Thursday, December 15, 2011


The kind looking man sitting across me was saying that these are just the beginnings of symptoms of OCD. “I am fairly sure these can be treated without medications. Lets look at a more holistic approach...”  For the next three quarters of an hour, he took me through my personal issues, gently counselling me at every stage till I was fairly convinced that I am a healthy person with a healthy mind and I can live a normal life.

The trigger (I am not completely sure about this) was a power point presentation I had seen in my son’s school as part of their culmination day activity. The presentation showed the grave consequences of misuse of water with the prediction of a doomsday just 50 years from now when our children would have less than 1 glass of fresh water a day to drink. Such predictions are always exaggerated, based on highly approximated figures but that did not help to lighten my mood as I walked out from the room with horrifying images plaguing my mind. That was a year ago.

Now, a year later, I am suddenly greeted by dark thoughts sneaking into my mind. What if all the water resource of the world gets depleted in a few decades? What will happen to our kids, and their kids? Then one day I get stuck in a real bad traffic jam and anxiety knocks on the doors of my mind. How many thousands of new cars hit the road every day? What if when my kids are grown, the roads are so full of traffic that no-one can ever reach anywhere? I see an aeroplane flying high and wonder how much fuel it must consume per flight. Then, before I know it, the treacherous thoughts invade my mind. How long would the energy resources of the planet last? What will happen to the rain cycle once when all forests are cleared for urbanisation? Will there be enough fresh air to breathe in the near future or will our grand kids have to wear oxygen masks? And so on, the thoughts become stronger every day. They baffle me with their persistent energy. They rock and torture my mind, giving rise to a whole lot of uncontrollable anxiety. I am unsure as what to do. I am incapable of showering, eating, thinking. I want to fast-forward my life to see what happens. I panic at how to get through the day. I cannot discuss this madness with anyone out of fear that I would be laughed at. At last, out of desperation, I confide in my husband. He suggests that we seek professional help.

The first doctor I consult talks with me for precisely five minutes. She concludes that I have OCD and prescribes three medicines which I have to take for a long time. I hesitate. I google the definition of OCD and get the following...Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety, or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions.” I study the symptoms of OCD, they all seem to match my condition.

My husband suggests that I seek a second opinion. After giving it a thought I decide to reach out to an old friend whom I can trust. She helps me immediately with the reference of a ‘wonderful’ doctor who had helped her mother in the past. And that is how I find myself sitting across this kind looking man, late one Saturday evening. He is talking to me. He wants to listen to everything that matters to me. He takes time to talk to my husband. He suggests to me to break the monotony of my everyday life, to try and do things differently. While talking to him I realise that I have been very lonely for very long. I had felt pangs of loneliness when my husband would be away on his profession (he is a sailor) and a different kind of loneliness even when I am surrounded by people. I had given up a blooming career in advertising eight years ago to devote myself to the children. I guess I had started to structure a routine to make my life easier but in the process my days have become predictable, monotonous.

I walk out feeling that I am normal, perfect. I will try to live more spontaneously as I used to. We stop for ice-cream before heading home. I see an aeroplane flying. I don’t panic. For the next few weeks I am a happier, more relaxed person. I don’t arrest the thoughts when they knock on my mind; I greet them and say hello to them and tell them I don’t need them. I follow all the instructions of my doctor. I meditate. I laugh loudly and freely.

Then one day out of curiosity, I decide to do some research online; not the most reliable source, but still. I discover that we have plundered this planet and depleted one-thirds of its total resources over the last three decades. Our extravagant and wasteful lifestyles (especially of the developed nations) are fast upsetting the delicate natural balance and cycles. No amount of technology can make life sustainable beyond this century if the current rates of wastage of resources continue.

Some of the dark foreboding anxiety grips me. I am on the edge of panic. Then my daughter runs in with a paper and crayons and I immediately visualise a lovely life bringing up my kids with joy. I know that I can deal with my thoughts, I know that technology will advance fast enough to provide an answer to every problem mankind may have, I know that if I have faith, the Universe is a great provider.

