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Saturday, November 15, 2008


I sit on my couch and send an acquaintance a "Happy Birthday" message telling him that he shares his birthday with a special person in my life. Then I go to bed and dream about randomness all night long. I awake to a windy morning, attend a few phone calls, work out, and glance at the calendar. And then it hits me. It was the 15th of November today and it was someone special's birthday, a fact that seemed so casual last night, and so painful today.

I reminisce about this very same day, 17 years ago. The picture is not very vivid in my mind but the photographs that I left behind in your home are. I remember how I excited I was about your birthday just like I am about everyone's birthday every year. And you shook your head and said that you did not want your birthday to be celebrated. You were embarrassed, you said. You did not have much hair on your head from the chemotherapy and you did not want many people to see you that way. I told you that we could get you a scarf and that it would be all be ok. You did not say anything, I suppose, for the birthday celebrations did happen.

I do not remember much of that day except for the fact that we got a Chocolate Truffle cake from Pastry Waggon just because it happened to be my favorite cake. How selfish of me! But I was only a child then. I do not remember what happened exactly. But the pictures that I remember show you bald, cutting a cake, smiling, and posing for pictures. Was it reluctant, just to please us all, or whether you truly were happy that day, I do not know. I do not know if I wish to know. All that I wish I knew was that it was going to be your last birthday, and your last birthday with us.

You passed away exactly a month and 7 days later Ba. I was shocked. I was a child and did not know the significance of the cancer that you were fighting. Did I ever tell you that I loved you? Did I ever tell you that I wondered if you were one of those goddesses that are sent over to Earth to test people? Did I ever tell you that I believed you had the purest heart that had ever touched me? And boy, did I tell you that I was proud to be told that my personality matches yours?

I sit on the couch wondering when those pictures will fade, tear, and not be good enough to save anymore, and whether as I age, my memories of you will gradually fade away. I do not want to be sitting on a couch 15 years from now struggling to remember what you looked like, how it felt to rest my head on your lap and you stroking my hair, and how your gentle soft hands fed me as I throw one of those tantrums.

And so my dearest Ba, here is a weak attempt to capture those memories into one page. I hope that we meet someday up there where I know your soul is resting in peace.

I love you.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My True Love

He came into my life like my knight in shining armor, but at a very slow pace. I loved another guy. He knew that. He knew how unhappy I was. And yet he did not say a word. All that he did was take my heart away when I was least expecting it. And then I actually fell in love with him. And out of love with the other guy.

I continued to be unhappy. I knew he loved her. Or so I thought. Until he kissed me one night in a drunken stupor and professed his love for me. He told me he had fallen out of love with her the moment I had stepped into his life. He did not tell her that. He did not want to break her heart. Instead, he chose to ignore her phone calls, her text messages, and her e-mails, hoping she would get the message.

I still remember the night we were cuddled under one blanket on a twin bed, arms in arms, basking in each other's love. I felt I was experiencing heavenly bliss until the phone rang. I was startled awake and grabbed for my phone. It was as dead as a deadpan. It was his phone that was ringing. "Priya calling", it said. I grimaced. "What does she want at this hour?", I thought, almost feeling the anger rise within me. I shook him awake and almost flung the phone onto his face. It was too late. The phone had stopped ringing.

It didn't take him long to realize what was happening when the phone rang once again. Priya. How I began to hate the name or anything remotely connected to her. I glared at him as he stared at the phone wondering what to do next. Much to my shock, he answered his phone and pretended he was in deep sleep and had no idea what was going on. It was an act worthy of an Oscar, I thought and tried hard to fall asleep. I couldn't. The phone rang five more times that night and the for the next few nights after that.

I began to hate the girl. How was she not able to understand? Was she blind in love with him? He was mine now and nothing could take him away from me after all I had gone through with the other guy. I had finally found true love. When she texted him the next month telling him how much she missed him, I could not but help feel a sense of victory and achievement about having her guy to myself now. She had lost him and I was adamant to keep it that way.

Its been three years now. We have had our ups and downs but we are still together. Its been longer than his relationship with Priya. And it has been my longest relationship ever. I know that this time its for keeps. The last I heard was that Priya was engaged to be married very soon. I wonder if she has forgotten him. I wonder how hard it must have been for her. Sometimes, I wonder if I was cruel to her then. Maybe...but I do not think there is any point to thinking about that now. I am now envious of her. She is engaged. I am not yet engaged to him. I wonder when he will pop the question. I hope its soon.

With this note, I pen off.

Eight hours later.

I have called him five times today. He did not answer the first four times. The fifth time he appeared to be sleeping. I think I recognized the Oscar winning tone.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Warning: This story may be disturbing to some, especially minors.

Peter knew the moment he had set eyes on Jenny that they were meant to be together. His ex-wife had left him 6 months ago for another woman and Peter was lonely, de-motivated, and hopeless. He had not kissed any woman in over a year, let alone have sex with any. It almost seemed to him like his young adulthood was going to waste. At 35, he was single again. And now, he felt that this young waitress who had been serving him coffee every morning at the Express Cafe was his soul-mate.

Jenny was a strikingly attractive woman. There was no denying that she was perhaps one of the most beautiful waitresses that Peter had ever known. He was particularly attracted to her olive skin, her petite stature, and her well-toned body. Jenny on the other hand, had always been intuitive that Peter had been attracted to her, and was used to this kind of attention from the cafe's customers. However, this time, the feelings were mutual. So when Peter asked her out a few days later, she was ecstatic. Within 2 months, they legally wed in a small ceremony with only 5 invited guests.

The first few weeks of wedded bliss had filled their lives with love and contentment. They had their ups and downs but essentially felt that they would not be able to live without one another as they kissed, cuddled, hugged, and embraced each other every waking moment together. However, Jenny and Peter hardly made love because Jenny was not only frigid but also suffered from vaginismus. She often felt guilt-ridden and cried her heart out after Peter went to bed after hours of futile coaxing. She wanted to please him but she could not. She wondered if Peter would at any point want to leave her for another woman devoid of sexual problems.

