The author, Nandishi Shriram

The author, Nandishi Shriram
Colors myriad, yet a land unexplore

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Smells of a past forgotten

Smells of a past forgotten

Smell, I smell wierd. Of meat
I make meat everyday in a communal kitchen. My boss is a fat, venom spewing crazy coot who likes to abuse prolifically in hindi. Maa behn ki gaalis. I do not disapprove, do not get me wrong. I abuse too. It’s only when I cook, I like to keep my mind clean of thoughts that can affect the taste of my cooking. I think the taste of the meat changes with anger and foul language. It has to be cooked with tender loving care. I enjoy cooking. This is my calling, so it seems.
I am 28 years old and a chef. I smoke hash every day to stay on this realm. Else I will not be alive. I need substance to keep my twisted brain in order and ticking. I am hooked onto the stuff and cannot do without my daily fix. I live in Mumbai. My folks are in Hyderabad. I left home when I was 19, not as a runaway, but as a confirmed rebel against my hypocritical mother. I cannot bear to be around the lady who gave birth to me, however weird it sounds to the usual ‘I love my mummy’ types. My mother and I just do not get on. We clash royally and never see eye to eye. She knows very little about my life, I prefer to keep it that way. Mummy can be very nosey and interfering and I am used to calling the shots in my life now.
This is my 6th job. I sleep with my boyfriend every night. We share a place, my walls are pink, and his have no color. I wear a plumeria in my hair, I like the smell of flower, it reminds me of life and that I live. My tattoo denotes the Cosmic Yoni. It’s engraved on my upper arm, for everyone to see. It’s stark black, like my soul. I like it. I got it done for reasons that you may not understand. My parents do not know. I do not live with them anymore so no need to inform them of every single detail of my life.
Hell is a place in a communal kitchen. Every day we get kilos of meat, chicken, seafood to cook. I hate it. I hate the sickening smells of dead flesh. I hate cooking dead animals that have to be eaten. Our ecological balance may not survive this horrific bloodshed. Yet I enjoy cooking meat, for some extremely weird reason. My mind is a quagmire of confusing yet clear thought. The dope helps in clearing the fog.
Today I slice the rump of a tender goat. The dish is Mutton Kadhi Patta, to be served up hot with flaky Malabar Paranthas cooked in desi ghee. This is a dry spicy mutton flavored with curry leaf, rich, delectable, melt-in-the-mouth tender. I enjoy cooking. It comes to me naturally, like walking does to most. My creative juices are at an all time high when I am in the kitchen.
The kitchen where I work caters to a boho style cafe where people from various nearby offices come and eat at subsidized prices. It is like a communal dhaba, though very clean, very upmarket, with the cd player belting out some latest reggae. It’s self service for all that come here, be it a Shahrukh Khan, or the local aunty who needs to fill her empty belly. Everyday, we dish out Parsi Egg Curry, Mutton Fry, Keema Kofta, and many such finger licking dishes. The customers look forward to some latest recipe concoctions from our kitchen. We post our recipes on the web too. Sometimes the food is left over. I never ever get tempted to take it home, I can’t bear eating stale food, and especially not that which has meat in it, I will be positively sick if I eat that. Of course, my boss takes a huge portion of food back home every day for his fat wife and their 2 monstrous children. He is our manager, the abuse slewing man. His boss is the owner, Anil Jee, another fat turd with a shiny bald pate, a bulging paunch and smelly armpits. His body emanates a funny ammonia like smell which makes me want to gag every time he is within my energy field.. Anil Jee finds me very tantalizing.  In fact, who does not? Anil Jee paws my butt many a times. I do not say anything to him, how can I? He is Ashok’s father. And I am used to physical attention, I kind of enjoy it in a masochistic kind of way. He cannot get his paws out of my round ass. This happens quite regularly, when no is watching. I think he jerks off after having pawed me. I must admit, I enjoy any kind of male attention, however degrading it might be.
Today it was 3 joints...heaven. I get my stuff from Hiren, the meat chopper. He is constantly stoned. He needs to be. His mother is a raging alcoholic and father a total wastrel. Hiren is in this job only because he lacks education. And he needs the money to support himself and his crackpot parents who cadge off him. Hiren is a cool guy, we get along well, as we both have abusive pasts.
We leave work every day at 6 pm after having cleared up, and after having served customers an exciting array of tea time delicacies like egg and butter scones, cucumber wafers, dahi pakodas, scrambled egg and cheese burji with toast triangles, feta & spinach mini salad cups. We clean up, lock up and then go to the nearby cafe, exchange stories of the day, we always generally muse over a coffee or two. Then I head back to my flat with the pink walls. I run in for a shower and change into a pair of clean shorts and a strappy t-shirt. I watch the sunset from my balcony. I head back in when it starts getting dark. By this time, I usually roll a joint, smoke up and blast some house music. I dance in front of the cracked mirror. I like the look of Me. I usually whip up fresh dinner for Ashok and me and then wait for him as I read the daily news. We always dine together. I am always in a brilliant mood for Ashok. We share our day’s happenings and then watch some telly together. We cuddle in front of the tv and sometimes make out right there. Our love making borders on the bizarre and erotic. Ashok is extremely experimental. I like it. My body warmly accepts everything that he does to me. I think I am in love. I like it and I do care.
Every night, I shower at least 3-4 times. I have a phobia. I imagine that I smell something real bad. Ashok tries to convince me otherwise but I just don’t get it. I cannot, it’s ingrained in me and nothing helps. I use a Eucalyptus & Mint soap to extract the smells out of my every orifice. I cannot. I smell like meat. It’s sickening to say the least. I sometimes pucker my nose up….People find that quite strange.
Ashok & I sleep with each other on a bed that had lost its life. The boards creak and the mattress heaves when we get into the act. I am sure Mrs. Verma downstairs can hear us. Am sure Mr. Verma gets off at the thought. I don’t care. I don’t like it but I don’t care. Ashok and I giggle when the bed starts squeaking loudly. It sounds like a rat on electric heat. We slow down and immerse ourselves in silent love.
Today Ashok bought me a pink plumeria. It smells of sky. The plumeria is quietly put in a glass of clear fluid. It floats in its own little ocean. I will wear it in the morning. I wear pure white tomorrow. I do not care if Haldi stains the white. But I need to remember that this was the day I was reborn. I got my divorce from Sameer 4 years back.
Sameer, the elusive mystery. We never meet after our divorce. After the court proceedings went through, he then went on with his girlfriend, Vanita. They had been seeing each other for at least 6 months before I found out. I was eventually told by Sameer that he wanted out. A lot of arguments, emotional blackmail, threats etc, but nothing could budge Sameer. He had fallen out of love with me. I had to let him go. Sameer’s leaving me totally destroyed any measure of self-esteem I may have had.
I am not so torn any more, I got back my life in a single shot. I find myself few days later in the emergency ward of a hospice. A girl who looks like my neighbour, Chandni, stares back at me when I regain conciousness.
“Reema?? Reema??. Can you hear me?? Its me Chandni...your neighbour...”
I struggle to get up, I vomit, stale green puke. I am on an intravenous drip. Chandni rushes out to call the nurse. I am in ICU. It is a suicide attempt.
The nurse zooms in and with one single stroke, pulls off the vomit stained sheets, swabs me with a clean towel, changes my hospital pyjamas and covers me with fresh sheets. I smell. Of stale curry. I am plugged into an intravenous drip that is constantly providing me with nutrition and also is helping flush out the 30 something Alpraxes & a Phenyl concoction that I swallowed. I was found collapsed on the floor by Chandni, my annoyingly sweet neighbor who likes to know what everyone is doing. She had been concerned enough to keep ringing the door bell when finally she had had it broken down and had found me in a near dead state, with blood and puke drolling out of my nose and mouth. I had nearly started haemorrhaging. I was saved. I was rushed to the nearest hospital.
Chandni is like a surrogate mother. She tends to me with a lot of love and care. I do not know why but I find her extremely repulsive and I will her mentally to go away. She just does not. She is like a mother hen, tending to me day in and day out. I get back my strength fast, thanks to Chandni’s feeding me and the doctors’ concern. I am pronounced stable by the doctors a week later.
I go back to an empty pink flat. All memories of Sameer have been magically taken away. Sameer has moved out. Our place is now empty of memories. I am back home. I wonder, will life move after this?
Chandni helps me keep my things back. Basanti, my maid, is sitting quietly in a corner in the hall when we come back. She has been up nights tending to an unconscious me. She looks upset. I suspect she might want to quit the job but my suspicions are laid to rest when she gets up to hug me and cries inconsolably. I am happy I have her around as the loneliness and silence can be earth shattering.
Sameer’s leaving me tore me to pieces. My heart will never come back. I cry into my pillow every night. Basanti sleeps in my room, out of fear that her Baby might try the same stunt again. Basanti has been with me for 4 years now. She is 30, a widow and she needs the job. Yet, her loyalties totally lie with me. In this day, where money seems to be a very big bait, Basanti seems immune to all that., she has no real wants/needs like the rest of her breed. She is also very god fearing. We visit the Durga temple together some times. Just one of those routine things. Faith in God is something I have yet to find. I just go out of politeness and my love for my dear maid.
I am now tucked into bed, with my dinner tray of hot steaming khichdi and raita. I eat mechanically. I stare at the walls. I am blank, empty, devoid of thought. A stillness pervades the atmosphere. I find it disturbing. I lie down after my dinner, in a foetal position. The bedside lamp is on. A grim and morose halo surrounds the lamp. I feel sad. I fear the dark now. And being alone.
A while later, Mummy phones. I slowly get up to answer it. I am low on energy. I cringe when I see the number that flashes, it’s Hyderabad. It can only be my mother as my father has been incommunicado for a while now. I have been avoiding Mummy’s calls. I know she is dying to talk to me, but I am not. I blame her for everything that has gone wrong in my life. My resentment shows in my tone. I answer the phone and hear her acutely shrill voice shrieking into the phone. “Beta, are you okay?? Gosh, you made us get so worried!!"
“Yes Mumma, I am fine.”
“Beta why don’t you come back home? Your Papa will be so happy to see you….Beta come back..!!”
“Mummy, you have to stop all this please. I cannot deal with it okay?? I will call you when I want to talk. I am exhausted. Bye, and please do not call 2 million times okay????”
