The Four Stages Of Travel Shows

There is no greater freedom than having a scalp full of uncombed hair, mismatched clothes, a handbag stuffed with enough meds to nuke your entire system + a cloth bag with a change of clothes and a toothbrush, chipped nail paint and 20 hours of sleep in the last 7 days. This is the point of no return. This is when you care the least, where there is no shame or discomfort in sleeping wrapped around a chair, in a coffee shop, at an airport for 6 maybe 8 hours. 

 

I’ve always loved doing travel shows. 

Wait.

Let me rephrase that. 

I’ve always loved doing travel shows…. in hindsight.

Never when they’re actually happening. 

Every time I nose dive into one, I’m mad excited. Oh the places I’ll see! The crew I’ll get to hang with! The adventures we’ll have!! 

All this elation does a quick 180-degree turn on day 1, hour 6. 

And another 180 somewhere smack in the middle of the shoot.

It’s a 4 step quick and painful procedure.

First the potential excitement turns into chronic internal whining. My brain starts to bitch out the entire process almost immediately; the number of endless days/weeks ahead of me, the lack of food, the lack of cellphone coverage, the lack of sleep and the retakes. And because I’m with new people I have to have my game face on.

Smiling and waving on the outside, mixing Molotov cocktails on the inside. 

Then the whining subsides giving rise to self-loathing. Was this an absolute must? Why do I have to get greedy? I’ve seen most of these places before, what was I expecting? Why is my alarm clock always stuck at 4:30 a.m?

Right after this comes indifference. The stage where, if a Unicorn came running out of nowhere and impaled me on its unihorn, I’d be all ‘Meh’.

Then the lack of sleep + strange, amazing new places put you in some sort of a bizarre adrenalin high that you’re not consciously aware of. It’s a low buzz at the back of your head. You realize it’s presence much later, but in the meantime you end up laughing a lot, yammering with all and sundry, taking photos of kids/goats/trees, humming songs, taking selfies and generally being that person that everyone else around starts to hate.

 

This is the runners flow equivalent of travel shows. Just when you’re almost ready to give up, the rhythm of the shoot shows up, when you least expect it, like the giant cocaine badger from ‘It’s all gone Pete Tong’.

One moment you’re swearing off working entirely and the next you’re sprinting up and down coffee estates.

It’s a pattern and I have no idea how I haven’t been able to recognize it. Hamsters have been known to show better cognitive abilities.

 

There was once a train ride where the roof of the train leaked and we were leaving a monsoon soaked Bombay only to enter a rare monsoon struck Delhi. A budget travel show meant traveling general compartment, second class. Like a boss.

A 23-hour flight to Australia with a sliver of that time to get rid of jetlag. I found myself in a polar bears pen the next day.

Sleeping in the car because we lost our way. Several times.

We ran out of fuel once and were stranded for hours.

Same thing with spare tyres.

Miscalculated the weather and almost got hypothermia because who carries a jumper when its going to be a pleasant 22 degrees? (Deceptive extra bastard 2)

Got food poisoning because the jalebis were glowing neon and I had to eat them. At a mela.

 

Either I don’t learn or the entire experience when gathered together and patted down makes for a fantastic sand castle.

Plus the breathless abandonment at the end of a work schedule that has been getting exponentially tougher is priceless. I don’t think I can afford to swap that for anything ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Profiteroles and pacts

I don’t like articles on food. Everyone is a self appointed food lover, gastronomer fantastique or finding ground somewhere between the two. Which then leads to a sludge of mixed up opinions and love songs about food.
I wrote the above paragraph because of guilt and/or as a disclaimer.
I wanted to begin this note by talking about my love for profiteroles.
And as soon as I wrote the first line I thought to myself – ‘I’m that guy. I’m writing about food. I am one of the many millions chattering to the internet about my tastebuds exploding. How average.’
I’ve succumbed. I’m sure I’ll learn to live with it.

