plaitsnponys

Where Talent meets an audience…

The Old Lady and The House…

Nothing remains of that old house and nothing remains of the old woman. This isn’t a story of the house but of the woman. Not about the house being razed to rubble to be replaced with a two-storey, landscape hogging, eye-sore of a construction either.

It was that 5 am history studying that woke me up with her. I needed an alarm, she needed the cold of our hilly geography to alert her to the arrival of dawn. And with seeing her run the pipe-chilled water from the government tap to do her laundry, it never failed to remind me of the story that the village served up about the woman whose Sunday best’s had a plight worse than a common kitchen rag. Nonetheless, she cared for them the only way she knew how. Coming to the village gossip.

Her story started out like any other, living the village dream with her husband and son. It became one-dimensional with the passing of her husband and her world and all became her only connection to him-her boy. But when that cursed serpent took her son from her, he robbed her of all the treasures life had presented her with because with her son, she lost the house as well.

That’s when I met her. That quaint old house stood locked and bolted for the better part of the day and I never glanced at it twice. Stray dogs strutted through the property at will, mating and birthing in cycles. Weeds grew green and brown through the monsoon and summer respectively, not a force in play to hinder their progress. The tiled roof stood proudly blackened, a testament to the years it had borne the brunt of the winds and water that lashed it during the rains. White paint stood steadily stroked with the light brown dust kicked up in a delicate caress, like a painter would have on his blank canvas. The windows that surrounded the place stood forever shut and when I first moved to the neighbourhood, I was certain, in all the wisdom of my eight years, that the house was positively haunted (mind! the stories I was fed with did no good to change that misconception). The rust kept eating away at the iron bars that clung stonily to the aged concrete of the windows and the doors creaked with the weight of termites that were burrowing into the beams that held up the roof.

A well sat bang in the middle of the compound wall that parted her land from the next plot and it seemed to be her only functioning object linking her to her former life.  On better days, when the lunch hour had worn dry, you could see her painstakingly draw from it, her bony frame cringing from the effort and exhaustion of her other menial work. In the hot and humid Mango months, she would go the extra mile to pluck a mango or two from the tree in the next property. That I would assume would go towards satisfying her hunger at dinner. Common sense predicted no other choice.

As the sun would turn into an orange disk in the distance, she would then gather up the thin cotton shards of clothing she had left to dry on the tall weeds that grew unabashed beyond her wall. I honestly could never decide if the weeds tore holes in her clothes because the fabric had worn thin or they were just worn before the weeds got to them.

As the day would wind down, she would lurk in the balcony and never once enter the house that I always assumed still belonged to her. It was one fine Sunday afternoon when that gaudy blue hatchback drove up into the compound and made her beat a hasty retreat did I put two and two together. Like I said, the serpent had stolen her son and her house. She was homeless and living on the cold floor of the balcony to her former house. The world turned on and nobody seemed to notice.

Sometimes she would notice the young me next door, sneaking a peek at her while she went about her activities while the blue car owner was not around. The look in her eyes, now fixed in my brain, was the saddest form of resignation to one’s fate I had ever seen.

Years crumbled by and the old house had grown weaker with every passing season, its former owner meeting a similar fate. But all that came to an end when one morning, around eight years ago, her house no longer stood to fight its losing battle with the elements. The blue car man had made his presence felt and on the foundation of the old house now stands a big blue building. And the old lady disappeared without a trace. Whether death claimed her as his own or the heartbreak of losing the last of her worldly possessions drove her to a distant land. The village gossip mills have dried up about the old lady and the house now……

 Old Lady

My salute to the old lady….

For showing me that NO MATTER HOW HARD IT GETS…LIFE GOES ON…

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The Horrors of Paine Street

Dedicated to someone who thought Romance was the only genre I dabbled in…

 

 It was the stillness, she decided as she dragged her coat firmly across her chest, covering up as if to protect herself from the shivers of fright that crept up her spine with every step she took. Darkness was all that kept her company along that lonely road and her stilettos were not of any assistance. The party buzz was slowly wearing off in a layer of sweat that trickled slowly down the back of her neck. Her head felt the slight weight come back down as the effects of all the green apple vodka and tequila shots wore off. Not too long ago, she could have run this marathon barefoot and not feel the strain on her lethargic muscles.

One drunken car sped past ignoring her like a piece of scenery. Now she definitely knew that her buzz was wearing off, those red tail lights of the car weren’t all that fuzzy around the edges. So much for relying on the high to get her home before the pain of her sky high heels ricocheted through her swollen ankles. It was like those Hollywood horror movies, owl hooting in the distance, eerie noises emanating from bushes and crickets spelling impending doom. She could almost hear the high pitch scary background music that’s added for effect. The roads were wet and slimy after the recent downpour and while wishing she wouldn’t be trapped in another one based on slight winds picking up along her bare calves, she would take the pain associated with such orthopedically nightmarish shoes if only she could make it to her apartment and soak in that warm hot tub she had recently installed.