With a click, I disconnect from my child bearing mother. She fusses way too much. She has been stopped from visiting me. I can’t handle her tears. Nor Papa’s silence. I have not lived with them now for years. I was 19 when I left home. I was nearly 20 when I married Sam. Mummy will never stop blaming herself for my leaving home. It took one slap on my right cheek to break the mother-child bond. I had stayed out the entire night, boozing, partying, and sleeping with my best friend’s boyfriend. When I entered home stealthily at 6 am. I was greeted with a resounding slap. And a heavy duty bout of abusive screaming. My sensitive and rebellious ears could not take all this, especially when our relationship was headed nowhere. I decided my next course of action. I had had enough of this deadly dull house, the lack of love. I decided that I had to start loving myself and also fulfilling my dreams. It took my few hours to pack in my precious belongings into a semi-tattered suitcase. I quietly booked an early morning flight to Mumbai, the cheapest possible flight I could find.
A day later, I left. I was scared of being out there alone but I had no choice. I was sick of being treated like a child. Mummy would frequently scream at me, sometimes slap me, sometimes kick me. I would be silent and firm that I would not break in front of this monster called Mummy. Papa was always silent and never uttered a word in my defense.
That last morning at my home, just before leaving for the airport, I had hurriedly written them a goodbye letter and had left it where the daily hisaab was kept. I knew Mummy would find it. I had left no contact number. This was my way of getting back at her. My horrid Mummy.
I reached Mumbai, the land of dreams. I was quite google eyed. This was a culture shock compared to dull and sleepy Hyderabad. The whole ambience of Mumbai had a film like quality. I even loved the dialect of the locals there, very crude but yet warm. My taxi guy very sweetly took me to a local girls hostel. There was a room available there on sharing basis. I instantly said yes without bothering to look. The rent was nominal and paltry and included daily breakfast. I jumped at it. I had some savings which had accumulated into a small nest egg. The digs were basic. There were only girls staying there thankfully. I made friends with everyone instantly. My room mate was non obtrusive and that suited me fine. She kept to herself. The other girls in the hostel were fun to be with. We would spend nights chatting about god knows what. They helped me find a head hunter. I docked my resume with the head hunter. With my excellent communication skills & my ability to convince people, I managed to get a job in a media cell, as a trainee for their PPR work. My boss was Sameer.
Now what can I say?? Sameer was hot as hell. We had instant chemistry. I was full of oozing hormones for him. I was at that age very aware of my sexuality. It took me 2 days to slip into his arms. We started dating. It took us 6 months to decide to get hooked. We got married, it was a registered wedding and then later, a simple ceremony in a temple with the Gods & Goddesses as witness. I looked the epitome of womanhood in a crisp silk red benarasi sari and gold jewels while Sameer looked every bit the dashing male in a pure white kurta with a dhoti. Our wedding vows meant a lot to me, every shloka uttered. I felt my life being bound to this man. I shed warm tears of happiness as I walked the pheras, imbibing every word of what the Pandits were chanting. This meant the world to me. Very few people were invited to our marriage ceremony. Sameer was intensely private and I hardly knew anyone in Mumbai. I only invited few of the girls I had gotten close to at the hostel and one or two work colleagues. No family. Sameer knew everything about me so did not question why I had not invited them. I did not want them to be a part of this. They were informed later. Mummy was as usual very angry and upset. I had no explanation. I did not want my folks to be a part of my most cherished moment. I did not want any shadows of my past to haunt me.
Sameer and I had a fabulous two years together. He was totally in love with me. So was I. I still cannot fathom what went wrong. I never got closure to Sam and I drifting away.
Sameer, oh Sameer. You know you loved me. You loved the way I moved. I walked into a room and you instantly got turned on.
What changed you? Was it my nightmares? My psychosis? I could not help that, could I? It was in my genetic pool Sameer. Mummy had it, so would I.
Sam & I started drifting apart. We had been married nearly two years when I first got a whiff of him being unfaithful. He would come back really late from work. Nights spent out, different smells, girlish ones. My sense of smell could not wipe it out. We would barely spend any time together. I just could not understand. I had to confront him. Which I did. He very solemnly, without an apology, told me that he had met someone else. An older woman who was an ad film maker, a divorcee. They had been seeing each other for six months. That explained the distance that had crept in between Sameer and me. We had not made love in a very long time.
We parted very bitterly. I could not handle another woman being on the scene. That was a huge blow to my ego. Sameer really got it in the neck from me. I spared no words with him. He was silent while I raved and ranted. Confrontations, fights, doors slammed, all lead to a divorce. I was brought down from my pedestal. I was at the lowest of lows when I attempted suicide. My lack of self worth and loneliness led to it. Yet Sameer never came back.
I am now back home to my pink walls, recuperating from my suicide attempt. No Sameer to hold me. Sameer had left three weeks back. A week later I had landed up in ICU. Time is so fast in its pace, gives us no space to breathe. And now time moves very slowly for me. The days are long and lonely. The nights vast and unfriendly.
My suicide attempt has left me very weak. I lie on my bed, sleep comes over me. I wake up. I eat. I sleep. I wake up, I bathe, I watch tv. I sleep. Days slip into weeks. I let myself go totally. My heart is torn and shattered. I feel like dying again. But I can’t. My courage has left me after this last attempt.
Chandni eventually stops coming, I ask her to get out when she tries to molly coddle me once more. I cannot handle her sympathy as if I am a poor little thing. She tries just so hard and I cannot hack it. She has been forbidden from visiting me for a while at least. I need to start feeling normal and confident once more.
I look a bloody mess. I am shocked looking at myself in the mirror one day. Dark circles, raggedy hair, I look bloated. My life cannot go on like this.
I decide to get my act together. I am pretty confident I can do anything. I decide to go get a job once more. I also go to the gym everyday. I make sure I am out and about. I scan the daily papers for vacancies. I circle the ones that seem to suit me and start applying for jobs.
I join a magazine as a trainee writer. I churn in some pretty average pieces as writing is definitely not my forte. My boss, a crisp and dyke-ish woman of 40, tells me in 2 wks to get the hell out. She tells me that I write garbage. My last article was on the pleasures of drinking tea. Boring and with no real facts to top up the article. I happily leave after I tell her to go screw herself. 
My next job is at a local animal rescue shelter. We have to go on rescue raids. Little stray animals that have been ill treated. My heart goes out to them. It's very distressing and I cannot handle pain of any kind just yet. I leave.
After my 5th job at a dingy accountant’s office where I get bored out of my mind, I call it a day. I go hang out with my friend Tina who I met at that magazine place. Tina is a grungy chick with attitude. Tina knows it all, I admire her. She teaches me to roll my 1st ever joint. So every evening, we get stoned. I develop attitude.
Tina & I go and hang out with her buddies every evening. I am kind of still shattered from Sameer. So I challenge myself to sleep with Vivek, a lean, mean hot man. He is wiry, well hung and we have a great time. Vivek moves off when I start clinging to him. I get stoned now every single day. I enjoy it. It’s now a habit and I have my suppliers of the stuff.
I then meet Ashok, a tech engineer. We get on very well. We start hanging out. He gives me a ride back home sometimes. He teaches me to ride pillion. Every day we go have paan. We kiss. We do stuff that you cannot talk about here. Ashok moves in with me, in my pink flat. I get a job as Trainee Chef, in Ashok's father's communal kitchen. I enjoy cooking.
Ashok & I have been together now for 3 years. I have more or less forgotten Sameer. The screams have lessened somewhat.
Ashok adores me. My brown skin, my folds, my style. I have my pink wall, his are bare. We make love all the time.
Ashok is Anil Jee’s son.
Ashok and I met by chance. Ashok was a very basic man, simple, straight forward. He was much older than me. He was the balance in my life, however clichéd it sounded.
Ashok spotted me at a bar one evening. I had been downing drink after drink. I was on a roll. I looked pretty good. I was wearing a smocked white halter top, with ample of my deep cleavage to show. My brown skin had tanned to a chocolate in the searing humid sun of Mumbai. Taking rickshaws, autos, knocking on doors for a job.
I had gleaming white teeth, my face was surrounded by a mop of curls. I had worn at my ears silver hoops. I wore low slung jeans and my pierced belly button was visible. I looked tantalizing.
Ashok had rarely seen such wild beauty. I was quite high and I didn't give a damn about anything that night. 4 drinks later, I was on a roll. I was at the bar and laughing hysterically with the bar man who was flirting outrageously with me.  Ashok decided to play rescuer, walks up to me and simply takes the drink away. “Isn’t it about time you called it a night? I am sorry I don’t know you but I think that you need to get home.” Stunned, I gasped, I sputtered, and I gagged. I mean WTF. Who the hell is this man? I got off the bar stool and could barely walk. Ashok settled my bill with the flirty bar man and walked me out to the main porch of the bar. He even helped me get a cab back home. In my drunken state, I grappled and struggled with him. I did not want to go back home, the night still looked pretty young. Our cabbie looked totally bored with the scene at hand and kept chewing on the edge of a beedi. Ashok then took it upon himself to drop me home, an act of supreme chivalry. I passed out in the taxi. The cabbie asked, “Kahaan jaana hai? Mere paas poori raat nahi hai. Aap log jaldi se bolo nahi toh phhut lo.”
Ashok tried to wake me up, no response. I was dead to the world, a state of total collapse. A cocktail of 2 joints, laced up with very strong stuff, 4 jack daniels, no dinner, enough to make anyone pass out. I did not have capacity for drink. Helpless, Ashol took me to his quarters. he could not possibly leave a drunk me to the mercy of a leery cabbie, could he? We go back to his pad.
Ashok lives with his folks. He pays the cabbie an astronomical amount, drags me out of the car and somehow manages to get me to the 7th floor of his building. The lift man stares. I am asleep. I have no idea.
He fumbles with his pant trouser, finds the apartment key, I am slumped on the floor, asleep. I look a picture of slovenliness. My mascara has run, my pure white smocked top now a funny color of orange at the neck, it has tasted Jack Daniels. I am stinking of booze, cigarettes. I am asleep. This man manages to open his door, he stealthily goes in and checks if anyone is up, usually his folks go to sleep by 12.30. We are at 4 am. Loud snores can be heard from the folks’ bedroom. He lifts me, and with sheer dint of courage, drags me to his room. He plonks me on his bed, turns on the ac, covers me with a Rajasthani, and turns off the main lights. I am asleep still. Ashok goes and ablutes. Its 5 am. It’s Saturday night. It has been an interesting Saturday night for him. From a boring desk job, to a woman sleeping on his bed, how much more interesting can it get? Ashok stares at me, he is taken in by innocent face, unblemished. He sees in me, what he cannot see in the world. He sees a dream, yet unfulfilled. Ashok is single. He goes out partying many a times with his buddies. Some times on his own. Ashok is a very straight man. We rarely come across such types. I am lucky.

