Monday, August 27, 2012

The Story-Teller

Once upon a time, there lived a mysterious story-teller in London. Nobody knew where he was from, where he lived. All they knew was that he was gifted. He used to tell such stories that provoked the imagination of his audience. Some of his stories were out-of-this-world, while some used to be ordinary. No matter how his stories were, his audience always waited for more. He loved his audience and for them, he made sure that he was never short of a story. Almost everyday he came up with a new and different story.

Once, when he finished recounting one of the best tales he had ever told, a rich old man from the audience walked up to him and asked him a very peculiar question.

'You have been telling so many different stories, but you never told us your own story. I have a feeling that your own story would surpass all your tales.'

The story-teller was intrigued by his question and asked him to accompany him to his home, on one condition that he would keep mum all throughout. He agreed. After walking listlessly for two hours, the annoyed old man was stumped to find out that they had reached the same place from where they had started. At last, vexed, he broke his lull. He irritably inquired from the story-teller about what was going on, but all he got in return, was a sad smile, that had more weight than even the best of his stories. The story-teller's poignant circumstances dawned upon the old man and he couldn't say a word in response.

The story-teller whispered, 'You know why do I tell so many stories? It is the only way I can keep myself away from my own story.'

The old man was turned speechless. His wet eyes didn't allow him to speak immediately. He took out a thousand pound note from his wallet and handed it over to the story-teller, saying, 'it's for your own story, please accept this as a token of appreciation. I was so right that your own story would surpass all your tales.'

The story-teller hesitantly accepted, bowed in gratitude and whisked off, while the old man slowly walked off with a tearful smile.

Three hours later, in a countryside situated fifty miles from London, the story-teller knocked on the door of a villa and was greeted by a beautiful woman. He kissed her and said, 'honey, I told the best story today. Look, the audience loved it so much that I managed to collect one thousand pounds.' The woman kissed him back this time.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Story of a well

Once upon a time in Kabul, there lived two kids. Arif and Ehsan. Arif was on the heavier side while Ehsan was slender. Once bored of their monotonous summer holidays, they decided to play football in an empty field in the neighbourhood. There was an old well in the field, which fed the locality's water tank. One of Ehsan's sky-high shot accidentally entered into the well. For a moment, they both became perplexed. But, they both knew that it was not a deep well and they knew how to swim. Without wasting a moment, both of them jumped in.

The cold water kissed their heat-tormented bodies and they relished in the newly discovered swimming pool. They kicked the ball, played water polo with it, and finally, after an hour of refreshing break from the scorching summer heat, they decided to climb up using the iron-holders fixed alongside the old well's wall. Eshan, good with high-shots, kicked the football out in one go and started climbing up. Arif followed.

When Arif stepped on the third iron-holder, he couldn't get a good hold for his big foot. He twitched it and gave the holder a little jerk, only to find it coming off and experiencing a free fall into the well. The shriek, 'Ehsaaa....aan', was soon muted by the cold water gushing in Arif's open mouth. Ehsan upon hearing the shriek became worried and quickly looked below. He saw Arif lying in the bed of water with his body submerged, while his hands and mouth struggling for breath. 

'I'm coming Arif, just be there.' Ehsan shouted and started climbing up faster than before. 

'I'm waiting.' Arif said panting, hoping Ehsan to bring someone to help him come out of the well. Soon Ehsan disappeared outside the well and that left Arif all alone, with only his heavy breaths as his companion.

The lull, the dim light, the cold, the disappearance of Ehsan and his loud heartbeats began to scare him. He once again shouted, 'Ehsan, are you there?' to which there was no response. He battled his fear by pacifying himself that Ehsan might have gone to call his father or elder brother to help him out. 

Suddenly, a splash occurred just a few centimeters away from him. Ehsan was back! And a moment later, the football came flying in and hit Arif on his head.

Puzzled, before Arif could ask what was happening, Ehsan replied, 'Sorry, the ball went really far, that's why I took so much time to bring it back. Let's restart the game.'

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Streaks of sweat trickled down our newly tonsured heads. Despite the riotous chanting of mantra during the last rites of our grandfather, which demanded our presence, we decided that cricket required more attention. Our grandfather died of a heart attack, after which a wave of abominable melancholy struck the entire household, except the two of us. It wasn't that we didn't bother, it did affect us, but only for a while. Like love, sorrow in adolescence doesn't stay for long.

