Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tidbits #2

For some more micro stories, click here

At Anand Bhavan Singapore, where I regularly take coffee, sitting across the table was the waitress I’m more acquainted with, taking her break. She spoke intensely about so many things, almost without a gap, not letting me interrupt.

As she was leaving the table having finished her break time, I said a big, “yeah, yeah!”, as I didn’t have the heart to say that I don’t know Tamil and didn’t understand a sentence of what she spoke.

#NoSubtitlesinRealLife  #NonFiction  ‬#TeaTimeStories


The waitress at Anand Bhavan asked me, “So you don’t like tea?”
“No, you’re mistaken, although I absolutely love both of them, I’m a tad partial towards tea.”

“But you always and always order only coffee.”

“Here is a golden rule, Just like Andhra people are good with tea, Tamilians are good with coffee, and the other way usually yields disastrous results.”

“Does that mean our tea sucks?”

*cough-cough* “That means your coffee is better.”

#NonFiction  ‬#TeaTimeStories


An aged person new to the city, new to the local language was shuffling across the platforms, not knowing the exact platform number for his train arrival. And as he stopped to catch his breath, he heard two gentlemen talking in a language, he could understand, “Yesterday it was Chennai Bangalore, today nothing.”

And the old man panicked for he was precisely waiting for Chennai Bangalore, and he approached the gentlemen, asking, “Excuse me, but are you sure today there’s no Chennai Bangalore?”

“Of course I’m. It was yesterday.”

“Oh my God!”

“And tomorrow is Chennai Mumbai.”

“But wasn’t Chennai Bangalore supposed to a daily?”

Everyone exchanged baffled looks. And right at the moment I stepped in, as the only one who understood what’s going on there, and told the old man, “Don’t worry uncle, they were talking about the ‪#ipl‬. And yes Chennai Bangalore is a daily train.”

The old man thanked me and glared at those gentlemen before leaving to the correct platform while the gentlemen laughed later, having finally understood what happened.

#NonFiction‬ ‪  ‬#TeaTimeStories


It was his favorite song. Secrets, by One Republic. And it was even more awesome to listen using his new pair of noise cancellation headphones. He stood there listening, having given his passport and flight ticket to get a boarding pass.
Halfway down the song the airline crew behind the counter waved her hand frantically, causing him to do a double take and finally take out those heavy headphones.

"Excuse me," he said.

"Any seat preference, sir?" she asked.

"Oh yeah! I forgot. Window seat please."

She pressed some keys and handed him his boarding pass, "Thank you, sir, here's your window seat, Have a pleasant flight."

He was filled with gratitude and thanked her profusely. After he left, she felt very satisfied. It was never in her job description to wave the hands.

#NonFiction ‬‬ ‬#TeaTimeStories


She drew those little fragile hands with messy nail polish away from his hands as he tried to cup her hands in his. Her lips quivered as she tried to close her ears with her hands. "I don't wanna hear any explanations," saying which she burst out into tears, smudging the freshly applied kohl around her eyes.

"She was just a friend, a childhood friend whom I met after so long."

"Really? Then how come you never mentioned her?"

"Well, we never had that discussion."

She shuddered with sobs before breaking to say, "But-But s-s-she kissed you."

"That's a sisterly kiss on cheeks."

She let the tears roll down freely and warmed up to him, letting him embrace her.

"I love you Mahi."

She looked into his eyes and asked, "So you promise you'll never cheat on me?"

With an elfish grin, he said, "I promise, except when it comes to Emma Watson."

She punched him hard in his gut and came back into his hug.

#MicroFiction  ‬‬ ‬#TeaTimeStories


“My shoes are intent on murdering me,” she complained, taking off the red, sinister looking heels off her feet. Taking a deep breath, "Better,” she said, after throwing an angry look to those shoes she was holding in her left hand while her reddened feet thanked her profusely.

“Let’s go,” she whispered into my ears while gingerly stepping out into the evening air, barefooted, as her free hand grasped mine and locked our fingers.

#MicroFiction‬ ‬‬ ‬#TeaTimeStories

Monday, May 18, 2015

Aisha #11

“Arun, you rent a taxi and wait just outside the hospital. We’ll go in the taxi to Keylong. I’ll bring Aisha.”

“But Anu, exams —”

“Please Arun, everything else can wait. Now it’s important to go to Keylong. I’m going.”

“Ok, I’ll get my friend’s car. Would be easier to get at this time, and wait outside.”

She hugged him and kissed his cheek, “Thank you Arun. This means a lot to me.”

They went to the room and Anu said to Aisha, “Amma, we are going home. If you want to, go freshen up.”

Aisha saw Anu and realized that she wasn’t joking. And she happily went to the bathroom to freshen up, helped by Ganga.