It’s 11 am. I awaken in a strange bare room. The walls are white. I smell. Of booze and cigarettes. I see a man sitting on an arm chair, this man is in khakhi trousers, a blue tee shirt.
This man is reading what looks like the papers. I get up in shock. Did I sleep with him? He notices activity on the bed where I am, he looks up and smiles, a clean, white, toothy smile.
He is freshly bathed, as I can see from his neatly combed shiny mop of hair. He smells of citrus. While I, I need to shower and get the hell out of wherever I am. My phone rings, incessantly. I fumble in my bag. “Hullo? Oh yes this is she. No I am sorry please do not call me. I do not need a bank account. Bye.” Click.
I get up, my Rajasthani falls to the ground. This man rushes to pick the razai up. I brush him off. “Who the hell are you and what am I doing here????”
The man tells what happened the night before. I nod. I guess I had had too much to drink. I have a huge hangover, the size of a mountain. I am holding my head and I am in obvious agony. The man offers me a headache tab. I take it. I head to what seems to be the loo. Half an hour later, I emerge, having bathed, puked, and used his toothbrush. The man offers to drop me home. I nod. We leave. His folks look at me when I am leaving, they wonder.
I take this man’s number. I have his address. The next day, I send him a fresh toothbrush, a box of Aunty’s home made brownies. The delivery boy takes Rs. 150 from me for this. I am okay, I don’t care.
We, Ashok & Me, meet now regularly. He knows I am job-less. He speaks to his father who owns a cafe. I go and interview with his father, a fat rotund man. His father does not recognize me. I look different. This time I am wearing a black tee shirt, black trousers. I still look pretty hot. The father, Anil Jee, takes an instant liking to me. My pleasant face is an instant turn on for most people, even though they never admit it. Of course, my culinary skills a different ball game. I am put on trial. I make a kick ass hyderabadi biryani, murgh achaari, and prawns Andhra style. I can whip up most dishes, having read the recipe just once.
I enter the kitchen where I am to work. A funny smell assails my sensitive olfactory senses. It’s an amalgamation of different animal meats cooked in one kitchen. I teeter, it is a weird place to be, where mainly meats are cooked. I am luckily armed with my joints, the ones I smoke....to keep me on this realm and give me a sense of the surreal, the way I look at life now.
So each day is an experiment. With entrails, with flesh, with mass. I enjoy cooking, it has always been my forte. I don’t like cutting up sentient beings for the sole purpose of feeding a hungry mass. Yet, I enjoy cooking it. I give it my all. I bestow the meat with positive energies. I bless the being that has left this plane for feeding a greedy one.
My boss, a crass fat man, who abuses his helpers in the kitchen, many times nearly abuses me. But is scared. I am a woman, how can he abuse a woman? So I am saved from his gaalis. Whilst his boss sees me poring over slivers of rohu fish, lovingly caressing the slivers and anointing them with yellowish yoghurt in which there are little back daubs of rai, our Indian mustard. I am making Shoshor Baata, a Bengali fish delicacy, enjoyed with steamed rice. As my fragrant sweat trickles down my cleavage, Anil Jee gets turned on. I just know by his hot fetid breath. He often jokes with me and I humor him. Many times I can feel his stare. Sometimes I feel his hand just brushing down my back, where my bra strap rests. I find it uncomfortable but don’t give a damn, my joints rescue me.
He probably gets off thinking of me. I mean, who wouldn’t? I stare at myself many a times in the mirror. I am wearing just a towel, I see myself as a Goddess, someone to be cherished. I am kind to myself, the past has left me. Ashok loves me. He has moved into my place, a place that speaks of me. One wall is pink, with nothing but streaks of leakage. Mrs. Verma is a scrounge so will never repair the leakage. I don’t like it, but I don’t care.
At one end of my studio is a bed, queen sized. A chest of drawers painted a gleaming blood red, mirrors uncut and round of different sizes and shapes, stuck on. The ceiling which is mottled with mould, has silver stars. My bed is covered with a bright pink antique sari, cut and stitched into two. Mummy would kill me if she ever found out what I have done with it. It has to be a hundred years old if not more. I have no curtains, only sheers, I love light, specially the evening light. There are little sesame oil filled terracotta diyas everywhere, waiting to be lit. I have a passion for light.
Ashok shares my cupboard, my bed, my bathroom, my life. I love him, he loves me. All he can think of is making love to me when I get back. We hurriedly get into bed, whisper loving nothings to each other. I get up many times to shower. I use Eucalyptus. I shower, I scrub, and I struggle. The smell just never leaves me. I wonder, is it my imagination?
I am walking on the streets of Andheri one morning, getting an auto to get to the kitchen. I feel a hand slide down my back. I get a creepy sensation. I have not felt like this in a long time. I turn around and see a familiar face, grinning back at me. It is him. A long forgotten memory.
I meet Sameer, my past. He gives me a hug, I move off. I am scared. Not about meeting him, don’t get me wrong. I am scared that he can smell me. And I know Sameer has a very sharp sense of smell. Who could know it better than I? I would have smoked at 2 pm, at 8 pm, 6 hours later, he could smell it and catch me out. He hated the smell of jasmine and I l loved it. I would sneakily go and grab a plume and stick it behind my ear and take it out just before he would come home. Oh then what fights we would have. Now I don’t smell of flower. I smell of meat. I wonder, is it my imagination?
He grabs me and drags me to the local coffee house. I worry as its 9 am and my boss will fillip. Yet, temptation always strikes at the wrong time, does it not? A promise that he will drop me to work, a quick coffee, lots of attention giving smiles. He says I look great. He loves my new look, I dress very boho chic. Today I am wearing a purple kaftan shirt, white cotton pants, silver flip flops, and a plumeria tucked in my hair, amethyst hoops at my ears, purple glass bangles. My hair is freshly washed and a mop of curls. I am a tan, a bronze tan brought on by lots of love. I look hot and do I not know it?
Sameer, the eternal lover. He left me 4 years back. I never saw him again till this date. I am full of curiosity but I refrain. Luckily I am beyond jealousy, I have Ashok.
Post coffee, Sameer asks me out on a date. I refuse. He drops me to work. I am besought with confusing emotions. Anil Jee comes and caresses my round butt. I brush him off. My day must end well today. I leave at 6 with Hiren. We go to the nearby cafe, I ask for a mocha latte, he for the usual, a glass of cold iced water. I am pensive, he senses. We go out and smoke up. I tell him. He smiles. He tells me about Karma and the role it plays in our lives. I nod. I go back to my pink walls. I lie on the bed. Today it’s a white flower, clean and pure. The flower reminds me of my inner child. I cry, whispering to the flower. I hope that this time maybe my luck will change.
The key turns. It is him. We make love, urgently. I am now a wanton seductress, waiting to entrap my man. Ashok, I scream when I reach my platitude. I bite his neck. We collapse in a heap, in a heap of sweat and tears. The bed is sinking. Mrs. Verma may hear or may not. I don’t care.
I tell him. He listens. We cry. It’s not over. It never can be. Maybe Ashok will understand that it’s my karmic cycle and I have to cut the cord. I don’t know. I don’t care.
Sameer drives a Chevy Optra. He picks me up many times in my lunch hour. We go and sit in a park. I am silent. He stares at me, wondering. I do not say much. My hands are placed in my lap. I am usually very quiet when I meet him. My mind is numb. I think that he is playing with me. When an hour is over, I get up and walk out of the park. He follows me. He opens the car for me. I sit in it quietly.
Today, the cd player belts out “Don’t you cry” by Guns & Roses. I have memories of this song. We played it when I lost my baby. I miscarried in my pregnancy, the child Sameer and I made together. I would listen to this song at that time. I don’t know if Sam did this on purpose, but it definitely had an effect. The screams were silent. I did not have a voice for them. He felt the scream. He stops the car and takes me in his arms. I am silent. I do not say a word.
I scream and only I can hear it. A scream that can shatter a realm of illusion. My screams can never be heard by anyone. It is all a part of the mania that I have inherited. Many a times, I have woken up in a cold sweat when I have been with Sam. I have recurring nightmares of me being chased by a 2 dimensional entity that I know but cannot place. I have mentioned such dreams to Sam and he has shrugged them off as a figment of my over active and paranoid mind. My mania has manifested in many ways. Smell, sightings, visitations.
Sam drops me back. I go back to the kitchen. Anil Jee is sitting in a chair, shaking his right leg. When he does that, I know. I go back to my work station. I take off my cover shirt and I am in a sleeveless cotton white top. My tawny skin is a deep contrast to the white. I start slicing mutton portions, for a pasanda curry. I wash the meat under a tap, I slide the slices in a glass bowl that contains a yogurt paste. Anil Jee comes and stands next to me. His hand rests on my shoulder. I can smell his fetid breath. I am chopping onions, garlic, tomatoes. I say nothing. The joint has worked its magic. I am in a realm that only I can feel. It’s a magical world of colors.
I go back to my pink walls this evening. Ashok is already home. He has a fever. I go and get a washcloth, a bowl of ice and I lovingly give him a cold compress. I get him a fever medicine, a bowl of chicken broth. I lie next to him and hold him. We sleep. When I wake up the next morning, I hear Ashok in the loo, abluting. I make our bed. We kiss. He still has a slight fever so he stays in at home, with the pink walls. I leave. I have made his lunch, a bowl of khichdi, dahi raita, and a thermos of hot tea. He promises to be good. I leave.
My work day is mundane, with nothing to talk about. Sameer is not in town. He is in New Delhi. My lunch hour is spent with Aunty, Anil Jee's wife. A warm lady, always dressed appropriately. Today it's a chikan salwar kameez. Aunty is slim, neat, and tidy. Solitaires rest at her ear lobes, a diamond kada at her wrist and a Chopard watch. Aunty approves of me. She likes what I have done to her son. He has started getting a personality. Aunty invites me over many times. I rarely get the time to go. When I am there, Anil Jee is surprisingly absent. I know. He is scared. I don't care. Aunty is happy to talk to me. In me, she sees a daughter and a friend. Aunty helps with the accounts of the kitchen. Aunty takes me shopping many Sundays. I love silver, she buys me earrings sometimes, sometimes it’s a piece of cloth that I must have, sometimes we just go and watch a film. We many times surf the net....
I am pregnant, with child. It is my 2nd pregnancy. I feel good. I don't tell anyone at work. Ashok knows and everyday our child gets treats. Its chocolate sometimes, sometimes it’s a dress, sometimes its intense lovemaking. It’s my 4th month. I have begun to show. A little mound appears where my flat stomach once was. I smile when I look at myself at the mirror. The child will be named Neher, a stream. I know I will have a girl, our lovemaking was so.
I have had a round fat baby girl. We call her Neher. We are proud parents. I hold the baby in my arms, my tears fall on the girl and she blinks. She looks like an imp. Ashok takes her away and I sleep. Later, Sam sends flowers. A note.
"My dearest Reema, Congratulations!! I can't believe you are a Mommy. Remember the time when you were pregnant with our child? We planned a pink nursery.
Today I am not with you. I feel sad. Also your silence kills me. I know you will never forgive me. I do bless your child and hope that someday you will understand.
Yours, forever,
Sameer"
Ashok hands me the flowers, a bouquet of Jasmine. Ashok reads the note. He keeps it under my pillow. I can hear the screams, no voice.
My child stares at her mommy, she asks silently, when will you stop the screams?
I am now at home, tending to Neher. She is 6 months old. I am with her, day in and day out. Ashok comes in late from work every day. My sense of smell is heightened by a faint whiff of smoke whenever he enters. Ashok and smoke?? Could not be. I know he hates ciggies. I keep quiet.
Neher gurgles, she is soft and powdery. Mummy and Papa have sent a lovely hamper for her, pink frilly dresses in pure cotton, bibs, a silver rattle, a Minnie Mouse silver baby egg cup, a matching photo frame, and a gift voucher from Mothercare for Rs. 25,000!!!!!!! I am amazed. I call them to thank them, Mummy picks up the phone.
"Hello?? Beta Reema, kaisi ho?? Neher kaisi hai?? You know we are dying to visit. Your Papa does not say it but his heart melts when he reads your emails. Beta please, humein aaney do."
"Mom, I will let you know. Tell Papa I am okay and that Neher can't wait to get to her Nana. He has to teach her to fly, the way he taught his mommy. I love you Mom. Apna khyaal rakhna. Byeeeee.....!!" I put the phone down. I sit quietly. I wonder. Do I still smell? Mummy & Papa want to visit and see Neher. But can I let them see me like this?
I look like a tramp from the gutter trails. I am a sight to believe. The gorgeous Reema has become a sad, limp, morose thing. You cannot begin to imagine what I look like. Mummy would die of shock if she saw me like this and so would Papa. Whatever it was, they always thought their baby was pretty. I am a slob, redefined.

