misunderstanding

they worked in the same office. it had been a whole month since they went their own way, he looked for another job, but the economy was in a slump. he came up to her table today, to borrow a stapler. she was the organised one, her life always organised in neat little boxes. he could never match her.

she wasn’t at her desk. he found the stapler, used it. as he kept it back the courier delivery boy came up to the desk, with a large bouquet. the delivery boy asked, will you sign for her? he stared, then turned away and walked back to his desk.

hours later she came back from her meeting. the large bouquet of geraniums was on her desk. she picked up the tiny card on it, turned it around, and read the message from her father. he always liked to send flowers on 8th october, the day her dog was born. it had been years since they lost him, but 8th october was special.

sorry…

What are you doing here? Didn’t I tell you to never come back?
What do you mean… This is my house. I came to collect my things…
Your house? You lost the right to say that when you slept with her.
Bullshit. I paid for it. Each and every EMI. Every last rupee… It was all me.
And how did you manage that might I ask? Because of me. I took care of the family. You didn’t want me to work. Now do not make it about money! Marriage is a partnership… though, it was never one with you…
Well, a maid would have been cheaper then…
WHAT did you just say? Yeah, and you could have screwed the maid too since anyway you mess around with anything that has breasts!
OK, I shouldn’t have said that… It was just… I was reacting. But enough! You just twist everything. I messed up ONCE, but it keep coming up like I did it a hundred times. I mean… it’ve over, let it be!
No, It isn’t over… 25 years of my life… wasted… on you… why?
You chose to do that. I didn’t stop you from leaving now did I? You go around blaming everything on me, you could do anything you wanted…
Yeah, easy to say now!
I didn’t stop you. Ever. That is not something you can hold against me. You quit when we had our first child, and you didn’t want to go back. I agreed with you, and said our children needed you and that you don’t need to work.
WOW! Time does warp your memory doesn’t it. You said I make enough money, so don’t work, you should take care of the family. And you would throw a fit if the food was not made to your liking. Urgghhhh… why did I tolerate this…
Yeah, why did you? If you hated it that much. You should have left! Long back…
I should have, a long time back… when I was younger… you made the move… and I…
Sorry.
What?
I said sorry…
I don’t know what that means. Sorry seems like such an ineffectual word. Said because it exists. Used, no, overused and abused, because once said, you are absolved of all guilt, and everything. And the seeker takes the higher ground. It’s a cheap trick, a deceiver. The sayer feels relieved, the receiver, almost as if nothing has changed.

But then again, it is a start, a start to a long journey of healing once something has happened. And maybe without the sorry that healing would never ever begin.

I’m sorry too. I… I… don’t know what went wrong with us, something did. And neither of us protected ‘us’ we just tried to protect ‘I’ and… maybe that doesn’t work, or help.

When is the marriage?
Soon. Figuring out the right date.

I’ll take my box and go.
Ok.
Bye.

roli’s dilemma

they say imitation is the best form of flattery and the daily prompt suggested imitating one of your favourite author’s styles. how about i try to imitate his imagination and how free it is? confession: it is an old story, and didn’t win the contest i sent it for, but i still am fond of it. hope you enjoy it too!


 

Roli’s Dilemma

She stood before her mum calm, or so she thought, but she always managed to show her feelings. She was the living embodiment of that expression “wears her heart on her sleeve.” It was definitely a birth defect, or maybe just genetic. The much-touted ‘Emotions Management Workshop’ that her friend’s mother conducted was being held the next weekend. Roli decided she had to attend it, now all she had to do was convince her mother.

“Ma,” she said, “Do you know Sonia? Her mum conducts a class on managing and controlling emotions. She says it really helps—makes you content with your life, not so reactive. I’m always so revved up…”

“Ok,” her mum said in her low voice. “So…?”

“I want to go for it. It isn’t that expensive, I’m getting a discount…”

“WHAT?” her mum had thundered.

Roli got scared and of course it showed instantaneously. Better use it, she thought.

“See Ma, just look at me now. I’m scared, and it shows. Can you even imagine how problematic that is? At school, when the teacher asks a question if I don’t know the answer, it shows! When a boy approaches me—don’t look so angry, boys have started coming up now—I show my shyness. I mean, this is not the generation to blush—that’s so archaic and uncool! The other day, a girl—she is a horrible person—called me ‘an ugly crow’. The worst insult ever, and that too loudly, in front of everyone! I got so angry, but no one needed to even imagine how I felt. I hate being so transparent, so on display! Even more so because it’s not like I have the guts to do anything. It’s not like I whacked her, I just ran away… slunk away is more likely. What’s the point! I hate myself…”

“Roli, you need to embrace yourself. You are a chameleon, you will show your emotions easily. You cannot wish to be someone else. You are putting yourself up for life-long mental trauma if you continue like this. You need to stand up for who you are! You’re now a big girl, behave like one…”

“Ma, philosophy isn’t practical, it isn’t life! Life is in the living. And yes, exactly because I’m old enough I can take my own calls! I am going for this class. No arguments!”

