The Accident

Liverpool

Our bus halts. There isn’t any bus stop in immediate vicinity. I don’t notice it at first, still enjoying the lingering taste of Dorayakis on my tongue. We had dropped these Japanese pancakes on the floor of the bus while trying to open the packet. That hadn’t stopped us from eating them though. We had picked them immediately and stuffed them into our mouths. There’s always that three seconds rule.

“Sorry, you’ll have to get off here. The road is closed ahead,” the driver tells us. Abruptly brought back into reality, we stare at him, puzzled.

“Don’t worry. Your stop is just 2 minutes walk away.”

We thank him and get off the bus. A few seconds pass by deciding which way we should head to. Which nothingness are we willing to choose tonight? The right one or the left? Our London plans are always nothing. We end up going to the same places, every time – Soho, Piccadilly, Camden, Shoreditch. London is too big to be explored on spontaneous weekend plans. We walk anyway, to the left or maybe to the right, hoping to find an interesting place and probably meet interesting people. My hopes are dim. The night has progressed too deep and it’s Sunday – nothing’s going to be open. But I am enjoying shivering in the cold and unsuccessfully trying to find the top of the buildings around me. It’s the first time I have been in Liverpool. With fancy buildings and offices splashed all over the man-made scenery I am walking through, I am too amazed to know where to look and fix my gaze at.

“So, that’s why the road was closed…” Lee nudges me.

I look at the ambulance as well. There’s been an accident.

Accidents are not unknown to me. I have seen plenty on Indian roads – the overturned trucks, cars with shattered windshields and their engines bleeding green, two wheelers lying in the middle of road – the victims engaged in a verbal fight, curious people gathering around them and traffic growing rapidly behind.

Lee and I continue walking past the accident scene.

“I..I..” a man is sobbing in front of us, trying to speak but failing horribly.

“There’s a woman on the road..” I tell Lee as cold shiver traverses through my backbone. She nods and we both look at her, immediately turn away afraid of what we might end up seeing. I can’t help it though. I turn to look again. There are three paramedics around her. She’s lying motionless, head covered in blood.

“Paramedics are already there, she should be alright,” I think.

I recall the face of the of the man we had just walked past. So, it was his car…

“Do you think…” I try asking something, immediately forgetting, feeling colder, falling numb. I want to get out of here. We both walk as briskly as we can.

“That woman was-”

“Dead” Lee completes the sentence for me.

I look at her, blink for a couple of seconds, wondering if there was a question mark or a full stop at the end of what she had just said.

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The Ketchup Bottle

Living is frustrating, isn’t it? I mean what’s the point of this life? Always being led by the breeze, floating, helpless, sometimes trying to be a rebel without a cause. Sometimes, trying to dream, be that dream just for a minute, just for a second or even less than that. But there is no dream, is there? There is just delusion. You don’t have it in you. You just don’t. You keep telling yourself that you can do it until you think you believe it but then you never really do and finally you give up. I know, I know, I know, I am talking bullshit here, ain’t I? This is not going on a positive direction. You think? Why am I even trying to impose my own spoiled mood on you? You didn’t wake up to read this kind of shit. Remember 2018 is the year you resolved to stay away from this negativity. The truth, however, is you can’t stay away. Denying is more painful than simply accepting. So accept it. You will experience an unusual kind of freedom. It’s not like I am not fighting, you know. I think I still have energy to put on a brave and bold face and occasionally shout, “Shut up!” to this babbling brain. I still have some calories to spare for this kind of cool shit. But it’s not always easy being that person. Like today.

 

However, here’s another thing though – when you try to think of a life without a dream, you realize that it is even more pathetic. Getting up, doing some weird kind of work without will and without heart. Every morning brings another headache and every evening you cheerfully bid adieu to another pathetic day with a few cocktails swirling inside you and generating a temporary feeling of euphoria. Before you know it, you are already an alcoholic or a pothead. Some people get away with more socially acceptable and non hazardous ways – they hide in books, movies and TV series. Sometimes, I feel that the whole entertainment industry is kind of dubious in its motives. Why do we need entertainment at all? What are we trying to distract ourselves from? Umm..our own lives? Of course, it’s a shallow way of thinking. We are not always distracting ourselves, are we? Sometimes, we are just looking for new ideas and inspiration. The kind of ideas that complete us, maybe?

 

Anyway, it’s not quite awesome – living like this. You are happy and in another moment you are bombarded with the reasons you shouldn’t be happy. Because there is always, always, always so much to do. All those things that we need to do but we never actually do. Why? Make a choice woman! If it’s too difficult, then choose something else to do. Choose something that you think you can do. Really. If you feel it is doable, then fucking do it! Why aren’t you? What is stopping you? Just fucking give it all your shot. You are the one who made the choice, remember? You wanted this! But we won’t do that. What we would do instead is write a bullshit post like this and laugh. Hahahaha. Joke’s on you, miss. Well, shut the fuck up.

 

Why are we such asshole to our own selves? I don’t get it really. Fucking take the things that you think you deserve. Look them in the eye and tell those people that you fucking deserve it and they will be convinced. They will be. The hardest part is convincing your own self. It is such a useless war. Well, like all wars. How are we so important and not important at the same time? Sometimes, life seems as insignificant as an unused 2017 executive diary. We are flooded with despair when life makes us appear tinier than a speck of dust in a speck of dust. Individualism – they tell you how important you are. Are we really? We just want to be important. And sometimes, we don’t want to be important. We want to know. But we don’t want to know. We want to want. But we don’t want to want. Because if there is indeed something you really want, then why the fuck are you not doing anything about it. If you want it, get it. Keep trying unless you have it. Yeah, these words look pretty as an instagram post. Not so much in life. I am a fucking hypocrite.

