Forgotten Lanes (III)

Hello dear reader!! This post is the third part of Forgotten Lanes – a long story on Banjara. If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest you first read it here or the second part which is here.


III

At nine in the evening Kabir was returning from his office. His cab was stuck in a traffic jam for about an hour. Kabir scanned the other side of the road across the divider to find the traffic on the opposite side moving swiftly. Kabir’s lane on the other hand was moving like a snail – dull and bored. He was in the slow lane and unfortunately towards the very right side of the road. His driver had no option but to move with the traffic and listen to the chirpy songs being played on the radio. But the driver didn’t seem to mind it. He sang along as the radio played the Kishore Kumar evening collection – zindagi ek safar hai suhana, hamein tumse pyar kitna, aap ki aankhon me kuch…

At first Kabir got annoyed with the driver’s croaky voice over of those melodious songs, but as the traffic slowed, the clock ticked and the realization set in that he wasn’t getting out of the cab any time soon, he made peace with it. He reclined his seat in the sleeping position, stretched his legs, laid down and closed his eyes. There was nothing much he could do anyway.

Lata Mangeshkar’s soulful voice in tere bina zindagi se koi shikwa to nahi soothed him and he began to mull over the simplistic truthfulness in the beautiful song. How effortlessly the lyrics conveyed the deep and twisted emotions people feel. The longing, the desire, the silent wish in our hearts, the burning ache of unrequited love. These are all the emotions we all feel but don’t quite appreciate them in the way the song makes us appreciate them. Music has its own way of making you feel certain emotions. It flows right through your ears into the depths of your heart to that dark hidden box in which you hide all your secret desires, your stories and memories of love and loss. It pounds there, shakes the lid of the box with every beat of the song until the dark hidden box opens up and all those emotions you had safely buried inside come out and travel to your throat. That lump in your throat, is what it is.

Kabir felt it, the weight of those desires in his throat. He felt the separation from Gauri. Those sleepless nights he had devoted to reading Gauri’s letters flashed in front of him. Try as he might but of late he was lost in her thoughts much more often and much more achingly. Somehow she just wouldn’t leave his thoughts. There were days when he got tired of her and wondered if she ever thought of him the way he thought of her. He often ruminated if he ever crossed her mind, if she ever stopped whatever she was doing to remember him. How can she forget me? How can anyone forget anyone after all the time they spent together? How does one let go of the memories even if they have let the person go? 

After a long period of questioning his existence in Gauri’s life, Kabir had come to a conclusion that Gauri must still think of him. He concluded that we never forget anyone, we remember them, even if as a faint reverberations, as distant echoes, as faded memories, as a nameless face, as a faceless name, in some form, as someone. We remember the people who touched our lives, and we remember them in the strangest of places, in the strangest of times.

It was this new found conviction that Gauri could not have forgotten him made Kabir believe in the possibility of meeting her again. It was the innocent child in him believing that somehow there was more to him and Gauri than a lost love. They were meant for something more lasting than a failed relationship. The thought of re-uniting with Gauri gave him this new-found happiness. It gave him liberating freedom from the guilt and incompetence. It gave him confidence and above all, a strong sense of satisfaction. He began to believe what it would be like to go home to the beautiful eyes of Gauri smiling at him as Rusty came and jumped into his arms. But somehow he couldn’t ever imagine further. He would get stuck at Gauri’s beautiful eyes. Those innocent eyes which would say everything without her saying anything. Those beautiful eyes he had fallen for in the alley twelve years ago. How cute Gauri was looking as she stared at him, angry for something stupid he’d done, though he couldn’t remember what he’d done. He remembered the way he had kissed her in that alley. The way his lips touched hers, the way she trembled into his arms and how tight he had held her. He remembered her breath, her soft lips and her tight hug. It was that moment that had sealed their unspoken love to each other and then they had never looked back…

Kabir felt that first kiss on his lips sitting in the cab stuck in the traffic nine years later. It made him conscious and he opened his eyes.

Gauri…

but she was nowhere. She had disappeared like fumes of smoke leave a chimney. Kabir slowly made sense of his surroundings. It wasn’t quite pleasant and he wished he had continued dreaming. Nonetheless he reclined his seat back to the seating position. The driver smiled at him and he passed an awkward smile back. The radio was no longer playing and the traffic had receded. The cab was moving in good speed and Kabir was brought back to the present.

