Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ghosts of Past Boyfriends

Preetham was in a very happy mood. His wife has returned home with their kid. He took a early leave from the office and headed directly to home. Some young girl was waiting in the living room. He didn't even bother to greet her nor even he tried to recognize her. Preetham was more yearning to see his wife and child. When he entered the room Seema, his wife had just kept the phone receiver down and looked a bit gloomy. She spoke her mind out even before Preetham could enquire, "Its my friend Radha!... Her husband has left her because he caught her chatting with her old boyfriend. Seriously she was not upto any mischief nor she meant to betray her husband. You Men get so easily blurred and burned by the acid rain drops of jealousy and suspicion?*"

Preetham had other better things to talk,"Come on! I believe its not the right time to talk about it."
But Seema had predetermined something and it got clear as she spoke, "Seriously I want to make a confession before it is too late. Before You came into my life, there were three men. I will tell you about them today." So saying she took some photos, which was tuggged in between the pages of a paperback.
Preetham was taken aback, "Old boyfriends! And you still have their photos. Sure! Their love letters must also be neatly filed somewhere"

She shows the first picture and announces "Hari.. My boyfriend when I was just sweet sixteen, the age when we fall for good looking and attractive men. '. Preetham found the words not matching with the picture, "Your Hari Puthar looks more like Harry Potter with those specs. Attractive is the last word I will use to describe him.."
Seema laughed aloud, "He is more weird than Harry Potter! We used to sleep together..." Preetham's jaws nearly dropped on hearing the sleep word
But when seema completed the sentence, he was relieved, ".. together in the boring History class... Today he sleeps just four hours in his home"
Preetham completed, "The balance he gets in office i suppose... Anyway... why did you break up?"
Seema found her memory fading regarding the reason, "Don't remember! Maybe boyfriends came with expiry dates during that teen period!"

Seema picks up the second picture and goes back to the old days, "Those were my final years of graduation. During that age, we want men to respect us and accept us as we are. Alok! True to his name he was out of this world. He always used to take me to those Viraan places... Those old places and monuments where there would be no crowd at all and only shrubs and nature..."
Preetham didn't want his imagination to be put to work, "What kind of friends you had! Your choices seem to be all wrong."
Seema corrected her husband, "Don't mistake him, dear!... He was more into archaeology thing... old places.. old things.. etc"
Preetham interrupted, "Then he should have gone for an old woman... why you? err... wasn't that an insult to you?..."
Seema said, "Not at all.... An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have. The older she gets the more interest he has in her**. But I was not lucky with Alok. He said he preferred quiet girls to me. Now that's what I call an insult."

Seema comes to the final snap "This is Ryan...." Preetham cries out, "A Christian? Being a pious brahmin girl you fell for a Christian!..."
Seema was taken aback, "All I saw was that he was a boy ...."
Preetham cools down, "Okay! During this stage, I suppose you looked for a man with good job prospects and status in society. Right?... So what was this Ryan boy? Doctor or Engineer?"
Seema laughed as she explained his profession, "He was a bus conductor... I was knocked out by the way he whistled, standing on the foot board and put the vehicle into motion with his usual clarion call 'Rights! Okay! Lets go!'.I thought he would always have said the same for all my wishes in the life"
Preetham couldn't believe his ears, "You were so stupid in love.. So why didn't this relationship work... "
Seema confessed, "I was very stupid. I didn't knew how to be alone and love always provided the escape. But even here, destiny had other plans. He gave up the whistle and held on to a flag. He joined a railway station as a gate man I suppose. Now that sounded very boring..."

