Thursday, December 29, 2016

Space (Micro fiction 2)

Sartaj did not commit. He liked to keep an exit route free. Was this fence sitting of his out of concern for any disappointment to the negotiating partner should the proposed plan fall through? Or was it just self-preservation, honed to a craft! Ira could never tell considering she was a study in contrast, with her arms held wide open to all that life could bring her. She said yes to plans, projects, ideas, trips, requests, tasks; quite a ‘bring it on’ woman. His mantra was, “Count me in, ninety nine percent”, while she was in the habit of declaring, “Let’s do this!”

“Darling, the Fernandez’s are inviting us over for Christmas cake, shall I say yes?” Ira would begin tentatively and pat would come the response, “Tell them, we will try our level best!” This shadow committing peppered the mundane of their lives together too. Ira had lost count of the days Sartaj would first give his word about an evening walk together or a movie over the weekend only to take it right back as the hour drew close. The reasons could be anything from, “I have work to catch up with” to “I have to wash my hair” or just plain “I feel like taking a nap.”

“Sartaj, we should forewarn the family we are reaching in a week’s
time so that they can make their plans”, Ira was uncomfortable with the surprises they routinely sprung on their kith and kin. “I don’t like disappointing them. What if our plans change at the last minute for some reason? You know what my work is like!” Sartaj would defend his maddening method. It could be frustrating at times. Ira came from a family that flirted with plans freely and had no trouble keeping schedules and coming clean with commitments. It bothered her that she could not confirm to her mother any vacation plans until they were actually on their way. “You know how it is Mum, we will let you know as the trip evolves. But you should go right ahead with your calendar, don’t miss out on anything just waiting for us to firm up,” she habitually kept her folks in a limbo.

Their couple dialogue followed a map of maybes and perhaps. Ira knew better than to get her hopes up or look forward to anything too much. Their friendship had taught her a certain equanimity of excitement. She had also started to break away from the socially prescribed couple theme to assume responsibility for her own fun and pleasure. They had begun to settle into a rhythm of an easy and unfettered individuality. It was not unusual for her to watch a movie alone when he perceived a threat to his pressures. She did not seek his approval for every action of hers, at times he learnt of her adventures after they had been had!

“When do you two meet at home guys? You always seem to be at two different places! I see you walking alone too,” their friends were fond of observing. They might even have suspected a fault line somewhere. The two would joke about it, “Sartaj, we should occasionally act lovey dovey in public, the next you know there will be talk of our divorce eligibility!” and “How about you seeing me off to work lovingly and being home when I return so the neighbors get the right message!” The pair had trimmed their togetherness to an optimum functionality. What had begun as varying energy levels for living had ended up giving each the permission to plug into their personal selves in a safe space.

Ira discovered a hidden talent for linguistics; Sartaj found he had
the notes for some stunning vocals. They used their time and energy away from each other to expand and grow. It added rich and authentic nuances to their hours together. “I have to wait for my husband. He hates going anywhere without me. I so love lazing in my bed first thing in the morning but he insists I come out and have bed tea with him in the lawn!” Ira had several awe struck friends, they marveled at the autonomy she had found in her marriage. “You are so lucky Ira to have such an understanding and accommodating husband,” they were fond of reminding her.

Ira would nod with the same vigor as she would use to reach behind and pat her own back, “Hats off to me! Rather than bemoan the perfect dancer, I did good to learn the dance!”

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Peripheral (Micro fiction 2)

 “You are the closest to me my girl, the only one in this world who has heard the sound of my heart from my inside!” Rupika shifted weight on her aching legs. Her twenty five year old daughter Maira was walking away into the international terminal to check in for an outbound flight to New Jersey and the parents were merely awaiting her security clearance now. There was no place to sit it out; the only bench in the vicinity was loaded with Canadian Sikhs. “She has checked in Rupi, shall we start back for home, she has her cell phone in case she needs us?” the father asked tentatively. He knew his wife would not only wait for as long as feasible, she would be on edge for the entire duration of the flight, tracking it online and constantly checking for word on Maira’s safe arrival. Her protective antenna stopped quivering only when Maira confirmed she was safe and sound in her American apartment.

