The UGLY BLUES

“What is UGLY, NANI?”

It was a beautiful August day. I was watching the “aurora borealis”, the northern lights I had listed as one of the first five in my famous “BLUE bucket list” as I wondered when I would be back home, in India. I missed my country.

“I don’t like it here, though I chose this country as my own after my son chose my daughter-in -law from this beautiful place. It is as beautiful as I had imagined, maybe a little more…………… but it still did not feel like HOME!”

The self deprecating thoughts crossed my mind. And maybe I looked really sad.

“Nani, I’m back”, with that my 5 year old granddaughter Storm, climbs up and sits on my lap.

She looks up at me and says, “ Why are you sad ?”,

I answer “ what makes you think I’m sad?”,

Storm says, “you look sad”,

I stick out my tongue and wiggle my eyebrows at her and say, “ Do I look sad now?”, and then I tickle her really ticklish spots.

Through her erupting giggles, she manages to say, “No!” “So tell me, what did you learn at school today?” I neatly side track her perturbing question.

“Huh, my teacher taught us new words: pretty, beautiful, ugly, plain and, for the next class, she asked me to find out what “ugly” meant, what does it mean nani?”

And just like that, that simple question from the mouth of a 5 year old took me wandering down memory lane to my dreams as a new bride, my nightmares as an UGLY wife and the first taste of freedom at the age of 45 years as a soon-to-be-divorcee. I shook away the tears that threatened to spill over as I looked out in the distance.

I don’t know where to begin, as a lifetime of memories crowd my mind and then even before I realised it, I was back home………

It was a cold morning on November 7th, 1997 in Ahmedabad, India. I was tired of meeting prospective grooms and either finding them lacking or falling short of their expectations. I sneaked a look from behind the curtains, I am not sure if it was him I saw or someone else, but he looked pretty darn handsome to me. And the biodata said he shared his birthday with me….2nd October 1968, three years older to me.

Shaili and Priya, my cousins storm into the room, giggling and whispering, “Di, He is very handsome and so soft spoken. I think this time he is the right guy.” I roll my eyes at that thinking of all the experiences I have had, till so far, meeting some 100 odd prospective bride grooms. Mom shouts, “Priya!, Take Sahil bhai to your cousin, and stay with her.” Shaili, my younger cousin, jumps up at the opportunity and giggling, pushes me inside her room. Still giggling she says, “Dad was saying that he is an Anaesthetist, a MD ”. She sighs “You are so lucky, handsome and rich, what we all dream about,” I retort “Well, what can I say, it’s all karma darling”. ( Later I could not forget this playfully made remark to my cousin and wished I had never said it.)

I catch the pillow Shaili throws at me and laughing, drop down on the recliner as she continues to tease me, but I don’t mind. As I throw the pillow back at her, it lands squarely on Sahil’s face as he enters the room with Priya. For a first meeting, that itself was memorable.

He promised there would be no dowry demands, (that was the main fear I and other girls my age faced in the 1990s when dowry deamnds and dowry deaths were so rampant.)he promised to always love me, and he promised…… almost everything that I asked him for. It sounded, suspiciously, too good to be true. But I was naive and my eyes were filled with dreams.

My world as a child had been sweet, innocent, and complete. Being the first grandchild, I got everything I demanded from my parents and relatives as I was the apple of their eye. I was good at singing, dancing, debates and inter school competitions. I was allowed to have an opinion about everything in life, as home and school was a flourishing environment. Friends and family used to seek me out for advice, fun, decision making, outings. In college, I was confident, fair and a reasonably beautiful girl. I could talk smartly and intelligently. I guess, my parents brought me up well, ( this was unfortunately the era in which women were taught to be empowered but men were not taught to live with such empowered women) I however, missed absorbing one big important moral in today’s world… and that was to be street smart.

Before I could get a chance to be street smart, I was married to Shobhan, the man I met through a match maker. We shared a birthday; I so wanted our wedding to also be on 2nd October. But his family were in a real hurry. They didn’t want another broken engagement for Shobhan in all probability, and I should have smelt a rat then itself, but I was in love with the idea of love and through that rosy haze, I saw no warning of the forthcoming nightmare in my life.

The wedding was scheduled for 16th of May 1998.

I decided I would be happier in a joint family but, there being the younger daughter-in-law, I had to only serve, listen and obey. I felt trapped and my freedom caged in the dark dungeon of tradition and hypocrisy. Suddenly, a very sharp, liberated and educated mind was put to use just in the kitchen doing basic cooking. I had many questions without any answers. Tradition wipes away your identity and commands you to live the life of prisoner? How is it that tradition is so partial to men and they are never frowned upon for coming home late or drinking or not providing for their wife? ………………………………..I ceased to think.

Soon, there were indirect dowry demands while I was left to fend for my own existence. If I earned money, there was food on the table. His responsibility was only to pay the electricity bills.

And then just like parched earth gets drenched in fresh rain, I realized I was expecting a baby and the overwhelming fragrance of petrichor filled my being. I remember when Dheer was born, I felt alive again as if, life had a new meaning for me. “I am a mother!” I felt. His little hands, his sweet, innocent face, his soft body made me feel very proud to have him in my life. Not to mention, I was young, and capable of earning a lot. I decided to act on this inspiration and give him a life and home he deserved. I started working like a dog, when he was just 6 months old to ensure his bright future.

“I am his mother, I brought him into this world…I am responsible for him”, I thought to myself. I ensured that the dark shadows of parental fights would never be seen by my young angel. I guess this thinking does not extend to all fathers who are equally responsible for a child that comes into the world by the union of two and not just out of the womb of one!

But, sometimes, the very thing you never wish for in life…happens. After years of endurance, my silence was tested and the lava from my mountain of patience, erupted to destroy our home and everything on the way. There was so much of pain, hurt, anger and deprivation in that lava that it left nothing on its way.

By now, everyone in the entire district had heard of my news. People were showering me with their advice, albeit unsolicited one’s, about how to make sure that my marriage ended well for my two children. ( In a desperate attempt to save my 17 year old marriage or perhaps the 17 golden years of my life that I had invested in this maarriage, I had allowed the birth of a second child, a girl child after my son turned 10)

The word “ugly had flashed in my mind a day before the wedding, when I looked into the mirror. I generally avoided looking into it, as much as possible because well, that’s another place where self loathing and singular disregard for one’s uniqueness, clouds one’s thoughts and appreciation for everything else takes a back seat, but still, I looked, just to wonder, as to how I got to be so lucky. I had seen a 19 years old me, kind of pretty but not Rekha pretty. His gorgeous face on the other hand, came to my mind and looking at my reflection, I think that maybe, I was just born lucky. Bollywood painted romance it was, but not the kind you wished came real for you. I was married and brought into my in-laws house. The first night spent there made me realise that I was in for a very rude awakening.

The whole family focussed only on money, were hungry for it and were disappointed that my family did not give them enough. After that, everytime we fought, every single hour of every single day, it was purely for money that I was not putting on the tan\ble that was our unfortunate marriage. They were blind to what I was getting. I survived the marriage, I survived life, and I think it’s only because of my child, Dheer, who came into my life like a saviour. Sahil too changed a little, after that, but only for our son! (male child??) I was not sure that a monster like him was capable of actually loving another human being, but the atmosphere at home and its perception changed and was more bearable. He still didn’t understand me; we still fought, like animals, every single day.

