Excitement- Embarrassment

My Joey,

This happened almost 15 years ago, I was in my fifth or sixth grade. My mother has to go for her refreshing course every three years and that year she came back with a lot of toys and dress for me. I was so excited but hardly got a chance to wear them as it was summer holidays and we were not planning any trip because of the festival in our temple. I decide to utilize the time to the fullest by playing with the toys she bought and those which I got from my brother by hooking up stories of haunted dolls and cars.

But I went to the temple daily just to wear those clothes and each time I open the closet to take my new dress, my grandmother asked me to keep it back because small girls were supposed to wear a frock or a skirt and blouse to the temple. I was eagerly waiting with my churidar to wear it for the first time in my life. It was a coral coloured churidar with beadwork on the front and a thread work on the rear piece with a loose bottom which more or less satisfied the condition of a palazzo pant. The most exciting piece was the dupatta which I never used before. Yes Joey, the same dupatta which I hate now. Back then I had all my aunties and cousins and even my mother wearing a dupatta when they step out of the house and I saw that to be a symbol of the ‘grown-up’, I always envied them.

That was when my father came home and told about a procession and parade on the night of the 7th-day festival at the temple. The god was coming to our place to visit us. I was so happy, not because of the festival. The god is coming here and so I don’t have to wear anything traditional to welcome him. I have my churidar. My mother and grandmother arranged everything and they tried convincing me to wear something ‘simple’. My mother even told the churidar was not safe because it was not stitched properly and the tailor would stitch it for me properly so that I could wear it on my school reopening day. I was smart enough to understand that they are trying to fit me into a frock which I hated. I held tightly to the idea of churidar and they did not have any other option.

Finally, it was the day or the night and it was time for me to wear my new outfit. I wore it and accessorized it with a pearl chain and matching earrings not because people would see me like that but to trigger the jealousy of my friend-cum-classmate- cum- neighbour girl. All of us were ready at 8 pm and went to see the God who was there near our house. I couldn’t concentrate on the god or the programmes which were going on there; I was busy searching for my friend.

I finally found her, clasping to her mother’s finger, wearing a skirt and blouse. I grinned and ran to her. We started playing there and my brother also joined us. Later children from neighbouring families also joined and we couldn’t just run around. So we decided to play a much-organized game. One person was to be the catcher and others were to run; the first person the catcher touch is the next catcher. We took a lot and my brother was the catcher. All of us ran and he spotted the slowest among us, a frail kid from the neighbourhood. He managed to touch him and the puny thing started to chase us, in vain. That was when my friend’s father came to the place and she stopped for a moment to look at him. The boy came and touched her and she became the catcher. That was the first time me seeing someone cursing their own father for a fault nowhere related to him. She started chasing us and I soon understood that she was chasing me.

My stupid dupatta was flying she could easily get hold of that and finally reach me. I am a genius, Joey. I caught the dupatta and tied into the front so that it won’t take wing. I reached a wall I had to climb over it to keep her away. I kept my hands on the wall and jumped up with a force to help my right leg reach over it. It happened as planned but I heard something growling softly.. ‘rrrrr’… I did not give much attention to that and continued playing. Suddenly I realized that my friend was not chasing me. She was there near the wall, shocked. I could see her eyes moistened and her hand closing her mouth. Flashes of colours from the cracker which set thee mood of the celebration was there on her face, setting the mood of the game for us. I first did not understand what happened. Later I caught her looking to my almost-palazzo pant. Joey, I just wanted to bury myself at that moment. My pant had torn from the thighs to the calf. The pant was so loose that the piece of cloth was hanging loose. I did not know what to do. I ran to my mother and tried to cover my legs with my dupatta, which I later tried like a dhoti around my waist.

I could see the scene my mother telling me the churidar was not stitched properly and I could feel the tears flowing down my cheek silently. I had to spend the rest 2-3 hours silently near my mother with the dhoti- dupatta around my waste and other children playing in the background.

I am still conscious about my dress while I am outdoors just because of that one incident.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

Farewell

My Joey,

I graduated from a college which was very strict when it comes to timings, especially for girls. We girls were supposed to answer our attendance call in the hostel by 7 pm, otherwise could invite severe punishments including suspension from the college. It’s not that I was scared of suspension at that time but being suspended for a week can lead to the shortage of attendance, which mean not eligible to be present for final examinations. It implicitly meant the loss of one whole year. I successfully completed five of six semesters and was about to attend the farewell functioned organized for our batch by the students of our junior batch.

It was on a Friday. We literally fell on the feet of our teachers to grant us permission to go to the city on Thursday to buy a few essentials. Luckily we were granted permission and the warden gave us the gate pass on the request made by our parents through a letter duly faxed. We were all excited, packed our clothes in a tote- bag and kept everything ready. Oh, the dress? Joey, we were not allowed to wear anything other than a salwar with a properly pinned dupatta which you know is really uncomfortable for me while shopping. It was a pair of jeans and t-shirt in the bag.

All of us woke up early in the morning; loss of a minute could lead to complications as we were to be out of the campus at the exact time mentioned in the pass allotted to us. All of us were ready and reached the gate at sharp 8 am. The first step outside the gate and I wanted to scream with the whole energy I have but decided against it thinking about the possible suspension and the freedom I would enjoy in two days if I behave in the culture taught by the college.