I am normal now. I ask myself some perfectly sane questions which any person of sound mental health may contemplate without panicking. “Is it really necessary to stretch the gifts of nature to the limit?” “Are continuous materialistic aspirations and fulfilment making us continuously happier?” “Now that the wheel has been set to motion, can any power stop it, or control it?”

My daughter begins to passionately colour the sky a lovely shade of blue. I sincerely pray that it stays that way. I know I am normal but another stray thought sneaks in through the backdoor of my mind and I wonder, “Are the world and the vast humanity that dominates it normal? If so, why are they not panicking?”

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Shoe Keeper

The building was old but comfortable. The ceilings were low. There was a basement and four floors, the top one being reserved exclusively for minor surgical procedures. The ground floor lodged the reception, the enquiry and billing counters, the pathological lab and a waiting area. The waiting area comprised of two narrow corridors with chairs on both sides. It was here that I sat while I waited for my number to be announced. I had an appointment with the ENT specialist and the doctor was late.

From where I was sitting, I could see the balcony at the entrance with the rows of open racks for keeping the shoes. It reminded me of a temple. This medical center had a rule wherein patients and visitors were required to remove their shoes before they enter. The man attending the shoe racks is about fifty. He has a big grin permanently spread across his face. Whenever I visit the medical center, I am immediately greeted by that grin while he courteously directs me to the rack where I should keep my shoes, handing me over the token with the corresponding number. Sometimes when all the shelves are full, he reaches out to take my sandals and keeps them in a corner on the floor while announcing, “No token required Bhabi, I will take care of these.” 

My attention now shifts from the shoe keeper to the harried mother who has just entered noisily carrying a baby in her arms while holding the hand of an older child. She plonks down on an empty chair with a huge sigh but only for a second. Her elder child runs off towards the staircase and she runs after her while the baby in her arms starts wailing.

I am bored and my eyes rest on the man sitting across me who had been having a long conversation on his phone for quite some time. From his tone and a few words I catch, I figure that his conversation is about business. He is starting to get agitated and his tone loses some of the earlier politeness. Soon, I can make out, he has embarked on an argument. He is almost screaming now.

The chair next to mine had been so long occupied by a woman. She had been waiting patiently since even before I came along with her husband who was sitting on her other side. Now the husband had begun to lose his patience. He gets up with an expletory under his breath and begins to pace the corridors. 

The harried mother is back by now feeding biscuits from a snack box to her child. There is a slight commotion near the billing counter and I can hear raised voices. Invariably, there must have been a confusion as to who was standing where in the long queue.

I look at my watch. It strikes me that I have waited for nearly three quarters of an hour. By this time I could have completed a household chore or two. The man dressed like an executive who has waited for about twenty minutes was coming to the end of his patience. His time, I gather, is much more valuable than mine. He is constantly glancing at his watch and dialling on his cell phone.

My mind drifts. I idly ponder why everybody is so hassled. Is it really that they are missing out on something very crucial in life while spending their time here, waiting? I hear a muffled sob and notice for the first time a young girl sitting alone in the corner across me. Why was she crying? Is she facing some dreaded ailment? Is she afraid of what she may hear from the doctor? Has she been unlucky in love? My mind wanders aimlessly as I consider these possibilities. Maybe it was something else altogether. I wished I had brought along the book I had been trying to finish since ages. Oh, how I wish I had remembered to carry the book. At least I could have ‘utilised’ my time better.

There is a slight ruckus as a female attendant walks by carrying a trolley loaded with tea and snacks for the staff. I long for a cup of tea. The businessman on phone was now making a series of calls. His mood seemed to have gone sour. It must have been some money issue. I carelessly conclude that most of the tension we bear is either due to money or power or love; or rather attachments to these things. And love covers the whole gamut of relationship issues. I feel wise having reached this conclusion. But before I can ponder more on this, my doctor arrives. He is led by a nurse to his cabin upstairs. I am relieved. Now I don’t have to wait much longer. I start mentally to sum up my throat problem as I would state to the doctor.

