REBECCA


Although she has stopped crying and complaining, I know she is still angry with me. She’s been mad at me ever since I can remember… She’d shout and scream, cry and yell; but not anymore. She’s decided to give me the silent treatment now. Smart girl, for her age I mean. She learns quickly. She knows if she doesn’t speak to me, it’ll drive me nuts! Ever since her father left us, all I’ve had is her, and if she distances herself, I don’t know what I’ll do!

Sometimes I worry if her suppressed anger is pushing her into a depression of some sort. I’d rather have her screaming at me all day than not hearing her voice… She believes I was the one at fault! She believes I am to be blamed for all the trouble between her father and me… I don’t know how to explain to her, that it was him who thought I was a maniac! He was the one who kept abusing me; verbally, sexually… Oh how much I despised that man! I never wanted to marry him, or lie with him!

He had forced me to do the things I’d have never done with him! On the first night of our marriage, he had raped me over and over again till I lost my consciousness, and then some more, perhaps… I remember I couldn’t walk straight the next day. I was a virgin on the night of my wedding and pregnant too; within the first year of my marriage to her father, Rebecca was born. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! I had forgiven him, when I saw her, and tried living a normal life with him. Everything seemed to be going well for a couple years. Then one day he walked in and punched me while I was giving Becky a bath; he took her away and I didn’t see them for a month!

I did everything I could to get my baby back… After countless pleadings to her father, I opened the door a month later to find him with a strange woman who held my daughter in her arms. He had dared to go ahead and start a life with a complete stranger – along with my baby! I grabbed Becky from her arms and threw them out. They kept shouting at me, trying to make up stories… He wanted me to believe that he was not cheating on me, but that the lady was a social worker! Becky was crying… I shut them out, picked her up and went to my room. They unlocked the door with the common key under the mat, and I locked my room. We stayed there past midnight, until the lady left.

I had a row with her father that night. He was telling me that I was a maniac, that I was hurting Becky. I told him he was hurting us – Becky, and me. All I wanted was to be left alone with my baby, and he said he’d never let that happen! He zoomed away in his car after that. I fed Becky, and bathed her. She was crying. She was angry because her father had gone away because of me. She hit me with her little palms and pulled my hair. I didn’t mind.

The next day he showed up with the woman again, and he said he’d call the police if I didn’t cooperate. I asked him to leave. He did. The woman stayed. I told her that I was sorry for her, and told her about how he had abused me. She said she’d help me, but for that she’d need to visit again, and see more of Becky. I didn’t like her idea but I said okay and closed the door behind her when she left. That night I packed my bags and left the city along with Rebecca…

We moved houses often, and because Becky was still young, just 3 years old, it didn’t matter. She wasn’t doing much schooling anyway. I started taking up baby-sitting jobs and earned enough to take care of the two of us. But she was still angry. She cried and screamed often; I put up with it. When she started school, she became worse. All she wanted was daddy! I wondered how she remembered that horrible man from her childhood so well!

I insisted on bathing her myself, and I still do. She’s not too old, just six. She didn’t like that. She thought she was old enough to do everything! She fought with me regarding this almost two weeks ago. I think I was too harsh in trying to make her understand that she was still young. She hasn’t spoken to me since. She hasn’t been cooperative wither; refuses to eat with me, won’t get dressed, won’t let me give her a bath… She just lies down on the bed all day, doing absolutely nothing. She hasn’t even gone to school. Her teachers keep calling… I’ve told them that she had to go for her father’s wedding to his second wife.

I still let her sleep next to me though. Sometimes, some of her maggots trouble me, but I manage. They got to the forefinger on her left hand today. She didn’t even let me clean her stab wound, actually, and now it’s gone bad. Her juices have soaked the bed – not the ones I wanted though. With one eye less and a rotting body, she’s still the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And now, she doesn’t cry when I touch her.

LOVE BYTES


It’s been two days. It’s dark outside and I step out of my house – 10.30 PM – into the cool, cool night air on a Sunday night. I walk past his house which is darker than the night, and I wonder if he’s out or asleep. Out, I decide, because he never sleeps this early – especially not on a Sunday. I lift my head up, straighten my back and walk like I do. I had been home all day with my chin resting on my bosom, hiding from my mother evidence of the good time I had two days ago.