I studied food. For three years in college. I got a degree in hotel management, catering technology and applied nutrition. Did I ever care passionately enough about food to take that degree forward? Make my parents feel that they hadn’t set their money on fire while paying my school fee? Nope. I did nothing of the sort. I realised it wasn’t for me and quit at the first chance I got. But the time spent in BTK (basic training kitchen), QFK (quantity food kitchen) and ATK (Advanced training kitchen) made me understand my deep love for certain types of food.
Like profiteroles.
What a perfect dessert.
The beauty lies in the choux pastry which is made up of tiny little poems. I could go on, but profiteroles are an experience, not a recipe.

I had been hankering for profiteroles for a while. I may have even tweeted about it many months ago (because wishes are granted if you rave and rant on the internets)

I landed in New York the day before yesterday and got to my Air bnb apartment in the west village at 5 pm. The owner hadn’t shown up with the keys so I walked across the street to a cafe to get my caffeine on. I wasn’t hungry because British Airways had managed to poison me over the last few hours and the sight of food was disturbing.
I blankly stared at the menu while trying to thaw and I don’t know how it happened because it was all so quick, but suddenly I had a bowl of profiteroles and whipped cream in front of me.
I have rarely eaten food so delicately and with so much respect. Good food deserves that. The lightest Choux pastry with the perfect hint of butter, filled with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Angels sang when I had the first bite.
I’d found the perfect place for my favorite dessert. Tiny little cafe by the name of Cafe Reggio with little wrought iron chairs, leather couches, and a big coffee machine. I was back there the next morning, and that evening, and as soon as I finish writing this, I will head down there and stay for a while.

My best friends and I made a pact. We decided that every time the three of us are in different parts of the world we will write letters to each other. On paper. With a pen. And once we meet we’ll share them. This pact was made yesterday. And I wrote my first letter at cafe Reggio.
I have a feeling that that moment will be tattooed in my mind forever. Good food, great coffee, the threat of snow outside and my friends running around in my head.

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The Shoe

 

 

It was twilight. The doorknob moved, with a click the door unhinged itself from the frame and he walked in. He turned the lamp on and walked to his desk. His left hand had a bag and his right hand was looking for something in his jacket pocket. He finally found it and put it on the desk. Something swaddled in cellophane. Not too big. He looked at it for a while and then walked to his room, opened the cupboard, opened the sock drawer in the cupboard, pulled out all the neatly arranged stacks of socks, put them on the shelf above, removed a false bottom of the sock drawer, picked up an old tin biscuit box, kept it on the shelf next to the socks, bent down to his bag and pulled out some tools. Pruning shears, scissors, two knives, one big, one small. One by one he arranged them in the drawer. Shears first, scissors second, knives last. The small knife had a stain that caught his eye so he picked it up, looked at it, licked his finger and wiped the maroon off with his saliva. False bottom covered, socks put back in the same fashion as before, biscuit box held, cupboard shut.

 

He walked back to his desk with the box in his hand. He opened it and pulled out several cellophane wrapped packages, and kept them on the desk next to the one he had left earlier. He stood there staring at all the rolls. They almost stared back at him. He pulled back his chair, sat down, very meticulously started to unwrap the nearest lump of plastic. One by one, he unwrapped all of them and arranged them in a way he thought perfect. It was only the last one that he took extra time on. He unwrapped it gently. A tiny bit of a fingernail showed, then a little more, then a little more, then the entire nail and soon he had the entire finger in his palm. He set it aside on the left side of the table. He did the same with the other 9 and arranged them as a hand spread out without its palms. All 10 digits belonged to a child. Rather, ten children. And he only took one finger from each child. To form a perfectly imperfect palmless hand.

 

He stared at his work of art for a while, adjusting a finger here, a thumb there. When he was finished he smiled his smile of satisfaction, pushed back his chair, and as he was getting up a drop of blood from the edge of the desk spilled over and fell neatly on to his shoe. He turned his head down and looked at it.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5 seconds, and then with an absolute certainty he turned, walked over to the chair next to the bed, sat down on it, unlaced his shoes and took them off. He leaned to his left and opened the cabinet next to the chair. Cans.

Lots of cans.

Too many cans.

Rows upon columns upon stacks.

Enough shoe polish to make the Third Reich proud.

 

He chose a lucky can, opened it, got the brush ready, picked up the left shoe, patted the brush on to the can of polish, and started to polish his not so clean, blood-splattered shoe.