I have cut my hair. I am 20 kilos heavier. I try to eat less, but it becomes more, always. I nibble on khakhra, cookies, cheese toasts ladled with thick gooey slabs of butter. Dinner is a large feast, eaten alone. I am embarrassed to let anyone watch me as I shovel big, giant sized bites into my over-expanding mouth.  I cook for 4 generally as I feel the food might run out. Neher is on baby food, which is basically rehashed slush. Ashok has usually eaten by the time he gets back as he is sick of my tantrums, I am an emotional wreck and I cling, I have become way too needy, very unlike the Reema who used to show the middle finger to everyone who came within 10 meters of her emotional radar.

All day I do nothing apart from looking after Neher, surfing the net and of course, obsessively eating. Ashok has started drifting away. Maybe he can hear the screams, or he can sense that I am manic depressive. I have in my bedside drawer, a strip of tranquilizers, a wad of hashish, and my cigarettes. I smoke on the balcony as I do not want Neher to passively smoke. At least I still care somewhere.
I sometimes smile when I think of Sam. He did understand me, way back then. But I was too much of a rebel and somehow did not want the relationship to stick. When did I become a commitment-phobe? And I must say, he did try. He did hurt me and the guilt made him want to come back and make amends. I was too far gone by then. The hash, my emotions, my obsessive sense of smell had taken over. And now I had become a recluse, hiding behind the fat, the lack of self-image. He has stopped calling totally. Sam still tried to stay in touch but I would never return his calls. My unresponsiveness finally drove him away. It has been a while since I have met him. I don't want to meet him. The smell of meat lingers in my every orifice. I cannot explain it.
I am now alone. Ashok has left, in a state of disgust. He could not see his baby become a slothful image of the spunky beauty he had fallen for. He just decided to pack his bags and leave one fine day after the final fight. He just could not handle my screams and my smashing the glass vase and cutting my hand. He simply got up and left, out of sheer self respect. He left Neher with me. I called Mummy and Papa and asked them to take her away. I wanted out, freedom was what I was looking for. I got it.
I am travelling, to a Light that is engulfing me. My screams have left me. The pain has stopped. The smell has vanished.