“Pssst! Now,” hissed Ganga, beckoning with her hand, after surveying the corridor. She had earlier cut off some of the wires of the corridor lights and Anu came out, piggybacking Aisha on her back. Equipped with knowledge of hospital being the staff and some keys to back door which Ganga pilfered from the security they ventured to escape from the  hospital as the doctor refused yet again when Anu asked if she can take Aisha home.
“I’m sure you’ll take care good care of her, but you see she is under medication, she has violent fits and is in a definite need of a trained nurse. And your dad will scold me if I let her out in this condition. Please don’t ask me again. I’ll tell you when it’s time to discharge her. This is a super specificity hospital, the best in the country. She is in safe hands here,” replied the doctor, earlier.

In the dark seeing the silhouette of a large person running, a hospital inmate tried to shout, but Ganga was ready to close her mouth and muffle out the scream, saying, “It’s ok, she’s just a patient, the stretcher we got was not working and we had to shift the patient immediately. So, the piggyback-ride, nothing to worry. I’ll call someone to get these lights repaired. Please go into your room.”

It took hiding in a couple of rooms and avoiding life to come unseen and Arun was waiting, ready with the car, near the backdoor. Anu deposited Aisha in the backseat, and bent over to catch her breath, he was sweating, her shirt soaked in sweat, “You go wait on the road, and I’ll catch up with you.” Arun along with Aisha in the car drove away a little further on to the road. Anu hugged Ganga, “Thank you very much; by any means I’d never able to pull out this stunt without your help.” She kissed Ganga on her cheek. “You did a lot for my amma, and I owe you for it. Call me for any help. I’d like to do something in return, although I’m not sure if I can ever make it even. Sorry for all the trouble, I’m leaving you in a mess which I’ve created.”

“That’s ok, it’s my duty to keep Aisha better. And such a lovely person shouldn’t suffer all this just because of a crazy notion of hers. Take care of her. You’re a fine girl, in these days when old are looked upon as burden every fiber of yours is trying to keep her happy. Aisha couldn’t have asked for a finer granddaughter. My own grandmother was always cursing me, you know for being a girl. She wanted a grandson, but I came out, a waste of space. I ran out of my home at the prospect of marriage, and here I’m. I get pleasure from the love of recovering patients.”

“Why haven’t you told me this before, all this time?”

“You’re already burdened enough; I didn’t want my sad story to weigh you even more. Take care, and go now, Arun would be waiting.”

“We’ll meet again.”

It was refreshing, the drive along the mountain passes that are building up with snow and below the overcast sky. Outside the car windscreen, everything looked black, white and gray, like something out of an old world. ‘It seems amma is getting healthier as we near home,’ thought Anu. Aisha got into sitting position and rolled down the window and poked her head out from the side window enjoying the howling icy wind. While Anu zipped her shirt up to her neck and brought up her hoodie, to cover her ears Aisha seemed so oblivious of the chill. This was a journey she liked the most. She had gone with Anand many times, on bus and car, Delhi to Keylong, via Mandi and Manali, with small mountain hamlets popping up now and then.
On their way they had to cross many Railway crossings where they had to face the usual loud and high pitched cries of train horns, yet Aisha didn’t seem to mind. She was sane again. Anu silently thanked Ganga for her idea.

It was Aisha and Anand’s wedding anniversary in ten days. On the third day after her arrival, she already seemed very fit, and went into inspect how the inn is progressing, and after some customary checks she sat in the familiar money-counter, where she used to sit in and count the money. Now there was a computer there which was issuing the bills. The days of ledgers she used to input the day’s earnings seemed to belong to a past life. She asked the number combinations which issued the tokens for different food items. She tried that for a while, but she was slow, and was delaying the billing counter and so promptly gave the seat back to a younger person who was taking care of the counter these days. Anu waited patiently at a table, sipping her coffee. Coming out from the inn Aisha said to Anu, “You’ve Thapaji’s number?”

“Yeah, I’ve it.”

“Can you please call him, and ask him to return home. And tell him I said sorry.”

“Okay, I’ll,” this sudden change in Aisha’s behavior made Anu reaffirm her views that hospitals can’t treat all people. 

On the sixth day she actively took part in cooking, in the inn and even did a little gardening. She was almost back to her usual self except she wasn’t talkative now. In fact, she seemed to convey half the things using her hand gestures. On the ninth day after they went home Anu had a little discussion about the package, with Arun, asking him how to open the conversation with Aisha and how to hand her keys to it, but trusting her instincts, she placed the package near the bedroom door when Aisha was sitting in the garden, and put the keys in the tea box.

It was very late when Aisha finally headed to the house and it was very quiet inside. Anu and Arun slept in the guest rooms that were in the newer extensions and just as she entered the older part of the house, a rectangle of light from sitting room, piercing the surrounding darkness, and the buzzing old electric lighting seeping into the silence, and the old grandfather clock chimed signaling the day change. It was their anniversary. Aisha stood there remembering how it all happened. How Anand proposed, how he used the tea box, as he lacked the courage to propose directly.