Then the angry Mother-in-law barged in from nowhere and demanded Seema, "Give me those three photos right now... Whats going on here?"
Preetham felt that she mus have overheard their conversation. Preetham got really tensed up fearing that his mother would throw tantrums if she did come to know of her Daughter-in-Law's confessions. But the next line came as a total surprise to him, "My sisters daughter is waiting impatiently in the living room to see her three suitors photos from such a long time!!... and you are playing with the same, you silly girl !!!... Give it to me now!!!"
Seema without any protest handed over her so called ex-boyfriends snaps. Looking at her husband's all stressed out face, she gave away a mischievous smile, "Now you know the truth!" That smile did the trick and Preetham was not at all angry with her. He scolded her a bit lightly," You Nautanki!!!... So there was no one else at all in your life..."
Seema uttered the true confession, "Till I married you, I had never kissed any boy and was still sleeping with my mother.*** " and then slowly hummed these beautifully lines, "Na koi koi tha...zindagi mein tumhari siwa" (There was no else now... no one else before... other than you in my life)

* Adapted from a quote by Astrid Alauda
** Quote by Agatha christie
*** Adapted from a movie line

Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Say or Not To Say

The work burden had fallen on Manya after her boss Preetham took a friday leave to enjoy the weekend with his family. When she had completed the work and was down in the parking lot, it was eight in the night. She was damn tired but still found some energy to instruct the security guard to check the entire office once again. The Security guard put down the novel he was reading and exclaimed in Shudh English, "Madam, There is still a light on in the third floor. I presume someone in accounts is at work."
Manya tried to catch a glimpse of the cover of the paperback, but failed. She and the guard moved towards the third floor to find out who the night owl was.

What they saw brought a smile on their face. A young accounts executive was looking at the computer screen. No he was not looking at some tax computation nor it had anything to do with accounts. It was the photo of a cute young girl around twenty three and the executive was zooming in and out.
Manya cleared her throat, "Doing some eye exercise.... at eight o clock in the night, Mr...."
The embarrassed executive gave his introduction, "Surendar... Surendar Rao... I was just about to leave..." and saying so he directly switched off the power switch without even going through the normal shutdown procedure.

Manya knew how seniors have to sometimes address the concerns of their juniors and it has to be truthful and not like 'How is your mother doing now' immediately followed by, 'Can I have the file by evening on my table'. So she teased the guy softly, "Is the girl on our payroll. I mean are you working out on some final settlement for her? or is it some admission formalities"
Surendra was shy yet he answered her question, "Not exactly. She is not on the payroll of our company. She has definitely captured my heart. Its all just a online relationship. I have not even expressed myself to her for fear of rejection. She lives in the big metro and I in this Small coastal town."
The Security Guard encouraged the young man, "So what? She may be just another girl in big bad city wanting a good boy to love her.It all ultimately comes down to that! You are simply confusing yourself" and he further added, "Online relationship is much better than the 'out of sight is out of mind' sort of relationships"
Manya just went wow with the Guard's answer. But she also felt he was giving her competition and so she cautioned the young man, "All forms of relationship are complex. Whatever one hears or sees or reads must not be believed, because there may be undercurrents which we cannot sense...."

Surendra expressed his concern, "I have been exchanging mails and messages with her for the last five or six months and dreaming of a better tomorrow with her. The feelings in the heart have just remained that...feelings... they have never been expressed through words."
Manya felt that someone has truly said,'Woman often talks outside her head and man inside his head'. She dispensed her advice "Why don't you speak openly with her? I don't believe she is good at telepathy to read your mind. Don't just build a castle in the air. Its just a waste of time."
The watchman again hijacked the argument from her, "If you have built castle in the air, your work need not be lost. That is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them*"

Surendar put his hands up, "Still! Would she say yes? I mean she wants to come up in her field and other than that metro where she can get a good opportunity to excel in her area of expertise and come up in her career. On the other hand, I am a easy going man..."
Manya found that young man was unable to explain his position, "Hmm... Love and planning life can definitely go hand in hand. Think about it? So why don't you think of moving to the big bad city where there is lot of demand for your profession than for software engineers?"
The guard decided to put in his own thoughts, "Its not a big distance to cover. The greatest distance man has to ever cover is the eighteen inches from the head to the heart.**"

By then they had reached the parking area and the Surendar just said 'Ill think about' and went away. Manya asked the watchman, "What do you think, Sir? What decision he has to take ?"
The old man laughed and said, "Do you girls allow boys to take the decisions. Even in a family if man is the head, woman is the neck and it is the neck which turns the head. His head is already turned...."***
Saying so he got back to his book and now the title was clear to Manya. It was Two States. And Manya thought, 'Like the title, so was Surendar.... in Two States of mind.'

