2: A horrible day

>> Thursday, April 30, 2009

As the sun rose, casting an orange tinge across the horizon, Ishika looked at it from her perch atop one of the rocks at the end of Marine Drive. She liked to come here whenever she had a cobweb of thoughts to sort out. The unending battle of the waves against the rocks seemed to calm her down. The sprays of water tried to unsuccessfully reach her. As the waves would go back for another try, she would recede away from her own thoughts and analyze them.

The sun's rays illuminated her petite frame. She knew she was not what you would call conventionally beautiful. Her dark complexion, frizzy hair and the thick-rimmed glasses permanently perched atop her pudgy nose kept her away from the limelight. But they could not hide her from Rahul. Maybe that's the reason she loved him even more. How she wished he was here right now! He had a knack of saying things that hit exactly the right notes in her. They did speak last night, but there are limitations to the duration of a US call. Especially between a struggling student living abroad and a recently laid-off employee.

The last two days had been horrible. She had gone in to work on Friday, happy like everybody else that the weekend was here. Add to it that the salary would be credited the next day and she would have the feeling of a rich software engineer - atleast till her credit card bills came in! She was in an especially chirpy mood. Then she saw the meeting request in her mailbox. The manager, the business HR and her. It was weird. Her appraisal had gotten over last month itself. She put it out of her mind, as her phone rang.

It was Neha. "Could you please tell Rakesh that I am not coming in today? Tell him I am not feeling well."

"Are you really not feeling well?" Ishika asked with concern. Neha had told her last night she would be with Sid. They had a romantic candle-lit dinner planned. And the way these dinners had gone earlier, Ishika did not expect Neha to come home for the night.

"Na re Ish!" Neha always called her Ish whenever she needed a favour. "I am with Sid... We have decided to take the day off. You know how it is... Please handle Rakesh for me. Otherwise he will eat my head. Please..." Ishika didn't like to lie. Perhaps Neha was the only person whom she would lie for. They had gotten really close since becoming roomies after joining Infitech. Neha, the new babe in town. Ishika more like 'Babe, pig in the city!' Neha, stunningly beautiful, vivacious, out-spoken. Ishika, introvert, intense, level headed. They were poles apart, but they had formed a strong bond.

After some more pleading, Ishika agreed. 'As usual!' she smiled.

As she went up to Rakesh's cabin for her scheduled meeting, she thought about Sid. Neha had met Sid on orkut. And they had hit it off. When Neha had first introduced Sid to her, he seemed decent enough. But somewhere, Ishika felt something weird about this guy. She couldn't put a finger on it. He seemed too good to be true. She had never heard Neha and Sid fight over the last three months. Well, not everybody fights, but something about him made her uneasy...

While going into the cabin, she was a little surprised to see a security guard standing outside. Inside, both Rakesh and Shilpa, the HR, had grim looks on their faces. They asked her to sit down. And then Rakesh dropped the bomb. She was being laid off. He gave her the normal talk about project ramp downs, how this does not reflect on her abilities, etc. Once he was done, he looked at Shilpa. As if carefully choreographed, Shilpa started off. He had hit the sledgehammer, she was applying the balm. Ishika felt angry. That's the reason there was a security guard outside, she thought. What did they think, she would take out her claws and maul the two imbeciles?

She was asked to resign on the spot. Shilpa acted all apologetic, even patronizing. Ishika gave her a look of pure disdain. The security guard then escorted Ishika to her desk. She couldn't even write a goodbye mail to her dear friends. She just picked up her purse and walked out.

The cab dropped Ishika off at her flat. It was weird coming home at this hour. She almost mechanically opened the door. Went inside. Switched on the fan. Sat down on her bed. All alone. And then it really hit her.

One whole year. Her whole life revolved around Infitech. Her batchmates, her team, and ofcourse Neha. With the exception of Rahul, her whole social life was Infitech. And she was no longer a part of it. Just like that. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

When she woke up, the sun had already gone down. She looked at her cell. 5 missed calls. Neha. She messaged her. 'I am fine. Don't worry. Just want to be alone for a while.' She splashed water on her face. Got dressed. And walked out. The phone beeped. Neha again. 'Ok. Take care sweetheart. Am out with the company gang. The usual place. Drop in if you want to.'