Aisha went to the kitchen to get herself some tea, and just as she opened the tea box there was a key, attached to a glittering keychain — putting something in tea box, Anand’s habit — she was so excited and as went into her bedroom, excited, anticipating the unknown. And as soon as she opened the room door displaced something as it was opened. It was gift packed too. She tore the gift pack and there was a wooden case with a big slot for a key in the center, crudely resembling the weighing machine in the railway stations. She inserted the key and opened the box and inside was another courier like packaging. She opened it and inside was a collection like trump cards, and a letter on top of it, in Anand’s writing.

‘So, after all these years I still don’t seem to gather enough courage to talk to you directly.  :P (this is a tongue in cheek smiley, you non-tech old lady). You know these days, many stations are adopting new type of cards and in those instead of the quotes we get a monochrome picture of a celebrity on the back of weight. And I know you can’t live without those card-quotes, so this is my gift, my dear. Cheers to yet another year of my survival despite your continuous nags. May god bless you with a love towards cricket, so we can enjoy the evenings better. And may your love towards cooking shows fade away.  :P (this is the same smiley again).’

She removed the rubber band around the cards and those were those railway weighing machine cards, with quotes, but they seemed different. They were obviously custom made, since instead of weight, they're printed in Anand’s handwriting was the sentence —
‘You look fine.’

Anu woke up late, and Arun didn’t yet wake. She went into the kitchen to make herself a tea.  In the tea box, the key was missing. Anu let out a triumphant smile as her idea worked. She was able to pass on Anand’s gift just the way Anand would have done. She went outside to pick up the day’s paper and the newspaper showed that the weighing machines went out of contract and will be removed from all the railway stations, as people in these fast paced days didn't have much time for those. Anu was skeptic how Aisha would react to the news, and so she tore away that part of paper, and removed the section of paper completely and threw that out before folding back neatly rest of the newspaper.

She went into Aisha’s bedroom and there Aisha was sleeping peacefully. And on her bosom was her card collection book. Anu took that book and saw that all pages were pasted with new cards, to the last page. They were evidently fresh cards pasted anew, since the pages showed the after effects of gluing. Aisha lay there with a smiley expression on her face. Anu saw something was amiss, there was no rhythmic rise and fall in the chest and as she checked she realized Aisha was in fact not breathing. Anu saw that Aisha was clutching a card in her hand and she pulled it out, and it read —

‘Time and tide waits for none.’

The End.

Aisha #10

Anu ended telling about Aisha with loud hiccups. She controlled her sobs while telling and that resulted in harsh and loud hiccups. Ganga, herself dewy-eyed, reacted started with a jerk and realized the situation and gave Anu a water bottle while patting on her chest to ease out. It took a while before the water could be administered in her twitching form. After two large gulps of water while Ganga patted her continually on her chest and head her hiccups finally subsided.

Aisha was still sleeping, peacefully, because of the powerful anesthesia. With an emaciated frame those heavy bandages on her hands looked even bigger in comparison looking like boxing gloves. Anu pointed at her and said, “This is not right. I wouldn’t wish such a condition even on my worst enemy. Death itself is much more peaceful,” saying which she gave into the flow of tears.

“Please calm down Anu. Aisha will be alright soon,” said Ganga although her words felt insincere to her own self.


Anu was showing Aisha funny videos in her mobile, and Aisha was giving an occasional laugh, although the eyes looked as if her soul has been sucked out of her and all her actions a mere mechanical clockwork. And suddenly Aisha clutched Anu’s hands with both her hands and pleaded, “Anu, please take me home. I can’t stay here. I don’t want these medicines.” This happened almost every other day. But today luckily for Anu before she could somehow try to talk Aisha out of it, there came the sound of a train horn, from the track that goes behind the hospital and Aisha suddenly left Anu’s hands and instead use those to cover her ears, tightly, as if her life depended on covering those ears, to muffle out the sound of train horn as much as possible. It was very heartening to see Aisha behave like that at the sound of the train horn, to whom train and railway station had always been a second home. Using this moment as her gateway she brought her mobile to her ears and walked swiftly out of the room, saying, “Yeah, Arun, Amma is ok.” Both Aisha and Ganga, who was mixing some tonics beside her, knew it was a faked call.

She was waiting in the reception area, fiddling her facebook wall, waiting for Arun. Ganga came and sat beside her and started talking about some more ways to keep Aisha happy. It was her idea to bring some funny videos, and suddenly asked her point blank if the call earlier in the room was true. Anu turned pink and said, “No, I pretended that I got a call from Arun. What else can I do? Every other day she begs me to take her out of the hospital, to our home, in Keylong, but seeing her condition doctor says no and dad listens to doctor's words. I tried talking with him many a times. But what he says also makes sense, given her behavior, it’d be difficult to tackle her in the house. I hoped that I could take her on the pretext of not being able to pay fees, but even that wouldn’t work as dad wires the money directly from US, and he has paid in advance.

Just as they were talking Arun came, but he was not alone, beside him was an old man, with a prominent bald head that suited him very much. He wore a characteristic sweater, which fit him so smugly as if custom made. He was talking to Arun, and sadness was evident in his voice, with an edge of anger.

Anu stood up and hugged him.

“It’s ok, Anu beti, it’s ok. Everything will be alright.”