If she found out, she would bring the whole house down and shout and yell at me for not being her daughter and then wail about where she went wrong in my upbringing and then go back to screaming at me and would threaten to kick me out. And if I found a place to live and tell her I am moving out, like I did last time something happened, she would scream again and shout at me for not understanding the point – the point that I had to monitor my conduct and behave in a particular fashion and wear certain clothes and walk a certain way and talk to certain people and do certain things, because I represented her in the society, because I was her daughter – like she did last time. And with this she’d make me a prisoner of her household once again, and when I embarked on any little adventures of my own, like I did two days ago, I’d have to hide it from her.

It felt good to lift my head up and gaze at the starless Sunday night sky. I move my head around a bit more and enjoy the crackle of the air-bubbles that burst as I hid the evidence of my passionate crime in the darkness which was not as dark as his house. It sounded like the bubble-wrap which keeps things safe. It was keeping me safe from my mother. I enjoy the pain on my throat and my chest as the cool wind hits me. With every word I have spoken in the past two days, with every bit of nothingness that I have swallowed, I have remembered him.

I have remembered him, and his passion, and his fervor. I have remembered the weight of his body on mine, the painful ecstasy that was his touch… I have remembered, with every morsel of food and with every sip of water and beverage, the warmth of his breath, the breathlessness, and the taste of his lips on mine. The texture of his tongue, the eagerness to please, and then some to receive… I remember it. I remember because I opened my eyes after shutting them tight when he kissed me. I remember because I saw. I never keep my eyes closed when he kisses me, or when he licks me, or when he bites. I don’t close my eyes when I’m on top of him, or when he is on top of me, or when I go down on him, or when he is inside me. I like to watch.

I like to watch him, and hear him. I like hearing him moan in pleasure and gripping my body so tight it hurts. I like seeing what I do to him, and what he does to me. He kisses me on my throat as he warms me up with his fingers and then he bites – the throat and then the collar bone, all the way to my chest – and then he kisses some more and he bites. Then some more, and then some more, some more, some more, some more…

While I spend all my time returning the favors, and bites, and kisses, I don’t feel the pain. I feel it after he leaves in a hurry because he had bunked an hour of college to partake in this passionate crime and had to rush back. I feel it the next day, and I feel it today. I feel it now as I walk to the store which is being closed by its owners and ask if they’d sell me some bread before they shut down for the day. They do. They ask me to make the payment for the purchase and the dues in the morning, when I leave for college. I walk back, past his house, towards my own… The TV is on, but the house is still darker than the starless Sunday night. I take a peek into his room, and through the crack in the curtains I see a light turned on. At home, I decide, and awake, because he never sleeps this early – especially not on a Sunday.

I walk back home, cherishing the pain of love, tracing my love-bites – his love-bites, our love-bites – and I replay the sequence of events that unfolded in my bedroom two days ago – my memories of the passion, my love-bytes.

A LOVE SO RIDICULOUS


This is ridiculous. We are ridiculous. I am ridiculous. I knew you never loved me, but I loved you anyway. Moreover, I chose to believe you when you said you loved me. I know you loved me, but not the way I loved you – it was complicated. It still is.

My idea of loving you was kissing you, and only you, till we ran out of the assigned number of breaths in our lungs. I wanted to grow old by your side, loving you more and more with each passing day. I wanted to feel your skin melt in my hands as it gathered wrinkles. But you were afraid.

You were afraid to hold the same hand for the rest of your life. You were afraid to wake up to a face that wilted a little every day with an age you didn’t wish to see. You were afraid that being with the same person would make you remember the things you usually forgot. You were afraid that you will grow attached and commit yourself to a soul that loved you for who you were.

Your idea of loving me was the occasional scrawl of a meaningless ‘I love you’ that was too afraid to express itself when it appeared on my phone screen. But you said you loved me in a million other ways. Or maybe it was just me reading you like a book that I held upside down, pretending to understand each word I read when I never actually registered anything because I spent all my energy trying to read you. Maybe I was chanting the wrong mantra all along. Maybe I didn’t know you better than you knew yourself. Maybe I didn’t know better than I knew myself. Maybe I didn’t know you at all.

But I loved you.

And I still do.

A GOOD KIND OF ROMANCE


I had tried calling Gordon many times since we had last met, but somehow I never could talk to him. He was never home, always busy, and wouldn’t speak to me properly around his other friends. I was almost convinced that a scene had unfolded itself at his house and that he was mad at me for a reason I wasn’t aware of. But as I sat rearranging my room one weekend, an activity I indulge myself in every month, I received a call from him. Surprised, I answered.