The railway station was virtually inside the campus. We reached there and bought tickets to the city. There were two cities nearby (at a distance of 90 minutes by train), both in opposite directions. Some of them bought tickets for city A and six of us, a gang we were, decided to go to city B (though closer than A, B was in another state). We went to the platform, clicked pictures of us, the dog there, all flowers and plants and even the ghost of a waiting shed which collapsed a decade ago. We saw the train coming and were all ready with the bags to enter. Like disciplined children in school assembly, all of us went on the train. The next step was to change into our comfortable clothes. All of us had a pair of dress packed and there were two toilets opposite each other. We patiently waited for our turn and changed into the best clothes.

We had reached city B, earlier than expected. First thing in our agenda was to have a proper breakfast. We went to a vegetarian restaurant near the railway station and had masala dosa and tea.

Now the shopping. I had to buy a pair of earrings and a not-so-funky chain which would accessorize my sari for farewell party and my friends had to buy a few other things like nail polish, mascara, eyeliner and so on. We went to the shopping mall and bought everything plus those things we found attractive and some things the shopkeeper thought would suit us. Yes, I still have those things in my cupboard untouched, waiting for their turn to ‘suit’ me.

Next was the lengthiest part of the day; the appointment with the beautician. All six of us had our appointment ready and it would take almost 4 hours. It was already 10.30 am. As per our calculations, we would reach the salon by 11 and all of would be done by 3 pm. We planned to go to the most famous hotel there and have their special chicken biriyani; we were strict vegetarians in the campus. According to our plan, we were to reach the hostel by 5 and go take bath and give our attendance by 7 pm.

But, by the time we finished our session in the beauty parlour, it was 4 pm. We did not want to miss the biriyani and hence we decided to call up the restaurant and order food and reserve seats. Everything was ready when we reached the place. We started eating and that was one of the most satisfying meals I have ever had in my whole life. That does not include the food either of us cook, so calm down, Joey. Anyway, we finished our lunch and just looked at the watch. We had a shock, it was 6.05 pm. But we still had time to reach hostel and give attendance. We made it to the bus stand on time and found the places where interstate buses stop closed. We went to the enquiry section and they gave us the worst news ever, the border was closed due to some dreadful incidence. We didn’t know what to do. We stood there till 6.45. We decided to reach the border (i told you, the city and the college were in two different states) and got on a bus which would help us with that. It was almost 7.30 when we reached the border. We walked to the other state through a bridge which connects both the states hoping to find a bus there. But there was nothing, only a few stranded stray dogs. It was 8 pm and we missed the call for attendance.

We sat on a rock piece on the roadside having no clue about the future. That was when we saw cars coming out from a narrow road joining the main road. We decided to ask for a lift. First car did not stop, the second car honked hard and drove away, the third card was not going that way. The fourth car stopped and offered us a lift. That was a small Maruti-800 and 6 of us plus the driver was the biggest torture to the pure thing. We reached our college bus stop at 8.45. He dropped us there and left and we were to go through a narrow lane for almost 2km to reach our campus. There were no auto rickshaws. So we decided to walk. Finally, we reached near the campus gate by 9.30 pm.

Now the biggest problem, entering the campus almost 4 hours after the scheduled time. I dialled the number of a security staff once my ex-boyfriend introduced me to, I had befriended him. He was on duty near our hostel and asked us to wait until he reaches the main gate. We waited there, the longest five minutes of our life. He gave us a signal to enter and he had dealt with the situation at the gate. He took us to the small room where all passes were kept and kept our passes in his pocket and wrote on a sheet of paper that our passes were ‘missing’. He also called up the warden and informed her that he forgot to inform about 6 girls who came back from the city at 5.30 pm whose passes were missing. We ran to the hostel and the security staff had cleared the gate for us. The hostel door was locked so we had to go to the night canteen and had to go to our room as if we were in the night canteen from 5.30-9.30 pm. We did exactly the same and pretended as if we were running to the warden to give attendance. She shouted at us, but that was nothing compared to what would have happened if he, the security staff, was not there.

That was my last outing from that college and the most memorable one. Never in my life, had I had a chance to go out like that after my college life.

 

More letters and stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

 

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Laya

My Joey,

I saw her today. She looked amazing in her sari, hair cut short, cat-eye frame spectacles. What made her prettier was the scar on the right side of her forehead, partially covered with rebellious bangs of hair. That is a memory; a memory to inspire all girls, a memory which kept her alive, a memory which kept her moving forward. Never once in her life, she had to look back after the bold decision and the parents and society is now asking budding talents to keep her as the paradigm.

She is Laya, a girl from a middle-class family in Kerala, who had a liberal frame of mind not found in many of those who are around her. She was just five when she decided to be an astronaut. A Sci-fi show attracted her to the world of stars. She had a newspaper clipping stuck to her wall, in front of her study table where she used to spend most of her time reading and writing. The clipping read ‘You can Reach Stars Too’. But she knew that was not enough. She studied really smart; she tried reading as many write-ups and articles as she could. That is when she came across the news of an elderly women crying on the road helplessly after being left alone by her own children. Somewhere in the corner of her heart, she had a feeling that it is necessary to change her own world before reaching the stars. Laya did not want to get diverted, went back to reading on other planets.