“Thapa uncle, this is Ganga, Amma’s nurse. This is Thapa uncle, Ganga.”

“I actually came here to give this,” He gave Anu a key, “Anand sahib told me to. And as discussed I’ve secured it. I’m to put the package in his bedroom the day before their wedding anniversary.”

“What’s this? What’s the package Thapa uncle?”

“I don’t know Anu beti, I was actually to call Anand sahib after getting the package. He said it was very important. I think a gift to Aisha beti, for their anniversary. But Anand sahib’s phone was always switching off and no one bothered to tell me that my sahib died. But, of course, I’m just a servant.” At this point he burst into tears.

“Thapa uncle, please. You know my family for generations. You’re only one to my grandpa from his life before Aisha. Please understand. It had been very difficult. Same day grandpa died, Amma went into a comma. It was very rushed, admitting her in the hospital, my parents coming from the US, the funeral. It had been very difficult for all of us,” said Anu, looking at her feet, as she now felt guilty of not calling Thapa for the funeral. But part of her consoled it was really rushed, as she herself has not taken part in those rituals because she was the only one who could calm Aisha.

“Sorry beti, please don’t cry. Old Thapa, getting senile and talking all nonsense, but did you say Aisha beti had gone to comma?”

They all went to Aisha’s room where she was resting. Thapa did a double-take, having trouble believing that cadaverous lady on the bed was Aisha. He asked Anu how all this happened. Anu told him all that happened after they came to Delhi, and how Aisha has been blaming herself for Anand’s death.

“Anand sahib is a very good human. I’ve known him since I was a little boy. My father was one of the waiters at the inn. But his granny was always nice to me, she even goaded me to take education. But I could never make sense of any of those numbers, not like Anand sahib with whom I studied few classes. He was a bright student and went on to take a very respectable job in Indian Airforce, took family Inn business to a new height, with the help of Aisha beti of course. He raised a worthy son who now is in foreign and also raised you like a princess you’re,” said he stroking the hair of Anu, “Although I’m sad he died. I’m sure he had no regrets. He had seen it all and experienced it all, riches, love, son, granddaughter, and a very fulfilling life indeed. There is no point in Aisha beti blaming herself. We all die. We are old. All that matters is what we leave behind. And Anand sahib has left behind a good name for the family and gem-like for descendants.”

“Yes, grandpa had a smile on his face when he died. But whatever we do amma won’t listen.”

Ganga came to them and said, “I might be wrong, but I have an idea.”


“Amma wake up, look who has come,” said Anu tapping Aisha lightly on her shoulder.

Aisha woke up and rubbed her eyes, “Thapa!” she sighed, eyes full of cheerfulness, after so long.

“Don’t get up, Aisha beti. I’ve brought sweets from our inn, and beti our inn has become even more popular these days.” Aisha took those and immediately started eating them, relishing in each, and her home, and her inn.

He sat on the chair beside the bed, “Aisha beti, sorry for your loss. Anand sahib is more than a friend to me. He was like a brother. I’m really sorry, but all of you should have been more careful, particularly with Anand sahib’s weak heart.”

Aisha stopped eating and looked at him intensely, “What do you mean weak heart?”

“He had a wonderful and sensitive heart, but you all should have been more careful after his first heart attack. I pleaded with him not to go Delhi, but he wouldn’t listen to me.”

“He had a heart attack?”

“I’m sorry he made me promise never to tell you all this. But just before he retired from his duties, he had a stroke while he was in Raj — Rajasthan, on an army job. He said doctors advised him to stay at home.”

With shock written all over her face, Anu asked loudly, “Grandpa had a heart stro—”
Aisha didn’t let Anu complete her statement, though still weak, suddenly with a newfound energy she grabbed Thapa’s collar, swaying wildly with sudden emotion and with a shaking voice, “Why didn’t you tell me about this? How could you hide it from me?”

“I’m sorry beti, but Anand sahib asked me not to tell you this. Even now, I didn’t want to tell, but I slipped it.”

“How could you hide it, Thapa? How could you do this to me?” she wept, shaking him holding his shirt collar. And she suddenly let him free and shouted, “Get out!”

Thapa flinched at Aisha’s accusation, “Forgive me, beti, I’ve always done what Anand and his family asked me to. I always wish the best for your family. Take care.” Saying which he left, rubbing his own eyes.

After sometime Aisha, Arun and Ganga came out, to the reception area where Thapa was sitting lifelessly.

“Thank you, Thapa uncle. That was a big help. Sorry, I made you lie, and made Aisha hate you. I'm extremely sorry — ”

“That’s ok, Anu beti. I understand why you did it, it was necessary. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her, she was just bones. She will forgive me later. I do what is best for the family that has been feeding us for generations.”

She gave him a big wad of money, “Take this and stay in Delhi for a while before returning to Keylong and call me if you have any need. I’ll take amma home today.”

He refused the money, “I’ve some money. Call me when Aisha is no longer angry with me.”


