Category Archives: Vignettes

Is this my life?

Note: This piece is part of Creative Writing series.

I am walking on a lonely road. The road is not dark. It is illuminated by the yellow lamps of the shops on the side. It is populated by people walking beside me, ahead of me, people on the other side. I do not know any of them. I do not speak most of their language.

I live in a solitary room. The walls are far away from each other. From the window, I hear rain fall on leaves of trees. I can hear crows caw if I wake up from a nightmare in the morning. I live on my own. I do not speak. I watch my life unfold in text messages, social media posts. I do not really do anything – I do not take decisions. I feel confused: at what point in life do you intervene the river of life and try to course it to the tune of your free will? At what point do you take charge?

Life is passing by. I fight my poor posture, keep straightening my back which invariably slumps back to a more comfortable but potentially harmful position. My teeth ache from time to time, I keep postponing the visit to the dentist. I think under my bed the plastic bowl of food is still lying. I did not cook today. I do not feel like it. I eat junk knowing fully well that is not what I should be doing.

Days are passing by. The love I care about flit through my grasp. I look at his picture on my phone, knowing well that it is futile. We are not meant for each other. Yet, sometimes, most times, in fact, every day, I lie in my bed, hoping for miracles to happen, while somehow being fully aware that the odds are steeped against me. In fact, there has never been the promise of a relationship.

I am at a fork in my life, slouching through it. On my morning walks, I meet the squirrels on the boundary of my apartment. I do not have any relationship with them. I want to Google what squirrels eat, but I do not know if they will come near me even if I take them food they like to eat. I do not wish to take chances. Somehow, I do not want to influence anything. Somehow, I just want to let life run its course, and watch it like a passive audience.

Is this my life? Or is this the shadow of someone else’s life that I am living?

Remembering childhood

Summer afternoons have this amazing quality of transporting me back to my childhood. A magical, magical place! Of course, I was not aware how magical it was at that time. It is in retrospect that the present looks magical.

I think the best part of the afternoons was between five thirty and seven. The sun would have set by then. If we were lucky, the trees would start to wave and blow some wind. My brother and his gang of players would be playing cricket on the green slice of field in the middle of the neighborhood. Sometimes these balls would end up hitting the tin roof or the wooden windows of an annoyed neighbor and he’d be rushing out of the house with angry eyes, asking, “Who has the audacity to hit the ball on my roof again? Today, if I don’t stop this game of yours, my name is not So-and-so!”

When there would be no right answer from the boys’ gang, rather loud pleas for the ball to be returned, he’d just fetch the ball from the courtyard and scream that the boys could wave the ball goodbye. They could go buy another. Better yet, they should stop playing altogether.

Some of these neighbors now have kids and grand kids of the same age as my brother was then. I am not there to see how the cricket games are unfolding these days, but I am sure the scenario wouldn’t have changed much. It would just be fresh set of annoyed neighbors, and another bunch of enthusiastic kids. That’s probably one thing that is still unchanged about my hometown, the fields are still played in.

I was never a part of these games, rather a spectator from a distance, from my balcony. Or sometimes, after I got my bicycle, I would be circling the neighborhood, with the air flowing through my shoulder length hair, watching the kids play, tasting my own kind of freedom.

There were days when there were storms, when the kids would be forced indoors. At the onset of the storm, the dry dust would rise up, almost choking us and blocking view. With the dust rose stray plastics that were strewn all over the neighborhood. On those days, my brother and I sang our hearts out, as we watched from the balcony the trees bend with the vigor of wind and rain. The air smelled so sweet, sweet from the smell of mangoes and the smell of moist Earth. Throughout the storm, my mother would be shouting to close the balcony door and get indoors, because the water would come inside. But who would want to pay any heed to her? Besides, closing the doors meant pitch darkness inside, because the storm always meant no power, and a solid hotness inside the house.

Where I live today I don’t have a balcony to sit and enjoy the rains. Today, there are thousands of miles between that balcony and me, but in that space, the heart is still the same age as in those summer afternoons. A bunch of simple children who wanted to do everything but study, a bunch of parents whose simple aim was to get the children to study and do well in life. I am sure most of us are doing well in the expected sense of the word. But somewhere, we are still stuck in those afternoons, refusing to accept that we grew up.