One day, well into the 2nd year of their marriage, her fears came true. After spending minutes trying to penetrate her, Peter lost his cool. He dragged himself out of bed stark naked, walked out of the bedroom, and slammed the door behind him. "How many times have I told you to visit a therapist?", he yelled out. Jenny felt her heart breaking when Peter did not return to the bedroom for the rest of the night. The next day, he left home for work without even kissing her good bye. Jenny spent the entire day ruminating over her woes and her past. She thought about how her father had abandoned her and her mother when she were merely three. She thought about how her first boyfriend had raped her at a fraternity party never to meet her again. She thought about how her mother had died 5 years ago. And she thought about last night. Jenny filled the bathtub with water and spent the rest of the day laying there, thinking about how she could please her husband that evening.

When Peter returned home from work at 7 pm, he saw Jenny sprawled on the bed, with her eyes half-closed. Without a word, he went into the kitchen, and saw that she had made his favorite dinner: meatloaf. Heaping a huge portion onto his plate, he ate quickly, almost swallowing without chewing. He was experiencing a unique sense of excitement that night as he continued to think about Jenny waiting for him inside the bedroom. Brushing the crumbs of his sandwich, and leaving the dirty plate on their couch, he rushed into the bedroom stripping his own clothes off on the way.

Inside their bedroom, he turned the lights off and swiftly undressed Jenny. He then continued to blindfold her and kissed her entire body starting at her forehead and moving downwards in spirals until he reached her toes. His excitement and arousal knew no bounds as there was not a word of protest today. He smiled at himself. Finally, finally she was not rejecting him. Finally, he would be able to make love to her like he had always dreamed of. Finally, he would enjoy their union. In the next few minutes, Peter experienced pleasure like he never had, not even when he lost his virginity in college, and not even like how he had on his honeymoon with his first wife. He felt uniquely liberated as he came into his wife, grunting all the time, without worrying about what the neighbors thought.

A couple hours later, Peter called his friends and gave them the news about Jenny's suicide. She had killed herself that afternoon before he had gotten back from work.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Diary

Dear Diary,

Sherry has left this morning in a huff, I can tell. Her clothes are strewn all around, her cereal bowl is lying on her computer desk, and her towel has dampened the blanket. I just woke up to the the glaring sunlight falling directly on my face but do not feel like stepping out of bed. I thought our day off together would be fun. I wanted to watch Sex and the City with her at the mall, followed by a quick dinner at Panera Bread. Its been so long since we went out together and did something fun. But she left to work, without telling me. She has not bothered to call me or text me, as she usually does, by this time. And I am unclear if I should or not. Will she snub me? Oh I am so miserable. I wish I hadn't brought Vivek home last evening.

Why doesn't Sherry understand? I do not love Vivek and neither does he love me. We are only colleagues and that's all there is to it. But Sherry hates him. She hates him for being my best friend. She hates him for being with me all day. She hates me talking to him. She thinks he will take her position one day. Sherry is so insecure. I wonder why? What's wrong with her?

I just turned our indoor fountain on. It almost feels like its crying out loud like I am crying inside.

Sherry was so cold to me last night. As soon as she saw me entering the house with Vivek, she darted into the bedroom, slammed the door shut, and spent the rest of her evening playing the guitar. I have tried so hard for them to get along well. God knows I have tried. But I have never succeeded. Vivek has also questioned Sherry's malice towards him. I have not been able to explain it to him. How can I ? Will he understand?

I am so frustrated. I feel like dying. Why is life so difficult? I wonder if Sherry wants to move out. I know I do, sometimes. But I cannot imagine us both in different homes. I am afraid if I talk to her about it, she might get upset with me. Anyway, I am not even sure if she will talk to me again after what happened last night. She called me a cheat, a liar, and cried herself to sleep. I have never seen her crying this way. It hurt me so much to see her so unhappy but it hurts to know that she thinks of me that way.

Between the two of us, Sherry is the exuberant one, always full of excitement, chattering away to glory, practical, level-headed, and bossy. I am the calm, slow, quiet, and emotional one. People told us we would never get along. And yet, we have. We do. Do we not? Or am I fooling myself? I don't know what to do. Am I going crazy? Do I need help? Will no one ever understand? Who do I talk to? God, someone please help me!

Why was I born this way? I feel so alone. I wish Sherry would come home right now. I wonder if I will ever be happy. I did not know it would be so hard. I think I am going to go back to sleep.
It is not easy being a bisexual in a heterosexual world.


Monday, June 30, 2008

The Party

I walked into a party nervous about being there by myself and knowing no one but the host. It was only my 2nd month in the new city and though there was nothing to complain about, life wasn't that exciting too. So there I was, trying to spice things up a bit, building my social circle, and prancing around in party clothes that would otherwise have gathered dust in my walk-in closet.

There he was, looking forlorn, standing by the window with a beer in his hand. I took in his blue shirt and stone-washed jeans and wondered if he was single. A quick glance at his ring finger confirmed that he was not married but I was pretty sure that he either had a girlfriend or was gay. After all, isn't that the sad story that most single girls narrate after they spot a cute guy?

I glanced at him several times hoping that he would not notice. It was hard to stop myself from looking at him. He had the most gorgeous blue eyes that complimented his outfit and his silky locks of hair made him appear like a model straight out of a "Head and Shoulders" commercial. My silent prayers were not heeded. He indeed did notice me while I tried to pretend that I was staring into space and not at him. My heart began to race as he approached me and said with the smoothest voice ever, "Hi! I am Paul." Tongue-tied, I barely managed to smile back. With a questioning look on his face, he continued to stare at me.

"Sheela!!!". I was shaken out of my reverie as my friend yelled out my name. "When did you arrive?", she asked completely ignoring Mr. Paul. "About 20 minutes ago.", I managed to mutter. "Great!! Hope you are having fun!", she said and wandered off into the crowd while Mr. Paul grinned at me.

