Categories
Health n Fitness Short story

The shadow – Fiction

[Warning: Long post ahead]

April 1st. The first time she noticed. It was the beginning of Spring. She had been walking down by the river, her mind clogged with worry. The happy chirp of birds, the quack of little ducks, the constant hum of traffic on the road – she didn’t hear any of this.

The image that kept haunting her mind was that of her lost son. The apple of her eye. Lost to her. A teenager, wholly engaged in a world of his own. A world that she wasn’t allowed to enter any longer. The little that she noticed was enough to unnerve her. Wild eyes, pre-occupied and vacant all at the same time. A bunch of supposedly-cool friends, who smoked cigarettes and roamed around the streets, drawing attention by their raucous laughter. He didn’t do any of that, she was sure. Rather, she hoped! But she knew it excited him. It was only a question of how soon he would begin! School progress reports, if they were any indication of a boy’s potential to succeed, held forth very little promise for him!

She had been lucky enough to marry the man she had fallen in love with. They had been friends at college, and had simply decided one day, to spend the rest of their life together! Two happy years later, ‘parenthood’ had overtaken every other relationship. They did not try much, the inevitable happened. She devoted herself to their little son, and he, to his work. They spent their lives in the sort of companionability that borders on solitude.

As she set out on a walk that day, she admitted to herself, for the umpteenth time, that she was now totally and completely alone.

The path she took was by the river, flanked on one side by old residential apartments where she had spent almost two decades, on the other by shiny new skyscrapers.When the skyscrapers were built a couple of years ago, she would spend hours fantasizing life in those swanky apartments. Large French windows allowing for plenty of light, comfortable sofas that couples snuggled in, savouring the closeness of young love, tasteful pieces of art adorning white walls. Today she didn’t so much as glance at them.

‘Quack.. quack..’ – startled, she turned around to look. A couple of little black ducks had swum close to the barrier. Both made identical motions of lifting one wing and ducking their head under. She let an involuntary smile. Many an evening had she spent, walking her little son by the river. He would first pretend to walk slowly, and the moment she loosened her guard, would set off into a little gallop that she could not often match! Often, he would tumble, scraping his knees and elbows, and would run straight back to her to be pacified. She would give a gentle kiss, and Voila! The wounds would magically stop hurting! She had lived a content life. Albeit lonely, for the best part.

She walked up the stairs that led to the main road. Behind her, the sun was setting. It was time to head back home.

That was when she noticed.

A gentle presence. Almost imperceptible. Following her, very softly.

As she turned the corner into a narrow lane, the dark figure loomed up right behind her, then in front, almost in a rush to overtake. For a moment, she thought it was just an office-goer anxious to reach home. But as she watched, the figure grew larger and larger in proportion. She almost gasped in surprise.

She tried to ignore the figure and quickened her pace. But you couldn’t ignore a presence that looked ominous and blocked your path, could you? Small head. Bulky arms. Enormous hips. One could hardly notice the divide in legs. It could have well been just one gigantic stump.

She turned around – a complete circle. Nobody. She hurried in the direction of her home, and tried to think of the dinner she was to prepare that night. Parathas, dal, salad. She simply couldn’t focus. ‘Is this an April Fools Day prank?’, she wondered.

An hour later, she was in her kicthen, rolling parathas – watching them grow from a small ball of dough into a large circle. She felt uneasy. There was a nagging thought at the back of her mind, and she couldn’t put her finger on it.

As she worked, and slowly manouvred her way through the kitchen, the doubt in her mind had grown into a near certainty.

‘It CANNOT be!’ -in her mind, she cried piteously. ‘No! It can’t be!! Simply NOT!’

A voice in her head hummed very softly, ‘It is. YOU KNOW it is’.

She did not mention the incident to anyone. Who could she talk to, in any case? Her husband, who would be glued to the television? Or her son, who was statuesque in front of the laptop! She decided to skip her evening walk the next day.

April 4th. She took a different route this evening. A slightly crowded path that meandered through old residential complexes, new office buildings, and a noisy children’s playground. The playground was the last stop in her hourly walk. The high-pitched sound of happy voices cut through the trees and pierced her ears. She stopped to steal a quick glance at the children and their mothers. The sun was setting.

Suddenly, she was besieged. Again. The figure manifested out of nothing. And loomed up right in front of her eyes.

