I couldn’t believe this! I’d known Blake for almost 11 years and not once had the thought crossed my mind that he would commit suicide! I thought it would be one of his many ugly pranks that he was always able to pull off on me, but his mother’s muffled cries and father’s choked up voice confirmed to me the reality of him no longer being with us. Tears ran down my cheeks as I looked at the photo of the two of us staring at me from the wall. I couldn’t speak a word; none of us could. I managed to choke out a response to his father, who was patiently waiting for me on the other end of the line to take it all in. The time had stopped; none of us were in any hurry.
‘I’ll be there.’ I told him. ‘Don’t let him go before I see him, please!’ I started sobbing loudly, waking my roommate up. ‘Please!’ I repeated. He must have nodded absentmindedly before uttering an almost inaudible ‘Yeah…’ We hung up the lines and I brought my knees close to my chest only to hug them tightly and cry harder.
‘Megan, are you alright?’ My roommate got out of her bed and turned on the lights. ‘It’s 3 in the morning! Who called? What happened?’ She kept asking so many questions and my head hurt from all the crying; I simply kept shaking my head, not willing to accept that my best friend could do such a thing. She bought me a glass of water and I drank the whole of it, taking sharp deep breaths in between.
The cold water running down my heated-up body shocked me for a few seconds and I sat motionless, staring into nothing, tears rolling down my cheeks. ‘What’s the matter?’ she repeated. ‘Blake,’ I said. She nodded, ‘Yeah, what about him? All okay?’ I shook my head. ‘Blake,’ I repeated. The third time I took his name I started crying once again.
‘He left me! He left me all alone!’ I screamed. She was confused and yet alarmed, I was screaming too loud. ‘Shhh, you’ll wake the entire dorm up!’ She hushed me. ‘Tell me clearly what happened. Stop crying first…’ She wiped away my tears and sat next to me. ‘What happened to Blake?’ she asked. The look on her face was that of dread; she was awaiting the worst.
I looked at her, still crying, ‘He is dead,’ I whispered. Her face turned paper white and her hands immediately covered he mouth which was wide open in shock. She looked at the photo that hung on the wall and then back at me. ‘How…’ she whispered. ‘Suicide…’ I said.
I didn’t sleep the entire night and at 7am shut my alarm off before going over to wash my face. The bullies awaited me and picked on me the minute I stepped outside the room. ‘Oh my, is Halloween here already?’ asked one. ‘No, but I guess this the start of the zombie apocalypse, alright! Let’s inform the guys and get our weapons ready!’ Everyone laughed as I walked in a pathetically slow pace towards the bathroom. ‘Shut up you girls!’ A girl called out behind me.
‘Oh look, now Cindy will defend her good-for-nothing roommate!’ The nonsense giggles broke through once more and a couple girls nudged past me into the bathroom. I started shivering and fell to the ground as the thought of not seeing Blake anymore made me cry out once again. I sat up and pulled my knees to my chest and held my head with my hands, entangling them in my messed up hair. The corridor was quiet all of a sudden. I looked at the group of girls from the corner of my blurry eye and saw Cindy telling them something – that my best friend was dead.
I buried my head in my knees and cried for long. Next when I looked up, there was no one in the corridor but Cindy, waiting at the door of our room. It was as if the group had just dissolved into thin air! She walked over to me and handed me a tissue. My eyes were burning and head throbbing as she helped me get up and regain my balance. She walked me to the bathroom and helped me clean up. I decided not to take a shower that day.
It was almost 9am when I went back to my room and found my bags packed. I stood there, staring at the bag. Cindy lightly touched me on my arm and I looked up at her. She smiled and said to me, ‘He’s waiting for his last goodbye, isn’t he? Don’t leave him hanging!’ I hugged her cried until I could cry no more. Later, she tied up my hair in a neat bun so I wouldn’t have to worry about it. I changed into my grey leggings and navy blue shirt before I left, for the sake of travelling.
I was at the bus station when my mother called me. ‘Yeah, I’m on my way,’ I spoke dryly. My eyes were sore and the pain-killer seemed useless as my head still hurt. She didn’t continue the conversation and asked me where she should pick me up. ‘At his house,’ I said and hung up. The bus journey seemed longer than usual as I sat and recalled every incident the two of us had shared.
Blake was a stubborn boy from the beginning, not haughty though. He cared about the ones he loved, the ones he didn’t love didn’t exist for him People called him arrogant and called him names, but within his friends’ group, he was the stud! His dirty blond hair and gray eyes made him look like a bad-boy player which he definitely wasn’t. He was a regular boy who loved bikes more than cars and played real good drums.
He wasn’t the type who could keep girlfriends but had a notable number of friends he made while biking. We often used to sneak out at night and he used to race other boys while I cheered him on with a group of certain others. He used to win every single race because he always had the shortcuts figured out. ‘I’ve got shortcuts, motherfucker!’ he would scream at the end of every race he won. The kind of company he had, he used to drink occasionally and use a lot of swears, but that didn’t make him any less of a sweetheart.