A short while later, I am done with the doctor’s visit. I leave the place feeling relieved that my symptoms are nothing more than a minor infection. While I hand over my token, the shoe keeper flashes that permanent smile at me while he bends to retrieve my sandals from the lowest rack. I wonder for a moment what is it that keeps him so motivated to perform his routine dreary job, twelve hours a day, every day. Doesn’t he have any issues with money, power or love? His cheerfulness is too good to be true! I stop for a moment to return his smile and say ‘Thank You’. It strikes me that for the first time I had taken the time to do just that. Time after all is so precious! Besides me a lady is impatiently asking for her token. He turns from me to attend to her with the same eager smile. I suddenly see a sea of faces rush by, each holding its own thoughts, all of them wearing a mask of discontent and anxiety.

As I turn to leave, a small disabled boy with one leg comes hopping, leaning on a crutch. He addresses the shoe keeper as ‘Papa’ and asks for money to buy some food. The shoe keeper delves into his pocket and hands him a few coins telling him to buy a banana. I see a glimpse of fatherly love light up his face as he addresses the lame boy.

I leave. I realise that I am not wise enough. Some things must be more precious than cravings for money, power and love. I walk out completely ignorant yet with a strange feeling that today I have learned something new. Humanity is held together by an indomitable force that surpasses everything else, and truly wise are those who have found it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Unfinished Story

.....because everyone’s story is always a little unfinished....

The call came at 3 PM. She was not aware that she had dozed off. Perspiration dripped from her forehead. Absent mindedly she reached for the AC remote as she saw the name of the caller flashing on her cell phone. Rohit sir. The name hit her like the waves lapping up the shore with an insistence that defies reason. A long finished chapter of her life was blinking at her. She let the phone ring for a few more times and then took the call.
“Hello, Nivedita?” His voice held the same tone, formal, yet intimate. Or was it just her fancy?
“Hello Rohit Sir, how are you?”
“I am good Nivedita. How are you?”
“So you still have my number?” It had been a month over five years.
“Of course I have. How are things with you? How is your writing going?”
She did not tell him that she had not written a single thing in a very long time. Instead she told him that she was married and busy with motherhood. She told him about her three year old son. She told him that he had curly hair like her and that he needed her all the time. She told him how busy and tired she always was. She did not tell him that she had no zeal anymore for writing; that she had mentally confined her passion to a non-happening element of her life. She didn’t tell him about the unfinished book lying among her old files in the computer.
He spoke about old colleagues and people they mutually knew. And then he proposed the assignment to her.
It would be just a week’s work, he said. She would need to travel to an island near Mauritius. The magazine needed somebody like her with in-depth understanding of all the aspects of travel and a balanced approach to presenting a novel destination. The magazine needed her at a short notice, so the pay would be attractive. It would be just a one-time project with no commitments.
“At least consider it,” he urged. “I know you are very busy but this could be a change in your monotony of life.”
She trembled imperceptibly. How did he know that her life was monotonous? How dare he know?
“Travelling for a week is out of question,” she said. “I have a small baby.” She knew it was not ‘out of question’. She knew that her mother-in-law was always available for such ‘emergencies.’
“Look Nivedita, all I ask is that you give it a due thought before discarding the opportunity. Please! Its a request from me.”
Why was he doing this to her?
He had been her boss and mentor. He had taught her the nuances of travelogue writing. And he had caught the radiance of her wavelength of thoughts like no-one else. He had laughed spontaneously at the clumsy ideas that generated in her mind and worked with her to give them shape and substance. He had fine-tuned her creative masterpieces.
Sometimes a beautiful thing fosters in an inappropriate ambience. Have you ever seen a lovely wild flower bloom in a neglected field where it will inevitably be torn and eaten by a roaming goat or cow? Their intuitive bond, the fodder for so much creativity and success had blossomed in an environment of harsh reality under the illusion of romance. Where there is romance, there is always love in some shade or the other. Nivedita’s success story had continued under the guidance of Rohit Sir’s patronage and exuberant enthusiasm. The enthusiasm overflowed and filled to the brim of many an afternoon cuppa they shared at their favourite cafe. Life was one long picnic of work, stimulation, passion, success, and more work with romance playing hide-and-seek in between these ingredients.