“Mum, you have to stop imagining the worst, it is bad energy,” Maira would often explode with annoyance at her mother. “Fear is a terribly low emotion; you attract disaster when you rehearse tragedies like this!” Rupika usually reacted to these outbursts with silence. She knew of no words to describe the debilitating singeing that happened to her innards at the thought of Maira leaving her side. How do you explain the urge to reach out and grab her back? What cursed emotions were these that caused her knees to dissolve at the very thought of her child being in any kind of peril? Was it nature’s way of ensuring the survival and continued protection of the species? Or was it a cultural conditioning? She did not care. It was alright so long as she knew where Maira was and her voice sounded cheerful on the phone.

“This has to be the most non-reciprocal love affair in the world,” Rupika laughed at herself with her husband. “I see you bleeding for her Rupi, you have to step back a bit, start taking care of yourself,” he would often advise his wife. “Let her be, she has to live her own life, make her own mistakes and grow. You cannot “fashion” her after your own heart. She too is a guided soul who has come with her own destiny. You have done your bit by raising her with values and giving her a good chance with stellar education. You need to disengage a little now. Give her space!”

“I would dive under a car for her, I could give her any of my organs
if she needed, I would fight any force for her survival, I would never ever give up on her,” Rupika talked to herself. Vignettes flashed through her mind’s eye of the hospital stay during Maira’s birth, the sleepless nights, the inoculations, the school years, Maira’s High School angst, the pressure of her own vision for her daughter, “Don’t try to live your life through Maira!” she had heard that over and over. “You are obsessed, you are taking her around to too many classes, she needs a break Rupi, this rushing around is hampering her creativity. Let her taste the world at her own pace!” there were so many well-wishing friends.

The world, it was a toxic place! The environment was anything but enabling. Eve teasing on the roads, bullying in the cyber space, a nasty competitiveness inside the workforce, ideas of sexual revolution and myopic feminism on the TV, any number of video games and interactive fora in her digital vicinity, easy access to alcohol and marijuana and friends that were all too often, fair weather creatures. “I must be a low, malevolent creature to have such pessimistic views,” Rupika berated herself. She had instead driven Maira around from one stadium to another dance studio to a music centre hoping that she would grow up with life affirming values of discipline, inspiration, skills and human interactions based on awe and admiration.

She dialed her mother’s mobile standing there, “Yes Mum, Maira has checked in, I don’t know when I will see her again. She never calls on her own. She is forthcoming on the logistical front but as soon as I begin to ask more, she says she is very busy! You know, we were driving past the stadium last evening where I have spent hours in the parking whilst she trained inside. I would carry all kinds of nutrition for her, don’t know what she fills up her stomach with now.”

“I am listening!” Rupika’s mother was soft.

“It’s funny how I have avoided calling her in the past just so she does not get homesick for us! I have told myself it is better for her not to go close to those feelings even though I would love to know what is going on in her life.”

There was a long sigh at the other end, “Don’t take it personally Rupi! Maira is central to your life but you are only peripheral to hers. You are navigating a painful separation; let her take the lead I would suggest. She has to extend into her future…without you Rupi! Just as you did!"

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Birthday (Micro fiction 2)

Monisha looked at the birthday cards piled high on her writing
table, the morning after. “Have a great one; many happy returns; pamper yourself; may you have a great day”, the wishes were pretty much predictable and safe. They were standard messages and exactly the strings she used when greeting others. But what assailed her at the sight of the left over birthday cake and the wilting flowers was social fatigue, a form of weariness with platitudes that everyone routinely mouthed. When she herself put pen to a greeting card, she tried to summon a congratulatory emotion from really deep within so as to make the experience more enjoyable but it reverted to a mechanical exercise quickly enough. Wishing, both giving and receiving had become chores, quickly to be done with and on time, the earlier the better.

But had she had a special day? She sat swinging in the bright green front lawn, staring at the palm leaves bordering their neighbor's garden. The lady was moving about on her terrace, yanking crisp laundry off the clothesline. She waved out at Monisha, “Where is my birthday cake?” Stung with neighborly courtesy, the birthday girl grinned and nodded vigorously with just the right amount of saccharine cheer expected of her, “Oh I have saved some for you, coming up right-away!” she scurried into the indoors.

Barring half an hour of cake cutting with her immediate family and some fancy snacks, her day had been usual. Yes, some flowers and gifts had trundled in but she had not unwrapped anything as yet. “Change the water in the flower vases,” she instructed her attendant and walked out into the patio with a Tupperware box. The sun was an affectionate golden, tiny rainbows winking up from the dew on the lush grass. The bird houses rang with excited chirps and warmth snaked over her limbs. “Take this cake across,” she handed it over to the guard, returning quickly to her favorite wrought iron garden chaise.