 

Love, unrequited

There is something beautiful in getting to know a person. To spend solitary moments with him/her in the wee hours of a morning, sitting in the balcony of a high-rise, watching the stars watch over the Earth and her inhabitants, fast asleep. There is something beautiful in munching on the past, a past that possibly has no bearing to the upcoming future, or perhaps, has everything to do with it.

There is something beautiful in sharing simple moments, without the expensiveness of food or extravagance of a well-arranged party. There is something beautiful in just discussing the past, looking at digital copies of a faded past – a past that is sepia in our memories, but still as colorful in their digital versions.

There is something beautiful in well-balanced silence. Silence that comes in between conversations, naturally, not because all that could be said has been exhausted, but because they add subtext to what has been told – in deep understanding and acceptance.

There is a lot of pain in hopes that will possibly never be fulfilled. I wish I could say there was something beautiful in love that is unrequited, something beautiful in the pain, something beautiful in the missing. But what is possibly beautiful in a flower that’s nipped in the bud? A promise of a beautiful future, a future that will never be.

Give me a solid promise. Give me a solid future. For once, give me something that I can hold onto, something as solid as the comfort of a hug in a restless night, something that calms me to sleep after weeks of insomnia.

Love, unrequited.

‘Us’ does not exist

I have seen them in the traffic jam, in the lines of waiting crowd, when she sat back on his bike and caressed the dog peering outside the window of the car next to them.

I have seen them in front of the museum; him holding the kid in his arms, her trying to find something desperately from the cheap green faux leather bag. Perhaps, she was fishing for the blue handkerchief to rub the snot below the baby’s nostrils, or the bubble gum to keep it silent.

I have seen them in shopping malls, sitting together with big cups of coffees on small white table, flanked by matching white chairs. She had a brown leather sling bag and long leather boots. He looked chic in a pair of blue jeans and white shirt.

I have seen them in buses, in the metro, in the pool cab that I take to save money that needs to be paid towards the bills.

I have seen the love, the care that flows between a man and a woman. The care that one finds in little day-to-day things. The way the girl on the bike holds onto her boyfriend in black leather jacket in one hand and in the way she caresses the dog with the other. I have seen the attraction in the eyes which reflects the coffee table. New love is always fire.

The married couple in the front of the museum can be just about anyone, with a kid early in their marriage because he did not believe in planning and she had no choice.

Perhaps, they had fought on the way to the museum. Her bickering about the nagging kid, him tired of her tantrums. Perhaps, the boy on the bike is going to drop the girl off for good and ride his own separate direction. Maybe, the couple on the coffee date will no longer meet for the next one, because she speaks a little too much and he turns out to be a snob.

But, in the moment that I see them, in the moment my heart skips a beat at the sight of people doing ‘couple’ things, I miss you.

I miss you on my way to work, when a random stranger walks by wearing the same perfume that you wear. I miss you when I re-record songs in a broken voice and send to all the people who do not matter, but stop before sending to you, because I no longer can.

I miss you in them. I miss us in them.

Us does not exist.

You and I do.

In separate cities, in separate worlds evolving around us.

(c) 2017 Arpita Pramanick

The beauty of being a woman

This morning I was in my flatmate’s room and saw the wonderful wall designs she has recently put up. I found the room tastefully decorated and personalized, with a lot of pictures of hers and twinkling electric lights. With its warm curtains, the room had a feminine touch to it.

Which made me go down the winding lanes of thoughts, where I was seeking the beauty of being a woman.

A woman decorates: herself and her surroundings. A good part of a woman’s day might go into grooming herself. She wants to pick the right dress, the right color, the right make-up, the right hair-do: All in order to add a perceived sense of beauty about her being. She does not limit it to herself: she also cleans her surroundings, buys pieces of art to decorate, works on DIY project.

She also like to cook the tastiest of food. She picks the fresh vegetables, finds the right spice to go in the right food and weaves magic in the kitchen.