Left right left right, his hand moved till it found a rhythm as perfect as a heartbeat, a horizontal pendulum. He took his time with each shoe. He was careful not to miss a spot. This was his favorite ritual, his only non macabre obsession. He stopped only when he could see the reflection of the twinkle in his eye on the shoes.

 

Except his eyes never twinkled.

 

His work for the day was done. He lay down, his head touching the pillow, his

mind drifting away into a deep sleep…

 

 

A sleep with a dream that he would have every day. Which he would forget as soon as he woke up. A dream from another time, a dream which would make him climb out of his mind slowly, steadily, step by step and take him to a shade of grey which would swallow him whole. A living, breathing storm without even a hint of movement. He would step into a sparse, endless land with giant monoliths all around. Nothing familiar in sight, not on the land, not in the sky. It felt as if all the embers had died leaving a world coated in ash and soot.

 

His hands felt clammy, his feet kept marching, dragging, maintaining the same rhythm he had used to climb into this dream, a rhythm that matched a perfect heartbeat. One two. One two. Left Right. Left Right. He kept his eyes on the ground, but he wasn’t really looking. His hands by his side, with a hint of resignation. He looked to his right and saw the same thing that he knew was on his left. Land, identical tall structures… … … and dread.

 

He tried to stop, to take a breather, to understand. And it took all his might to pause the momentum. The thing is, he knew where he was going. He just didn’t want to go there. He stared straight ahead. Focused his eyes as much as he could and then he saw it.

Far away, on a mound of earth which couldn’t even excuse itself as a hillock, there was a tree, and under that tree stood the figure. X, which marked the spot.

 

 

She was shrouded in black. So far away that he couldn’t see her exquisite face. So far away that he couldn’t see her high cheekbones, her perfectly symmetrical face, her ageless youth, her piercing emerald eyes which laughed out so loud that her mouth could remain sealed forever. So far away he couldn’t see that when he looked in her direction, she looked in his.

Straight at him.

Through him.

Through his potential lies.

In that split second glance, her eyes screamed with ecstasy. She knew. She always knew. And he always forgot. His only superpower was to underestimate her. He was armed with just a blue shirt, dark blue shorts, socks, desperation and shoes.

His shoes.

Trudge Trudge Trudge. He got back into his rhythm. Tick Tock Left Right drag. DragTickTockLeftRight.

The beats multiplied in his head.

 

He got nearer to the exquisite creature. Nearer to her slender, twitching hands, which held pruning shears instead of a wand. But they worked magic too.

 

There were rows of boys and girls sitting in front of her. And they all seemed to be her favorites.

Everyone, except of course, him.

He had to cut through the humiliation being showered at him through every set of eyes. It helped that he didn’t see them. He knew they were there, he knew they were looking at him and relishing his shame, but he had chosen to bubblewrap himself in a cold numbness which made them invisible. A protective sheath of a lie.

 

They stared nonetheless. Fraternity has the ability to suck away any sense of empathy.

Strength in numbers.

Eat the weak. If not, laugh at them.

 

 

His pace remained the same, his gaze aimed at nothing, his skin burning.

She commanded him to walk to her. Nothing was said, or maybe it was and he wasn’t listening. But he had to go.

Why?

 

 

Why?

 

 

 

Why?

 

 

 

It hurt to think. It hurt to think because his mind was already occupied with following orders. With following rules. With following regulations.

His mind was occupied with himself. Tiny little him, taking up all the space in his head. All dimensions warped and him being dragged, slowly but surely, by his teeth, by his teeth biting into a shoe, his shoe, the shoe attached to a string, the string attached to a…..

His arms limp, his eyes shut, then open, then shut, his teeth clamped tight on to his dirty, old, torn shoe. His frail body being pulled on the dusty ground, his knees bleeding, his entire body surrendered to…. surrender. He looked up at a sunless ochre sky, his breathing deeper, slower, waiting. He could feel his tears, but they refused to leave his eyes. Maybe he wanted to see the world as a blur.

He couldn’t fight her. She was pulling the string with an ease that masked her strength. Her conical green head moving gently with each pull swap, pull swap of her hands. Hands which no longer had fingers, but disproportionate talons, the same color as her head, as the rest of her body. She swayed with a subtle beauty, no sudden movements. The beat from a far away land seeping into her insectile body. First second, first second, pull swap….

