Monday, September 26, 2016

Estranged letters


The door slams alerting me to the arrival of Dr. Bansal. I don’t want to see him and so I continue watching the distant view of the snow capped hills glistening in the sunlight. The sweet smell of the pine trees wafts into the room along with a bone-chilling cold draft of air. I wrap my shawl tighter. I long for the warmth of my bedroom in Delhi. Strangely, this hand-knit woolen shawl, a gift from my mother who taunts me with her icy silence, is my fondest companion these days.

“Tina, Dr. Bansal is here. I will wait outside,” says Sister Angela. She walks out of the room and I reluctantly turn around.

He smiles. Deep dimples appear on his cheeks.

“How are you now, Tina? I read your case history. You have a rare anxiety disorder called Graphophobia, a fear of writing or handwriting. It is rare but definitely curable,” he says.
“I won’t take the pills given by the other doctor to curb my anxiety. They make me numb to everything. Do you hear? I won’t.”I snap at him.

“I am not asking you to take any pills. Tell me this Tina, what happens when you pick the pen to write?”

I don’t want to answer him. I am tired of telling people about my symptoms. Breathlessness, dizziness, excessive sweating, nausea and a fear that leaves me dazed, a voice that screams in my head. Many think I am faking it to escape from the exams.
He is determined and continues to ask me questions. When I don’t answer he begins to talk about the symptoms of the disease. Every single word he utters is my truth.

“Do you want to be rid of this disease, Tina? Or are you okay becoming its slave forever?”
“No,” I say.
“Help me then. Give a voice to your fear. What does it tell you?”
“It tells me I am going to fail in the boards and bring shame to my…” I pause, unable to continue.
“Whose words are those? Whose voice is that?”
“My mother’s,” I whisper. I drop my face into my palm and shut my eyes as a scene from earlier this year flashes before my eyes. My mother is seated on her office chair holding my report card while I sit fidgeting on the opposite chair expecting the tongue lashing that I deserve.
“Pack your suitcase. I am sending you to a boarding school in Darjeeling. If I allow you the same freedom that you have been enjoying, you will fail in the boards and bring shame to our family.”
Being a bureaucrat in the highest rung of the external affairs ministry helped her to get me a seat in this school for the 2nd term.
“I have something that would help you overcome your fear,” I hear Dr. Bansal speak.
Next moment, the LED screen on the wall comes alive. A smiling, curly-haired girl with deep dimples in a pink dress is standing in front of a blackboard. A younger looking Dr.Bansal faces the camera and speaks to whoever is handling the camera.
“You wanted to see her writing, right? Now watch,” he says.
The little girl draws a standing line, then a sleeping line over it forming a T. The letters I, N and A follows and I hear a woman shout, “That is brilliant, my darling.” The visuals wobble as the woman, my mother, hurries to hand over the camera to Dr. Bansal and hugs the smiling girl.
Tears stream down my cheeks as Dr. Bansal rise from his seat and pull me into his arms.
“I am here now, my darling. I will hold your hands and teach you again to write if needed.”
I allow myself to weep then in the arms of the man, my father, whom I had not seen in more than ten years.





Sunday, September 18, 2016

Home Away from Home




This is the view of my husband's house from the approach road. But, this was not the scene that greeted me when I first saw this house more than a decade ago. It had been then hiding behind a decorative shamiana and the plants had been trimmed to perfection. 

I still remember the smells that had greeted a timid bride that day. Fragrances of sandalwood scented incense, jasmines, roses, freshly painted walls, furniture, flavoursome food and petrichor

The cool touch of turmeric water to ward off the evil eye, the slight tension that clenched my gut as I took the first step into the house, the heat of the burning wick in the oil lamp, the smiling faces of relatives, the reassuring gestures of my husband, the curious neighbours watching my every step, taking note of my attire and jewellery; this house had witnessed it all. 

In the days that followed, it would nurture a different set of beliefs, customs, cuisine and memories within me. The different seasons would paint it in various hues. Time too would wave its magic wand. Children of kith and kin grew up into adults, some got married and flew away to build their own nests. New members arrived to seek its blessings. The warmest presence in the house, my mother-in-law, left for the place from where no one returns. 

Things changed for us too. For a while, we were non-resident-Indians who longed to return home during those elusive vacations. Then a little guy arrived in our life and made us more responsible adults. Our careers saw dramatic changes. 

Now we rarely visit as we have become settled elsewhere.Yet, whenever we visit, the same warm, secure feeling envelops us.  It makes us pause and take note. It reminds us to step back, enjoy life, nature and ponder about things that we really love.

When we step out of the house to return to our own nest, a strange, yet now familiar, longing grip my heart. I realise that somewhere along the way, it has become home for me. The one symbol for stability and warmth. Home away from home.



Sunday, September 4, 2016

The Mask

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There was magic in your word
In every syllable I found love
Deeper I fell with everything you said
Light shone on me from above

Your sound entranced me
I didn’t hear my gut’s plea
Your presence was bliss
I found solace in your kiss

What was it that made me blind?
Was it your charm that formed your mask?
Or the smile that could hide any malice?
I don’t know the why or what?

It came out of the blue
The pain of reality
Time scattered your mask  into pieces
Along with shards of my heart

I wish I were smarter
I wish I could see the face
Hidden behind the mask
Now only the scar remains

The longing for forever
Grips at my heart
Sadness bellows in darkness
I fall into despair

Never will I believe in your charm
I do not wish to even hear your name 
You stole the innocence of my heart
It has sworn to protect me from harm

I fear every face under the sun
I fear every sudden turn
That might hide another urn
seeking the ashes of my dreams




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