I used to look in the mirror and see a different type of UGLY, then and it was not just the scars and bruises, which I hid from Dheer and the world, but also the UGLY soul I had decided to conjoin with and the resultant UGLY soul I had become.

I think Dheer already knew that I was an unhappy soul, because some times as a kid, he would often take my hand and say,

“Ma, I will take you away, just wait for some time”, and I would joke, “where will my raja beta take me?”, and his reply would bring tears to my eyes, he would say, “I’ll take you home, Ma,…… my home.”

I could not stand his face any more because it reminded me of the futility of all the things that I had been glad for and dreaming of at the tender age of 19. I sometimes wished that I had said no to that marriage, but how was I supposed to know that behind those perfectly god like symmetrical features was a soul so UGLY that you wished you never came near to it. I was asked to wait patiently, that one of these days, he will understand me, that he would change, and to this day, I am still waiting.

On 16th May 2018, 3 years after the separation and bitter court fight, still months, maybe years away from the final decree of divorce, I still remember the day as if it was only yesterday. I was browsing through Facebook and stalking random strangers and realized that Shobhan had been engaged to a 25 year old for a week, now and I had had no clue!

” Not yet divorced and already engaged to a 25 year old????? He is almost 50, what is he thinking for god’s sakes!? I remember crying through the entire night and the weekend that followed – feeling absolutely lost, angry, betrayed, yet not sure what to do…….

“Have to learn to be tough”, I said to myself. That afternoon I was randomly scrolling through Pinterest and came across a pin that said, “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to change your life, run a marathon”. I was so desperate for things in life to change that without thinking clearly, I enrolled myself to run a full marathon of 21 kms. Even as it hit me, to make things worse, I began publicizing it to everyone I knew. Everyone laughed at my crazy idea and some warned, “It’s not as easy as you think!”

After looking at a zillion training plans online, I finally picked one that suited me and decided to train at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. The first few weeks were light and it felt great with the walk /run method. My first long run was a full 1km and I hated it, hated the entire 1km.

One month later, I pondered, “It’s been a month of running now and I’m still not able to run the whole round of 2.2km, how hard could it be?”

And then I began the tiresome round of the race course. By 1.6km I thought, “That’s it, I can’t go any further”. Since it is an open ground you can see the billboards and street lights at the other end. So I picked a street light and told myself, “All I have to do is run till that lamp.” With my eyes locked on that lamp I continued one foot in front of another. My lungs burned and my legs felt like lead. My eyes were blurry and I could hear my heart beat in my ears, but all I knew was that I had to reach that lamp. Suddenly, nothing mattered, all the noise that went on in my mind had stopped. The pain in different parts of my body was forgotten. The feeling of grass brush against my ankles didn’t annoy. The scent of the sea breeze coupled with horseshit didn’t bother me. Everything went quiet. It felt like time had frozen and all that mattered was getting to that street lamp. And I finally did get there! It felt great as I began jumping around, inviting awkward stares.

But that peace, that quiet, that stillness had got to me. I wanted it again. I remember a history chapter back in school on Baji Prabhu’s fight against the Moghuls as he blocked the mountain pass so that Shivaji could reach the fort (Panhala, was it?) safely. As he fought hundreds of them singlehandedly, I bet all he had in his mind was the same focus I had in mine. “Don’t let the Moghuls pass.” As weeks passed, my runs got longer (and my shorts got shorter). I began running 10, 15, 19 and finally 21kms, every week a new distance. I cried as I ran up the hills and fell flat on my face as I ran down. I got up and ran again. I sprinted, jogged and walked. My calves got stronger and I got leaner. My eyes got blurry, my lungs burned, now even my teeth hurt. But I ran and every time I ran the world ceased to exist.

Come 17th Jan and there I was at the start line, I ran (actually crawled). Fellow runners motivated each other to move ahead. Everytime I stopped to walk or get some water someone always came by saying “Come on don’t stop”, I had a sudden feeling of belonging; a part of a big family. Yes I finished my race and it felt great.

Honestly, I don’t really remember much of the feeling I had when I finished the race than what I had when I ran it. I continued running. I ran another race, then another and then I gate crashed a race. The focus, discipline, peace and calmness running has brought to me is how it changed my life. The serenity that came with running made me feel like Buddha in a state of Zen. As I ran the only sounds I heard were my foot striking the ground and my heart beat every time I drew in a breath. I had created my own little rhythm. I ran faster and then I ran slower and then faster again, dancing to the sound of my own music!

I saw him in the crowd at the Thane Hiranandani Half; him and his newly wedded wife (did she even know that without a divorce, her marriage to him was not legal and he was merely using her for his physical or monetary need???)cheering for someone. That could’ve have been me next to him, cheering; never knowing what it would feel like to be alive. Never knowing so much peace and quiet; never finding my rhythm. and he looked so UGLY! So I thank him for being the jerk he was, without which I would have never known what it is like to RUN!

“Nani!, what does it mean?”, I look down at Storm’s pretty face and looking at her I only hope that she never learns the true meaning of that word, that all she ever learns is that meaning in the dictionary; and not the one that life will in all probability teach her. I hope she gets spared, just this once. “Nani?” I look outside the window and answer,” I don’t know, my child, all I know, is that it’s all within.”

I wonder why men have an option to be responsible? Why they are taught and they learn that a woman is just supposed to cook and serve them meals while she is capable of running a house and a country, if need be? Why they do not realise the damage they do to so many people and their lives, with this wrong attitude? Today, if approached by men who show light of love there is chaos in my thoughts as I keep on thinking of what to do in my given situation, to stay… calm and composed?

Every action and decision is crucial and life changing. I have few thoughts for this situation, which sum up my emotions. I am like a mirage, a traveler wandering in the sands of time, trying to leave my past behind. The sun blazes at times & is not so very kind but i hunt for my oasis as my skin weathers in the hot sun and my features look UGLY??? I search everywhere, but, I cannot seem to find my oasis though I feel there is water a little ahead of vision. I keep wondering if this oasis will be filled with pure water that I desire, a fountain of youth to dispel my UGLY and the ugliness in my soul. So, I gathered this traveler within me, and made my blue bucket list and set out on this lonely dessert . Amidst all chaos I find my peace and BEAUTY with my travels so far away from home but the UGLY is not at home, it just resides in my soul….and I just have to let go.….if i do UGLY is not at home….. ITS TIME TO GO BACK HOME!

Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

THE UGLY BLUES

“What is UGLY, NANI?”

  

It was a beautiful August day. I was watching the “aurora borealis”, the northern lights I had listed as one of the first five in my famous “BLUE bucket list” as I wondered when I would be back home, in India. I missed my country.

image

“I don’t like it here, though I chose this country as my own after my son chose my daughter-in -law from this beautiful place. It is as beautiful as I had imagined, maybe a little more…………… but it still did not feel like HOME!”

The self deprecating thoughts crossed my mind. And maybe I looked really sad.

          “Nani, I’m back”, with that my 5 year old granddaughter Storm, climbs up and sits on my lap.

She looks up at me and says, “ Why are you sad ?”,
I answer “ what makes you think I’m sad?”,

Storm says, “you look sad”,

I stick out my tongue and wiggle my eyebrows at her and say, “ Do I look sad now?”, and then I tickle her really ticklish spots.

