baby’s day out

I’m going abroad for week this summer, with my family. When I learnt of this impromptu plan, it was probably the best news I could have received in between my boards. What escaped my already air-bound mind was that, we have to apply for a visa. My mother and I were supposed to go to the visa office together but we secured an appointment on a date when she was out of town. I had to go alone. Once my father explained all the proceedings and handed me all the important documents, I wasn’t so nervous anymore. Just a week ago I had been to the passport office alone and exited successfully. Not to mention I’d turned eighteen two months ago. I thought, “I can do this, how hard can it be?”.

It was 12:45pm when I reached the visa office, and things started off just fine: I was allowed to enter without the appointment receipt, our travel agent’s guy was around during the initial stages to help me out. Once near the waiting line, I was escorted to the lounge – air conditioned, free Bisleri water bottles and cookies, that sort of thing. I must’ve waited for about half an hour during which I tried to study for my psychology exam. Tried here is the key word, because I was distracted by the stares of some very important looking men sitting with me in the lounge, muttering in Telugu which I failed to understand. Soon enough, one of the attendants – Mr Singh – approached me and asked for all the required documents. Fifteen seconds in, he tells me we’ve filled in the wrong visa application form. My heart sinks. While he leaves to get the correct forms, I call up my father who says he’s on his way to help me out. My sunken heart lifts itself up – “This isn’t too bad. I’ll get past this.” I start filling the forms – with a pen I borrowed from one of the very important looking men, who knew he wasn’t going to get it back anytime soon – and my dad arrives twenty minutes later. Once everything seemed in order, he wishes me luck and I go back into the lion’s den, while he left to attend to the patients he had left hanging at the hospital.

I wait for an hour for Mr Singh to get back to me. During this hour, another family seated themselves in the lounge – mother, daughter and son. The daughter seemed to be around my age, except I was not dressed well enough. The son, probably about twelve or thirteen, had in his hands a sleek black iPhone – and I’m just being paranoid but, I almost felt like he discreetly clicked a picture of my tired face and made a meme out of it. But then again, at that point, all the negativity had planted itself into my mind so I must be getting ahead of myself.

The hour become an hour and a half. I didn’t go look for him because not only was I shivering in the AC room but I also had to use the loo – desperately. But, I didn’t want to leave my spot, just in case he happened to drop by the moment I left to relieve myself. Tapping my foot against the hard wood floor, I tried to distract myself by skimming through my neglected textbook. In the cold. While my bladder was whining as though it already didn’t have enough of my attention.

At 4:40, Mr Singh finally got back to where I was. Two minutes in, he groaned and looked up at the fancy ceiling of the lounge and informed me that my travel insurance documents were wrong and a few extra xeroxes were missing. My sunken heart plummeted. He breezed through my other documents and kept pointing out the little errors that had slipped my father’s mind and some that were never informed by our agent. I explained everything to my father on phone and I did so at a whisper. Not because I cared of what the other aunties and uncles in the lounge thought of me, but because I was on the verge of tears. Mr Singh was staring down at me – almost pityingly – and that made everything worse. I blubbered out incoherent words to my father and at that moment, I felt like a little girl whose hand had slipped out of her mother’s in a crowded bazaar. “Why are you crying, ma’am?” Mr Singh asked me, annoyed. My throat was blocked and my eyes were wet with tears, I was ashamed of myself for crying so easily.

Mr Singh, meanwhile, was sure that my visa application couldn’t be completed today. He told me to come back tomorrow. He didn’t understand that I had wasted nearly four hours which I should have spent studying for my final exam. Afraid of crying even harder, I just nodded to everything he said. Once he left and the stares of everyone else in the room had shifted onto something a little less interesting, I called back my father. He was upset, not with me, and he knew I was overwhelmed. Speaking in the kindest voice, he told me that he’d be there in another twenty minutes. And so I waited.

My dad made everything right, even before he arrived. He asked the authority responsible to e-mail him the correct travel insurance papers and got them printed out. It wasn’t until he arrived and I saw the Frooti bottle in his hand, that I realised it was 5:15 and I hadn’t eaten lunch. No wonder my head was pounding. Before I could register anything else, he had his arms around me and as much as I appreciated the gesture, it just made me burst into tears. My hands covered my face and I could feel the stares of those around pierce into me. My eyes were shut tight and my sniffling was loud; that was when I knew that I hadn’t had such a bad day in a very long time.