It wasn’t long before he decided that he needed to meet Gauri, even if for once. His heart needed to know what could have been…or what can still be.

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(to be continued)


Thoughts? Leave them here in your comments…


In the meanwhile, read:

Maybe  |   Wanderlust   |  Make Believe   |  Airport

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Forgotten Lanes (II)

Hello dear reader!! This post is the second part of Forgotten Lanes – a long story on Banjara. If you haven’t read the first part, I suggest you first read it here.


II

Dear Kabir,

Few weeks ago, I had stumbled upon an old diary of mine. A diary I used to scribble my ramblings in. There was nothing outstanding about the diary, except that it gave me a good reality check. Two years ago I had written a long narrative about how I was crumbled with the weight of my anxieties and how I had called out to you for help but you had left me feeling desolate. I was in shambles. And that day when I thought about it, nothing had changed. Two years is a long time to fight the same battle and lose it over again. Rather when I sat and looked back, it had been over four years. Four years of broken promises and last chances. And still, there I was, having lost it for some hundredth time.

We live each day up close, day by day, week by week, month by month. We get too lost in the now, that we forget to look at the patterns. It is like a loop. It goes through the same chain of events and we go full circle, one event after the other. Arguments. Apologies. Promises. Broken Promises. More arguments. More apologies. More promises. More broken promises. It sums up in a progressive loop.

I don’t really know when I had enough. Probably in one of those battles I lost, probably in one of those battles I was so sure that I would win, but I lost. It didn’t happen in a day. It built up; one day at a time. And then one day, when the sun was shining but I could still feel the cold in my heart, I knew I couldn’t do it anymore. That is when I decided to give up; to absolutely and utterly walk away.

Our days are numbered my love. We are only spared so less. How can we be so ungrateful and spend those days making each others’ lives miserable? How can we inflict such misery on each other, when truly we could make each others’ life a little better? Sometimes, people move on because staying put becomes self-destructive. True it is scary, but in their hearts they know it was the right thing.

I was always a problem child, my mom tells me. I always needed someone; someone to share the little joys of life, someone to reach out to in moments of my emotional outbursts. It has always been difficult for me – dealing with the pressures of growing up. I tend to get inside a bubble at times; a bubble of my fears and insecurities. Nothing makes sense in the bubble, I tend to lose control and give myself up. At that point, I need someone to pop my bubble and I need someone urgently. But when I think about it, you were hardly there, if at all. I always wondered why, when I needed you the most you’d not be there? When I was filled with self-doubt and self-inflicted agony in what would be a complete ignorance of the reality, you were never there to hold me down and show me the light. It made me feel as if I didn’t really matter to you. Or maybe you were only my companion for the good times, for you didn’t share my lows. You couldn’t really fill that empty space in my heart which I had overtime dedicated to you. Only much later I had realized that you were a problem child too, that you had your own bubbles to deal with. And you would deal them all by yourself, all alone. You would block me out, shut me off. It hurts to know that I couldn’t be that person you could share your demons with. It hurts to know that while I was always willing to open up to you, you were always willing to close in on yourself.

It hurts to know that after all that we’ve been through, we couldn’t last.

I wish you all the happiness in the world Kabir. I wish that there be a world where we could be together and not wreck each others’ lives this way. I hope you remember me with love, because I will always remember you with love.

Signing off,

Gauri

For the thousandth of time Kabir read the letter and with an ache in his heart shoved it back into his old diary. It was nine years ago, but still the pain of separation from Gauri never quite disappeared. It stayed there, in the nooks of his memories; and from the nooks of his memories, it would show up in the moments of despair and longing. The allure of first love never truly fades away. It remains as the most original feelings one has ever felt. It remains as a yardstick for all the future relationships one involves in. But truly, those future relationships only become a faint repetition of the first original feeling; a distant echo, a muffled reverberation. First love brings with it the freshness, the madness, the passion and the desire that sets one’s soul on fire. First love is special in a way nothing else can ever be.