Coming to this weekend Farmhouse party had been a mistake. While Callie and Brett had managed to convince her into a night of letting her hair down for a change, they hadn’t anticipated the crowds and her lack of self control when it came to free flowing alcohol. She had downed shots with a frequency that would put seasoned alcoholics to shame and the high had led her to frolic with strange men she wouldn’t have been seen sober with. It was all coming back now in a less hazy blur. She had to walk home now. Callie and Brett were still partying away at the farmhouse, or had probably passed out on the lawn like the probably hundred others already there, hoards of bodies surrounded by the pungent stink of vomit and sweat. Somehow she had snapped out of it and knew that getting out of there was her best bet, even if it meant crawling and tip-toeing over the humans sprawled around the place.

It was that high frequency screech of tyres that spelt impending doom to her. While her motor skills were a little slow on the reaction time thanks to all the alcohol she had downed, it took her a while to put two and two together and make out from the approaching lights that the car had come from the direction of the farmhouse. If she were slightly more drunk she might have thought of signalling them down for a ride home. Again, it was that screech of those tyres.

Turning back and hoping the driver would ignore her like a part of the road, she continued limping as the narrow toed shoes clamped horribly around her toes that were screaming to be let out. That warm tub never sounded better.

Soon the lights grew blinding as they drew closer and she stiffened. Becoming road-kill was not her intention when she set out four hours earlier to enjoy the start of a long weekened. But tonight wasn’t her night to make the trip to hell. It came and ended in a matter of seconds. Blink and miss.

Road @ midnight

What seemed like a sleek black Hyundai a minute ago was now billowing smoke out the front with glass shards all over the road. The massive boom scattered a huge fleet of bats that were hidden in nearby trees and it made her regret the alcohol once more. One thought hung heavy in her head. Whoever was in the ill-fated car, would not survive a collision of such proportions.

Shaking the dizzying implications past her quick enough, she felt her lip gloss tumble out of her purse as she fumbled around for her cell phone. Whenever you look for something you need urgently in your purse, you almost always never find it! she remembered Callie wail one night at a pub because she couldn’t dig out her compact in the crowded little girl’s room. Finally laying hands on the slim phone that had sunk to the bottom amidst all the other unnecessary things she carted along, she had almost made it to the car when she began to dial for emergency help. And that’s the moment she lost her breath. The air bags hadn’t deployed and in the passenger seat a head full of familiar curls tumbled out the broken windshield. It couldn’t be. The perfectly twirled blond curls that were Callie’s trademark, the blood that was now staining that perfectly golden head, couldn’t be hers. Hysterics took over and while all she could cry to the response team was the fate of her friend, coherently providing direction of this middle of nowhere address was something her alcohol tripped brain could not wrap around. It was only when a paramedic wrestled her off Callie’s cold and limp body that was jammed tight between the dashboard and that darn seat belt that wouldn’t come free, that she realised that Brett was behind the wheel. While he too was in just as bad shape, there was a paramedic that fought to free him and she began to feel the hot, angry tears that pooled black streaks of mascara around her face.

It felt like a guillotine around her neck as Ben, Brett’s brother, put his arm around her shoulder as they waited for the doctors verdict. The tears kept streaming down her cheeks in an endless cataract. Callie just had to make it. Brett was the reason she was in surgery and as much as she liked him, he was responsible for all that had happened to her friend and she could not get that image of Callie’s head where the windshield should have been. The waiting felt like days but the nightmare had just begun. Brett was pulling through. Callie didn’t.

She had Ben stay over because the commute to the hospital each morning to see Brett would be a lot shorter. But it wasn’t Ben she was concerned about. She lay awake in bed till after the sun had come up with images of Callie refusing to leave her eyes. By then the alcohol had worn off, leaving her mouth dry and Ben’s coffee run had done nothing but reverse what she intended to achieve. Rolling and twisting didn’t help. It only wrinkled her sheets in one big messy pile. Finally, she was just about getting the soft wisps of brewing coffee from her bedroom door when she realised that Ben was awake and probably on his way to the hospital. Sleep chose that moment to lull her into its deep curtains of oblivion.

It had barely been an hour when sweat began beading along her forehead and the duvet subconsciously flew off her legs. Maybe Ben had switched off the air conditioning on the way out by mistake. The switch was right next to the garage door switch. Walking out of bed with her eyes still clamped shut and a slow drumbeat picking up pace in her head, she made her way to the air conditioning controls to the house. She flicked the switch on and turned around to walk back when she ran into Callie standing before her. Her hair tussled across her face, blood streaming down the side of her face, bloodshot eyes and without that smile she always wore. Instead she started screaming “You didn’t take me with you!! You let me die!”.

