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Thriving Mindfully

Category: Love (Page 1 of 3)

Forbidden Love

I felt the tender touch of her hands on mine. She was scared, but I could sense the excitement in her quivering fingers. It was the first time we had held hands in public. And that too, with her parents standing right next to us. But we were standing in the planetarium, and the lights were dim. The shadows were our cover. Gradually everything was enveloped by a darkness as deep as interstellar space. A beam shot out of the projector and the story of the universe began. The roof of the planetarium became the theatre of creation.

‘It all began with the singularity…’

I felt a big bang in my heart as our fingers flirted. The gulf of intense longing was finally bridged. The darkness in the theatre helped us submit to pleasure that though innocent was forbidden. She was the only girl I ever thought about that way. I had loved her ever since I saw her for the first time. She was my best friend, my neighbour, my school bench partner. She was my everything.

I could feel her racing pulse. Our hormones fired in harmony. We clasped each other’s hands tighter, as the loudspeakers aired trivia about nebulae and supernovas. I cared least for the movie screened at the planetarium. I had found my universe in those fleeting moments.

Her shapely nails felt cold to the touch. Her slender fingers were every bit artistic. I dreamt of adorning it with a ring one day. There was a spiritual electricity between us. Our longing was magnetically mutual. We were the twin star systems projected on to the ceiling. Love was our gravity.

Her hand was slightly bigger than mine. And she was taller by a full four inches. I was still waiting for my puberty to hurry things up while she had begun to show signs of womanhood. I compensated for my fledgling manhood with an assertion in my grip that I believed girls loved to submit to.

When they began to project pictures of the moon landing, all I could think of was the nights we had spent being lunatics in our respective balconies, yearning to see each other in school the next day.

Her eyes had a lunar charm. And she’d teasingly call me a loon. I would always think that one day I would have the courage to tell her that I will love her to the moon and back.

On the ceiling, I looked at Armstrong hopping on the moon and felt that he’d fallen in love. He looked at me and felt as if I’d landed on the moon.

It was a mystery how a beautiful thing like her could be the daughter of the most uptight, unpleasant Uncle of the neighbourhood. If I had one wish, it would be for him to disappear forever. Could he float away beyond the solar system like the Voyager probe?
But imagining the grief of my beloved, I had never wished ill on him.

However, I also wondered how her charming mother could fall for such a crude, average looking man. That’s what happens when others arrange for who you must love, so I thought.

I trusted their daughter’s choice to be better than theirs.

Slowly the movie zoomed back to life in our solar system. The frigid extremes of Neptune, the hoola hooping Saturn, the Giant Jupiter, the traffic congestion of the asteroid belt, the red planet Mars and finally, to mother earth. They showed the evolution of life on the blue planet, the oceanic life forms, the first plants, glimpses of the Jurassic age, the meteor strike, ice ages, the age of the Neanderthals, the rise of Homo Sapiens, and finally vignettes of life in our current times.

I wished the movie to last longer. They could show a 3-hour movie and I’d watch it happily standing in the planetarium. I could finally understand what Einstein meant by relativity. Time had flown past like a happy memory. And in that mote of a minute I had found all the meaning in the world. I was the expanding universe.

We held on to each other’s hands. We felt reassured of the mutuality of our longing. Caressing gently, we sunk in the final moment before parting.

But the lights came on too soon.

Right opposite me, I saw my girl struggling to stay afoot. She fainted and fell on the floor once she saw me in the act.

Her flabbergasted father looked at me with the consuming gravity of his twin black hole eyes.

I looked to the left and pleaded innocence.

I was holding the hand of her mother.

The hearing aid

‘Tell me a bedtime story, bhai,’ pleaded Radha to her elder brother Raman.

‘I hope you remember you are going to get married tomorrow! And here you come with the same pleading as you used to as a child!’ said Raman with unmistakable affection.

Raman had shouldered the responsibility of their household since he was merely 10 years old. He’d never had the opportunity to go to school. Nevertheless, through his diligent industry, he had managed to provide well for his widowed mother and aurally-challenged sister. He’d had to grow up far too soon under the looming shadow of responsibility. But it was his sister who still had access to the child inside Raman.