"So, when did you actually leave my life Sam? Was it when I had travelled to the Light?". I slowly ruminate in my cigarette filled head.
I usually find that my joints take me to an effulgence that I cannot fathom. I enjoy the Light, even though it scares me. All kinds of messages come to me when I am there. All my worries leave me when I am there. In fact, even Ashok’s eviction from my life does not pain me any more when I am there.
It has been a year since we have parted. I still stay alone in the flat with pink walls. Neher now lives with Nana and Nani. I frankly could not look after her when I was stoned, which was 99% of my conscious time. I would sometimes break into severe fits that I had no idea about. That’s when my delusions swamped me and the screams got worse. Ashok left me when the screams got unbearable. I was a vision to be observed. Hair astray, clothes all soiled, my home a virtual sewer with ashtrays bulging with cigarette butts, crumbled pieces of hash all over the floor, left over stale food in the fridge. I served up absolute trash to him that would barely pass off as food. Neher would also get some quickly rustled up thing that she could barely eat. Days would go by without my having had a shower. I had reached a state of absolute sloth.
Ashok could not handle my growing paranoia. I was suspecting him of having affairs when there were none. The cigarette smells that emanated from his clothes were his boss’s cigarette fumes, not Ashok’s. Ashok had been totally loyal to me, and was willing to walk the moon for me, but I just never trusted any man. I never got to know why till much later. We will come to that later. Let me tell you my present state.
I am now a stay-at-home writer. I write for online magazines. I find it physically difficult to get my fat and burgeoning ass out of my tiny flat. My cooking skills are near dead. My smell, it is strange, sometimes I smell of fetid animal meat, sometimes a subtle flower, sometimes just plain human, of life. My pores ooze some strange odor. I just don’t know when the next smell will attack my already weakening mind and my bizarre olfactory senses. Dr. Juneja is helping but at a very base level. I need solid help. I hope I can find it.
My landlady, Mrs. Verma now charges me a very nominal rent. She has seen me through my worst possible times and has been a great help. Especially when Ashok left me. It was that fight, Neher going away, my being left alone that brought on this state of collapse.
It had been two days after he left. I had not emerged from my flat. The newspapers, the milk, the home delivery groceries kept piling up. The delivery boys would press the bell time & again and I would not respond. How could I? I had consumed in one single evening, 1 bottle of vodka, and had 6-8 joints laced with hard core stuff. I had collapsed eventually and 2 days later was found lying on the bare floor of my tiny flat, I had drool coming out of the side of my mouth, my clothes, if there were any, were stained. My robe was askew and bit of my body could be seen, corpulent pieces of flesh I had become incontinent in my dozy state. There was a strange odor emanating from my pink flat. I looked as if I had died, well maybe it might have helped if I had, but no such luck.
Mrs. Verma was notified by the cleaning lady who could not enter the flat. She rushed to my flat, had the main door broken down and was shocked to see me lying half nude on the Persian dhurrie. I was unconscious. 4 people had to haul me to Mrs. Verma's flat. It took me two days to come out of the catatonic state I had reached. Mrs Verma took it upon herself to bring me back to life. I was not attempting suicide again, don’t get me wrong. I was happy that Ashok had found his bearings and left me at a time when my brain had become addled with substance. I could now do what I wanted. I frankly did not care anymore. Life had left me with so many scars that my heart had stopped beating.
Mrs. Verma bundled me up in warm blankets, fed me chicken soup daily, and egg paranthas to help me get back my strength. I was ensconced in her guest bedroom. A few of my things came with me, my bowl of plumerias-my precious babies, my frangipani incense, and a few clothes and tit bits that I would need, like my i-pod, my books, my camera. Mr. Verma had no say in the matter about my staying at their place. He could hardly raise his eyes to look at me. He saw a distorted vision of the very sexy girl who had moved into their flat a few years ago. Now all he saw was an obese, drab, and dull as dishwater woman who looked as she may be in her 40s. The excesses had done me in. I looked nothing of what I had been pre-Neher. Post natal depression had set in late and added to my mania.
Mrs. Verma slowly, over days spent looking after me, started cajoling me to go into counseling. She drilled me on the importance of therapy and how it could help heal my scars. I totally and utterly resisted. There was nothing wrong with me, was there? I mean I just had to get rid of those 30 kilos and I would look great. But no, Mrs. Verma knew. She had had enough experience in life to know which way I was headed. I was on a self destructive path to oblivion. I needed help. I had an angel, and that was Mrs. Verma. You see, she had worked with jail inmates who were into drugs and she had some beginners' training in counseling. She knew what she talking about here.
So we went to Dr. Juneja, a spiritual counselor, in Andheri. He had a small clinic in his apartment and he usually saw people there. He came with great recommendations, was highly qualified, and to top it all, a very gentle man who had probably been through his fair share of problems.
Dr. Juneja’s flat was not impressive, but had a quiet energy. Mrs. Verma left after I got into my first session ever with a counselor. I was 27, grappling with life alone, without anyone to hold as an anchor. I know there are times when you want to be alone, but at this time, I felt alone and scared.
Over the next few sessions, my problems started unraveling. I established a bond of trust with Dr. Juneja. He would read my poems, sometimes a solitary tear would come to his eyes when he would read them. The pain in my writings was visible. We went through many regression sessions. I resisted the 1st few ones as I had an issue with trust. I slowly eased into hypnosis as a therapy to heal. I learnt who Sam was in a previous life and why we could never be together. Ashok never appeared at all in my regression sessions. I had no pain attached with him. I loved him, unconditionally. I just knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life by letting him go. But I knew. Till such that time that I didn’t heal my past, nothing would be permanent with me.
It took a year of sessions, many thousands spent, and many tears to get me where I was a year later. Mummy and Papa sent me funds to tide me through. I would sometimes go over and stay at Mrs. Verma's, I enjoyed her caring, very tender, very soft, just like my plumerias. I could feel her golden warmth. She had become my surrogate mother, as my birth mother and I had never really connected. As they say, most mothers and daughters never really do get on. They end up clashing, it is that woman to woman thing, competition so to speak. And women normally connect better with their fathers. Well, in our case, the issue was entirely different. Papa had become totally inwardly and Mummy had become way too fussy. I somehow could not forgive certain things that had happened to me when I was a child. Mummy's covering up issues and Papa's deafening made me turn into the rebel that I eventually became.
I was all of 11, when the first attack happened. The person concerned was my paternal uncle Rohit, a cousin of my fathers, twice removed. Uncle Rohit was a lonely man. His wife, Aunty Sumi was a harridan and dealt with Uncle Rohit with a whip lash acerbic tongue. Meals at home would be frugal, basic and spartan. No fuss. Aunty Sumi was always very careful with her trim figure. No bread, no cheese, no butter. Every morning, at 6, Aunty Sumi would go for a brisk walk. Friendless, they would hardly entertain. Aunty Sumi was a scrounge and would cadge off others. She would not allow Uncle Rohit to bring friends over, for that would mean expenditure and that was not happening. Whereas our home was always open for Uncle Rohit. Mummy adored him. They would spend hours talking about god knows what. Uncle Rohit would drop in many times for meals at our place in Hyderabad and end up staying on late into the night. Mummy would take pains to cook a grand meal for him, I would help many times in the kitchen. Dinner would always be a fabulous spread. Post dinner, Papa would go to bed and Uncle Rohit & Mummy would be chatter away into the night. Mummy always looked fabulous, manicured nails, a chignon dropped low at the base of her neck, gold hoops at her ears, a chiffon sari or trousers and a sheer top. Mummy would take pains to dress whenever Uncle Rohit dropped by. We never questioned why he would come alone. He would tell us that she was travelling or was home, nursing a migraine. Aunty Sumi was very anti-social. The only focus for her was her work, and how to take it forward. Which is why the travels. Aunty Sumi would frequently be away in some metro city with her boss. She worked in Halcyon International as a corporate executive assistant to Mr. Khelkar, a prissy man who ran his own manufacturing unit of pharmaceuticals. Uncle Rohit would take her travels as a golden opportunity to be at our home. We never objected. We loved his company.
He was a sweet man, Uncle Rohit, always getting me some goodies. He would get my favourite one rupee Cadbury chocolate, or a pretty skirt, or some bauble, or an Indian doll. I loved those Indian gudiyas, wearing saris, with plaster faces. I would love dressing them up.
I had a grand collection of dolls. Anyone who would go anywhere, would get this request from me to get a doll. I had a display cupboard in my room where the dolls sat. One stunning one from Austria, bought by Uncle Rohit. It had ceramic flowers embellished on it, the tulle skirt of the ballet dancer was pink, and the face was exquisite. I had a collection of Indian dolls too. They looked so quaint in their old fashioned garb of mull sarees, gold jewelry and Godrej dyed hair.