 

What if I let go? he thought. I could try. Who’s to stop me? I’m the one biting the shoe. Not her. I can let go. It is that easy. She won’t hurt me. On the count of three.

One Two. One Two. One Two. ONE TWO.

Three?

Come on Three.

Three!

Three.

 

OneTwoThree.

I’m Free.

 

So free.

 

I can breathe.

I can’t breathe.

Where’s my shoe? Where’s my shoe? Give me my shoe.

 

With all his strength he lunged for it. Arms and legs flailing, his heart racing, his lungs pumping, all in the blink of an eye.

And he caught it.

 

 

With his teeth.

 

A look of relief and a tear.

And suddenly he knew.

It’s me.

I’m doing this. I need the shoe. It’s my fault. . It was always my fault.

 

The realization dawned in his eyes, outside of his head, in the soulless grey land. He looked down again. And walked, beat by beat, through the assembly line. She was standing there, not moving, waiting, the pressure in her hand making the shears move. The metal glistened in the non-sun. No stain on it yet. It was thirsting for some. Crimson with a hint of innocence.

 

Suddenly everything seemed to speed up, his heart started to race, along with the beat of the earth. Everyone started to whiz past him. Either his eyes were playing tricks on him or the Witch was being contra zoomed. He stood in front of her. She stared down at him, even more beautiful than he could imagine, her mouth shut tight, her eyes twinkling, her hand twitching. She stared lower, below his knees, his ankles, to his shoes. He followed her gaze. He knew it was time. He looked up slowly, his eyes following her body up to her face. He stared into the green abyss of her eyes, his face expressionless, he lifted his right hand, spread out his fingers in front of her, she didn’t leave his gaze, her hand moved swiftly, the shears even faster.

Snap.

His eyes shut.

 

 

Snap.

His eyes opened.

The dream vanished

A memory lingered… for just a second.

And then the fire came back.

Molten, black, uncaring, vicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unpublished © 2013 Juhi Pande

 

 

 

 

 

 

Awake

Snatch

What is snatched from where?

Your eyes are heavy.

Your lids are magnets running towards each other. 

The hours of the day wear rollerblades, hold each others hands and glide through your neurons. They split up, form tiny circles, spin out of control, regroup, disperse, in and out of rhythm. The gap between real and far away broadens. 

There’s a dog barking
There’s a cup spinning
Papers falling
Lightening striking 
Red hair
Bicycle chains moving in clockwork motion
Aero planes take off
Raindrops falling 
Which one of these did you see?
Which one of these did you smell?
Which one of these did you sense?
The gaping mouth of the abyss opens to swallow you whole. 
Except you can’t see it or taste it or feel it. And that’s why you’re not afraid. 
If you linger, the snatch becomes fun. It stays for a bit, before taking off again. 
This world or that?
This time or then? 

Catch a picture in you’re hand and watch it turn to sand. 
A sliver of a thought so fine that you have to go around it to see it. 
A sliver of a thought so fine, that your next breath chases it away. 

Snatch. 
Let it be both worlds. 
Snatch. 
Let it stay a little longer. 
Snatch. 
Let me walk that plank with my hands behind my back.
Snatch
Grab it and put it in a glass jar. 
Snatch
Slice it, dice it, inject it. 
Snatch
Let me know where you’re from. 

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Fail

 

I had to go to the university to collect my mark sheets.

It’s been ten years since I graduated, so I knew this was going to be a nightmare.

Mostly because I did my graduation over a period of 5 years, and I had no clue which years I took the exams in. Also Mumbai University discovered the miracle of computers just three years ago.

This meant that I had to go through a few thousand names from each year before finding my name, then getting my roll number, a gist of of marks and finally being able to apply for a duplicate mark sheet.

 

There is comfort in chaos. This is probably the alternative motto for the Distance Learning branch of the University. After wading through a sea of students, some student-looking person directed me to the second floor to room number 45 and told me to ask someone there about my problem. I did that. Some ‘Sir’ gave me several slabs of books of about 500 pages each and said ‘Look’. And so I started.