"I thought you had strep or something.", he said with a smirk on his face. His sarcasm failed to perturb me, as it would otherwise have with anyone else. "I am sorry!", I exclaimed. "I was just a bit distracted then. I am Sheela. Nice to meet you!" And that is how Mr. Paul and I struck a conversation that evening that lasted well into midnight. The house began to fill up as guests of all shapes, sizes, and colors arrived and danced to loud music. It was apparent that Paul and I both knew no one but the host and his wife, my friend. It was as if God had brought us both together to keep each other company that night, I thought.

We managed to slip out of the party without anyone noticing. I was a bit tipsy from having had 3 pegs of Bacardi and Coke and knew I had a little too much to drink.

"Are you drunk?", he asked flashing his magnetic smile yet again.
"Yes, I think so.", I said, and without any further thought wrapped my arms around him.

Before long, we were in the backseat of his car, kissing each other fervently.
"Are we doing the right thing?", I managed to say as he paused to catch some breath.
He did not answer me and continued to kiss me all over my face and neck. Very soon, he had undone my bra and his hands had deftly made their way into my shirt, groping my breasts. As he pinched them hard, I began to gather my senses. I opened my eyes, squirming in pain, and tried to make myself sit up. I failed to do so as Paul grabbed my wrists and bound my hands together.

"STOP!", I shrieked. He refused to listen. "STOP, Paul. Please, stop.", I pleaded. "You are hurting me!", I screamed. He merely chuckled. No one heard my wails that night as Paul gagged me with his handkerchief.

Thirty minutes later, I was back in my apartment.

Today, all my party clothes are gathering dust in my walk-in closet. I refuse to go out of my apartment after sunset. I refuse to date. I refuse to let any man touch me. I refuse to talk to anyone whose name is Paul.

This is the story of Sheela, a victim, who lost her virginity the night Paul raped her.

This is purely fictional. Any resemblances to anyone you know is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From Bangladesh, With Love

She was 19. He was 24.
She was from Bangladesh. He was from India.
She was a Muslim. He was a Hindu.
And then it happened.

She had arrived into the United States a year after he had. Being a volunteer driver for the university, he had been in charge of the students arriving that day. As she walked out of the airport, appearing lost, but pretending to be cool, chewing gum like a cow trying to swallow plastic, he could not help but grin. After a brief introduction and loading over a 100 pounds of luggage, they were on their way to the university.

"Where are you staying?", he asked her.
"I don't know", she replied nonchalantly.
"Where am I dropping you off then?", he asked her puzzled and slightly irritated. He had only been told to pick the students up and drop them off at their destinations. He did not want to be in charge of their accommodation too.
"I don't know where I am supposed to be going.", she whispered.

He realized then that she had come unprepared and without having made any arrangements. He also sensed that she was trying to fight back tears. Feeling sorry for her, he offered her to come stay with him and his roommate until she found an apartment. She had no choice but to say yes. And that's how Fatima and Niket began their journey.

On the third day, Fatima confessed to Niket that she did not have the money to rent an apartment. In her words, she had escaped from her home in Bangladesh because her father had wanted her to marry his friend's son. She had borrowed money from her richer friends in order to get to where she was.

"Please help me.", she pleaded with two teardrops rolling down her cheeks, shining brightly as the moonlight fell directly on her face. Niket had a sudden urge to run his fingers through her unruly hair that remained curly all the time. But all that he did was squeeze her shoulder and nod his head. Fatima continued to stay in his bedroom while Niket slept on the couch in his living room for the next 6 months. Fatima did not know that he sometimes went into the bedroom only to watch her sleep peacefully often wondering how it would feel to have her sleep in his lap. Niket did not know when and how he had fallen in love with her but felt empty and lonely when she left home to go to school.

One night when she returned from the library, she found him pacing up and down in the hallway.

"Is everything alright?", she asked.
"No. It's not.", he answered wringing his hands. "I am in love with you and want you to know that.", he stated, almost in a rush for fear that he might never again be able to utter those words.

When Fatima did not answer him and simply lowered her gaze, he felt stupid and rejected. He saw that she was crying silently and knew not what to do.

"I am sorry.", he managed to mutter.
"I love you too.", she replied.
"What?", he said in disbelief and embraced her as she continued to cry on his shoulder. He did not dare to ask her why she was crying. All that it mattered that she loved him and that made him happy.

He began to kiss her tears away, softly placing his lips on her closed eyes, and rocking her back and forth.
"Its ok baby. Don't cry. I will take care of you baby.", he whispered softly in her ears as she whimpered his name.
"Take me inside", she said. "Make love to me."

Within minutes, they both were standing by the bedroom window stark naked locked in each others arms. Niket could not help but wonder how Fatima looked so beautiful even in the darkness of the night as he caressed her, touched her, stroked her and kissed her over her entire body. Fatima quivered with pleasure and begged him for more. Niket gave her all that she asked for and even more. An hour later, they both lay side by side satiated with pleasure and covered with beads of perspiration.

The next morning, they were both rudely awakened by the phone that rang nonstop. As Fatima answered it, she began to panic.

"My dad's here!", she shrieked. "He is coming to take me away to Bangladesh."
"What! No! He cannot do that!", he yelled back.
"Yes he can!", she shouted in anger and sank into her bed and started to cry.

An hour later, her dad was at their doorstep. Or so he thought.

As the pounding on the door began, Fatima enthusiastically opened the door. Niket was confused as he saw the cops standing outside his apartment.

Fatima then turned around and pointed to him, and said...."Here is the guy who raped me last night."

Six months later, Fatima was seen at another university with another graduate student.......

Thank you all for your wonderful responses. I am going to come back and comment on them one by one.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Move

This had been her 3rd long distance relationship that had miraculously survived. After she fell out of love with her first boyfriend after he moved to Australia for a Master's degree, she had been guilt-ridden and very upset about having done that to him. She had sworn then that she would never fall in love again and would agree to an arranged marriage set up by her parents. Her vow was soon broken when she met Nakul, her new next-door neighbor, who was originally from Delhi and had moved to Mumbai for a short project.

