Hijacker

My Joey,

I know it’s been quite a few days. I am really sorry for not writing to you all these days. Busy days are to be blamed. Travelling around the country kept me busy and to be frank, I had enough time to think of those moments which added colour to my life. So I thought of sharing with you an incident during my first flight.

I was about eight or nine then. We had vacations and so our family decided to go for a trip to Bengaluru. The city has always been close to my heart. First, because of the large collection of toys and then because of the variety of food and of course the time well spent with loved ones. We usually go by road which used to be a fun trip of almost 12 hours. But this time it was different. We chose to travel by air.

I was excited and nervous at the same time. The decision was taken in a split second that I did not even get time to think of it. We were to travel the very next day. I packed my ‘necessary’ stuff in a blue woollen teddy bear bag and my mother packed the rest of the items like clothes and toothbrush in another bag. Wondering about the ‘necessary’ stuff other than what my mother has packed? I will tell you, they were my children- my toys and a red satin piece of cloth which I found very attractive (I still have no clue why I packed it).

It was six in the morning and we set out to the airport. I slept as soon as the driver started the car. When I opened my eyes we were almost 10 minutes away from the airport and the driver was talking non-stop, silencing everyone else. He was talking about the recent flight high-jacks. I did not bother listening to him as all I understood was that a group of men, speaking in an unknown language high-jacked the plain and that they are cruel enough to hurt everyone. By the time he finished the talking, we were at the airport.

My mother was extra sweet at that moment and she offered to carry my teddy bear bag. I was wondering what happened and found out later that it was just an idea to leave my bag and babies and red towel inside the car. That did not hurt me much as I knew that I am going to ditch the bag and buy new toys.

Anyway, let us talk about what happened. All of us boarded the flight, my mother, father, brother and I. We had my uncle, his wife and daughter with us. Inside the flight, I came to know that my seat was away from that of my parents’. I walked to the seat with trembling legs, sat and my mother fastened my seat belt. My heart was beating double its normal rate.

A man, in his late twenties, if my memory is to be trusted, sat next to me. He fastened his seat belt, turned to me and gave me a warm smile. I don’t remember if I gave him the smile back. But I was staring at him for sure. Something about him scared me. That’s when I realized that I was unconsciously listening to my driver’s high-jacking story in the car. I turned back and avoided looking at the man. I wanted to go to my parents or at least see them. But I was so short (yes, I know it’s still the same) that I couldn’t even imagine looking beyond the tall backrest of the seat. I tried peeping but in vain. That’s when I did the gravest mistake of my life. I allowed the man next to me to meet my eyes. He asked me something. At first, I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Then I realized that he is talking in an unknown language. The entire scene of my driver talking played in my head.

I felt as if he is blurring away. A few seconds passed and I realized that my eyes are welling up with tears of fear. I was sure that he is going to hurt me and I am going to die. I cursed my driver for warning me. I could have died peacefully if it was not for him to warn me of the ‘unknown language’. I started crying. I found his face changing. He started searching his pocket. What could that be? A gun, a knife, a bomb? I was just seconds away from my death. He took his hand out and I found something glittering. That’s a new lethal weapon, I thought. He pointed it to me. I hit his hand hard, as hard as I could, and screamed at the top of my voice. I knew I had to shout ‘HEEELLLPP’ (that’s how it work in movies), but what came out of my throat was  ‘HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.

He got up from his seat and my heart almost stopped. He turned to the crew and said something. That should be his friend, conspiring to kill me. I tried unfastening the seat belt. I did not know how to do that. I was stuck with the beat. I cried, screamed and closed my eyes. I felt a hand on my shoulder. I opened one eye to see if he is there to kill me. What??? That was my mother, smiling. Why is she smiling when someone is trying to kill me?

She took me to the seat next to her. I cried all along the flight. I don’t know when I slept off and when I opened my eyes I was at the Bengaluru airport. We deboarded the flight and went out of the airport, there was an uncle waiting for us with his car. I sat with my father in the front seat, closed the door. That is when I heard an ‘Excuse me’. I looked out and found the man standing there. He apologized to my father for scaring me and gave me a chocolate. That was so similar to the weapon I managed to avoid in the flight. I smiled and the entire family started laughing. Later I found out that the ‘unknown language’ was Hindi.