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Aisha #9


After her schooling Anu decided she will go back to India and didn’t entertain any other choice. So she came back to India and requested her grandparents in Keylong if they could come along and stay with her in Delhi where she would be going to college, along with Arun, who would be senior to Anu by one year in academics, as her one year schooling in India was not taken into account in USA. It was an easy decision to make for Anand and Aisha, for they were just reaping the fruits of retired life and their presence was not required for the inn to continue, besides this wouldn’t be the first time they stayed away from home, they spent five years in Hyderabad. They happily consented.

“Aisha, come here for a moment,” called Anand, and added to Anu, “Anu go and tell Thapa that he’d have to take care of the inn all by himself again.”

And just as Aisha entered the room Anand caught the hem of Aisha’s saree and drew her into him and hugged her from behind, while Aisha said, struggling to control her titters, “Leave me, no shame at all, still thinking we are teenagers. Leave me, Anu will come and it’d be awkward.”

“Old age is new teenage my dear wifey! It’ll take Anu decades to convey Thapa the news. Her Hindi sucks as much as Thapa’s English.” He kissed her cheek and asked, “You remember this room and this position?” asked Anand, with a slick grin.

“Yeah, I remember, just like on the day of your tea-message. Leave me, Anu will come back.”

“So we’ll have our third honeymoon in Delhi. I’m so excited.”

“When did we have the second one?”

“Yeah, the second one sucked. I count our time in Hyd as our second one. It was full of responsibilities, raising Anu and all.”

“You talk as if you raised her. Anu was always with me. Don’t lie, I raised her, you just helped a little.”

Anand turned Aisha towards her and said, “Does it matter since it’s not honeymoon even if one of us in engaged in a different work. What I meant was we didn’t have time for ourselves, but yeah, now that you mention it I should have gone in search of another girl, as you say I wasn’t very busy then,” he winked.

Aisha beat him softly on his chest and said, “Why not give a try now, I’m sure so many girls will be interested in you to think of you as their granddad.”

“Yeah, right! I’ll have to settle for a granny. Don’t worry granny we’ll enjoy this time. Anu will go to college every day and we would be free. And we’ll roam all around Delhi,” and he added looking intensely into her eyes, “After all, that’s where we met.” And he released her after a long, fulfilling hug, in that tranquil moment punctuated only by the rhythmic whirring sound of the ceiling fan. He asked her, “Aisha, can you please make me a tea. Not the inn tea, but the one you make.”

And Aisha went to make the tea, emotion welled up inside her, like a hydrogen balloon, and tears came out of her eyes as she tried to contain that cheery floating feeling in her chest. Her giggles were too raw to have sound. There in the tea-box was a note, I love you.


The three of them, Anand, Aisha and Anu, came to Delhi, and Anu went out to hail a taxi and in the Railway station, Aisha, continuing her old habit, went onto the weighing machine, and after taking that weight card from the weighing machine, of which the number showing weight was diligently cut off by Anand, she read the quote;
You might want to run, but you should stay and fight.

 She didn’t like it. It was like an ultimatum. She asked him to try his weight. In all these years, Anand has tried those weighing machines only a couple of times.

“Well, I look fine, I don’t need to know my weight, I’m a hero, my dear,” replied Anand.

“Not for the weight, we’ll see what quote you'll get. All these years I’ve taken thousands of those weight cards and you’ve barely tried it.”

“That’s not true, I used to, when I was a kid.”

“You know what they say? Old people are same as kids, so maybe it’s time you tried again.”

“Talk for yourself, granny, you’re the only old lady here, I’m as young as ever. I’m wolverine. I don’t age.”

“Yes, right, with that snow white hair of yours, huh?”

“Maybe I’m silver blonde?”

“No, you’re not.”

“How can you say that?”

“What about those wrinkles on your face?”

“Loose skin?”

Hmmm, I can’t argue with you, just take that damn card.”

He finally obliged and stood up on the plinth of the weighing machine, and she popped a coin into the slot and out came the weight card.

“See I’m 70kg, very healthy.”

“Read the quote.”

“Time and tide waits for none.” He read it aloud, and he went on, “That’s true. Time the seductress.
This thing all things devours;
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats mountain down,” said he quoting from the book he was reading, The Hobbit, presented to him by Anu.

“It’s my mistake to ask you to take that card. Only you can attribute such negativity to such a terse quote.”

“There is nothing negative in it, my dear lady. Time heals the wound which it gives. Time is a double-edged sword. Time neither betrays nor bestows, it just follows the nature and set’s appointment with death, to everything.”


With the help of Arun, they moved to a house near her college. He stayed in the college hostel. At night before sleeping, Anand kissed Aisha, “You’re the best thing that happened to my life. Agreed you nag a bit, but everything else has always been picture-perfect. Thanks for everything.”

She hugged her back and said, “Hmmm, you’re going maudlin old man. But yes, it has been picture-perfect, and you helped me fill a big emotional void, which I honestly never thought I’d be able to overcome, thanks to you too,” and she suddenly scrunched her nose. “What’s that smell? Did you take Hajmola Candy?” she hated the smell of Hajmola Candy.