There were Facebook notifications to clear, she copy pasted her gratitude to friends who had responded to the app reminders. She fought unsuccessfully the residual guilt she had felt at her anxiety over fake smiles and compulsive birthday surprises, she did not enjoy them and thankfully there were none the day before. “Am I abnormal to feel so empty about my birthday?” she asked herself silently. "I am supposed to be joyful and excited…this feels nothing like the childhood birthday mornings! Where has the magic gone?”

Monisha’s head fell back on the chaise; she gazed at the garden Buddha. There was an imperceptible half smile on the restful face. It was just clay but the particles were reaching out to her, she quietened and sat up straighter at the streaming presence. Her eyes squinted at the suddenly luminous leaves. A calmness had descended on the garden, it filtered the cacophony of life around her. She dragged deeply at the vast confidence and certainty of the presence that had spread out in ripples from the statue to as far as Monisha could see or hear or sense. Why, everything was perfect, in place and exactly as it should be! A butterfly described an arc across her eyes. She had never registered the rugged beauty of the tree trunk. There was something terribly potent and abundant in the diversity of life around her. The pigeons cooed, her pet dog sunbathed and a peacock went treading through her poinsettias. She marveled at the order and discipline and contained infinity in the air. There was no room for an iota of doubt. She felt connected, uplifted, charged. Her throat ached and hot drops stabbed her eyelids, “I am so very glad to be alive!”

“Happy birthday to me,” she sang to herself as she vended her way to the writing table inside and pulled out her leather bound diary. There was no fear; she had a task to do.

“Birthday resolutions 2017” she inscribed carefully. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Forgiveness (Micro fiction 2)

“The Forgiveness Prayer is extremely powerful! It works. This is that one part of healing that can be said to have guaranteed results. You must repeat this daily for forty days at the least,” the Healing Class was in the midst of a Level 3 session. There was the waft of lavender oil; someone must have scrubbed salt and a drop to ward off negative energy after their bath. There was no telling how many of those present sported rose quartz medallions under their shirts to nourish and brighten their heart chakras. These sessions were conducted in a semi-formal manner, there was so much personal accounting to do that the sobriety of reflection just did not sit well with regular cheer and bonhomie. The students sat still with their eyes closed while the Master moved about, blessing them with energy unlocked from his own channeled reservoir.

“Forgiveness is essentially a letting go, a releasing, and a stepping back. Not only do you make a gift of forgiveness to all those who have caused you pain, you ask it of them for yourself. So often, we knowingly or unknowingly hurt others, with our voices, our bodies, our thoughts, our intentions even…living is such a process of evolution, there are bound to be mistakes. And don’t forget to forgive yourself. Often times, we are the harshest on ourselves! Let it all go; wash it off, scrub the grief and sense of betrayal clean. Forgive!” the teacher intoned.

For several minutes, only the chirping of birds and the stray honk
of a passing vehicle punctuated the peace in the hall. While the bodies sat still, minds took flight, there being no telling as to the distance and direction they anguished over. Was there regret? A sense of satisfaction with the way their lives had turned out? Did anyone experience a Eureka moment? Yes, some Adam apples bobbed and a few throats swallowed invisible pain, helpless salt water sneaking down resolute cheeks. No one intruded into this spiritual nudity, everyone understood and felt connected.

“Where is Charu? She hasn’t been attending even though she gave her assent in the beginning. This is the third time she has renegaded, seems she is not able to organize herself and keep a commitment. Has she been visible on our WhatsApp group? Any information, anybody? Do check what is up with her?” Master had hurled a pebble into the energy flow of the room. Eyes flickered open, foreheads went burrowing and heads nodded perceptibly before peace regained lost ground.

“Alright, rub your hands together, pat your eyes and face and remember to practise the Forgiveness Prayer tonight,” people had begun to gather up their mats and bags. Some lingered longer for social exchanges. Master had flipped open his diary and was running down figures in columns. He looked up, “Charu has not submitted the fees too, and this is not the right way to go about earning entitlement. Do convey this to her, those of you who know her,” he addressed the room at large. This caused a slight break in the departure rhythm, only the slightest, the hall emptied soon enough but for Nisha who also happened to be Charu’s neighbor. She approached the Master earnestly and began in an apologetic tone,”Charu in fact has sent an envelope for you Master,  it slipped my mind to hand it over before the class began, I am so sorry!” Master plucked it out of her outstretched hand, “Thank you so much!” he took a deep breath. The two remained silent for some moments, him out of reflection and her out of reverence. Master resumed softly, “Sometimes I feel my impatience with Charu has something to do with her name. Charu Smita used to be the CEO of the company I resigned from fifteen years ago. I remember, to the date, the humiliation of being superseded by a younger man.”