She also focuses on the people around her. She wants her parents to be happy, her siblings to be happy, her boyfriend/husband to be happy, her children to be happy. She finds her happiness in being around people, in others’ happiness. She wants to stay connected to the thick pulses of happiness that flows when people are content.

She travels the world: she sees the mountains and reflects on the serenity of life; she sees the oceans and reflects on the constant flow of life. She watches the tall city-scapes that the generations have built and wonders how on a minute place in the universe, on Planet Earth, such a sophisticated life form – Homo sapiens – came to exist.

She also works in a typically man’s world. She challenges ideas, she argues, she confidently puts forth her point of view. She leads teams of people, nurtures them, wants them to grow with her.

Sometimes, she had bad days too. Her blue days. Her red days. Her blackest of days. Days when she does not want to smile, does not want to make others smile. Days when she looks out the window, into the trees where the squirrels run, and wishes she could just transform into one of them and live a carefree life for the rest of her days.

Today is one of the good days. Today, a girl is happy. Today, a woman is happy. Today, a daughter is happy. Today, a mother is happy. A sister, a lover, a wife. Happy.

Today is a good day.

Here’s to the beauty of womanhood and all the challenges it entails. Because it’s worth it.

Until later!

(c) 2017 Arpita Pramanick

The rains that wash away

The night was dark and grey. The city lights illuminated it, but the luminosity could not reach the depth of the darkness that lay in her heart. She was walking in the rain, the pitter-patter rain that smelled of late monsoon and a ton of irritation.

She was not angry about getting wet. Even though she hated that her feet was soiled with the water from drainage system.

Her heart throbbed faster because she was lost.

She had just gotten out of her office, a steel-grey structure that was impartial to all emotions. Her umbrella was in her hand. Like her, hundreds of other people left the building at the same time, with their deodorant soaked sweaty bodies, each destined to their own destinations.

Her hostel was two kilometres away. She crossed the billboard of a smiling television actor, with a skin so smooth that she ended up feeling her own skin for the acne. She expected the familiarity of the paan shop right after the billboard. Only, today it wasn’t there.

The road was still filled with mindless traffic, whistles blowing and curses being yelled. The dirty water came rushing at her feet, her trousers.

Her eyes widened and blurred as she saw the unfamiliar buildings around her: a grey-yellow two-story house, a small tin-roofed hut. Where were the tall apartment buildings that lined the road to her flat?

The sound of the rain increased as she crossed a dank pond filled with water hyacinth. She had never known any pond in this direction.

Her hands trembled as she looked at her phone. It read the date correctly. She had not teleported into another century, another city. She searched her contacts for a number. A face popped up on her screen. Quickly, she rubbed out the face from her screen and dialed her mother’s number. The phone rang two times before her mother picked.

“You reached home?” her mother said, amid the buzz of some curry cooking on the oven.

“Yes, I’m walking back.” Her voice was heavy with emotion. Her eyelids were drooping with the heaviness of tears.

“I’ll call you when I reach,” she said, quickly, before her mother could ask more questions. She could not do this anymore.

She had walked into a park. There was a lone cement bench, glistening with rain water, illuminated by a yellow lamp overhead. There was a darkness above it that came from the trees. She walked up to the bench and sat over there. Her umbrella fell from her hand. The bottom of her dress got wet. The tears came pounding from her chest and knocked the breath out of her.

Lost, so lost.

Some years ago, there was a bench like this, in another city, in another park. A man and a woman ate roasted peanuts from a single paper bag. Her head was on his shoulder. It was all water under the bridge now.

She clutched her stomach to stop the pain. The liquid in her belly swarmed up, up, up and came gushing from her mouth. It tasted like rotten worms and failure.

She was too tired to think. So she lied down on the bench. The rain kept falling. The vomit washed away. She waited for the heaviness on her heart to abate.

In a different corner of the park, life went on, as a snake gobbled a frog and passers-by crossed them, without knowing that one less life breathed in this universe.

(c) 2017 Arpita Pramanick

 

The grey clouds

A stupid fight on text. An endless wait to see if they respond. Why do you always have to be the one who has to budge first? Decisions. Quick. Quick. I am not going to be the first one.

