Protected by Copyscape Duplicate Content Software You will copy with risks to penalties and criminal procedures.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Mr. Right

As usual, I had no clue what this short story was going to be all about until I scripted the last word. I wanted a Shakespearean comedy where everyone is happy at the end. Styled, of course, in my own little way. * snickers*

Ok. This was an emergency (again). My best friend, JQ, broke up with her bf, Neal for the nth time. Actually, I counted till 20 in the past eight months and then lost it. It is always the same thing. He needs space. She prefers breathing on his neck. Finally, when he can’t take it anymore- he asks for some room. And she inevitably breaks down into tears saying that he doesn’t love her anymore. She has given the best years of her life to an unfeeling man yada yada. So when it happened for the 25th (or was it the 26th time?) time on a Friday, she declared that she was not going to waste her weekend crying. Instead, she would attain freedom from emotional bondage by exercising her right to sexual liberty by sleeping with a random guy picked from a random pub.

Till here, it was fine. Until she asked me to aid her to find a suitable prospect, at a suitable pick–up point. We zeroed down to ‘The Caprice Lounge and Bar’, which promised ‘people watching’ as one of its specialties. ‘You have more probability of getting watched where you can watch others’- she argued.

We called up Bob and Pam – two of our other friends from Grad school, and set out for a wild night to party-to slosh out and puke until we felt we were at Hell’s door. I am usually not prejudiced about people, except when I am prejudiced. For some reason, I think Bob is gay. He shows little interest in girls and keeps talking about a fictitious ex, who incidentally, in his opinion, smells like Pam. I have the greatest urge at times to point out that it’s probably Chanel No.5, but something holds me back.

I was late at arriving for the evening, caught up with some last minute wrap-up of a project that was expected to be over eons ago. For some reason, my boss kept extending the deadline while I had this strange voice speaking inside my head: It’s better to finish things before they are expected. When no other team member felt like coordinating and the holiday mood of Christmas was still continuing in February, I decided to put my foot down and define the client requirements myself. I could have been kicked on my smart-ass for this, but Jeff (my boss) said very complacently: ‘We have done well.’ I hate it when he uses first person-plural without contributing a rat’s tail worth of efforts. But that’s why he’s the boss. And someday, I’m going to be ‘The Boss’ too. *sigh*

Bad week at office was reason enough to want to get stoned. But recently, my very Indian mother had been injecting other worries into my head. She suddenly had a vision that I was growing old and past the marriageable age of a well-bred Indian female. I wanted to say that she had different views when I wanted to date that hunk of a guy in high school. Then I was too young. Now, I am too old. And in between, I had been too busy preparing for a life that never happened.

I had lost my father at a very early age. Earlier than he could have had any influence on me. My family consisted of my mother, my well-settled elder sister, married to a Financial consultant in New York. A marriage arranged by the two families- consummated by horoscope matches and all. I had different ideas about love and marriage. It was the order I preferred them to occur.

Growing up fatherless gave me a very blurry vision about the many perfections and imperfections of the male sub-species. And I often found that I imposed virtues on men I dated and was soon disappointed. The Mills and Boons men don’t exist in real life. And I could settle for nothing less. So, I contented myself with watching and weeping at the romantic classics from the 60’s with a bucket full of my favorite chocolate chip cookie ice-cream and Fluffy ( my cocker spaniel) licking my face off. Whether it was ‘cause he wanted to lick my tears or chocolate chip cookie was his favorite too, was difficult to say. I settled for the former and I believed that at least one male living thing loves me.

JQ says I have ‘Fuck Off’ written all over my face. Somehow dating men at my office was never even an option. I like to maintain a professional distance from my colleagues. I can’t think of sleeping with a man, waking up next to him to grab a coffee and drive down to the same place to work. It took the charm away from romance. I wanted time to miss my guy.