“Forgiveness Prayer Master,” Nisha whispered under her breath on her way to look for her footwear on the shoe rack.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Secret (Micro fiction 2)

“You are chattering with your fingers! Are you trying to keep down a secret?” Manyar remarked with a frown. Henna, her childhood friend stopped plucking at the lint on her trouser and shifted weight in the cane chair. She struggled to rearrange the grimace on her beautiful face, “I have bad news and it hurts!”  Manyar was dismissive, “It is not the news as much as repressing it that is eating you up. Come on, out with it! Tell me what happened.” Just the bow of betrayal had begun to emerge from the fog of anguish in the room. “I swore to my friend it would remain between us. You know how gossipy people can be!” Henna mewled. “Yes, but we are not being malicious, it is just sharing so as to feel lighter.”

The two women sat in respectful dilemma, unable to break away from the spell of a secret. They were like sailors, marooned on a desert island, their throats parched for succour but staring at a mashk that did not belong to them. Their eyes met! “Alright, just between you and me. Not a word to anyone else,” Henna entreated. Manyar was beside herself with curiosity, “What could the matter be?” She leaned forward unconsciously, trying hard to sit still just in case her friend changed her mind about sharing the titbit. She waited while Henna exhaled deeply around the waves of guilt assailing her at the impending treachery. She leaned back, an arm over her eyes.

“Listen girl, gulping down a secret requires constant effort, it will cause you unnecessary tension, in fact it might wear your body down. Have you heard of how people come down with common cold just because they are sitting on a piece of news they have been forbidden to share. The more you try squashing it down, the more it expands, takes too much mental space Henna. You want to be careful there.”

 “Alright then, make a pinky promise to me. I have only shared it
with my mother so far!” responded Hennna.
“What? You mean you have already broken your promise?” Manyar was incredulous.
“Oh come on, telling my Mum does not count. She can be very tight lipped about my affairs; she does not give out much to any outsider. Yes, she is close to her siblings but that is about it.”
“That makes it four people already in the know," Manyar ran her thumb over the fingers, counting. “And if each of them is close to four other people in turn, that is a whole bunch there. Your secret is no more one!”

Henna was dismayed, “My family is default ear for all my secrets Manyar. I would come down with depression and loneliness if I did not let them in on my emotional quicksand. I get migraine if I do not confide in them. It is not about just being better than only one other person on the planet, you understand I am sure.”

“Oh absolutely! Sharing secrets teaches empathy and social skills moreover. Now tell me quickly, you were saying?!”

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Alone (Micro fiction 2)

“I want to leave this town with a grand signature. Have you seen 
how smooth and open the roads are? How about 100 Km on my Road Bike?” Dilpreet announced to her group at a party. “Are you crazy? Who bikes that far out? I haven’t driven that distance in my car ever!” the social space broke into a howl of protest. “Be careful alright. Don’t go riding out onto the highway, the traffic is crazy. Will you be riding alone?” There was another attempt at dissuasion, “What are you going to do if there is a puncture? Does your bike have tubes in those tyres?” There was no abating this flow of dire prophesies, “Just do loops girl so you stay close to help. Toilet facilities is another problem, public spaces are so filthy. I have a friend who got a urinary tract infection just from using the staff washroom at her office.”

Dilpreet retreated into her sanctum sanctum against this
pandemonium of concern, the little private space inside her heart and mind. A bit of an achiever, she was used to treading a path of her own making. Sure, there were constructive inputs and critical feedback she fed into her journey. As to the automatic words of caution that arose from those who had not even entertained mentally what she was threatening to do, she often wondered, “What is the emotion behind all the doomsday predictions? Is there fear of being blamed for encouraging her just in case the project ended badly? Did her intention threaten their self-concept with a tinge of guilt over not trying hard enough? Were they really thinking of her inconvenience and safety or their own degree of comfort with the status quo? It could just be plain and simple inertia!”