“Callie!” she yelled, grabbing the sheets around her. It was just a dream and she was still in bed but the image of Callie standing in her living room had driven all the possibility of sleep from her body. Callie was really gone and she was in living hell without her.

She saw Ben standing at the end of the long white corridor. On seeing her, he walked towards her, stuffing his hands into his pocket.

“Hey, you didn’t get any sleep did you?”

“No. Not really. How’s Brett?” she asked

“He’s getting better. He woke up just sometime back but he’s hurting badly. I haven’t told him about Callie yet. I was just inside and he kept asking about her. I was wondering if you could go in and talk to him?”

“Okay. I’ll try.” she said slowly nodding her head and feeling a fresh batch of tears stream down her face as she moved towards the open door at the very end of the corridor.

Brett was lying lifelessly on the bed in the very middle of the room, with bandages plastered across every inch of skin. Hearing her enter, he shifted his head ever so slightly towards the door and said weakly, in a whisper barely audible “She was just here….”

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The Complexities of a Salaried Sky…

The alarm clock was always their arch nemesis. The first rays of sun breaking past the blinds was always a harbinger for the toil ahead. For the bread-winners. Their salary. THEM.

“Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life” CONFUCIUS.

Alarm, covers aside, Bedroom slippers, toothbrush and a 100 watt smile. THE OTHERS.

The complexities of the working world has these polar opposites forced to work in a mutual cohesion in order to rotate and revolve as usual. The sparks were bound to fly and the tempers were bound to steam like the whistle of a pressure cooker just before it explodes in a hoot of steam.

salary

Some have the luxuries of a short journey to their desks while others have to leave the safety of their ancestral homes to earn the little they do. Some of the tales are real tear jerkers.

How is a father of a toddler in need of all the joys offered by childhood supposed to provide for his little boy? Monetarily and emotionally handicapped. Monetarily for his meagre salary is meant to take care of the financial aspect of their existence and emotionally because his nocturnal shifts prevent him from spending some quality time getting to know the curious trysts of his learning toddler.

How is a mother of two supposed to make it home well after sundown and churn up dinner in time for her kid’s bedtime? Hers is a torment of responsibility- to her job, her pay-cheque and to her family.

Then comes the eternal cash crunch and long awaited salary deposit in their bank accounts. Fortunately technology has aided their curiosity with the updates right to their phones- the most awaited text message of the month! A single simple delay is sufficient to drive out any ounce of patience and sensible conduct.

As for the OTHERS, the salary is the added bonus to the already satisfying job that means the world and so much more. But, like always, there is two sides to every coin. How fulfilled are their personal lives that they are able to satisfactorily isolate their professional and private lives? It’s fathomable to have a certain percentage of residual home-work but being an insomniac and checking work emails in the wee hours of the morning to suit your employers in another time zone? That’s when you know you have crossed a line..

Complex aint it? Yet we never stop to think twice about how these fine lines separate the haves and the have nots. How a simple difference in outlook can push us over the edge-favourably or unfavourably.

Stop at this juncture and put yourself in some category. You know what to do next…

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Before the Walls Cave In…

The rain splattered like bullets against the silica of the glass and the wind blew around like Dennis the Menace in a particularly petulant mood. Even the tube-light flickered like a candle in the wind and the fan seemed to slow down to a trot, all in fear of the hell that was breaking loose outdoors. The only ones who seemed to enjoy being outdoors were the long and leggy coconut palms. You should have watched them go! The rain water sat in a glowing streak along the smooth, green bed of their leaves, the wind led them into a playful dance but for such tall ‘lassies’, they remained grateful none the less.

Warm and wrapped snugly in a soft, pink quilt, the bedroom window in itself was like watching live television. The village had quieted down- even the old, mad man in the parallel street. Every soul had probably been marvelling at the thought of being safe in the confines of their dwellings. Once again, the lights outside and indoors flickered like cool water on a hot frying pan -sizzle! crackle!

Heavy Downpour

Even the neighbourhood dogs had taken shelter under a ledge of the blue and white 2 storey-building next door. I could just as much picture them huddled together on the flooring made of broken black and white tile pieces, wishing away the cold. Yet the wind remained violent and the rain determined.

The run-off from the hill slid down past on the cracked and creased old road in a soothing stream, a gentle pattern forming on its topmost layer. Beauty in the very splashing sound as it made its way to the gutter down the road. There, and it would lose its virgin transparent colour and settle with the larger currents filled with brown silt. When the shower reduced to a drizzle, the same pattern left by the stream, sat firmly in the silt that lined the road, a brown footprint of its being there.

Rains

Then the lights flickered off and died in a flurry of sparks. The big red box that was the transformer to the underground cabling sat darkly in the shadows as the world went black, my vision impeded.