          Through her erupting giggles, she manages to say, “No!” “So tell me, what did you learn at school today?” I neatly side track her perturbing question.

image

“Huh, my teacher taught us new words: pretty, beautiful, ugly, plain and, for the next class, she asked me to find out what “ugly” meant, what does it mean nani?”

And just like that, that simple question from the mouth of a 5 year old took me wandering down memory lane to my dreams as a new bride, my nightmares as an UGLY wife and the first taste of freedom at the age of 45 years as a soon-to-be-divorcee. I shook away the tears that threatened to spill over as I looked out in the distance.

 

I don’t know where to begin, as a lifetime of memories crowd my mind and then even before I realised it, I was back home………

 

It was a cold morning on November 7th, 1997 in Ahmedabad, India. I was tired of meeting prospective grooms and either finding them lacking or falling short of their expectations. I sneaked a look from behind the curtains, I am not sure if it was him I saw or someone else, but he looked pretty darn handsome to me. And the biodata said he shared his birthday with me….2nd October 1968, three years older to me.

 

Shaili and Priya, my cousins storm into the room, giggling and whispering, “Di, He is very handsome and so soft spoken. I think this time he is the right guy.” I roll my eyes at that thinking of all the experiences I have had, till so far, meeting some 100 odd prospective bride grooms. Mom shouts, “Priya!, Take Sahil bhai to your cousin, and stay with her.” Shaili, my younger cousin, jumps up at the opportunity and giggling, pushes me inside her room. Still giggling she says, “Dad was saying that he is an Anaesthetist, a MD ”. She sighs “You are so lucky, handsome and rich, what we all dream about,” I retort “Well, what can I say, it’s all karma darling”. ( Later I could not forget this playfully made remark to my cousin and wished I had never said it.)

 

I catch the pillow Shaili throws at me and laughing, drop down on the recliner as she continues to tease me, but I don’t mind. As I throw the pillow back at her, it lands squarely on Sahil’s face as he enters the room with Priya. For a first meeting, that itself was memorable.

 

He promised there would be no dowry demands, (that was the main fear I and other girls my age faced in the 1990s when dowry deamnds and dowry deaths were so rampant.)he promised to always love me, and he promised…… almost everything that I asked him for. It sounded, suspiciously, too good to be true. But I was naive and my eyes were filled with dreams.

 

My world as a child had been sweet, innocent, and complete. Being the first grandchild, I got everything I demanded from my parents and relatives as I was the apple of their eye. I was good at singing, dancing, debates and inter school competitions. I was allowed to have an opinion about everything in life, as home and school was a flourishing environment. Friends and family used to seek me out for advice, fun, decision making, outings. In college, I was confident, fair and a reasonably beautiful girl. I could talk smartly and intelligently. I guess, my parents brought me up well, ( this was unfortunately the era in which women were taught to be empowered but men were not taught to live with such empowered women) I however, missed absorbing one big important moral in today’s world… and that was to be street smart.

 

Before I could get a chance to be street smart, I was married to Shobhan, the man I met through a match maker. We shared a birthday; I so wanted our wedding to also be on 2nd October. But his family were in a real hurry. They didn’t want another broken engagement for Shobhan in all probability, and I should have smelt a rat then itself, but I was in love with the idea of love and through that rosy haze, I saw no warning of the forthcoming nightmare in my life.

   

The wedding was scheduled for 16th of May 1998.

   

I decided I would be happier in a joint family but, there being the younger daughter-in-law, I had to only serve, listen and obey. I felt trapped and my freedom caged in the dark dungeon of tradition and hypocrisy. Suddenly, a very sharp, liberated and educated mind was put to use just in the kitchen doing basic cooking. I had many questions without any answers. Tradition wipes away your identity and commands you to live the life of prisoner? How is it that tradition is so partial to men and they are never frowned upon for coming home late or drinking or not providing for their wife? ………………………………..I ceased to think.

 

Soon, there were indirect dowry demands while I was left to fend for my own existence. If I earned money, there was food on the table. His responsibility was only to pay the electricity bills.

 

And then just like parched earth gets drenched in fresh rain, I realized I was expecting a baby and the overwhelming fragrance of petrichor filled my being. I remember when Dheer was born, I felt alive again as if, life had a new meaning for me. “I am a mother!” I felt. His little hands, his sweet, innocent face, his soft body made me feel very proud to have him in my life. Not to mention, I was young, and capable of earning a lot. I decided to act on this inspiration and give him a life and home he deserved. I started working like a dog, when he was just 6 months old to ensure his bright future.

image

“I am his mother, I brought him into this world…I am responsible for him”, I thought to myself. I ensured that the dark shadows of parental fights would never be seen by my young angel. I guess this thinking does not extend to all fathers who are equally responsible for a child that comes into the world by the union of two and not just out of the womb of one!

But, sometimes, the very thing you never wish for in life…happens. After years of endurance, my silence was tested and the lava from my mountain of patience, erupted to destroy our home and everything on the way. There was so much of pain, hurt, anger and deprivation in that lava that it left nothing on its way.

 

By now, everyone in the entire district had heard of my news. People were showering me with their advice, albeit unsolicited one’s, about how to make sure that my marriage ended well for my two children. ( In a desperate attempt to save my 17 year old marriage or perhaps the 17 golden years of my life that I had invested in this maarriage, I had allowed the birth of a second child, a girl child after my son turned 10)

 

The word “ugly had flashed in my mind a day before the wedding, when I looked into the mirror. I generally avoided looking into it, as much as possible because well, that’s another place where self loathing and singular disregard for one’s uniqueness, clouds one’s thoughts and appreciation for everything else takes a back seat, but still, I looked, just to wonder, as to how I got to be so lucky. I had seen a 19 years old me, kind of pretty but not Rekha pretty. His gorgeous face on the other hand, came to my mind and looking at my reflection, I think that maybe, I was just born lucky. Bollywood painted romance it was, but not the kind you wished came real for you. I was married and brought into my in-laws house. The first night spent there made me realise that I was in for a very rude awakening.

 

The whole family focussed only on money, were hungry for it and were disappointed that my family did not give them enough. After that, everytime we fought, every single hour of every single day, it was purely for money that I was not putting on the tanble that was our unfortunate marriage. They were blind to what I was getting. I survived the marriage, I survived life, and I think it’s only because of my child, Dheer, who came into my life like a saviour. Sahil too changed a little, after that, but only for our son! (male child??) I was not sure that a monster like him was capable of actually loving another human being, but the atmosphere at home and its perception changed and was more bearable. He still didn’t understand me; we still fought, like animals, every single day.

 

I used to look in the mirror and see a different type of UGLY, then and it was not just the scars and bruises, which I hid from Dheer and the world, but also the UGLY soul I had decided to conjoin with and the resultant UGLY soul I had become.

 

I think Dheer already knew that I was an unhappy soul, because some times as a kid, he would often take my hand and say,

image

“Ma, I will take you away, just wait for some time”, and I would joke, “where will my raja beta take me?”, and his reply would bring tears to my eyes, he would say, “I’ll take you home, Ma,…… my home.”

I could not stand his face any more because it reminded me of the futility of all the things that I had been glad for and dreaming of at the tender age of 19. I sometimes wished that I had said no to that marriage, but how was I supposed to know that behind those perfectly god like symmetrical features was a soul so UGLY that you wished you never came near to it. I was asked to wait patiently, that one of these days, he will understand me, that he would change, and to this day, I am still waiting.

