Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Best Friend.

       She is my new best friend. I love everything about her. To tell the truth, I USED TO love everything about her. But I no longer do. I'm scared now and racked with guilt. There is no single moment that I recall, no single moment that I recall ever being free of her obsession. You see, she is obsessive to the degree of killing me, if I so much as even think of other things. No fantasies, no smiles, no happiness. These are the things I agreed to give up when she approached me for friendship. I was too naive then. Far too naive to know how cruel she could be. I wish I had the guts to ask her to leave. But I'm a coward. A fool.


The woman has dark circles under her eyes. She frets and impatiently chews he nails. She seems in her early forties but appears much older. She jumps up when the receptionist calls out 'Mrs Linner' and almost dashes against the desk on her way to the door.
The doctor looks up from the giant desk, behind which he is seated. Immediately his eyes are clouded with pity for this weak yet strong woman.

"I'm just so tired, Doctor. I'm just so exhausted. How can I help her if she refuses to see reason?"

"You need to deal with it, minute by minute, day by day, month by month. We have been supporting her for all these eight years. At least you cannot quit on her, not you of all people. Susan, I know this is hard, but You have to keep going. There is only so much that these medicines and therapy can do. Only so much."

"How I wish. How I wish." She sighs and clasps the doctor's hands. He puts his hands over hers. They are old friends. He can only do so much, after all. She follows his instructions for the new medications and takes the prescription. He has added some new pills and replaced Valium with another. 


Mum is back from Mr Roth's. He is a gentle man and doing all that he can. But I know it is of no use. He doesn't know it is now a war between us. It is either my friend or me. She is strong. I wish I had never got into this mess. But it was Kate Moss that did it. And Victoria and Angelina and Paris and Cheryl and all the millions of beautiful women on in Paris and Milan and Munich and Amsterdam and everywhere. 
You would understand if you saw me grow up. Even though my initial years were centred around huge tables laden with enormous amounts of food, the house over-run with guests each day, every day; a laughing Mum and Dad shushing us and piling our plates high with all kinds of eatable stuff, Even though any other kid would have exchanged her best stuff with me to be brought up in a house like this, filled with love and all things nice and wonderful, she would never have know the agony of being called names at school. 'Dumpling', 'Mattress', 'Fatass', 'Hippo' were names that gnawed at my insides, hours after school, in the nights, making me stay awake for long hours, crying silent tears into my pillow, gasping for breath because the grief just mashed my heart into a pulp. Not being able to walk like the others, not being able to avoid doubling over with sheer breathlessness after a two-minute walk or run, not being able to fit into pretty little dresses like my eight-year old classmates. Even now, I can relive every single taunt, every single jeer from those days. And only my best friend stays by me. Then how can I push her off, just like that, tell me.


Mrs Linner is inconsolable. Mr Linner holds her throughout the ceremony. It is mercifully, brief. The coffin is being displayed for the guests to say their final goodbyes. Inside is the skeleton of a gal who was once beautiful and lively. Skeleton. Because Amy's body is only a heap of bones. Her gaunt face stares even with the eyes closed. The skin pale and white, like chalk used to whitewash walls. Her skin is transparent and you would think it would split open if you looked for a while too long. Her elbows and knees jut out. Her lips are already black and her mouth a black hole with tepid breath and rotting teeth. Who is this gal? The guests wonder. These guests who have seen her transformed from a healthy adorable child into the pitiable, tiny teenager lying in this coffin. Some of them think, Death was a tad too long in the coming. And Amy should have been mercifully put out much earlier. However all is as the Good Lord insists. However they cannot but help shudder to think that something as evil as this could exist in their midst. 

The eulogies are read. The farewells said. The goodbyes offered. Mrs Linner insists on sitting next to the coffin the whole time. While it is lowered into the ground, she flings herself upon it. 'Forgive me. Forgive me, Amy, for I could not help you', she cries pitifully. Mr Roth is there too, teary-eyed. 