He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was cleaning up the place. He mentioned that I had called him earlier and he couldn’t speak to me, so he thought of calling back. I told him I wanted to meet up for we hadn’t seen each other for a while and he invited me home. I told him I’d take a while for I was really messy after the ritualistic cleaning and rearranging of my room, he said he’d wait. I asked him he was alone, he said Carl was at his place, asleep. I was glad I’d get to meet both of them at once and hung up, left my work, and quickly took a shower.

I walked over to his place and called him a minute before I reached, telling him I was almost there. He informed me that Carl had just left for a party he was invited to. I was least bothered. Spending some time with Gordon by myself was something I enjoyed anyway.

I reached up to his flat and rang the bell. He opened the door with a gorgeous smile on his face. I walked in and hugged him. Soon, we were both sitting in his ill-lit room, curtains drawn over the window, allowing just enough light so we could see each other’s faces as we talked. He sat on the table while I sat across him, on the bed. We spoke a little, and as we usually did, we played around a bit – scratching each other, biting fingers and hands. A little later he went out and locked the door he had forgotten to lock. When he came back, I was on the table.

‘Come here,’ I told him. He did. I hugged him. He placed a hand on my waist. ‘You don’t smell as good as you did last time.’ I said cheekily. He pulled away laughing and threw himself on the bed. Lying on his stomach, he closed his eyes and didn’t speak again.

I walked up to where he lay, and sat by him, my hand on his back. ‘Talk to me,’ I said. He teased me, telling me that I had come to meet him and now the meeting was done so I could leave. I asked him if that is what he did when he met others and he opened his eyes. ‘What should I talk about?’ he asked. He followed that up with questionnaire-like questions about my college life and went on and on with those until both of us started laughing. I was leaning on him. ‘Move over,’ I told him.

‘Why?’ he asked. I told him I wanted to lie down with him. After struggling for a bit, I managed to shove him and lie down. He turned onto his back, eyes closed. I threw my leg over him, straddling him at the waist. Bored, I started playing with himslips – making it look like a fish pout. He turned to face me, and with his eyes still closed, he kissed me. ‘That’s all you wanted,’ he declared teasingly, ‘now you may go home!’

‘If that’s what I wanted,’ I said, ‘I’d have it a long while back… No one’s home…’ He mumbled something, buried his face into my neck, and lay there. I stayed there with my eyes closed, caressing his body. ‘You have a beautiful body,’ I told him. He reminded me that I’d said that before. I asked him, ‘When was that?’

‘The last time we had sex,’ he answered. After recollecting, I told him he was right, and we fell into silence once again. After a while, he put his hand around me, and I put mine around him… We lay still for a long time. ‘Do you have a good memory?’ I asked, breaking the comfortable silence.

He said he did. I asked him what he had thought of me when he had first met me. His answer was the most romantic thing he has ever told me: ‘I thought you were a nice and friendly girl… And it is proven, for you are still here with me…’

I smiled.

I had known him only for two years or so, and it was true, I was still his friend after all the drama that had occurred when he met some of my other friends. It was so bad that I had been ordered by my mother to never see him again. But I did anyway. I was there through his break up, and new love, and another break-up. I thought well of him. He was, and still is, a good guy. When I suggested that we be friends with benefits, he had freaked out, thinking it was some subtle way of a proposal, but he never was the one I wanted to be with.

It took us a while to settle down with that (secret) relationship-tag. We shared stories and fantasies, and we made-out often. We even confessed a few secrets and shared some jokes. We really were friends, and we never denied each other of their fair-share of benefits, which as a matter of fact included, but were not limited to, physical and sexual benefits.

He never asked me what I thought of him when I first saw him, and I was glad.

Trying to maintain the romantic, tranquil atmosphere, I gave a peck on his cheek. He returned the favor. But, our bodies were too close, and our feelings too strong… In no time his lips found mine, my tongue found his, his hands were in my shirt, and I was tugging at his locks… This kind of romance was a good kind of romance.

DAU


The Azaan has just ended, but the call is still echoing in my head, much like most of my thoughts and the dialogues from the movie we watched today in our Gender, Justice and Wellness course. Everything is repeating itself in my head today. There have been countless flashbacks, recurring thoughts, stuck lyrics, repeated words – a constant replay of scenes with every minute, painful detail, like a damaged tape that plays the same shit over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…. Until you are finally exhausted of seeing it and till it physically hurts to even think about it. All you want to do is break that fucking tape, destroy all its copies, and never have anything to do with it – never have to think of that crap or acknowledge its existence. All you want to do is erase that memory; the one that keeps playing in your head constantly.