 

On 16th May 2018, 3 years after the separation and bitter court fight, still months, maybe years away from the final decree of divorce, I still remember the day as if it was only yesterday. I was browsing through Facebook and stalking random strangers and realized that Shobhan had been engaged to a 25 year old for a week, now and I had had no clue!

image

” Not yet divorced and already engaged to a 25 year old????? He is almost 50, what is he thinking for god’s sakes!? I remember crying through the entire night and the weekend that followed – feeling absolutely lost, angry, betrayed, yet not sure what to do…….

“Have to learn to be tough”, I said to myself. That afternoon I was randomly scrolling through Pinterest and came across a pin that said, “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to change your life, run a marathon”. I was so desperate for things in life to change that without thinking clearly, I enrolled myself to run a full marathon of 21 kms. Even as it hit me, to make things worse, I began publicizing it to everyone I knew. Everyone laughed at my crazy idea and some warned, “It’s not as easy as you think!”

 

After looking at a zillion training plans online, I finally picked one that suited me and decided to train at the Mahalaxmi racecourse. The first few weeks were light and it felt great with the walk /run method. My first long run was a full 1km and I hated it, hated the entire 1km.

 

 

image

One month later, I pondered, “It’s been a month of running now and I’m still not able to run the whole round of 2.2km, how hard could it be?”

And then I began the tiresome round of the race course. By 1.6km I thought, “That’s it, I can’t go any further”. Since it is an open ground you can see the billboards and street lights at the other end. So I picked a street light and told myself, “All I have to do is run till that lamp.” With my eyes locked on that lamp I continued one foot in front of another. My lungs burned and my legs felt like lead. My eyes were blurry and I could hear my heart beat in my ears, but all I knew was that I had to reach that lamp. Suddenly, nothing mattered, all the noise that went on in my mind had stopped. The pain in different parts of my body was forgotten. The feeling of grass brush against my ankles didn’t annoy. The scent of the sea breeze coupled with horseshit didn’t bother me. Everything went quiet. It felt like time had frozen and all that mattered was getting to that street lamp. And I finally did get there! It felt great as I began jumping around, inviting awkward stares.

 

But that peace, that quiet, that stillness had got to me. I wanted it again. I remember a history chapter back in school on Baji Prabhu’s fight against the Moghuls as he blocked the mountain pass so that Shivaji could reach the fort (Panhala, was it?) safely. As he fought hundreds of them singlehandedly, I bet all he had in his mind was the same focus I had in mine. “Don’t let the Moghuls pass.” As weeks passed, my runs got longer (and my shorts got shorter). I began running 10, 15, 19 and finally 21kms, every week a new distance. I cried as I ran up the hills and fell flat on my face as I ran down. I got up and ran again. I sprinted, jogged and walked. My calves got stronger and I got leaner. My eyes got blurry, my lungs burned, now even my teeth hurt. But I ran and every time I ran the world ceased to exist.

 

Come 17th Jan and there I was at the start line, I ran (actually crawled). Fellow runners motivated each other to move ahead. Everytime I stopped to walk or get some water someone always came by saying “Come on don’t stop”, I had a sudden feeling of belonging; a part of a big family. Yes I finished my race and it felt great.

 

Honestly, I don’t really remember much of the feeling I had when I finished the race than what I had when I ran it. I continued running. I ran another race, then another and then I gate crashed a race. The focus, discipline, peace and calmness running has brought to me is how it changed my life. The serenity that came with running made me feel like Buddha in a state of Zen. As I ran the only sounds I heard were my foot striking the ground and my heart beat every time I drew in a breath. I had created my own little rhythm. I ran faster and then I ran slower and then faster again, dancing to the sound of my own music!

 

I saw him in the crowd at the Thane Hiranandani Half; him and his newly wedded wife (did she even know that without a divorce, her marriage to him was not legal and he was merely using her for his physical or monetary need???)cheering for someone. That could’ve have been me next to him, cheering; never knowing what it would feel like to be alive. Never knowing so much peace and quiet; never finding my rhythm. and he looked so UGLY! So I thank him for being the jerk he was, without which I would have never known what it is like to RUN!

image

“Nani!, what does it mean?”, I look down at Storm’s pretty face and looking at her I only hope that she never learns the true meaning of that word, that all she ever learns is that meaning in the dictionary; and not the one that life will in all probability teach her. I hope she gets spared, just this once. “Nani?” I look outside the window and answer,” I don’t know, my child, all I know, is that it’s all within.”

I wonder why men have an option to be responsible? Why they are taught and they learn that a woman is just supposed to cook and serve them meals while she is capable of running a house and a country, if need be? Why they do not realise the damage they do to so many people and their lives, with this wrong attitude? Today, if approached by men who show light of love there is chaos in my thoughts as I keep on thinking of what to do in my given situation, to stay… calm and composed?

 

Every action and decision is crucial and life changing. I have few thoughts for this situation, which sum up my emotions. I am like a mirage, a traveler wandering in the sands of time, trying to leave my past behind. The sun blazes at times & is not so very kind but i hunt for my oasis as my skin weathers in the hot sun and my features look UGLY??? I search everywhere, but, I cannot seem to find my oasis though I feel there is water a little ahead of vision. I keep wondering if this oasis will be filled with pure water that I desire, a fountain of youth to dispel my UGLY and the ugliness in my soul. So, I gathered this traveler within me, and made my blue bucket list and set out on this lonely dessert . Amidst all chaos I find my peace and BEAUTY with my travels so far away from home but the UGLY is not at home, it just resides in my soul….and I just have to let go.….if i do UGLY is not at home….. ITS TIME TO GO BACK HOME!

PEACOCK BLUE TEARS

PEACOCK BLUE TEARS

 

 

My mommy, my idol for life often says, “Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and question papers are not set.”

 

At 11 years of age, I only understood that the meaning must be profound and only the word ‘exam’ resonates with unwanted echoes in my ears. In a CBSE course, I am in the sixth grade and unit tests, half-yearlies and final exams are the bane of my life. Through the lockdown, dates of approaching exams was the only thing that made me feel like running away.

 

I am passionate about art and playing and of course, I love watching television. I secretly love watching all of Nani’s (Maternal grandmother) Hindi serials. I make up stories around the actors and then pen the stories around my paintings. Making picture stories is something I can go on and on doing, for ages if mommy would let me. But then the word “exam” pops up out of nowhere and my stories lie incomplete.

 

I have an older brother. He is 21 years old and studying in Germany for the last 3 years. We used to fight, a lot, like Tom and Jerry and I would normally win. I don’t know which I am?…… Tom or Jerry? ………………but since Jerry always wins, I would choose to be him. On the other hand, I hate being tiny, especially since my brother is a whopping 6 feet against my 3.5 feet. So, I like to keep that option open for the time being till i reach my full height. (hopefully 6 feet too)

 

My brother likes to say that though the pictures in my stories are lovely, my stories themselves are absurd and it took me a long time to find the meaning of that word in the dictionary and when I did find it, we had a massive pillow fight where I won again.

 

Life, as an exam, for me, began when I overheard my Nani telling someone on the phone that my mummy had cancer and may not live long. She also added that they were keeping the news a secret from my brother till he finished with his studies and was worried as to what would happen to me.