I was scared when the lid closed. I wished I could comfort my mother. I tried to get up and hold her, but I could not. Something stuck me to the coffin bottom, glued me to it. I could only peer at the faces of the persons who looked in. Some gasped, some shuddered, some cried. But they all loved me. That much I knew. I was scared again when the earth closed around me in my little box, but then suddenly as soon as all the mud was around me and I could no longer hear it falling over, I felt a deep peace come upon me. When I woke up I was here. In this beautiful open place smelling of a thousand flowers in full bloom and the green grass and moss and dew, with a hundred birds chirping. I can go to my special window and look down at Mum and Dad and see them hobbling along on their grief-laden feet. I no longer feel pity for them. I find that I'm incapable of feeling anything except a tremendous feeling of calm and lightness. I know they will join me here, when the time comes. 

I'm peaceful and alone. 

My best friend of nine years, my possessive friend, the one who killed me is no longer with me.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Great Expectations.

       'That is him. That is himmmm!' - Malati called out. She clutched her handbag tight and brought up her hand to where her heart was. It beat wildly. Loudly. Her magenta suitcases fell down on each other, tumbled and collapsed like a house of cards. But she did not notice. They fell about her, while she mouthed 'That is him'.
'What nonsense' - Reena snorts. 'That was ages ago. At least now toh forget him.'
'But I know it is him....Here, go and ask him." Malati implored.
'It could be him, Reena, What makes you so sure it is not?' - piped up Latifa.
'Arrey you gals are really mad!!'  - Reena retorted.
'Seriously Reena, sometimes you are such a snob. Delhi suits you very well. Now forget him, Malati and let us get on with our lives. Where the hell is the taxi-stand?' - Latifa was irritated now. The sweat trickled down her face.

       'Bhaiyya - Park Hotel chaloge?' The taxi driver spit out his paan, and grinned at them.
'This must be what Yamraaj looks like'.....Reena whispered. The other two giggled.
Reena could pass funny comments with an absolutely serious face. Only Reena.
'It is sooo hot, I don't know why we had to come to Goa in this heat? Couldn't you have chosen a hill-station, Malati? - Latifa grumbled.
Malati laughed - 'Why a hill-station? Why not the Alps? We have been planning to come here from a year now. I could not wait anymore. And remember this is my hen-party. So no frowns. Paste your best smile. We will get drunk and have the best time of our lives.'
Reena and Latifa pretended to be unimpressed and looked out of the window. Malati laughed. They joined in.

       In their room, the first thing they did was order food 'wine, cheese, beer, whisky, and spicy 'kuch-bhi'...
Reena said 'That fellow seems decent. He lowered his gaze while we were ordering'
Latifa playfully rapped her head 'Of course he lowered. You are wearing the smallest skirt in the whole world. Decent it seems.'
By the time their order was delivered, they had showered and dressed. They attacked the wine with gusto, hardly eating anything of the spicy 'kuch-bhi' which turned out to be a non-veg platter and the Goan fish curry-rice.
'What is the plan? Dekh Malati and Latifa, I don't want to see any churches-temples-mosques. If you want to go, jao. I am fine with lying on the beach and admire the sunset.'
'Arrey even we are not interested in doing bhajan-kirtan here. This is Goa, not Vaishno Devi. Latifa, you take the camera, and Reena you take the cosmetics. I will carry the clothes.'
They sauntered down the stairs to the reception. It was while turning their keys in at the counter that Reena pinched Malati.
'Ouf, bitch. That hurt! What did you do that for?' Malati asked turning around to see Reena's mouth wide open. She was pointing at the doorway, at the valet opening the doors of cars.
'That is him. You were right Malati. That is him!' Reena stammered.
Latifa whistled.
She put her arm around Malati - 'Look. This is your hen-party. You can like, totally do what you want. Call him. Now. And ask him to bring his friends over. We can watch you having all the fun. Quick'
Malati shook her head from side to side, horrified - 'But I can't!! I'm getting married next week!! What makes you think I would want to see him. Now?!'
Reena muttered 'This one will remain a fool all her life. I will call him.'
While Latifa and Malati whispered to each other, Reena walked out and flipped out her mobile phone. While she spoke to the person on the other line, Malati and Latifa were exchanging sly looks and devilish grins.