It was a Friday; she went with her parents to a temple a few miles away. Her prayer in that temple was always special. The prayers were neither formal nor they had a deity- devotee relationship. She always addressed her God ‘brother’ and complained, cried, fought and laughed like a little sister. The god must have felt the same for her, never in her life, she faced a trouble in having what she wanted. That day she asked her brother to show her the meaning of her life or why she was born. That was too much for a thirteen-year-old girl to ask for, but the little knowledge about the life she acquired from her friends forced her to ask that.

She came out of the temple and started sprinting from one shop to the other in search of toys. That was when she heard someone talking to her mother. That was an old woman, older than her grandmother. Laya stopped searching for toys and listened to her. She was just a bag of bones with white hair, eyebrows and wrinkled skin. The granny was literally begging Laya’s mother to take her along with them to their house. She even said that she is ready to do all the work at their home for food and shelter. Mother looked at father as if she is seeking permission to take her along.

That was when the shopkeeper jumped out of the cash counter on the right corner of the shop. He shooed the lady away and told Laya’s mother not to fall for such drama and there are enough and more facilities for free food and shelter around the temple. But Laya was not convinced. She could feel her heat crying.

If she had a chance she would have taken the lady along with her. But Laya is now just a kid. About the shelter homes there, Laya could not even think of staying in a hostel and then how come someone stays at places like that. She thought about it and took it as a cue to find the real purpose of her life. She did not understand much; all the girl knew was that she had to become someone who can influence her society.

She went to her school on Monday. Students had a very special guest for the morning assembly the person who changed the life, the person who changed the way she looked at things. It was a journalist who was also the school alumni, came there to address the students to motivate them for their final exams. What she said changed everything for Laya. ‘The final examination marks may decide the course you would choose, the college you would go to; but the real mark, the mark which you give yourself decide the success of your life. Listen to your heart and the world is yours’. Laya had a jolt. She wanted to be a journalist, a writer who can present the whole world in front of the world for them to see, for them to act. She always knew her words were powerful enough to grab the attention of the world.

She tried hard to convince her mother not to send her to an Engineering college and she won. She enrolled for graduation and then Post Graduation in journalism. Successful was her life till that point. That was when the discussion about her marriage came up. Before even she could think she was married off to an engineer to have a ‘settled’ family life. Her life was in confinement and the four walls of her flat laughed at her like a lunatic. She was bored but couldn’t go out or engage herself in anything just because she was not earning it was all her husband’s money. When she asked him about working he caught her by the hair and pushed so hard that he hit her head on the dining table which gave her the scar I was talking about. He was abusive; she was to suffer in silence for her parents.

It was February 10, their second wedding anniversary and her husband were away for a one month trip to the US. Her parents came to her flat to celebrate which was really unusual. The flat on the 14th floor had a beautiful balcony overlooking the backwaters. It was dusk and the sky was red with the sun blushing at the touch of the horizon. Looking at the sky was Laya resting her head on mother’s lap, lost in thoughts, sitting on the grass carpet on the balcony-turned-garden. He father came with a box and gifted it to her, their anniversary gift. She opened it to find a laptop, a book, a pen, a calendar and now she knew why they were there. They wanted her to write and escape to the world of letters. There were people waiting for her with many serious issues than just an abusive husband who is away for most of the time.

She started writing. The first sentence was really hard. But then the words started flowing through her pen, she kept writing until her pain faded away to bring back the creative, active girl back to life. She sat there for 14 hours straight and by the end of that revelation she had a blog and a beautiful piece of write up written with words from her life. Next was to get a divorce which she could easily get.

She checked the calendar. It was February 10th and her fourth wedding anniversary.  Life changed for her. She was then a writer who unveiled the errors of the society, daughter of 7 mothers who were on the streets once, and a would-be single mother (the process of adoption was almost in the final stage). That was when I met her, on the way from an orphanage to her house where her mothers were busy cleaning, preparing sweets, organizing things and washing new clothes to make everything safe and perfect for their little new guest who would come there in a few days.

I am joining her for the dinner today, to feel the love and warmth of seven mothers and a sister, to feel the excitement in the air to welcome the cutest guest.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

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Childhood Part 2

My Joey,

From that day the whole house became our new playground.

But what to play? First, we decided to play ‘hide and seek’. I started to count. 1…2…3…50. It was time to find him.

Before that let me tell you how the house was. There was a long lobby- cum- entranceway which had our main door at the end from where a big hall extended towards both sides of the door resembling a T. On one end of the corridor was a bedroom and another end our dining room and from there the kitchen. Opposite the main door, on the other side of the hall was another door which opens to a corridor parallel to the hall and directly opposite the door was our ‘pooja- room’. And the corridor has doors to our bedrooms and so on.