‘Run’ – she thought she heard a whisper. But her feet wouldn’t listen! Left with nothing else to do, she stared. Unblinking, jaws open. She took in every feature she could. Those gigantic arms and hips that seemed to crush the cavity of her chest! Those heavy legs that dangerously tapered towards each other, threatening to collapse to the ground.

‘You cannot escape… I am BACK’ – it whispered ominously.

A chill ran down her spine. ‘Back for your Birthday, remember?’

The sun set. The haunting ended. Liberation!

April 5th – 6:00 am. Her birthday. Only her mother remembered. She had called, as usual, first thing in the morning. As she stepped out of her apartment, she turned to look. There was nobody following her. No one ahead either. It was too early for even regular joggers! She stopped at the river to savour the smell of fresh air! Pleased, she wound her way back to the playground where she had spent the last evening. The morning was exceptionally bright. ‘A lovely day’- announced a jogger as he raced past. She nodded very briefly, but smiled. He looked strange. A gigantic bald athletic figure. She hadn’t seen him in the neighbourhood before.

That was when the earth gave way beneath her feet. Passers-by quickly rushed to help her up. ‘Thank you’ she muttered, and tried to hobble. She saw an old wooden bench, and sat down to take a few deep breaths. She didn’t realise how long she had been there, until she suddenly noticed that the sun had risen in the sky and it was almost scorching.

She noticed it again, then. Not as enormous as before, but looking short, squat and more ugly than ever!

‘I’m tired! Go away!!’ she muttered. It stayed. She balled her fist and struck hard. ‘Aarrrgh!!!‘ The bench on which she sat trembled slightly. A small dark figure scurried away from behind the bushes. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit! Something that could sense the rage building inside her, and had made a wise escape.

She punched the bench again, and again. Then heaved herself up, and stamped hard into the ground beneath her feet. She took off her trainers and smashed them. ‘Leave me alone!!’ she screamed. Kicking, stamping, screaming. ‘You’re disgusting! You fat bi*ch!!’ Saying that, she actually felt sorry for the figure. People walking by stared in horror.

And with that, she sunk back into the hard weather-beaten bench. She was sobbing by then. She hugged herself tight and cried her heart out.

When she was entirely spent, she rose again, composed.

——

‘Where have you been?’ her husband asked. Lines of worry had formed on his forehead. ‘Are you alright?’ She nodded. She allowed him a very brief hug. Strands of hair fell about her tired face.

‘Mummy, where did you go? We were worried!’ She looked startled. When was the last time he had spoken with such gentle care? She just couldn’t remember. He helped her to the sofa. A single tear streamed down her face. He gave her an awkward hug. She hugged him right back. Her husband joined them, hovering around like an eagle guarding his nest.

‘This feels great’ she smiled to herself.

‘Happy Birthday .. darling’ he added with a little hesitation. ‘Thank you’ she whispered.

‘So Mum, what gift would you like?’ her son added unexpectedly.

‘I already got it – just this morning’, she replied, enjoying the brief excitement that sparkled in his beautiful eyes.

Man and boy stared at her, clueless.

Later that day, she reminscied the events in the park.

——

‘Just go away!‘ she had cried.

‘NO! I am here to stay. And its YOUR own fault. Remember?’

She did remember. She did remember that the last time she had taken care of herself was about two decades ago. The last time she had worn a pretty summer frock was just before she got married. The last time she felt good about herself.. she couldn’t remember that one at all.

The figure in front of her eyes was larger than life. It was her haunting. Her retribution, for not having taken care of herself.

The figure was her shadow.

The pitiable shadow of a pear-shaped woman who seemed to wobble on tiny feet. The unpresentable shadow of someone who just threw on a crumpled cardigan and did not even brush her hair. The sad shadow of a lonely woman, who had forgotten the most important person in her life – herself.

‘It IS me… it IS you…’ – it whispered through her tears.

‘I don’t deserve this..’ she cried.

‘You do. And you don’t! But you still have a chance. Undo what you have done!’

‘Who ever FOR?’ she thought wryly.

‘You will see…’ said the shadow, and disappeared from wherever it came.

———

As the husband left for work, and the son, for school, they both walked up to her and gave her a peck on the cheek. This time, it wasn’t an awkward action. Genuine, happy smiles on dear faces. She smiled back at them. ‘I love you!’ she thought, but didn’t utter the words.