       'Maluuu! I'm sooo glad to see you! What brings you to Goa? And must say you are still a stunner!!'  Karan winked and smiled at Latifa and Reena. 'You too ladies! How many years has it been? Five-six?'
'Only three years, Karan. You still forget things too easily. We are here for my h.....' Malati was just about to utter the obscenity when Latifa and Reena spoke aloud together 'Promotion party...'
'Yeah, we are here for my er...uh...promotion party....'Malati cooed, regaining control. 
'Why don't you join us? Do you have some friends with you, to keep Latifa and I company, while you admire Malati?' Reena fished. 
Karan furrowed his brows - 'Not friends, but I can bring some people over. What are you gals doing tonight? Tito's tonight, around 9ish?
'Perfect - Yeah that would be great. So we will see you tonight then' - Latifa replied while Reena blew him a kiss and Malati smiled.

'Don't tell me you are wearing thaaaat, Malati? This will be last free-night of your life and you will NOT be dressed like a behenji tonight.' Reena admonished Malati. She snatched the green dress from Malati's hands and threw it into the corner. Rummaging in her own bag, she produced a red slinky tube-dress and threw it in Malati's face. Latifa grabbed at it and looked at it, delightedly. 'Yes, THIS is what you should wear. Reena is right. I have just the perfect shoes to go with this' she scampered off the bed and sat by her suitcase.
'Whatever gals, What would I be without you two drama-queens in my life?' - Malati said. She turned to the mirror. 'Curls or Straight? Winged eyeliner or simple? Tell me gals. I'm going to make him go mad.'
The other two rolled their eyes.

       'Are we too early? I can't see him anywhere.' Malati looked around,
'Arrey tu bhi na. D'u think he is standing here with a coconut tree growing out of his head, just so you notice him?' Reena growled. 'He will find us. Give him some time. Let us order our drinks.'
After some 12 large glasses of vodka, neat, on the rocks, had passed between them, a mobile rang. Malati searched inside her tote bag and produced the still ringing cellphone. 'It is Karan' she said.
There seemed to be a lot of noise in Karan's background. 'Where are you gals? What are you wearing. I can't find you in this crowd.'
'We are outside the disc, just to the right, where the tables are put up. We are right next to them. I am in red, Latifa in magenta and Reena in black.' Malati offered helpfully.

       'There is your ex-flame, Malati. Jump him. And remember no regrets. And not a word of this outside' Latifa instructed. Serious, Reena and Malati nodded.
Karan was dressed in a body-hugging white vest and jeans. He slung a blazer casually in one hand and held a drink in the other.
His jaw fell open when he saw Malati, but he soon looked away. Malati was confused. This was so unlike him. Their relationship had been incompatible, but when it came to lust, both were equally insatiable. They were complete opposites of each other in all but that. The break-up was inevitable as both were head-strong, stubborn and impatient. Their tempestuous relationship had to end and surprisingly it was Karan who had offered to part on an amiable note.
'Malati, Malati?' Latifa was shaking her.
'Where were you lost? We are talking to you and you are sitting there with an open drooling mouth.' Reena said, tugging at her arm 'Let's go and meet Karan's friends. Chalo, Chalo.'

       His friends comprised of three guys and two women, none of whom Malati recalled seeing when Karan was courting her. The men were dapper and handsome and seemed friendly. But the women looked over the new-comers and offered no greetings. They were dressed in expensive clothes and in front of them Malati felt she and her friends looked sluttish.
Malati offered her hand to one of the women and introduced herself 'Hi, I know Karan from a long time. We were friends in Delhi'
The woman smiled coolly.
Her icy gaze bore into Malati.
'I'm Natasha, Karan's wife. I have known him for four years.'
Malati stared.
First at Natasha.
Then at Karan.
His eyes seemed to implore her. His ears turned beetroot red.
Reena pinched Mitali's arm. 
Latifa pretended to brush off something from Malati's hair and whispered 'Not a word' and turned to the Natasha with a grin, asking 'Is that a Chanel you are wearing, um? '