Quick check of the date. Quick check of the train reservation status. Bam! The tickets are not confirmed yet.

Trying to think of a happy memory. The energy in the room seems to be going down, down, down. The clouds outside have entered the room. There is a damp, grey feeling in the heart that won’t go away.

The yoghurt tastes like itself, but doesn’t feel tasty enough. Fruits. Meditation. Yoga. Who cares if you don’t have a happy memory?

What are the possibilities that could emerge with a bright neon light, showing way in the darkness? Would something new happen? Would it?

Perhaps yes, perhaps not. Meanwhile, the minutes tick. And the grey clouds persevere.

 

You and Me Tag || The Blogger with a Recorder

Her forehead still bears proof of the overload of vermilion dumped on it on her marriage day. Her hands jingle with the sound of the conch shell bangles they put on the same day. Her always-bare hands are suddenly full of marriage jewelry. At times she still gazes at her hands and wonders if it all really happened.

The beach air is lusty on her face, playing havoc with her hair. The waves are lapping at the shore. Vacationers, foreigners in bikini, roam about, laze about on the white sands. She looks ahead to her husband, who seems busy in building a sand castle in the distance. She smiles at his dedication.

The stranger sits a few feet next to her. He is wearing a flower-print shirt and military green shorts. He has a small device in his hands. He switches it on and lays it on the sand. He then looks far ahead into the sea, a look of content in his face.

“Hey, you!” She calls out.

The stranger looks at her. “Hey, yourself!”

“Don’t mind my asking, but what are you doing?” pointing at the device.

The stranger gives a short laugh and walks over to her, picking up the device.

“It is a recorder. I am recording the sound of the waves. It relaxes me.” He holds the small, black thing out to her.

She holds it in her hand, presses the little red button and the sound of the waves start spilling, only barely audible above the growl of the actual waves.

“Wow! It’s amazing how the waves tone out every other noise. Is this a hobby or something?” She asks.

“Well, sort of! I use the sound for my website too. I am a blogger.”

“Ah! Well, I am one too… or rather, I used to be. Don’t get much time these days. I knew someone who used wave-sounds in his website as well.”

“Oh, you did? The waves are fascinating. And calming. It is a significant part of us who live by the shores.” The stranger extended his hands, “I am Savio. And you are?”

She met his hands, “Arpita here. But wait, you’re Savio? I think I followed your blog! The extra mile or something… with a lot of a’s?”

Savio beamed. “You bet it is! Wow, it’s great to meet you, Arpita! How’s your vacation goin so far?”

“Honeymoon, actually. Goa’s lovely!” she smiles a shy smile. She points at her husband, who has now completed building the castle and is busy taking pictures of it. “That’s my husband.”

Savio gets up and gestures her to do the same. Arpita follows. “Well, let’s get to know each other then,” he says as he starts to walk towards her husband. “I am happy to be your  local guide too, if you’d like.”

“Yes, of course. We’d love that,” She smiles. In her mind, she thinks, “What a small world!”


Inspired by the You and Me Tag post on Savio’s blog.

@Savio – I mostly read all the followed blog-posts on the reader itself, so I had no idea how absolutely refreshing your blog theme is. And the wave sound part was amazing – I had no clue you could add sounds to blogs. I literally finished writing this blog-post to the sound of the waves. Hope you enjoy reading it!

Copyright © 2017, Arpita Pramanick

Throbbing in a Stone Cage

The calm morning light was seeping in through the sheer white curtains. She opened her eyes, slowly, hoping to see the familiar bookshelf, the computer table and the calendar and the clock on the wall.

None of the diffused familiarity met her myopic eye. The dominant colour in this room was white: the floor, the doors, the curtains, the bed-sheets. For a moment she thought she was inside a hospital. Then the train journey dawned on her mind – the endless green fields, the sparse, tall, grassy mountains, and the occasional railway station.

Her breathing stilled. Her body tensed. She felt as if her heart had been put inside a stone cage and it was throbbing for lack of space.

The tears threatened, but they’d have to wait. There were calls to make, assurances to give and way, way too many days to pass like this.

The count had only begun.