*Quote by Henry David Thoreau
** Anonymous quote
*** A Russian saying

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Ideal Husband

It has been a routine for Preetham now. Spending the weekend at his wife's place with his wife and kid. That weekend too, the story was no different. But this time around, Preetham had brought the Souten(Mistress) along. His laptop!!.

While Seema was glued to the idiot box, Preetham was busy with the new client acquisition and its documentation work on his laptop. Seema was getting bored and then a voice coming from the idiot box caught her attention.

The presenter of a show was using his voice effectively to garner attention, "Are you sitting and watching this show alone while your husband is working on his lapptop?" Seema just nodded her head in affirmative. To that the host asked his viewer 'take a look at this' and the scene in the telly showed a young man in his thirties looking at the horizon and sound of a whistle could be heard in the background. The host then questioned, "Do you think he is sitting in the laps of the nature and that sound is the whistling of a train running through the meadows?"
Seema innocently answered, "It looks so...."
The host corrected her immediately and showed her the wider picture of the young man waiting in the verandah of his home, "He is waiting for his dear wife to return from her work... and that sound is not of the train... but its sound of the pressure cooker... coming from inside the house...."
When the narrator mentioned pressure cooker, the young man jumped to his feet and ran inside the house.

Narrator then took Seema back to the beginning of the story, "When they got married some six months back, the girl took a promise from the boy that whoever reaches the home first in the evening will cook for the other..."
Seema smiled and commented, "Whoever wants the janam-janam-ka saath promise. This promise is more practical" and she remembered those wondeful lines, "I like hugs and I like kisses...But what I really love is help with the dishes!"
The host started briefing up on the couple, "The boy worked in a government office as a accountant while the wife worked in a prestigious software company. So you know who usually reaches the home first? Its the boy..."
The host added his own bit of sarcastic remark which didn't go fine with Seema, "I remember what Rita Rudner once said,'I love being married.Its great to find that one person you want to annoy all your life.' This girl seemed to be of that mindset..."

But the young man who was being featured was of a good mindset. He didn't mind cooking for his wife. After the dishes, he started setting the whole place in order. The narrator reminded him, "Wasn't the promise only to make the dishes..."
The young man spoke his mind, "When my wife comes home tired, I want to provide her a nice environment to relax."
The narrator annoyed her further with his next question, "Cooking! Cleaning! Now Isn't this what they call being joru ka ghulam (Slave of wife)?"
Seema thought the host was corrupting the young man, "The weak are always trying to sabotage the strong"

The host was nearing the end, "In our home, I have a cat which senses me coming home from a mile distance just with the sound of the horn of my bike. The story is no different here..."
And then the young man heard the faint sound of a horn coming from a distance and announced, "That's my wife's company vehicle's horn.. She's here!" Dropping the broomstick, he ran to the gates to greet her..
The narrator's voice was reading the situation badly, "I find it awkward to look at the scene where a husband is waiting for his wife at the gates!"
Seema was literally shouting at the idiot box, "I find it too romantic, you stupid! Its one of basic human necessity to have someone at home waiting for his or her return. And this good husband understands it, you nincompoop!"

The host then came onto the screen and asked the viewer and it looked he was asking Seema directly, "You seem to like it! Is the story same at your home?" Seema with a tinge of sadness shook her head saying "No"
The host threw another question, "Do you want your husband to wait and cook for you like this ?" Seema nodded her head, "Definitely! Daily!"

Suddenly Preetham put his laptop down and questioned his wife," What are you doing? Shaking and nodding your head at the blank telly?" Seema looked at her husband and then at the television and she realized that the telly was not even connected.
She looked at her young one and remarked, "Oh My Daughter! You are making me dream more these days..." Preetham smiled and said, "No matter whatever your dreams are! I will try to make them a reality"
Seema laughed aloud thinking of her dreams and it seemed her baby joined her too in the laughter.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Waiting for You!