I found my third year roll number and marks in less than 30 minutes. I found my first year roll number and marks in about 45 minutes. Then I started looking for my second year roll number and this bit almost gave me a nosebleed. I had taken these exams in either 2001 or 2002 and in either March or October.  After about 4 books I found my name and slammed the table with a ‘Yes!’. Then I happened to glance at the summary of marks as a formality and… it… said… ‘Fail’!

Suddenly it all came rushing back.

I had plugged an entire subject. Ancient Philosophy. And for that, I had to take all the exams again the following year. What I didn’t understand was, how had I managed to forget all this? I mean, it is a bit of a big deal, only because I had to study the godforsaken subjects all over again, and yet I had wiped my memory clean.

I must have toiled, stayed up late, hated Plato, whined incessantly for weeks, trudged to my exam center, taken the exam again, hoping I wouldn’t fail AGAIN.

All this, for nothing.

I mean, I cleared the exam, got my degree, probably took a photograph on the day I got my certificate, but in the span of ten years this wasn’t really looked at as a worry by my scumbag brain.

Something that may have weighed on me so heavily, and constantly for an entire year till I took the exams again and made sure I passed wasn’t even tucked away in my immediate memory.

What then of worry? My favorite hobby.

“You should give a talk on how to stress on days when you should be running naked.” Mehma said this (or something like this) to me today, but I convinced her that today was pretty hectic. I mean, I could have been wrong.

 

It could be one of two things.

With time and adulthood, exams from a decade ago seem trivial even though they swallowed us whole at the time (to refute this, how is it that I remember my class 10 and class 12 board exams so well?)

Worrying is rubbish (Thus spake Buddha).

If I go with the second bit, I’d have a blade of grass sticking out of one side of my mouth and a straw leading to a Mimosa from the other.

 

I know there’s a middle ground between these two, but I haven’t really concluded what that is.

 

Shame for having failed so delete delete delete?

I cleared it eventually, so do I really care?

Philosophy isn’t even really a subject, right?

If I lie to myself, it will go away.

 

I have bi-annual epiphanies about wearing roller blades and gliding through life. Usually they’re a bit more magnificent than me realizing I failed a year, but I guess everybody slacks now and then.

I’m gonna pin it on that.

 

Now where’s that blade of grass?

 

 

 

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Where are ….
Where are the soul shakers
The groove breakers
The watermelon seed spitters
The folded up pants and the rolled down sock lovers

 

Where are..
Where are The three point shooters
The upside down hangers
The smooth bike riders
The hat wearing, wall leaners
The glib worm doers
The reckless kissers and the wandering break dancers 

 

Where are the hearts stitched on sleeve lovers
The unapologetic travelers
The physics coveters and the bullheaded frustraters 
The sharpshooters and the barefoot Huckleberry Finners
The vicious, the semi criminal and the bad singers 
The run awayers, the teethgrinders and the breath takers. 

 

Where are..
Where are the eternity threateners, the thieves, the liars, the lovers
The A.D.D’ers, the green eyed lookers, the cocky fuckers
The afternoon wasters, 11 second runners, the dust shakers, the adventurers, the motorcycle lusters, the mavericks, the quiet ones in the corners
The obsessors, the beautiful let downers
The rough handed, clear minded, dancing eyed, crime partners.

Let’s pick this up, fold it down, put it under the table leg and point fingers at rhetoric.

 

 

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A note to el

It was father’s day a few days ago

There were all these notes floating around the internet from fathers to daughters.
And it made me think if my father would ever write me such a note. Would there be golden words of wisdom strewn across a piece of paper telling me life’s wondrous lessons? Would I suddenly have all my answers articulately written down in prose? 
I didn’t think so. 
All my birthday cards have always ever said ‘Happy Birthday Pet. Love you’. 
No more.
No less.
 
I’m writing this because I got a call from my mother the other day saying that my father had left his phone in an ice cream shop and if I needed to talk to him I should call her number. 
And I couldn’t stop smiling. 
I’d do that. 
Leave my phone in an ice cream shop.
I would also sit on my shades after keeping them in my back pocket.
I would leave my house keys inside the house and hear the door slam shut.
Forget my wallet in the car.
Let the ATM machine eat my credit card. Many times.
Ask my daughter her date of birth every time I had to fill out a form.
Stay in love with Jethro Tull my entire life.
 