Yesterday while I was travelling from New Delhi to Kochi, the only thing my mother told me was not to scream if I find my co-passenger talking in ‘unknown language’.

Now, forget the story and don’t start teasing me. It was not because I was scared. I was too innocent to know the ‘real intention’ of the world.

Love,

Cinta

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Be The Change

My Joey,

All of us go through the poignant identity crisis at least once in our life. I was facing a similar crisis and decided to wage a ferocious battle against it and the only weapon that could help me was my words. I used it everywhere possible- started writing almost on a regular basis, started talking to people and at times when the situation demanded silence (for example, when I used to go for these long walks just to sneak a look into a few human lives) I armed myself with the most powerful word, the smile.

I found the result astonishing. I realized that the crisis, which gripped my life, is nothing compared to that of those people who returned me a smile or an encouraging word. I was astounded to see the beauty of the world which is hidden under the veil of sorrow only to be unveiled before those who overcome the sad phase of their life with a strong smile and a positive attitude.

This world has everything we yearn for and is ever ready to satisfy us with everything from material resources to spiritual guidance. I have read that there exist human libraries where we go and converse with experienced and enlightened souls to know their life and other stories. But let me tell you, Joey, every person is a library herself. It’s just that none of us is really interested in socializing in the right manner. You once introduced me to this wonderful idea of being the change we wish to see in the world. Today, let us promise to do our best to add colours to as many lives as possible.

Love,

Cinta

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Being in a new city

My Joey,

Today is very special for both of us, the first day we are separated by a half-the-world distance. It was really difficult in the initial days when I moved out of our city, into the heart of the new city- the city of temples, flowers and of course gods and goddesses. Even the smell of the new place made me miss you and our place. I was getting used to the new city and that’s when you moved out of our place and now you are at the greatest distance possible. But that is okay, we are getting used to the new life, place and even the odd timings. I know it is difficult for you, but trust me, I am there with you just a ring away and I will be there the moment you really wish to be with me.

But the real purpose of this epistle is not to tell you how I feel or advice on how you should feel. I want to give you a few tips as you are away from home for the first time. Are you ready to see the serious side and to listen to me like the good boy listening to me only to make it obvious that there is something mischievous going on? Okay then, let’s start the real talk.

You are not the first one to have a ‘first time’

Yes. You are not the first one to be away from the home for the very first time. You are also not the first one to be there in that city for the first time. There were millions who did this even before you started planning or even before you were even born. The city knows the problems of being there for the first time. And so, she is going to be kind and generous to you.

It’s okay to ask people

Never have second thoughts about asking people what you want or things you don’t know there. It can be a name, a place or even the shortest route to reach your home. People around you are ready to help you. It’s just that they won’t come to you with a help. Ask them and they will never say no when it comes to helping a person who is no to the city.

Talk and your phone is not a real companion

Now, this is very, very important. Keep your mobile phone in your pocket and talk to people around you. That’s the only way to make new friends. That is how you are going to learn the mindset of the people around you. Your phone and the new technologies cannot help you to know the people around you. There are things which your phone cannot help you with, you have to talk to people.

Friends always change

The very first person who you talk to in the new city is not necessarily the best person for you there. People change and this is applicable to everyone, including you and me. So don’t worry if someone suddenly starts keeping a distance or don’t hesitate if you really feel like keeping someone away. It is not uncommon in the real world. Life is not going to be like how it is in the movies we used to watch together.

Take time to trust people

Not all glitters are gold- you taught me this and you have to remember this whenever necessary. You say all people are inherently good. But trust me; there are people who got spoiled in the test of time. You should be very careful. To make friends is okay and unavoidable, perhaps vital they’re in the city. But you always have a choice of not trusting them blindly and not sharing everything. Most of the people would feel good to be with a person like you, but there are black- sheep everywhere who are waiting for a chance to exploit the innocence. Sometimes this can be perilous. Be careful and trust your intuitions.