She was at another gathering later that evening. Dilpreet had done her online and telephonic homework and settled on a model of the Road Bike. “Look, the way I see it, a bike is for exercise right. Why spend so much money on just a bicycle?” the unsolicited onslaught took off all over again. “What if there is no riding space in the town you go to next? Such a waste!” With all the risk assessment and abundant precaution happening around her, Dilpreet took her thoughts to the week of riding pleasure she had found astride her rented Road Bike. It had been a suggestion from a competitive cyclist, “You will never know the difference unless you ride one, the thin tyres, the body frame, the gears…it is a technological marvel, this bike. Take one on rent for a week and use it. It will help you make up your mind about changing your Firefox!”

“Exercise? How do I explain the liberating emotion of gliding
powerfully on a well surfaced road stretching into oblivion ahead? What price would you put on the pleasant stretch in the muscles, the restful domesticity of the countryside and the wondrous look in a street urchin’s eyes as he ogles at your machine? There is a particular sting to the early morning air that rejuvenates the skin and mood like no salon spa. The occasional tear in the eye with some stray particle in the rushing breeze adds to the heroism of the mile munching odometer. There was expansion, a reaching out, a stretching of the spirit, the sweetness of meeting a self-declared challenge; yes right, cycling was not just about exercise, it was about godhood!” Dilpreet clearly had the inclination to be independent of the good opinions of others. She trusted herself. She had the desire and the yearning. She had a crystal clear notion of herself pedaling down new paths, a rose red scarf trailing from her neck. She was bent upon celebrating life! 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Syndrome (Micro fiction 2)

 As a rule, Kavneet avoided medical camps. There was no knowing how thorough the medical examination would be. In any case, she was fairly confident of her general health and doubted she was the ideal candidate to be benefitting from the exercise. Being the senior most bureaucrat however, she had no choice but to lead by example and there she was, stretched out on the examining table of a young gynaecologist. “She must be an intern, these preliminaries can’t be all that demanding,” she thought idly, more to distract herself from all the probing going on at the tail end. She sensed a sudden pause, her thoughts broke abruptly and she had to ask the doctor to repeat herself, “Sorry! You were saying?”  Kavneet raised herself on her elbows at the ensuing silence. There was no one with her, only hushed whispers behind the green folding screen. She sat up hurriedly, flicking her clothes down to cover her legs. Her heart had begun a slow drum.

“Ma’am, when did you hit menopause?” the doctor’s voice came up muffled from under her head, bent over Kavneet’s medical papers. The patient hemmed and hawed, scanning the years gone by, trying to make up her mind as accurately as possible in the now urgent air around her. “I don’t remember exactly but maybe a year ago,” the response was tentative. “There is no need to worry Ma’am, I don’t want to alarm you,” the doctor tried to recover lost ground with resumption of a classic bedside manner, “ but we will have to take a sample for biopsy to the Shah Cancer and Research Institute Ma’am, it is a routine procedure.” Fully aware of the need for dignity given her official status, Kavneet put on a brave, even nonplussed face, ‘Sure, you need to do what you need to do. But what is the symptom you are basing this investigation on?” The doctor was young and slightly awed at having hit a diagnostic gold with none other than Mrs Kavneet Kaur Ahluwalia, Principal Secretary (Higher and Technical Education). She gabbled, “Fresh blood! I had barely begun the internal examination Ma’am!” There was her entourage peeking into the door, Kavneet just decided to cut her losses and take it forward after perusing the papers thoroughly. On her way out to her waiting beacon vehicle, she overheard her PA instructing the medical professionals, “Madam’s investigation must be thorough and prompt. She is a very senior IAS officer.”

Back at her favourite couch in the beautiful Lutyens’ bunglow, Kavneet typed into her Dell’s search box, “Abnormal vaginal bleeding.” Ten minutes of skimming and she was picking up the telephone, “Schedule an appointment with the senior most gynaecologist at Shah immediately”. It wasn’t long before the officer arrived at the hospital for her pre-procedure anaesthesia and other relevant tests. The nosy hospital staff and her own underlings had been busy, the “VIP aboard” cry had gone out and about. “Relax Mum, it is a routine procedure, in fact in several civil hospitals, it is done in the OPD, they don’t carry out a dilation and curettage any more. I will be back home in half a day on the outside.” Kavneet’s WhatsApp was choking with messages of concern from friends and family. She assured her mother as best as she could and followed her PA towards the Surgical Wing on the designated day. Just as he was stepping back to let her into the revolving door first, she spoke up, “Oh no, I think I have left my spectacles in the car. Can you fetch them for me please?”’