He always told me of all the new shortcuts to different routes that he had discovered and the forgetful boy that he was, he often told me of the same route twice or thrice. He never remembered my birthday in the past 17 years but always made up to me in some way or the other.
A short jerk brought me to my senses when the bus stopped at the station which I had been longing to see but now hated the sight of. ‘Don’t you dare leave me like that ever again!’ I remembered him scolding me when I run away from the house two years ago. He had found me at the bus station and had taken me to his home for the night. ‘I won’t, I promise.’ I had told him. ‘You better not be leaving me, okay?’ ‘Don’t live by that!’ he had told me. ‘Another couple years, we’ll be in different states, I might have a clingy girlfriend on my back… I won’t be with you forever! Bu yeah, I’ll never forget you Megan…’
I had joked about his memory being so bad that he’d forget me if he didn’t see me for two days and the night had turned into a bright day where he dropped me off to my house. The thought of it right now made me cry so bitterly. I few familiar faces in the small town I lived in looked on to me in pity. I ignored them and went on towards his house. Upon reaching found a number of bikes parked outside.
I went in to the filled room and saw my mother sitting along with his parents. Everyone was quiet. His biking friends and relatives were everywhere in the room. ‘Where is he?’ I asked my mother. She pointed towards the guestroom. Nobody was in that room. I entered slowly, dropping my bag off at the door. The sight of the dark brown coffin made my eyes watery again. I walked up to him and sat beside him. I stroked his hair and placed a hand on his forehead. It was cold, like marble.
‘Why…’ I whispered. ‘You should have talked to me… I’d help you!’ I cried. A little later, his father walked up to me and placed a hand on my shoulder. ‘Megan,’ he said. I wiped my tears and turned around to look at him. He gave me a piece of paper. ‘He didn’t want any of us to read it before you…’ I held on to the piece as tightly as I could. My hands were shivering. He left me alone in the room with my best friend, as if to let us talk in secrecy.
I sat on the edge of the bed closest to where Blake was resting and stared at the piece of paper. ‘Meg first’ it read in his shabby handwriting that I had grown used to seeing. I opened it up and what I read made me cry harder than I ever have and ever will.
‘I found the shortcut to where we’ll all be at the end! See ya later motherfuckers!’
A boy is worth my tears,
Only if he has no fears,
To shed a tear when in pain,
And kiss away mine all the same,
He’ll be the boy who I will love,
Who’ll be free as the wild dove,
He’ll be the one I’ll guard with life,
For whom my heart would pierce a knife!
‘Good evening officer,
I would like to surrender;
No! I am no offender;
the problem is my gender…’
‘You see, I am not a man,
although I sound like one, I know;
and no, I am not a lady either,
but I feel like one although…’
‘Officer, please book me,
under section 3-7-7,
because I might just go crazy;
this is OUR 9/11!’
‘No, not yours officer,
unless you too are gay…
No, this is not my choice,
and I haven’t been led astray,’
‘I am a part of nature too,
and this is a part of me,
so how is this unnatural,
will you please explain to me?’
‘Yes, the court did rule so,
but how are they so sure?
How is your love legal,
and ours not-so-pure?’
‘No, you are right;
it is a verdict to obey,
so I am here to surrender,
arrest me, what do you say?’
‘I am a criminal to the law;
I am in love with both the sexes!
I am a man and love a man;
do you not see the nexus?’
‘I need you to arrest me,
and I am in no doubt;
I am a homosexual,
but what’s there to be gay about?’
If I could, I would kiss you on your cold palms and thank you for the times we had,
If I could, I would go back to the day we met, just so we could start again and not get mad,
If I could, I’d meet you again, as a friend, in your school hall,
If I could, I won’t lie, I’d probably be your glass doll!
I have a few words,
Stuck in my throat,
I have a few words,
On the sheet that I wrote,
I have a few words,
That are hard to explain,
I have a few words,
That no one can claim…
I have so much to say,
About the dogs in the street,
I have so much to say,
Of the brave naval fleet,
I have so much to say,
Of the Love that I share,
I have so much to say,
Only if I could Dare…
A little girl in her ragged white outfit,
stood at the temple gate along with her brother;
the duo seemed like God’s children,
for I could not see the girl’s mother…
She stared with fervour at the Goddess divine;
her hand clasped her little brother’s, while
another clutched her frock’s hem;
her face was lit-up by a smile…
Soon the drums played alongside the flute;
the little girl stood on her toes,
careful not to step into the temple,
for maybe her family had had enough foes!
She held her brother closer to herself,
and leaned in to take a look at the drum;
her muddy feet balancing on the doorstep,
she waited for the drummer to come…
The temple drummer walked up to the gate,
as the little girl grinned as wide she could;
he beat the leather drum with skill,
using a drumstick made of wood…
He beat it loud; the girl wasn’t at ease;
she dropped her brother’s hand,
and took two steps away from the temple drummer,
who indeed wouldn’t let her stand!