“I’m sorry. I just drank Jal-jeera,” he said moving back.

“You sleep on the couch today, how many times I should tell you not to drink those at night. I don’t how you drink it; it smells horrible and later makes you pass gas in sleep. No, no, go to the couch.”

Little did she know she missed her opportunity to snuggle in his warmth one last time. In the morning, when Aisha brought coffee to him, he was still on the couch, sporting a happy smiley like expression. She tried to wake him up and he fell down from the couch promptly.

“Anand,” she screamed and froze onto the spot standing there as a statue.

Anu came in, fully dressed for college, seeing her grandpa on the floor, she tried pulling him onto the couch, which is when she realized he was no more.

Aisha did something weird. She let out a cruel hollow laugh, just like she did when she came to know of her father’s death. She clawed her cheeks, screaming all the time, and then she spun as if her head suddenly became heavy and finally collapsed onto the floor. Anu called Arun and together, both of them took Aisha and Anand’s body to the hospital. 

And she has been in the hospital ever since. She blamed herself for Anand’s death. She made him get the weight card. Why did Anand have to interpret in that way? And she was somehow convinced that the card was the cause of Anand's death. She shouted at every nurse and doctor, not to come near her, saying she was a murderess. Only Anu could go near her confidently and administer her medicines. And most of the times Aisha was kept on anesthesia.

The trauma of Anand’s death was too much for her to handle. She ripped many hanks of her hair, and hurt herself, sometimes calling Anand’s name wildly, groping around in the air around that collection book, which she demanded to be brought to the hospital the very next moment she came out of the comma. She sometimes threw away the book and she hated it so much now that she always wanted that book to be in her presence to look at it and glare it, and to beat it repeatedly.

Continued in part 10

Friday, May 15, 2015

Aisha #8

Anu was crying a lot. Her shirt was all soaked with tears. Her vocabulary was still very small and included a lot of gibberish, but she understood others words perfectly. And her uncle, Ramu, Rashi’s brother, whose family resides just a few houses down theirs, tried to tease her a little and now regretted that seeing the little princess crying unstoppably, trying all tactics to console her.

All he said was, “Hey Anu, how about we exchange Arun’s grandmother with Aisha.” Arun his son was just a week elder to Anu. Anu lodged herself firmly in Aisha’s lap, lest they start the exchange process. All the elders laughed for a while at the joke, but then as Anu’s cries didn’t stop and they all took to the task of consoling her. “Your uncle was only joking, my dear gulab-jamun. I’ll take you with me wherever I go. Don’t worry” As all the elders lay huddled around Anu, Arun felt he was not getting enough attention and he started to cry. Anu walked up to Arun who was in his mother’s lap and wiped his tears with her hand consoling him in her gibberish. But Arun seemed to understand as he stopped crying.

Living with her grandparents, since her birth, listening to the travelogues of Aisha and tales of Anand about his time in Airforce — though a tad bit exaggerated —  made her bond with them more than her own parents. Curiously, she called Aisha Amma - mother - but called Anand granddad, maybe that was because his hair was almost white, while Aisha’s still had so much black retained in it.

As always grandparents are a tad more lenient, and Anu was pampered by both sets of relatives, both sets of grandparents and her uncle and aunt.  Anu loved Anand and Aisha dearly, but her bond with Aisha was very special, Aisha was Anu’s hero and fan and she was her biggest support. Every word Anu uttered carried a lot of weight in the house. If Anand didn’t agree at first, Aisha would convince him to look at it from the point of view of Anu. Anu was always cocooned by Aisha, and being wrapped onto Aisha all the times. Everyone who saw them would mistake them for mother and daughter for they looked alike and Aisha looked much younger than her age.

The house was always filled by the gaggle of excited toddlers. Anu always wanted Aisha within her sight, so Arun had to spend most of his time in Aisha’s place, to be able to play with Anu. Since they were almost neighbors, Even Arun’s mother used to spend most of her time in Aisha’s house. Even Ramu would come there after his office and from there he would have to almost drag Arun to their house around dinner time. The few necessary admonishments were often made by her uncle, who used to scold Anu and Arun together for any mistake, whoever might be the culprit, and more often than not Arun shared the blame which he didn’t deserve, for Anu was the mischief-maker.

And one way to discipline Anu, whenever she behaved badly, as Ramu learned, was to threaten her that he would send away Aisha to USA along with Aamir. And if he is really angry at times when Anu was most disobedient, he would pretend to make a call to the USA, to Aamir, and Anu would instantly surrender, saying sorry clutching her ears. Although she would be crying for hours together after that and would make Arun and Aisha stay awake late into night reassuring her that Aisha wouldn’t be sent if she behaved well.


When Anu was about four years Aamir and Rashi came to pay the yearly visit to Anu and they happened to come on the day of Raksha Bandhan and Rashi tied a Rakhi to her brother Ramu, and also brought him, from USA, Moto Razr, a highly coveted flip phone on the market. And he in return gifted a costliest Kanchipuram silk saree.