It had been three hours that we had been playing cricket. Tired as well as a little afraid that our mercurial Mama would reprimand us for being so callous, we decided to call it off. I, Shantanu, 14, carried the bat and the wickets while my cousin, Ashwin, 12, brought the remaining equipments viz. gloves, pads and the ball. To prevent ourselves from being caught red-handed returning from the playground despite the lamentable situation, we sneaked inside through the back door. The entire family was meditative to the tune of the plump pundit chanting mantras in his typical nasal tone.

ॐ त्र्यम्बकम् यजामहे सुगन्धिम् पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय माम्रतात् ।।

Unconcerned with the process, we entered a room, darkened by the dusky sunlight peeping through the windows. I was sweating profusely due to the sultry atmosphere in the room. I hindered Ashwin from switching on any lights to avoid people outside in the aangan to realize that we had returned from the playground. I closed the door and the two of us lay on the ground, looking up at the dark ceiling.

'My entire pant is wet because of sweat. God, now I can't even change it as my dry boxer lies in the other room.' I uttered helplessly.

'Mine too.' Ashwin muttered, heaving a sigh.

The sun had dipped further down, dusk was giving way to the dark ghastly night. The room was now totally dark. I twisted and turned; made some noise with my clothes as though I was playing tug of war against the ceiling. Except for the very dim flickering light of diya kept outside seeping through the crevices of the door, there was nothing that could bring even a trace of light to brighten the room up.

There was a stark silence in the room, the blatant noise made by the pundit outside was somehow numbed by the closed door and the sudden rhythmic sound that Ashwin heard.

'Shaan bhaiya, why are you shivering? Bhaiya?' Ashwin asked, worried.

''s nothing. I'm just playing video game, ah... with joystick,' I replied, slightly panting.

'Why are you breathing heavily, are you okay? Should I call someone?' Ashwin asked, concerned.

'Hell no. Stay here. Join me, do you want to hold the joystick?' I moved my right hand to grab hold of Ashwin's left and pulled it towards myself. Owing to Ashwin's nervousness, it took a lot of effort on my end to pull his hand on me.

'Grab it. Leave it free. Isn't it big?'

'What's it bhaiya? It's hot,' Ashwin muttered, afraid.

'Don't worry, just keep playing with it. This way. Do it faster, then I'll show you how to play with yours.'

Ashwin nervously caught pace, continued stroking for two minutes until his elbow started hurting.

'I can't do it anymore. I'm tired.'

'Don't stop. I will beat you if you stop. I'll complain to Mama that you broke my video game.' I asserted.

Two minutes later, I wiped Ashwin's shivering wet hands with the curtain and made some more noises with my clothes, which stopped after he heard the sound of zipping.

Ashwin felt a sudden encroachment inside his pants. In awkfard fear, he oppugned, 'Shaan bhaiya, what are you doing?'

'I'm just making you feel happy. Be relaxed.'

'Shaan bhaiya, don't touch it. Nobody has ever touched it before.'

'Arey, I'm your elder brother. I have seen you naked at birth, you don't need to feel shy. Just trust me and see how wonderful it would feel.'

The next five minutes Ashwin didn't speak a word. Another five minutes went by and he was panting.

'Even your joystick has got size. But where is the proof of your masculinity? It hasn't arrived yet.'

'Bhaiya, it's hurting me, please stop. Please. Oh god, there's a weird sensation ... oh my lower stomach...oh, oh...sigh.'

'Done. How does it feel? You had plenty of it stored, you never knew it, didn't you?'

'Bhaiya, what was that? I am feeling really frightened.'

'Don't worry Ashu, it's just excess energy inside you. Keep throwing it aside from time to time.'

'I want to go outside, Bhaiya.'

'Don't tell anyone about it otherwise I would tell Mama that you broke my video game.'


The next three days, Ashwin's behaviour had completely changed. He was clinging to his mother all the time, being totally disinterested in me. I realized that what had happened was not right. Not at all right. However, being just 14, my conscience wasn't righteous enough to make me feel sorry. Idle, I became involved in the puja-paath, with frequent long breaks to the loo. My joystick missed Ashwin. Five days later, the families dispersed in different corners of the country and the memories of the dark room was buried in the dark corner of both of our minds.