I was facing the main door for counting till 50 so that he would get enough time to hide. On the count of 50, I turned and started searching for him. I first ran to the corridor and looked both sides. I was kind enough not to go into the bedroom, why tempt the ghosts. I knew my brother really well; he would have thought the same. I came back to the hall and ran to the bedroom on the end. The door was latched from outside; he was not there. I stopped for a while to think, keeping a close watch on the main door where I was counting so that he won’t have a chance to win the game (I win if I touch the door after finding him and he wins if he managed to touch the door before me). That is when I heard the noise ‘gurrr’. I ignored and continued thinking

‘Gurrrrrr’… ‘Gurrrr’… Again. Now what? Run? No. he might come and touch the door. Scream? No, that would wake my parent up. What to do? I decided to go check what it was. ‘Gurrrrr’ I tried to find the source and it was behind the sofa close to the window on the left side of the main door, a few feet away from the bedroom room. I went there, carefully observing to find out signs of what is in there and to scream as soon as I see the beast. I almost reached the sofa, I saw the curtain moving and ‘phoooommm’- something came out of it and dashed to the main door. It took my life away from me, forget about being scared. I fell on my back and it took a few seconds for me to be back to normal. I opened my eyes to find my brother standing with his hand on the main door. It was the boy behind the sofa and the ‘gurrr’ was he trying to breathe through his dust- irritated nose. That was the first and last hide and seek game.

Next, we decided to play ‘House’. He was the father and I was the mother. Two kids- his brown teddy bear and my doll with golden hair and maroon- frock. We had to find a ‘home’. We searched in the bedrooms, pooja room, corridor, kitchen and dining room- in vain. From the dining room, we came to the hall and sat on the floor. That was when he found this wooden table which had a big drawer. I went inside our new ‘home’ with kids and the only property we had- a medium sized bamboo bowl. Yes, Joey. The same one my grandmother still uses to keep onions; we spread a newspaper on the floor and neatly arranged the onions on it.

We started playing. He was to go shopping and that’s when we realized that there are burglars all around. He decided to lock me with the kids inside the house. But what happened was that I thought he was joking and he thought I was serious.

He locked the drawer and went ‘shopping’. The boy was around three then and was easily diverted from the role of a father; he forgot that he had locked us. He went indoors with the key. That is when my grandmother saw the onions and she was furious. His deceiving look saved him again and she started searching for me. My dear brother gave her the key and ran away. When she opened the drawer, I was there inside drenched in sweat. She was shocked to see me like that, took me out and I don’t really remember what followed. Thanks to the onions, they saved my life, the drawer was air-tight.

 

More letters and adventurous stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

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Childhood Part 1

My Joey,

I was always a restless kid; so restless that I couldn’t even be there in my mother’s womb for nine months. I came out early at around 8 months, just to annoy everyone in the family, not just my mother. From the moment of reaching this world, I started playing, talking and eating- my hobbies never changed.

When the girl who was born a few seconds before me lived on her mother’s milk, I started drinking milk in the feeding bottle (a steel tumbler is what my father claims it to be). When she slept peacefully next to her mother like an angel, I kept talking to my grandmother in our own language only both of us understood.

The small house in the railway quarters was my home, where I managed to crawl on my knees to reach each doorstep, collecting the footwears kept outside. I was so particular in that job- collected only one of the pair, leaving behind the other one for the owner to guess ‘the thief’. The curious collector in me was not someone who joined me on my journey of life, he was born with me. After the tedious job of collecting footwears, I had to collect each leech and lizard hiding in creaks, holes, behind the door and even underneath the soil. After that was my long chat session with my grandmother; I never let her feel lonely and kept talking and running around that she had to tie me to a small wooden chair n keep me at restroom door whenever she had to go in there. Those days of collecting and hard work were over in 2 years and we moved to our new home.

I was blessed with a baby brother. He was a few inches in length, dark in colour with golden anklets and bracelets shining on him. He smiled often and was such a cutie pie- never disturbed anyone there. I was eagerly waiting for him to grow up so that I can have a partner in my crime. Time flew and now he was able to stand up, walk and speak- he qualified to join my one-man army.

While he was just 2 and I was five then, I offered to help my grandmother in convincing him to eat. He loved it when I gave him food. But those nutritious days of my brother did not last long- my grandmother found out that I was gaining weight and my brother losing weight considerably. I was thrown out of the duty.

One fine day, he came to me with a Pudin Hara tablet and requested me to enlighten him with the uses of the glossy green thing. I converted the antacid into a toxic tablet which would kill the children in 2 minutes and managed to hook up a story with examples. That did not end there. I squeezed the tablet, broke it and took the pungent smelling green juice out of it and applied it to his lips. I never expected this coming. He shrilling in the most displeasing voice I have ever heard in the whole 5 years of my life ran to my parents. I was treated really well that day and so decided not to do anything without thinking twice about its consequences.

One more year passed. He was 3 and I was 6. We decide to play ‘Bus’. We took a ring from the scrap which was heaped at one corner of our ‘waste-room’- our steering; took 3 chairs from the dining room and arranged everything neatly to resemble a bus. He was the driver and I was supposed to collect tickets. Now the problem- what to be used as tickets. I found the solution- the paper in my mother’s place with Gandhiji’s picture on it (people sometimes refer to that as currency, but was just bus ticket for us). We started playing. The first two-three imaginary passengers were lucky enough to get the whole note as ticket, but we could not afford to give away the limited ticket like that. We decide to tear it- into two at the beginning and the number increased as we proceeded with the game. Again, I never expected this to happen. My mother came in to our bus with a stick in her hand. I managed to tuck in all those ‘tickets’ in to my light green sleeveless frock with white polka dots. She’s always smart and was smarter that day- took everything from my frock. Both of us got what we deserved. We couldn’t even run.