In the freezing December night, here was Kabir sitting on the cot on the wooden floor of his intimate living room with his golden retriever Rusty nestled in his lap. Tonight was one of those many nights Kabir had spent in the past nine years reading Gauri’s letters. There was a strange pain to it, an addictive sweet pain. The kind of pain Kabir had held on to even after a chunk of women came and went out of his life. It wasn’t that those break-ups were not as painful for Kabir, they were. Well, some of them were. But as it is with first love, the separation from your first love is also the most original emotions one feels. And for Kabir, the split with Gauri had left a hole in his heart which could never really be filled. Women came into his life; he started to believe in the possibility of loving someone again. He took those women on elegant dates in fine hotels. He would send them stupid gifts they craved for and he would make love to them in the most exotic of ways. It would be all romantic and stereotypical and too good to last. Eventually when the seductive magnetism of the female would get overshadowed with the stark realization of an entirely opposite core self, the affair would fizzle out. Two young independent adults lead messy lives. Demanding lives. Complex lives. They sometimes have affairs just to feel alive. But when the ridiculousness of it all sets in, the two independent, practical adults part ways.

Kabir often wondered that with Gauri it wasn’t this way. He never had to make an effort to please her. Their love was just a simple feeling of belongingness. They belonged together. In the four years of their relationship, they had gotten so used to each other that there was no need to try and impress the other. They would share the simple joys of being together, sharing little things. Their relationship was not made up of milestones; it was made up of moments – simple moments of great joy and laughter. They would watch crappy movies on their laptops and eat cheap food and drink filter coffee from the road-side vendors near their college. They would split their bills in half and sometimes they would write each other inscriptions of love on those bills. They had respect for one another and they cared for each other despite their own problems. Being together for them was like being at home away from home. They could take each other for granted, sometimes to an unhealthy extent. But as time passed, they grew distant. The pressures of college and having a career stormed upon them and they found themselves in a whirlwind of a turmoil. They both had to deal with hurry-scurry of growing up and they both chose to deal with it differently. Kabir would block Gauri out and Gauri would crave for Kabir’s attention. The occasional titter-tatter eventually became huge arguments which then became brawls full of broken expectations, and as time would have it, they eventually fell apart.

Some days when Kabir would be alone and quiet, those voices would storm his head. Even though it has been nine years, the echoes of those voices didn’t fade. The arguments he had with Gauri, the counter-arguments, the accusations, the endless squabbles they wouldn’t give up on…

It all seemed so petty now, so trivial. Yet he had lost Gauri in them. It only made him feel so incompetent at dealing with relationships. It made him feel guilty of not being able to save the sweet love he had for Gauri. And there he was now, thirty one and single, and carrying the weight of a lost love for nine long years.

Lying in his lap, Rusty was unusually quiet tonight. He had sensed the grim mood of Kabir and his disposition too went south. Kabir shook him with his hands and he moved his head to the other side still lying close to him. Rusty had been with Kabir since past three years. Kabir had found him as a frail tiny pup that kept following him on the merry go round trek of the Satah Hills during his trekking trip. Kabir kept shooing it away, sometimes with strange noises, sometimes running after the puppy, sometimes staring at the poor being in rage. But Rusty refused to go away. At the end of his trek, when Rusty still had religiously followed Kabir, Kabir found a sweet compassion for the little pup and took it along. Though at the time Kabir wasn’t really sure about keeping it and had thought of giving it away to someone, the cute puppy eyes of Rusty became too sweet for him to give up. Rusty too became so homely with Kabir, as if it he had found its lost family. Eventually they both found themselves living their days together under the same roof.

Kabir kept Rusty on the bed and turned the lights off. Like a loving dad, Kabir covered Rusty with his blanket and laid down next to him. In the middle of the night when the moon was high up and the house was pretty quiet, Kabir’s room was filled with only one sound: the noise of Rusty’s snores.

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(to be continued)


Thoughts? Leave them here in your comments…


In the meanwhile, read:

Coming Back  |   Lives People Lead   |  My Dad and I   |  Airport

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Forgotten Lanes (I) 

I

“Hi”

Her mind decided to click send but her fingers refused to listen.

And then she deleted the text.

What will happen? How will he react? What will this become?

Try as she might, her mind could not contain the questions. She kept thinking of all the possibilities that could be when he reads her text. Most probable of all those scenarios seemed to be that he will choose to ignore it, after everything they had been through. After all, how long had it been? Nine years? Of course. What was she thinking of anyway?