Seven years later.

21st October, 2010
Today, a very distressing memory came crawling into my head. As I am at my grandmother's place, I was asked to sleep in the very same room. Yes, the very same room where once I had physically abused Ashwin. I couldn't sleep the whole night. Though it has been seven years of the event, but ever since my conscience came into being, I had been bitten by the self-hate of doing something so vile in my utter senselessness. The ghastly memory of sexually abusing my younger brother aches my heart every time it flashes by. Sounds of his nervous breaths, worried voice and shivering body haunted me the entire night. I kept staring at the dark ceiling, in hope that the dark speckle of bad memory inside my head could be erased, but alas. 

I wonder what would Ashwin be thinking of me. That I'm homosexual, who assaulted him? Oh no, that shouldn't happen. God, someone tell him that I was just curious. It happens at puberty, doesn't it? He would be carrying hatred against me, he would never ever forgive me for what I did in my utter irresponsibleness. How would he feel when I tell him that I have a girlfriend? That I'm straight. I had just crossed puberty during that phase, that's why I was so sexually charged. Would he believe me at all? Maybe he would consider me a bi. Or maybe, he won't even talk to me for what I had done. Fortunately, they live so far that we haven't met again. Or fortunately, nobody died in the last seven years that could have brought the family together. Oh what shit I am writing. Maybe I should catch some sleep.

'Shaan, wake up.'
'Mom, come on, let me sleep. I couldn't sleep the entire night.'

'Get up. You have to go to the railway station in half an hour to pick someone up.'
'Who is coming now, I'm really tired Mom, please let me sleep.'

'You'll be delighted. Wake up.'
'Oh Mom, please tell me who's coming.'
'Your childhood mate Ashwin, along with your Mausi.'

My sleep disappeared in a second. It was as if someone had poured down a bucket full of steaming hot water on my face. I jumped up from the bed, as though, it had a spring on it. I washed my face, four times and reconfirmed from my mother, 'Ashwin and Mausi, right? Why are they coming? They didn't bother to remain in touch with us or grandma for the last seven years, how come now suddenly, they are coming over.'

'He has just finished his schooling, is done with all the examinations. They are moving out of their town after seven years, as they were busy in his education. It's time to celebrate. They are giving a surprise to your grandma, that's why they didn't inform us beforehand. Don't tell her about it at all. Also, do bring rasgullas, on your way back from the station.'

I was flabbergasted. The faster I wanted to run away from the humiliation, the nearer it appeared. I had no idea at all as to how to go ahead. As I bathed, I decided that the first thing I would do when I find Ashwin alone would be to apologize to him for what I had done in the past, for spoiling his pleasant childhood and make sure that I would convince him about my being straight, this wish was somehow more important than every other one.

With hesitant steps, I went towards the car - old Maruti 800, started it and drove to the station, along with my Mama. The train was exactly fifteen minutes late, which is quite a feat for the Indian railways. As I surreptitiously watched through the moving bogeys, I saw the oval face of my Mausi sitting in the coach that stopped right in front of me. My Mama and I immediately went inside the coach and just when I entered, I was stopped by an extremely handsome young man with long hair smiling at me.

'Hi Shaan bhaiya, how are you? Do you recognise me?' He said, flashing his mild smile.
'Oh my god, Ashu, how are you?' We hugged; the warmth was fake from my side as I was feeling really cumbersome.

The inward awkwardness was suddenly sublimated by the welcoming behaviour by both Ashu and my Mausi. It seemed that my wrongdoings of the past had been obliterated by the sands of time. I felt somewhat relieved, but at the same time, the urge to apologize became stronger as soon as I saw the tall, fair and handsome Ashu. I didn't want him to have any hard feelings against me and at the same time, I wanted to get rid of the remorse that had stayed in me ever since the day that dark room threw its darkness in my life.

