The Elephant in the Room

 

Shweta wondered if he had heard it right. Then she hears it again, the scratching sounds. She looks up. Mihir is looking at her. Embarrassed to have been caught staring, he lowers his gaze. Shweta smiles knowingly.

Now they are both hearing the scratching sound. Both feign ignorance and neither betrays their stance.

Anju walks in, “Mom, do you have my earphones, they seem to be lost.”

“Have you seen them, I certainly haven’t.”

Mihir, have you?”

“Nope.”

There’s that sound again.

“Mom, did you hear that?” staring at the main door.

“Yep, we heard that.” Mihir decides to confess.

“Should I go see?” staring helplessly at her mom, Anju begs.

Anju walks to the door. She stops short of it, casts a glance at her mother

And flings open the door wide.

“O my, look at this won’t you. Come here mom, come here quick!”

“Mom come here naa,” Anju pleads.

Mihir walks out of the door and picks up one of three little pups, sitting there groggily, abandoned by their mom .

Anju and Mihir bundle up three pups each and bring them into the house.

Shweta yells at them.

“No way, not in this house please you two.”, already melting at the sight of these little wriggly beings, yelping their way into her open heart. She gently strokes one of them, who immediately starts sucking her thumb.

“Oh dear, they seem hungry.”

She calls out to her manservant, who promptly returns with a low bowl of milk.

The pups are unable to drink on their own. Anju goes and brings cotton wool which she then drip-feeds to the pups one by one. Mihir, in the meantime, has gotten the clothes basket and made a little bed for the pups.

Shweta watches and feeds in turn, fascinated it would seem. Her heart is torn. She is not a dog-lover, yet her daughter’s excitement and yearning has pervaded the ambience of their home.

Mihir hasn’t said much but all his actions vet Anju’s need to comfort and care for these motherless creatures. Their sounds and frenzied yelps send waves of joy rippling through the living room.

“We need to keep them safe and happy mom, we do.” Anju states once the frenzy dies down, and the pups take to their new bed.

“I don’t know Anju. What will we do when we travel next month. Perhaps….”

“Yes, we can keep two, and I know one of my friends would want them too. You’re such a darling mommmie!” squealing with delight Anju embraces her mother.

Mihir sits quietly observing the scene and obviously reveling in Anju’s delight. Shweta and he continue to exchange sly glances conceding this foregone conclusion. They both think it the right time.

At a time when Shweta was not Shweta but Mili, she had met Mihir in a train ride.

She was traveling to meet her future husband, and Mihir was returning home in Pune. They had berths opposite each other and had struck up a friendship, ten years back.The train ride was otherwise monotonous, and the train itself chugged along. It seemed to bear no real purpose, if only to reach its destination at the slowest possible pace.

Mili had finished both the novels she had been carrying. Mihir had completed all the office work he had carried with him, and they both seemed rather bored.Mihir asked to borrow Mili’s book.

“Hi, may I take a look at that novel, it seems like an interesting one, is it?”

“Sure. It’s all right. I had expected more, but somehow it loses the plot somewhere after the first 150 pages.” Mili informed Mihir sulkily.

“Oh is that so, then should I bother with it, I mean, sorry, what I mean is may I read it, now that I’m done?”

“Go ahead.” Smilingly Mili planted the book in his hands.

Mihir had looked at Mili then, and noticed the little bump above her right eyebrow, and how her shoulders slumped when she was bored. He observed the curve of her long neck, the clear skin of her shoulder, half-covered by her kurta, he saw how she straightened her back and winced a little, rubbing her slim waist. He quietly observed her movements – and began to sense and feel  her curvaceousness, wondering if she were betrothed to someone.

He finished the book quickly, and told her how right she was.

“But you managed to finish it even so haan!”

“I did. What else do I have to do in this train, which now seems like an eternal journey. I wonder when we will eventually reach Pune.”

“If we reach at all,”Mili said dismissively.

“We will, we’ve paid for the journey. Do you want to get off at the next station and take a short walk, I’m Mihir Deshpande by the way.”

Mili let out a laugh, “Gosh, yeah, we forgot to introduce ourselves. I’m Mili.”

“Just Mili eh!?”

“Yep, just Mili. I’m from Delhi, but well, you know, lived in many cities and all that.”

“So you’re in college?”

“Oh no, gosh no, I’ve been working for over three years now. What about you?’

“I’m not in college, no.”

“Very funny. I didn’t think you were. You look…” Mili stopped short.

“I look, go on.”

Mili felt a little reticent. Mihir prodded her, getting friendlier, more pushing, and he moved onto her side of the seat.