The very next day, we decided to play cricket with the plastic bat and ball we bought from the street vendor who came for the festival in the nearby temple. He was bowling and I was batting. After a few balls, we understood that the bat and the ball were soiled.  We decide to stop the game and wash them. But where? Opening the tap would alert my parents who were then sleeping. So we decided to wash them in the water collected inside the big plastic barrel kept on one corner of the courtyard. We bought the chair and I helped my brother to jump inside the barrel. He washed them and was about to come out of it. OMG!!! The barrel was taller than him and he was stuck inside. I tried putting the chair inside the barrel but the chair was too big for that. Now what? Genius me!!! I decided to turn the barrel over. I pulled it with the entire strength I had and the barrel fell down with a loud noise- opening the tap was better. The problem didn’t end there. My brother fell down with it, started crying. And?? Alas!! There was a snake under that which now started running here and there, panicked. My parents came running, took the boy out of it and killed the snake. I was the scapegoat there; he presented everything as my idea. His deceiving innocent look helped him escape. And me? I had red scar which resembled the reptile who sacrificed its life for us. We were not allowed to go out in the noontime after that.

We started playing inside the house from the next day.

More letters and adventurous stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

 

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First Love

My Joey,

I was 13 years old then; 8th grade. The school life was boring. Wake-up, get ready-go to school-come back, do homework, eat, watch TV- sleep was my routine. I couldn’t find anything exciting or entertaining anywhere. That is when he came to our class, my first love.

He was of an average built, neatly done hair, tidy uniform, very pleasant and more than anything else-  his eyes- the sharp innocent eyes. It used to glitter when he smiles. That was a perfect teenage (one-sided) love. Scribbling his name on my book, daydreaming and smiling like an idiot, enacting a romantic conversation with him (which I still do though the person on the other side keep changing), noticing how his hair falls to his eyes while writing, how he turn pages of his book, how he talks to his friends- all these were my new hobbies. I tried to be a perfect girlfriend- taking care of him while he played football, sitting with him to finish his work, waiting for him to start eating first; the best (or worst) part was that he didn’t even know that I exist.

My silent love for him grew in strength each time I look at him. Then this happened. I still remember. I was on the second bench that day, with my best friend sitting next to me (the luxury of sitting wherever we want used to happen only on December 10, on the Human rights Day). I was looking at him with my head resting on the desk and she caught me red- handed. I thought she was going to shout at me for such crazy things or she might support me, but to my surprise, she told me “both of us are competing for the same person”. I was too shocked to speak a word. I just looked at her with tears silently flowing down my cheek. Let me tell you, Joey, I never expected anyone else to like him- he was not all that good-looking and he had a shrilling voice which managed to displease everyone including his one true love- me. I kept staring at him and she continued talking. She managed to give another shock of my life by revealing the name of another girl in our class who claimed to have fallen for him head over heels. I didn’t have anything to tell her.

I went home and stood before the Krishna idol in my room and prayed (or bribed) to keep safe my 1-week old love which is still in its nascent stage but the strongest. I stopped talking to my best friend.

Another year passed with these quick glances and stupid smiles. All of us were then in 9th grade. That is when this girl with brown hair and green eyes joined our class. She was really cute and I was scared if he would start having feelings for her. But I am smart, Joey. I managed to befriend her and first thing I did was to tell her the story of my purest love. She smiled and told me about her 2 year-old love story that too with her neighbor. That was the broadest grin I have ever had in my whole life. She is not going to be another competition. She became my new best friend

With her, then I planned to express my love for him before the other two girls tell him about their crazy infatuation unlike my true love. We chose our co-curricular activities time for that so that no one would come to know of it. I was learning skating, those two girls cooking, my new best friend embroidery and my love violin. It was a Friday (that’s when we practice such activities). I went to my best friend’s embroidery class and asked her to come out. We had a long discussion and both of us left to find him. Her class was on the third floor from where we came to the ground floor to check the notice board on which the list of classrooms allotted for each activity is displayed. Violin class- 10A. I gave her a death stare for being irresponsible. 10 A was the class next to her embroidery class. We climbed all those steps back and reached where we stood to discuss our plan. A few steps away there was door to 10A.

My heart started beating so fast that I started sweating and she started laughing. I pinched her shoulder and started walking towards 10 A. I reached the door, closed my eyes, prayed for two seconds and opened my eyes. That was such a perfect moment. God brought him in front of me. Everything is going to be admirable; I could see Cupid aiming his arrow. I requested him to come out of the classroom.

It was just us on that entire corridor; church on the background;  my best friend staring at me through a window. I tried to remember the dialogues she taught me. “Hi… Hi… Hi…” nothing else came out and it was just hi. Thank you, God, for being such a big help. I tried framing sentences. All these, while he was there standing beside me, looking at me with suspicion and all I had on my face-  a constipated look.  After 5 minutes, I started talking and managed to tell him how I felt and then ran back to the room where I left my skating shoes. I didn’t forget to smile at my best friend- a beautiful smile which went pink. I had the reason. He told he liked me too. My bestie thought that I am lying to her and she did not believe me.

I reached home- half walking, half running. I had a lot to plan; his birthday was just three days away. The best place to plan- the study room. I was seated on my chair with books open, lost in thoughts. I heard the phone ringing. It was the landline because it was only my father and mother who had the mobile phone and we kids were not allowed to touch it. It was my best friend and she asked me again about his response. After everything, she told what happened today evening after me leaving the school.