Friday, July 13, 2012

Half Broken Things - Morag Joss - book review

This Scottish author won a Silver Dagger Award by the Crime Writers' Association for this wonderfully dark psychological thriller.
Jean is an elderly house-sitter, just asked to leave her job. But not before she finishes her last assignment of taking care of Walden manor, a secluded country home.
Michael is a petty thief who steals church artifacts to get enough cash to buy tinned soup.
Steph is the abused pregnant girlfriend of a brute, who one day gives in to her impulse and runs away from her boyfriend. She runs into Michael and asks him to help her. A reluctant Michael lets her stay at his dingy apartment.
(I actually don't want to tell you this meeting, but this situation is so amazing that I cannot NOT tell you!)
Jean, meanwhile is so upset by her bleak future, when she will no longer have a job, that she starts to believe Walden manor is her house and slowly takes possession of the house and all the things in it. She even goes so far as to believe that she has had a son in the past whom she has given up for adoption. She places an advertisement in the papers looking for this non-existent son.
Michael chances upon the ad, and comes to meet her. He realizes that she cannot be his mother, yet when he sees the opportunity to live off on this old-woman's fortune, he pretends and makes about as if he is the son. This is a clinching moment in the novel. The silent acknowledgement by both of their taken-for-granted future together as mother and son unravels their doom. Needless to say, Steph is soon accepted as the 'son's wife' and therefore 'loved daughter-in-law'. Steph starts working as a baby-sitter in a nearby house.
Yet how long before they can continue this utopian existence, this lie they are living in and how long before reality asserts itself?
The owners are soon going to return, and the priest of the church from where Michael had once stolen a statue is in the village.
These two threats set rolling the wheel of doom, that none of them can stop. The end is explosive. Silently explosive.
The language is beautiful, her use of similes is delightful. The whole time you are reading this book, you want to disbelieve every word in it, yet you are drawn further and further into the book; you want to spit at the characters in disgust because of their fraudulent ways, yet you are drawn to cry for them in pity.
Absolutely wonderful.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Two Minutes

I had written this for the Blog-A-Ton contest this month, but could could not post the entry due to some nonsensical reasoning by my mind - and I also thought I had written it half-heartedly - anyway here it is :)    

       I try and try, yet I cannot remember anything from that day. Hazy, unfocused images come swooshing into my face and disappear. Voices, too. I cannot make out what they say.
Now when I think of it, I wonder if the signs were there. If, that morning, I had worn the shoe on the wrong foot, or if I had worn Rick's trousers instead of mine would I have noticed? If the clouds had hung about smiling and showered coal tar on my salt-and-pepper-hair, would I have seen it as a sign of something that would happen? Whether, Nice or unpleasant, something was about to happen?

       Rick is here. He has brought me grapes again. I have no idea why, even after fifty-two years of our marriage, he still forgets that I dislike grapes. I just cannot stand them bursting open in my mouth, the seeds grating against my teeth.
But as always, he has brought me grapes and I will say 'Rick, I don't eat grapes' and he will offer a surprised expression and say'Oh, Elena, I forgot. Well, looks like I will have to finish them off now'. This dialogue is one of the thousands of dialogues we indulge in. Through all the years of our wedded bliss, we have rehearsed and perfected the art of continuing our life of togetherness, interspersed with such simple scenes of domestic bliss. Kissing each other goodbye every morning before he is off to work. Patting down the couch before we sit in a place that has been vacated by the other. Brushing our teeth together in the bathroom. The regular taken-for-granted things we indulge in everyday. Funny, how I remember all this and yet nothing of that day.
Like I said, were the warning signs blinking on and off like the lights on a truck on the road?