There is no way Kavneet would have known that the wheel of destiny was about to turn. A mangy cur, curled up under the Principal Secretary’s car took umbrage at the disturbance to his snooze and lunged at the PA’s unsuspecting ankle. An ugly crunch resounded in the afternoon quiet as the angry canine ravaged human flesh down to the bone. The dog jangled at the leg and shook it like a stuffed doll. Her PA’s terror stricken howl went crashing at Kavneet’s ears so that she did an instant about turn. By the time she reached the car, her PA was on the emergency stretcher and being rapidly wheeled away to the ICU. The vicious bite had severed his ankle and there was no stemming the blood.

A month later however, the very same car was back in the hospital parking bay. The PA had repaired beautifully, thanks to the standard hospital protocol and was back in the saddle, fit as a fiddle. Kavneet on the other hand was undergoing yet another investigation on another accidental discovery. Even as she lay down to succumb to the radiologist’s administrations for the third time, he couldn’t help but exclaim, “Please don’t mind Ma’am but the menopause transition takes several and highly individual courses in different ladies. For some, it is stormy, others barely notice it. I believe your Gynaecologist is treating you for an altogether different syndrome.” He waited for a prompt then placed the camera head on her lower abdomen with a definitive wave, “It is called VIP syndrome Ma’am!!” 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Worrywart (Micro fiction 2)

It is an emotion to run from, that guilt mixed anger; it comes
welling up at the parent’s mention of worry. “Oh baby, where are you? The weather is packing up. Hope you are warm and cozy at home! Please don’t be wandering around at this unholy hour. Did you remember to charge your phone before leaving for the airport? Have you got a copy of your ticket?  Where have you been, your phone was switched off, I was dying here with worry!” The media fed fear in the air had made dithering blubbers of Gurjeet and Ajrawar. They were driving their young daughter up the wall with their ever present and bilious concern. “I am alive here Mum, can’t you see? And I am keeping you informed, what is the panic about? Why is everyone forever rehearsing tragedy?” she was furiously impatient with their stalking and tracking on occasions.

Having raised their darling girl in the so called “Rape Capital” of India, the couple was on edge as a matter of course. Any call from an unfamiliar number on their mobiles was enough to set them off like a pack of firecrackers, “Has something happened? Is this a bystander calling them with some devastating news?” Primed for emergency responses and dreading the worst, their busy adrenaline had given them permanent goose bumps they were forever rubbing their hands down, over and over.

The family had survived many a battle royal on tense nights when Pia would be out flouting her curfew hour. It would begin with, “I am starting back in fifteen minutes,” and eventually dissolve into a countdown ending with, “I am crashing here for the night. Don’t wait up for me.”  If only she had seen how the air went out of her parent’s rigid frames before they collapsed with fatigue into their cold beds. It was harrowing for them to stare at the front door for hours on end only to pretend nonchalance at her footsteps outside.

Perhaps it was only to stem the overzealous parental concern but Pia had gamely tucked a Pepper Spray can into her bag and dutifully carried a nunchuk below her driving seat in the car. “Never look into the eyes of other drivers on the road. Keep your windows rolled up at traffic junctions during the wee hours. Keep our numbers on speed dial. Text while setting out, will you? Avoid deserted roads and highways. Ask a male colleague to tag along after unusually long hours,” Pia had pretty much heard it all. “Mum, you think a guy’s mother is any less worried about her son!”

This parent child tug of war assumed new heights when Pia took
off for the Big Apple to pursue her undergraduate studies. Her parents now exported their imagination to the digital maze. There was the social media, the digital banking and Whatsapp for remote assurance as to her wellbeing. But of course they did their weekly FaceTime, the disparate time zones notwithstanding. Imagine the rock in these happy waters one day when Ajrawar got an SMS alert on his Android phone. Pia had apparently swiped her TCDC card at a chemist’s for 4 USD. Chemist?! Oh good dear God!!  He called up Gurjeet at work, “Could it be her eye that is bothering her? She had mentioned her wisdom tooth beginning to throb a bit! With the harsh winters coming on, one never knew with the central heating, her landlord was not accessible enough at times.”