She convinced her inner voice, “no good is going to come out of it”. They had vowed never to speak to each other again, never to see each other’s face again. And if nothing else, they had kept those vows. Kabir had been meticulous in his attempts to avoid any chance encounters which would lead to awkward situations with Gauri. All their mutual friends were given curt instructions that Kabir and Gauri should never be tricked into accidently bumping into each other. No planned blind dates to be fixed by mutual friends, no surprises to the estranged couple. Thankfully their friends were supportive in these matters. They planned their events accordingly. Though at times it was tough to manage; in such cases both Kabir and Gauri were informed that the other was invited. In such cases, they would both take a rain check. Eventually as time passed, their roads diverged, life took such twists and turns that neither looked back. The seasons changed, years rolled by, people moved in and moved out and like autumn leaves, the story of Kabir and Gauri withered away…

Nothing really mattered of Kabir and Gauri to anyone anymore. Not even to Kabir and Gauri. Time as it was back then had changed and nothing, nothing at all had remained.

 

***

 

Wearily, Gauri sipped her morning coffee. The night was long and sleep was a distant dream. She had remained awake, tossing and turning in bed, yearning to fall asleep. But her mind was somewhere else. Her heart was heavy and a heavy heart doesn’t beckon sleep. It beckons a shoulder. But Gauri had only her shoulders for now.

She finished her morning coffee like a chore and got done with it. Her phone was alight with messages from her sister and parents, which she had not bothered to check for the past week. She knew what they would contain: pity and sympathy. And pity and sympathy was the last thing Gauri wanted from anyone.  Now is not the day, Gauri thought to herself. She could only deal with so much, and she chose not to deal with the mindless scraps of condolence thrown her way. She kept her phone aside and exhaled a sigh.

It had been two weeks since Gauri’s engagement with Rahul broke and Gauri had not taken a day off from her work. She knew her future had been turned upside down and although she didn’t know what to expect anymore from her days, she kept going. What else could she have done anyway? It was her parents’ decision to choose Rahul for her and after two years of saying yes; Rahul had broken the engagement. She was heart-broken, but more than her, her parents were devastated. She could not stop and grieve while her parents did the same. Somebody had to be strong and Gauri took charge. She didn’t shed a single tear over the phone, nor did she let her parents feel she was shattered. She continued to follow her routine as if nothing really happened.

***

 

“Gauri I can’t marry you.” Rahul had said after an hour of silence.

Sitting in that dim-lit café, Gauri couldn’t really comprehend why all of a sudden Rahul said something like this.

“I’m…”

“…sorry is not even enough to express what I feel right now. I’ve wronged you Gauri in a way I can never atone.” said Rahul in a shaky voice.

Gauri stood there not moving an inch, not knowing how to react. After two years of their engagement, three months from their wedding, here he was speaking these words.

“I met Sneha while I was on this business trip to Singapore. Things happened between us, it all happened so fast…”

Gauri watched him speak those words, those words now coming out so hesitantly from him.

“I think I have found the love of my life in Sneha, Gauri. I thought about it a lot. I know our parents had arranged our marriage and all the preparations have been made. I’m sorry Gauri, but I can’t do this now…”

Gauri looked into his eyes, those remorseful eyes. He really was sorry and ashamed. She didn’t know what to say to make amends, but she just said, “Thank you Rahul, thank you for your honesty” and walked out.

That evening Gauri didn’t know how to react to what just happened. She felt rejected, on a level she had never felt before. Where did she go wrong? What was her fault in this? Nothing, nothing at all…

She felt as if her destiny had shamelessly snatched the future she had started dreaming of. It was over for her and she didn’t have a say in it. She felt helpless, she felt angry, she felt…lonely.

She told herself that she will not punish herself for this. She was not at fault here and she was not going to sit and shed tears over this. That evening, Gauri slept over it. The next morning, she woke up to her normal routine and continued with her life, naïve enough to believe she could do so…

…until last night…when those traitor tears got the better of her.

 

***

 

The sound of hot water pouring from the tap filled the otherwise quite house. Gauri dipped her index finger into the water to check the temperature. It was comfortably hot. She went over to her bedroom, took her phone and typed:

“Dear John, Today is one of those rare days when you won’t have the luxury of my company. I’m taking an off.”

She sent the message and headed to the bathroom. In a practiced motion, she slipped out of her clothes and slipped into the hot bath. She stayed in the water for a good long time before finally loosing it.

“Happy Thirtieth Birthday to me”, she yelled out loud and burst into a fresh bout of tears.