‘Luv ya, Mum’, her son spoke first. ‘Love you, darl’, her husband bashfully added. ‘I love you too!!‘ she cried out and gave her son a big bear hug. He promptly wriggled out. Her husband was a little more accomodative.  They left almost immediately. Without bidding farewell, as usual.

‘Come home early?’ she asked longingly. Her son had already dashed out. ‘Er..will try.. but YOU have a great day!’ her husband muttered absent-mindedly, while wearing on his jacket for work.

‘I will’, she replied.

Life was back to normal.

‘I certainly will’ she repeated to herself.

When they left, she noticed a little gift-wrapped box lying on the table. Silver foil, pink ribbons. No gift tag, No sentimental message. But she was not disappointed. This was just they being themselves! Like she was herself too!!

The present was far more beautiful than she could imagine. A beautiful shiny I-touch. She would carry this on her evening walk today, she decided.

The light from the kitchen window fell on her, casting a long shadow on the wall.

She did not feel afraid to look at it any more. It was real. As real as she herself was! Slowly, her eyes moved from the shadow, to the framed canvas picture that was partially hidden behind the huge TV screen. Taken a decade ago. Theme : Red! It was a beautiful picture. A family portrait.

With some difficulty, she pulled it off the wall. Some of the paint chipped off and fell to the ground. It didn’t matter. She stared. At the lady in the portrait. A familiar face, but unrecognizable at the same time. A gorgeous woman! Eyes much like her son’s. She traced a finger on the outline of the family.

She turned back slowly, to look at the shadow.

‘I WILL get rid of this giant’, she said softly.

‘Who ever for?’ – the shadow teased.

 ‘For ME!’, she answered with steely resolve.

‘For me! Happy Birthday to ME’, she smiled.

——————————————-

(Girls and guys, this was in draft for long, and somewhere I think I got lost. Please point out where…. Thanks!!)

Categories
Humour Incidents

The ‘cleaning lady’

Friends have long been advising me to get someone to clean the house. Now I am not quite sure if they felt sorry for me, or if they were simply hinting that the house looked worse than a ‘badly maintained’ pig-sty!

Btw, the only other time I had tried having someone to clean, was when this Iranian woman (I think) was recommended by the building porter! Well, one look at her, and you would think she owned this entire apartment complex. Great clothes, nice handbag, stunning glasses.. she looked picture perfect.. sigh!!!! (Guys, don’t even think of it, she is married, and has 4 kids)

After that encounter, I resolved two things
(1) To get myself some smart clothes (which by the way, I have still not managed to do!)
and
(2) To never call her again, for fear of an increasing inferiority complex 😉 😉 (which I HAVE managed to do 🙂 )

So, now you see why I am so nervous about meeting ‘cleaning ladies’ (as they are called by my friends!).

Recently, when a friend ‘firmly insisted’ that I try outsourcing the cleaning, I chose to ignore the growing anxiety pangs and increased heart rate, and give this one a chance.

First, this girl sent me ‘missed calls’. A typical Indian trait :-)) When I returned her call, she very briefly asked me to ‘text my post code!’ Wooa! This one seemed uber-cool.

At the appointed time, the door bell rang. It was not her, naturally. With all due respect to ‘Indian standard time’, she was here half hour late. No apology, ofcourse. We don’t believe in such formalities, do we?

I heard her voice through the intercom. She simply announced her name. Sounded extremely young. The sound of her heels doing a confident clickety-clack on the floor impressed me immensely. (Psst… this is something I’ve dreamed of doing for a long time now. Brr.. not cleaning, but wearing high-heels that go ‘tap tap tap’ on a shiny floor! Sigh! Some day… ) But I digress…

Finally, a confident knock on my front door. As I opened it, I saw this rather haep young 20-something standing in front of me. Dressed in black. Smart summer jacket. Impressive calf-length leather boots. Stylish over-sized cooling glasses. Huge shiny handbag! Very much the accessories I had described here in this old post. (Guys, jaws closed, please!)

And then came the BIIIIIIIGGGGG surprise.

‘Heyyllow P baeeeen! Kyaa mein aundar aaaoounnn?’

??!!!!

Oh yes, my friend did mention she was from Gujarat!

Two hours of work later, the apartment was spic and span, my Hindi a wee bit improved, and her Inglis pretty much like my Hindi!

But I was happy!

So, after nearly six long years, I have finally decided to hire a maid (psst.. one hour every two weeks) !! Yippee!