I shrugged to see the long queue outside Caprice. There was no way I could wait that long to get inside. I called up JQ and asked her if she could sneak me in. The bouncer at the door was extra nice and let me in saying, ‘Have fun ladies!’
I thought, ‘You bet’ and got ushered by JQ inside the semi-dark lounge with shadowy figures hovering around. The music downstairs was too loud so I asked her if we could go upstairs to find a quieter spot. Bob and Pam were conspicuous by their absence. 'I dunno, they had come with me but I guess they have gone to fetch a drink or two.’ JQ winked.

I wondered if she was wearing the new lingerie she had bought at VS with me the other day- her bosom looked so puffed up. I asked : That padded stuff? She hushed me: 'Ssh.' I often wondered how most people fussed about their secondary sexual characteristics; more than the opposite gender really cared about.

When we waded past the ocean of human bodies tangled with one another and got some oxygen left in the room to breathe in, I felt it was time to get drunk. There was no way I was going to enjoy the horrible noise and the crowd while sober. JQ opined that I was a lot more fun when high. I opined: Then you should keep me high all the time. She snapped back: Oh you are high all the time anyways. On your work. I have never seen such a good piece of ass wasting her life at her desk the way you do. Get some banging done babe!’ I figured she was drunk already. She is usually very conservative with her speech. I smirked and took three tequila shots with the customary lemon and the salt. ‘Aah! Now, I am ready.’ I declared to no one in particular.

We hit the dance floor and JQ tried to squeeze to the center where a couple of gorgeous guys were trying to move their limbs. I almost laughed at them but then I thought it might spoil JQ’s chances and swallowed my guffaw half way through. They looked younger than her- but who bothered. I closed my eyes and wondered if I should have couple of more shots.

I realized I didn’t have my wallet about me. I must have left it at the counter when I tipped that kid. The thought of having to drag myself through that crowd again nauseated me. I looked around to find JQ. But she seemed busy. Suddenly, I heard a whisper, or it might have been pretty loud at another place–in this clamber it was difficult to know what I was saying to myself.

I turned and saw a tall, brown guy with a shy smile- holding out my wallet: Is this yours? I fancied he had pinched it just to be able to talk to me. But I let go of that notion and thanked him appropriately. I offered to buy him a drink as an acknowledgment. He said that he was a teetotaler and was in the pub on a friend’s insistence. Then he waved to a couple of guys sitting at the edge of the dance floor. They smiled at him. I am sure I looked stupid.

I put my finger inside my stiff collar and unbuttoned the first two buttons of my shirt. I coughed: It is smoky and suffocating in here. Would you fancy a walk? He seemed uncertain. The voice in my mind said: Come On **** I am not a homicidal maniac !

He smiled shyly again and acquiesced. We went out on the streets and a gush of fresh air blew my hair away. Nothing pisses me off more than unkempt hair. I rummaged through my bag for a comb and hastily tried to fix it. But the wind grew stronger and wilder and I thought aloud: There must be a storm brewing somewhere. But there wasn’t any weather alert. Was there?

He said very philosophically. Not all things can be predicted. I proposed: We should go inside. He asked if I’d like to wait till it rains. I thought: Wait a second. Guys don’t like to wait for rain. Or he’s straight out of a novel or trying to act too nice. I was on my guard again. That little voice kept nagging me: Don’t trust a stranger. I shooed it away saying: Go back where you were when I asked him out for a walk! He said: I beg your pardon? ‘Oh nothing’ and I smiled at him.

‘You look beautiful when you smile. You should do that more often.’ Now, I blushed. I knew he was flirting but I was enjoying it. The tequila had burnt down my defenses. I thanked the blue agave and the Mexicans.

Soon I found myself talking to him- about books, movies, and my favorite genre of music. It was pleasantly surprising to find that we had so much in common. I almost squealed with delight when I discovered that ‘An Affair to Remember ‘, ‘Casablanca’, ‘The Pianist’, and 'La vita è bella' (Life is beautiful) were his favorites too. He opined that if I wanted to experience neorealism I should watch 'Ladri di biciclette' (The Bicycle Thief) by Vittorio De Sica. He told me it was a landmark film, like Rashomon for Akira Kurosawa or Pather Panchali for Satyajit Ray. I listened spellbound and I thought: Where had you been all my life?