Ishika didn't. She needed some time to think. She knew she was strong. This was a temporary setback. She knew life had better things in store for her. Maybe, she needed this time off. To regroup. Re-energize. To make a new beginning. This was a good thing. She could finally go back to her writing. She could teach again. Oh, no longer the dread of the boring Mondays! No longer desperately looking forward to Fridays. She suddenly cheered up. Felt light. Felt like having her favourite kulfi.

With a spring in her step she entered the restaurant at Colaba. She looked around for an empty table. And then she spotted Sid. Neha? But she was supposed to be with the gang. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she saw more clearly. And all her cheerfulness, her new found strength, suddenly drained out of her. It was not Neha who was cosying up with Sid, giving him a peck on the cheeks. It was someone else.

Her anger returned.

She saw Sid notice her. She saw the look of surprise in his face. She saw him look around to see if Neha was there. And then, in the most non-chalant manner ever possible, he shrugged. In that one instant, all her fears about him came true. The thing that had been eating her away came to the fore. She knew it. She knew that the 'decent loving boyfriend' act was a charade. How stupid could she be? She should have warned Neha from the beginning!

What was she going to tell her? That I saw the love of your life with another woman in his arms? How was she going to face Neha?

The last two days had really been horrible. The two most important things in her life, her job and Neha, were both in disarray. Neha was a complete mess. She had gone to meet Sid. When she came back, she was a changed person. It was as if somebody had come and yanked out her soul...

As the sun started shining bright, Ishika realized she had been sitting there for a long time. The street hawkers had set up shop. The wannabe lovebirds had started milling around. The uncles and aunties had finished off their morning jogs and were flirting around with each other in front of the fruit juice stall.

As she called for a cab to take her back to her problems, Marine Drive was slowly waking up to just another typical Sunday in its bustling life...


1: The Broken Heart

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Finishing his coffee, Sid looked up. Slap! Before he could even realize what had happened, he felt the burning sensation on his left cheek. As he adjusted his pair of glasses, he looked into the burning eyes of Neha. They were brimming with tears. She was shaking with anger. "How dare you?" she almost yelled at him.

He looked around. People had started noticing them. He coolly looked at her. "Don't make a scene out here, Neha." She couldn't control herself. She tried to hit him again. He caught her hand. Without raising his voice, he said, "The soap operas have gone to your head. Don't act so melodramatic. There's no point in making a scene." His voice had a coldness that she had never heard before. It sent a chill down her spine. She felt his strong grip on her arm. It was hurting. She had come here with a lot of anger. She didnt know exactly what she expected from him. Maybe a sense of guilt, apologies, a desperate attempt to cover up. But she hadn't expected this. She got a little weak in the knees. She sat down. He let her hand go.

"Would you like to order some coffee?" He asked as if a business colleague had just joined him at the table. Neha was too stunned to reply. She couldn't believe that it was the same Sid. Her Sid. The romantic Sid. The one who had written beautiful poems for her. The one who used to send roses with cards saying 'Just like that!' The same Sid who used to keep her like a princess. Who used to make her feel like a princess. The same Sid who had been so gentle and understanding on their first time. The same Sid who was so passionate, so sensitive with her that his every touch made her feel like a complete woman. The way he used to hug her afterwards, and stay like that - as if overcome with emotions. In front of her right now, there was somebody else. Emotionless. She was looking at the face of a complete stranger.

Her coffee came. She hardly looked at it. "Look Neha." Her name sounded weird coming from his mouth. He never used to call her that. She was always his 'motu'. "I guess you have figured out by now that things are over between us. So, let's not make a big deal out of this and get on with our lives. Ok?"

She couldn't believe it. This could not be Sid. Sitting in front of her was a... "Heartless Bastard. Isn't that the words you are looking for?" He asked. He smiled. There was no warmth in that smile. It was almost devilish. He got up. Put down a hundred bucks on the table for the bill. Adjusted his glasses. And left.