Moans of despair flooded the formerly silent night air from the houses nearby, dismay in every note. Even the rain was disappointed, to be fair. Everyone had moaned for their blacked out television sets screening the daily soaps they are addicted to or for an internet connection that was so abruptly snapped- that chat on that social networking site was oh! so important! For this, the rain moaned! And wept! All year round it had longed for their attention but now it felt like nothing but an uninvited guest or like an ugly duckling in a ballroom that nobody took notice of or that people detested at first sight. And so it wept harder, bitterly almost, while the wind consoled it with mindless entertainment using its might.

Toddlers took the golden opportunity to wriggle away from their mothers’ loving laps, the force-feeding had crossed their limits of tolerance (you could tell from their angry and duped mothers’ yells), while others shrieked in fright as the dreaded darkness and imaginary closet monsters sprung to life before their very eyes.

Through the noise and from a distance came the shrill tears of a newborn probably awakened by the rains’ ruckus or pangs of hunger that happened to coincide with the same. The rain seemed to quiet down out of respect to the grandmother cooing to the baby in the pitch black of his nursery.

The mad man in the parallel street shouted at his usual decibel level, desperate for something he lacked in the moment- company, warmth even sustenance probably. And it repeated like a bad echo, streaming through the night.

All so suddenly, the lights burped alive! Collective gasps of joy resounded and from somewhere, music sounded and even a few phones buzzed but now the rain had mellowed down to a hazy mist. But by then the toils of the hours before had worn down hard on my weary eyes drooping with sleep and wonder at the sight before me… The pair of immaculately draped pillows beckoned with promises of clouds, flowers, mirth and bliss… Now who can refuse that?

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Somewhere Beneath A Rainbow…

The faint shadow of the chair that carried me, slowly receded into the grey of the floor tiles.  The depressing gloom of the metal grey carpet above accompanied with the gusty wind that let out ghoulish howls through the gaps in the windows; while leaves blew around like confetti- all signalling a warning of the downpour that we could expect.

Doors banged shut like harbingers of the monsoon, and while the trees outside ushered the stranded towards the nearest shelter, the rain began to descend in slanting torrents. Like bullets, oblique and sharp.  Umbrellas lying around, drying off the previous sheath of water that had lain firm on their synthetic arms , flew askew like rootless twigs and water spilled into the corridor from all angles through the central opening.

And it poured, like there was no tomorrow, unabated and full of devilish fury. Thunder rumbled in the distance after what appeared to be distant flashes of god’s camera. The first crack of thunder resounded through the building like the breaking of an Earth-sized biscuit- the initial crack followed by the long and angry growl.

From somewhere came the smell of burning chappati dough- the mess maybe. A distraction had arrived sufficient enough to drive even the cooks away from the warmth of their simmering stoves. Atleast they had the warmth offered by their cooking range and the general humidity in a kitchen of such proportions.

While the cold wrapped around us like a stealthily floating cloud, wisps of clear white cloud glided past and from somewhere came the much approved suggestion of warm coffee-Black or White.

With freshly made coffee snug in the palms of our hands and the rain continuing its dance outside, stories were exchanged among a pile of abandoned books and pages. Pens sat deserted in between curled up sheets and crossed legs. Coffee diminished in our cups but the rain outside didn’t.

After hours, the curtains of water flowing from the endless sky seemed to slowly disappear into a faint drizzle. Afternoon had matured into evening and from some distant point on the horizon, the sun let out a ray in courageous brilliance, filtering past what seemed to be a screen of white and grey clouds.

Strolling up the corridor to gauge the damage done, revealed something none of us could have ever anticipated after a downpour of such magnitude and persistence. Out of nowhere, shone a rainbow in all its splendour! VIBGYOR like never before. Dropping all that our hands held in the moment, the corridor it was to admire that miracle of nature. And while it brought to mind its biblical references and the promise it held, after that storm of sorts, it held a meaning ever so beautiful and overwhelming. Even after the horrendous shower and the consequent material devastation that we failed to perceive, that sight in itself was worth it all.

rainbow

” The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain”

Dolly Parton

“Be thou the rainbow in the storms of life. The evening beam that smiles the clouds away, and tints tomorrow with prophetic ray”

Lord Byron

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The Final Farewell…

Time to say farewell

When the curtains come down on an era, the blast off into the unknown is filled with a nagging fear- that of losing the treasures of the present. And while majority wish to while it away in baseless merriment, a few are able to ascertain the vital importance of the little left to forever encapsulate. Nonetheless, making content memories in the midst of such sadness is what demands more courage and will-power than you ever anticipated.