Once my eyes were dried and I had had a sip of the cold Frooti, I went back to the counter. It had been five and a half hours since I’d been in that office, and the other attendants had started recognising me, wondering what I was still doing loitering around. Another lady attendant and Mr Singh approached me and started rechecking my documents, once I told them that the correct documents are all there. Just when everything was okay – I realised that in all this flurry, I had misplaced my passport sized photos. “They were right here, I swear.” I said. I spent five minutes scanning the glassy floor, frantically searching every piece of my belonging. “Lagta hai aapka aaj din hi kharab hai.” (Looks like, your day itself is bad), Mr Singh said with a reconciling smile before he helped me in the search. By then, I think, he had understood how shaken and inexperienced I was. I was sure I had searched my backpack at least five times, and on the sixth time, there were the photographs – inside the small pocket in the front zip.

From there on, everything went accordingly. Mr Singh and I shared a few smiles and that put me at ease. I didn’t want to be the reason for a government employee’s bad day at work. At 5:45, I was out of the place. I ran my hand through my hair – that had become tangled in between all the haste and worry – and I was sure that the one strand of hair that left my scalp was because of the immense stress and worry I had felt in the span of six hours. I sat with my father outside for a little while, so grateful he was there. When I reached home and walked to the elevator that would take me to my floor – it was already there, waiting for me. It was almost as if the universe had pity on me and made things a little easier. What a long day it’s been. But, the trip should be worth it, yes?

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the land of floating hearts

on some days she travels,
from the roots of her grounded mind
to the land of floating hearts;
where exist one’s true loves,
and a pair for the heart.

on some days she travels,
away from the home of her steady mind
to the land of those in love;
she wonders patient yet afraid,
will she ever find a place?

on some days she travels,
over the barriers of her loneliness
to the land of the enamoured and entwined;
she gets a touch of of the warm breeze,
where they say, love is in the air.

on some days she travels,
leaving behind her worries and ambitions
to the land of those loyal to their love;
she yearns to feel her hand be clasped,
by someone she’d never have to share.

on some days she travels,
with her heart on her sleeve,
to the land of of floating hearts;
where exists one’s true loves,
and a pair for the heart.

ma

it is late in the evening – the sun has
one foot out the door; reluctant to go,
she leaves behind a splash of colours to
remind one, of her crimson warmth and glow.

with my petite frame shrivelled with failure,
i sit on the edge of my bed, and i
wait for the light of my sun to return
to help assuage my pain, and pacify.

her scarlet poise fades a little when i,
greet her quietly, words lodged in my throat;
one breath later, she’s battling my despair,
her arms round me, the strongest antidote.

my head pressed against her chest, eyes shut tight;
yet, stubborn tears escape and roll down fast,
discolouring her once red blouse to stale
burgundy: a change in weather forecast.

wiser than most, kinder than many, she
proves passively powerful once again
as she bears the weight of my heavy heart,
teaches me to conquer my mind and reign.

my distorted view of success she mends,
with her gentle words and nurturing smile;
from one of callous comparison to
faith in oneself and a journey worthwhile.

Venus, Earth or Mars, we are all the same:
different worlds that orbit around her –
our source of power, love and optimism;
she keeps us grounded, safe and together.

norwegian wood

Contrary to popular belief, I found Norwegian Wood written by Haruki Murakami quite disappointing. Maybe I just failed to understand the profound meaning Murakami has tried to convey about loss, unrequited love and nostalgia. But in my opinion, the book is merely a compilation of baseless (and greatly detailed, *cough*) sexual scenarios and poor – or rather – unexplained, transitions. I can’t disagree that Murakami has written the book simply, and thus beautifully: the use of certain words and phrases is quite endearing. It’s one of the things that made me want to continue reading. The plot however, seems to descend deeper and deeper into darkness and depression, which appeals to me on very few occasions and in this case, it did not (for example, despite the downright tragedy and trauma described in The Kite Runner, it’s one of my favourite books). I suggest you don’t read beyond this point if you haven’t read the book and are meaning to do so because I’m going to rant a little about the characters and their endings.