Uncle Rohit and Aunty Sumi never had children. Aunty Sumi had a low fertility rate and had miscarried a number of times. Anyway, she was never cut out to be a wife or a mother. She was a career woman and Uncle Rohit a bit of a wastrel, knowing that the bread & butter came from Aunty Sumi, he would hardly be efficacious at work. His boss wanted to throw him out but was under pressure from his gorgeous wife, to keep him on. She probably had the hots for him. Who knows? Aunty Sumi & Uncle Rohit ‘smarriage was one of convenience, no real love attached.
Uncle Rohit had a special affection for me. I was his favourite niece. He would tickle me many a times, and I would squirm, wiggling away and shrieking. I was extremely ticklish. Many times, he would stare at me when I would let out peals of laughter. I let it pass. I was a pretty child, brown, innocent. I had a snub nose, big molten eyes, and my hair had started growing rather quickly. I had even started sprouting, at age 11. I was kind of confused. My friends would tell me I was becoming a big girl. I would giggle. I had no idea what lay ahead. All I knew was that I loved my school, my mummy, my papa and my Uncle Jojo(my nick name for him). I would love climbing up on his lap and playing with his mustache. He was my favorite, Uncle Rohit.
We would go on many outings. My folks had full trust in him. He was allowed to take me for movies, black & white, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel Hardy & Lucille Ball.
I would sit and stare agog with my mouth open, staring at the screen, wide eyed. He would tenderly hold my hand and stroke it gently. I would giggle when Hardy would do some crazy antic and my laughter would make Uncle Rohit smile. I caught him many a times, staring at me with a longing I would never really understand. I understood later, many episodes later.
Uncle Rohit would get me many goodies and entice me to go with him for a drive in his swanky car, a gleaming Ford. It was deep blue. I would enjoy sitting in front and fiddling with his music system. He would play my favourite song ‘She wore an Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.’ I would love it. I would imagine myself racing on a white beach, in my bikini,....and swimming with the waves.
It all started when I first came out of my bathroom, wearing just a small bloomer. My ayah had gone out of the room and I came out to just go and lie on my bed. It was an awfully hot day and power cuts were usual. I had broken out into a heat rash and ayah was to get the ointment to apply on my hot skin.
Uncle Rohit was staying over. Aunty Sumi was to be away for a long time and their help had also gone on leave. Mummy very kindly offered to let him stay over. He accepted. No one was home that day. Papa was at work, Mummy had left early in the morning to be with a friend of hers who was due.
I was lying on my bed, with eyes closed when I felt someone tickling me on my tummy. I opened my eyes and saw him lying there, staring at me, at my rounded little lemons, with his mouth open. I could not speak. He tried to grab my little lemons and pinch them. I ran to cover myself but he caught me mid way and started groping me in my lower region, pulling down my undie and shoving his hand in. I screamed and he covered my mouth with his other hand. I don't know where ayah was. He had very slyly and quietly locked the door. He climbed on top of me, undid his pants and forced himself into me. I cried and I cried, all I could see was his evil smile and him licking his thin lips. He even tried to kiss me. Few minutes later, he relieved himself in the toilet and left me sore, silent.
I was to keep quiet and never mention this episode to anyone. The treats would still keep coming and the attacks would carry on. He would somehow know when no one would be around. It would take him just a few minutes to do his bit with me. He never cared that I was only a child. He would carry on his filthy gropings and other stuff with me. I never knew what to do. I was confused. I loved my Uncle Jojo but did not like what he was doing to my little innocence. He would try things with me that I knew only people like Mummy and Papa would do. I was scared. I did not know who to confide in. I tried to tell ayah but she would just brush it off as a figment of my imagination.
I was now 12, a year had passed. I had started bleeding. Everyone knew, even Uncle Rohit. There were celebrations. Mitthai was distributed. I had become a big girl. Ayah taught me how to wear a sanitary napkin. I would find all this very icky. I found it strange that I was bleeding. Uncle Rohit would carry on his stuff with me even then. He would make me do all kinds of weird stuff which I cannot even mention. I felt humiliated when I was made to stand without any clothes and that he would stare me up and down.
It was at school when the facts came tumbling out. My friend Sunali and I were sitting in the park in break time. I told Sunali that my periods had started. Sunali was a mature kid for her time. She told me to be careful and not to meet any boys etc. I could get into trouble. I was baffled. I was just a kid, how could I get into trouble? Sunali told me about the birds and the bees. I was shocked. I then came to understand what had been happening with me. He was a pervert who was playing with a child. I thought it over. I decided to tell Sunali. I told her everything. She was a great friend. She told me to go tell me parents what Uncle Rohit had been doing. She was very adamant.
I was really scared. I knew Mummy adored him. She secretly had a crush on him. He was dashing, in the typical way. He dressed very well. He looked like a cross between Jackie Shroff and Jeetendra.
Anyway, fear put aside, I decided to tell Mummy everything. What I got in return was many, many slaps that still ring in my ears, and orders to never mention all this to anyone. I was mortified. My basic trust in people was shattered forever. I hated Uncle Rohit and ran into my room and locked myself every time he came over. I would get yelled at by Mummy for being rude and ill mannered, but the damage had been done. Papa would quietly pick up his papers and go and retire to his room. Never did he utter a word in my defense. I still didn’t blame him or her. I was just so scarred but I loved my Mummy & Papa. Life now looked different. I stopped caring. I became a rebel.
I was all of 16 when I had my first pregnancy. My boyfriend. Ajay had been careless. I discovered I was pregnant when I missed my first period. I had to scrape up money, feign excuses at home about a function at school when I was actually at a clinic, aborting my first ever child. The bloody mess, the trauma, the smells. It was then when I heard my first scream. I was asleep, induced in a stupor by anesthesia when I heard a blood curdling scream ripping through my skull. It seemed as if an entity had lodged itself in my body. The screams would get louder and louder. They would only go away when I would sleep.
My parents never suspected that I had boyfriends. Mummy was too caught up in her bridge games to notice that I was growing up. Papa, his usual silent self. He would silently sit in a corner and read his philosophy books. There was always help at home. So Mummy did not have to be at home as such. Uncle Rohit, what can I say? That man was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
He moved into his boss's wife's place. Aunty Sumi was left alone. Our clan disinherited him so no one was allowed to meet him. He turned out to be the black sheep of the family. Mummy and Papa also stopped talking to him after all this. No mention of his attacks on me ever came up. It was like it had never happened. Mummy would many a times feel guilty about having not done anything about it so would try to be a good mother. She would fuss over me, bring me goodies, and try to cuddle me. I would not have it. Papa would sometimes open up and take me for long walks. We would just sit and stare at the lake. Papa would many times take me to the flying club. We would sit in a mini 2 seater and off we would go. I loved these solitary moments with my father. Back home, he would be his usual reticent self, receding into his shell, self made.
There would be strange happenings at home. I would awaken many a times at night and hear earth shattering noises. I would come out of my room and would always be shocked to see Mummy breaking things in the house, whatever she could find. A crystal cut glass would go whizzing by and crash into the wall, or a clay Ganesh. Mummy would frequently get these fits and Papa would have to ring up the doctor. Mummy was now on anti psychotic drugs and tranquilizers that controlled her schizophrenic fits. Mummy had a chemical imbalance that brought on these mad fits. Medicine was the only way out. I inherited some of the mania, my genetic pool did not permit normalcy. I didn't like it but then...I had no choice, but to stop caring.
Anyway, years later, I forgave mummy. You see, Vikram had entered my life. Vikram, a chocolate smoothie....to be had in slow small bites. He was divine. He smelled of chocolate too. We met on a Jet Connect Flight from Goa and we hit it off. I had lost weight, had started looking good once more and my Goa tan was kind of molten bronze. I had started smiling once more and people always loved me for my warm open smile. My counseling sessions with Dr. Juneja were helping me heal the pain of my childhood abuse. I stopped blaming myself finally and was ready to see the world the way it should be seen.
We exchanged numbers on the flight and when I got back to Mumbai, I found a message on my phone, asking me in one word...dinner or coffee??
I grinned...it would be dinner followed by coffee. And who knows what after....
I slipped on a white sheer camisole, with a red voile dress over it....silver hoops, a wooden colored necklace, and thongs. I left my place with a sense of nervous euphoria, I knew not what Vikram would be all about. All I knew was that I was ready to meet someone new.