Every walking minute that we are in the presence of someone, we come up with a constant streams of predictions and inferences about what the other person is thinking and feeling
- From the book 'Blink'

But sitting in the car ,with her boss Preetham in the drivers seat, Manya was doing something different. She was not attempting to mind-read her boss. She knew that all he wanted now is to be at Wife's place on time and enjoy the friday evening. Rather she was trying to get a vision of how Preetham's wife Seema was missing her husband.

And somewhere far away from that location, resting with her baby girl, Seema was looking from her bedside window of how the heavenly cushions were changing the covers. The sky had darkened immediately and it looked like twilight. This prompted her to hum a popular song, "It seems like that It would rain now........It seems like my heart has a song now....All I want from you is to sit in my heart....And listen to my song......." Seema's mother walked into the room and teased her daughter
“Like the earth outside that is anxiously waiting for the drops of water to fall upon it from the heavens above, So is my daughter waiting for the arrival of her husband…”
Seema smiled and then looked her at her smiling new born baby and complained, “Your father told me he would be here by five…. Its already five. I hope he will be here before the rains pour down…”
Mother continued teasing her daughter with some more nice romantic lines , “With you nearby, Years roll like minutes. Without you, even a second is like a year….”

Manya opened her eyes unable to get a picture of Seema's plight. The Rains had distracted her concentration. The sudden rains had brought the traffic to a standstill. Manya knew how eager was her boss Preetham to see his baby and she calmed her boss, "Have some Patience boss! The traffic will clear in five minutes."
Preetham cried out to his lord, “Oh God! In Dwapar, you cleared the way for Vasudev to take his kid Lord Krishna and drop him at Gokula. Some centuries back, you cleared the way for Moses to carry those TEN Commandments. Do it now also na with this traffic so that I can reach my wife’s place at the earliest”
Manya prayed a bit differently, "Oh God! Give my boss some patience..." and she waited for a moment and then exclaimed, "and give it now!"*
Manya couldn’t believe it when she saw the traffic getting cleared slowly, “Seems the overall traffic controller heard your prayers.”

Manya then started thinking whether the wife would also be praying like this.
But Seema was singing rather than praying to the Rains which had turned from a trickle to a downpour, “Oh Rains! Don’t fall so incessantly making it hard for my husband to come home. Once he reaches here, rain relentlessly giving him no opportunity to leave this place…***”
Like a host from a radio request show, the Rain God obliged and all of a sudden reduced its show of might.
Mother who was playing with the young one smiled at her daughter’s song, “You lovers are so selfish! Always thinking of yourself…..”
Seema defended herself, "I was only asking for the bad weather to clear...I am not that selfish..."
The mother answered, "There is no such thing as bad weather. We have only different kinds of good weather. Sunshine is delicious and rains are refreshing**"

When the rains had slowed down and the traffic started moving faster, Manya guessed as to what was happening in Seema's mind and made a profound statement which didn't make any sense to Preetham, "Though not in person, I feel you two are together now at this moment in the thoughts...'". Preetham was concentrating more on the road and hitting on the gas. Now it was Manya's turn to pray, "Oh Boss! Slow down... There is a whole weekend ahead...". She never believed her boss would listen to her. But Preetham not only slowed down but also brought the car to a sudden halt.
Her boss smiled as he got down the car, “How can I go empty handed to my wife.” And then instructed Manya, “Wait here! I will go to that market and be back in five minutes.”
Within five minutes Preetham was back with plastic bags in both hands. Manya tried to get a peep into the plastic bags. Preetham announced, “Only Fruits and flowers in the bag…..” Manya completed the sentence, “And lots of love in the heart. Nice combination”

Finally the destination was reached…. There was perfect synchrony between the opening of the car door by Preetham and opening of the front door by Seema. Preetham completely forgot that gentlemen open the car door for ladies. He was already at the door steps to hug his wife and child. But Manya didn't mind that her boss had forgotten his manners and enjoyed everything from the comfort of her seat without getting down. She felt as if she was in a drive in theater enjoying a romantic movie. There were times when real life imitates the movies. This was one such feel-good movie moment. But a question was erupting in Manya's mind, “How did the love of the couple grew double fold after the child arrived? Did this child bring additional love with her when she was born?

*** Lines from a Kannada song.
** John Ruskin
* Anonymous
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