Toru Watanbe: Very simple guy; a little too ambivalent perhaps. But in a way, it added to my curiosity and made me want to know what he would do next. His simplicity made him quite unpredictable which I did enjoy. Apart from that, Toru is depicted as very indecisive man, but only when it comes to his love life. He’s very clear about certain things such as his outlook on life – it’s easy to understand this from his disagreements with Nagasawa. But when it comes to the women in his life, all of his rational thinking seems to exit his mind, which annoyed me to no end (but really, who am I to talk about indecisiveness). This confusion of his particularly annoys me when he has to decide between Naoko and Midori when the latter is obviously better suited for him – let’s face it, as dreamy and angelic Naoko was, she wasn’t the best lover. Also, what’s up with him and Reiko sleeping together? I don’t get that part one bit; it was completely unnecessary – or am I missing something?
Towards the end of the novel too, Toru is confused about his whereabouts when Midori asks him where he is. To those who assume he committed suicide – majority of the novel is a flashback and thus he can’t have killed himself. Sure, the ending has got several metaphorical connotations and I think Murakami wanted to leave the readers wondering, or wanting more, but Toru ultimately comes across as someone who is lost.

Naoko: It took me a few chapters to actually understand her character; Naoko is very cryptic and not necessarily in the good way. While she’s suffering from the loss of companionship she had with Kizuki and is absolutely shattered when he decides to commit suicide, Murakami has shaped her character to appear very weak and dependent (on Toru). It frustrating how she’s a natural tease and leads on Toru which I guess results in his indecision. Another reason for his confusion could be the unspeakable things she does with Toru, who’s her (dead) boyfriend’s best friend, but then again, Toru’s to blame as well. It’s with this particular character that I feel the transitioning of the story isn’t very smooth – her expected yet abrupt intercourse with Toru, her finding refuge in the sanitarium, her shift to a legit institution and then finally her abrupt suicide – maybe I feel so because I read the book with lots of intervals in between, but still, it’s as though there’s something missing. Maybe I failed to interpret her anguish correctly. 

Midori: A very eccentric girl, this one; if I said Toru is unpredictable, this girl was something else entirely. There are more than a few times in the book when her words made me backtrack and my jaw drop. Compared to Naoko, she’s fairly independent and one thing I liked most about her is she knows what she wants. I believe that she’s a better choice when compared to Naoko because, well, she’s straight with her words and thoughts (seriously, I don’t think she has a filter) – but even that sort of confuses Toru’s feelings towards her. One thing that was a complete turn off however, was that it seemed almost as if she forced Toru to love her. In the beginning of their friendship – even when they grow quite close to each other – Toru is clear about his feelings towards her which are purely platonic (this is easily proved even after his attempt at trying to invoke any sort of sexual feelings he may have deep inside about her). If I’m not wrong, I think he even mentions somewhere in the book, that he considers her to be like his little sister? I feel that he didn’t romantically love her until she forced the idea on him. Poor guy, Watanbe. But I suppose none of this is Murakami’s fault, maybe he wanted to portray his character in such a light. Although not something I particularly liked, but it was definitely unique and refreshing in a way.

ps: Someone’s who’s read the book, please explain to me what “How much do you love me?’ Midori asked. ‘Enough to melt all the tigers in the world to butter,” means?
I know it’s a reference to the book The Story of Little Black Sambobut how exactly do the tigers chasing each other (and then melting into a pool of butter) express how much Toru loves Midori?

the daunting clock

The clock on my cluttered desk reads five past seven. The birds are chirping, the clouds are parting, the sun is bright and shining. I’m sitting on a comfortable chair, but I’m not quite comfortable under the accusing stare of my textbook’s dull and tedious font. As on most days, I’m using the pencil in between my thumb and my index as an instrument  to create a poor excuse for a melody, and yet, one that is just enough to distract me from the erudite stare that has seemingly transformed into a textual frown.

The clock on my cluttered desk reads nineteen past seven. My field of view has made the timetable for my examinations its protagonist. My eyes however, refuse to oblige and remain unfocused. My traveling mind lures the unexcited, blank pair of brown orbs to a land that’s more inviting: one that involves simple appreciation, free of any forceful memorisation; one that is more desirable, more tempting. To get there, I need to get past now.

The clock on my cluttered desk reads fifty-five past seven. It’s been seven minutes since I mustered up the will-power to tweak the focus of my eyes and concentrate on the dormant print before me. The modern legal profession in India has colonial roots, emerging with the advent of the Mayor’s Courts in Madras and Calcutta in 1726. I hum the tune of the song that casually greets my mind; I mumble the lyrics and I tap my feet. I hear the faint conversation between my parents sitting outside. I wonder what my sister is doing – if she’s studying well at university. University. Similar to a flashing red light, in my mind, my eyes revert to where they’re meant to be looking. The reformation of legal education in India undertaken since the late 1980s at the initiative of the BCL, the University Grants Commission, and various state governments has led to the establishment of various national law schools in India in the last two decades.