 

Ah, it’s not simple – being human. It can be simple. But brain, brain, brain, brain. Why do we keep repeating the same mistakes our whole lives? We do things we didn’t really want to do and then we keep wondering about the stuff we wanted to do. Boring. Boring. Boring. I curse my life. It is not boring. It is anything but boring but I can’t see it another way. If I perceive it to be too exciting, somebody’s gonna come along the way and hammer some senses into my thick skull about how it’s really not. Oh my important fucking life, my important, important, important life that I wish to keep talking about. But really you don’t give a fuck. You are waiting for me to shut up now. You want to talk about your own life – agreeing, disagreeing, presenting a copied idea as your own. Shameless bastards, all of us. Mass produced industrial product – with the same fucking ingredients, same fucking taste, same fucking packaging. We are all the same. There are selected few who are not but they are produced in another sophisticated and elite factory altogether. We, on the other hand, are those low quality cheap products that supermarkets are bombarded with. We come in identical bottles just with a different date of manufacturing and expiry dates. Sometimes, even those are same.

 

But even a bottle can have a story. Can it not? I want to believe that it can. Get up. Get up. Get the fuck up. Ask yourself again. What do you want? Ask yourself again if you really want it. If the answer is yes, go for it all the way. Don’t be another bottle with the same conveyor belt to getting rotten in the fridge story .

 

Actually no, you are that another bottle already.

 

Or maybe there is still hope.

 

Whatever makes you happy, man. Whatever makes you happy.

*

How not to book your International Flight Tickets – The End or is it?

Part – I

Part – II

Part-III

Part-IV

It was my first International flight. And everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Having gone through this entire struggle, perhaps I should have been happy but I was indifferent instead. The Air India flight attendants were middle aged, friendly, but also and busy. I greeted them with a weak smile which was never returned and I walked down the aisle straight to the last row of Economy class and to my surprise discovered that I was going to spend the next nine hours in a company of a young English man.

Pause. Let me digest this.

Never. Never, I repeat, in the history of my air or any travels have I ever had the opportunity to be in a company of a young stranger I could actually converse with. And after all the ways my luck had lashed out on me in the last three days, this guy was such a pleasant surprise. The guy who happened to share the same name as that of a famous Christian priest, was a psychology student who had been travelling to India to learn Vipassana and experience the beauty of Himachal (among other things). We discussed movies, books, psychology, England and how we both were stuck at the Mumbai airport for different reasons but during the same period of time and how it was such a horrible experience. I spoke about my new University. He spoke about his. And then he spoke about mine because he knew about it better. I hadn’t spoken to anyone except the inhumane creatures at customer care for past two days. I confess I was a bit charmed by this person. And I was glad that he was there. The next couple of hours that passed by as I flew from one time zone to another were good ones. I watched a movie. I watched the sky from the window. I let the guy sleep on my shoulder. I tried reading the book he gave me that was about Vipassana meditation. I ate breakfast. I ate lunch. I had seen food after such a long time. When the Air hostess came to me asking if I would like a glass of whiskey, I wildly nodded a yes inside but asked for a fruit juice instead. Finally, my wrist watch no longer showed me the correct time. Finally, we had reached London. I looked at the city from above. It was unlike any aerial view I had ever seen. This was London, of course. It had to be this way. “Oh! This is your first time here!”the English guy exclaimed, “This city is going to shock you.” Well, I think I have been well trained for that. We got off the flight together and parted our ways at the Immigration. He lived in Oxford and he said that I could ping him if I was ever there. I sent him a friend request on Facebook. He never accepted.

Heathrow Airport is gigantic. It has to be. After spending an hour or so at the Immigration queue, my next mission was to find the correct Baggage claim section. Despite my poor navigation skills, I found it relatively quickly. Everything wrong that I could have imagined happening to me had already happened, right? Wrong. There was still one thing that could go wrong. Back in Ahmedabad, the lady at the counter had told me not to worry about my bag. Well, as it turned out that was the only thing I should have been worried about.

They had lost my baggage.

The guy whom I had met in the plane had told me about how he had lost his baggage when he came to India and how he was rendered cloth-less for the next four days. I had smiled and nodded in sympathy. But little did I know that anecdote was actually a prediction for my own near future. My usual reaction to this situation would have been anger and a bit of panic. My actual reaction was indifference. I guess there is a saturation level even for frustration. I filled the form and got the tracking number, left the airport, paid five times higher bus fare to Norwich (Since I was originally supposed to get to Norwich directly, I hadn’t pre-booked any bus from London), saw a bit of that humongous city through my window and got mesmerized by it in the process and finally reached my University. I was going to spend next four days sans any fresh clothes. This wasn’t a very happy situation to deal with, given the fact that I had already been in the same clothes for the past three days. How did I manage? Well to begin with, I got drunk as fuck at the very first night I arrived in England.

When finally I did get my luggage I found sugar, that my mother had asked me to keep in my bag at the last minute, sprinkled all over my clothes. Thanks for the icing at the top. I guess they thought I was carrying drugs or something. After four days (actually seven including those three at airport) of waiting to wear some fresh clean clothes, this was exactly what I was looking forward to.

But hey, at least I was here. At least my bag was here too.