Mili moved closer to the window. She could smell his aftershave as she inhaled his presence so close to her. She felt a strange intimacy coming over her. Mili also felt reticent to further this genre of exchange. But the man prodded her, friendlier and more engaging. deftly moved onto her berth. His short brown hair bobbed as he spoke. He was definitely an attractive young man.

“So, what do I look like, go on Mili.”

Mili held her breath.

“Mmmmm, I would say, you look like an actor, or perhaps a standup comedian, who’s been working a long time, and doing well too.”

“You’re having me on now. I don’t look like an actor. Actors are con artists, and they are usually good-looking too. “

Mili took the bait. “And you are.”

You mean I have the air of a con artist or I am good looking?” twinkling eyes, the slight slant of flirtation in his voice, and Mihir felt the journey had been worth his while. He wanted the train to slow down; he didn’t need to reach Pune at all at that very minute. His mood carried strength and Mili had gotten into the swing of it.

“Yeah, one could call you good-looking in a con artist kind of manner.” not willing to relent that easily.

“Hmmm, that’s not very flattering. So, for you Mili, from Dilli, I’m willing to keep it up- the con artist guise, and thereby remain wickedly handsome.” And with that his gaze plunged straight into her eyes. He was drowning in their blueness, and dragging her along.

She was startled, vulnerable, and breathless. Here she was, on a life’s journey to meet her would-be husband, someone she had quite joyfully been corresponding with.Flirting was definitely not her, and yet here she was, at it, with a complete stranger. And she wanted at that very moment to be ravaged by this unknown presence. The very force of these stirrings shook her.

Mihir on his part was doing a fine job of riding along, and gaining ground rapidly. He had no clue of who she was. He felt inextricably drawn to her. He found her absolutely gorgeous with the passage of time, and now he felt he wanted her for himself.

Mili shifted closer to the window, sensing it the right thing to do. She could smell his aftershave as she inhaled his physique. A inexplicable sense of intimacy passed between them. A recklessness was creeping into the space that separated them.

“SO Mili tell me what takes you to Pune? Work? Pleasure? or both?”

 

 

Biting her tongue, Mili burst out,“I guess it’s more work than pleasure. What about you?”

“You are lying.”

“Why, why do you say that?” a weak smile playing on her lips.

“Well there’s nothing about you that says you are on an official visit. There’s something in your demeanour that says ‘relatives’. Tell me I’m wrong.” he flung the challenge at her in as mischievous a manner he could muster. Instead, all he could think of was nightfall, and she in his arms, his lips locked with hers. The pulsating train was encouraging every carnal thought of his.

“You are right. I am off to meet someone who could be my fiancé!” and she had quickly turned away from him. She stared out into the dark night, the coaches’ reflections glaring right back at her in the window pane.

“See I told you.” But his voice had lost its luster.

The dinner boy arrived with two boxes of stale food. They both grabbed their cartons and ate quietly.

Later, when the train had an hour left to reach Pune, they had held hands, and exchanged mobile numbers. He had kissed her long and deep, in the darkness of the coach. She hadn’t stopped him. He had touched her breasts with practiced ease, and short of making love, a force far larger and frenzied had consumed them quite completely.

Later when she met her future husband, she gave herself to him, but not before she had met Mihir on five different occasions at his quiet flat in Pune, and not before they broke each others’hearts. Mihir had not once proposed marriage. She had not said she wanted him forever either, not once. They met, they ravaged each other, felt a completeness that stayed, and they parted, each time believing it to be their last meeting. The fleeting time that they spent in each others’ love, strengthened their resolve to cease meeting, yet seemed to further cement a deep yearning to unite. So they met, furtively, hurried yet hungry, thinking they could fool time, and since none knew of their bounden existence, they didn’t exist.

Now, in the present time, Mihir meets Shweta. Her husband had died in a car accident a year ago. Mohair had seen a rather quaint coffee shop off the main road. Hoping to be by himself, he found Mili. There she was, just a little grey at her temples. He felt faint, both with relief and disbelief. This is in Delhi.The embers that had lain dormant were reignited as soon as their eyes locked. There they were, those blue sapphire-like eyes.

She insisted that he come home with her, tightly holding his hands in hers and says to him, “All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is where I am…..”

At home, Mili has instructed him to address her as Shweta. He somehow knows. He has no idea whence this knowledge. So when he meets Anju, their daughter, he is certain beyond doubt.

Mili tells Mihir how she had been christened Shweta by her husband’s Marathi family as per tradition. Mihir winces. After meeting Mihir, little Anju tells her mother that this friend of hers, who she refuses to address by name, makes her feel very ‘strange’, When Shweta repeatedly asks her to describe the strangeness, Anju bursts into tears.

