I am not Holden Caulfield. I am more together than that. Nevertheless, there is always a drought on my face. As if I have lost my way. The blood began surging up my temples. It was almost audible, it was so loud. My skull was increasingly unable to keep the noise within. I felt like a cola. I walked to the nearest parlor. They don’t keep colas anymore. They had skimmed milk and yoghurt and juices of about hundred and twenty nine kinds. But no cola. This was a place for kids may be. Then I looked around saw. Lots of kids. Toddlers, hand holders, some with honeysuckles in their mouths. This was a mistake, meeting this guy at a place that was for kids and their mommies. Gross mistake. But it was too late to change it now. And anyway, one could always go to the next floor of the mall. And drag the conversation to up there. Or to the basement garage where scores of cars are parked in abandon. Some cars have lain so much dust on them, they probably have been lying there for months. The owner has forgotten where they parked their car and gone back from a party from the pub on the roof by hailing an Uber or something. And suddenly they haven’t found their car after waking up and went looking. Tracing back their steps from last night. That would not be a passable theory though. Because the first place they would look out for would be the parking of the mall. But not if they had gone pub hopping. From one to the next to the one after that, losing count, going absolutely crazy, painting the town red and yellow and all the shades of pastel there are. And waking up like a total amnesiac. That would be a good story, yes. Definitely. I checked the time on my phone again. It was 11:37. What was keeping him so long? I texted him asking where he was. He was delayed at the hospital he said. I didn’t call because hearing his voice would give me the shivers. So I just texted. And he was at the hospital where he had come to see his grandmother who had been put on the ventilator two days ago. Somebody had sent him downstairs to the OTC medicine store to get something and he was just about catching the bus to the mall. I was at least forty five minutes away by bus. And boy! Was I secretly relieved or what? I could still pull away. Compress myself into my shelled cocoon, tell him I couldn’t wait any longer because the assistant of the ENT specialist had called. An operation had come up around 3 pm, so my appointment had been proponed to like 2 pm. Yes, that sounded true. No more sweating. No more shivering. I could lie and get away with it. He belonged to one of the water tight containers in my life. Just like everyone else. My life has lots of water tight containers, did I ever tell you? Everyone I know is in a separate one. I like no links between two characters in my world that doesn’t verify it through me. So if I lied to him, and he was a well-kept secret, I might as well get away with it. He would never find out. Except that he would get that feeling. That I didn’t want to be seen, just yet.

An Excerpt from::: A Tryst at Terminus. 

Odd Jobs

He works as a security guard. Far from home. Like two nights and one day away. That's very far in train terms. He sees his family only twice a year. Going home for Diwali is a constant. And once more, whenever the opportunity fell through. He speaks a different dialect. And lives in a single room asbestos shack. He cooks his meals on a solitary stove. Three neat meals everyday. Rice and dals and rotis. Sometimes chicken too. Aromas fill the air around his one roomed existence. Apparently, he uses garlic in everything. Whenever I see him, he is slicing garlic, chopping garlic, crushing garlic in his stone pestle.

She works as a sweeper for the municipality. Wearing one of those fluorescent jackets over her tattered sari, she would sweep the sides of roads. She collected polyethylene bags and plastic bottles and gutka sachets from the streets that somebody forgot to put in the garbage bin and put then in her sack which she would finally load into the garbage truck. She worked with poise. As if there was no hurry. In her own comfort zone. She would smile at other women like her and at the end of it all share their harvest. They plucked whatever was worthy from the trees on the land beside the streets that nobody owned. Be it drumsticks, or wild spinach, or papaya or pumpkin flowers or guava. There was never much. But how much ever there was, the sweeper woman and her friends took their shares in the pouches they made from the ends of their saris.


A well-rounded two year old baby. Her plump cheeks. Being held like a cat would be. Flagellant. Like a worm. There is a certain glee on her face. And a lump in my throat. Because life is far from cake. It's so hard sometimes, it's not worth bringing another person in between us. To suffer it all from the beginning and till the end. The end doesn't come easy.  Slowly, but steadily dreams are powdered. And blown off like dust. Food doesn't taste as good. Days turn into a bore. Love was but a rumour. We thought it was real, but only it wasn't. Now we are stuck in a mesh of equations, unknowing if we are a variable or a fixed element. Love was but a rumour. Dreams don't be anymore. Where we had envisaged, to be, and where we truly are. It's not worth the little baby girl. It's not. Really not. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

Second Hand Sorrow

It was the peak of summer. The sun beat down almost relentlessly. There was no sign of any rain or breeze. Skies were often clear, unabashed blue. Roads shone in endless mirages.

His grandmother fell ill, just around that time. She was old. But there is no such age beyond which one can say that a person needn't be. Anymore. So she was that way. Old, ill, under the constant care of her children and grandchildren. He was terribly attached to his grandmother. Almost all his childhood memories would have glimpses of his grandmother pickling mangoes or grinding pulses or de-husking rice or simply sitting between all her grandchildren and telling stories to ease long afternoons of summer vacations. And no wonder he missed her and was miserable to see her because everyone thought that she was too old to be now.

He was delicate and sensitive. The phase that we were in then, I was yet to see his sentimental side. He never expressed emotion per se. He cracked jokes, I laughed a lot. And that was about it. A few times things had gotten out of hand where in emotions had come into the picture. Like I had messed up someplace and I needed someone just to talk to and not merely make jokes. Or the time he forgot to wish me on my birthday and was apologetic like a bunny. Like that. Apart from such occasions, never had he ever brought up feelings, sorrow, fears into our conversations. We had been very safe that way. Very insulated from each other.

So when he spoke about his grandmother the way he did, I felt very unprepared. Sometimes providing consolation is not one's forte. What can you do? But I genuinely felt for him and I told him everything was going to be okay. There are hospitals and doctors and everything. But deep down we both felt, this was it. I discarded that deep-down-feeling as my ingrained pessimism and told him that I truly-deeply felt his granny was going to be fine.

And I don't know how, but he got a rush from what I said. Instead of being sad, he planned to go and see her. The temperatures would make the journey impossibly hard. But I didn't have the heart to stop him. He was like a child to me and all I could do was quietly obey and execute whatever he wanted to be done.

I packed him some fruit and a few bottles of juice in his backpack. Literally squeezing his clothes and laptop for space. And saw him off at the bus stop. He didn't text me on reaching or to tell me how things were. I didn't bug him either. Space was an important thing. And suddenly I felt like an egotistic bitch. I am that way, nobody can help me.

The next day, he texted me that his 'aai' had passed away. 'Aai' is what one calls their maternal grandmother. I felt a tug in my heart. I cried and couldn't sleep at all that night. Still didn't know what to text him back.