So to sum it all, here is the list of things that I think you should keep in mind;

  1. If you are travelling in between the months of July to September, don’t book your flight from Mumbai.
  2. Pay attention to Airport announcements.
  3. Check your visa requirements carefully. Don’t assume. Don’t be lazy. Your answer is just a google search away anyway.
  4. Avoid booking an Air France ticket. Their customer care sucks.
  5. Like really.
  6. Don’t carry sugar in your bag. They mistake it for Heroin.
  7. Always pack an extra pair of clothes in your hand baggage.
  8. Don’t send friend request to someone you just met.
  9. Or do, whatever. Go live your life.
  10. In case of adversity, remember – This too shall pass.

 

“Laugh at thy own misfortune.” ~ Plato

***

How not to book your International Flight Tickets – A ray of hope

Part – I

Part – II

Part – III

The gloomiest day ever. I tried to divert my attention by watching people, reading a bit, writing a bit, eating little and mostly weeping my heart out in a way that nobody noticed. Morning, Noon, Evening. I wish time had passed as quickly as these three words. But they hadn’t. They had been spent imagining number of ways things could go further wrong. Because that’s how you cheer yourself up, don’t you? I was standing in the Check in queue again. Deja Vu? Yes. But this time, I didn’t have to abandon it. Slowly but steadily, I finally made it to the check in counter only to be told that my flight had been delayed and I might miss the connecting flight to London.

Wow, just when I thought that the drama was about to end.

So consider this – You want to get to the Heathrow Airport as soon as possible. All the flights leaving from Mumbai to London are not only booked but “overbooked”. So the flight that you have booked is a funny one – It takes you to Ahmedabad International Airport ( a much much smaller airport than Mumbai’s) and then from there you catch another flight to Heathrow. You have just been told that your flight to Ahmedabad has been delayed and you might miss the other one that takes you to London.

Perfect. So what do you do? You stand dazed for a couple of minutes but then by some miracle, your brain starts functioning again.You talk to the supervisor and beg. Your voice is shaky, eyes heavy with dark clouds yearning to pour the fuck down yet again. You are there standing vulnerable, wishing that your emergency gets through to the person you are talking to.

And somehow, somehow it does.

“Yeah, your flight has been delayed but I can put you to another one which leaves earlier.” She said.

Yeah! DO that! Why didn’t you think of that before?

So there was still hope. I was shifted to another flight. My check in finally got completed and I walked to the boarding gate and waited some more. I knew I should have been calm but I couldn’t help but cry a bit now and then. Good thing nobody noticed and if they did they didn’t utter a word to me. I hadn’t slept properly in three days. I had been frustrated as fuck and this journey was turning out to be a lot longer than I expected. I fucking hated that Airport. I always will. The glamorous shops near the infinite boarding gates sparked zero interest in me. I tried watching a movie and a TV series but nothing cheered me up. I waited and prayed that my flight didn’t get delayed. But adding to my misery, it did. What could I do? Anxiously, I waited some more. Finally the boarding began. There wasn’t much margin left. That plane had to take off ASAP. Just when I had finally reached the end of the queue and handed over my boarding pass to the attendant to scan it in the system, he told me that there was something wrong with it. For some mysterious reason it wasn’t getting recognized. Everyone else who had been in the queue was already inside the plane. And I stood there at the gate waving them good bye.

You asked for some suspense in your life, didn’t you? Here. Have plenty.

I hoped it was just a small glitch. I hoped they would find some solution soon and ultimately wouldn’t bar me from boarding the flight. But I was super high on Malana frustration and even this small event was enough to trigger an outburst of tears. Now, when I look back it’s quite embarrassing to picture how I might have looked in front of those flight attendants. But they said nothing. When the system refused to comply, they manually entered my boarding pass and finally I was on-board. But all this suspense wasn’t for London. It was for Ahmedabad – a city much closer to my hometown than Mumbai, where rains generally don’t fuck you over this badly.

My phone beeped bringing a silver lining in the dark clouds. I had received a message saying that my flight to London had been delayed as well by two hours. For the first time, in what seemed like years, I breathed a sigh of relief. This delay meant better time margin and better chances of me catching that flight on time.

Soon I reached and I went to the International Check in counter. “Excuse me, do I need to check in my bag again for the London flight? I just flew from Mumbai.” I asked.

“You flew from Mumbai?” she asked back.

Yeah, I know it seems odd. It’s a fucking long story. You have no fucking idea.

“Yeah, you need not check in your bag. Don’t worry about it.” She added.

I crossed the immigration, and waited for two hours in the most boring International Airport ever built on the face of the Earth. In the end, the dreaded time margin turned out to be much longer than it should have been. But I was happy simply to be away from Mumbai. I wondered if I should call back home since my family was oblivious of all this and pretty much in assumption that I had reached England already. I should have told them that I was still here, in Gujarat itself but I didn’t call them. It was only when the boarding actually started that I told my mother the whole story but this time with a positive note – “Don’t worry, I am boarding the flight right now.”

The moment I boarded the plane was a very simple one. There was no music or applause. I just walked with my swollen eyes and stinking body, fully devoid of euphoria but brimming with relief . When I finally took my seat it wasn’t happiness that gripped me, it was an odd image of my own self consoling me, “There there, everything will be okay now.”

But everything wasn’t going to be okay just yet.