The cloud gurgled and said something to the thunder and it started pouring. I felt like standing there as long as I could. I spread my hands wide, looked up to face the sky and let raindrops on my face. I felt so liberated at that moment and so unlike my usual self. He watched me and smiled again and suggested we race back to the pub. I nodded with a wink: ‘Only, I’ll race you to that tree the other way. Go!’ And I rushed. Suddenly I stopped, opened my high-heel sandals and started splashing on puddles that were collecting momentarily in the heavy rain. They’d soon dry out- and like this moment, would vanish too. I had a sudden urge to hold onto this second forever. Whoever my companion was, I stopped trying to judge him and was being myself. And I felt I had never been so happy in a long time.

The storm stopped and we decided to walk back. Then I said, I’d rather be going home. I called up JQ to say the same. She sniggered when she picked the call: You got lucky first, huh? I hushed her up and said it was nothing remotely like that. He was still beside me, and I didn’t want him to know what we were talking about. It was an awkward moment. I didn’t want to leave- yet I had to. The longer I stayed, the harder it would be to let go. I smiled awkwardly. ‘I had a long week- I guess I will go home and get some sleep.’ ‘Oh ok.’ He said. The voice in my head was back again: ‘Told you- he is an idiot!’ I snapped at it: ‘Shut up!’


Umm.. nothing

Btw, if you plan to fall ill- why not give those germs a better diet?


I was thinking of an ice cream.

There was an ice cream parlor near by. He ordered two chocolate chip cookie ice-cream cones. I hoped the ice cream lasted for eternity. But those kiddie cones had grown smaller since the last time I had them. I asked: What next?

How about breaking some rules?

I looked at him. And he said : Let’s jaywalk on the road.

I reminded him: They can penalize you for that.

He laughed: I know. "What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn't come every day."

George Bernard Shaw ! Pygmalion ! He was too good to be true.

We walked criss-cross for a while and then marched: Left-right, Left-right. But there wasn’t any car around so we soon got bored. We sat by the pavement and looked up. The sky was clear and a little star or two peeped from behind the dark blanket of sky.

He said: I wish this night would never end.

I whispered: So do I.

He continued: I am afraid that I might not live to see tomorrow.

I looked at him with a blank face and he said: I was getting treated for an advanced terminal disease. When the doctors gave up, I decided I don’t want to die in a hospital. I want to live as much as I can.

My shock was evident on my face: But you look perfectly healthy!

Some ailments are not so evident on the outside.

You are kidding!

He said very seriously: Of course I am.

I felt angry and hit him on his back.

Now, now- see I told you I am afraid that I might not live to see tomorrow. He gaggled.

It’s not funny.

Really? I thought it was. At least, for me.

My furor was renewed and I wanted to hit him again but I did not. I clammed up like an oyster.

He laughed and teased me- imitating my expressions when I frowned. I laughed till my stomach hurt and when he headed towards the direction of the pub, I wished he would look back once. He did not.

I drove back home thinking if I still had ‘Fuck Off” written on my face. I stood in front of the mirror for a while but I couldn’t figure it. So, I finally broke down and cried.

The door bell rang and I thought it must be JQ with her catch of the evening. It was her all right, but he stood right behind her. JQ said: Ok guys, Neal had called up and I have to hurry.

He scratched his head when she was gone: I thought I could watch “An Affair to Remember” with you again. You said you had the DVD.

I giggled: Crash on the sofa.

With all these wet clothes on? He smiled.

I woke in the morning and saw him sitting on the bed, watching me. I said: Good morning. He smiled ‘Good Morning’. I realized my hair must be looking unkempt and I tried to scramble out of the bed to go the bathroom. But he held me by my waist and kept clinging on to me. I said: Let me go .

No I won’t.

Let me…

Make me…

I tried to tickle him but he kept a straight face saying he doesn’t feel tickled.
Not anywhere?