Witnessing all this, Aisha said to Anu, who as usually was sitting in her lap, “Your father used to cry a lot on this day, sitting with a sad face that he has no one to tie a Rakhi to his wrist. It used to take a lot of treats to get him back to normal mood.”

“My father doesn’t cry, only girls cry,” declared Anu.

Aisha brought few photographs to prove the point, and as she finished showing her those photos, “Hey Anu, where are you going?” shouted Aisha, as Anu got up from her lap and an outside. “Everything is so urgent for this girl, always rushing.”

After sometime Anu came back and approached Aamir, and said “Show your hand daddy.”

“What is it, my little princess?”

“Please show it.”

“Ok, here it is, my darling,” and as he pulled his sleeve back Anu tied a Rakhi to his wrist and said, “You don’t have to cry daddy, you can think of me as your sister.”

All of them stopped with their things and just stared at Anu dumbfounded, at her words and her actions.

“Now Daddy, can you please give me five rupees?” pleaded Anu.

Wiping his eyes with the back of his hand, and taking Anu into his arms, he  kissed her cheek and gave her a thousand rupees.

“But, but the shop-uncle said the Raakhi was only five rupees,” she said looking at Aamir confused.

Everyone unfroze from their surprise and took to laughing. Aisha came to them, pinched the little one’s cheeks and, “here take these five rupees and give it to shop uncle, and keep that money which your father gave, for yourselves,” and added, wiping her own eyes with her saree, “You truly are Anu.” Anand and Aamir nodded their heads in agreement, misty eyed.

“Can I share it with Arun?” asked Anu innocently.

“Yes you can,” replied Aamir.

“Already thinking about Arun a lot? He has begun charming you already young lady,” said Rashi.

“Yes, yes they will make a good couple, they are always bickering and Arun always eating Anu’s chocolates,” reported Aisha and they all took to laughing once again, while Anu looked again perplexed unable to understand why they were all laughing, but on seeing everyone else laughing she too started giggling.


It has proved more difficult than expected to take Anu to the USA with them. She was very reluctant to leave her grandparents behind. Finally they had to lie, that it was a short trip and they would be back soon to make her come without tantrums and cries.

And after finally accepting that she had to stay with her parents, she used to make so many calls to Aisha and Anand, who went back to their own home in Keylong, much to the ire of Rashi as it was not cheap, those long calls to India. Anu called Rashi ‘mom’ in English, she reserved the sweet sounding ‘Amma’, mother in her native tongue, for Aisha. Rashi tried many times to make Anu call Aisha as granny, for the way she called Aisha was visibly sweeter than the way she addressed her, but having realized nothing could make Anu change the way she addressed Aisha, she resigned her attempts.

Anu would tell Aisha in her long calls about the big buildings in the USA, which arrested her attention from the get go. She would say to Aisha, New York is just like the way Keylong is in winter, snowcapped. She talked about every event her in her life, however, insignificant it might seem. She would tell about her friends, her classes, her assignments, and also about boys whom she thought to be good looking. She talked hours about her new bicycle, how her friend, a good looking guy, had taught her to ride it. She didn’t want to learn it at first as she felt she was too big now, having finished her high school, to learn riding a bicycle, but once she learnt it, her bicycle became her best friend.

“So what about Arun?” asked Aisha, suddenly.

“What about Arun??” asked Anu, puzzled.

“Well, you definitely seem to have found a new boyfriend, your bicycle teacher.”

“Amma! Of course not, he’s just a teammate in a project. Besides, I’ve not forgotten Arun. I wish he was here,” blushed Anu, “Also my bicycle teacher guy is a gay, so Arun need not worry. Hey, Amma, when Arun calls you next time, tell him all about my new bicycle except the fact that the one who taught me was a gay. Let's tease him a bit.”

“So naughty. Do call that poor guy, he always asks about you.”

“I know. I like Arun a lot too. But, amma, you don’t understand. It’s good that I’m not calling him now, this yearning to talk makes love sweeter and more intense,” and added, “Why don’t you come here for a while, it’ll make grandpa’s love on you double up,” she winked although it was just a voice call.

“Rascal! Being mischievous huh? You’ve become a big girl talking all big things and giving advice to me. Your grandpa can’t tell apart salt from surf even after tasting. I can’t leave him. Besides, he loves me enough already, and all I need is better winter clothes more than love, in this old age,” saying which Aisha winked too, although she had not known Anu winked at her earlier.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Aisha #7

Each wail came out like a wild siren and every time Anand’s heart jumped into his throat with raw fear, and almost banged the door of the room. Another set of cries, but this time they were followed by a high-pitched, loud cackle, unquestionably of a newborn, which sounded like music to him; the sound which washed all his fears with tears. Doctor came out and Anand didn’t wait for her to talk, as he has already heard the cry of a little one.