Owing to her hearing disability, Radha suffered from learning issues early on in life. It was only after Raman could afford a hearing aid did her education take wing. With this elegant device, she could listen clearer than ever before. Gradually she learned to comprehend and converse in her mother tongue, Hindi. She began her formal studies in a school when she was 10. Today, at age 23, she was the only lettered person in their ancestry. She’d managed to find work as a teller at the local co-operative bank where she’d met her fiancé, Govind. She’d enabled other little girls in her village to dream big. She was the light of the household.

Radha, still a little girl around her elder brother, wanted to enjoy the last day at home before she gets married and leaves for her husband’s place, as was the custom in the village.

Raman was resting on a coir bed in the veranda of their freshly painted pucca house, one of the few in their village. She sat on the floor, rested her cheek on the bed and wore a look in the eye that she knew would melt her brother’s heart.

Radha had heard her first story only when she’d developed her aural comprehension to a fair degree, at around age 14. Perhaps the belated foray of storytelling in her life was the reason for her fascination for tales from lands far and beyond. So, on every visit to his village from the city, along with the gifts he would bring for his family, Raman would also lug a satchel full of stories for Radha.

The faint aroma of drying henna glistened Raman’s eyes. Hoping to find expression through a story than a teardrop, he took a deep breath and asked,

‘What kind of a story would you like to listen to tonight?’

‘Tell me about your childhood. What is the first visual memory you have? What’s the first sound that you remember hearing? Something that you will never forget?’ asked Radha.

‘Don’t you want to hear a nicer, happier story?’

‘No. Today I want to learn about my brother’s childhood.’

Raman wondered how to evade this innocent inquiry. That familiar expression, of a restless search for an excuse, surfaced on Raman’s face. Radha could read him like a book.

‘Come on, bhai!’ she wheedled.

‘It is a long story.’

‘I am all ears,’ she said, trying hard to muffle a yawn.

‘Look at you. You will fall asleep halfway like every other time!’

‘No, I won’t, I promise!’

‘Why the sudden curiosity about my first memory?’

‘Well, because I was wondering today, what my first visual and aural memory in life is. And I remembered the day when you’d finally managed to ride a bicycle without holding the handle bar. How boastful you were! And that day, while showing off to me, you’d bumped into the neighbour’s bull and gotten flung into a pit full of cow dung. I can never forget that image. And that squealing that even my deaf ear was able to feel! Your artificially amplified cries did little to help you gain any sympathy. How useless was that gimmick!’ Radha shared amid irrepressible bouts of laughter.

‘As much as I’d like to forget that, you would not allow me to, would you?’ asked a red-cheeked Raman.

Radha tried hard to stop laughing but the fruitless effort only magnified the mirth of the moment.

‘Shh… You’ll wake up Maa!’

As she recovered gradually, she said, ‘And the first sound I remember is hearing my name in your voice, at the doctor’s clinic, right after I got the hearing aid. The first time I heard laughter, yours and mine, at the clinic. That is a priceless memory.

I wanted to share this with you. My first visual and aural memory is of you, bhai!’

Raman smiled as he reclined onto the comforting cushion of nostalgia.

‘Does your first memory have something to do with me? My birth perhaps? You must have been a 5 year old then!’

‘Well, that would have to be my second memory in life, the moment of your birth. My first memory is of a day before you were born.’

‘Tell me about it!’

A solemn silence filled the void in the moments that followed. Raman seemed as if in deep thought. Not because he was trying to think hard about his first memory. That memory was indelible. He was wondering if it would be right to share it with her sister, a night before the auspicious day of her marriage. But he felt Radha deserved a peek into the recesses of his childhood. He heaved a sigh and spoke.

‘I was living with our father in Nagpur during that phase of my life. He used to work as a labourer at a food processing unit. One day, father received a message from a fellow-labourer who’d just returned from a visit to our village.

Our grandfather was not doing well at that time. He was due to leave the earthly plane anytime soon it seemed then. Our mother was nearing the end of her third trimester while she was pregnant with you. Father had borrowed beyond his means from money lenders in the city and had no money left to buy a train ticket back to the village. So, in utter desperation, he decided to bicycle all the way to our village. Since he couldn’t leave me alone, he strapped me onto the carrier of the bicycle and I became the clueless pillion rider.

I don’t remember much of the week-long journey to the village. I was semi-conscious for most of the journey due to hunger and exhaustion. It was on a rainy evening that father and I reached home, two days before you were born.

Our mother was overjoyed to see us back at home. She could barely walk at that time, with you in her womb. At that moment, she must have thought that the days of pain, sadness, and separation were finally over. But fate had other plans.