So today, the very same evening, Mihir and Mili decide to tell Anju the truth about her birth, although Mili is reticent. Mihir insists, as he is keen to adopt her openly as his own. He feels the sooner Anju knows the better. He reminds her how they had lost one ‘present time’ long back, and wouldn’t want to lose another ‘present moment’. Mili acquiesces and accepts his wisdom.

How does Mihir realize he is Anju’s father? Mili is flummoxed.

When he runs into Mili at the café this evening, he senses a bond with her, beyond the physical craving he has suffered from in all the years apart. The agony of waiting eternally, was more than he could have borne. He feels betrothed to her, he always has. Now, flung into the ring again, he wants to rekindle those ghosts that have tormented him all these years, and fuse into her being.

Anju is in her mother’s arms when Mili tells her The Truth of her birth. Anju is certain her mother is making up a story because she has found a new mate. Mili does not give in to her tantrum and begs for patience, and tells her that she would never ever lie to her child to meet her own ends.

She makes up a simple tale, wrapped in truth.

Anju weeps through the night, and clings to her mother. She senses that this was perhaps the strangeness she has felt on meeting this man, her father. She fears losing her mother. She is totally comfortable in their world and wants to retain this what they have, and doesn’t want it destroyed by anyone, even if it were her ‘real’ father. She doesn’t miss having a father. She fears an irreversible change this romantic love would wreak in its wake. She feels no love, no excitement, only a trepidation that accompanies fear, the fear of loss.

Mili promises her child that nothing that Anju cannot embrace will be allowed to happen. She reassures her gently that she had genuinely loved her husband, the man Anju had known as her father. She explains to her in as little detail as possible about her actual birth father, Mihir Mihir. How and why she had chosen to marry her husband to be with, for Anju’s sake. She tells her, in no uncertain terms, that Anju was luckier than most kids, because she now had two fathers to call her own. Yet the one that survived, was there for them, now and forever if God willed it so.

Anju wants to know how this person, who is perhaps her birth father, can love her spontaneously although he has not known her, never met her? How can a ‘stranger’ suddenly become a loving father just because he is her biological father? What if he did not take to her, astounding Mili at the clear thinking.

Ultimately Mili makes a promise to her child: Mihir can only promise to do his best, and if he fails to live up to their expectations, he will be asked to leave them and not return. She is careful not to betray any sense of hesitation. That said, Anju still demands of her mother that she would only marry him once they both agreed that he made a good husband and an excellent father. The girls are reunited, and Anju falls fast asleep within a matter of minutes, at peace with the exchange.

All the while, Mihir is sitting outside the room listening to the mother-daughter conversation with copious tears rolling down his face. An inexplicable sense of pride wells up nigh choking him. He senses both loss and fulfillment, both beyond his grasp. He is overwhelmed, quite completely, by a sense of discovery of not one, but two strong women in his life. His Mili is truly the Blue Sapphire- the Neelam of his life, the one that’s right there for the asking, and concealed from one’s vision till one’s faculty is correctly developedto view it in all its splendor, and not get blinded.

 

He is lost and yet he senses that he has been found himself. He wants to seize that which he feels is all his, yet he knows that the timing has to be just right.

 

Mihir enters Shweta’s bedroom, just as dawn breaks, and he observes, at first ruefully, Anju’s beautiful face streaked with the night’s tears. And then, his heart lurches as the growing light traces disappearing shadows, and replaces them with undefined peace, quietening the elephant in the room.

Mili holds out her right arm to Mihir, reposing Love. Mihir in turn places his right palm upright in her hand saying, “I Do”, as he slides onto the bed, placing his head on her chest, as gently as he possibly can. The Elephant in the room is swallowed up by the pervading Light which dissipates the gloom of the night that has just passed.

 

 

Emergence of a Diary…1st Dec; Place : Pondichéri/Pondicherry

I stand exhausted under the shower, naked, soaking in the fast droplets of water…like a thirsty animal. As the skin meets water, a sudden burst of energy is felt…an onrush of life. I am in a hurry, need to rush out, dress and head to Lake- the Ashram Dairy. I want to, but am unable to. I shut the shower and stand under the closed nozzle for what seems like 15 minutes, but in fact is probably just some 30 secs. The internal clock ticks and the mind is sending alarms. There’s a friend waiting to take me there. Oh all right then. I switch from tired to energetic and get myself together into a tee and shorts. The shower seems to have worked its magic….oh yeah! the spirit is willing and am ready to roll.