Vikram and I met for dinner at Ling's Kitchen in Colaba, we took the corner table as we wanted to talk. The evening stretched into midnight and the owner had to literally ask us to leave. Over lots of sushi, dim sum, peanut noodles and soup, we made chemistry. Vikram was what I was looking for. He was not traditionally hot, in fact he was the exact opposite. Something in him spoke to me…..his mop of curly hair, his professor glasses, his short height, all added to the oozing sex appeal I could pick up on my female radar instantly. I knew that this was it.
We walked over to the beach, found a clean spot and chatted into the night. The stars that night were witness to a love that only few could ever understand. Vik was my 4th soulmate. I had seven, as said by Ania, my soul healer.
Vikram & I met regularly. It turned into a mills and boon romance. We started with great sex, very very delicate and delicious kissing and much more that would make anyone’s blood tingle.

We got on like a glasshouse on electric heat. Raging nights of passion, screams of volatile love making, and tantalizing milk and rose petals baths in my glass tub….Oof, anyone would shiver thinking of our love story.

Every evening I would put on my tracks post dinner, I would rustle up a cappuccino for my man, would wait for him to finish work, and we would just lounge around drinking endless cups of coffee. It would always be followed by smooth and erotic lovemaking. Vikram would gasp with my inventiveness in the sack, he would be amazed at what his woman was capable of.
We always used protection. I was quite clear I did not want another child. He had met Neher and was okay with her. There was no daddy-ism clichéd crap happening here. Vikram was not up for nursing someone else’s child. I was glad he had his self respect.