*

Part – IV

How not to book your International Flight Tickets – The Shock therapy

Part – I

Part – II

Despite the heavy rains outside, somehow it was just me in the whole airport who had been so visibly affected by it. After having relieved my bladder and changed my clothes at the washroom, I engaged in yet another interesting conversation with the attendant inside. She told me how people often carried more than 100 mL fluid material in their hand baggage and how painful it was to discard them after the security check. “Such a shame,”she said, “All that expensive Facewash, lotion and perfumes. We can’t use them. We just have to throw them away.”

In the middle of this conversation, I forgot to pay attention to an announcement that was going to change my life. “Dear travelers, we regret to inform you that one of the planes has skidded on the runaway while trying to take off because of which all flights have been temporarily suspended.”

I heard the announcement but stupidly ignored the implication of what had just been said. Meanwhile, my sister finally managed to arrive at the airport. Due to my impulsive decision (blame my bladder) to enter into the airport I was not able to chat with her for long at the gate. Instead we had to talk over the phone while looking at each other through the glass wall. How tragically romantic. After a series of brief instructions, wishes of good luck and selfies, we bid each other adieu only to meet again later the very same night.

Now I was standing in the queue for check in. However, the queue wasn’t moving anymore because they had stopped taking luggage til the issue at the runaway got resolved. Remember the announcement before? I was finally realizing what it actually meant. Minutes turned to hours, and I was still standing at the same spot in the queue chatting with another fellow passenger – both of us clueless about what we should be doing. And it was then another announcement was made – My flight had been cancelled.

The whole ordeal I had taken to come to the Airport played in front of my eyes in sepia. I waited for the announcement to be made again, hoping I hadn’t heard it right the first time. But I had. Wow. At least, I had prevented myself from a being a no-show. Little did I know that that wouldn’t matter after all. I broke away from the queue only to get into another one. My feet hurt. My head spun. After two hours of waiting, I got my flight rescheduled for the next night. I called my sister and narrated the whole story to her. It was decided that I should return and spend the night in her hotel room. I booked a cab, waited even for that for an hour but finally met my sister again and fell asleep soon after.

Me and my sister spent the next day at our hotel room looking at the clouds through the window and praying it wouldn’t rain hard. Our prayers were answered. It wasn’t the sky’s turn to weep anyway. I returned to the airport at night thinking I would be leaving the country in a couple of hours.

I didn’t.

Deja Vu. I had stood in that check in queue before. But this time at least it was moving forward. I arrived at the fork of the queue (I hate it when it has that) and I started competing with the an old couple for who gets into the main queue first. I won. And then I abandoned it entirely later.

Behold the biggest shock of my life – Imagine this; You have a booked ticket to relatively unknown place in England. Since it’s not a very popular destination, there are no direct flights to this place. So your flight takes you to there via different places in different European countries – let’s say, Paris and Amsterdam. You are happy thinking how you are going to get a brief glance of the airports of these two beautiful cities. But here’s the catch – it’s kinda cute that you are dreamy but unfortunately, you are also stupid. Though you have paid a relatively high fare to reach directly to your “dream” city, you haven’t bothered to check if you require any transit visa for travelling from one Schengen country to another. It’s normal to assume that since you are not going to leave the airport you won’t require any transit Visa at all. However, when you assume you make an ass out of your own self. So you are in the International Airport now, all queued up and then an officer comes up to you, asks you to show your ticket and Visa. You do, confidently. “No, you can’t travel on this,” You hear the dude say. “You require a transit Visa for flying from Paris to Amsterdam.” After a few pleas of “Officer, Can nothing be done now?” and repeatedly hearing the word, “No” you decide to cancel your whole ticket and then later you find out that it can’t be refunded and also all tickets directly going to England are overbooked.

What a night. I spent it all arguing with my travel agent (Makemytrip), Jet airways and Air France. Instead of me losing my temper at them, it was them who lost their temper at me. The guy at Air France customer care was exceptionally hilarious. The only people who treated me with certain amount of sympathy were the ones who had screwed me the hardest in the first place – My travel agent. I asked them to book another flight. They did for the next night. So I had to spend double the money on the new flight and I was not getting any refund on the previous ticket. But the story gets better. My sister had already left Mumbai. So I had nowhere to go. I was so embarrassed and frustrated by the whole situation that I was kind of glad that she wasn’t there. I decided to tell no one and I put my phone on flight mode. Yeah, stupid decision. But haven’t I made it specifically clear by now how stupid I am?

Long hours of waiting awaited me. I took my baggage trolley to the seating area. I spent half of the night weeping and half of it trying to sleep with my head on the trolley and rest of my body adjusted in a single seating chair. I was hungry but I didn’t eat. I was thirsty but I didn’t care. I tried to calm down. I tried telling myself everything was going to be okay. But I really wasn’t sure about the authenticity of that statement. I knew talking to my family would have helped me but I didn’t want anyone else to be worried. So, I sat on that chair with my stupid secret that really didn’t have to be a secret and somewhere in early morning, I fell asleep. After two hours of a painful and uncomfortable nap, I woke up to the gloomiest day ever.

*

Part – III

Part – IV

How not to book your International Flight Tickets – The Beginning

Part – I

The two months that I had stayed in my home thinking I would be reading, writing and even perhaps learning how to play Piano had ended. I hadn’t read. I hadn’t written. I had forgotten whatever I learnt about playing Piano. I had spent my youth and my old age waiting in Bank and begging them to take my request for Education loan on priority. I had circled around the court for gathering weird documents for this loan, I had printed all sorts of stuff for my VISA application and then I had spent rest of the days compiling them as per VISA guidelines. And whatever time that was left after all this, I had spent it on “trying to learn” how to cook and bitching about State Bank of India to literally every person I could.