The clock on my cluttered desk reads forty past eight. I’m on page three. I’m looking at the microscopic stitches of my light green shirt. I’m hearing the fluttering of the loose sheets of paper near by. I’m smelling my mother’s presence after she has freshly bathed. The small Ganesha beside my table calendar looks interrogative, almost as if asking me ‘a penny for your thoughts, young girl?’ I frown in shame.

The clock on my cluttered desk reads twenty-five past nine. My face is slightly wet after washing it. The water bottle near me is nearly empty. Giving effect to the Chamier Committee recommendations, the Central Legislature enacted the Indian Bar Councils Act, 1926. I sigh deeply. The clock on my cluttered desk reads five to ten. It’s almost time for breakfast. The Act was to provide for the constitution and incorporation of Bar Councils, to confer powers and impose duties on the Bar Councils and to – I hear the distracted voice of my mother, calling me for breakfast. I reply that I’ll eat after a while; the guilt has been feeding on meThe clock on my cluttered desk reads fifteen past ten. I desperately try to squeeze in a few more sentences. In order to be eligible for enrolment, an advocate must be: a citizen of India, at least 21 years of age and – I feel the buzz of my phone. It’s irrelevant; unimportant, but the fleeting moment of concentration is lost. The clock on my cluttered desk reads thirty-five past ten. I comfort myself: ‘I’ll try again after breakfast’.

The clock on my cluttered desk reads forty-three past eleven. The owls are hooting, the sky is pitch dark, the sun is nowhere to be seen.

(ps: here’s a funny thing – there’s actually no clock on my desk; i almost always check my phone for the time)

eighteen

How is it that I’m already eighteen? Each year as I turn a year older, I don’t feel any different. I suppose it’s because the “growing up” part is a gradual process; it takes place throughout the year only to result in no major difference on one’s birth day. I’d like to think that I have led a pretty comfortable life up until now – I didn’t have to adjust to the new infant in the house since I was the second child; I’ve never had to move or abruptly leave the city; I have an excellent relationship with everyone in my social and familial circle. Let’s brush over my intense fear of conflict which stems from this one particular incident that happened when I was younger, because apart from that, I think I have had it quite easy. After all, the drama and misunderstandings amidst my circle of friends in the lower grades is hardly anything to fuss over about now. I suppose I’ve realised that growth doesn’t necessarily has to happen from the bottom.

What I have also realised is how utterly fortunate I am: I have got parents who tell me ‘you are the best gift in our lives’ and who go out of the way to ensure I’ve got a smile on my face. I’ve got a confidant in my sister, who’s far away and yet closest to my heart. I’ve got such brilliant friends – ones who search for that one book I’ve been meaning to read for ages, ones who give me a piece of themselves in aromatic sand and hand made stars which instantly makes me sigh in happiness, ones who write me poems that warm my heart and make my eyes glisten with tears, ones who write me letters, ones who remember me even though they’re miles apart – I am so grateful. In a world so uncertain and quite honestly terrifying, my own, small world is brimming with love, care, affection and so much support that’s got me where I am today.

When I was returning home with my parents tonight and we were greeted with traffic and soft music on the radio, I fully understood how much I want to make each of these people proud. I want to be one of the reasons for their happiness and their joy, just as they have been mine.

Aware

i remember the days

i remember the days,
when your breath would stagger
each time your eyes met mine.
i remember how,
the hair on your skin would rise
every time you touched my bare spine.
i remember when
your heart was steady, strong and true
when we laid under the stars with our wine.
i remember the days,
when your lips used to yearn
only for mine.
today when i look at you from afar,
and you fail to spot me
like you once did in a crowd.
my heart stammers and it stutters;
i miss the way you would smile
before shouting my name out loud.
but it’s the change in your breath and in the pace of your heart
when you’re with someone who isn’t me
that makes me believe i’m shadowed by a dark, gloomy cloud.
you claimed i was your one true love,
or so i heard, when you said i was your one among many
it’s my fault, i’m naïve and i’m not proud.