We went back to the bungalow, which was an archaic sprawling duplex built by my grandfather who was a very successful doctor. My grandmother tells me that it was the first bungalow to be built in the town of Burla, way back in 1959, when my mother was just born. Amidst cheers, jest and hullabaloo of family get-together, the stark silence of remorse in my heart continued to storm my soul. I wanted to talk to Ashu personally, but we were never left free to talk to.

We didn't even realize how the day got stolen by the bright moonlight and sumptuous dinner, comprising of three subzis, dal and pulao, that were served in front of us, which I swallowed after first swallowing my considerable guilt.

'As we have limited beds, we have decided to put one extra bed in each room. Ashu, you sleep in Shaan's room, we have put an extra cot there. Your Mausi will come in Grandma's room.' My mother said to both of us.

Horrid thoughts about the previous night pervaded my mind. I realized that this was going to be worse than the previous night. But at the same time, I was prepared to apologize and get free of the heap of guilt residing in my gut. Carrying our blankets on our shoulders, we went to the room. I was rehearsing inside my head how I would begin my apology statement. We entered the room, the bed was already set, I dumped my blanket on my side and waited for Ashwin to drop his on his side, but he carried it on his shoulders throughout.

'Bhaiya, please turn off the lights please.' Ashwin said to me in a sleepy tone. I did what I was instructed. The wave of awkwardness embraced me tissue by tissue. Ashwin dropped his blanket on the bed, hearing the sound of which I was mightily relieved.

I lay down on the bed, hid inside my blanket while he was still standing. I waited to sense the right opportunity to start my monologue.

'Ashu, I had to say something.' I began.

'Haan bhai, tell me.' Ashwin said and jumped on the bed, pulling my blanket towards him. I felt bizarre, so much that for a few seconds I lost track of what I was saying.

'Bhai, tell me.' Ashwin asserted as he made himself comfortable within my blanket. Yes, my blanket.

'Ashwin, I am ...' A swift movement near my pubes interrupted my monologue. It was a hand - a fair, big and handsome hand, hidden beneath the darkness of my blanket.

'Even I am gay, bhai.' Ashwin said and caught hold of me. Dumbstruck, I started shivering. I couldn't see. I couldn't feel. I couldn't smell. I couldn't taste. I could just hear.

'Bhai,  you don't know how thankful I am to you. Ten years ago, had you not helped me out, today I would have felt so bad about myself for not being straight. You made me realize that I was homosexual and I don't need to fear anyone. Thank you so much, bhai. All the while, the sheer thought that you were like me, and doing good for yourself, kept me going through the hard times.' Ashwin continued as his grip became stronger.

'Bhai, I had always thought of you and tonight, I want to repay the debt that I had been waiting to repay all the while.' Ashwin said and inched closer to me.

I can't describe how the next twenty minutes went. For all I knew that I had unknowingly physically abused him once, he had the right to unknowingly avenge from me once. Once, for all.

I didn't tell Ashwin anything. Anything about everything. The next day, I left my granny's place without telling anyone. There was a new remorse troubling me now. In a snap, I called my girlfriend and broke up with her. I told her that I had cheated with her and she didn't deserve me. I didn't tell her how, when and where. She cussed at me. She cursed me. I didn't respond back. I cut the phone.

She didn't call back. Just SMSed: asshole. I echoed her SMS loudly and it hurt.

I had been abused, twice, at the cost of remorse. And not surprisingly, I felt better.

P.S. This is just the first draft. Requires more drafts. This is the first time, I have written on such a sensitive topic. Suggestions/critiques welcome.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


एक अजब सा सन्नाटा है 
जैसे, कोई कुछ बोलना चाह रहा हो
और बोल न पा रहा हो 

आँखें तरसती वो देखने को
जो अभी तक रूबरू नहीं हो सका
मैं खुद से पूछता कि कोई आने वाला है क्या?