My mother thinks I’m working on my assignments right now, and I’m letting her believe that. I’m being cranky and angry if I’m interrupted – it’s working. I have the dull headache I have when I cry too much and don’t eat, because I’ve cried too much and haven’t eaten today. My eyes are puffy, but they’re usually puffy because I barely sleep. I’m clean now after a long, hot shower, but not too long ago, I was a sticky mess of sweat, tears, and snot – unable to breathe or process anything. Now, I can process, but all that there is to process is the tragedy of my childhood that has been stuck in my head all day.

I don’t remember what month it was, but the year was 2001; the day: a Saturday. I don’t know what time it was either, I was too young to read time back then, but it was morning, probably quite early in the morning for I had just woken up. School was closed, but my younger sister’s class had their picnic-day and I remember watching my mother dress her and take her downstairs to where the beaten-up, CNG-run, navy-blue Omni van stood, filled with other children, waiting to take my sister to our school in North-West Delhi.

It was cold outside, and drizzling. I had to wear my slippers before I set my foot on the floor because it was freezing. I saw my mother enter the house again, but she didn’t come back upstairs. After half a minute or so, I heard her wailing. She was screaming out to my father and his younger brother. I was alarmed, naturally, and I ran down as fast as I could from the second floor to the ground. My father had out-run me, and my uncle, who emerged from his home on the first floor, pushed me aside as I stood on the staircase, unable to move, my eyes fixed on my mother. I was afraid; I didn’t want to see him die…

I clutched onto the brown railing and looked at my feet; then I looked back up and began to cry. He was gone. Just like that, in a moment, he left us. He looked at my mother, and whimpered. With that whimper, he let out his last breath and closed his eyes forever. He was four years older to me, and his lifeless body was just 9 years old. His black fur had lost its luster and his warm, soft body was as cold as the floor I was reluctant to step on. My mother called me, I refused to go near him – I couldn’t see him like that I told her. She told me it would be disrespecting my older brother if I didn’t see him at his last. So I did. I walked up to my older brother, my guard, my play-mate, and I stood by his side. I knelt, and I touched him. He wouldn’t let me, or anyone else, touch him while he was alive. The only person who ever touched him was my mother. All the baths he ever received were by her hand, all the pats and belly-rubs too.

I touched his fur and ran my tiny hands on his back. I touched his tail and patted his head. I was afraid to touch his nose – it seemed like he was just asleep and would snap at me if I touched it. I held his paw – it was cold. His ear was in a very bad shape, the tumor was visible from a distance.

I remembered his last few days as I sat on the cemented parking floor while his body was washed and prepared for burial. My uncle had hit him on the ear with a leather sandal when he had misbehaved, and that gave him a tumor in the left ear. His treatment was taken care of, but the tumor returned, and it grew. The vet told us it was cancerous. Even at the age of four years and a few months, I knew it was not a good thing, and I asked my mother if we could keep him in the hospital. We did. All sorts of medication was provided, but he had accepted his death long before we even thought of it, and he refused to take medication.

He growled at my mother if she tried to force-feed him, and left the food untouched if he found out that we laced it with medicine. Ultimately, he gave up eating altogether. The little fur-ball who used to run around the entire neighbor un-leashed and had his own account of daily bread purchases at the closest store was now refusing to get up. He lay in his spot all day and never moved… He’d acknowledge our presence with a wag of his tail or a weak whimper, but never more.

The little dog who had come home as a present to my father on his birthday was a Mongrel-Alsatian mix who grew attached to my mother and slept in my father’s shoes as a pup. He was the one who hated it when I cried as a newborn and tried to shut me up by shoving my milk-bottle into my face, and run all over the place trying to find my mother for only she could find my mute button. Now that I think about it, he was the first child in that house, not me. He was loved by all – so much that he was even named after a God! We called him Dau – the name with which lord Krishna used to affectionately address his elder brother Baladev. His name meant ‘the elder brother’, and he was my elder brother.

I sat bundled up in a corner, wearing my black pajamas with a florescent green and orange floral print, wearing a full sleeved beige sweater, while everyone prayed to him – completing a Hindu ritual of offering respect to the deceased. He was garlanded with fresh, fat marigolds. Haldi, turmeric, and kumkum, vermillion, decorated his body… He looked so beautiful. His body was then wrapped in a pure white sheet and he was taken away for burial by the men of the house, chanting the chant that marks the death of a person.

He was never a dog; he was a person. He was family.