She saw my love with my best friend, hand-in-hand, walking down the road laughing and lost in their own world. She asked her about it as if she is not aware of anything happening there (my new best friend was new there). My old bestie told my new bestie about her ‘boyfriend’ and her 2 month old love story. Yes, Joey, I was being a fool (as usual). They were together for past two months. I cut the call, ran back to the study room crying. Kicking the doll I made for him I screamed. ‘What are you doing in there?’ my mom shouted from the kitchen. I was terrified, wiped off my tears and opened my book. I looked the doll. That was a really cute red doll with white hair. I took it from the floor and kept it safe in the cupboard- I gave it to you the other day. That is okay. Don’t throw it away. I made it and gifted you, rest is just a story.

Anyway, my first love ended up being a tragedy. I had to talk to my old best friend and go with her to meet him. My new best friend left to study overseas. Me- yes- back to the old routine- Wake-up, get ready-go to school-come back, do homework, eat, watch TV- sleep.

Okay, it’s time for me to go sleep.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

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Singer

My Joey,

Haven’t you seen me singing all the day round, wherever I go, whatever I do? Don’t start thinking about how bad it goes at times. I have annoyed you with the notes used out-of-place and a voice strained by the bad throat. But, agree, it’s not all that bad though it is far from a melodious treat to your ears.

I will tell you how the singer in me was born. My cry was not all that musical the day I came to the world. Even after that, my creaky voice managed to bother people around me. But at some point, my parents found my voice sweet and found the hidden talent (singing like that is also a talent). They let me join a music class. I never liked the place, the teacher used to teach music which always went above my head. All I did was to just repeat what she sings. I didn’t know a single song. That is when we had to move from that place and the new place was miles away from the music class; one reason for me to love the new place.

Days passed and then came the news. My grandmother managed to find a new music teacher for me. I had to go there on all Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. But the place was better than I expected it to be and the crispy dosa from my aunt who lives nearby tempted me to go there regularly. I tried acting in front of my parents as if I am learning music with whole heart. No, Joey, that was not for the dosa!! Okay, yes- 50- 50 for dosa and music. But my family is a really smart one. They found out the real intentions and came to know of my disinterest in the class. I was again saved from the torturous class. I missed the dosa but was happy.

God never let people happy to be for more than a certain period, I guess. My grandmother found another teacher. The worst part- he was coming home to teach me. This time something else struck my grandmother- it was the stars which diverted me away from being the greatest musician and so the class must commence at the auspicious moment in order to please all God n stars.  We found the time- 7 am in the morning.

Finally, the day arrived. I was thrown out of my bed straight in to my bathroom at 5 am. Yeah!! That was the very first time I had ever seen that time of a day. I looked into the bucket filled with water. I dipped my finger. OMG!!! It froze and refused to sense anything for the next 5 minutes. The water was ice-cold and it was raining outside- I have no idea how we manage find the auspicious time only when it is raining. School reopening, new art like music or dance or anything for that matter, even most of the marriages – everything. Back to the point. It was raining outside. I felt like the whole world is crying for what was happening in my life. But let me tell you; that was just a misunderstanding. Even the rain inflicted pain on me with a chilly wind. I took water in a mug and poured it on my toe. Tak…Tak…Tak… my grandmother banged on my door. It was almost 5.15 and it was time for us to go to the temple. I took water in the mug, gave it a look and pleaded not to hurt me. With the next bang on the door, I poured the water on me. It caused me to jump and I almost touch the ceiling. The water managed to poke me with something sharp. I decided to cheat on the water, just because he hurt me. I dipped the towel in water and wiped my body and gave the water an evil grin. I am braver and smarter than you think stupid water.

I came out wearing my new dress. Thank God, she did not ask me to walk to the temple. All were ready by then and we went to the temple in a car. In the car, I couldn’t resist myself from thinking if it was just me who cheated on the water or everyone did the same. I chuckled. We reached the temple in two minutes and entered for all pooja and other rituals which were done to ‘please’ the God to bless me with the power to nurture the talent he already bestowed on me.

We reached home at sharp 6.45 and my mother and grandmother went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast and sweets- it was special because the teacher was to have his breakfast with us. I was sitting in the dining hall, staring at the clock hung by the wall. It was 6.55 and I heard a sound from my yard. He was there.

I went out to judge him from the first look. He was on a Chetak bike wearing an ivory coloured dhoti n kurta (he is too gutsy to wear such light coloured cloth in the rainy season). He parked the scooter and opened it to take something like a radio which I later understood is a box which hums to keep my notes in place. That moment gave me chance to see his long hair tied neatly into a ponytail. I felt ashamed of my thin short hair, but it is okay. I was just 10 n he was almost 70.  He gave me a warm smile which I don’t remember if I gave back- worried I was. All of us entered the hall.