The rain grew intense with each passing hour. The thatched roof of our house was bravely fighting the onslaught of the wind and rain. But soon, father realised that the roof had to be secured, else we’d end up without a roof on our head in the middle of the night. Father, even with his deathly exhaustion, worked all alone and secured a tarp over the roof, aided by the flashes of lightning on that dark night.

He came back inside the house and went straight to see our grandfather. In the feeble light of a flickering oil lamp, he tried to converse with his ailing father. Their shadows shivered ominously on the weakening mud-plastered wall. Our grandpa could hardly see anything. He touched and felt my face and a smile surfaced through all the creases of pain engraved on his face. Our father sat on the ground and watched over grandpa all night. Mother and I fell asleep watching that pious union, with a hazy picture of a complete family in our memory.

The next morning, the whole neighbourhood woke up to a deafening cry. Our mother bawled hysterically while trying to wake our father and Grandpa from sleep. But both of them had transcended to the plane of no return.

I remember being whisked away to the neighbour’s house through the slush of mud on the streets, in an attempt to shield me from the horror.

Our mother was inconsolable. The whole village had come to a standstill.

Later in the day, I remember being handed a burning log of wood. I lit a fire on two piles of wood on the banks of the Saryu river. I stood there quietly and saw the flames engulf the cold bodies of my ancestors.

That visual is the first vivid memory of my life. An inferno that roared to reach the sky. And the first aural record is my mother’s spine-chilling scream that I woke up to that morning.

The next morning, after painless labour, she delivered you. It seemed as if pain, as an act of compassion, had decided to not inflict itself on our mother anymore.

In a few months, it was discovered that you couldn’t hear so well. Some villagers saw you as a bad omen. The legend grew that the absence of cries of labour pain during your delivery, our mother’s still silence, was the reason for your near deafness, for the silence in your life. But mother never saw you the way the villagers did. She believed that you will learn to hear and speak soon.

She felt guilty for the silence in your life. The whole village was convinced of the reason behind your deafness. But mother knew, as I did, that the reason for your deafness could well be, her deafening scream the day before your birth.

But the hearing-aid has changed everything, hasn’t it, Radha?’

The bride to be had succumbed to a night of beauty sleep. Raman added a number to all the stories that Radha had never heard in its entirety.

He gently took off the hearing aid from Radha’s ear. Bearing a satiated soul, he fell asleep looking at his sister’s seraphic face.

The Little Heart

When Sheela held her hands up to undo her hair from a bun, her blouse could hardly contain her tender voluptuousness.
Kartar Singh, seated on the bed with her, was sweating profusely. And that wasn’t because he had never been with a woman before, or that he was in a brothel for the first time in his life.

While Sheela had ample experience in the sleeping business and was due to undress at any moment now, Kartar felt underprepared and overdressed for what he had come to accomplish.

Nervously, he got up and checked if the door was properly bolted. Sheela couldn’t contain her fountain of laughter on seeing the flustered rookie. She was used to men with raging hormones who’d be spent within moments from when they stepped on top of her. But this case would be much longer, she surmised. Maybe she’d have to undo his pants herself, so she thought.

She dimmed the lights of the kerosene lamp. In a slow, inviting manner, she undid a hook of her blouse.

There had been a power outage in the neighbourhood. The dark room smelt of damp wood, betel nut and cheap perfume. The growling clouds in the sky gave an ominous forecast for the night.

Sheela took Kartar’s hand and put it on her chest. The wayward wind rattled the ageing windows, startling them both. The rain felt just moments away. Sheela got up with a sigh and turned around to close the window.

When she turned around, what she saw made her shriek like a frightened mouse. Kartar Singh had lost a garment.

It wasn’t his pants. It wasn’t his shirt.

It was his beard and moustache.

Sheela was shocked to find the greengrocer across the street, Vinod, seated on the bed. For long had he been watching her in hope from his shop across the narrow street in this damned red-light district of the city. They’d never spoken before. Sheela didn’t speak Hindi. But what does language have to do with communicating an intense longing? She had been observing his furtive, love-filled glances for far too long. Their eyes had been meeting merely once a week, the only time when she came to dry her laundry in the balcony. Mondays at noon.

Sheela could understand why he was on that bed. But couldn’t understand why he had to come in a disguise. Confused, she sat on the bed.

Vinod took her hands in his. They were cold as ice. He rubbed them gently to warm her up. She didn’t breathe a word. The cold nonchalance in her being had deserted her.