Nakul and she shared a relationship for three years. She was blissfully happy for the first 8 months until he had to return to Delhi. She feared that she would fall out of love with him too. Luckily, she did not. She made every effort to visit him every 2 months but almost always felt that their bond was growing weaker. Nakul seemed distant each time and the last time she visited him, she knew why. He had found someone else in Delhi.

"Nothing serious", he said when she had discovered her emails in his inbox. "Will you marry me?", she asked. "I would have to ask my parents.", he replied without a blink. That's when she knew. Nakul did not really love her.

She was heartbroken, depressed, and isolated for almost a month. She was already 27. Most of her friends were married. Some of them even had a child. And here she was, lonely and without any urge to find someone for herself. Her parents showed her pictures of several men, prospective alliances that had come through an ad that her parents had placed in the Sunday newspaper. None of them appealed to her. Her thoughts kept running back to Nakul, her heart wanting him but her mind warning her against a man who had cheated on her.

And then one day, he came into her life like a knight in shining armor. Manish had always been a good friend. The friend who was not "boyfriend" material. He was a short, geeky guy with a funny dressing style and hardly her type. He had often lent her his shoulder to cry on with she sometimes reluctantly accepted. The last that she wanted was Manish as her boyfriend!! And yet, one evening, when she was slightly tipsy from her wine after dinner with him, she did not push him away when he tried to kiss her. His lips felt great on her lips, she loosened up, cherishing every second of their lip-lock, and wrapped her arms around him.

"Will you marry me?", he asked.
She nodded with tears in her eyes.

That night, after she was no longer drunk, she went over and over the entire episode in her head. Was it the alcohol that did the talking? Or did she really want him? When he called her the next morning with a "Good morning sweetheart.", she knew. He was the one. He was her short knight in a gaudy silver shining t-shirt who had always been there for her and accepted her for who she was.

The next month, his company decided to send him to the United States for a project. She was shaken and terrified. Her past told her that her relationship would end soon. Manish told her it was only a fear and that he would never to do anything to hurt her.

"You are the one", he kept saying over and over again in an attempt to reassure her. "I would never do anything to hurt you. You know I have to go. But I will be back soon to make you my bride."

She felt secure only for a short while. When his phone calls and text messages started dwindling, she began to fear that he had found someone else. She started questioning him, checking his inbox to find cues that would alleviate her fears, and began taunting him. He would sometimes clam up and sometimes be patient. And yet, she could only go a certain amount of time before unwarranted doubts would creep up in her head.

Manish did not return to India for two years. He said he was trying to save up money for their future. However, she was yearning to see him, to hold him, to be kissed by him, and to wake up next to him every morning.

"I send you pictures every week.", he argued, when she cried about missing him and wanting to see him.
"That's not the same!", she yelled back. "Do you think its a good idea for me to visit you?"
"How? It won't be easy to get a tourist visa.", he said patiently.
"How about me coming there for my Master's degree?", she asked.
"Think about it hard. Do whatever your heart desires but do it for yourself. Not just for me.", he said in his usual geeky style.

In 6 months, she was ready. She had gained admission in a university which was only 40 miles away from his apartment, or so he said. She had no idea. She knew no one else in the United States. That made it all better, she thought. There would no relatives spying on them and she could enjoy quality time with him. As she sat on the plane, all that she could think about was how her 3rd long distance relationship had miraculously survived. She was finally going to be with him.

After 18 long hours, she was finally in Chicago! Her eyes were dying to see him. She could hardly believe her eyes when he walked up to her and hugged her. He looked different. He looked stylish, confident, and mature. She hugged him hard amidst tears and he gently kissed her salty face.

"How are you?", he asked. "Did you take good care of yourself?"
She nodded her head in joy.

At his apartment, she fell asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

The next morning, he said,"Let's find you an apartment."
"Wont I live with you?", she asked in dismay.
"No sweety. Your university is too far away. We can meet every weekend but we can't live together."

She felt heart-broken but said nothing. After all, he knew best. She knew nothing about the United States.

"When do we plan on getting married?", she asked later that day.
"Marriage? What do you mean?", he asked.
"Aren't we going to get married?", she asked with fear and shock.

He gently took her hands in his and said,

"Darling. I care for you very, very much. But I am not sure if I love you."

Here she was. Away from what she called home. In a big country that she knew nothing about. For someone who did not love her anymore. Her third long-distance relationship just failed. After she was in close distance with him.

A true story of someone I know.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Holiday

She was only 18 and had never seen the Taj Mahal. He loved her to death and promised her that he would take her there. That summer, he decided to fulfill the promise.

With much excitement and anticipation, they set off on a long train journey to the northern part of India. They had decided to visit Kulu-Manali, Shimla, and Agra, the final destination. This was the first time that she was taking such a long journey, and the first one for him in a long time. It was not very pleasant as the compartments reeked of something stale and the heat made it worse. With frowns and glares, they looked ahead with pessimism, counting the number of hours it would take for them to reach. She, especially, was not too pleased. But there was no looking back now.

They were a part of a tour and the people were quite obnoxious, nosey, and old-fashioned. They both did not seem to quite fit in and wondered all the time, if they had indeed made the right choice in choosing their travel plans. Much to their chagrin, the hotel rooms too were not quite upto the mark. Kulu-Manali and Shimla were beautiful but somehow something seemed to be amiss. She sensed it all the time. She knew something was not right about the entire holiday and began counting the days to when they would return back home.

Into the 5th day of their 15 day tour, she started waking up in the middle of the night to check if he was asleep. He always was sleeping peacefully. She would then pray a silent prayer to God before falling asleep again. She always awoke in the morning with delight that another day had begun bringing home much closer. And run out with her camera hoping that today would be better than the past few days had been. Sometimes, it was. Sometimes, it wasn't. But they always tried to had fun, him and her.