Go for walks, with a smile

I know you love it! Strolling on the street to be kissed by the breeze has always been your passion and that is going to help you there. It will help you know your locality and find those places which are necessary for you to survive there, like the doctor or pharmacist or laundry or you know the rest. Also, this can give you an idea about the climate you are going to get exposed to.

Use public transport facilities as much as possible

This is the best way to know the pulse of the city. The public transport, which is actually the cross-section of the city is going to teach you about the people there and what everyone expects from those who are around them. Also, it will help you to be independent and also save a lot of money, which is really important for us in the initial weeks of moving to the new place. This will also help you to get an idea about the general culture of the city. Being lost is fine and you are going to find the way back as long as you have the phone with you. So don’t hesitate to move out of your comfort zone.

Try learning the local language

The local language is one thing which will help you to bond with the people there. Even if it is just the slang, people find it easy to connect to those who talk in a familiar manner. So learning the local language is a must. It will also help you with staying away from being cheated upon by those black- sheep about whom I was talking earlier.

Try the local food

This is heaven. Trust me; this is going to help you get connected to the new place. The food always does the magic of keeping one attached to the place where they are. It can be a small food joint or even a special juice, which the peddler offers you. But that can help you create a special bond. This works all around the world, no matter where you are.

You are going to love the place

Yes, you are reading it right! This is just a phase which has come to pass. This phase will help you know the place, people and everything you want. I know this is difficult, but nothing compared to what you have already gone through.

Do you remember how I first came to our place? Yes, it was really difficult for me. I made friends with the wrong people in the first few days and then you came into my life (you are not going to find another me there, Joey). You are going to make good friends there. Birds of the same feather flock together. So stop worrying, you will get to know people who are good at heart and pleasant to talk to.

All cities are beautiful and interesting. We get to see the beauty only if we get close to her and the moment we start loving her, she would start pampering us and giving us what we want. Each city has a million things to offer those who go to her for different wants and for those who are at different walks of their life. What you want is going to be different from each and every person around you. So be ‘independent-yet-social’ and never forget why we chose to move out and to be at a distance we never imagined would separate us, a few days ago.

So, stop taking a walk down your memory lane and go take a real walk outside. I am there for you.

Love,

Cinta

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Eerie Night 2

My Joey,

First of all, my sincere apologies for not writing these days. I was busy.  And I know how lazy you are. So I thought of giving you time to finish reading my letters. Today, I am going to tell you another spooky experience in my life which occurred to me when I was 16, sweet 16.

I am away from my family since the age of 15 and it still continues, even after 11 years. So what I was trying to say is that this happened during the first year of my hostel life, a hostel which was surrounded by the mysterious air of bloodcurdling stories and terrifying noises.

It was Sunday; we girls were relaxing on the verandah and a small thatched hut near the hostel building after all the washing, cleaning and a delicious lunch. The boys from the other hostel were there on the ground playing football, fighting the scorching sun. We split into groups, supporting the team for which our friends played and cheering (silently) them with muted claps where our hands almost touched its pair and proud smiles (don’t you know that our warden was too strict when it comes to us talking to our friends of opposite gender after school hours). That was when Sai, the little girl who was just seven then came running down the stairs to inform us that the warden is coming down to announce something. Sai screamed ‘Dongri (a derogatory word which we used secretly to address the warden) is coming here’. That was a warning for us to look away from the ground and be the ‘good’ girls filled with culture and morality.

We heard the slippers slapping the floor hard making a tap- tap sound and then later saw the poor slippers suffering between her feet and the floor, both as cold and adamant as they could. She came to the verandah and summoned us, all of us acted perfectly to bring the surprised look on our face to show her how unexpected was her presence there at that moment. She was happy to know that her girls are so decent that none of us looked at the football ground, even though the most perverted group (according to her) is playing there. With eyes glittering and rising pride she told us we are going to visit the orchard that evening to pluck mangoes. We were all happy as Sundays were really boring from 4 pm to 8 pm, the time between tea and dinner. We all went to our respective rooms to get ready.