She shivered from the draft seeping through the cracks in the window. Vinod undid his bright red turban layer by layer and draped it around Sheela’s half-naked body. It was the same shade of red as her saree.

The sultry seductress felt a nakedness she’d never experienced before. She shed a tear, then she whimpered, and then it began to rain.

Amid blinding lightning and deafening thunder, she cried.

Vinod put his hand on her thigh. It had a tender touch that had no intention of venturing anywhere beyond. It was a touch of reassurance, from a gender that had only broken Sheela’s spirit ever since she’d known life.

She was crying not because she’d been robed respectfully for the first time in life. She cried because she realised that she’d begun to see everyone in the world, especially men, as heartless beasts. She had begun to look at herself the way other men did, as a body meant to be derived pleasure from.

Through Vinod’s gesture of draping her in the turban’s cloth, she felt the possibility of having dignity in life. She felt the weight of all the men she’d had to sleep with, on her soul. She breathed heavily amid snuffles.

Vinod smiled. He took out a tubular plastic toy from his pocket. He uncorked the top of the cylinder and took a little plastic handle out of the toy. It was dripping with a soapy solution. As he blew into it, a flurry of bubbles floated in the room.
Sheela felt distracted and attracted, from and towards the right things.

Vinod dipped the handle in the solution again and held it in front of the crevice in the window. The incoming winds gave rise to more bubbles in the room. The wind was changing.

Vinod dipped again and held it in front of Sheela’s face. She breathed deeply, perhaps for the first time in her life, and blew.

Thus they played, as the rain pelted on the roof above. They felt as if they had spent a distant childhood, in a distant life, together. That’s what bubbles do to a suppressed soul.

It took them an hour to finally embrace each other. It was a new feeling for both of them. Vinod had never embraced a woman, and all the men Sheela had been with had never bothered to embrace her. Had it been an ordinary night with a customer, Sheela would have had to undress and sleep with a stranger, like a draining day at undignified work. But today, she curled in the warmth of the long red turban, and Vinod’s shy embrace.

What was this feeling? Was she ready to accept it the way it was?

Time flew. But Vinod had only reached halfway in the execution of his plan. He had his eye on the clock. He took a letter out of his pocket and presented it to her. It was written in Telugu, the language Sheela spoke. But alas, she couldn’t read. All she could understand was the little heart scribbled at the end of the short message in the letter.

For the first time that night, Sheela looked straight into Vinod’s eyes. Vinod allowed her to read him. His gaze was a disarming surrender. To Sheela, it felt like an invitation to a place called home. After an eternity, she nodded and held Vinod’s hands wanting to never let it go. That was all Vinod had been seeking all these years.

It rained all night, flooding the entire red-light district. The next morning, as the brothel owner came wading through the water on the street, he felt a rude shock. Not from the electric wires dangling from the poles into the water . It was a different kind of wire. A red saree and a red turban were tied end to end and fastened onto the window sill of Sheela’s room. That garment just managed to reach the puddles of water on the street. A familiar slipper was floating near the runnel.

In a frenzy, the brothel owner hurried up to the first floor to check on Sheela’s room. A pair of fake beard and moustache lay on the floor. A letter blotted out by tears fluttered on the bed.
Only the little heart at the end of the letter remained.

Getting in touch with motherhood

Cheeks are pale , Not rosy
A product of a sin

For her fingers touch a display
And not her baby’s skin

As a mother’s halo eclipses
By the glow and sheen of a screen

The child, lonely and forlorn
A complex grows deep within

Do we need a rosy cheek, a dimple?
A motherhood pure and simple?

A childhood filled with bliss?
With no gaze, no touch, ever amiss?

Don’t trade your time and touch
And save yourself loneliness much

Keep screens aside,
Slow down your pace
And accept your motherhood
With joy and grace

For every child
Should beam and smile,
On the journey of life
Every mile

Touch
Hold
Cuddle
Kiss

And leave behind
moments to reminisce

For Mother and child
Shall realise soon after

That life is an echo
of all your childhood laughter.

When Faiths Unite

Situated side by side
Sharing a wall
There stand
Two shrines

In the morning
The temple prays
In the shadow of the mosque

In the evening
The mosque prays
In the shadow of the temple

At night
Both shrines, they hum
And watch each other’s back
For they share,
The same spine

The temple’s bell
A muezzin’s call
How elegantly
Do faiths entwine

We wear different caps
But should we ever fight
For what’s yours
And what’s mine?