Pondy takes a lot from me- i am constantly hyper, in constant need of action, of movement till i hit the Ashram gates, stop to smell the flowers, and then rediscover my regular place, quietly on the stairs by the Samadhi. All is well. Embraced by its ambience, I am also given….Image.

Pondicherry was my world for a long time…and i knew no other. It was my oyster, my cocoon….Now i go back in time…i lumber, i scoot, i banter, i sing, i gaze at the sea and its moods every day as i pass by it, meandering & weaving my way on my hired vehicle. I never have enough rides on the beach road, inevitably coming away with some amount of dissatisfaction….but undeniably happy even so. It does for me what a pilgrimage does for a pilgrim. I come to Pondy when i hear the call and when i can.

I am now at the Lake estate, by the Dairy. It starts to drizzle. We eat under the rain, and it’s dark….the waters bristling, and gleaming with faraway lights. We can barely see our meal, but it’s enjoyable and the rice soaks in some rain before i hurriedly try and cover it with its paper packaging. We laugh. The food is hot. The rain is cold but not so cold as to spoil the prevailing mood and our supper. Afterward we enjoy some Plum cake that was perhaps a pre-x’mas offering at a bakery. Trials on offer, grabbed by some? There is some hot tea that is passed around. It is all the more enjoyable because of the passing rain, whose sound reminds us of its cool character. Sipping on our teas, we reminisce a little, as we keep straying back to the present which doesn’t belong to me. I am still in the past and try hard to focus on the Now. I forget who i was before i drove down to Lake. Then i am gently reminded when the friends’ present is spoken of delightfully. Their voices are familiar, yet distant. Who am i in that now? I remain clueless.

Sleeping arrangements are absolutely delightful, under a humungous mosquito net for 12 people, which we fix with great dexterity. It is under a thatched roof with a view to die for. I see the silhouettes of the Dairy, of the surrounding trees…i hear dogs barking and cows mooing romantically to one another. One calls out, another answers- a Bull awaiting its mate’s word. Hens are also heard, but lightly. Around 4 am the first cock is heard crowing. Maybe only i can hear it…maybe others do too, but i seem to the only one smiling. I smile away as i drift from sleeplessness into sleep and so and so forth. Morning brings with it other pleasures…Pondy’s crisp, cool December air makes me deeply happy. I am eager to get going, but just after a wonderful, hot cuppa…i need to get back to the city for my workshop. The ride back on a bike is heavenly- we pass red earth canyon-like structures and i am ecstatic. The nippy air around is just what i need to be on the go. As the town meets us, we observe the Sunday folk  rousing from their Saturday night slumber. It is already 7.30 am, and i feel joy coursing thru’ me as i understand that i will have to get my act together on my own. After all, i chose to come for the much-needed time away from my familiar routine and work.

At home, i await my Brazilian coffee, made by my host and a friend of many years. Astonishing that i yearn not for South Indian coffee- maybe because i too live in south India, and many yearnings are already quelled. Pondy has so much else to offer apart from its coffee for sure. Eating in the Ashram Dining Room is one such activity that i often yearn for, and that, oh that, is only had in Pondy! It is meant as Prasad, as an offering and as a diet meant for people dedicated to the Ashram’s ideals and work. I absolutely love the food there, simple as it is. It takes me back to the era of simplicity and innocence when i would quietly sit with my school friends and enjoy every morsel, coated as it was with undiluted devotion. It’s easy to return to it with the taste that just belongs, and in turn makes you too.

Yet another day in Pondy- ah the joy, the joy of just being there….no constraints, no pressure..just flow with it. Yet somewhere, i am missing the presence of my kids..my partner. Can that be? How can that be? I am thinking – and my thoughts are pretty loud because i can hear them. Where are you? You must soak in my joy with me…my need to share suddenly becomes evident as i button-start my scooty and head toward the Workshop- i am alone, the air is brisk and there’s  a stray tear that escapes from one eye, then the other. Wish you guys were with me to share this moment of complete freedom. Yet am i free? I guess freedom has many shades, and in that very moment in time, i am completely unfettered and free, unconditionally so. Pondy lends my persona that quality, which leaves me be.

To be continued in another diary, another month…another day.

The Lineup.jpg

from seed to seedling to tiny plant….oftentimes reaching full bloom. From earth, to wet clay to potter’s wheel…moulded into shapes unknown, putty in the hands of the Maker.
Whoever it is, whatever we are….there’s a shape, there’s a time……there’s the colour, there’s the smell, there’s the feel, and above all there’s love breathing thru’ life. Birthing is a process- like living is a process of birthing : ideas, moments, joys, sorrows, colours, aromas, moods…a world within worlds – choices in life and bets on how a life may turn out – both are like pots of clay; sometimes ready for the kiln, yet oftentimes still moist/mouldy and not quite happy to be burnt and get its ultimate sheen 🙂 It’s got to be Right, it’s got to be Ready….