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(to be continued)


Thoughts? Leave them here…


Update 1: Read Forgotten Lanes (II) here


Editing Credits: Avinash Pai


In the meanwhile, read:

Conversations  |   Strangers   |  Make Believe   |  बंजारा

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The fate of my 2016 resolutions

It is yet again another new beginning this 2017. For those of you who read my blog religiously, you’d know that I posted Visions for 2016 in my first post for the year. I wrote about the three things I want to do in 2016, three major things:

  1. Chop my hair
  2. Take up a job I love
  3. A month long vacation

While the first two things are pretty much accomplished, the third thing on the list is set to be carried forward, all thanks to my fragile health in the last part of this year. Today, in this post I’ll write about all the things which I did / didn’t do to accomplish my 2016 resolutions.

So when I wrote about my resolution to chop my hair, and mind you they were pretty long and beautiful (as people around would tell me), I got huge fire from everyone. Friends of mine called me up to fire me on the phone about how I MUST NEVER do it. I had expected the kind of reaction, but truly in my heart I just knew that was the one thing I really wanted and I will do. And so I did, but long after countless failed attempts to try and cut my hair and long after going to the salon and returning, terrified of cutting my hair and hence not doing it and long after I had somehow decided I can’t do it. But when I actually did it, it was not because of a 2016 resolution I took; it was because how much I needed to make the change. Chopping off my bangs had a “strategic importance”. October 25th, the day my CA studies got officially over and my office got officially over and I knew life is changed forever. It will never be the same, I will never be a CA Student no more, an articled assistant no more. I will be what-the-hell-ever I do in life. And that was when I decided to make some major changes in life. The next day I was in the salon, very much willing to garner a new look and soul-crushingly terrified of the anticipated outcome and popular reaction. But what the hell! I did it and people loved it. More than people, I loved myself more. It was not just about getting a new look; it was about feeling strong as I began a new chapter. It was about telling myself that if I want something, I can do it. It was about strengthening that tiny faith you have in yourself when faith in self is all you’ve got. It meant so much to me, to be able to do what my heart desired. It was freedom in the truest sense.


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Now when I wrote about my second resolution of taking up a job I love, I really didn’t know what job I would “love”. Today, I stand at Jan the 4th of 2017 and after one year I have reached on the conclusion that the jobs I will “love” will change every few months. I’m a hopper, an experimenter, a creator. I hop from one thing to another every few weeks and new things keep catching my fancy frequently. So when I sat in this posh office for a job interview in a room with the spectacular view many people crave, I felt a strong tussle in my heart. It was like the two alter egos of mine where stretching me in two opposite directions where one said “I must take up this job as it is “the socially appropriate” thing to do” and the other said, “Aayushi, you don’t belong here!” What a shameI thought. My mom tells me you’ve got this degree people work years for at the first stroke, so you don’t value it. I don’t really believe it’s true. For all it matters, I know in my heart that I worked hard for it. I did what it took to get there and when I got there, I earned it. But now, as they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, I don’t feel stronger. Sometimes the things that try to kill you make you sad and angry and lonely. When I got done with my degree, I was left with a sense of confinement I couldn’t bear to carry. I now was in a place where I had to take up a job which would block all my time that I could otherwise use to do something I really loved. That fear of being 22 and being sad in life drove me far away from the job front and I decided I need to take a break and do something for myself. After two months of trying to convince myself and accept the tough decision of not following the commonly paved path, I launched Daysways, an online store with my friend Himani. Daysways helped me get out of the guilt of not doing anything significant with my life post my degree and it began keeping me busy with the things I liked to do. It has only been a week post the launch of Daysways and I think I’m going to take this somewhere. This is the second thing that is going to stay consistent with me after this blog Banjara. Now even if I change my mind someday and take up an office job, I’d know in my heart that I made something all by myself and that’s always going to be a great kick!

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As far as the month long vacation was concerned, I couldn’t do it. I had planned on slipping away in December, but I fell sick and it just couldn’t happen. I have carried it forward to this year and have already planned a trip in January 2017.

So overall, 66.67% success rate in fulfilling New Year’s Resolutions is a decent start. I feel pumped up for 2017. So much that I’m going to post another post for my 2017 resolutions.

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Thoughts? Leave them here…

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Visions  |   Dinner   |  One Line Stories   |   Smell