खुद को सन्नाटे के सिवा कुछ न सुनाई देता 
मैं ताकता, मंडराता इस आस में कि कुछ उभर के आएगा
पर इस बेरंग आँख मिचोली में कुछ भी हाथ न लगता

बेबस, नाराज़ जब मैं हार मान कर घर लौटता 
तब सन्नाटा बोल पड़ता, और समझाता 
"ढूँढने से राम मिलता है, आराम नहीं"

Friday, February 24, 2012


दर्द तो बहुत हुआ था
जब तुम जुदा हुए थे 

तनहा तनहा खुद को देख कर
मैं बेचैन सा रहता था, 
यह सोच कर खुद को तसल्ली देता कि 
एक दिन तुम वापस आ जाओगे,  
जानते हुए कि ये नामुमकिन सी बात है 
पर क्या करूँ? ये दिल भी बड़ा खुद्दार है 
खुद की ख़ुशी के आगे 
सच को भी झुठला देता है 

दर्द तो बहुत हुआ था
जब तुम जुदा हुए थे 

अब दर्द कम है, जाने अनजाने में 
ज़िन्दगी खुद-ब-खुद ही चल पड़ी 
तुम्हारी आदत अब ज़रूरत नहीं रही 
और तुम्हारी ज़रूरत, एक याद बन कर 
सीने के किसी कोने में छुपी बैठी है 
हकीक़त ये है की मैं तुम्हे भूल चूका हूँ
जैसे तुम, मुझे,
है,  कि नहीं? 

दर्द तो बहुत हुआ था
जब तुम जुदा हुए थे 

Monday, February 20, 2012

My Violent Nature vs My Family Pediatrician

It's about the time when I was just 4 years old. My little sister was just born and trips to the pediatrician were a part of daily routine. Our pediatrician was a very old and irritable person, who would blame my mother for every little problem concerned with my baby sister's health. I used to hate him. In short, he was a typical misogynist, hailing from a patriarchal society. Once, when I went along with my parents and baby sister to him, he weighed my sister on the weighing machine and started shouting at my mother, blaming her for not taking proper care of her and being irresponsible. Being four years old, seeing some old irascible man shout at my mother provoked me and I started hitting him with my little fists and shouting like Dharmendra, 'Meri mummy ko daantte ho, main tumhara khoon pee jaunga'. The doctor got surprised and looked at me with his gruesome eyes, which couldn't frighten me enough, since I continued punching him.

My mother and father got embarrassed seeing me in the wrestling mode with a person whom they revered. My mother slapped me hard and it halted my anger streak. I started crying, thinking that nobody acknowledged my concern for my mother, not even my mother. The doctor, remained unfazed, and when my mother apologized for my strange action, he again started scolding her harshly, this time saying that she shouldn't have slapped me and I was right in my action. I felt bad for my mother once again, but my hate for the doctor faded, since he appreciated my concern for my mother.

Dr. B.N.Gupta, of Patna, remained our family pediatrician from 1989 to 2000, when in January, he passed away because of a heart attack. My parents still miss him whenever any pediatric-related concern arise in our family, my mother especially misses his reprimands while I miss the old-figure who was the first person to appreciate my impulsive reaction against rancour towards my family, otherwise I would have been a timid and unconcerned human being. In the course of the last 20 years, my violent nature completely faded but the value of respect in my life continues to remain my basic nature.

Written for indiblogger's contest for Kissan 100% Real juice.

Way back home...

1 Dec. 2008
With two guitars and a heavy bag, I began my journey back home. Dressed as stylishly as possible, with a sweat shirt speaking IIT Delhi in front as well as back, I stepped on the platform. One guitar was on my back like a bag, another one in my left hand and with my right hand dragging the luggage bag on its rollers along the way to my rail-coach, I went on. It wasn't the first time that I was going home, but it was the first time that I was carrying two guitars with me, being the centre of attraction for the 'Delhi janta'. Children, elders and 'girls' while passing beside me didn't forget to turn their heads around to have that one glimpse of me.

It has always been a pleasure travelling - with guitar as my luggage and IITian as my introduction. The aunties and their contemporaries find in me their ideal son-in-laws. Why shouldn't they - I am smart, talented and most importantly for them a person with a secure future.

Full of pomp and attitude, I got into the train - Rajdhani Express - often considered as India's best train. People around me got their curiosity doubled seeing an IITian, as evident from my sweat-shirt, and seemingly a guitar stud. I made myself comfortable on my seat with my newly purchased twelve strings resting on my seat and my old dilapidated six-strings down the berth while I crouched myself in the corner. In the relatively cold atmosphere of Delhi, I was sweating - being tired after doing the work of porter for about 15 minutes.