There were two cribs beside Aisha. Twins! He was almost dancing with elation, as his face swelled with absolute bliss after a worrisome wait. Twins it is! He kissed Aisha, who was looking at him and beamed weakly. “Very tired she must be, too weak,” he reflected and took a photo of his kids and shoved the camera back into his belt bag. Only then he realized something was odd. Only one of them was crying. The doctor who was standing at his back gathered all her courage and finally said, exhaling a deep sigh, “Look at the positive side Mr. Anand, your son is very healthy. But I’m sorry for your daughter. This happens sometimes when the twins are of the different gender. They don’t get an equal share of their mother’s resources.”

He looked at the cribs. They looked identical, but the stillborn girl was clearly very weaker than his son.

Somehow Aisha was not as distraught as she would have been as if she was expecting it. She tried looking at the fuller side of the glass. She prepared herself for a tragedy.

The weeks which followed were punctuated with alternate melancholy and cheery giggles. The death of their baby girl, who they would have called Anu, had she survived, has disturbed Anand a lot more than it did Aisha. Anand was angry, but unsure, on whom he was angry with, but he couldn’t display it. He put up a happier face for the sake of his son and Aisha.  They didn’t have the heart to sell away the stuff they have bought expecting a girl, nor did they have the strength to deal with the ordeal of having to look at those everyday, and so one day, they locked those things away in a suitcase, things that would have been Anu’s Clothes and jewelry, and rested it on attic permanently.

Going through the death of their baby girl has been traumatic to both and Anand had a family planning operation as agreed upon as they decided they don’t want any more kids. And the trial of the tragedy tamed Aisha greatly. Aisha, who was always on her toes, always in a rush, one who always acted like she had just an energy drink, vanished, and she became the silent version of herself.
Aamir was an endearing boy and was an easy boy. But he did prove impossible in some instances, like when he would keep asking about his grandparents, because all his friends talked a lot about their grandparents and he didn’t understand when Aisha told him he hasn’t got any.

He also noticed he lacked cousins while each of his friends has got a ton of cousins. He was particularly inconsolable on the day of Raksha Bandhan, all of his male friends sported colorful Rakhis on their right hand tied by their sister or a cousin, and he would look at his wrist which was devoid of any bands.

But as he grew up, he understood better about his stillborn sister and lack of grandparents and cousins. He grasped that in one way he was the cause of death of his twin. Although unintentional, he usurped more resources, resources meant for two, the result of which made him come out extra healthy while his sister’s life force faded away. This kind of thinking affected him much. He became more introvert as he grew up, and talked very less, spent more time on his academics and computers. He never saw any girls, wouldn’t notice anyone. It took a studious girl, someone who loved math as much as he did to finally make him notice the other gender, Rashi, his lab mate.

After his engineering, Aamir married Rashi. They both were computer scientists and immediately after their marriage left to US where they had good jobs ready.


Rashi was having her labor pains and everyone, Aamir, Anand and Aisha were waiting in the hospital. It’s frightening to Anand, as the only other time he had to hear those pains, pains of Aisha, there was a tragedy.

The howls of labors ebbed and there was loud cackle, a healthy baby. And in, they rushed and saw there was only a single rib. Not twins, Anand offered a prayer feeling thankful. Aamir sat beside Rashi, holding her hand, conveying lots of emotions through touch and eyes, emotions which can’t be put into words. Anand went to the crib to take the baby  but did a double take backed away, muttering, “It can’t be.”

Aamir and Aisha rushed and all of them did a double take. Tears ensued from Aisha for a different reason. Anand placed his hand on her shoulder, his own eyes misty. Aamir understood the reason. He remembered that photo, of him and his twin sister, taken at the time of their birth. And there couldn’t have been a greater similarity, as the baby in the4 crib looked exactly like the stillborn sister of Aamir. As Aisha took the baby in her hands and her cries subsided, and she pushed forth her hand to Aisha’s cheek, teeny tiny fingers touching her cheek, looking at Aisha, taking in the visage with her big baby eyes, as if she thought Aisha was her mother.

She was named Anu, a choice that was agreed upon unanimously, and the suitcase in the attic, which was exiled forever, saw the light of the day again. Anand and Aisha were over the moon adorning their granddaughter with all those jewelry. It was not just the old jewelry that has made a comeback, but so did the old self of Aisha, her youthful self. Aisha before the tragedy struck her; when she was just a newlywed girl, who loved traveling and one who was never quiet. It was the happiest house in the world.

Just two weeks after her birth she had a high fever, and the doctor said many complex sounding names which didn’t make any sense to the old couple, they didn’t have so many medical terms in their days. Doctor said Anu is not so well suited to cope up with cold climate, at least until she would be of age five, by when she should have developed enough of something that was lacking in her now.

She can’t be taken to the USA, nor can she be left at their grandparents, because Anand and Aisha lived in Keylong, Himachel Pradesh, which is in the Himalayas and is snow covered most of the time. So Anand and Aisha decided they would travel south, to Hyderabad, where Rashi’s brother lived. They took a residence there, until such time as Aamir can take Anu back to US. Although they didn’t say it aloud, both Aisha and Anand were guilty of being happy at their granddaughter’s sickness, for it meant she would be with them.


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