The day they reached Delhi, on the 27th of May, they only had one more day left in their tour. They were happy to be getting rid of the annoying people; even happier that they would visit the Taj Mahal the next day by themselves. True to his promise, the very first thing that he did was book a bus to the Taj Mahal the moment they checked into their hotel. Then, in the scorching heat of Delhi, they went shopping with everyone else. She went berserk wanting to buy everything fancy that she saw on the streets. He tried to calm her down and asked her to control the expenditure. She threw a fit and decided not to talk to him the rest of the day. He didn't either. That evening, for the first time, he decided not to join her for dinner while the rest of the tour mates hogged on a special feast that included his favorite, fruit salad. She thought about him the entire time praying that he changed his mind but he did not and decided to retire early that night.

At about 2 am, he awoke coughing and she awoke with a start.

"What's wrong?", she asked.
"I don't know", he said.

When he was unable to control his coughing, she knew something was wrong, and called the front desk. They told her to call the hospital across the street and ask a doctor to come over. He refused and said that he would walk over. Even though she objected, he was stubborn, as he always had been, and calmly walked over with her hand in his.

At the hospital, he was wheeled into a room and she was asked to wait outside. She was not afraid of being there in a hospital surrounded by unknown people in the middle of the night in a strange city that she had never been to before. She was only afraid for him while the doctor walked in and out making calls, not making any eye contact with her, and mumbling something under his breath.

At around 3 am, the doctor came out and asked her to start praying to God. With a heavy heart, she asked him what that meant. All he did was lower his gaze and say, "He is no more. He has died due to congestive heart failure."

That girl was no other but Solitaire and that man was no other than her beloved grandfather who loved her more than he loved anything or anyone else in the world. My precious grandfather died years ago while trying to show me the Taj Mahal on my very first visit to Delhi. Needless to say, it was the last time I visited the place and will probably never visit it again. At 18, I had called relatives back home to find out what I should do now. I did not shed a single tear then for I had to be strong. I sat by his lifeless cold body for hours before another hospital would open at 9 am and take him in for enbalming so that I could fly him back for his funeral in Ahmedabad. I held on to his cold hands while the ambulance took me and him to that hospital, holding his hands so that they did not fall from one side to the other on the bumpy roads. When I finally found the help, his lips had turned blue. I was shooed out of the room as I noticed them tearing his shirt off. It was a shirt that I had so lovingly bought for him in Singapore. And then I went to my uncle's business partner's home to spend the rest of the day there. Throughout the entire trip I had wished that we would not have to take the long dreadful train journey back home. My wish had come true. I was flying back home that evening, me in a seat, him in a coffin. And little did I realize that all these days, I had been counting the days to his death, not the end of the tour.

I am sorry Dada for having hurt you on your last day. I wish that I had had a chance to tell you that I love you. I never knew you would be gone so soon. I only want you to know that I love you a lot and there is not a single day that I do not think about you. I am what I am only because of you and I hope that we meet again someday to be together forever.

Thank you friends for being with me on this day. The 27th of May is the last day he spent on this earth. Can you please say a little prayer for who was once the most important man in my life?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Gift

She stared at the phone for the umpteenth time. It had not buzzed for over 7 hours. With a huge sigh, she sank her head into the smelly pillow. It reeked of the smell of stale blood. I must wash this tomorrow, she thought.

As she lay down with her brand new headphones plugged into her ears, she wondered how long it would be before she stopped feeling sad. She wondered if she loved him. After all that he had done, if he deserved what she gave him. After a few hours, she awoke with a start. Her bedroom was pitch dark and no one was breathing down her neck. She glanced at the clock. 9 pm. She tiptoed outside, turned on the light in the hallway,and glanced at the door. It was shut. He was not here, thank God!

She thought about yesterday when he had come home as usual with the fresh smell of alcohol on his stale breath. It took her a tad longer than usual to open the door and he had thrown the keys at her face. Sigh! The gash on her forehead looked like Harry Potter's, she chuckled. But she didn't care. He had told her that he loved her just the same as he raped her at night. It was the usual. She dare never protested as he tied her hands to the headboard, ripped her clothes off her body, and penetrated her without any mercy. She had learned that holding her breath, and thinking about the riverside that she visited with her father as a young child, helped ease the pain. And so while he groaned and moaned, she lay there in silence, like an ice-cold corpse, perspiring with anticipation to closure.

Yesterday had been his birthday. And he wanted a special gift from her, he said. He wanted to see her burn his name on her thigh. She quivered with fear. And when a teardrop ran down her cheek, he slapped her hard. He had forbidden any tears. How could she have forgotten? Stark naked, she walked to the kitchen to grab the lighter. She heard a guffaw as she walked out the room and cringed at his exclamation of how he wanted to carve his name on her buttock.
"Bring back a knife too", he yelled.

The shrill alarm in her cellphone brought her back to the present. Did I really dump him last night, she thought. After all these years of abuse, silence, screams, and tears, she finally had the courage to throw him out of the house and dump him. When she had walked inside the bedroom last night with the steak knife in one hand and the lighter in the other, she saw him sprawled over the bed on the bed, disgustingly naked, with his mouth open. Within seconds, she slit his throat and watched him bleed to death.

Then she threw his corpse out of the house and dumped him into the backyard on his birthday.

Friday, April 4, 2008

His First Time

They met while taking a geology class together. She had walked in late, had found the seat next to him to be the only one available, had ended up asking him for notes on what she had missed, and he in turn asked her out for the weekend. That Friday night, they went out to watch "Patch Adams" and sat there nervously, each with their own popcorn and soda, making no conversation. He felt that it had been his worst date ever. She thought that he was nothing but a nerd. And yet, when he bravely mustered a, "What are you doing tomorrow night?", as he dropped her off at her dorm, she heard herself saying, "Nothing. Wanna hang out?", much to her own surprise.