Uh-huh- not anywhere.

Let me find out.

He said: Ok ! That’s enough! He laughed.

The doorbell rang again. I was alarmed: That must be mom ! I was supposed to pick her from the airport today. Quick ! Hide into the closet.


Into the closet !

I picked his clothes from the floor and shoved them with his shoes beneath the bed. And then I broke a record sprinting from my bedroom to the door.

Mom looked at me: What’s wrong with you?

Me? What?

You look horrible. What’s wrong with your hair?

I breathed heavily. Oh, I must have slept too long. What time is it?

Past noon. I thought Neena had asked you to pick me.

‘She did. She did.’ I repeated myself unnecessarily. ‘But I completely forgot.’

I don’t have enough change on me. Can you pay the cab downstairs?

I tipped the cab heavily for no reason. Probably hoping that this act would redeem me from the sound explosion I was going to experience in a while. I got upstairs reluctantly and opened the door. But she was in the bathroom. He was sitting in the living room sofa with a smile.

I gulped: How did you manage to dress up so fast?

He smiled again.

Mom came out in a while and said: Hemant was telling how much he adores your paintings.

You know him?' Now, it was my turn to feel surprised.

Of course I do. He’s Neena’s brother-in-law. Nishant’s cousin. He wasn’t here for the wedding. But I had met him last time I had gone to New York to visit your sister- didn’t I tell you?

You did. But I didn’t realize..

Now, the voice was back again. ‘They are all in it.’ It said spitefully.

I looked at him unbelievingly, my words came out in installments: Did.. you... know... this?

Yes, well –I had seen you in Nishant’s wedding album and I had recognized you at the very first instant but..

I sat down on the sofa and tried to put my thoughts together. The whole night was a sham then? He had known all about my likes and dislikes from my sister and pretended to be Mr. Right and had swept me off my feet away like no one had. It was all an act! I felt cheated.

He asked permission from my mother to leave. She insisted that he should stay for lunch. But he reminded; I’m going to come over with my parents in the evening anyways.

When he was gone, I asked her what he was talking about.

Mom said very nonchalantly: You have a strange idée fixe about falling in love first and marrying later. When I got married to your father…

I know. I know. The third day you met was your wedding. The second day was your engagement. And the first day you had met only for an hour with a houseful of people.

And yet, we were happy together. She sighed.

Then she reasoned: Marriage is a gamble. You bet on a person to keep you happy, forever, or as long as it lasts. You have to take a few risks. You have to believe. And this guy isn’t a stranger- he belongs to a good family, has a good job, and has been in love with you ever since I have known him.

I looked at her: You sound like you just watched "What Happens in Vegas".

'This isn't a movie. This is real life. You have to script your happy ending yourself. At least, give it a try.' She pleaded.

I decided to give it a try. It hasn’t been perfect always. But I have realized that the perfect relation is not ready-made. You have to make efforts to keep it working. At times, I feel what should I do with him? But most of the times, I feel- what would I do without him!

My mistake has been that I have sought perfection all my life, and subconsciously imposed virtues or vices on people. But these biased opinions took me away from reality. And the closest thing to reality is : We are all humans with our flaws and idiosyncrasies.

Spending a few hours or a few days together doesn't acquaint us with the real person. I believe that when you have seen someone hot and sweaty and cooking a meal for you, throwing stuff at you because he has a sudden urge to clean the house; he is flexing muscles in front of a mirror and you are thinking, "He's more self-obsessed than I am ! ", ; when you feel that "He's a complete pain in the ass"- the next moment he calls up and you feel "OMG I missed him so much ! ",- it's then you begin to truly love someone. Or are on your way to it. If I can’t find happiness with him, there is no way I can find happiness with anyone else.

Btw, JQ told me that Bob isn’t gay and Pam can vouch for it.

* Note: For more short stories, click on the label 'short story'*

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A lesson learnt -II

It was a hot afternoon, and I was walking down my university lane when I heard someone playing a saxophone. Curious, I took a detour to my left and discovered the source. A man was sweating profusely in the summer sun and in his heavy uniform, sitting and practicing inside an empty university shuttle.