But all that struggle had finally come to an end. My loan had been approved, tuition fees had been paid, I had received my VISA, I had packed my bags and now I was ready to leave.The train to Mumbai was going to depart at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. I had woke up early despite staying up late, bathed, ate and now I was sitting restlessly with my eyes fixated on the minute hand of the clock and butterflies fluttering inside my stomach. The adventure was about to begin. In five hours, I would be in Mumbai. In twenty hours I would be in Norwich – my current city of dreams. Odd – I know – not everybody is aware of this city’s existence, certainly I wasn’t till a couple of months ago. But there I was, dreaming of boarding the flight to the smallest city I would ever live in. I called the cab, one of the last times I would be using Uber and I excitedly hopped into the taxi bidding adieu to my mother.

Day one of my nightmare had officially commenced. But I had no idea it was a nightmare at all.

The cab dropped me at the Railway station. I excitedly strode to the Platform with my “Norwich dreams” only to find that my train was delayed by five hours. This was the first indication of how things were going to go horribly wrong down the road but though I acknowledged that it wasn’t a good sign but I merely deemed it as a minor setback. I had booked tickets with good time margin between them. So the delay didn’t bother me much. At least till the next hour. Then doubts began to spring in my head like weeds in a garden. I made the judgement call. I decided to take the bus instead. For the first time in my life, I used the station’s wifi and searched for the earliest bus cursing Indian Railways under my breath. Fortunately, I did find a bus that was about to leave in twenty minutes. Hurriedly, I made a dash for the Exit. I paid the Autorickshaw driver three times higher than the regular fare to reach the bus stop, booked the bus with three times higher fare than the train’s ticket price and unknowingly stepped further into the dreadful adventure. I boarded the sleeper bus, fell asleep with my shoes on, only to be awakened by the conductor asking me to take them off and shift to the upper seat. Though a bit irritated, I obediently did what he asked me to do and stared outside as the first few drops of rain hit the window. I had heard the news that it was raining hard in Mumbai – first from a fellow passenger and then from my sister who was already in Mumbai since the previous day – a visit planned to see me before I fly to Norwich. I hoped for the best and took another small nap.

My phone, one of the last few times my Indian number shall be used, rang. It was my sister again. “It’s raining really hard here.” she said. “Even I am stuck in traffic. Where are you?”

“Somewhere in the highway.” I replied.

“Okay, turn your live location on.”

“I have run out of my net pack.” Because who needs it when you are supposed to leave the country in about six hours?

“I will get it recharged,” she replied.

I could sense higher level of adrenaline in my blood but there was nothing I could do but wait. And waiting is all I did for the next three days but of course I didn’t know that yet. What I did know was Mumbai rains were going to fuck me over. And that they did. Soon the roads turned into shallow rivers and traffic began to drift excruciatingly slowly. Panic? Yeah, I was drenched completely in it. But the movie had just started. My sister was calling me pretty frequently now. We were both wondering how I was going to reach Airport at all. Luckily, the bus conductor came to my rescue. “Where do you want to get off ?” He asked. “Nearest place to the International Airport.”

“Well, it’s going to be troublesome.” You think so?

But the bus conductor turned out to be much more helpful than I expected. I spent a considerable amount of time talking to him and the driver when I sat next to the driver seat discussing Mumbai rains, occasional “risks” of helping people (especially a woman – Well I would rather not comment), about Conductor’s brother working abroad and finally about my plans of studying in England. The driver asked me how English currency looked like. After a moment of hesitation, I handed him a twenty pound note out of my wallet. He glanced at it in fascination and to my secret sigh of relief returned it to me. We had reached as near as we could to the airport. I had to get off now. Since I didn’t have any umbrella, the conductor walked me over to the back of the bus holding his umbrella over both of us. He took my luggage out of the storage and again walked me over to the nearest bus stop. I was walking barefoot with my shoes dangling over my neck. The rain was pouring down hard. Five minutes outside the bus and I was already wet. The conductor left me after giving me rough instructions for how to reach the Airport which I didn’t quite understand. All I did understand was that I needed to cross the road to get a Taxi. While walking towards the Skywalk that led to the opposite side of the road, I had the best stroll of my life with the clouds showering their brutality over me for no reason whatsoever (How dare you try to go to England, you stupid dumbfuck!), with my blurry vision (How dare you wear specs while it’s raining, you stupid dumbfuck!), my heavy luggage (How dare you carry so much while travelling to another country, you stupid dumbfuck!) and my wet clothes (How dare you wear clothes that get wet at all, you stupid dumbfuck!).

I was struggling hard to carry my bag upstairs in the Sky-walk. My plight must have been visible all over my face. It was then that I met my heroes. I almost choked on my mental tears of gratitude for them when they helped me with my luggage, first by carrying it up the stairs and then down. However, my troubles didn’t end there. I still had to get a taxi to the airport. And finding one had been the hardest thing I ever did in my life. Maybe after the loan. And after Engineering. And my job. By the time I had crossed the road through the foot over-bridge – I was already wet to the bone and so were my bags. I didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to get a cab. I walked up to the middle of the road multiple times leaving my bag into the supervision of a random person, hoping that it wouldn’t get stolen. Nobody stole anything and I finally found a taxi but I paid extraordinarily high fare to the cab driver. I reached the airport – my one and only ultimate goal of my life then. My heart uttered some really creative curse words for the Mumbai rains and the city’s horrendous drainage system but at the same time it brimmed with gratitude for Mumbai people; for all those kind strangers who had helped me. I had been so absorbed in this entire struggle that I didn’t realize that my bladder was very close to a rather embarrassing explosion. I hurriedly entered inside the airport. Duped by the perpetual lost expression on my face, one of the Attendants approached me and asked, “Are you looking for something?”