Somewhere in the middle of all the noise of the present, is that silent voice that eggs on the ‘party’ bug in you. With the crowd slowly melting in a haze of sweat and smoke, the music intoxicates to a sufficient degree. Beyond the thresholds of mayhem is the utter serenity of the starry sky and the soft breeze that rustles the leaves around. The prickly lawn is the best mattress nature has to offer and the blinding CFL in the lamp post manages to conceal the rest of the celestial bodies you wish to see.

Time slows down to a trot and the automobiles are the next recourse, a journey to make. While music flows out of the sound system in a gentle cataract, the soothing strains fail to entice a cat nap thanks to the chilly cold wafting through the open windows and an ardent desire to soak in every second of paradise and unmistakable freedom.

While the route was lined with familiarity, it could never have looked more like chalk and cheese all at once. The trees swayed like bards heralding an epic event and the traffic made way like only celebrities in fancy limousines enjoy. Time had  “larger-than-life” experience written all over it.

A meal went down with complete simplicity packed with jovial taunts and before long, the town had to be painted red once more. A reshuffle of the pack and the light drizzle made the journey even more inviting. In the middle of the summer, who needs air conditioned cars when a rolled down window can offer both a fresh breath of air from the fields and the delight of the first raindrops that hit the parched earth and your dancing forelimbs toppling out of the open window? While the salty air drifts pleasantly through your styled hair and irks the iron rolled curls into a graceful flight around your happy cheeks, the clouds slowly drift past as if waving a silent goodbye. Farewell.

By the time the destination had arrived, excitement levels had peaked and stayed there for a fair while considering the immense promise the next few hours held. Memories would be etched–salt water, rocks and giggles.

The next haunt was another stomach refuel station and despite the fact that the bitterness of the steamy coffee left more than just a pencil point thin layer of froth and bubbles on upper lips, the significance of that counted–laughter, one random dog & more laughter…

Sleep, by then, had claimed two victims and threatened to bully more and another quick journey brought more light into the proceedings. A perch to view the whole world for miles. Mountains packed punches of green and the traffic sparkled bright yellow mingled with the orange of the sodium vapour lamps that lined the streets. Buildings stood ominously in the distance, one larger than the next, and staring sternly like a principal would if you dared to walk out of the queued line at physical training drills. Colour dotted the landscape in colourful blotches and brought much needed visual relief from the glaring orange-red of the cut hills that surrounded the group.

But the fun did not set with that mere appreciation of scenic splendour. A game had to ensue, and a couple of hours just vanished into thin air! The final farewell was about to see its curtain call and the tears seemed to war against realism. The present had to be made the most of, who knew if we would ever be able to return to the same, and even if we were, would it be the same again? People change, lives change…But that one final farewell won’t..Not for all eternity..

“Don’t be dismayed at Goodbyes,

A farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again,

After Moments or Lifetimes, is certain for those who are Friends”

Richard Bach.

Goodbye{Dedicated to my 9 partners in crime…}

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Finding Our “Nemo”

 

Quite frankly, that movie is popular enough and I need not publicize it any further. However, the moral of the story is what we all look for at the end- like in all Disney classics. While I do not attempt to draw a parallel from that tale with respect to the parent-child relationship, I do hope to draw valuable inspiration from the firm resolve shown by that seemingly small, orange clown fish. Separated from his son, he faced his worst fears because he could visualize the bigger picture- His son needed him and nothing else mattered.

So what do I imply when I say ‘Our Nemo’? It is quite simply the dreams we’ve envisioned and goals we have set for ourselves at some point of time or the other. Getting there is where most of us seem to lose our way. Pricked by the thorns of the challenge and unwilling to bleed a little along the way is what stands in the centre of the tunnel leading to what we want, like a wall of steel. How hard are we ready to push ourselves so that we can break the shackles of expectations from the world around us and be able to yell “GOAL!” like Galvão Bueno (commentator) does after someone scores one in Brazilian football matches? That makes all the difference.

So for those of you have not had the fortune of reading “Who moved my Cheese?” by Dr. Spencer Johnson, it is never too late to grasp the concept of ‘finding your cheese/Nemo’, which is explained in the simplest manner with the story of the four main characters- the two mice “Sniff” and “Scurry” and the two little people “Hem” and “Haw”, all living in a giant maze. While many are unable to adapt quickly to changing scenarios at the work place or in their personal lives, our human nature makes it such that we tend to resist the change rather than ride the wave. Such impaired flexibility makes it twice as hard to be able to react satisfactorily to the situation and in most cases only compounds the problem. So where am I heading? Yes, for those puzzled with the above few lines, do what any sensible adult would after being inspired by the book.

The first step would be to find out ‘your Nemo’. What is the one thing in life that you want more than oxygen and would make you jump out of bed every morning instead of taking it out on the poor alarm clock and then snarling at the bathroom mirror with toothpaste spilling down the side of your lips? Once you find it, for the world, Don’t let it go!! Do whatever it takes to ensure you do something that you absolutely love doing.