Exactly 2 years later, he woke up one sunny morning with a tight knot in his stomach. He went about his daily chores as if it was a normal day. But he knew it was not. It was the day that would change his life forever. He texted her good morning, got dressed, barely managed to have a sip of his coffee, and wore mismatched socks to work. In the afternoon, he feigned a headache and took the day off. He glared at the TV all afternoon until it was time to pick her up. 2 hours later, she was weeping, out of joy, proudly flaunting a diamond on her ring finger. "Oh I cannot wait for us to be married!!!", she shrieked as she ran towards their car with excitement. In the next week, it was finalized. Their wedding date was set to be August 17th, exactly 8 months away.

"Sweetheart", she said. "I am so thankful that you are ok with waiting until the wedding. I want our first time to be special."
"Me too", he said kissing her mouth gently.

8 months flew by as they ran around everyday trying to coordinate their dream wedding. Her life revolved around appointments with photographers, videographers, pastors, bridesmaids, caterers, salons, boutiques, and him. His life revolved around their new house, gift registries, travel bookings, tuxedos, and her.

As they both lay on their own beds a night before the wedding, they each wondered how it would be to feel their naked bodies against each other, for the first time ever. Their friends had teased them about not having gone all the way. But they had not minded. They had wanted to wait. It was going to be their own special moment. The one that they had waited for. And it was to happen exactly 23 hours from now, he thought. He slept peacefully that night knowing that he would wake up to the happiest day of his life.

The wedding was perfect. She looked as pretty as a princess, he thought, as she walked down the aisle while she blushed with nervousness. And as they kissed as man and wife, he felt a surge of happiness run through him. "Mrs. Carol Taylor", he whispered to her, as they hopped into their car to drive to their honeymoon suite at the Holiday Inn. She cried and laughed at the same time unable to contain her joy.

Their bed had rose petals on it, courtesy the hotel. They could care less. Before long, he had taken her wedding dress off and was admiring her beautiful nakedness. Within minutes, they were in each other's arms kissing fervently and passionately like they never had. "Go slow", she managed to mutter but he did not hear her. He continued to stroke her, touch her, and kiss her while she let out soft moans. "Are you ready?", he asked running his fingers down to feel her wetness. She nodded her head. As both of them came together a few minutes later, they each felt like they would explode, their entire world rocking, as they perspired and held on tight to each other.

Gasping for breath, he said, "That was beautiful."

She smiled and wrapped her arms around him dreaming of a beautiful life with him.

She did not know that she had the HIV. He did not know that now he too had the HIV.

Friday, March 28, 2008

His Touch

He had asked her to come at 6 pm. She spent the entire morning dreaming of what would happen this evening. Would he touch her like he had the last time? Would she blush and hope that he had not seen? Would she get goose bumps? Would she stay focused or be overpowered by vague thoughts as he touched her toes? The shrill ring tone on her cellphone shook her out of her reverie and she realized that she had hardly focused on her work today. She looked blankly at the computer screen and counted the hours. SIX MORE HOURS...and she would be lying there, before him, naked...

Nancy decided to leave during lunch time. She was not being productive anyway, she thought. As she took the elevator down to the parking lot, she grimaced as she saw her finger nails. She could not allow him to see her nails like that. That would be so embarrassing, she thought to herself, appalled that she had not noticed them earlier. She headed directly to the nail spa and prayed fervently that they accepted walk-ins. Thankfully they did. An hour later, Nancy walked out with sparkling red nails freshly manicured.

At home, Nancy glanced at her legs disapprovingly as she took her pantyhose off. She probably needed to shave them, she observed critically. She looked at the clock and knew she did not have more than an hour to spend in the shower. And yet, she had to be very careful that there were no visible nicks and cuts.

Nancy started driving at 5:15 pm even though he was only 20 minutes away. She was not willing to take any chances, especially in rush hour traffic. She was careful to apply vaseline to her lips at every traffic light lest they appear chapped. And she brushed her hair vigorously 20 times before she stepped out of the car onto his parking lot. Every step she took excited her more. She had been waiting for today for over four weeks. And finally the day had arrived.

Nancy opened the door, and there he was, greeting her with a smile. She looked at him and took in every detail. His long brown hair, angular jawline, broad shoulders, and his toothy smile. Sigh! How she wished he would kiss her. But he never did. Nancy could not wait for him to touch her bare skin. She did not have to wait too long. Within moments of her disrobing, he had touched her..on her neck. She held her breath as if hoping that the moment would come to a standstill. That first never failed to enamor her, each time.

Nancy felt out of this world for the next 45 minutes. She felt her nipples tighten when he stroked her arm, running his fingers from top to bottom with a feather-light touch. Had she ever told him that she loved it when he did that? Guess not, she thought. She began experiencing fleeting thoughts. She imagined she was on a raft in an ocean being swept away by the soothing waves. She felt light headed. She felt numb and yet she felt some wetness between her legs. Nancy tried to bring her legs closer together but in a very soft tone, he asked her not to. And then he touched her thigh. Nancy hoped that the vibrations that she experienced within herself were not evident. As he moved his way downwards, Nancy felt like she would explode. She could hear herself screaming in her head. Should she ask him to stop or should she ask him to continue? She struggled within herself, lost, and yet enjoying every minute of his touch.

"Did he notice my manicure?", "Does he think my arms are fat?", "I wonder what the expression on my face is", she thought as her mind tried hard to focus on what he was doing to her. While she struggled in vain, she heard him say. "Ma'm, our one hour is up. Please step out whenever you are ready. I will be waiting outside."

"Damn, these one hour massages. Next time, I must remember to schedule a longer one.", she thought as she pushed herself to sit upright and reach out for her clothes.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Innocent Love

He heard the doctor say, "kidney stones" several times and had no idea what they were. All he knew was that his father was not feeling well and that their mother was hardly home. And then one fine day, when he was only 13, his father died. As aunts and uncles came home to comfort his mother, him, and his younger sister, grieving, wailing, and moaning, he heard them say, "You are now the man of the house" over and over again.

Days turned into months and gradually he realized that relatives no longer stopped by. His mother was snickered at in social gatherings for wearing bright colors, putting on a huge bindi, and chewing tobacco despite being a widow. He never understood what the big deal was just like he never understood why his mother was never home, even in the evenings. But one evening, as he rocked himself on their antique swing in their yard, waiting for nightfall so that he could cry himself to sleep, he saw his mother bring home a stranger.