 

I come from a broken family. We have been living with my maternal grandparents, away from an abusive father for almost 6 years now. My mother is fighting for a divorce (an ugly word that has lost me many friends in school) and the right to bring me up without any interference from my father. My father’s family does not want a girl child and that is why she had walked out of a 17 year old marriage, literally in the clothes she was wearing.

 

In court my father had fought for custody for my brother till he turned 18 but clearly did not want me or want to support me. I was bewildered for a little while because I had loved him a lot but the pain in my mummy’s eyes and the tears that seeped into her already wet pillow in the night when she thought I was asleep made that love go away in some dark corner of my paintings.

 

My brother, though admittedly a prime “fighter cock” loved me a lot. He had refused to meet my father because of his treatment towards me just because I was a girl. I remember he had said and I quote, “Me and my sister are a package deal; either you get us both or neither of us!” So, my father had changed his legal tactics and was now trying to get my custody. He knew my brother would automatically return to him if he had my custody. And my poor, penniless mommy, was fighting a losing battle in the family court since. (and now she had cancer to contend with too!)

 

I had also overheard Nani saying that if mummy had to go away to heaven, I would have to go back to my father till I was 18 years old. That thought was so scary………, scarier than the next exam. Have you ever wanted to cry but no tears came out, so you just stare blankly into space with burning eyes while feeling your heart break into a million tiny pieces? That is how desolate I felt. And when I am sad, I paint……. I paint my darkest fears and my fondest dreams.

 

That night, I opened my favourite picture story book of the three peacocks which had originally involved 4 beautiful peacocks (I know peacocks are males but a fantasy can have a mama peacock and a baby girl peacock too and mine did! ) I had started drawing this book before we separated from my father. The earlier images still had 4 peacocks in it, one of them representing my father. But over the years, the peacocks had dwindled to just 3, me mommy and my Big B! I decided to complete it for mummy.

 

As my crayons flew over the blank white sheet, a dark ugly image developed where one peacock was in far away Germany and the other was flying to heaven, to leave the last baby girl peacock (ME) alone with tears rolling down her cheeks very similar to the ones rolling down mine and making my pictures quite wet…….. (Luckily I was drawing with crayons.) I could almost imagine the fourth peacock with red eyes and thunder in the background returning to my story and not wanting to draw it, shut my eyes tightly and tried to go back to sleep.

 

I think my mommy must have found my picture book like that next to me the next morning before I woke up. My pain always pains her and she must have sensed not just my pain, but also my fear of the future. She stinks at drawing; she, paints more beautifully with words but to dispel my nightmares, she had valiantly tried to complete my picture story with a very poor but a painting with extreme clarity, indeed. And it didn’t matter that it looked like a baby’s scrawl! It was breathtaking and so beautiful for me; it put everything so right, that the aesthetic appeal (or lack of) of the artwork just didn’t matter anymore.

 

The sheet next to my dark thunderous painting was bright and full of happiness and sunlight. The three peacocks (bunch of sticks and circles that did not much resemble a peacock) were together…………. bound together with garlands of flowers that resembled hearts. The mother peacock had a bandaid on her head, but the other two had suitcases labelled Germany …….one of the suitcases had my name and the other was labelled “BRO-DAD”.The three peacocks were outside an airport and no tears rolled down any cheeks in this happy picture.

 

As the storm burst in my heart and tears overflowed from my eyes, I looked up at my mommy’s equally wet face and open arms. She consolingly murmured that my ‘BRO-DAD’ was going to play my dad and I would never have to go where I didn’t want to or was not wanted. I knew then that I was loved and nothing else mattered. Life may be an exam where the questions are unknown but with the kind of circle of love I was living in, any exam that life gave me could be solved……… without TEARS!!!!!

THE LITTLE BOY BLUE…..

THE LITTLE BOY BLUE…..

 

  

I turned 13 today (an unlucky number by all accounts)……. my life for the last 3 years has been a series of doctors, medicines and FEAR………I have not celebrated my birthday in the last 3 years because I was too scared to meet people. No one could explain it. I had been such a friendly and happy go lucky child just 3 years back……..

 

I was about 10 years old, and my father forced me to go with him to the funeral of a cousin in another city that I had never met. I had a football match and really did not want to go but my father was insistent and I was left with no choice. I remember I insisted that I would wear my light blue football jersey to give my team support, long distance. It was a long 8-hour bus trip and I was tired and hungry when we reached the village. Since the procession had already reached the crematorium, we reached there immediately and my father went in, giving me instructions to stand near the gate in one corner. It was almost dusk and light was failing on this short winter day.

 

I stayed in a corner waiting for the time to pass quickly and for us to grab something to eat before we returned home. Then a man approached me and said: Enjoy life boy, be happy because time flies, look at me now, I didn’t enjoy it, he passed his hand over my head and left. I was only 10. So, what he said did not make a very big impact on me at that time. My father, before leaving, forced me to pay my respects to the dead person. So, when I approached the dead body, I was startled to see that it was the same man who had just passed his hand over my hand on his way out. Hadn’t he just been talking to me when I was in the corner??????

 

For this next 3 years, that had been my nightmare………. I was not able to sleep properly with the same repeated dream and doctors called it a psychological disorder. I was unable to sleep most nights and several other turmoils presented themselves in any dark place and I had to endure this throughout my adolescent years. I was terrified of being alone; I visited many psychologists and psychiatrists; I could not turn off the light and in general I was one petrified child.

 

But my mother put her foot down this time. She secretly believed that I had been possessed by some evil spirit there in the funeral that day. Some Maharaj had told her that if she fed our whole extended family on my 13th birthday, I would become alright again. So, our entire family from far and near were coming for a grand meal …. a lunch at my request, today on my 13th birthday. My favourite foods had been prepared and for once, I was looking forward to a meal with people. I once again wore my favourite blue , football jersey and was really happy……………………..That was till I saw HIM……..AGAIN…….

 

The man at the funeral was walking towards me with a gaily covered gift and he smiled so eerily, that I could literally feel my heart leap out of my body. I started shaking as he came closer and I started looking around me frantically for my parents to save me from this ghost of 3 years………

 

I did not know that 13-year-old children also got heart attacks and died but I was outside my body and looking at ME! I was holding someone’s hand and as I looked up, it was the man from the funeral! But the man from the funeral was also kneeling next to my dead body….so, how? ……..what was happening?…..

 

The man holding my hand whispered, I always hated my twin but he does look dapper today, right? I turned bluer than I already was when it dawned on me that, that kneeling idiot was the dead man’s twin brother and the reason I was no more…………………………

  

 

LITTLE GIRL BLUE

LITTLE GIRL BLUE

 

#MahiSDhir #ShachisBlues #CreativeWriting #writersillustrationwithwords #BlueStories #BlueBook #LittleGirlBlue

 

I wish I could turn back the clock and STOP the wheels of time. I remember when we had the 100 meters race on sports day; how teacher stopped the watch to see the time we took to run the distance. I wish I owned such a magical stopwatch to stop time when I wanted, and reset it to keep going back to the beginning of some of the happiest times of my life.

 

That is what I wish for today, as I stand in my pretty new blue dress on my 8th birthday, a stop-watch with the magical powers to take me back to the time I wanted and to stop time there and not go on into the future. I especially wished now that my 5th birthday celebrations had never gotten over! I wish I could stop time at that point with this imaginary magical stop!!