The next step would be to learn to let go of things that are beyond your control and instead familiarize yourself with all the changes that are continuously occurring around you.  Harping on your misfortunes is getting you nowhere closer to ‘your Nemo’.

Third, walk that extra mile to make someone you love happy. You don’t live if you don’t live for others. Life isn’t only about “me” but is about “us” and “we”. You all know of the happiness that engulfs your entire self when those special people in your life are happy and attribute their happiness to you. Also, smile more, it will relax you and the people around you. (In no way do I imply smiling at random strangers along the road like a retard!)

And finally, follow this motto, (which was the dedication to me on my personal copy of ‘Who Moved my Cheese?’, written by a dear teacher):

“So, for now, laugh at the confusion,

Smile through the tears and

Keep reminding yourself that everything happens for a reason.”

Nemo

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On the Other Side of Midnight

The tranquility of the dark outlines of the stilled trees against the cloud clogged deep blue sky and the monotonous croaking of the crickets hidden in the thick shrubbery-something a late night drive can offer. And this night was no different. The moon  fought a losing battle against a thick blanket of clouds for a guest appearance of sorts and managed to illuminate the world below with a faint silver glow. While the stars retreated back into an eye-straining distance, the utter isolation of the uncivilized locality felt like time travel- a repellent to all forms of technology.

Narrow roads and houses lit solely with incandescent lamps, dry leaves forming thick layers along the hidden mud pavement are all you manage to fathom without effort. While the car music oozes modernity with new age love songs and old fashioned country, the world outside reminds you why the words- nature retreat– helps recharge severely depleted batteries. While the pleasant night air gushes in past the half rolled down car window of the passenger seat, the slim yet curvaceous roads necessitate a seat belt!

Midnight forest

Laughter or not, the companions on such a journey make all the difference. Only then can the troubles of the day melt into the dark shadows around. While the journey improved with the crowd of friendly faces, the tiredness of the day that was seeps in and threatens to impair all hopes of an evening loaded with much needed mindless frivolity. Determination is the hero however and manages to rescue the cause, with firmly opened eyelids and a night filled with infinite promise and surprise.

It really didn’t seem like the distance the speedometer claimed to have covered. I guess while enjoying the little joys of the journey, the length is irrelevant. Soon, with midnight a couple of hours away, the travel component of the night is eliminated. And like the gun shot at the start of any track event, the slamming of the car door one last time that night meant the commencement of the adventure, one that will be treasured for years to come.

The moon finally manages to sneak past the cloud cover and gracefully aides the trek to the planned destination. While a thin stream of moonlight trickled past the dense growth of trees, the beauty that surrounded us was but palpable. Big and small pebbles lined the bottom of the summer dried stream that ran along the pathway we trod on. Trees caved in magnificent arches until the point of the ageless temple, which led to a serene valley.

A remote incandescent lamp (like all the others seen along the way) helped to decipher from a distance the accommodations for the evening. And time travel it was! A stone walled house (laterite still visible) with metal sheets for a roof. While the camp site was suitably crafted with a thatched roof, the ambiance  though dull at first, held a quaint charm of its own. The cottage was stripped to the bare minimum requirements of a bed and lavatory. While not impressive, to say the least, it would do for the plans we had.

By the time the stage was set, midnight was within clocking distance and the first round of supplies diminished quicker than anticipated. Next on the agenda was a beautiful and crackling barbeque pit. While the petrol and metal sheets took a while to sufficiently put the ‘char’ on the charcoal, the massive campfire sparked to life in a majestic burst of orange flames that licked the surrounding blackness in a well poised taunt.

And by the time the first round of barbeque was passed around, the cool night air descended in the form of light breezes that made the group huddle round the blazing fire. With time, the winds got nastier and the dust it kicked up with every gust got unbearable eventually. Till then, the games began and drinks managed to replenish dried up throats. A couple of times, walking through a gust of wind felt like in those old Hollywood movies where the hero would walk straight towards the roaring twister, his arm shielding his eyes and his body weight thrown forwards just to balance his entire self and to avoid being blown over. Well, the merciless wind managed to recreate that more than once!

Then, well past midnight, the fun had just begun. With wind speeds touching tornado levels, what with chairs being blown away like specs of paper, the devil of sleep attempted to play spoil sport. Fortunately, the involvement in a game of laughter gas consequence proportions managed to erase it that once.

The hours crawled by much to our delight and every second counted. Whether it was the guitar playing sing along rounds or the quiet strolls in the deserted fields of the valley whose lap we sat in. Almost 48 hours without a wink of sleep, the biological clock decides to ruin the party with an unsurpassable ‘Emergency Stop’ operation that halted all further enjoyment.