“Yeah, Washroom.” I said. The same washroom that I was going to use for the coming three days.

*

Part – II

Part – III

Part – IV

The Two Parallel Lines

“Hello ladies, my name is Charles and I will be your waiter tonight,”he says in his slightly accented posh English.

We like Charles already. After all, being addressed as a lady is a rare thing. We try to return his “Hello” with equal charm. Can’t tell if we succeeded but we don’t have time to reflect on that. Happy hours are ending soon and there is a lot of alcohol to order. So, we immediately proceed to digging our heads into the cocktail menu. Beer is something that we don’t even mention once in our discussion. That is going to be ordered by default. In the midst of our deliberation over the choice of cocktails, I look at two of my closest friends and wonder how mystical and surreal being here with them actually is. But that doesn’t last long. “Six pints of beer, for now. We will order the cocktails soon,” I tell our charming waiter.

I am transported back to the time when we three were discussing oral sex for the first time. “What do you mean you put it in your mouth? They pee with that thing!” “I don’t know. I don’t know how people do that…” We three glanced at each other and let out a synchronous shudder. Now, sitting in a bar, sipping on our beer, it’s funny how we don’t seem to be affected by that shudder anymore. “So, all bases?” I am asked. “Well, you could say that.” I confess it with a surprising casual indifference. I am greeted back in the same way. “Uh! Cool.” Where has our shock been assimilated? How could there not be a trace of it? Perhaps I can find the abundance of it in the faces of twelve year old us, sitting on the bench in the classroom a decade ago. If they would have been sitting with us today, they would have killed me with disgust in their eyes. The pre-teenaged us wouldn’t just have stopped with the look. Next thing they would have done was to throw away our bottles, “What is this that you are drinking! Alcohol? We swore we would never do that!” We are perfectly fine with drinking now. In fact there’s a part of us, who can’t live without it. But we (at least I did) indeed swore that we would never consume this wretched liquid. Same thing went with cigarettes. Same thing went with broccoli. Same thing went with green tea. We have grown into liking both the health saviors and health destroyers at the same time. Well, the equation must be balanced, right?

“Forgot to ask, how was it though?” one of my friends asks. “Ah, what sex? Comme ci comme ca. Okay, I guess?” I reply. And like that we go back to our drinks. We are perfectly fine with boys asking us out. Back in school, that was a big deal. I suddenly get the flashbacks of some of our conversations from school – “What do you mean, you are chatting on messenger?” “Well, we have been doing that for past two weeks. Every day.” “What do you mean every day?” “Well, every day.” “Do you have a crush on him?” “No” my friend said blushing. “Is that a yes?” “No” My friend said nodding affirmatively. Wow, back then it used to be huge. “What happened to the guy you met on Tinder?” I ask her. “Meh” she replies. “Still talking even?” I ask further. “Yes” she says. “Then?” I ask. “Meh.”

By now we all are sipping on the last few drops of beer left in the bottle. Our eyes are droopy and our voices heavy and our conversations solely in English. “I am not drunk okay” my friend says. “I am never drunk okay,”the other friend replies. Yeah of course. English though – Ah! It gave me such a hard time in school. All those people with their fancy education in private high class schools spoke such fluent English. I envied them deeply. It was devastating because it took a toll on my public speaking skills. I was so scared of English. That insecurity is lost now. There are greater things to worry about.

It’s surreal in a way that we three are still this close. There were so many other people back in school with whom I had felt I had a ‘deep connection’. They are nothing but a name in my Facebook friend list now. How weird is this. I think you don’t choose friends but life chooses them for you. There are people who connect with you and to each one of those people there stand thousand others who don’t. It’s a bit tricky to find those people who know you like their favorite book. You might find a connection in some moments with a particular person but you have little control over its expiry date. People enter in your life as intersecting straight lines. They come, converge, intersect and diverge. On the other hand, there are people who never intersect but they run parallel with you for the rest of your life.

“Three Classic Martinis, please.” We have finally decided on the cocktails. Charles nods and throws a brief glance at the empty beer bottles at our table as if wondering whether we should be drinking more. Fifteen minutes later, he would be serving us another round of Martinis. The beer has already got our heads buzzed. We are laughing over stupid jokes. We are endlessly taking selfies. We are wondering how painfully overpriced the french fries are. Soon, we will head to the dance floor and dance for three hours straight with basically everyone present in the club. We are going to discuss this night for weeks, maybe years. We are going to be amazed how amazing it was. But for now, I just look at these two people and cringe at my cheesiness but it’s true – they do mean the world to me. These two fuckers are my parallel lines.

*

Things that I don’t understand – IV

      1. Fluid mechanics. Office politics. And heart
      2. Black holes. Black-heads. What existed before big bang. And heart.
      3. X-men movie timeline, Donnie Darko and why I suck at receiving compliments.
      4. Complex philosophical theories. The Tree of Life movie. And my procrastinating habits.