He was surprised. They never had any visitors. And yet, this man's demeanor seemed like he was strangely comfortable with his mother. That night, his mother told him and his sister that she was in love, and was going to marry this strange man. The 42-year-old lanky man with grey hair and smelly feet would now be his step-father. He retreated to his room without much display of emotion. After all, he was the man of the house. And men don't cry. They only toss and turn for hours before they fall asleep at dawn in an eerie house.

Weeks later, when he was convinced that he had lost his mother's love to the stranger who never came home after that, he saw HER, the love of his life. She was sitting demurely on the couch watching TV with a vacant gaze that made her look even beautiful. "How is it that I hardly talk to her when she is so beautiful?", he thought. He approached her without any hesitation as if he had done this all his life. He sat down next to her and asked her how she was. She turned her head towards him, and instantly burst into tears. "I feel so lost", she said. "Shhhh...I am with you." he responded, as he cradled her, stroking her curly hair, and resting her head on his shoulder. That day, they watched TV together, hand in hand. That night, he fell asleep, with a smile on his face.

As months passed, their love for each other blossomed. When his mother was gone in the evenings, he spent every moment with her. They hugged, held hands, kissed, giggled, had pillow fights, snuggled, and gave each other everything that was missing from their lives..LOVE, COMFORT, COMPANIONSHIP. His mother had no idea what her son was upto for she never returned before midnight by which he was always fast asleep in his bedroom.

One evening, he overheard his mother talking to the strange man. And he realized that she would not return home that night before 2 am. He felt elated. These days he looked forward to some alone time, unlike the times when he would crave for his mother's company. Without a tinge of guilt, he realized that tonight was the night that he could plan something. Something romantic..for the love of his life.

That evening, after dinner, he invited her into his bedroom. She coyly observed the candles that lit the room brightly. "Is this for me?", she giggled nervously. "Yes", he said, and pulled her towards him. "Did you like it?", he asked. She could barely answer him as she felt his lips against his neck and as his hand unbuttoned her shirt gingerly. "Oh my God!", should we be doing this, she whispered. He chose not to answer her. Within minutes, they were sprawled on his bed, half naked. While in their own little paradise, they did not hear the door open, and their mother enter his bedroom. She screamed as she saw both her children in bed together....

Friday, February 29, 2008

The Morning Hours

His sleepy eyes stared out of the window resting their gaze on the fallen leaves of his favorite tree. This was how he began his day each morning, come rain or hail. During those peaceful moments, he dreamed about what his future would be like. One day, he would become a doctor and help little kids like himself, he thought. He envisioned driving the silver car that Mr. Graham had. The shiny car with a white stripe on it. He would then eat everyday at McDonald's with no one to tell him that he could not eat fries or drink coke. And he would watch Nickelodeon in the evenings. And he would go to sleep, alone.

He was shaken out of his reverie when his mother yelled out loud.

"CHRISSSSS!", she yelled. "I am leaving to work but John is home, sleeping. Wake him up if you need anything."

Chris quietly walked down the winding staircase of their apartment and waved his mother goodbye. He then tiptoed to her bedroom and peeped at his step-father, sleeping half naked, on the giant king-sized bed. After a silent prayer to Jesus for John's deep sleep, he ran upstairs to play games on the computer.

After two hours, John awoke with a grunt, and dragged himself up to Chris's bedroom. Chris stood there numb, like a mouse terrified of being hunted by a dog as he saw the 6-foot-tall muscular man head towards him only with his boxer shorts on.

"Let's play our morning game, buddy", he said showing off his yellow teeth.

The 8-year-old boy started trembling as John put handcuffs around his narrow wrists and pulled his own boxer shorts down. Within seconds of being spanked on his butt, Chris bent down and put John's member into his mouth. He gagged and retched and wanted to scream out loud as John continued to spank him.

"Come on boy!! You can do better than that!", roared John.

Chris began crying as John came. Satisfied, John shoved him aside and threatened to kill his mother if Chris uttered a word to her, just like he did every morning. And then he gently kissed Chris on his lips and walked down to eat pancakes, like every morning.

Chris stared out of the window with tears in his eyes. When he grew older, he would become a doctor, and drive a silver car, and eat McDonald's, and watch cartoons, and sleep alone. And all will be fine. And then just like everyday, he counted, and said, "Only 8 years more".

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Letter

It was warm, humid day. One of those days where people frown every second as beads of perspiration travel from their luscious locks to the cracked earth. One of those days where people keep their windows open praying for some respite from the heat in the form of a cool breeze. One of those days where people do not expect a letter to fly into their living room and land near the loud, monotonous TV. And yet it did.

Dear Sanjana,

I do not know of when you will get my letter. I do not know if you when you will read my letter. And I do not know if you will want to read this letter. And yet I write this letter to say sorry to the one girl that I loved tremendously.

In the past few years, I have not looked for you. I have wondered where you have been and prayed for you each day. But I never found the courage to find you and tell you that I love you. I always loved you and I still do. But I was a coward. I made a mistake and I hope you will forgive me for it.

I do not remember what day it was that I last held you or looked into your soft eyes. But I remember vividly the smile that you flashed at me when I held on to you, trying to hide my tears. You were unperturbed. Your mother was uncontrollable. And I was in denial. Since that day, I have died a thousand deaths. I have wandered onto the empty streets looking for my Sanjana, hoping that the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl that I see walking will be you running towards me with open arms. I have dreamed a thousand dreams with you holding my hand while my soul rests in peace. And I have cried every night pining for the family that we could have built.

Sanjana. Is your name still Sanjana Vijay Kumar like I have always envisioned it to be? Do people ask you who Vijay Kumar is? Do you wonder where I have been? Will you come live with me if I brought you back home? Is your new world as beautiful as our world used to be? Do you wonder why I had to let you go? Did your mother answered any of your questions?