 

Why? “Because that was the last birthday I celebrated with my father!” I do not think that he was ever in spirit with us, even then, but at least he was physically present with us. I still remember the fun time the four of us: Mom, Dad, Dheer ‘bhaiyyu’ and me had while opening my truckload of presents. I had secretly called him to come today too. I was a princess today, and everyone said I looked so pretty in my tiara. I wanted to show it off to him. He had once called me his little princess too. I stalled the cake-cutting till he came and dreamt on about that magical day.

 

That whole day had been magical. Mom had baked my favourite brownie which we had cut at midnight and papas voice had resounded in the night with ‘may the good lord bless you.’ Then, I had woken up to a new red bicycle with the extra side wheels to help me cycle. It was pouring cats and dogs that day but my party had been flooded not just with rain water but also with all my friends, a guest list of a whopping 100 children. And, oh boy! Did we have fun! (And pizzas and garlic bread, my hot favorite of all meals.)

 

I was my mummy’s ‘smiley’ baby, a precious baby,- I had come unannounced after my brother turned 10 years old. And, I was the light of her otherwise very dark life. I could see it then and I can still see it now: the way her face lights up and her eyes start smiling when she sees me.

 

And, she had this thing about ‘theme’ birthday parties. My first birthday had been a pink birthday party with pink invitations and pink balloons and me in a pink frilly dress. Though I don’t remember it much, the photographs show even her broken arm in a pink plaster. The second had been a ladybird theme where even the guests had turned up in black and red. She had, of course painted her black eye, red, so that it could not be seen. The third had been a Barbie theme, and my father had been too busy to attend but the fourth party had an ‘angry birds’ theme and even as a four year old baby, I remember the black angry bird shaking her up after the party till she had black & blue stripes all over her arms like the striped piglet in the angry bird movie.

 

This fifth ‘Smiley’ theme party had seemed a little different. because, again, it was in a restaurant with lots of mummies around and my daddy did not yell at mummy even once and I had never seen her so happy before.

 

Everyone had been asked to come in yellow and white as ‘smileys’ and even the balloons were yellow and white. Only I was in a Navy blue dress (my mom has this thing for the coulour blue) with white polka dots. I stood out like a navy fairy among all that yellow. Mom had got the cake covered with white fondant and yellow smiley lollipops stuck out from it. I remember blowing out the candles and wishing that every day could be as sunny as this one was even though the rains were lashing outside.

 

I had already got the new shiny red bicycle that I had wanted. I had heard my mom calling her sister and my granny to help with the money since papa refused to give her any. I do not remember what gift he gave me or if he ever gave me a gift but the piggy back ride on his strong shoulders made me squeal like a pig. I didn’t want any other gifts from him, just that and a smiling mummy.

 

I wish time had stopped then and I could pretend that Mummy and Papa were smiling like a pretend happy family like my pretend friend “Kavya” whom I played with everyday to shut out the shouting between mummy and papa.

 

After the party, we carried my many many presents home. There were so many. The relaxed feeling was carried over home and for once mummy didn’t get any red, blue or green coloured marks on her face or body that I could see. I could feel her fear that all would turn like before but we started tearing at wrappers, admiring the dolls, playing Uno,……. it was so much fun. I saw papa putting all the gaily colored money envelopes into his pocket and Mummy begin to say something. But one cold look from his eyes shut her up.

 

We played Uno and they all let me win. It was so much fun. I remember that day and night filled with fun and laughter, Smileys in the real sense.

 

Four months after that day, my papa left, left forever and mummy cried and cried, when she thought no one was looking. Her eyes never smiled after that. The pain in them was a pain that me and bhaiyyu shared. He made us very poor, he took away everything and I heard my granny tell my aunt that he had never wanted a girl so he would never pay for my school fees even.

 

It took her so long to smile again. She had had the most beautiful smile in the world and she had always smiled with her eyes and mouth and her whole body. I really miss that smile.

 

If we said we hated Papa, she would tell us, “he is always going to be your father, nothing can change that, so always respect him; I cannot force you to love him but you must respect him.” I had loved him and missed him so much and I think Bhaiyyu too missed him. Sometimes when mummy got angry with me or punished me for not doing my homework, I even blamed her for sending him away. It hurt her when I said that. But then, she would come and hug me and cry with me. At that time, I hated him so much, I wanted to vomit.

 

She used to work hard before too because she had many bills to pay that Papa did not, but now, she was always working, even in the night, and she looked so tired and we rarely played Uno like before.

 

Playing Uno with her and Bhaiyyu had always been a treat because she always let me win but now, like bhaiyyu, she would not let me. They said they were making me strong by teaching me how to win on my own. My dance class was changed to a Karate class. “You should be able to defend yourself, love. Never let anyone hit you. The first time someone hits you should be the last.” I missed ballet but for her smile, giving up my dancing shoes felt alright.

 

I often used her phone to secretly call papa to my dance recital, annual day, garba night, even my award ceremony, but he never came. He never received the calls but I think he used to read the messages because sometimes he would reply. Just this once I was hoping he had read my message and would come to see his little princess on her 8th birthday.

 

As I looked at the door for the umpteenth time, I saw my mummy looking at me with sad eyes. I could see tears in her eyes and I quickly ran to her. She mumbled, “Sorry dear, I don’t think he will come. Should we cut your cake or do you still want to wait?” I realized then that she had known,…….. always known when I had invited Papa to my special occasions and that she had secretly wished he would come too. I suddenly felt all grown up and it hurt…..a lot…….I did not think I wanted to celebrate my next birthday.

 

But, I really wished that I had that stopwatch to stop the time in the past and give it back to mummy. I don’t think having papa back again would make her happy (bhaiyyu says we are better off without him) or that she was happy even then but at least, that day was one day I remembered her to be the happiest and her eyes had smiled with her mouth.

LADY IN BLUE

LADY IN BLUE

 

#MahiSDhir #ShachisBlues #BlueBook #BlueStories #LadyInBlue

 

She sat in the Starbucks cafe, sipping her coffee and staring out of the window. The blood stained knife lay next to her handbag, covered with her blue silk scarf…..

 

Blue had been her all-time favourite colour…..the deep electric blue described in all the Mills and Boon Books she had read when she had been more naive, and she had been an avid reader of fiction;- especially romantic fiction in her younger years. She had dreamt her Prince Charming would come on a white steer and whisk her off in her blue ball gown into the distant horizon and they would live happily ever after. She had dreamt they would have 2 children and a happy family full of love and mutual respect.

 

That dream was just that…..a dream;- harsh reality had turned it more into a nightmare of unfulfilled desires as the knife, a witness to reality, had just experienced.