I don’t know if it’s the genes, or just the fact that I like hanging out with him and he’s rubbed off on me.
 
I’ve tried to write about my father many times. I’d get started and then I’d just let it go. 
Mostly, I know where to begin, but I don’t know where to take it.
It’s because I know so little about him.
Or because I know enough.
 
I know that when he had just been commissioned as a pilot officer, one random day, he decided to go get a drink in the early evening at the Officers Mess. No big reason. He just felt like it.
He ordered his drink, and saw a calendar behind the bartender. It said ’24th April’. It took him a moment to realize that it was his 22nd birthday that day. The drink suddenly made a lot of sense. To him.
And to me. 
 
I know that his call sign was ‘Bullet’.
And before that, when he was flying MiG-27’s it was ‘Rapier’.
 
I know that he has said “Don’t waste your time on him. He’s a drifter” to me.
Twice.
Best relationship advice ever.
 
I know that he bought me my first drink. Which I managed to spill all over myself before I took the first sip.
 
I know that he has made me love the stars with all my might. That in 1993, when electricity would play truant in Assam, we’d sit on the porch and look at the milky way.
 
I know that it’s easier to ask him the meaning of a word, because he’s quicker than google. 
And he gives great examples.
 
I know that his take offs and landings are smooth as silk. Not because he’s my father. But because I’ve been on the tarmac, 20 feet away, gloating, mostly.
 
I know that he doesn’t believe in ‘psychobabble’ or the fact that the moon can mess up my sleep pattern. Or anyones sleep pattern for that matter. Or that the moon should be used in such a statement. It’s a satellite. Not a warlock.
 
I know that he jumped off a moving train for my mother who was standing on the platform. He yelled ‘Say jump’. And she said ‘Jump!’. So he did. And stayed with her for another day.
 
I’ve been friends with him for 15 years now. Before that, I was plain mortified.
 
 
This is a note to him.
 
Because notes from fathers to daughters are too mainstream.
Because without saying a word, he says it all.
Because he is my hero.
And because he’s made it so difficult for me to get impressed by anything.
 
 
 

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Shuchir, food and a whole lotta talk.

Shuchir Suri likes girls with neatly manicured nails and good food. I think in that order.
But we’re going to focus on the latter. There are very few people who don’t like food, and most of them are called Nicole Ritchie, but her aside, not too many do much about it except for whipping out their phones and instagramming everything they eat, all the time (There’s a special place in hell for this lot).
My point is, Shuchir has managed to, despite his tight schedule (He works as an event manager and is always on the go), start an online community on food. With over 2000 members, Food Talk India as a page on facebook has become the go to place for anyone with an inquiry about what sort of food to eat, where to eat it and quick reviews. And it works like a charm. I’ve tried it a few times and have always got everything I needed to know in a matter of a few minutes. What’s nice about Food Talk India, aside from all the info as ammo, is that it makes it that much easier for anyone to be of help when it comes to food. You can even share recipes, numbers of private caterers, and the location of the best vada pao stall in Worli.
To be a part of this commune of food lovers you need to ask a friend who is already a member or write in to foodtalkindia@hotmail.com.
Though I’ll have you know, Shuchir turned me into one of them food photographer zombies recently when I was in Bali. In my defense, I looked mildly embarrased and even checked both directions to see if anyone was watching. I consoled myself by thinking how much this noble act would help someone in the near future.
Here’s to food and so much more.
Clink!

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Panic

Time. 
Deceptive little bastard. 

I think I know exactly when it was that I stared at it in the face and got scared, because deep in it’s labyrinthian non eyes I saw the truth. As definite as an overturned hourglass. Grain by grain a picture got painted into a mound which held meaning only for me. I knew I had to be somewhere, and I had to be there at that very moment. If I didn’t make it, then everything would be futile. My heart would stop beating. My lungs would stop breathing. 
This was the reality I wanted to choose to believe in. And I didn’t care about the flipside because I did not wait around to check it out. I chose a path because I felt an urgency. Unlike any that I had felt before. 
I was 21.