He stopped when he saw me and struck a conversation; said that he plays the alto in choirs (probably as a second job). He played for me for a while before I hurried to be on my way again. He bade me goodbye saying : I'm so glad to meet you. I smiled: So am I.

When you want to do something, you have to create time for it.

I repeat myself: life's lessons are learned in the most unlikely places.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Raising her

Another of my whims with the label "short story". Dedicated to my readers. Scripted long back; posted recently.

Raising a kid in US with a demanding job and an even more demanding husband has not been easy. Last time I had gone to India, Prateek was seven years old. He got rashes all over his body and developed stomach flu and I decided not to go back for a while, at least until he was grown up enough. Now, he is twelve. With the holidays in his school and my need for a break, one Sunday morning,at the breakfast table, I confided to my husband Amit that I'd like to visit my parents in Delhi.

He nodded his head in his characteristic style without raising his head from the newspaper and grunted an inconclusive "Hmm". When we had been first married, I'd snatch the paper away and demand that he paid attention to me instead. Over the years I have realized that it was of no avail. He'd be as lost without his matinal dose of news scraps as he was with it. It is curious though, how a man who is so inquisitive about the affairs of the world is so disinterested about the events of his own house. But when I ask him the same question, he replies nonchalantly "But you are there to take good care of everything." And then he goes on to say, "Wish there were more world leaders like you. The world would have been a better place"

It is difficult to judge from his impassive countenance then whether he is kidding or is serious. Initially, I'd hold a grudge against this half-baked attempt to pacify me. But then I started believing in what he said and breakfast on weekends became a peaceful, bloodless episode. I could have retaliated by saying that if all the people had learned to yield like me, the newspapers would have ran out of business. But I have wisened up to the fact that dead walls respond better than reading husbands, hence, I channelize my energy into slicing apples instead.


I have been in India since the past two weeks and Prateek has not complained for once about anything. Though, why the houses here don't have central heating is still an enigma for him. We were at a shopping mall that had recently opened in the NCR. A lot had changed since I had last remembered. But change was the only certainty.

I sat in the food court outside Funky Orbits with my mother, while my father and Prateek teamed up to have a look at some "guys' stuff", or at least that's what they said to us when they winked at each other and bade us goodbye. I asked Dad not to buy him another Playstation , as he already had one and had been urging me to buy him the new version. When I asked him: What's the difference? He said Mom it's so uncool to be playing an old thing ! When I thought I'd ask him how can one summer session of playing network games can make it old, Dad bailed him out by asking me if I had forgotten my gaming days and those DOS based games I used to drool over. Prateek almost shrieked with delight : Mom, you played Doom??? The thought of his mother playing as a first-person shooter probably amused him. I said: "Oh it was a long, long, long time ago." Prateek: 'But it came out in 1993. Not that long ago. Of course, it was before I was born, but not that loooong as you put it." I gave up and let him have his way, and with a defeated smile I watched as Granddad and Grandson walked together- Prateek almost hopping with anticipation.

Mom put her hand on my shoulder and brought me back to the cup of coffee I was trying to sip. It was too sugary for my taste. I had a sweet tooth before, but my calorie-conscious husband had changed my habit of putting half a mug sugar with a full mug coffee and had visibly changed other aspects too. I sighed at the thought of Amit and Mom probably guessed it, 'cause she asked, "When did you say, Amit would arrive again?"

"On 24th, the day before Christmas. He has a guest lecture in a university in New England, will need to wrap up some of his work then, attend a conference in Brussels and should be on his way after that."