Categories
Movie Review

Why its possible to like ‘Pyar Impossible’

At first it was the cast that put me off. The title too. Expectations therefore were at an all time low.

So when a friend sent me the DVD, I promptly discarded it for a time when Sky TV would let me down by not airing anything worthwhile.

Lest I sound crazy, let me state very clearly (in Bollywood jargon) that this was not a ‘mind-blowing’ movie. Nevertheless, there are some aspects that I really liked. And here are the takeaways from the movie.

1- That the heroine, Alisha (played by Priyanka Chopra), comes across as such a wonderful, confident and happy woman, who struggles hard to juggle her career along with her personal life. This is so different to the heroines of a bygone era. Earlier, divorce was taboo, and the divorcee (strictly, the woman) would have to look sad, depressed and repentful, missing ‘her man’ at every juncture!

In sharp contrast, Alisha is a very happy and intelligent woman, not regretting the past, and only trying to strike the right balance. She enjoys her successful career, and is a really cool mum. Hats off to such characters, and may there be many more like them.

(A pity, though, that despite her obvious affluence, she doesn’t have much money for clothes. She seems to wear her little daughter’s outgrown shorts. And her other outfits seem like there wasn’t enough material left over to make a complete dress! Sigh! Yeah, I can see you gentlemen are resolving to watch the movie right away!)

2- That the ‘nanny’ is a man. I didn’t actually see parts of the movie, as I was multi-tasking with something in the kitchen, but yes, it was a very pleasant experience to see that a nanny need not necessarily be a woman. It can be a man too. Maybe this is lift-off from Mrs.Doubtfire, well, atleast partially. But it is good to see Indian audiences can accept this fact. There can be male nannies, there can be house-husbands, and there is nothing wrong about it. I like it!!

3- That the ‘male nanny’ did not find it ‘beneath his dignity’ to entertain the kid or to simply be a nanny! Even in the scene where he is given a long list of household chores, and cheekily outsources it, there is no indication that he thinks ‘being a man is reason enough to not do the chores’. To me, it just came across that he simply did not have a clue as to what to do / or / felt overwhelmed, and so outsourced it. That again, shows a shift in attitude and culture, as a whole. Even if it only represents one small portion of society, still, its a breakthrough, isn’t it?

4- And this song, is what actually made me want to see the movie in the first place.

The hero says ‘love’ is based on looks. For someone who looks bad, finding love is ‘impossible’. While Alisha first refutes it, she later on realises that, that is indeed true. Nobody gives a second glance to someone who looks like a geek, or is ugly. Now I partially agree with this. People (both men and women) give a lot of weightage to looks, far more than what is deserved. And many a time, love is not reciprocated simply on this count. All the same, I also believe, when someone only looks ‘average’, the love that one finds is very genuine, as it is based on something more substantial than just looks.

5- Then, I loved this line by Alisha ‘I’m not a princess. I’m an ordinary girl, but when I’m with you, I feel like a princess’. Well, what more can one say? That is what love is all about!! If your partner can make you feel special, what more can one ask for? The romantic in me loved this typical crazy Bollywood scene!

6- And lastly, I liked the character played by Dino Morea (and not just because it is played by him 😉 ). This character again, came across as a confident young man, who knows the difference between Right and Wrong, and consciously Chooses Wrong. And in the end, when ‘Truth triumphs’, he is equally sportive. He does not do any ‘dramatic repenting stuff’, and not does he ‘swear revenge’. He simply acknowledges the other’s success. I think that is a very nice trait to have. To be able to lose graciously 🙂

So, now I’m not asking you to watch the movie. Watch this song, for sure.

There are a lot of aspects about the movie that are not so good … some of the stereotyped college scenes, the little daughter being so grown-up, that there is no change at all in the looks of main characters despite the time-leap. Despite all this, though, I think the movie has its positives. Apart from the above, Priyanka Chopra looks stunning, the music is pleasant, and every actor perfectly fits the role.

So, those of you, who have found your soul-mates, congrats once again, and work hard to continue to treat them like a Prince/Princess as the case may be 🙂

And to those of you who are looking for love, all the best 🙂 I hope you will care to consider values that will last forever 🙂

Happy Weekend, all 🙂

[P.S: All pictures, courtesy the great WWW. Linked them back to the original source whereever possible]

Categories
Incidents MommySpeak

Bigger than thou

My humble attempt to teach Sonny the concept of size.

