Happy Diwali

Today is one of those days when I have to take my four-year-old with me to work. There is no one at home to look after him. My mother-in-law has left for the village and my husband is in the brick factory.

I feed my child and I dress him up in the best possible clothes I can find for him. Then we walk out of the house together, with him holding onto my finger and me carrying a tiny tiffin with some food for him.

I am a house maid. I go to houses to do the dishes, to scrub the floor, to wash the clothes. And honestly, I don’t like my child going there with me.

You see, I can see the white, marble floors and the wooden cupboards and the AC and the television set and not lament on our poorer state of living. But my son walks into every room with me. He looks at everything in awe with his mouth gaping open.

Then he asks me, “Ma, let’s get one of those, shall we?”

To that, I always say, “Soon, son.”

Today, I am halfway through scrubbing the floors. Madam wants me to clean it thoroughly because it is Diwali. I look around and see my son peeping into one of the rooms. The room is decked up with fairy lights and it looks enchanting. He just stands there and watches the lights the entire time I do my work.

While we return, it is 7.30pm. I wait for him to ask me, “Ma, let’s get one of those, shall we?”

But no question comes.

The moment we turn into the lane our house is in, I see the reason. Our lane is decked up with fairy lights; different colours of fairy lights and it seems as if the stars have fallen down from the sky and on our lane. The reason behind those decorations? Diwali.

My son runs towards them and starts jumping to reach the lights, to touch them. He seems so happy that I can’t stop smiling.

He doesn’t want one of those lights that he sees from the houses I work at. I don’t have to promise him that we’ll get it soon. As it turns out, he already got what he wanted.

I get a diya from inside my house and light it in front of my house. And as I look at my son smiling and playing with the lights, I murmur to myself, “Happy Diwali.”

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Mirror

Dear Mirror,

It’s been long since I met you,

And I couldn’t think of any other way to greet

Than a formal, “Hello. How do you do?”

Hey, do you remember

What my thoughts look like?

Or my flaws, or my fears?

Or my smiles or my tears?

And we know that gradually

Things get tainted, vision gets blurred.

So long it’s been, old friend,

That I don’t know if I’m myself anymore.

Our last meeting had ended in a fight

And I had examined myself all night;

From back to front,

From side to side,

From my head to the tip of my toenails

With my fingers separated and arms spread out wide.

I examined my tears, which you thought were childish,

I double-checked my jokes which made you cry.

I re-thought over my statements which hurt you but were not meant to;

I stayed up all night, I had to try.

I apologised over and over again,

But a sad, bitter, angry, mentally turmoiled self

Was what you saw in me back then.

I swear I was just fine,

Do you think it could be just you

Overthinking that time?

But you know

I can’t speak when I’m blamed.

No word came out of my lips;

Not a single word to clear my name.

And so, I let it be.

I hid myself from you.

I guess I did that well,

I used to be good at playing Hide & Seek too.

Do you remember how bad I am

At maintaining a diary?

I didn’t need any,

Because I had you.

Now, with no one to be myself with,

I really don’t know what to do.

I have forgotten my face.

My lips are in dearth of words.

Thoughts are all my mind has,

A lot of them, fluttering around like caged birds.

I have forgotten to mouth sentences to you;

My gestures have been limited to a few.

And when I try to talk to you

I start examining myself all over again so as not to hurt you.

So, here I am today,

With all my courage tucked safely in my heart.

I wanted to ask you

If we could still embark upon a new start.

We have come a long way, you and I.

You were a person, my best friend, my mirror.

I miss you, you know.

And you know that among everyone, I hold you dearer.

Gambler

I was never much of a gambler. Well, not until I met you.

With you, came the silent promise of a friendship which could last a lifetime. I used to be a person who used to severe the ties once some relationship turned into a burden. But with you, I took the gamble.

With you, came love and your love came with healing. For someone like me, who had enough unhealed wounds and unhidden scars, love was the forbidden forest and healing was a distant dream. But I ventured into the forest and I dared to dream. With you, I took the gamble.

With you, came the feelings. I used to dread the flood that feelings were. I used to ignore them, lest the flood might turn into a tsunami. But with you, I took the gamble.

With you, came the definition of being complete. I was happy, but I wasn’t complete. I was that one piece of a zigsaw puzzle which couldn’t fit with any other piece. But you made me feel complete. With you, I took the gamble.

So, call me a gambler. Call me a fool who has gambled all her senses away. Call me someone who has gambled her life away for the sake of dreaming of a life with you.

