasn’t meant to stay.” Then you feel sad, hope and wait for the next person to come along and he/she does and you try yet again with fresh hope and faith and it works out for a couple of days, months or if you are lucky it might work out for a few years and then again life has to be a hard task master with a cane and take him/her away. Then what? You aren’t young anymore, you don’t have faith left, nor do you have any more place in your heart to adjust and make all those initial efforts. Then you go back to those people who had given you the initial advice of “get to know a person with all your heart” and question them. It is then that you realize that they have been lying to themselves all this while.  They have gone through the same thing as you and they could never have told you to start life on a negative note. How could they have told you, “think atleast a hundred times before you give your heart to someone else and do not ever give it away completely.”

You had to learn it yourself. You had to go through all the pain and hurt yourself. No one would do it for you. You felt the love and I don’t just mean romantic love. It can be any sort of love- a feeling no one and nothing can ever compete with. We are all on the same boat sailing towards eternal doom. At the end it is all stardust and nothing more. Love is a victory trophy given only to the worthy and eternal love is non-existent. In the words of Avicii- life is a game meant for everyone and that love is the prize.

“The only constant is change.”- True enough. Never realized it more than when I had to sit in an airport for almost an hour just observing J