She asked me if I had contacts with any of the older friends from my undergraduate days and I nodded in negative, almost with a feeling of guilt. I knew that some of them were probably still in Delhi- working and settled in life, but somehow it never crossed my mind to think about them. The greetings in the online communities were perfunctory and a busy schedule at work kept me from reaching out to them. Then my Masters in US, then my wedding, and job again. And then Prateek happened. I often wondered if my concern about only my immediate task list was out of choice or imposed. There was little time, if any, for social interactions other than your immediate circle of acquaintances. Weekends and weekdays seemed one long stretch of to-do lists. Recently, even our vacations seemed like a critically planned thing. Executed till the last full stop. Leisure was a serious business.

I looked at Mom across the table and beyond and suddenly a head full of wavy hair came into my view. The face looked similar and when I tried to remember where I had seen it before, the figure walked towards our table and gleamed a smile at us. She said: I'd not have recognized you , if I had not seen aunty too. Her melodious voice and green eyes brought back memories and I realized it was Aditi from my undergrad days. How long it had been? Twelve years? I really don't remember seeing her in person after the farewell except at a wedding we had attended. And then she had inevitably become just another profile on my friend list on my online communities.

I smiled with a genuine sense of surprise and welcomed her at our table. It seemed a bit odd that she was still very warm and I was trying to be formally polite. She smiled and said, Oh Ari, come on ! You still not are Miss Nice, are you? I blushed at her words. She was the maverick in our college. She rode a bike in the campus and hit the guy she borrowed it from and giggled. She stole into the hostel at late hours through the open window in the kitchen where she had made acquaintance with a kitchen boy. She smoked bidi with the cleaning lady in the basement and offered me one once to get rid of exam jitters. And yet she topped class. I shuttled from home to hostel and preferred to stay at home and study during exams. She hailed from another state in the east of India and stayed perpetually at the hostel. She hardly went back home for even vacation like Holi or Diwali. When I asked her why she never visited her folks, she said very mysteriously that she had learned not to care for those who didn't care for each other. It was not a mystery when she had told me later that her parents were living separately in the same house and she hated to go back to see a family which didn't exist anymore.

My mother had serious concerns about a girl like her being my roommate in the hostel and asked why I needed to be in the hostel in the first place. I reasoned: But Ma! College is two hours from here; it doesn't make sense to be a day scholar. And anyways, she isn't as bad as she seems- she tops the class you know. I knew my mother. According to her, anybody who tops the class can't have vices. And even if he/she had any, it were nothing compared to the dedication displayed to his/her education- the primary duty, the worship of Goddess Saraswati - the deity of knowledge, etc etc. I didn't think it was necessary to mention that Aditi had the least reverence for her text books. She threw them aside and read mostly novels everytime I saw her. Even when the professors gave lecture, she would sit in the last bench and make caricatures of them. Later, she would tell me "Did you notice that Sharma was wearing a golden frame today?" or "Chaki seems to have forgotten his blue pen somewhere " and things like that which I never noticed. She had an eye for details.

How it worked for her I 'd never know, but I couldn't afford to spend a whole lecture dreaming about the fate of my professor's favorite blue pen like she could. I slogged hard and I never had enough time for anything. And I can say without guilt that I was a little jealous of her ability to take things so casually. Specially her exams. I got the exam phobia from my mother, I believe the X chromosomes were the carriers. 'Cause dad would always say to mother: "Spare the kid!" when she sat next to me while I studied for my exams. She would reply "Spare the rod, and spoil the child" for no apparent reason and as one of the very rare instances when she spoke English. I'd smirk and Dad would wink at me and I would get back to studying until Mom dozed off and started snoring and I'd have to ward her off to her own room.

Sometimes, looking back at the differences I had with my mother, makes me understand the relationship I have with my son. He is not exactly the way Amit wanted him to be but I believe that he has turned out fine. I don't mind if he plays the soccer or joins music classes. But Amit is particular about his grades. I don't give a damn. Honestly. My books never taught me the things I needed to know. I learned them much later. But Prateek understands his father's expectations, and though he's still a kid, he knows how to differentiate his playtime from his work. And I , unlike my mom, never resort to sitting next to him while he prepares his lessons. The most I’d know about his course is if he were to do an assignment that needed me to provide the resources; and that too if it is a physical model, visible when he takes it to school. Otherwise, I am blissfully unaware about the progress of my ward. Except that I really appreciate his talent at the piano and I hope that he never gives up his passion, like I had to.