I chose to wear a blue T-shirt and black pencil- fit jeans, my legs never contradicted with the name of the jeans then. My hair was tied up into a messy bun. I was ready. From the very beginning, I was like this, just 5 minutes to get ready. I had to wait for the minimum of half an hour for my friends to get ready. All of them dressed up so neatly that warden gave me a nasty look as if to warn me to learn from my friends the art of ‘being a girl’. I gave her the broadest grin just to infuriate her, she never liked me and I was the black sheep in the hostel according to her. Hey!!! I was not like that. It was just that I didn’t know to be all dramatic and sweet, I just blurt out what I feel like. That was not good for a ‘good girl’ according to her.

Okay, back to the story, Joey. We started walking. All of us came down to the courtyard and the warden locked the hostel. She started walking in the front and we quietly followed her, an unwanted word from us could change her mind to put us back into the schedule of torturous boring Sunday evening. That was when my friend poked me. She had her face really white as if something bad happened. I went close to her and she started narrating the story. That was her fifth year in that hostel and this happened long before that- before the hostel or even the school coming up. She started narrating the story. There was a girl, born to one of the poorest couples in the area. There was a drought and the agriculture was badly hit the year she was born. The villagers gathered up to think of a solution to save them from famine and then came the idea of depending on the most famous astrologer of that area. He did a thorough research, ‘talked’ to the god and thought for a while. His face changed and fear struck him. He informed the villagers that all these mishaps were caused by the devil who has possessed the little girl and the only way to save the village was to sacrifice the girl and bathe the God idol in her blood. The couple screamed and ran to the girl. But the villagers were determined to follow the instructions. They caught the couple and tied them to a tree, took the girl away. There was nothing known about her parents after that. The girl was killed in the area which is now in the orchard there is a tree now in the exact spot where she shed the blood to save the village. Even now, the villagers don’t touch the tree because the spirit of the girl in the tree kills the person who tries to touch it. I was scared- could feel something chill in the spine. Then I found another friend of mine crying listening to the story. I tried to pacify her and ended up crying with her.

It was almost a 20 minutes’ walk to the orchard. We reached there and all of us were tired. Warden let us take a 10- minute break before plucking the mangoes. All of us found comfortable places to sit there- some on the floor and other on trees. We had our water bottles with us and my friend was drinking water. She looked to the branches of the tree on which I was sitting and looked at me. Her face changed and asked me to come down. I went to her and she told me not to touch her as I was sitting on a tree on which there were no birds and the tree was full of mangoes. It was definitely the tree which was possessed. That was creepy and frightening and everything bad. Tears silently ran down my cheek. I tried convincing her that it’s just a myth and superstition. Even then she did not let me touch her. We plucked mangoes and went back to the hostel. All of us took a bath and had our dinner. I was the only silent one.

I couldn’t study or concentrate on my homework. I waited for the bell to go to the bed. Finally, it was 10 and all of us went to the bed. I was half- asleep, heard a growling sound. First I thought it was the dog on the other side of the wall. But it was coming closer to me, not from where there was the dog but from the opposite direction. The warden had switched off all the lights and it was pitch dark. I could see something moving, I could hardly breathe. It came close to me; it was not a human it looked like a pyramid with round top, almost my height. It caught my leg. I kicked it with the entire strength I had. I saw it falling down to the other side and hitting my friend’s bed and then I mustered the courage to scream. Someone switched on the light and I saw my friend coming from a corner with a thick blanket. It was her idea to scare me and she won. Her forehead hit the bed. We heard the warden coming. None of them understood a thing. My friend and I started laughing. That was when a girl asked if it was a dream. Eureka!!! I found the best story to tell warden.

Warden rushed into our room to know what it is and punish the one who screamed. I told her it was my friend who fell down from the bed and hit her head when she got up to drink water. She gave me the death stare, but I was all calm with the most innocent face. My friend looked at me with helplessness in her eyes, but I gave her an evil grin. Warden took her to the warden’s room asked her to sleep there for two days. That was the last night we slept in darkness. The very next day each room had a small bulb which illuminated the room without disturbing our sleep.

I  have to talk to her now. Let me go, Joey

More letters and stories on the way.

Love,

Cinta

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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

coffee-cup-desk-pen

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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