On being skinny

People never stop reminding me how skinny I am. Often it’s the first thing they say when they meet me. That’s brand new information ma’am, thank you. People often assume that I don’t eat and offer me to stay and eat with them for a month or two in the name of goodwill. They sound very concerned as if making me fat is the only way to stop global warming. They sound very confident as if eating with them is miraculously going to change the way my body functions. I hesitate to go for lunch/dinner with such people because they are quick to point out – Look how little you eat! That’s why you are so thin! Here have some more. And more. And more. Because this one gigantic hugely uncomfortable dinner can obviously do what 9125 dinners in my life so far couldn’t.

Some people go on to suggest that I would look so much better if I just start eating bananas and milk every morning. Thank you for pointing out I am ugly. Some people ask me if I go to the gym. Some people ask why I should go to the gym at all (as I obviously don’t need to do). Some people say that they are jealous of how I don’t ever have to worry about my weight. Such a blessing, they are quick to add, you can eat whatever you want and still not gain a gram? Wish I was like you! Being like me means being called a skeleton, a coat hanger, a feather, and a stick figure. Some people also like to call me two dimensional. Some people assume I am sick and weak. I have grown up with these wonderful tags. Not just random strangers, my own family has used them for me.

But skinny girls don’t talk about being skinny because if they do, they are a bitch.

People with an average sense of humour remind me that I might disappear soon. People who once aspired to be doctors but ended up being dentists call me ‘malnourished’. Some people defend me by throwing terms like ‘high metabolism’. I don’t quite understand that and I am sure neither do they. Some people recommend I should take protein. I recommend they should fuck off. Some people think I should be a model. I think they should not be career counsellors. People who want to show off their above-average vocabulary call me ‘anorexic’. I want to show off my creative vocabulary and call them dumbtards.

For twenty five years, I have listened to the same shit wondering what the hell is wrong with my body. And God knows how long this is going to continue.

Listen buddy, I have tried eating more. It doesn’t work. Bananas give me headaches. Artificial protein is exactly what it is – artificial. Being skinny is not a blessing. And yes, I am underweight. I KNOW THAT. But did you notice that I am functioning fine? Hey! I am happy. I don’t get why you are so bothered. So instead of criticizing me why don’t you appreciate your own beautiful three-dimensional body, and get a fucking life. Comprenez?

The Absurd Struggles of a Writer

When I told my mother that I wanted to be a writer, I expected some kind of disagreement. She was not very delighted but she wasn’t angry either. I got a modest and an are-you-sure okay and soon we both forgot about it. Somehow, sluggishly, I finished college and I obtained a degree that said I was an Electrical Engineer.

Even though I had told a few people that I wanted to be a writer I wasn’t really serious about it. I fantasized about it yes –  Living in a big new strange city, lost and lonely among millions; I am sleeping on the pavements, cold, helpless and yet the fire in my heart kindles and I dream and I dream. Often I don’t eat, often I forget to eat, my writing is all that is and all that will be. I stay in my miserable room devouring two-three books I have, day and night, again and again. But those few books are my life. War and Peace, Madame Bovary, The Ulysses, and oh how I read! Like a demon. My room is built with bricks and rejection mails. And still, I breathe. And still, I write. No one in my family is talking to me. I have no friends. The fumes of my cigarettes and a glass half filled with cheap warm whiskey are my only companions. Yes, it is hard. It is so difficult that almost all kinds of poetry make sense to me. But I am on my way to be a great writer.

The reality, however, is that after graduating out of college I joined a company. We manufactured switchgear, did our bit in providing safe electricity to people. It was a normal 9 to 5 (or 7 or 9 or sometimes 10) job, which I grew to hate within two months. But I could have continued doing it for the rest of my life if it wasn’t for my family.

‘You don’t deserve such a job,’ my mother used to tell me. ‘You should do something else. Do you have anything in mind?’
In my mind, there was a dream that I never thought could ever come true.
‘I don’t know’
‘How about MBA?’ she asked.
Another trending degree that I am actually not interested in studying but I may get a better paying job with it so yeah why not.
A day later, she called me again, ‘How about English?’
That would be wonderful! Wait, what?