Then one fine day she realised that he felt the same connection that she did. And that was the beginning of the end. The background took over, the flower faded. Reality snatched the reins of life from romance. She had always known that he was married with a good wife but that had never seemed to matter...till he had woken up one day to realise that he was hopelessly attracted to her. Reality ensured that guilt, self-denial, avoidance and awkwardness would soon gush in to ruin and tear apart the raw beauty of a wildflower in full blossom.
The heartbreak that had followed was sharp and totally unexpected. It uprooted the very essence of enthusiasm from her heart. Life became a duty to be completed.

“So, will you give it a thought, please?” He was pleading now for her contribution to his magazine.
She felt ridiculous tears well up in her eyes that contained an emotion beyond pain. Her baby cried out for her attention.

Five years and one month ago she had taken the hardest decision in her life and quit the job and blooming career of her dreams to write a book. Yet the man on the other end still had unflinching confidence in her. Suddenly that book seemed very important. She had been married soon after and delegated herself to domestic duties. There never seemed enough time to devote to that book.
“Nivedita, are you there?”
“Yes, yes, I am. I will think about it and talk it out with Aninda. I promise I will give this due consideration.”
“Thank you so much. I’ll wait for your call.”
They exchanged good-byes.

As she washed her face and prepared to feed her son his afternoon juice, Nivedita smiled. She realised that she would accept the assignment and start on her book again. She realised that sometimes a connection from the wilderness is essential to make things happen. Sometimes just a phone call can open a dusty window and let the light of enthusiasm bathe a long neglected corner. Sometimes one has to travel a whole circle to rediscover one’s talents. Life goes on.

.......Some stories have no beginning, and no end....

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Book is on Amazon .....

My friends outside India who want to read my book, "Strange Connections" is now available on Amazon. Please click on the link below....

It is priced at $5 and is a collection of 27 short stories  touching and probing the themes of love, lust, passion, fear, hope, death and forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Note to all my Readers

Dear Readers,

Due to your continuous support and encouragement, my collection of short stories published by Leadstart Publishing and entitled "Strange Connections' is about to be released in the market.

The book will soon be available on the international online stores like Amazon and Ebay, but it is already available in most online stores in India including the popular Flipkart. The book will be delivered in 3 days at a discounted price (10% discount), payment only on delivery.

If any of you from India would like to buy a copy of the book, or read a summary and review of the same, you may do so by clicking on the following link...

Hope you enjoy reading as much as I did writing the book and I truly feel that all my readers are somewhere, in someway connected to this experience.