I am sorry Sanjana. I am sorry I left you with your mother when you were a baby. I was only 20 then. I was afraid of the world. Afraid of the society. And running away from my life.

Will you forgive me Sanjana? Will you forgive your father today?



Mr. Karnik did not know if the warmth on his face was his sweat or his tears as he finished reading this letter. He now understood why his neighbor Vijay always remained a mystery till the day he died. The mystery was now unraveled two days after he committed suicide.

It was one of those days where someone's pain touches your heart and you sit there helplessly.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Stranger

She lay on the couch, her body frail and weak, and unable to balance itself. She felt she needed to go somewhere but was unable to move. She was alone at home. Then how did the plate of fried rice come onto the table? Who made it? And who ate from it? She was confused. Her head hurt. She fell asleep, once again.

He entered the house through the backdoor making sure not to make any noise as he moved swiftly. He saw her sleeping on the couch and stopped for a second. Should he approach her or should he go into the bedroom first? He decided the former. And as he tiptoed into the living room, he saw her open her eyes and heard her give out a loud scream.

"WHO ARE YOU"?, she cried out with a sense of despair and fear.
He cared not to answer and walked towards her. She began screaming with all her might, with whatever strength was left within her.

"I know who you are!! You are the man who is wanted by the police!". She began shaking. She tried to stand up but instantly fell to the couch.

He kept looking at her with a grim look on his face. His mind was cluttered with thoughts, conflicting decisions, negative emotions, and yet he stood there, as still as a statue, as if he had no life in him.

"You are that man! You..", she continued.
"Yes, I, I, I...", he thought to himself. "Yes, I am the one! I am the one who loves you dearly. I am the one my dear, who cries for you everyday. My love, I am the one who you are married to. And you are the one who has Alzheimer's".

Her muscles started twitching. He broke down into tears.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Anniversary

Kanchan sat on her porch sipping coffee with her best friend, Mita. It was one of those days when the cool breeze made one shiver for a mere second but the warm sunlight made it feel like a contradiction. It was one of those days when Kanchan looked forward to Mita going home so that she could go to her bedroom and cry alone, or with him. It was one of those days when Kanchan and Mita met up for their regular chats. It was one of those Fridays. And it was one of those anniversaries.

Mita was unusually quiet that day so Kanchan could go back into time and talk about the love of her life. Once more. On the anniversary.

Kanchan had met him during a conference in Chicago. He was overwhelming tall, and looked like a giant to the 5 feet tall Kanchan, and had the warmest brown eyes, overshadowing the crow's feet, she observed. Clad in a black business suit with no wedding ring made him look like the most eligible bachelor to Kanchan who had lived to be a 35-year-old single mother to a 12 year-old daughter.

And soon enough, Kanchan shocked herself by asking him out to a coffee. And sooner than she knew, he shocked her by obliging. Long discussions about educational laws over coffee and socioemotional development over dinner, soon turned into longer days of companionship and longer nights of romance and love making.

The day Kanchan's daughter went off to college, he proposed to her, like how she had always imagined since she was a little girl. Man down on one knee, flowers, a solitaire, tears, kisses, and a promise. The next month, they wed. It was a small ceremony with close family and friends. Some were happy and some not. Some felt like it was a perfect match and some felt that his dyed hair did not disguise his age. Some felt that Kanchan could have married someone younger while some felt that his age was not a barrier.

The same night, he suffered a stroke. He lost movement in his limbs, and his short-term memory.

Today was the anniversary of that dreaded day 15 years ago.

Today, she was his care-taker.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Newly-Wed

On the 14th of April, 1997, Kshipra looked breathtakingly beautiful, clad in a heavily embroidered mauve saree, with her long black tresses hanging just below her shoulders, and her face shining even more than the full moon that night in Mumbai. At 20, her eyes were as innocent as that of a puppy. And as she stood next to her new husband, Mahesh, she only had dreams that every happy bride has. Of love, family, a home, and contentment.

Months later, Kshipra walked out of Mahesh's house. She could barely be recognized with her petite body now appearing malnourished, her eyes having sunk in, and the gleam having disappeared from her face. Mahesh had avoided Kshipra like plague, had asked her to sleep in a separate bedroom, and had requested her to keep away from him the same night that Kshipra thought she would lose her virginity. Kshipra knew why when Mahesh came home just a few days later with another man. Mahesh's boyfriend. Kshipra realized then, she was only his scapegoat, to hide the fact that he was gay, from the world.

Kshipra spent the next eight years in agony. She spent sleepless nights crying, and her days were lonely. As each friend of hers engaged, wed, and gave birth, she felt like she was scarred for life. Men walked in and out of her life offering her physical love. But none wanted to marry a divorcee. A scarred divorcee. A flawed gem. A gem who had never been touched. Only been legally wed, once upon a time. She lost all hope of fulfilling the dreams she had had as a bubbly teenager. She would die a lonely woman.

When Shashank saw Kshipra standing behind the counter at the hotel he had checked into, he felt an instant surge of warmth, a feeling of wanting to hold this woman who looked forlorn in a room full of people, a need to comfort her. Months later, they were close friends, and a year later, Shashank proposed to Kshipra. And Kshipra passed yet another sleepless night crying. She knew if she told Shashank about her past, he would perhaps leave.

On the 23rd of May, 2007, Kshipra once again stood smiling amidst extravaganza, dressed in an expensive gold and red saree. This time, she was in Bangalore. She was not shy like she was ten years ago. Her face was not as bright as it was ten years ago. And a fear gnawed at her. Will Shashank, her new husband, forgive her when he found the truth out about her past? Kshipra stood there with an awkward smile. That night, she would tell him.

On the 30th of May, 2007. Kshipra woke up in Shashank's bedroom for the 6th morning in a row. Shashank had not asked Kshipra to leave after she told him about the unfortunate episode of her life ten years ago. Shashank asked her to stay. Shashank had not been angry. Only heartbroken. Shashank had decided to leave her and his apartment. Kshipra was alone, once again. The divorcee would be a divorcee once again. The gem was now cracked.