Hello Now!

The little boy looked up at his mom and says, “Can we go to the water park tomorrow!” “For heavens’ sake my child, it’s a regular school-day, homework, a visit to the park and off to bed you go!” “But i’m bored with the routine momma, we could slip it in after school?” plea in his voice. ” Child, amusement parks are reserved for holidays and you know that only too well. Where’s the time for boredom, you have plenty to do, don’t you!” Momma replies with a twinkle in her eye. “But am bored, am bored, i hate school days when all i do is return home, eat, fiddle with my school bag and  there’s homework every single day, i want moooore!” tone of plea getting urgent. The little boy, that’s me, alas me even today (am an adult officially)…my insides constantly seeking excitement, now and forever.

Are we really that dependant on external stimuli? I, for one, believe i am alas. I think i might appear calm at a given moment or two, but am just awaiting the next stimulus to strike, before i go haring around trying to fill my time. It’s not conscious, am certain of the unawareness of it….however, i do not seem to recall any moment when i am quiet and not expectant of something about to take hold of my senses. I might go for a ‘quiet’ walk to the terrace, yet my mind is replete with a myriad thoughts racing with one another- trying to overtake one subject and take on the next one…is one ever done? I guess not. Mornings are calm, only to ready oneself to attack the day. I can sense my being enlisting what must be achieved, what one must get ‘out of the way’ only to refill my next day….the next 24 hours, the next week, the next month- plans are put in place constantly- what if there is nothing left to, fill, fill, think, think, do, do….get going lest the earth split and i was left with little or nothing to do! It’s rather funny and almost pathetic. I am because i do, that’s the idea that seems to reign supreme. Tch, tch…when did i become this overworked, hyperactive, self-destructive individual? Yet, to the world, i am all sorted and content. Surprise, surprise, i am deluded enough to believe i am too! Yet here i am, writing of my own accord, of my fears that i am too driven by external impulses and stimuli…surely there’s got to be something i can do about it, yes?  Striking Mantra :  internalise, calm, slow down. Oh! didn’t work?….mere words alas. I need action remember!

I created my Time; undoubtedly i can recreate, rebond, redefine what it means. Am i worried!? O boy, you could say that!

Why is it that one seeks excitement? Is it simply being human, or is it that the moment the milk has boiled and cooled, we need to boil something else…after all what does one do with cooled milk- drink it, or add it to our coffee and tea, right!? Yes, i do believe we humans find it nigh impossible to survive without some sort of action-stimulus-reaction modus operandi. Old age is lonely and bereft of any goal, because we live so fully immersed in hyperactivity that once that’s removed, it’s early death. Life as we’ve known it…was our life. Oops, forgot to really live…so stimuli gone, i am a goner. Stimuli equalled Life…alas.

I want to live, fully, yet living fully does not necessarily mean action….internal or external. It does sound like i wish to be more meditative, calmer and live more in the present. I had once been recommended a book about Being in the Present…it was exciting, yet again, because it made me believe that the possibility of being clearly and fully alive lay in the very moment that one breathed in and out..hear the breath as it escapes, hear the one assimilated, consistently too. The book was read and put away, and so was the present with it. As i write i see my past, and i construct my future….i can’t seem to help it. The habit of excitement is a difficult one to be rid of…it develops itself as we feed it. So i am going to begin the process by painfully unplugging the next stimulus that strikes me (no response)…i might meet lethargy for a bit…but that’ll go away as i gradually feed the process of unwinding my way out of “need for excitement”.

I have to learn to replace the stimulus, not by another one, but by quiet…by consciousness and an awareness that i can just be: just be in the moment, just be the moment…watch, observe, let pass. Good luck with that, because i suspect there’s a long road ahead, but who’s in a hurry- after all the process of slowing down has just begun, maybe i will end up with the turtles, these creatures live a long and unhurried life without much ado. Hello Now!

The morning Fix

The morning Fix

Loving you, o cup magnifique, empty or full- you are my morning, my evening…without you am a lost soul

A sip here, and a sip there,

Am sorted for at least an hour

Don’t ever betray me- coz you are the key

Unfolding, unravelling, unbinding

mysteries untold, yet unknown

That the heart has sown…..

Day after day, night after night,

Into its fine sanguine fabric,

Maybe just out of habit…

Or perhaps it’s just a trick!

I reach out to you, you reach out to me

Together we meet the world head on…

O cup Magnifique, you, my DAWN, the play is on!