Roli had wanted to be firm… end on a high note! She thought she’d nailed it, but mums are made of sterner stuff and Ma had weapons—silence and distance. If she approached Ma, she would look away or walk away, she didn’t say a word to Roli! It’d been two weeks now, and Roli was worried. She’d skipped Sonia’s mum’s class, but Ma refused to thaw. The weather was changing; the sun had crept up and the world seemed happier, warmer and more comfortable. But not Ma, she lived in another continent, or so it seemed!

Sigh! Roli still needed her mum, though everyone said she was grown up, but she also needed to stop hating who she was. But how? 

Roli almost jumped. Short-hair-woman was talking to her! She stared at her, read the line again and stared. Maybe sensing Roli’s eyes, the woman turned. She jolted back in her chair, then her eyes lit up and her lips eased into a wrinkly smile that spread across her face. She looked into Roli’s eyes and Roli held that gaze, wishing she could smile too. But she noticed from the dark brown of the window pane, her skin was now a light beige. The woman smiled even more. Roli then understood the wisdom of her mother’s words. She was a chameleon, yes, she wore her heart on her sleeves, yes. But so what! It was who she was. She wasn’t going to bottle herself away because the world made fun of her… that was a stupid reason to hate yourself, she decided. She would be just the way she was—always free with her emotion, always adaptive and always colourful! She turned away from the wrinkly-smile-woman with a nod and walked away. This time, her tail curled up, her head a little higher and there was definitely swagger in her walk. She would conquer the world, just as she was!


daily prompt: the sincerest form of flattery

the revolving doors

she stood still. waiting by the door. this was an everyday happening. it would begin by her dragging herself out of bed, the muddled morning routine with its regularity that unsettled her instead of comforting with its unchangeable drone. she would shut her door, then catch a taxi, and then finally walk the last stretch to her office building. it was the large glass structure that reflected light, absorbed heat, a glittering symbol of india’s thirst to grow, and a symbol of our inability to embrace local know-how. and then this… this pause before the large revolving glass doorway. people around her would brush by. earlier her colleagues rushing in would ask her to come along but she would wait there, at times acknowledging them with a nod. soon they got numb to it, as did she. and both parties forgot about the other. like a pillar in a crowded local station, people branched out and moved around her, as she stood frozen in her spot.

it all began a few months ago. with him. they had shared space on the floor, and she had spoken to him a few times. they had joined this large mnc together. she remembered those first few months, that feeling of freshness, excitement and unbittered hope. all of which triumphed over her tiny shovel of a house, with those gritty windows, tiles that hadn’t been polished since it was built in 1989. the diallpidated, crumbling building she called home, though it was called raj mahal, the house of rulers! ironic. it’s up for redevelopment, were the broker’s golden words. well, she was living in the older version, and would be able to afford it once it was redeveloped into a swanky, new place with marble flooring. those first few months were only positive, nothing could dampen the spirit. not just the first few months, maybe even the first year. then, work, bosses and their tantrums, difficult clients, and appraisals… yes, the humdrum of corporate life took over. some coped, some didn’t. some floundered, like her, hovering in the grey areas of not knowing if she was coping, or was failing.

he didn’t… cope that is. he had been a star in school, and rocked it at college too, or so they said later on. work didn’t suit him. the environment of pressure, performance to be delivered at gunpoint. it wasn’t his style. he’d always breezed through life, and that this was a struggle was new to him, and not good on his pride.

the first appraisal came in, and things changed. from being freshers earning the same salary, the differences crept in. they hadn’t yet learnt not to share this information. so in 10 minutes everyone knew who was getting the best pay and the lowest. he was the one at the bottom. a place that was strange to him. post that it was just downhill. he stumbled through his day, struggling, always. if his performance was below average earlier, now it was even worse, if it can get that way. and, he was a bright chap, showed a lot of potential, bosses had thought he would outshine everyone, but no one knew why he didn’t. and obviously, he didn’t either. and then, to cut the story short, he jumped. usual picture. tall building. unlimited access to the roof. unhappy employee jumps. news report for a day. forgotten post that. work goes on.

now she had been cribbing all morning that day. cribbed about work to her mother before leaving home, cursed the taxi drivers who refused to come the short distance, then the mumbai traffic for its chaos and disorderliness, and then her boss who always met her first thing in the morning and dumped her with even more work. her day went on like that. at lunch, sick of her whining, she stepped out, possibly for a break from herself! and on her way back, as she walked towards the glass doors, he fell. right in front of those doors that opened to the office. she hadn’t realised it at that point as she stared down at her phone, and she looked around, wondering where that loud thump had come from.

it made her stop. it was too close home, too close to her pain at work. her irritation with what she thought was failure, or lack of success. she stood there. again and again. every morning. in front of those large revolving doors, with people rushing in and out, getting on, moving on, climbing higher and higher. she stood there, a silent prayer for her own self.

DP: Always Something There to Remind Me