The next memory is being gently woken up with the baby blue light of dawn seeping through the open cottage door. The winds had ceased to rattle the roof above and the silence of the hills had returned, but the dust in our eyes from the previous night hung in little blobs at the corners of our eyes. While the others who had never gone to bed strolled around in packs with music blaring out from the sound system like the previous night, the outside world beckoned. A cold breeze blew the first set of goose bumps against my bare and tired arms. While marvelling at the endless green carpet of trees that covered the surrounding hills, the sun crept up from behind them like a cheeky jack-in-the box.

And it all ended in a sudden bustle of organisation and settlement. Pictures aimed to forever frame moments in stills of utter beauty. Even though, none from the group was spared from the blanket of utter exhaustion, it didn’t hinder our desire to admire nature. Making our way back to the present, we were reminded of the same transition with buzzing cell phones and long delayed conversations. Nonetheless, it was one memory of Life outside the sheltered confines of the regular, and on the other side of Midnight…..

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Musically Then & Now…

Whether it was the smooth sound of the Eagles with “Tequila Sunrise” or the strange comfort from “Take it Easy” or the ever popular “Hotel California” -lyrics everyone knew like an anthem of sorts, I can’t remember my childhood any other way. Then there was “Living Next Door to Alice” and “Lay back in the arms of someone” by Smokie, “Making Love out of Nothing at all“- Air Supply. Clutching the plastic cassette casing and hitting the ‘Rewind’ button on the stereo every time the song ended formed an integral part of the faint glimpses of my early childhood memories. Then, in the middle of all that was an obsession with the King of Pop. Somewhere in a photo album is a picture of a pint-sized me posing next to an equally tall poster of Micheal Jackson. “Black or White” “Heal the world” “Thriller” . Icons then and legends now.

 music

I wanna lay you down in Bed of Roses, For tonight I’ll sleep on a bed of nails….”

Till date, I am yet to find a track that will replace Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses”  for me. Being absolutely addicted to that song is an understatement what with the electric and intoxicating bass beginning coupled with Bon Jovi’s rusty voice. Once a favourite, always a favourite. And I can’t forget “Have an nice day” or “It’s my life“. Those kick-start to the morning songs keep me going on days when the struggle to get out of bed gets out of hand.

At age 8, with keyboard lessons came an introduction to songs my music teacher and parents had grown up listening to. The Beatles with immortal tracks like “Yesterday“, “Imagine” and “Hey Jude“, then there was Rod Stewart with “Have I told you Lately?” and “Rhythm of my Heart“. Also Elton John (At Lady Diana’s funeral) with “Candle in the Wind”  managed to blow me away. In came Eric Clapton with “Tears in Heaven“- the song that had me guitar crazy for a good decade. Weddings and Celine Dion’s Titanic theme made my music selections verge on the romantic and I titled towards “Could I have this dance?”  “Right here waiting” and “The Way you look Tonight“.

Years passed and competition to the old favourites arrived in the form of Micheal Learns to Rock (MLTR). I can faintly recall my instant attraction to “Paint my Love” , “25 Minutes” and “Someday” as we drove to a picnic at some beach with some work colleagues of my parents. Fast forward a few years and then came their next chart topping album –> Blue Night. I would be lying if I claimed that “Blue Night” and “You took my Heart Away” didn’t give their elder cousins a run for their money.

At an age I fail to remember with cohesion, I fell for CSNY or Crosby Stills Nash & Young with their tracks “Looking Forward” and “Sanibel“. Poor stereo! It had to work overtime to take me to boredom.

music

Next came Shania Twain with her “From this Moment On“, a song any romantic soul would save for a first dance at a wedding.

You’re the reason I believe in Love… And You’re the answer to my prayers from up above…..

Doesn’t that just make you melt like butter on a hot saucepan? Bryan Adams joined that bandwagon with ‘Everything I do, I do it for you‘Summer of 69’ and ‘When you Love Someone‘.

Then came the sibling influenced phase of ‘Westlife’, ‘Blue’, ‘Creed’ ‘Madonna’ ‘The Backstreet Boys’ and ‘Britney’. Oh, those years went swiftly by in a musical blur. None singled out favourite in that whole phase, but they deserve a mention anyway! Dido came as a refreshing change with Roswell’s theme song ‘Resting Here with me’ and others followed- ‘White Flag’ and ‘Christmas Day’. So did Daniel Powter with ‘Bad Day’– a once upon a time American Idol contestant sign off track.