Mom had let go off all her past ill feelings and had joined Aditi in a conversation when I heard her ask about Sunil. As far as I recollected, Sunil was the name of the guy she had got married to. I heard her say he’s in Bangalore. Mom concluded knowingly: Oh business trip! She said: No, we don’t live together anymore. We separated before Shana was born. Mom valiantly tried to hide her disgust, but her feelings contorted her features. In a frantic effort, she said to me: Let me have a look where your father has gone with Prateek.

I nodded and acceded but I sat listlessly on my chair. Of the very few people I shared a vulgar curiosity about, Aditi was number two in a list of three. It probably was born of my secret wish to be like her. To have freedom. To do what I felt like. To say what I wanted to. Wouldn’t it be great, to be myself. For once? I looked at her inquiringly and she flashed her thunderbolt smile and said: Oh you can ask.
Encouraged, I queried: What happened?
She said very matter of factly : We fell out of love.
I stammered: I…I don’t understand.
She said honestly: I didn’t either in the beginning. But now it all makes sense. I never thought I would marry until I met Sunil. And then I never thought I would have to leave him until I did. I was pregnant when we separated. He didn’t know. He got to know much later, after Shana was born.
-You have a daughter?
-Oh yes, she is five now. Fortunately, she has brown eyes. They called me cat eyes at college, didn’t they?
-I thought you never cared.
-I did. More than you'd ever know. But I pretended not to. The world is not kind to the one who’s different.
-But I always liked you.
-It’s not about you Ari. You always see what the best in others. I am talking of the majority of the population. If you have a visible tumor, they will stare at it and point at it and sigh and heave and make you wish you were dead, even if the tumor weren’t malignant and it didn’t kill you.
But you can always get operated-
I suggested
It isn’t about tumors – malignant or not.
I saw what she meant and kept quiet. Then, I wondered aloud if it was difficult being a single mother in India. She said: Not really. But there are disturbing elements everywhere. Single definitely doesn’t make someone available or desperate to go to bed with just anyone" she finished almost angrily.

I tried to imagine a recent incident that might have triggered these emotions but I preferred to listen. She continued: I have lived my life in a house full of strangers. I didn’t want my daughter to be brought up the same way.

I was jealous of her more than I was ever before. I was married to a man I was never in love with. I was in a job which gave me no time to pursue my passion. And though, I had grown up being the perfect daughter for my parents and an ideal wife for my husband, I had lost myself somewhere in between. Someday, Prateek would grow up and leave for Grad school. Then, I’d have almost nothing to look forward to at the end of the day. Nothing to come back home to. My husband, virtuous as he was, lacked the passion I had dreamed of in my days of youth. A prince charming was not necessary. Only if it didn’t felt like I was going to bed with a stranger every night. It was not the physical aspect that was missing in our relation. It was the connection. We made love like routine. I took care of him because it was my duty. I really don’t know if I had ever been in love. We were just habits for each other. I felt a sting of pain somewhere.

I suddenly wished I hadn’t met Aditi after all these years. The shallowness of my existence, the meaningless pursuit of nothing seemed to hurt me more than ever. And yet, unlike her, I had not given up. I was ready to hope that eventually I would love my life, love the person I was . Even if I were molded by the desires of others. Even if I asked myself often- 'Where is the freedom I seek?' I wanted the liberty to paint the sky red again and to fill in the earth with purple color. Everything has been dictated unto me. And I had obeyed. But now I was feeling the desperate need to break away.

My mother came in with Dad and Prateek was holding a wrapped box with a triumphant smile. I instantly knew what was inside. I looked at Aditi again. But she didn’t appear to be the demi-goddess I had imagined her a moment ago. I respected her opinion and her strength to live life her way. But what was best for her child couldn’t have been directed by her private demons. Could it be? Or maybe convention had taught me to think only in black and white.