Everything was ready there. The betel leaves, a 1000 rupees note and a one rupee coin, a lamp, incense sticks and a few things which I don’t remember. I was given the leaves and on it was the 1001 rupees. I gave it to my teacher and touched his feet to seek blessing. The whole family had a smile. Teacher sat on the mat spread on the right side and asked me to be seated opposite to him, cross-legged. I followed each instruction carefully. He turned on the box and sang the very first note. ‘Saaa…’. I still don’t know what happened. I was all blank, my eyes welled up and I started crying. Teacher was really worried; he did not understand anything. He called my grandmother and the whole family came running. All of them smiled and my brother who was just six or seven then started singing- better than me is what he says. Teacher made me sing a few lines in the presence of my family and stopped the first class. He was really impressed with the talent- not mine, but my brother’s. But even that didn’t save me from the future classes. I had to sing with box on till the day my grandmother found out that he came there for tea and snacks and spend more time chatting and not training me. I didn’t have to do anything and that day was the final day of my music classes. The day was saved, thanks to the Powerpuff… sorry, all days were saved, thanks to the tea and snacks.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love

Cinta

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Charlie

My Joey,

I was lost in the thoughts of finding a story from my life to narrate to you. That is when this Magpie Robin came and sat on my window as if to hint me on what I should write today. Haven’t you seen that bird? It’s black with white stripes. Like a life filled with bright and dark moments, the bird is a mixture of the two symbolic colours. Don’t worry. I am not going to be all philosophical. I being philosophical to you – beyond something I can even imagine. This is something different- the struggle Charlie and I went through to meet the love of his life, Tweety.

Do you remember the day we fought for some silly reason; I went out for a walk without my phone? That is when Charlie came into my life. It just stopped raining and it was around 6 pm. I was enjoying the weather and the breeze managed to wipe my tears off. A line of huge trees on the right and people hurrying on their vehicles to escape into the assuredness of their home on the left- I was strolling down the footpath. That is when I found this little white thing, something like a small towel on the road-side. I didn’t give it a second look.

I had reached our favourite juice stop by then.

The place was crowded, as usual, with people enjoying the freedom from their long tiring days at the office. I crossed them, but couldn’t resist turning back- something was asking me to turn back. I did and I found a man in his late 20s taking the piece of cloth which I didn’t bother to give another glance. The man took out his phone from the pocket, clicked a picture and kept the cloth down. The curious kid in me wanted to know what was so special about the cloth for a person to click a picture. I walked back n reached near the cloth.

OMG, Joey. You won’t believe this. That was not a cloth, thanks to my myopic eye, that was a small bird- my Charlie. He was too tired to open his eyes. I took him in my hands and he managed to move his little wings so as to be comfortable. About my Charlie, he is a white finch with tiny red beak and beautiful red legs.

I went straight to the nearby reading room (I visit that place every day and spend hours there) and sought the permission to keep him safe. I couldn’t find a box and hence kept him in a plastic bin. I met my friend there and with him, I went to the nearest pet store. We talked to the guy there and he didn’t recognize the species from my explanation. I know you don’t expect me to give a proper description. Anyway, I was smart enough to click a picture of the little one. I showed him the picture and he gave me something, a white powder and trust me Charlie woke up because of that medicine and he recovered really fast.

We bought a cute, attractive yellow cage and millet seeds (the guy enlightened me with the name of the type of seed Charlie would devour on) for him. We came back to the reading room and placed him safely in the cage. Then came the next problem, a grave one- a roommate who hates pets.

I mustered the courage to take him to my room and walked back pleading God to somehow manipulate my roommate’s mind to let me in with Charlie. I reached my room. She was out- in our study room. I called her up and started talking as sweet as I could (trust me; I could feel a halo on my head). To my surprise, she accepted my request and I was given a nod to keeping him in the room.

My days were becoming beautiful and meaningful. I started waking up early to clean his cage, to give him water and to check if he has enough feed in the plate. I used to come to my room straight after class to check if he is safe. I started talking to him and giving him company. We were enjoying our days together- he started chirping and responding to whatever I talk. I was not being judged and I could tell him anything without the fear of being embarrassed.

Situation changed. It was time for me to go to my native and I was clueless about Charlie. I talked to my saviour- my mother. He promised me to arrange everything so that I can travel with him on the train. I packed everything- my bag was the lightest one I have ever packed because I did not want Charlie to be uncomfortable because of my diverted attention.

I filled his plates with water and seeds and kept his cage safe in a plastic bag. It was time for us to leave. The plastic bag was the one the nearby shopkeeper gave me when I ordered a cake for my roommate’s birthday and so his cage looked like a huge cake packed neatly. I carried him to the train and placed him next to my seat. I was really worried if he would start chirping too loud to disturb the co-passengers. But he is my good-boy. He came to the corner of the cage where I was placing my hand and sat there peacefully. That was one beautiful journey; I could feel the motherly instincts in me to protect him.

We reached our station, got down from the train and boarded the bus to my place. He was silent there too. But co-passengers started expressing signs of exasperation through glances, stares, sounds and even by talking among themselves. I managed to calm all of them down with the smile and a few good words.

5 hours of journey and we reached home. I took his cage out of the bag and placed him on the table. He started chirping and playing, excited like a baby in an amusement park. But I had a problem- my grandmother started taking care of him and forgot me. No Joey, that did not irritate me, he is my cute little baby.

Days passed and it was time for me to go back. I decided against taking him along with me: one, because of the tiring journey and two, because of my grandmother’s love for him. That is when the need for a company for him struck me. I talked to my father and he advised me to find a pair for him. I searched for a finch in all pet shops in the town, in vain. I reached home, disappointed. I decided to ask people hoping for the best. That is when my neighbour told me about a house where they have numerous pets, including finches. I went there- that was one adventurous journey as the house had lost its front portion because of the road expansion. Well, we had to find the place somehow and we did.