 

It had been an arranged marriage; she had been so busy earning gold medals in her academic pursuits, that there had been little time for fun or romantic love. Soon she was 27 years of age and her parents panicked that she wouldn’t get a good match if she got any older. His good looks, silver tongue, purported honesty, and his medical degree all blinded her to his cruelly thin lips and she ignored all other warning signals that all was not as it seemed where this man was concerned. Her intelligence flew out the window and they were married in a hurry without a proper courtship period. His parents were afraid that any delay in the marriage would lead to another broken engagement like his previous one……

 

The honeymoon was in a hotel room in the same town and his friends were more interested in what had happened in the night than he was. Being a virgin, and a romantic one, she missed the clues that either he was not interested in her physically or he just didn’t have a sex drive……

 

No romantic courtship, no romantic preludes, no honeymoon and it was all over before it even began. She started feeling guilty, maybe she was expecting too much from her husband because of all the romantic nonsense she had been reading in her M&Bs all these years. Maybe men were not very passionate at all. (She had no role model except her dad and he had never been a romantic or openly been demonstrative when she had been a kid)

 

Maybe she was a nymphomaniac wanting intimacy all the time. And it wouldn’t be fair to expect him to satisfy her needs. After all, he had not signed up as a gigolo when he married her. So the future of her physical needs look doomed; if she made an overture and he happened to be interested, it would happen for all of five minutes and very often she slept with her body aching for more…….Foreplay, intimacy after the act were just chapters of fiction from an erotic novel and she delegated them there.

 

Lying was his second language, disrespect of women his first. Women were there to cook, bear children and an educated woman was a bonus money-making machine to bear the regular house expenses over and above doing the house-hold chores. Basically, she was his unpaid servant and golden hen, all wrapped up in one. His foul mouth never tired of speaking ill of others. (Albeit when no one other than her could hear him…..) It was 5 years into the marriage, after one child and a brain tumour operation that she started experiencing the full brunt of his cruelty both physical and mental.

 

I don’t know what it is with intelligent women and their hearts……all misplaced book love and romantic imaginations!!!! She felt that very few men would have stood by a wife with a brain tumour; most would have left her with the child to fend for herself, especially since she was no longer beautiful slim and svelte. So, she quietly took the physical abuse as her due……just like she had taken and continued to take the emotional battering that was the highlight of most of her days.

 

When her mother guessed the extent of the physical and mental torture after a failed suicidal attempt, she encouraged her to retaliate in kind because bullies according to her were scared of people who stood up for themselves. She was right……

 

The lady in blue because that’s who she was;-the blue lady, scratched such deep welts into those hands that had repeatedly punched her that it drew blood but blessedly, the physical abuse stopped. She threw herself into her career and her son and both flourished. Soon she was making more money and was more famous than him; people knew him as Her husband rather than the other way around and that didn’t sit well with him; another reason to assault her self-esteem had unfortunately cropped up…..

 

He continued to degrade her vocally and the moral, spiritual, and social degradation ate away at her self-esteem. Since he treated her so shabbily, it encouraged his family to treat her worse and he seemed to enjoy her plight and taunt her on it, making her feel that maybe she was a social misfit too and he was too nice to bear with her.

 

As a last resort to maybe save this marriage for her son’s sake, now 10 years of age, she planned and paid for a family holiday. And she came back with child. She loved children and secretly desired a daughter that she felt God had already sent to her. She didn’t want to kill it. The next nine months were sheer torture as he didn’t miss a single opportunity to make her very existence miserable & made her question her own decision to have the baby.

 

All those doubts went out the window when she held that little bundle of joy for the first time. She was an angel, and so beautiful. A girl, a doll to love and be loved by……

 

He had refused to pay any house or baby expenses while she was recuperating because she had coerced him into having the baby. So, though the tired and old body tried to cope with a baby, a jealous sibling who also needed her care and working to support the financial expenses, it had reached the end of its capacity.

 

Her parents observing her rough life advised her to return to them but she stubbornly refused for her children’s sake. They thought the sun shone from behind their father and for all purposes (except financial support) he acted like a good father.

 

Her body tired easily and was incapable of working as much as before. Bearing a child at 40 had made her bones so weak, she started getting repeated fractures. He refused to pay for her treatment or consumables required to run the house. She started borrowing from her old retired parents.

 

Her frustrations increased as his verbal torture escalated to a new level asking her to leave the marriage and her children and go back to HER house….meaning her parents home after 16 years of giving up her life for him???? Sucidal, she had given up being after the birth of her sweet daughter but it was slowly being replaced by an insane murderous rage. She often wondered how it would feel to stick a knife in his chest and watch the blood pour out like the drops in a fountain.

 

So here she was, sipping coffee in her favourite cafe in her favourite blue outfit with her favourite scarf covering up her favourite fantasy……come true.

 

She sipped her coffee calmly watching her nemesis, the woman her husband actually loved but couldn’t have because she was married to his brother, walk towards her with two men in uniforms and drawn guns. “Madam, we have a complaint from this woman saying you have murdered your husband in a cold blooded well planned and calculated manner and that you informed her before the deed. We have failed to recover the body from the crime scene but we are hoping you will help us with that.” She quietly nodded her head and as she wrapped the scarf around her neck exposing the bloody knife for all and sundry, she was satisfied to hear the pained gasp from this woman who had done a lot over the last few years without actually doing much.

 

The officers too gasped,……… but in disbelief as her husband, in the flesh, walked out of the washroom of the cafe with a well bandaged left wrist he had injured while clumsily trying to cut with the knife that lay on the table.

 

Seizing the accident as a mad opportunity to get these two lying oafs to admit their misdemeanours, she had called her sister in law and told her a tall tale of gory murder. With the prima facie evidence in their kitchen, it had not taken much to convince her. Hook, Line and sinker!!!!

 

The blue lady regally left the 2 conspirators, trying to explain to the two disgruntled officers how a dead man was alive. She saw grudging respect enter her husband’s eyes and his lips trying hard not to twitch into a smile. If nothing, 16 years of living with this man had told her what tickled his sense of humor……And she had scored a goal, atleast she could now live with him on her own terms.

 

It had been these few lines she had read in a message that actually inspired her: “Negativity…..it can only affect you if you are on the same frequency. Vibrate higher”. “It doesn’t matter who hurt you or broke you down, what matters is who made you smile again.” “You are only given a little spark of madness. Don’t lose it.” Then it hit her and hard……she had stagnated in a pool of her own self pity for the last 16 years of her life blaming a man (and the shadow of a woman) for her unhappiness when in reality, her happiness lay in her hands. Her children were all that mattered….they made her smile and she owed it to them to live and live happily. And she had always been crazy, she had lost that little bit of insanity in her ocean of unhappiness……..this was her way of getting back……..she packed her bags and though it was difficult to leave her comfort zone, she started her life afresh with just her two children.

MAN IN BLUE

MAN IN BLUE

 

#MahiSDhir #ShachisBlues #Bluebook #bluestories #maninblue

  

 

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

 

He knew I was watching him and maybe he was purposely delaying his exit because he could sense my impatience. That way, my man in blue had a real sadistic streak running in him. Stopping myself from checking the watch yet again as I counted backwards, I was hoping that I was left with enough time to make my 11 o’clock clandestine? rendezvous with Shantanu.

 

Shantanu……I recalled my first encounter with him……the reports had just come in and there was no doubt I had the brain tumour…….again, and this time on, it had come back with a vengeance……it appeared to be malignant and fatal. I was in shock because I thought that chapter of my life had been closed forever. 20 years now that I had lived with the shadow of the tumour, indebting me to this man in blue with whom I now shared a love-hate relationship. I had not told him yet of the impending doom; I couldn’t figure out if the news would make him happy or upset and I was scared to find out that answer.

 

Getting back to Shantanu, I had treated myself to umpteen shots of tequila that night when I had found out about the tumour and he had been so kind, so sweet, so handsome and so young……. He had been like a knight in shining armour for a jaded and faded 50 year old like myself. He very kindly took me in my drunken stupor to his hotel suite booked for his conference. A thorough gentleman, he didn’t lay a finger on me but wanted to protect me from those who didn’t have such inhibitions. I am sure I must have made a spectacle of myself, since he reluctantly admits that I made quite a few overtures on him. He fell in love with me that night, he claims and that’s how our affair started.