Yes, I am one now. But I was never much of a gambler. Well, not until I met you.

A Deserted House

I was once a deserted house;
Touched only by the sun, the winds and the rains,
Until you walked in
And kissed away all my pain.

I was once a deserted house
Which housed a deafening silence.
And then, you whispered to me
And your voice was the only thing my ears could sense.

I was once a deserted house.
I wore the look of a haunted one.
You took possession of me
And made me look like something you’d own.

I was once a deserted house,
Avoided by many, mocked by some.
You turned me into something beautiful
By turning me into your home.

Six Words

“Ma’am, can I have one minute of your time?” I say as I step forward to greet the young lady who might be returning home after a hectic day in the office.

“No, no. I don’t need it,” she says and storms off throwing those six words of rejection on my face.

I am used to that. I sell insurance cards of banks outside the office premises and who cares about cards these days, anyway?

But it’s my job to stand there on the side of the road every evening from 5pm to 11pm and to coax every single one of the passersby to atleast take a card from the lot that I have.

A few take my cards. Some out of curiosity, some out of pity, only to throw them into some drain after walking a few steps so that I don’t see them doing that.

Some people are concerned that they might hurt my feelings. I smile. If I were them, I might have done that.

Some of them shoo me away like I am some stray dog. I smile. If I were them, I might have done that too.

At the end of the night, when I stop at the nearest stall for a cup of tea, I hand a couple of cards to the vendor there and to his wife.

I walk back home with the cards placed safely in my rucksack. I open the door of my flat and I set the bag on my sofa. I rummage through the fridge to find something to eat and watch the television for a while.

I set my alarm for 6am. I have another day of work tomorrow. I have to go to my job as a salesman in the nearby mall in the morning and then as the insurance company card seller at evening.

I am sixty now. I live alone. My wife is a cancer patient. She is in the hospital. I am trying to save enough money for her treatment.

I dial a number.
The voice on the other side says, “Don’t worry, Sir. She is fine.”

And with those six words of consolation, I sleep.

Sand castles

“Come on, Raina. We are going to the beach,” I call out to my five-year-old daughter.

“Let’s go. Go to the beach…” she says in a singsong as she runs after me trying to hold on to my hand.

I can barely focus on her. I have had a big quarrel with my husband. I don’t even want to talk to him right now. I don’t want to see his face or hear his voice. So, I have come over to my parent’s house.

I had to bring Raina along. She was sobbing while my husband and I were screaming at each other. She couldn’t have stayed there without me.

“Ma, let’s make sand castles!” Raina says, breaking my line of thought.

I smile and help her make one. Then as she plays there, I go to sit under an umbrella and watch her from there.

“Let’s work this out,” my husband had told me last night over a call.

“For the sake of our family…” he had added.

“I love you,” he had said.

“I’ll think,” I had said and disconnected the call.

My alarm rings and breaks my reverie again. I look at Raina. She is sitting with her palms cupped around her sand castle, staring angrily at the sea.

She looks so funny that I can’t help but smile. It might be the first time I’ve smiled in five days.

“What is it, love?” I ask her.

“My home,” she says still not averting her gaze from the sea.

“What is it about your home?” I ask with a smile playing on my lips.

“I have made this castle. It is mine. It is my home. But the sea comes every time to break it. I can’t let it break my home now, can I, Ma?” she asks me.

I look at her and her big eyes stare back into mine.

My little child was ready to fight with the enormous sea just to save the sand castle that she called her home.

I, on the other hand, had let the differences between me and my husband drift us apart and I had left my home.

“No, baby. Nothing can break your home, our home,” I say and smile at Raina.

I call my husband and sort things with him. Nothing seems to be the issue between us anymore.

Who would have thought that my daughter’s sand castle would teach me the meaning of my home?

Gulf of love

I don’t ask for much;
I never do.

But there’s a thing I’d like to ask from you.

Will you look something up for me?

I need you to first know the thing;

I want you to see.

Open Google.

Type ‘Gulf of Alaska’ and just look.

Look how two oceans meet,

But they don’t mix.

Look how they become one,

Yet their originalities aren’t lost in their kiss.

I want our love to be just like this.

I fell in love with you because of who you were.

You fell in love with me because of who I was.

And losing ourselves for each other doesn’t sound fair.

So, let’s meet.

But let’s not mix.

Let’s become one.

But let’s not lose our originalities in our kiss.

Let’s love each other.

But let it not be our own selves whom we’d later miss.