Happy Birthday, A.

We loved, we despised;

We laughed, we cried;

We broke each other,

and never apologised.

So here’s wishing happy birthday to the one who changed my life in just a matter of 9 months.

How fast this time has passed.

Last year around the same time, we were dealing with our own set of problems like how to combat the awkwardness we felt in each other’s presence and how to kill those butterflies in stomach.

How we were still learning ways to avoid embracing each other for long during those bear hugs on our birthdays.

It’s funny how even the repeated anxiety attacks failed to deter me from sending presents your way when it was your birthday.

It’s astonishing how you pretended like it was something that didn’t please you much while you acknowledged that there was no need for me to “go out of my way” to celebrate your special day.

It’s amazing how subtly you revealed that day as to how you once wished that I entered your life before “she” did.

“No one has ever done so much for me. I still don’t know how to react. If only we met each other at a different point in life…” Your message read.

And I can’t deny that those words are etched on my heart even to this day.

I am sure you will never get it. The fact that the day of your arrival on this Earth meant something to me back then. It was THE day. To me, it was like Thanksgiving where I could literally count the endless reasons I was grateful for.

Like your mere presence in my life;

like how your sad jokes and wisdom combined at 3 in the night helped me reflect on the bad choices I made in this lifetime;

Like how your contagious spirit filled with all things positive always compelled me to acknowledge that despite all the scars on my soul, I was still beautiful;

Like how the child inside you always coaxed me into playing the games I would never play otherwise – in dreams and in real life;

Like how your indifference towards happiness and pain alike gave me another goal for life;

Like how your disconnect with the world always made me question the depths of love;

Like how your workplace antics helped me develop the necessary tactics to deal with those morons in office.

And I could go on and on and on…

But then,

All good things must come to an end.

After all, what we shared was no different than the rest.

Towards the end of those 9 months, we had reached our saturation.

The conversations became sour as the pillows turned soggy.

The demons were out, trading on the last shreds of vulnerability.

And in the end, both of us had no clue who was to be blamed for the end of that “terrific friendship”.

A year later, as I sit here contemplating whether or not to send you a birthday message, I know this.

Nothing good has ever come out of a never-acknowledged relationship.

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A moment that was too good to be true…

It was in that moment that I realized how much a person can change with time.

Then: We didn’t need anyone else.

Now: We can’t even look at each other.

Everything comes with a cost. Even happiness.

And, my happiness was short-lived, as was our relationship.

But that’s not it. The cost you have to pay when you kiss someone in your darker days doesn’t just leave you dry and desperate, it leaves you ashamed.

I know that by now because I paid that cost last night. And yet, I survived.

I survived the phase where flaming desires burnt inside me, and my yearning heart saw the ashes raining.

I cleansed my thoughts, which were smudged black from the dense smoke of my charred dreams, with our bittersweet memories.

I survived the phase wherein the ghosts from our shared past resurrected, and scared the forsaken lover inside me, each time it wished to dream.

I survived the phase when my soul silently weeped tears of helplessness as my vulnerabilities laughed at me, mocking my entire existence.

I survived it all because of that one moment.

That one moment in the entire night when I, once again, felt alive.

That one moment when I had all your attention after a long, long time.

It was dark outside, but in that one microsecond, my heart was full of hope and light.

That fraction of the second was enough to fill my heart with joy.

But what I still don’t know is this:

Did you also feel that restlessness when your right cheek brushed across my left as you leaned to whisper in my ear?

Did you actually feel sorry for the piece of glass that cut my feet?

Were you really worried for me when you lifted my skirt, saying that you wanted to check whether I was really hurt?

Or was it your usual self doing what it does best – making advances so covetedly that I almost always turned a blind eye to ’em?

After all, you leaving her hand and walking away from her, just to check on me is still something which is too good to be true!

Did the voices of those reticent feelings grow loud in your ears too as you held my hand with one of yours and my waist with another, so as to provide me support to stand on one foot?

Did you notice me noticing you when you were stealing glances at me, so as to figure out whether I was actually jealous or may be, just uncomfortable in your presence?

Did you remember that I was wearing the same black dress for which you had given me compliment on the eve of my birthday in 2017?

Or were you too busy to distract yourself from all things beautiful we did together before life pushed us into the blues?

Was it just a coincidence that we were repeatedly bumping into each other, while on the dance floor, and yet deliberately ignoring each other because of our alteregos?

Last night has left me with a thousand questions in head and painful memories of sorrow and dread.

It hurts so bad as the wound runs deep.

This perpetual sadness grows from a broken heart, a forgotten love and a never-fading memory.

Diwali: Another year of difficult choices, another month of bargain!

The month of Diwali was here again.

Another year of difficult choices.

Another month of bargain.

“Why do you want to go home on Diwali?” My boss asked.

Looking for an appropriate answer to his (stupid) question, I stood there dumbstruck.

“Why do people go home on festivals after all?” I wondered!

May be he is right.

Or may be he doesn’t have a life beyond work!

Whichever the case was, he still gave me a choice, which was not.

“If you are off on Diwali then you will be working on Christmas and the New Year. Are we clear?” He asked.

So now I had to choose between Lord Ram and Jesus.

Why do I even have to do that?
Why does it have to be this way?
Seriously, have I really reached this stage in life where I have to choose which incarnation of God do I want to celebrate with most zeal and fervor?
Is this all happening for real?

And while I was struggling to look for answers to all these questions, my boss clicked his fingers, asking me “what? Where are you lost?”