I glance at my phone again. Its screen is plain black with light reflecting through its cracked edges and it is idiotly smiling back at me as if it doesn’t understand my irritation at all. Why aren’t you blinking with a notification? A telephone under a chat circle or an f under a square? Why aren’t you quenching my curiosity? But I thought you wanted me to be silent and not disturb you. And now when I am doing exactly that, you have a problem? Again?

I and my smartphone are in an abusive relationship. My palms have huge holes and they are pretty fond of providing free fall experiences to my phone.

Even with its bruised and malfunctioning screen, my wounded and weak phone can still torture me effortlessly. In fact more now.

If you hate me so much, why don’t you get rid of me? I don’t mind being sold. You can go back to using landlines. I know you terribly miss them.

I don’t know how my phone learnt sarcasm but certainly it’s more fluent in it than I can ever be. “I should do that. I should sell you.” I retort.

I am proud of your decision. I am sure you won’t find it hard to let go of all the applications you are fond of using.

All the applications? Facebook? Twitter? Maps? Gmails? Uber? Chrome? Camera?

Yes, you can ‘clearly’ live easily without them of course.

Whatever. What matters right now is not this stupid argument but the question,”Why aren’t you blinking yet?”

Blinking with what. You need to be specific. You meant the drop-but-actually-a- fire thing?

Shut up. I wasn’t asking for that notification.

No? So I suppose you are asking for notifications of the news app you never bother to use?

Okay, the telephone under the circle thing. Now you know, go blink.

No. I won’t.

Exasperated I return to my book. Sure, actually it’s good I am away from all those distractions. I can concentrate. Two lines into the paragraph, some idiot in my head speaks,”But why hasn’t he messaged you yet? Is he ignoring you?”

“Does it matter?” I ask back.

Silence again. Fifth line into the paragraph, the idiot speaks again, “But why hasn’t he messaged you yet? Are you not interesting enough?”

“Does it matter?”

The question works again. I tell my brain, rather I request my brain for his kind attention on the words that I am trying to read. It obeys. For three minutes. Then I go on a date, with the same guy who did text me back in this dreamworld. He had apologized. He said he was too busy with work. But he also said he would make up for it by a dinner in a good Sushi restaurant. Ah! Sushi. How did he even know I love Sushi? Now we are in this fancy restaurant, eating the most delicious Sushi ever made on the face of the Earth. And I have finally learnt how to use chopsticks. There’s a huge platter of Sushi in front of me. There are so many varieties and each one is equally delicious. But if you ask which one’s my favorite–

My phone blinks with the telephone thing for real. I snap out of my date-but-increasingly-transforming-into-food daydreams. Has he finally texted? You are blinking, my love. You are finally blinking.

Hold your horses, young lady. How can you be so sure that I am blinking with his text.

Ah no. Don’t say it. Don’t imply it. Don’t jinx it. No. It has already been jinxed, hasn’t it? Yeah, it’s not from him. It’s a message on the school group – another useless GIF.

You do know I can’t make him text, right? Stop being stupid.

You are stupider.

Oh really? Let’s check your search history on Google, shall we?

How does my own phone gets to speak with me like that? You are supposed to be my servant.

And you are supposed to be worthy of being served to. I will tell you – Here’s what is going to happen now. You are going to continue gawking at me for like 12 straight hours. Then you shall finally give up only till you send him a drunk text like an hour later. He is going to reply with a conversation-ender. Suddenly, your ego that you had carelessly sold in your drunkenness will come running back to you. Horrified, you won’t reply. You will archive/delete the chat and resolve you are never going to text him again. That resolution will end in exactly two hours and twenty seven minutes. Then you are going to start obsessing again. Be better than this obsession cycle, your highness. Be better.

Okay duck him. Let’s scroll through our Facebook Newsfeed again.

You did that like 27.25 seconds ago but I am happy to comply.

I need to read but a quick glance through twitter?

Of course.

Facebook again?

Of course.

WordPress?

Of course.

Twitter…?

Of course.

Two hours later, I finally decide to turn off my phone and return to my book. The words don’t make sense initially but I continue to read anyway. Somewhere, along some paragraphs, I finally immerse in the text. The black screen of my phone still keeps radiating temptation in the background. My smartphone pretends it is not doing that on purpose. Evil bastard, I resolve not to fall into his trap again. Twenty two minutes later, I am watching some random shit on YouTube. How and why exactly is what I don’t understand.

*

How’s life in England?

“So, how’s life in England?” My phone notifies me of yet another text bearing the same question I’ve heard daily since the past two months. And I am left wondering, yet again, how the hell do I answer this?

How’s life in England? Each day, I wake up with a slight hangover because somehow I have developed a habit of mistaking beer for water. The morning begins with me brewing a tasteless tea and slicing an apple, often along with my fingers. Then I connect my phone to the speakers as I eat my so-called breakfast and start preparing my lunch. Two months back, cooking was my least favorite task and now it is my top choice for procrastination. I chop vegetables while dancing to some 2000s rock. I still don’t know how I manage to pull that off. The day progresses as I finish cooking my lunch which is almost never completely consumed by me. I leave some curry for my flatmates. And by the evening, there’s no trace of it left. My utensils are cleaned and neatly placed back in my shelf. Cooking a little extra so that you don’t have to clean? I figure it’s a pretty good strategy to go by. But this is not what you want to know, do you?

