Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 19

I See My Mom Again 

Rupa Mahi and my two young cousins came to pick me up at the airport. Rupa Mahi and Dhon Moha lived in Guwahati with their children, and I was going to spend the night with them before leaving for Diphu in the morning.
Vinod was twelve and Abhay fourteen. They were both rather shy, even though they had chattered away nonstop on my last visit. Vinod was dark, thin and wore glasses. Abhay was chubby and I dearly wanted to pinch his cheeks, but I reminded myself that that wasn’t seemly, given that he was taller than I was. Rupa Mahi was still beautiful – more plump now, but she reached over and hugged me as she used to when I was a little girl, and I felt like a little girl again, and wished I could cry into her arms till my troubles drained out.
The air of Guwahati was stultifying. I always felt oddly lethargic and apathetic whenever I was there. It was beautifully green after the dry environs of Gurgaon, if you could ignore all the trash on the streets. I sat in front next to Mahi and looked eagerly around at how much the city had changed since my last visit. Vinod and Abhay lost some of their shyness and eagerly pointed out new malls and restaurants.
I had an early dinner and went to bed. I was in Abhay’s bed in the brothers’ room – he would sleep in the spare bed in the living room. It was only nine and not even Vinod’s bedtime yet. I called Raghav but we had only talked for a couple of minutes when Vinod came in a few minutes later and lay on his bed, just a few feet away from my own, so I said good night to Raghav.
At six the next morning, Dhon Moha and Rupa Mahi drove me to the bus stop. The kids were asleep, so I couldn’t say bye to them. I hugged my uncle and aunt and got on the bus to Diphu.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 18

Going Home 

Raghav called up a few days before Christmas. “I’ve got some great news!”
“You’re getting married?”
“Well, not that great.”
“You’re promoted?”
“No, Mandakini.”
“What’s the great big explosive news then?”
“You’re getting to see me again! I’m coming home for Christmas.”
“For how long?”
“Nine days. I’m getting there on Christmas day and I shall stay all the way till the Sunday after New Year. Isn’t that great? We can spend New Year’s eve together!”
“I won’t be here.”
“What? Why?”
“I did tell you that I was going to my mom’s for the New Year.”
“Oh. How long are you staying?”
“I’m back on the 3rd.”
“When are you leaving, then? Will I see you before you go?”
“No, I’m leaving on Saturday.”
This Saturday? The day after tomorrow?”
“But why didn’t you tell me?”
“I distinctly remember telling you that I was going home for the New Year. If you choose not to remember, that’s your problem, not mine.”
“Calm down,” said Mandakini. “Whatever you do, he mustn’t find out you’re jealous of Sonali.”
“I’m not jealous of Sonali! I’m upset because my best friend doesn’t seem to care about me!”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fictional Female Characters I Like: Shirley and Caroline from "Shirley"

I recently read one of Charlotte  Brontë's "other" novels. As I wrote before, I loved Jane Eyre the first time around - as I grew up and became more critical, it lost some of its charm. 

Shirley, on the other hand, I savoured as I read it the first time as a grown-up older than either of the heroines. Though named Shirley, the novel actually follows Caroline Helstone. Yet as you read, it becomes apparent why the novel isn't named "Caroline" - Shirley is the star Caroline (in fact, it seems, everyone) admires and is drawn toward.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 17

Moving Home

As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough, Raghav called to give me his big news.
“Hey, guess what?” he said.
“What? You told Sonali you’re in love with her?”
“Yes! You always do guess right with me!”
I had meant it as a joke, but I was careful not to let him on. “What happened? How did it go?”
“Well, we were chatting online, and I told her how much I had enjoyed meeting her…”
“When was this?” I interrupted.
“Last night.”
“At least he still calls me up when he has important news,” observed Miki, relieved.
“And I said I wished I could meet her more often, and that I missed her. She said she missed me too, and that I was the best friend she had ever had.”
“Indeed.” I tried hard to keep any vestige of sarcasm out of my voice – if I failed, Raghav was too happy to notice.
“Well, I told her she was the best friend I had ever had, too.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 16

Missing Raghav 

I thought of Raghav often in the next couple of weeks: thought of him with longing in those many moments when I was alone in my flat or taking one of my long walks around the colony. It was difficult then, to know how much of my longing was because I missed him and how much because I had no one to talk to. I had always had friends –a large group to hang around with and one or two special ones to talk late into the night with. Now all I had were colleagues, acquaintances, and a roommate whom I was leaving in a few days. And Raghav – my Raghav – seemed so far away. 
What made it worse was that I knew I still had some power over him. I was sure if I called and said I wanted to be with him, he wouldn’t say no. After all, he wasn’t with Sonali yet. And what did she have compared to my shared history with Raghav, the closeness we had always shared?
I don’t know how I had the courage to desist. But whenever Miki or Mandakini broke down and voiced the thought – the other always reminded her that it would be wrong. That Raghav and I were friends and should not be anything more. That if I took the step I would regret it. I guess it was the fact that I had made so many mistakes in life that helped me resist making another. The others were incidental, insignificant: a mistake with Raghav might be something neither of us might recover from.
So I kept my loneliness and confusion to myself, and talked to him cheerfully when he called. And he did call, almost as often as he used to. Often he called late at night, right after hanging up the phone with Sonali. I gave him his space and rarely called him. He seemed to understand, for he didn’t complain. We talked for hours, but not like we used to before, about anything on earth. I did much more listening than talking, and I took care not to let him know how much I missed him, how hard I was trying to detach myself from him.  
I accepted that I didn’t come first in his life any more – and though it might never stop hurting, it petered down to a twinge I could ignore.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Voices in My Head - 15

I Find a Home 

The days dragged by in a stupor. I went to work, and, apart from lunching and chatting with Ajay, worked the day through barely thinking of anything else. I had dinner in office and took the cab home. I went to bed early, sleeping around ten hours every night. Usually, I had trouble going to sleep when I was unhappy or excited: now, however, sleep came often and hard. I slept most of the time I was home. Even Miki and Mandakini were muted, and rarely squabbled.
One of my colleagues, Smriti, was leaving. This wasn’t unusual in itself: people came and went quite often at my workplace, and Smriti had been around for two years, which was considered long enough. Unlike most other people, Smriti wasn’t going to a rival firm, though: she was going abroad for studies. I had worked with her on my first project: she had been gracious and helpful, showing me the ropes and guiding me so that I learned quickly. We hadn’t worked together since, but we sometimes met for tea in the cafeteria. A bunch of us took her out for lunch on her last day.
She told us she was taking a day to pack, and her dad would come down from Mumbai and help her move. She would stay with her parents in Mumbai for two months before heading off to the US.
“Who do you live with here?” I asked her.
“Oh, I live alone. I have this small flat – kind of a studio apartment, really. It’s attached to the owner’s house, but there’s a separate entrance – actually, the stairs are outside, so you can walk straight up to the flat without seeing anyone.”
“That sounds lovely,” I said. I loved my house and I hadn’t been too keen on moving when Divya left. Besides, I’d paid a deposit. But the idea of living alone was tempting.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Personal Update

I have been too busy lately to post anything other than the weekly chapters of The Voices in My Head. So I'm even more glad that I decided to post my story as a series: I'm glad it lets me post every weekend without having to think about what to write; I'm glad it prompts some of you to comment, because I like hearing from you.