So shall we stand
In each other’s shadow
When tomorrow,
The sun shines?

Caps aside,
Can sing a few lines?
In a rhythm divine
Of this elegant design?

 


 

The Yellow Balloon

It was a windy winter morning. Little Kalpana was standing on the pavement next to the traffic signal, waiting for the lights to turn red. She was a balloon seller, like the many other kids who lived on the streets. The one minute window of red lights on the traffic signal was the arena of her life. She held a wooden stick that had 10 balloons tied on to it. The colorful balloons dangled in the air as she ran from windscreen to window, hoping to make a sale.

That morning, an elderly gentleman named Ajay, was strolling on the pavements. He had taken a detour from his usual morning walk route in the park. From far away, he could see bright balloons hanging in the air, rising up from the stalled traffic. It was a wonderful sight to witness from a distance. He strutted slowly towards the balloons.

But as he got closer to the signal, the traffic lights turned green, and all cars moved onward. What was left was a little girl, with ten balloons, standing barefoot on the dusty road. The colorful sight of the balloons suddenly lost all its charm. Ajay, realized that the little girl was selling balloons for a living.

As he came closer to the traffic signal, Kalpana ran towards him, hoping to sell a balloon to the old man.

There were no words spoken. Ajay stopped on the pavement, and Kalpana stood right in front of him, with hope in her eyes.

Ajay smiled. In that moment, he gave her something that was denied to her all her life. A modicum of attention.

He dug into his pocket and slid out a ten rupee note. Kalpana’s eyes lit up. She quickly untied a yellow balloon from her stick and offered it to the old man.

Ajay gave the ten rupee note to her. He held the soft thread that was tied on to the yellow balloon. He smiled and offered the balloon to Kalpana.

She could not understand the transaction. The old man looked into her eyes one last time and walked away. Little Kalpana stood on the pavement with the ten rupee note and the yellow balloon in one hand and the stick with nine balloons in the other hand.

Before she could take a moment to understand what had happened, the traffic began to swell up. She quickly got to work again, trying to sell balloons on the roadside.

Later in the evening, she was left with two balloons. In her right hand, she had the yellow balloon and dangling from the stick in her left hand, there was a red balloon.

A lady in a car summoned Kalpana by blaring her car horn. She ran quickly to her, hoping to sell the last balloon and go home.

The lady asked for two balloons. Kalpana looked up at both the balloons.
At that moment, as she looked at the yellow balloon, a strong feeling took over her heart. How could she sell the yellow balloon? It was hers!

Somehow, she found the courage to say she only had one balloon to sell.
The lady in the car asked for the yellow one for her kid seated next to her. Little Kalpana was firm about her emotion for the yellow balloon. She told the lady that only the red balloon was up for sale.

The signal was about to turn green soon. Caving to the wheedling of her little kid, the lady in the car bought the red balloon from Kalpana. Soon, the car was gone, in the direction of the next traffic signal.

Kalpana was only left with one balloon. The yellow one.
A smile surfaced on Kalpana’s innocent face. She danced her way to her hut next to the pavement, with the yellow balloon, the sun of her life.

That morning, the elderly gentleman Ajay, had bought something priceless with just ten rupees.
With the compassionate transaction, he had brought Kalpana, a moment of her own childhood.

 


Photo by Sagar Patil via Unsplash

The Sky is Blue and Love is Blind

All day, Every day,
Ever since time,
The sky has been saying
That it is not the color blue
Yet,
Have your eyes ever listened?
Can they?

And one fine day,
Ever since our fight,
You have been saying,
‘I do not love you anymore’
Yet, would my eyes ever listen?
Would they?

That’s the blindness man is blessed with,

The sky is not blue,
The love has gone sour,
Yet,
All we would see is Blue
And I would see is Love…

Riddled in riddles of reality
Removed from rationalisation

How do I explain this blindness?

If the sky is blue to you,
Why is my love such a surprise?

Perhaps, you will only know,
When you look into your eyes,
Through my eyes.

 


Photo : By Na Inho via Unsplash

Silence is the witness

That day,

When you looked into my eyes
There was no need to speak,
The silence affirmed,
To our love so blind.

But today,

Our eyes don’t meet,
Over years, love grows weak,
And we are led apart by a silence,
Of a different kind.

 

———

Photo : Hose Chamoli via Unsplash

 

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