Not one to wait for the other part of the world to wake up, Gurjeet typed out a message, “Pia darling, is all well?” Back came the cryptic response, “Why do you ask Mum?”
“Well, Papa got a bank alert for 4 $, shall I ask the Aunts to contact you for any medical follow up? Papa knows the Defence AttachĂ© posted there?”
“What are you rambling about Mum?” there was the faintest growl.
“You swiped the card at the Chemist’s, right?” Gurjeet raised it a notch.

A nano pause and then a delighted cackle ballooned at Gurjeet from across the international ether, “Mum! Your default setting needs rebooting. It was at Medici, the cafĂ© round the corner! I had a croissant on your dime parents. The week’s dose!”

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Enemy (Micro fiction 2)

It is not visible to the naked eye but there is a furious amount of self-talk going on inside golfing heads just before a tournament. Behind the bonhomie and all the cheerful exclamations over the lovely weather, there are these inaudible voices in the air, “Oh no, we are teeing off from the first one, I better not mess this up, there is too large an audience!” Another voice will whittle away, “Inhale, exhale…just one shot at a time, remain focused on your own game; don’t fret over your cheating buddy!” And, “Silence is golden on the course, ration the words and for heaven’s sake, don’t lose your cool with your caddy.”

It was the inaugural Coast Guard Golf Cup and the players were going about their business at a civilized pace. Nidhi watched Tara busy herself with photo sessions. A stunning woman in her thick auburn mane, Tara had the height and that great eye to hand coordination of a good golfer but more often than not, she struggled to convert her talent into winning scores. Her apologetic air and under confident shots spoke of a diffident and divided mind. The other women golfers were used to seeing Tara hurry and skip after her long suffering caddy chanting, “I am sorry Mahesh! I don’t know what is happening. I usually don’t play this badly!”

A stoic player by contrast, Nidhi was averse to playing with women
for this one reason; they wanted too great an emotional management from outside. It irked her when lady players tried to play down a brilliant shot with a quick reassurance to the rest that it was just a fluke! She couldn’t stand the self-berating and regular guilt trips that routinely unfolded on the course. And woes betide anyone who chattered too much during a tournament. “No histrionics please,” the other women were used to her forthright manner, “let’s get on with the game, shall we?!”

The goody bags were being handed out. Their four ball made a beeline for the washrooms in order to change into their spanking new T-shirts. “I love the shoe bag, and look at this sleeve of balls. So glad I took up this game. To think I had nothing but contempt for this game once upon a time and not too long ago!” The women chatted easily and exclaimed over the colour combinations of their golf attire and whether the caps matched the rest of the ensemble. “I have not played in days Nidhi but you have been practising regularly!” Tara complained. “I just hope I don’t mess up my chipping today. You have so much more tournament experience than me.”

Nidhi fought her annoyance at this emotional encroachment on her presumed magnanimity. Genteel courtesy now demanded that she bolster Tara with, “Oh no, I am as moody and unpredictable with my shots. Don’t worry! My short game is equally temperamental and about the fairway, have you not seen me in the rough skulking under the bushes for that ball of mine? Relax. You will play fine.” Nidhi kept silent instead, taking a step back from the usual, pre-tournament drama.

As they emerged from the Golf Hut, they heard crisp metallic sounds from the Men’s tee. It was their turn soon enough. Nidhi drove her ball into a spectacular flight; it seemed to sail along the white marker for the straightest drive. There was peace for a while as the foursome worked their way through the front eight holes, building their scores in relative silence, Nidhi refusing to be distracted with self-recriminating debris from Tara. She would not acknowledge the missed shots, the penalties or the sand skill with anything other than a poker face. At one point Tara stunned everyone with the longest yet driver shot, it went tearing towards the green to some 200 yards. Nidhi applauded but retreated immediately.

Nidhi’s caddie was placing her T when she heard Tara mutter under
her breath, “My three wood is giving me heart burn. Last time we played on this course, I lost two balls in the water. And three holes here have super high trees overlooking the greens.” Nidhi pulled her glove off and stepped back from addressing her ball. She tugged at Tara and gently pulled her under the shade of the small tree close by. “Look into my eyes Tara. There are so many ups and downs while playing golf, it can drive anyone crazy with emotion. But I am telling you, each one of us here is autonomous and the responsibility is highly individual and personal. The challenges are not out there on the course. Your tallest Everest is in your mind! Quieten those thoughts. Let’s just mind our own minds! Play, shall we?"