I made it to where I had to be. 
I met the people I had to meet. 
And nothing exploded.
By the time I got back to breathing normally I realized two things. One: I had done this to myself. 
Two: I was never going to be the same again. 

 

And so began my relationship with time. We didn’t really talk or hold hands. But we both knew where the other was at any given point of time. I learnt to savour things more, I realized flying into rages was futile, I learnt the art of forgiveness and pride and how they walk with the same swagger, I learnt that panic wasn’t all that bad, and I learnt that too much wasn’t enough. 
Time swirls and pirouettes all around you, with you ,and then decides to wrap itself around your ankles and beat lead at its own game. It lets you peep into eternity and makes you sense your frailty. 
Hours, days, weeks, months, years, months, weeks, days, hours. 
So relative. But completely in tune with how your heart feels. 
And how your heart feels…. ah! isn’t that a mystery shrouded in beauty. 
A favorite song, the smell of his neck, her touch, a word said peculiarly, your mothers voice, laughter at a windmill farm near the sea, his fingers dunking ice in his drink, that dance… 
That’s when time takes off. Capeless. 
Everything stands still. 
A veneer of forever coats every cell all around. 
Freeze dry and hold on tight. 
Open your eyes and you’ve fast forwarded to a few years later.
It’s spectacular how it plays out. 
And sometimes it is fun to take a step back and watch it happen, and then dive right back into the vortex. 

 

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Soma

We fought
Of course we fought.
It’s what my father and I do before agreeing on anything.
This time it was about which restaurant to have my mothers surprise birthday brunch at.
Three options
Three fights.
One younger brother taking time out to buy some vile nutri-bars, then coming back to watch us argue while saying “Take a bite man, this shit is amazing”.
We all wanted something different.
Dhruv didn’t say anything.
My father and I said a lot.
Mostly to each other.
There was some glaring also.

Anyway, once we’d decided on a place, we found ourselves amicably chatting with each other while leaning against a car and thanking God that Soma had been delayed in coming back home.

Because we feel she works for the Mossad.
Had she been home, there would have been no booking of restaurants.
There would have been no fights.
There would have been no surprise.
She’s a spy. She knows stuff.
Like the time Dhruv and I sneaked the car out and thought she didn’t know.
She knew.
Like the time my father tried to surprise her with jewelry/a holiday/assorted gifts/coming back early from a flight.
She knew.

She knows this stuff because “I use my brain. If you used yours, you’d know too.”
Unfortunately for us, she is that smart.
She also has eyes which she keeps open because she sees things the three of us can’t.
“I can’t find my sneakers.”
“Honey have you seen my wallet?”
“I left my pen on my desk, I think someone’s stolen it.”
She finds all of this in about under two minutes. “If you opened your eyes, maybe you’d find it too.”
I sometimes feel that she hides this stuff herself so she can find it and be the ruler of our souls forever.

Thing is, she is.

The three of us revolve around her like faithful planets. She binds us together with so much love that sometimes I feel I might burst.
She loves giving bear hugs.
She’s the first to make peace because she hates a fight.
She smiles. She smiles like no one else. And she’s sensitive and strong in the best extremes. She once started crying when she found out I’d fallen and got 3 stitches. She also told me to “Stop it, don’t whine, you can do this” when I was admitted in the hospital with something serious.
A perfect balance of MotherMelodrama and Superwoman.

She loves her toolkit as much as her stilettos. Saves bubble wrap for squishing later. Dresses like a million bucks all the time but has tshirts that are 15 years old, with holes, and enough color to give you epilepsy, loves Campari, can waltz like a dream and her favorite superhero is Superman.
She also used to have a look which could to freeze our blood, but she lost that a while ago.

Anyway, we winged the surprise. My father channeled his inner thespian, faked a phone call, he and I faked a fight (to make things seem normal), many winks and thumbs ups later …
Ta daaaa!!!
I don’t think we’ve ever felt this this proud of ourselves at outwitting the mothership.
31st March has always meant the world to us because of our favorite fiery Aries.
We love you Soma
You’re our love, our life.
Happy Birthday!

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