Sunday, September 18, 2011


They sat on the veranda overlooking the busy city. She poured two cups of lemon ginger tea and they sat in silence absorbing the sights and sounds of the city. The city had a pace and the pace was a disguise to make the people feel vital, their work indispensable. The pace diverted the people from the only things that matter, from the few empty moments of life, full of meaning. The pace held the city on a tight leash and made it swing with self importance and pride.
He looked at his wife. She still looked pretty after fifteen years of marriage. He wondered what had caused her to have the affair. He had been a dutiful husband as far as he knew. He was a bread winner and a provider. He had tolerated all her quirks and eccentricities. Yet she had had an affair; she had found another man more attractive and had shared herself with him. The hurt and resentment churned within him and he felt nauseated. He looked at his wife. She had attractive eyes with long lashes. When she smiled, her smile lit up her whole face and her eyes danced in the glow of that light. Why had that smile embraced another man? Why had those eyes caressed someone else?
He looked back over the journey of fifteen years and wondered exactly what had gone wrong where. He had done fairly well in his career to provide for a life of comfort and luxury for themselves. He had never let her wishes and desires go unfulfilled. He looked at the city hustling by below; he absorbed the beats of the frenzied pace. Pace. It must have been the pace that cajoled him and slyly led him away from her. He thought about the impossible deadlines at work which he had consistently met. His success had created new standards and raised the benchmark for future successes and he had played along, a puppet to this pace. His mind wandered over the various late night meetings, the weekends spent in attending seminars, the constant travel on business. He wondered whether it was the design of this pace or the mere refusal by him to share his work tension with his wife that had first created the wall and hurled him towards Tania. Tania was his colleague and partner at work. She attended the same meetings and seminars with him, she worked with him to meet his deadlines; she understood his work pressure, his commitments, and shared his success. She was his confidante, the one with whom he could unwind and freely discuss his anxieties and celebrate his triumphs. She was his colleague, and also his good friend.
His mind played back on the day when his wife had discovered some text messages on his phone from Tania and suspected something. She tried to make light of it but he knew she was being eaten up with jealousy. He should have assured her perhaps that there was nothing more to it apart from a couple of office colleagues sharing a lewd office joke. But he had led his ego command him. He had been irritated and annoyed at his wife for making a big ado over nothing.
Perhaps she had needed comfort then but he continued ignoring her fear. This had caused a further rift in their marriage. His days were eaten up by the pace of work, his evenings were empty. Now looking back he knew that he could have set it right then. Perhaps he could have planned a vacation with her or put aside one weekend to spend alone with her and really talked to her only if she had given him the opportunity to make an effort. But she had continued to ignore him, busying herself with her household and motherhood duties. She had now joined a music class and she devoted all her spare time in it. And so he had not made that extra effort to bridge the gap. He had not known that one day that gap will expand to engulf his life and swallow up their marriage.
He turned instead to Tania to share his thoughts, feelings, emotions; Tania who always understood and who posed no threat to his ego or his marriage; Tania who continued to be his good friend.
She looked at her husband sipping his tea in contemplative silence. A familiar feeling of warmth tugged her heart. She yearned once again for him to see, to understand.
It had been a while since she had stumbled upon and gradually unearthed the level of intimacy he shared with another woman. Yet, try as she did, she could not detect a single instance of indiscretion on his part. She came to understand that he shared his heart and soul and not his body with another woman. And this began to kill her. Strangely, a physical affair would have been easier for her to cope with but the thought that her husband belonged to another woman in emotions and feelings enveloped her with deep grief and resentment. She felt unloved and unwanted. She tried to ignore him hoping that he would care enough to coax her back into the bond they had shared, but he did not even notice her silence. Her desperate loneliness gnawed at her heart and drowned her in a sea of self pity. She took the advice of a friend and decided to enrol for music classes in an attempt to nurture her long neglected passion. But even music could not assuage her hurt.
He was away, always away. The children missed him, didn’t he realise? Even when he was there, he was not actually with her but in a world of his own, a world where she had no clue how to enter. Her loneliness gave way to frustration and she felt a void opening up before her. She panicked.
Jai came into her life as a support that helped her get back to her feet and avoid falling into the pit. He came as a distraction to bring back the romance and colours in her life, to make her smile for a while and look forward to life. She remembered that phase as a mist of golden days and clandestine meetings with her lover. Her heart had felt light, her steps lighter. She had fancied being in love all over again. Yet, as all good things come to an end, that golden phase had run its course. All that was left of it now was a feeling of shame coated with guilt. She pulled her thoughts away from it and concentrated on her lemon ginger tea.
He watched his wife tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ears and adjust her spectacles. He knew that if she smiled, he would smile too. The busy city hastened along down below oblivious to the beauty of a raw unguarded moment in time. She raised her long lashes and looked at her husband. She wondered if she should confide in him and disclose her affair but she feared that it would hurt his male pride. How could she explain that her affair was because she had loved him so much?
He knew he loved his wife, or else why did he not take advantage of her affair and use it as a reason to break ties? The answer was that he wanted this woman, had always wanted her. He knew that he should keep the knowledge of her affair secret or it would break her, he could not bear to humiliate his wife.
The city blurred away with its cacophony of sounds and its frantic pace. All that was left was a moment of rare insight and understanding shared by two souls who have always loved each other. She poured them another cup of tea each. He watched her gentle hands firmly tipping the teapot. He caught her hand then and she looked into his eyes. The warm aroma lifted his spirits as the pace of the city died away. Her eyes embraced him with warmth. He smiled.