The train started and I just watched the people around me. There was a family with two children in the age-group of 8-10 and there was a dark south-indian guy with an American accent, who had trouble conversing in Hindi.

Generally, as it happened in my earlier train journeys, people seeing me with a guitar used to ask me what I did and when they got to know that I am from IIT, they would be awed and some envied. I waited for the family-man to start the conversation, since he had been observing me for quite sometime. As expected, he did start a conversation with me.

"Are you an IITian?" He asked after observing the obvious from my apparel.
"Yes." I replied, with humility.
"Which branch?" He enquired.
" in Nanotechnology," came my impromptu reply.

Actually, my branch is called Engineering Physics, it's a branch dealing with stuff like quantum optics and nanotechnology. But, as goes my experience, people often misinterpreted my branch as being a M.Sc course in theoretical physics, which was just the opposite of what we study. So, I began to give the introduction of my stream as in nanoscience. Nano, being an emerging field in itself, influences people and even when they don't have the briefest idea of it they say, "Oh, nano. It has great scope in future."

As expected, the gentleman replied, "Oh nano, it's the future of science!"

Flattered, feeling like the most blessed person on this planet, I looked around the place. The south-Indian guy was sitting and hearing our talks with a great interest, though he didn't speak a word. The elderly gentleman was busy looking at my guitar bag for quite some time. I knew that the moment that I had been waiting for had finally arrived.

He did not take quite a long time to bump me with my favorite question, "You play guitar. Can you play something for us?"

Elated, I did not waste a minute. I replied back, "Sure. It would be my pleasure!"

I got my chance to entertain the whole compartment and be the rockstar amongst my compartment-mates. I unzipped my bag and played some popular bollywood numbers. I played for about 15 minutes and people(including two good-looking girls!) from the adjacent compartment got close-by to hear me play. After my every single performance, they applauded making me realize that I really entertained them. The south-Indian guy was also sitting and quite relishing the harmony.

After 15 minutes of my show, I ended it with the latest Yuvvraaj theme music - the tune of the song 'Tu meri dost hai'! As I began playing the tune, a sudden smile popped up in the South-Indian guy. I could not decipher the cause but it didn't go until I finished the last song.

After I finished my solo-show, I asked that guy, "Did you like the tune?"

He said in his articulate US accent, "I loved it. Rahman sir did a wonderful job in composing that tune."

I could not get that! Has he seen the hindi movie - Yuvvraaj - when he did not know hindi at all! And why was he calling the maestro A.R.Rahman 'sir'? Was it out of respect or what?

Curious, I asked him, "Do you know Mr.Rahman?"

"Yes, I do. I occasionally play in his orchestra", he replied making me bewildered. I was trying to become a rockstar in front of an adroit musician, considering my 3 years of guitaring experience with his 20 years. His word occasionally meant he did something else too.

He asked for my guitar - the new Ibanez twelve-strings - and played Mexican and Spanish tunes and gathered almost the whole of the compartment. His fingers moved at the speed of rocket across my twelve-strings - I was awed, mesmerized and completely green with envy that he stole my crown of the rockstar of the boggy and gathered almost whole of the compartment at our place. People came and gathered all around - even in front of me - and restricted my view. They were fighting and shouldering each other to catch one glimpse of his guitaring. Even I could not get space to see him playing my own guitar. His show ended in about 10 minutes, with the popular acoustic melody 'Hotel California' as his last number.

The crowd was overjoyed hearing a free-show by a friend of the maestro himself. The train was going to reach his station, and so he handed me over my guitar complementing, "It's a really beautiful guitar, very sweet sound. You are good at it, just work harder!"

I said a faintly audible, "Thanks". He stood up, I saw the back of his jacket. It said, "Harvard School of Music!" and thus, I got the answer to his word 'occasionally'. My face flushed in embarrassment on my earlier pomp.

"It was a pleasure meeting you. I suppose you are the guitarist in Rahman sir's orchestra?" I asked the obvious question just for the sake of borrowing his way of addressing the maestro.

"No, I am the flautist!" he smiled as he gathered his luggages, bid me a "bye" and went to descend at the next station.

I did not even dare to look at my guitar for the rest of the journey.

Written for indiblogger's contest for Expedia.