I showed him a picture of himself when he was just a year old, and said, ‘Look, that’s baby when he was ONE year. Now, you are THREE years and are so much bigger’.

He replies, ‘You’re right. Like, a fly is tiny. And I am HUMONGOUS.

Someone, fetch me the Dictionary, please!

[Pic courtesy: Thecolor dot com]

Categories
Humour Incidents

Temporary loss of memory…

…Happens when…

  • You forget your parents’ Wedding Anniversary until reminded by your in-laws! 😯
  • You are have to fill in a form and stare – absolutely BLANK – at the ‘date’ column!
  • Every time you leave the house, you hunt for your wallet for 20 minutes only to find it hidden away in some obscure corner! 🙄
  • A courier arrives, and you open the door looking your absolute absolute shabbiest, and then realise its the new DHL guy 😦

Brrr…..

Categories
Incidents MommySpeak Thought and Reason

Something here and there

Part I: Inspired by Vimmu’s ‘Once Upon a Time’ series

So I’ve been out of sight for the last two weeks. We had been wanting to see Cairo for almost seven years, and we finally made it! We spent the week before last on a beautiful trip to Egypt. Landed at Cairo on a Sat early morning, and our first stop was the magnificent Pyramids of Giza, and the even more majestic Sphinx.

We spent the next day in Alexandria. Our guide misguided us though! While he claimed it was a ‘day trip to Alex’, we spent almost the entire day travelling by car, and a miserably short One hour in Alex. The Catacombs were intriguiging (the Brat especially loved venturing underground!) , Pompeii’s Pillar was beautiful, and the Gardens were vast. The strawberry milkshake at McDonalds was awesome 😉

We then set sail 🙂 Well, it isn’t as grand as I make it sound. Our ‘Nile cruise’ was on a dusty old ship (with an enchanting name: Sheherazade) that sailed very slowly at night, taking us from Luxor to Edfu, and Aswan. And every stop we got to visit beatiful temples, each steeped in mythology!! Luckily, this time we had a very knowledgeable guide, who (though he insisted we start the tour at 7 AM every day) took a lot of effort to make us understand a bit of Egyptian mythology and culture.

He proved he was a ‘guide’ when he insisted we spend adequate time ‘shopping in the nominated centre’, and once we had bought a couple of souvenirs, he dashed back into the shop (rather too obviously!) to collect his share! 😦

The Nile Cruise was a very restful experience. There wasn’t Internet to distract or TV to occupy, therefore only Nature to enjoy!

We concluded our trip by returning to Cairo, just for a day. We saw the beautiful Mohamed Ali mosque at the Citadel. We made the Brat believe that was the palace of Aladin/Jasmine and that the King of Thieves was waiting to capture any naughty children. So that made him sit quiet 🙂 while we admired the beautiful ceiling/roof of the mosque.

Our trip culminated in the Khan-e-elili bazaar. A shopper’s delight! But then, I was roaming the streets with three surly men (2 guides and my husband), and one surly buy (the Brat, ofcourse), so I had no choice but to restrain the Shopaholic in me 😦 Like I said earlier (on FB), ‘Moral of the story: Do not go shopping with men’!)

And, back to base now, we are still trying to re-adjust to the cold weather. Its been raining, very unlike Spring! But the coming week, is expected to be better, in comparison!

Part II: Inspired by Pragya’s ‘Nothing’ series

Speaking of ‘comparisons’, I am so baffled when I see other mothers.. girls who are hardly 25, being so fiercely competitive about our children. I mean, our kids are only 2 and 3 years old. And they already make comparisons, start judging kids/behaviours/parenting. I have only just started teaching the Alphabet to my child, when someone I met recently started when her child was just 14 months or so. And she pointedly said it to me, and kept prodding me to find out ‘what my child is doing currently’.

I am afraid of such people. I want children to be children. I don’t want a genius in my son. And I certainly don’t want a bookworm. All I want is for him to remain enthusiastic, happy and gung-ho. I am probably complacent… ignorant… even stupid!

I know that everything is a rat-race. I know my child would have to participate too. Just, not now.. not so soon!!

Cheerio, people. Enjoy your long weekend. We stayed indoors today, and Sky TV betrayed us by not sending a signal! So we had our revenge by watching two movies – this one for the fourth time! and this for the first – in a row 🙂 and hope to see more tomorrow.

Ta!!