How’s life in England? Well, mostly it’s the blue sky and chartreuse grass spread across remarkably vast stretches of land. Each day I discover a new breed of dog. Each day I come across those cars that I never thought I would see in three dimensions with my own eyes. Each day I meet different kinds of people. And almost each day, I write about them in a small cafe with a small blackboard placed at its gate happily flaunting the beautiful handwriting and the supposedly reasonable rates of different kinds of coffees. Hours pass by as I type random stuff on random things and before it gets too cold (and it’s not even Winter yet!) I return to my kitchen to enjoy a multi-cuisine dinner cooked by flatmates. My kitchen is not a particularly attractive one. The dining table is almost never cleaned. Sometimes, the refrigerators stink. Noone is ever able to find his/her plates or spoons or coffee cup on time. When one of us burns food accidentally, we don’t pray for our own safety. Instead we pray for the inefficiency of the smoke detector. I look at the small exhaust, the electric heat stove, the rarely used oven, the toaster that partially works and the silver platform that’s turning grey – This kitchen is as ordinary as it can be. I look at the people I am dining with. This kitchen is my favorite place. But this is not what you want to know either, is it?

How’s life in England? Whenever the sun shines outside my tiny window my heart swells with happiness and hope. And then I think of the pending work, my spinning head and my heart immediately sinks. My table is splashed with my clumsiness. I am running out of clean clothes to wear. The bedsheet of my bed is beginning to stink. The mattress has given me a permanent back ache but I love my tiny little corner. My cupboard is bare but surprisingly, I don’t hate my limited collection of clothes. I am slipping below the poverty line slowly but steadily. However, somehow I don’t hate my depleting financial state. I am not sure why I am here sometimes. To write life? To live life? Sometimes my room haunts me too – to make it more eerie, there are unexplained bruise marks on my limbs. My financial burden haunts me. My insecurity and uncertain future haunts me. My dreams haunt me. But I am here anyway, I guess, happily haunted.

Days in England – It was clear sky a second ago and it’s suddenly raining. And despite the unpredictable weather, I can safely predict that it would never rain when I do have an umbrella with me. The cloudy night sky is bit of a shame but at times when it is clear I can almost get lost among the diamonds shining above, along with the silhouettes of the trees caressing the edges of the river. And then there’s the moon. The same moon I wrote a letter to saying that I would do what I love to do and in some surreal way I am still keeping that promise. I like to picture myself looking at this satellite somewhere someday in the future and instead of the moon, I like to believe that I would be looking at my own present self. We would briefly acknowledge each other, smile and whisper, “It is going to be alright.” The moon is my imaginary time travelling machine. When I look at it now, I suddenly see myself searching for it through the clusters of buildings back in Vadodara or strolling under the moonlight through the peaceful beaches of Goa during my final undergraduate year or picturing nose or eyes on it during my kindergarten days.

How’s my life? Each day I am going older. Each day I am learning something new. Though I can’t specifically point out the change but I can still feel a certain kind of novelty running through my blood. Life in England – It’s the walks among the pretty homes in red bricks. It’s playing with the amber leaves lining the footpaths. It’s being marvelled by the sparrows with orange necks. It’s walking through the trails lining the river. It’s catching a brief experience of forest and making an escape from urban life during those walks. Living here is modern and ancient at the same time. I am simultaneously falling in love in Swedish beer and cutting masala chai found in the streets of India. I am simultaneously falling in love with butter croissant and Latte and also with freshly cooked potato paratha made by my mother back home. I am amazed by the quiet and peaceful locality but at the same time I sometimes miss the crowd and the cacophony as well.

It’s writing, so much writing, reading, scribbling, dancing, drinking and being terrified of the fact that these days are disappearing much faster than they should and also the fact that I would miss this more terribly than I can ever imagine. My life in England? Well, honestly, life seems to be chasing me instead of I chasing it for a change. At first it was overwhelmingly surreal. Now, it’s overwhelmingly busy. Like the gas compressed in a cylinder, it seems like a whole lifetime has been squeezed into a couple of months. Weeks are long but yet they fly by. And sometimes all I do is breathe and watch yet another sun explode into thousands of shades of Crimson and Magenta and all those hues that I can’t even name.

“So, how’s life in England?” My phone is still beeping with that whatsapp message.
“Good.” I text back.

An Ode to the Deadlines

So long I had postponed
Owing to the mispositions of stars
Or maybe just the urgency to complete utterly unnecessary tasks
A day after another after another after another
Until you came finally,
As you had, once upon a forgotten time, forewarned
So, here’s to the panic
to the parade of chaos that you have brought along
to the adrenaline rush
to the songs of forbidden words
to the regret of wasted yesterdays
No, no prayer is to be sung to the goddess of procrastination today,
No! Don’t you dare, you treacherous mind…
Today isn’t a good day
Today is the DEADLINE!
The day where the work of 10 months is compressed in 72 hours
So, here’s to the supernatural productivity
To the last minute shortcuts
To the funny gods
To the funnier prayers
To the fake promises
To a distant dream of equal work division over time
Commutimism as they call it
And finally to completion of the since long incompleted
Scribbled, battered, stitched along the odd edges
Ugly, with gruesome scars of laziness
But who cares about the beauty though?
At least the end is here.
We will start the next project tomorrow.
Or maybe the tomorrow after tomorrow
Or the tomorrow after that
But for now, we are done.
Ready to repeat our mistake all over again
With a false and yet believable hope let’s completely forget the stress and pain,
Of course, we are going to be alright,
As long as we celebrate the ending and not the perfection
My lazy ‘this-would-do-just-fine’ success brought by an odd hero of mine,
What would I do without you my beloved deadline?

***