       "Are you better now dear", Rick asks me, kissing my cheek. His papery lips on my skin, a faint sour-sweet smell masked under the minty freshness of his Denari-lime-mint toothpaste, his wheezing, grinding old-man voice, his crinkled eyes - every single act, scent and taste of this man
I have carried within me.
"Much better, Rick Thank You. Will you please tell me what happened? Why am I here?" I ask.
He pats my shoulder as if I am a 20 year old silly giggling girl and not a seventy eight year old lady. He knows it is no use to keep things from me. He knows this much. I would pry it out of him. I would beg, cajole, threaten but in the end I would have what I wanted. Hadn't he fallen in love with me all those centuries ago for the same reason?
'You must rest, Elena. You must not get so worked up. It is most important that you listen to me this time, won't you, dear?'
'No Rick, you know I would not let you in peace. Please tell me why I am here on this, oh, vile dreadful-smelling bed when the whole of London is out celebrating the new year! Hooked onto all these wires, and I am sure looking like a witch for all I care. The nurses won't let me have a mirror. Oh Rick, Do I have cancer or something dreadful? Is there a mole growing out of my nose with a hair growing out of it? Answer me Rick!"
He smiles and shakes his head slowly from side to side. This is the sign I have been waiting for. The sign I know, my husband makes, just before he gives in to me. That is what marriage gifts you. The ability to read every step, every gesture, every word that your spouse will take, make and utter.
I wait. Looking at him with beseeching eyes.
"Do I have a mole growing on my nose, with a hair jutting out? Oh, I would die, if that were the case. Rick, I wish I could feel my face, but the nurses have obviously given me too much anaesthesia. We must complain. Why? I have never heard of a place where the patient does not feel anything for a week. A weeeeek! Rick! A weeeek! You could stick a cactus on my face, or a snake on my head and these hands would go over them and not feel a thing. Damn this place"
He looks at me for a long time.
He wipes away a tear from his eye.
I have seen the tear but I pretend not to notice it. That is how it has been with me. If I ignore it, the problem is not there.
Rick has always been the emotional one. A stray mongrel would bring out tears from his eyes faster than you could say 'Cry'! That is what I love about him. We have come such a long way. Growing old with him has been the most beautiful part of my life. I know for certain, that we would never leave the other alone even in death. Were Rick to die first, I would simply follow him. Or vice versa.
"Please Rick"....Now I pout my lips like I used to do when we were new lovers, ripe with passion and life and love and vitality. Those times seem so many ages ago.
He looks for something in his coat pocket. Then in the other. Now he has his hands in the inside pockets.
"Tut-tut" I say, impatiently.

       "How are my love-birds doing?" A cheery voice shouts out from the door. The doctor is here. I like him. He is a thorough gentleman. A honest chap. He walks over to me, looks at the whirring-bleeping-machines next to my head, pats my cheek and says 'You will be beautiful in no time!"....
I blink.
He blinks too. And realizes his mistake.
"Er...I mean, Elena, you will be walking and pottering around the house in no time"
But it is too late.
"Elena.....Elenie...."Rick pats my shoulder again.
I brush his hand off.
He knows.
I pull off the wires. The machines scream. It is like a million ambulance alarms going off at the same time. The doctor catches my arm. I will not stop. I am determined to find out the truth behind this charade. I push open the bathroom door.
I stretch on my toes and look into the mirror.

       The watch was just what Rick would have liked. It was an old-timer pocket model with a gold link-chain hanging from it. I had been looking for days now. To get the perfect gift for him this season. It is one of those inexplicable whims old people give way to. A sudden notion that we could vanish from the face of this earth as simply and as instantly as an ant is crushed beneath out feet. Before the Grim Reaper came for us, we would make the most of what we had. Time would slip away like sand through our fingers and one day we would be lying in a hole in the ground with regrets heaped all around. I did not want to go like that. Not me, no sire.
So I had planned to blow some money on Rick that day. I walked into Piurottes's with a steely determination and poked around until I had found it. I had just the right watch, the right gift. Perfect for Christmas.
       In front of me were a bunch of boys, the new age kinds, smelling of whisky and expensive perfume. The Beverly-hill types with outrageously rich parents who gave them the license to run wild. What kind of parenting skills were in vogue nowadays, I frowned in disgust. Back in my days, a slap would be just what kids like these needed. Throwing their cash around without putting in any effort to earn it. I waited for them to scoop up their expensive gift-wrapped items and holler and shout their way out of the store.
I opened my purse to pay the pretty cashier with the sing-song voice.  
"That will be three thousand three hundred and ninety pounds, madam. Thank You." she had announced.
       I handed over the cash to her, and drummed my fingers over the glasstop while she counted it out. By the time the machine had printed out the bill receipt, the watch was gift-wrapped and ready for Rick.

       I pottered out in my excitement and had just started to cross the road when a voice hollered behind me "Mrs. Smiiiith!!! Mrs. Smiiiiith, you forgot your wallet"......In the two minutes that it took me to turn around on my unsteady arthiritic legs and reach the curb, I was subconsciously aware of a whirring sound, the screeching of brakes, the shouting of boys, the horrified looks of passers-by and the doorman's expression of horror.

photo credits : 
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