0: Prologue

>> Monday, April 27, 2009

This is something I started writing after getting inspired from Yamini's blog. My first try at some semblence of story telling. If it doesn't end up good, pardon me.


Sid slowly came to his senses. He got up and looked around. His head was pounding. He put his hand to the back of his head. It hurt like hell. He tried to see if there was any blood. Atleast, his fingers couldn't feel any. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he looked around. It was a small room, about 6 ft by 8 ft. He had been lying on a creaky old bed with a smelly torn mattress. There were no windows. The only light came from the gap formed by the door's hinges. He tried the door. It was locked.

A slight feeling of claustrophobia came over him. He brushed it aside. Focus, Sid, focus. How did I land up here? He tried to remember...

To be contd...


Ah, Women!

>> Saturday, April 25, 2009

He looked at her. The sun's rays reflected off the water onto her face. She seemed to be at peace besides the lake. Her feet played with the waves. Her anklet glistened. "You look beautiful", he said. She just smiled. He wondered what she was thinking. As is normally the case, he had absolutely no clue. 'Ah, Women!' he thought.

He selected a pebble. A well rounded flat pebble. And then, with a swift motion of his hand, he threw it at the water. It didn't directly go in. It skirted off the water's edge. Tried to land again. But his initial force made it skirt again. Wherever it touched the water, small rings formed. After about five such failed landings, the water finally engulfed it. "Wow!", she exclaimed. "How did you do that?" He seemed surprised. "You haven't seen this before?" She shook her head. "We used to play this game whenever we came here as children." She decided to try her hand. She picked up a random pebble and let it go. Plop. It sunk at first impact. "No wonder you are good at this. You have been playing since childhood!" she complained. He gave a hearty laugh. A man will find the weirdest things cute in a woman.

"No re! See, here's how you do it. You need to select a pebble that's as flat as possible..." He went on to explain the supposed 'techniques' of pebble-throwing. She listened to him, noticing how focused he looked while explaining something as trivial as this. She liked that about him. She thought back to the time when she had first seen him. His intensity while explaining something to a class full of students was what had caught her eye. "Okay. Here's one that would work. Try it!" He brought her out of her reverie. She took the pebble and threw it at an awkward angle. Plop. Down it went again.

"Arre baba! Throw it as horizontally as possible!" He chirped in. She tried again. Same result. This was getting a little lame, he thought. After a lovely drive, he had planned on sitting besides her by the lake and atleast try to have a supposedly romantic time. Instead, here he was, teaching her how to throw meaningless stones in the water! He cursed his luck. I should have listened to Aakash and taken her to a movie instead! This idea of a 'romantic' natural outing was a no-brainer from the start, he thought. "Did you see that? It made three circles!" She almost shrieked as she finally succeeded. "This is so much fun!" And she gave him a little peck on the cheeks. Like a fledgling knight on a three legged horse who had suddenly turned the battle on it's head, his chest swelled up.

They took turns throwing pebbles at the water, he the expert more than willing to guide, she the eager student. As they sat their watching the small ripples form, he couldn't help but wonder at the joy she found, the joy they had found in such a small thing. "Do you think we go through life like this pebble?" He asked her. "Just skimming the surface. Just having a passing taste of what life holds for us? At every instance when a defining moment passes us by, are we too busy doing the things to be done instead of enjoying that moment? And then, by the time we realise it, it's too late. We have lost our momentum. Our drive. And the water then just engulfs us." She looked at him. He smiled. She put her head on his shoulder. In a soft voice, she spoke. "Well, I know I am enjoying this moment. And not letting it just pass by. Thanks a lot for bringing me here instead of taking me to some silly movie!" Up yours, Aakash!

He looked at her. He could smell her hair. There was an inexplicably pleasant smell to them. His heart was beating at a slightly faster rate. And yet, a feeling of contentment had come over him. He felt responsible for her. Suddenly, he felt both tender and strong at the same time. How do women do these things? As they sat in an almost picturesque pose in front of the setting sun, he thought again, this time in a more relaxed and happy way, "Ah, Women!"


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