She shut her eyes tight,
her hand covered her ear,
but she still looked out for her brother,
she was much in fear…
Losing her balance, she tripped inside;
her matted hair fell on her face;
she found her brother, and with him ran out
of the temple, this was a race!
Festive season in India literally translates to just one word: ‘Food’. The variety of food items you get to see during a festival is incomprehensible… It is not a bad thing to have 29 states after all! The north Indian tandoori food, the south Indian variety of rice, the different types of fish from both the eastern and western coasts and of course, the Italian and Chinese cuisine which almost every Indian mother prepares these days; in this context I presume it is safe to say that when we say ‘Atithi Devo Bhavaha’ we not only mean ‘Guest is God’, we also mean ‘Feed the Guest like he is your own kid who returned from an exile of fourteen years’. To those who didn’t get this one: Lord Rama returned back to his kingdom after a fourteen year exile on the day of Diwali (which is celebrated to mark his return). You get the connection right?
Guest => God => Lord Rama => Returning from exile => Diwali => Festival => Food
And when I say food, let us not rule out the most obvious item: Sweets! Everyone loves them, well, most people do anyway. Sweets are everywhere during festivals, and they come in so many flavours! Oh, you don’t like a lot of milk products? Try the sweets made out of dry fruits then, or the ones that use wheat or something…. But you have to eat them, it is the festive season!
Festive season reminds me, it is the second week of October and it is time for Durga Puja aka Navratri, which as a matter of fact is currently going on! It is a 10-day festival, and I think we are about half-way through today, so my mother and I went out to purchase some sweets. We went to our favourite sweet store in Bangalore after a good deal of shopping. That means I had my hands filled with different bags while my mother walked about with her hands free, pointing at the stuff she wanted and all that she could do with a pair of free hands.
As we entered the already crowded sweet store, I glanced around to see if I found familiar faces, this place is pretty famous, many people I know came here! I was really hoping to find an old friend or someone I hadn’t seen in a while so I could just drop the packets down and have a little chat, but in vain. I just saw one familiar face apart from my mother’s, that of the cashier. A bunch of chubby aunties were busy selecting their favourite sweets and my mother soon joined them while I stood aside, staring out of the glass onto the busy street we had just left behind. I noticed from the corner of my eye a boy who looked so bored that nothing worse than a zombie apocalypse would take his boredom away!
The weird thing that I have for observing people, I started observing him, trying hard to make it look not-so-obvious because we were in a tiny, crowded sweet store and I would have nowhere to hide my face if he caught me observing him. He wore a loose, dark grey t-shirt and black Adidas tracks. It looked like his mother had just pulled him out of the bed for the sake of company and was dragging the poor soul around. She shoved a piece of a type of sweet into his hand which he clearly didn’t want and asked him what he thought. He popped it into his mouth anyway and nodded, probably even before the piece had a chance of landing on this tongue.
He walked toward me and joined me, staring out of the window onto the street. He had his I-Pod in his hand a pair of white earphones that made him next-to-deaf in the crowded store to his mother who was tired of calling out the name ‘Aditya’ so often that she preferred walking over to where her son, who was the tallest customer, stood in order to talk to him. Five minutes after I walked in, the duo walked out and I found another person to observe. It was a salesman who worked so enthusiastically that he was ready to give us one piece of the sweet my mother demanded instead of a whole kg, which was the actual request. I think dealing with so many people made him a little crazy, poor man. He offered a girl a kilo of the sweet she had asked a piece of just so she could taste it! He must have been really tired. And that girl was a cunning girl too, she asked for one piece of the sweet she wanted to ‘taste’, but hey, she got to eat what she wanted without paying for it!
The variety of people you see in a sweet store is just fantastic! A little while later, while my mother was confirming the order and moving on to pay the bill, I saw a little boy walk in with his grandmother. They were Muslims. I can never misidentify a Muslim in a crowd of people! He seemed like a Syrian or Iranian by the looks of him. His milky white complexion and sweet accent were enough to confirm this. He looked at his grandma in a confusion; his hand gripping one end of her dupatta. There were so many people and so many sweets and the sweet-sour smell of all the food… So confusing!
“What do you want?” His grandmother asked affectionately. The way she clutched her purse in both her hands said that she was eager to spend money on her grandson who stood by her side in his denim jeans and a smart bright yellow-blue striped shirt. “I don’t know,” he said. “I want the normal peda!’ he said, referring to the famous Indian milk sweet which he couldn’t see through the number of legs that covered the glass of the racks in which the salesmen had so carefully placed all the sweets separately. His grandmother took a little while to understand what her little companion meant by ‘normal peda’. Then she saw the different types of the sweet being offered by the store: Red Peda, Milk Peda, Chocolate Peda… What not!
Finally, she walked over to the counter, pushing through the chubby aunties and their men or children, whoever accompanied them. “Give me half a kilo milk peda please,” she spoke delicately. Minutes later I saw a happy boy leaving the store with his happier grandmother. I turned around to take a look at my mother who had finally paid the bill. Soon, we walked out of the sweet store with another packet in my hand and my mother pointing at the store she wanted to enter next…