 

My man in blue, in the last 20 years of marriage had never made earth shattering love to me…….a romp in the bed usually left me dissatisfied and aching for more and in the last 10 years, it had become more of a perfunctory, rudimentary, sometimes annual process. Shantanu on the other hand was a tender lover, meeting my needs before satisfying his; His younger muscled body also had more stamina and we could go at it the whole night. We had been meeting secretly for a month now and the frequency of the liaisons kept on increasing and the passion intensifying. For me, It wasn’t love…….

 

I had finally decided to face my tumour problem head on and visit the required faculty for the correct solution. I had also approached a close friend of my man in blue for likely surgical intervention of my medical predicament. After meeting Shantanu, I had to go for the investigations. As I pondered how I was going to manage going there, my man in blue seemed to have come to some decision after a lot of inner struggle. He shut the door he had opened to leave, with a firmness that belied the trepidation on his face. He pulled a chair from across me at the table and set facing me with a contemplative look on his face. I didn’t, no; I refused to feel guilty for being unfaithful to him.

 

After all our marriage had turned into a sham due to his unfaithfulness, albeit not physically but in mind and spirit, I had always known he was hers. I had blamed the insipid sex on his lack of feelings for me but now I knew one didn’t need deep feelings for hot and torrid sex.

 

“Do you have something to tell me?”, he asked gently…….The sudden gentleness in his tone after years of listening to harsh retorts and epitaphs from this very mouth was very confusing and I looked into his eyes thoroughly rattled by now. Did he know about Shantanu? How did he find out? Why was he being nice about it? As I searched his eyes for the answers to these questions, and a few more, I was flummoxed by his good looks as I had been years ago when I married him.

 

“Deven called to tell me you have the tumour again and this time on it may be malignant. He is considering surgical excision after the MRI reports come in. Where are the reports, Honey?” Honey!!!!! When did I become a Honey from Rascal and Thief and useless Woman???? I was missing something here…… Usually this man said nothing good about me. Whatever respect he gave me, it was very grudgingly given. What was his game now? I was perplexed.

 

As I gazed upon his handsome face, I thought again irrelevantly how much blue suited him and how blue was my favourite colour. When did we or rather when did I (since I knew only I had ever cared in this relationship) stop loving him? ? -When he lied to me the first time…….or when it dawned on me that he did not love me and in fact, never had………

 

I think, in retrospect, for him, I had always been the breeding cow with excellent genes to produce healthy beautiful and intelligent children. Once I delivered, he needed a golden hen to produce money and to bring up the young child and he deigned to keep me on but did not feign even an atom of love.

 

As I was trying to solve the riddle of his puzzling behaviour, I noticed a glint of greed in his eyes and the cruel tilt to his thin unforgiving lips. Hmmmmmm, I thought to myself, he’s standing to gain monetarily from all this. I wondered what devilish scheme this man had cooked up now.

 

I stood up abruptly, told him I was in a rush and would talk to him later in the day on this subject. The petulant sulk that came over his handsome features was proof of my suspicions.

 

I hurriedly called up Shantanu cancelling our rendezvous. My guilty conscience was telling me repeatedly to come clean with this innocent and loving man but I was literally starving for the affection he was pouring into my hungry soul (surely a dying woman deserved a little affection) and I kept stalling the imminent progression or rather end of our liasion.

 

As the drums rolled during my MRI session, and they literally roll and resound in the close confines during a brain scan, I was wondering how I could find out what my man in blue was up to. Since money was involved and he now knew I was sick and probably terminally sick, the options seemed few. My mind hit on a possible life insurance policy with him as a beneficiary.

 

When one knows one isn’t going to live long, one wants those few hours to be worth their while. Suddenly I was feeling above money, above right and wrong, above someone else’s villainous intentions. I wanted happiness and to finish joyously each and every item on my bucket list. As I ruminated on my priorities, I said to myself: – “What the hell? Let him have his money……If gaining from my death makes him happy, so be it.” It was also a certainty that my man in blue was not any time going to help me with my bucket list……..So I decided to tick off each item on my own as soon as possible.

 

The reports were as bad as I expected, actually a little worse. Surgery was not possible; if attempted, it would probably drag me further away from the last item on my bucket list. So, I opted out of it. Before leaving the hospital, I requested the kind Doctor to refrain from discussing the outcome of my results and my stand on any further action with his friend, my erstwhile husband. He duly promised with a pitying look in his eyes, but I knew that my husband would hammer down all those patient-doctor confidentiality walls with his persuasiveness and I didn’t have long to start with my bucket list.

 

The first on my list was a confession of my lies by omission and a sincere apology to Shantanu.

 

As I watched him come towards me with a huge bunch of tiger lilies, my favourite flower, I thought to myself how this man (whom I was using for sex) had insinuated himself into my life and knew things about me that my husband of 20 years still didn’t know. He cared for my two children like a close uncle would, always, remembering their birthdays and important occasions. My doll adored him and wanted his presence at her dance recitals rather than her own father.

 

With a peck on my cheek, he murmured, “Wow gorgeous, I can’t wait to see what this gifts going to look like without the wrapper.” I smiled tiredly because the MRI sessions are always tiring. Surprisingly, he noticed and worry crept into his eyes. It was so heart-warming to see his concern that I started rethinking my decision to confess my misdemeanours.

 

But, like I said, Impending death had made my desire to correct this wrong very strong and so I told him; told him my whole gory story from the time I got married to now. Coffee cups were replaced by sandwiches and then soup as I told him everything. As I told him of my impending doomsday, this alarmed gentleman crossed over to my side and hugged me. “Get a divorce and live with me. Let me care for you till I can.” brought tears running down my cheek which he gently kissed away.

 

Nam Myoh Renge Kyo ……………The chant popped into my head. I had joined a Boddhistava group recently to find some peace within. They believed in the theory of cause and effect. I must have done good sometime somewhere for this man to care for me so much and so unconditionally. This caring was a novelty to me as my man in blue had never given if he were not gaining.

 

I told Shantanu of my bucket list and my plans; he laughed and said he would help me fulfil each and everyone. He planned a holiday for himself and since he was his own boss, it wasn’t difficult. I suddenly could see the silver lining on my dark grey cloud and life, whatever was left of it suddenly looked so promising.

 

First stop, valley of flowers in August in full bloom with butterflies, my childhood dream which I had thought would never be fulfilled with my man in blue.

 

Suddenly a thought struck me and I made a dash for Jade Blue…..a shop for exclusive mens clothing……. A blue T shirt, A blue formal shirt, and a blue night shirt all in Shantanus size and voila……..suddenly I had the right Man in blue in my now, really short but extremely happy looking life.

 

First stop, valley of flowers in full bloom in August with butterflies, my childhood dream which I had thought would never be fulfilled, with my real man in blue and as the thought struck me, it felt right, the right Man in blue now figured in my really short but extremely happy looking life.

 

“I am packing every memory that we are making in a suitcase………” the lyrics of a song by Matthew Koma aptly played in the background of my thoughts. And as Beau Taplin said, “Sunsets are proof that endings can often be beautiful too…………