In a fit of panic and disgust alike, I shrugged and said: “nothing boss! I choose Lord Ram!”

(He burst into laughter as if I had cracked a joke.

I thought aloud: Boss, the joke’s on you!)

Anyway, the bargain was done and the deal was made.

I somehow managed to negotiate a three-day holiday to be with my family on Diwali.

But two months from now, when most of you will be relishing the plum cakes while lighting candles and listening to Carols inside a church, I will most likely be sitting inside my office, whining over this time when I was made to choose between the incarnations of God.

So for now, Happy Diwali y’all.

When Diwali wasn’t about light, but darkness

I still remember the day when mumma had asked me to switch off all the lights that hung on the walls of our house on Diwali.

I couldn’t bring myself to terms with the fact that Diwali, which was supposed to be the festival of lights, had turned so dark for all of us.

Mumma had called Papa, asking him to leave everything aside and immediately come home from work.

Me and my super-excited brother had just returned home after shopping firecrackers.

But moments after we entered the house, I sensed a strange sense of calm prevailing all over.

Too young to anticipate the gloom of the impending doom, I stood there restless.

And the next thing I know – a doctor was inside my bauji’s (grandfather’s) room, giving some bad news to my parents.

I heard him explain how “sorry” he felt for our loss.

“We lost him to cancer” – My grandfather was no more.

Too afraid to go inside his room, I peeped through the door and watched him lay on his bed – motionless.

And by the time my mother stepped outside to tell me that I needed to blow the diyas and switch off the lights that hung outside, I was already hiding behind the refrigerator.

With tears in her eyes and prayers on her lips, she pulled me out and hugged me hard.

Confirming the news of bauji’s demise, she told me what had to be done.

Unable to process all that, I ran towards the staircase, only to find myself in a frozen state moments after.

Too perplexed to move my foot forward, I stood there as a dumb spectator.

The bag full of firecrackers was right in front of my eyes. And all I could see was darkness.

It didn’t matter even if the whole sky was full of colorful lights.

The flame inside our guiding lamp had extinguished, never to be rekinled again.

And all those objects of sparkle had lost their relevance. All that glitter made no sense.

People outside my house were greeting each other, exchanging gifts, and screaming out of happiness.

And all I could hear was the chant of final prayers, accompanied by the wailing cries for help.

And in my heart, I knew – Diwali won’t be the same ever again.

And it’s a wrap…

Sitting here in such a large hall, typing this out at the cusp of dawn, I have come to realize that change is the only thing constant in the world.

It was about yesterday only when I was checking the restaurants that offered midnight delivery to my workplace.

“My workplace” – I can say it now, but I know it won’t be the same 4 days henceforth.

There is only so much you can do about the decisions you make in life.

For the difficult choices you make for yourself during perilous times are often the ones that give you life-altering moments.

I look around this perfectly lit place and sigh.

Unlike all my previous night shifts, there is an unusual calm today, and this sinking feel in my heart just won’t go away.

I tell myself: “It’s perfectly normal. It’s okay. Everyone leaves their first job at some point, on some day.”

So what if there won’t be late night pizzas and choco lavas to relish much while bitching about the people I don’t like?

There is a whole new bunch of experiences awaiting me as I am about to enter into a new phase of life.

But before that, let me be on the roller coaster of emotions, and feel all that my heart wants to.

Let me be anxious, let me be nostalgic, let me be afraid of the unknown, but most of all, let me be full of hope.

One last night.

One last time.

That moment of honesty..

The alarm in my phone goes off. It’s 5:02 in the morning. “I need to wake up but before that isn’t one supposed to sleep?” I ask myself secretly.

Needless to say, it’s the memories of you as usual, doing what they do best. Pushing me into self-loathing mode, with each flashback from the past killing my self-respect.

I have to be in office by 7am and yet I am contemplating not sleeping till the cab comes. The ghosts from a shared past with you are frightening enough as it is. I don’t need these memories playing the bad cop and arresting my peace.

Back in time, you are already down to level 2. All those kisses for no reason have surely worked wonders for you.

A friendly touch here and there is only a testament to the fact that you are trying too hard. And for God Knows what! You had my undivided attention since the day you asked me what I wanted to do on my birthday.

And as we steal glances for the umpteenth time, I can clearly see that desire burning in your eyes. Holding my hand in yours, you coax me into telling you about my past life. And as you saw me timidly trying to change the topic, you looked me right in the eye to tell me that you won’t talk to me if I don’t open up.

For a moment, I felt perhaps that moment of honesty was the only thing that ever mattered.

Take me back to those days…

And she looked back at the time when the biggest craze perhaps was to blow the candles and make a wish right before cutting the cake which was custom-made just to celebrate her arrival in the world.

This is about the time when the biggest dilemma was to choose a partner to accompany her to every classroom to distribute sweets in the school.

It is about the time when setting the parrots free from the cage every year gave her the most satisfaction, and perhaps made her feel human.

It is about the time when distributing the halwa poori to the less fortunate outside the temple made her feel richer at heart.

It is about the time when birthdays weren’t just days to wear new clothes, but to beat everyone else in the presumed fancy dress competition that came alive every year till she entered teens.

It is about that time when the musical chair was the only game where people played politics.

It is about that time when each gift was unwrapped with utmost care and finesse, so as to preserve the packing paper and the tag to utilize later for someone else’s birthday.

It is about that time when all things glittery and colourful made more sense than ever.

It is about that time when choosing your own flavors and frosting for the cake gave you the real sense of accomplishment.

It is about that time when life didn’t frown and there were happy faces all around.