Coming to the ‘Now’ period, the mixture is ground breaking! Whether it is ‘Love story’ or ‘You Belong with me’ or ‘White Horse‘ or ‘Begin Again’ all by our latest heartbreak queen Taylor Swift or the dynamic Lady Antebellum with ‘Need You Now‘ or Sugarland with lovable ones like ‘Stuck Like Glue’ or ‘It Happens‘ or Rihanna with ‘Umbrella‘ or ‘Shut up and Drive‘, the range seems to terminate at infinity! Who can forget Train and the million times we all attempt to croon ‘Hey Soul Sister’ and ‘Save me San Francisco‘ in the shower?? Well, there is ‘Marry Me‘, ‘Shake up Christmas‘ or even ‘Drive By’ to suit your every mood.  The Band Perry isn’t far behind with soulful numbers like ‘If I Die Young’ , and ‘Hip to my Heart’.  If there is anyone to give Ronan Keating and Gareth Gates a fair contest with ‘When you say nothing at all‘ and ‘That’s when you know’ respectively, it is Bruno Mars with the quintessential ‘Just the Way you are‘.

More recently discovered one track wonders (by me) are Coldplay with ‘Nobody said it was easy’, Simple Plan with ‘Save You’ and ‘ I can wait forever’, Taio Cruz with ‘Run to You’ and ‘Telling the world’ , Lady Gaga with ‘You and I’, Selena Gomez’s ‘Love you like a Love Song’ , ‘Livin’ on Love’ by Alan Jackson, ‘Better Together‘ by Jack Johnson …. However do I terminate this list?? Well, you get the gist. And mind, a few moments spent to add these to your playlist will not be in vain. Rest assured. Music is timeless and so are the artists who bring them to life.

“Life, he realize, was much like a song. In the beginning there is mystery, in the end there is confirmation, but it’s in the middle where all the emotion resides to make the whole thing worthwhile.”
Nicholas Sparks, The Last Song

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In between Sips of Hot Coffee…

Hot Coffee

When the heat of the hot ceramic cup first hits your palm, the intoxication is instantaneous. The first billow of vapour that rises through your nostrils works like a drug and even the tongue burning attempt at a first sip isn’t mandatory to rid you of any faint glimmer of sleep. And you place your red instant coffee cup down hastily, maybe a moment to cool. Haste only ends the pleasure sooner.

During that brief instant of abandonment, you seek out a task most trivial in an attempt to let the coffee “wait” for you. And just like an eager lover unable to wait any longer, you sweep the mug with still swirling contents into your trembling hands. The huffing and puffing at the hot liquid scents the room with the smell only a true addict could love. The stir tea spoon sits tight in hot transfixion while gently aiding your efforts by slowly soaking in the extra heat that separates you from that first proper gulp. With the cold and heartless morning wind surrounding you, the desperation increases and you puppet the spoon in a mad circular fashion, dangerously taunting the steamy fluid. The frenzy culminates when you decide that enough energy has been wasted and that’s precisely when the courage to chance another sip arrives.

coffee cup

When that first mouthful glides warmly down your oesophagus and into the rest of your digestive track, your neurons charge up for the relentless firing of signals that constitute your thoughts. Getting the right amount of sugar in that cuppa is an art that is learnt only through experience and a deft hand at ratio and proportions. The satisfaction that ensues a perfectly coordinated caffeinated miracle is an altogether different feeling. A Smile maybe. Precisely then are you able to numb out the frigid surroundings and feel the warmth radiate through your fingers and the Goosebumps rise in attention along the length of your arm.

While the rest of the cup is downed with relative ease and an established familiarity with the heat, the tenderness offered only by a steaming cup of coffee leads you as far away from dreamland as you can possibly want to be. Sadists deem coffee to be a threat more than a life-saving lifestyle choice. Caffeine pumps blood to the brain quicker, stimulates the senses like no hot beverage and beats the drowsy blues to pulp. While overdoing it and developing a dependence on it is harmful, like too much of any good thing, it’s absolute necessity and utility can never be argued upon.

And while the black of the early morning world interspersed with twinkling lights plods on towards daylight, the silent red mug sits snugly in your palm. You are never alone once with it for the simple reason that there are many more nursing the same cuppa in their hands too. The coffee rush is brilliantly awakening and spurs bigger and better results.

As for the tiny black dregs of instant coffee sitting snugly at the bottom of the cup along with the remnants of the stubborn sugar crystals, a catchy phrase comes to mind: Life is like a cup of hot coffee. You go through the bitter liquid and then find the sugar crystals lying below, unstirred, undisturbed. If only it didn’t have to end so soon, the pleasure limited to a sticky memory on the side of your lips.

coffee

Whether it is bright and early on a black Monday or late some weeknight before an exam, Coffee remains to this day an unheralded elixir of life. And while those fancy brews so well advertised with jingles that play in loop in your brain while sipping your favourite brand, the coffee culture grows steadily with every developing coffee buff. The humble coffee bean and it’s multi-million dollar empire. Instant or the other kind. Coffee. Caffeine. Perfection.

From the very first whiff,

To the sneaky dates with you,

Ours was a love destined to be,

An affair of addiction to you…. 

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