We decided to buy a place together. It was a very open kind of bohemian place with blue mosaic tiled walls, orange pillars, glass, and light. This was our place.
I did our place up very naturally, with eco friendly towels, terra cotta mosaic, cracked glass goblets, and just lots of white dhurries....no one could bring in their dirty feet inside. I was very OCD about this. I was obsessed with light, glass, color. Vikram loved me totally. He did not give a shit about my so called colorful past. He loved my zaniness, my neurosis, and he absolutely adored my world. We lived many fun years together. Vik and I totally enjoyed our time spent together. Our days were filled with the color of love and madness.
Today, I am 40 years old. Neher has grown up to be a lovely teenager. She now lives with us. Papa passed away last year. He had a massive seizure that finished him there and then. Mummy was shattered for a while but got back into social life rather quickly.
I run my own business which is basically into private labeling for beauty products. It's doing rather well and I now supply internationally. I totally enjoy work, with zero emotional baggage, I move in the direction I need to follow.
My treatment continues. Dr. Junejas is now a part of my life. I have no qualms in saying so even to Vikram. He has been my pillar of strength. He has helped me walk the alternative path of healing and spiritual studies. That has helped me find more anchor. We talk for hours on end on the mysteries of rebirth, death, Karma, angels, astral travels, the Occult. He knows about my past dreams and my current ones. He knows I still seek. I am not at all satisfied with my questions.
Ashok has stopped trying to contact me. I cannot handle that part of my past anymore. I have disassociated myself from it totally. The past stops having any effect on me whatsoever. I now relish my life with my man, the divine Vikram. He satisfies my primal urges and to the very core.
Vikram leads me into my bedroom every night. We make wild passionate love as new lovers. No one can tell that we have been together for so long. We have decided not to marry. Marriage for me, as an institution, is totally non-existent. I believe there are at least 7 soul mates, I get into fights with people because of this, especially with the narrow minded women who got married before they reached adulthood. They conform even till date, to in-laws, husbands, kids, whilst I live life on my own terms. I am the way I am. I hate conforming, I am the eternal rebel, I cannot change, I do not like it but I don't care.
Neher is also a blooming rebel. We have massive clashes. She loves her Nani and I try to stop her from going back to that dungeon that I once called home. She is allowed to go to Ashok periodically but is forbidden to tell me what they get upto. I have banished Ashok from my life and my heart. Vikram does not interfere in my selective isolation and my progressive madness, he is used to it, he is kind of mad himself. Every weekend the clash of cymbals and drums can be heard on our rooftop terrace. Vikram goes up and plays music to the skies at large every Saturday night while I go out with my girl friends. We go dancing to Busaba, F Bar, or some nightclub. I don’t drink anymore. I enjoy dancing to the hilt. I dance to Boney M, 80s electronica. I clock in at 5 am sometimes, sometimes one. Vikram is usually asleep by the time I get back.

I watch him sleep and I smile. My heart is filled with love for Mr. Chocolate. He gets showered with feathery kisses, and we always end up making soft, whispery love to the tune of music that cannot be heard even by angels.
Neher has her own room. Her friends usually sleep over on the weekend when she is not with her father. They stay up all night playing with the Wii or downloading movies and watching them. I don’t censor her at all. She is an intelligent child, rather..teenager. Pretty, with soft curls, dusky, Neher is showing signs of being me, but smarter and more grounded. Vikram and she are buddies. They have lunch or coffee sometimes when I am not around.
Vikram is just a man who makes my blood course. The next few years are full of laughter. I have stopped doping totally. Vik has helped me get off the stuff. I do suffer withdrawal, my hands twitch and my walk gets unsteady at times. The rehab at Bangalore has helped. I am on a very mild dose of tranquilizers, along with my anti psychotic medicine that I have to take for life, else the screams start again.
Vik and I travel to the most exotic places, last year it was a Tibetan Monastery where both of us have gone for a meditation camp. It is splendid. My questions on the paradox of life get answered. I am satisfied. I meditate daily. It helps me get a measure of more calm. I already am deeply content. I now paint, lilies on glass. I experiment with colors, adding aroma to them, making lamps, getting the carpenter to come and do his stuff. Our place is filled my collective junk. I have few friends, Chandni from my past. She is now a teacher of Economics in a reputed college. We reminisce at times, giggle, go watch the latest films. Chandni is married, with one son. We go for picnics to Alibaug at times. The Lotuses in the ponds there call out to me. I sit by the ponds and just look at the petals of the lotuses. They talk to me at times, of beauty that is withheld for lack of love....I feel tears sliding down my cheeks. Chandni hugs me, she has known my pain. We are very close now, like sisters I feel. I enjoy our friendship. Chandni and her hubby Ramesh join Vik and me many times over a home cooked fusion meal that Vik has cooked. His specialty is braised beef steak with wasabi. I enjoy this....his love and his way of romancing me always. My smile always says it all. Our love is very visible. Chandni enjoys watching us play mental games.....I just wish our love would last. But yes, life is transient. I know that.
I was all of 45 when the first seizure happened. I awakened to feel myself in cold sweat. Vikram was in London. Neher was luckily in the next room.

My scream was heard by her and she rushed in to find me drooling from one side of the mouth. She called up Ashok and together they rushed me to a nearby Hospice. It so happened that the medication, my abusive past, my substance abuse and the stress I had undertaken, had all taken its toll on me. I was a semi paralytic. Vik flew down to be with me. He shed tears of pain when he saw his Bubbles lying in a hospital bed, one side of the body totally slack.

It took me two shattering and slow years to get my walk back. I had to undergo intensive physiotherapy, exercise, yoga and alternative medicinal routes to allow me to semi heal. I now have a 24 hour nurse. Neher lives with me. Vikram is still in London. It seems that he has met someone. His emails are few and far flung in between. He mentions Neher in his emails but stays away from the emotional stuff. He has stopped answering the main question, "When are you coming back, Vikram?" I get no answer. I know. He has moved on. I cry alone. No one can hear my screams. It's only me, once more. Back to my solitude.  I am now totally shut off. I can’t help it. Vik's leaving me has closed the lid on love for me. I have had it with emotions.

My emotions now come out into my paintings. I am an acclaimed artist of repute. My paintings sell at unaffordable prices. I show at acclaimed galleries across the world. I love the fame, the money, the glamour. I do not want anyone to share my glory. I am okay with it. Over the next few years, I invest well for Neher. I know she will love me for this. I have bought her a place in Alibaug, the garden pond is full of Lotuses.....my ode to love and to life...

I now live with my mother. Neher is away in college, design academy in Rhode Island, she won a scholarship. Mummy is 86. She is totally shriveled up and not even a remote reflection of her glamorous self. She lives out of a suitcase, she prefers to.
We still fight though not so badly. I pity her. She is not the same. Alzheimer’s has done her in. We enjoy the years spent together. I reconnect with my mother who I had lost so many years back. I try to make her last few years on this Earthly plane as comfortable as possible.
I remember my mother fondly when I look at the old photographs. I am graying quite badly now. I am also beginning to shed weight. Gosh, I am getting old. Neher has to sometimes force feed me. I kind of enjoy the attention. She brings her family over quite often. We have a cook-out on my terrace. Sita, my caretaker, a part of our family, helps with meals, with the home etc. I have a house servant too. I cannot be alone.
Mummy passed on ten years back. We took her ashes to Hardwar. I sob, my last link to my past has gone. Neher holds me and also sobs. Vani has just about seen her grandmommy.
Vani is my little pet. She is Neher's daughter. I hugged her when she was born. The love I could not give Neher, I gave to Vani. Vani is with me every weekend. We go to the movies, we go watch Zangoora, I shop for the little girl and get yelled at by Neher for spoiling Vani rotten. Kali, Neher's husband is a gem, a south Indian Tam Brahm to boot.
Neher met him when she was at Infocon. They fell in love and married.
I am happy. I am happy to go onto the Light. My time has come. I have found my answers and so I have stopped seeking.
I am 80 when I breathe my last. By my side are Neher, Kali, and Vani who is now ten.. I breathe my last when I see my dearest Sam in the Light. Sam had passed on many many years back. We submerge into one, with roses, angels and birds chirping around us. Below I see Life, which I never could really embrace, except when Vikram entered my life. I seek Karmic Retribution from the Spirits. I am granted the wish that. I never set foot on Earth again. I am at peace with the silver light. I sleep, forever.

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