It was like a paradise. Birds, dogs, cats and every pet possible were there. We managed to find the best pair for Charlie- Tweety. She was also white, but with an orange coloured beak and legs. We took her home.

Charlie was suspicious in the beginning. We let them have their private time. Later when we came back they were talking, in their language of course. They suddenly stopped talking seeing me and Charlie looked at me and Tweety went to a corner, scared. I could find a new shine in Charlie’s eyes. He liked her.

The next day I had to travel back, leaving Tweety and Charlie home. It was difficult for me in the initial days, I felt lonely without him. Now, as you know, I am back in my village. My Tweety and Charlie are now building a nest of cotton, fibre and such things we give, inside their cage. I am excited to welcome their babies.

Joey, it’s time for me to check if they have water and seeds.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love

Cinta

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Eerie Night

My Joey,

Do you believe in ghosts? Don’t lie. I know you do. Somewhere deep in all minds, deepest, darkest corner of all hearts, there is a space reserved for these ghosts. I have that too. That is exactly why I ended up writing this letter. I want you safe and for that, you have to know about the ‘supernatural’ force with which I had an unpleasant encounter.

I had a chance to go to a place (well-known and important place in India) for a training session. I was 19 then- with the extraordinary maturity of a 9-year-old. I know what you are thinking. I am not like that now. Well, anyway… I reached there at around 7 pm, accompanied by my father and his friend. We were all part of the 15 member group who reached there with the vigour and valour to go out and change the world immediately after the 1-week training session. But, due to unforeseen circumstances all the ladies (except me that is) backed out, many of them postponed their plan to attend the next session. The in-charge came and asked me if it was fine for me to stay alone in the hostel. I nodded with scenes from all the horror movies I watched playing in the background but with a courageous face. My father gave me a glance and I gave him an entire two seconds of be-proud-of-your-daughter look hiding all fear and tear.

All of us were summoned to the mess hall, finished our dinner and also had an informal round of ice-breaking session. Later, were asked to go to the respective rooms allotted to us. That is when all these negative things began to conspire against me.

My father and others went to their place and I was guided to the ladies hostel by a security staff. Suspicious-looking creatures were peeping from all the nook and corner of that place- a scary looking frog from beneath the water fountain which stopped working a decade ago, a spooky moth from the nearby bush, an eerie cat from the half-opened door of a room built just to tempt the dark forces to come and settle there and adding to the uncanny setting was the howl of an invisible dog. But Joey, I could feel the courage in me building up, with eyes watering just because of the pressure of courage mounting in me and not because I was scared.

We walked for almost two minutes and the light was becoming dimmer and dimmer as we moved forward. The person accompanying me pointed towards a massive building, deserted in somewhere around the late 18th century. It was preyed upon by these red-eyed unearthly bats. The person with me turned on the light as if to show me the cracks and creeks housed by spiders, cockroaches and lizards. He showed me a room. I entered and locked the room safe to keep me and my luggage away from the ruthless eyes of those creatures waiting there to devour on those who come there without noticing the mysterious looking creatures on the way- I was lucky and intelligent enough to notice them, you know!

I took my phone out to assure my father of my ‘safety’. Damn!!! The range… forget about the range there was no service from my network provider. Cursing the moment I chose to nod at the first place, I decided to freshen up and then go out to give him a call. I was unpacking to find my nightdress and then suddenly it happened.

There was a bang inside my washroom. I first thought it is a game well-played by my brain. I smiled and continued unpacking. Again!!! No… It is not my brain. There is someone inside the washroom. I opened the door, slowly but steadily, keeping my legs and mind alert so that I can run as fast as I can the moment I see the shadow of whatever is there inside. But, to my surprise, there was nothing. I closed the door.

Back to my unpacking. I now found my clothes and was in front of the mirror just to confirm if I should really go inside that washroom to clean my face. Plunnngg!!! Something fell into the water. I decided to go inside and inspect. I went inside, breathing heavily. I looked inside the bucket and there was nothing. Plunnngg!!! Oh My Good God!! It is there behind me. Just behind me. It is going to kill me the moment I turn back- you know, according to movies, these ghosts won’t kill us unless we see it. I am seconds away from my death. I started crying silently. I thanked my parents, whole family and friends for being there for me. I started praying so that my soul would go directly to heaven. I turned back. Shooomm!!! Nothing!! Empty.

I looked down. There was a mug on the floor and nothing else. What I saw there brought a broad grin on my face. I found the reason for all those weird sounds in the mug. There was a little frog trying hard to escape from the blue mug. Each time it jumps, it falls back to the mug, into a small puddle of water. That poor thing scared for its life managed to take my life out of me.

I came out of the washroom, locked the door n repacked my bag. With the bag, I went out of my room and found a place ‘in-range’ and called up my father. I asked him to come over to the place and take me back to his room. He did that and we went to the in-charge managed to convince him to shift his roommate to another room and my father and I got a room in the hostel where all others were there.

Oh my God!! I need some water, Joey. Let me go.

More letters and stories on the way.

Love

Cinta

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