No, Ma, you are supposed to force me into choosing a ‘practical’ degree.
You are supposed to be an antagonist so that I could be a protagonist.
You are supposed to say things like – ‘Just because a few odd people praised your writing that doesn’t mean you could be a writer!’  Then I am supposed to leave home, burning with fury and ambition and say stuff like, ‘Oh but you are wrong Ma. I am leaving now. Forever.’ And out of this tragedy, a great writer shall emerge.

‘Why not study writing if you like writing so much?’, my mother told me instead.
You are supposed to resist my dream. You are not supposed to make it your own. What’s wrong with you! What kind of broad-minded dreamy mother are you who sends her daughter to study creative writing all the way to England?

They say that artists live wretched lives. They say they have the worst family. And that somehow contributes to their genius. I have a decent life, a supportive family, so does that mean I am disqualified?

And I wonder…

Do I really need to be Charles Bukowski or is it okay to be the way I am and still be a good writer? I don’t smoke cigarettes and I don’t drink cheap warm whiskey. I haven’t read War and Peace. And no, most poems still don’t make sense to me. Sometimes my own poems don’t make sense to me. I live in a decent apartment. I don’t have money in my bank account but I can’t call myself poor. I can afford to buy books. I have Kindle, Netflix subscription (which I just canceled), and a car to go to the nearby library (which I never drive because I don’t know how to drive). Such is my writing life – not ideal but still privileged, and the only real hurdles I face are mental. Hurdles like questioning whether I am actually a writer if I haven’t struggled enough to ‘know the reality of life’. Hurdles like – Can I ever stop wondering what life would have been as an engineer? As a management student? Can I really be at peace knowing how my social rankings have slipped now that I have switched to humanities, that I can no longer consider myself ‘smart’, that Engineering to me is just a paper in my folder, that I have no knowledge regarding that field anymore, that I never really had any, that I have no idea what I am doing right now, did I ever have any such idea, does anyone have any idea, that I am not designing any kind of artificial intelligence, but I am sitting here writing a dumb book. But I love writing that dumb book. So shut up.

*

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

An unnecessarily guilty glance

I  am waiting outside the juice shop, thirsty and tired, putting an enormous amount of expectation on a tiny glass of sugarcane juice that is yet to be served. My face is smeared  in pink and yellow and some other weird combinations. My arms are still tingling from what could have been a regretful sunburn after a long celebratory drive back to our city, to this shop.Despite the brutal tanning and dehydration, I can’t help but feel elated. And why not? I am drenched in festivity! How I adore this festival of hues! This craziness!

I am at my usual lost-in-thought state when I feel a light tug on my elbow – ‘Behen O Behen! Le Lona’

Annoyed, I turn around. A little girl is trying to sell Gulal to me.

I look at the packets of colours in her hands and I know I shouldn’t buy them. Those are the kinds of colours that should be kept away from your skin at all cost unless you happen to like rashes.I am tempted anyway. It’s Holi after all! Everyone needs to celebrate today! But before I could know it, I have dropped the idea again – Nahi, bacche, nahi chahiye. No child, I don’t want it.

Lelona. Please? – She requests again.

You can call her a beautiful child if you look at her carefully; Her brown eyes, that goes with her brown complexion, her perfectly aligned teeth, her straight thin nose and the innocence in her voice.I have come down to my knees. My fingers are now fondling with colours inside the packet I have. No, I can’t buy the so-called Gulal from her and I won’t. It is against my easily adaptable principles. But I paint both her cheeks green and greet her a happy Holi.

She is surprised. A smile brightens up her face. Suddenly, she forgets why she is even here! I offer her my cheek. She dips her small fingers in my packet and slather the colour over my face. Now, I am heavily dusted in green as well. Her smile has broadened. No one has ever seemed so happy just with these small gestures before.

I am smiling too. I try to feed in the details of her happy face in my head.You,little girl,are such a delightful lovely poem that I can’t even pen you down. Maybe someday when I am worth and capable of putting your beauty in words, I will. But for now, I still can’t buy these packets of pity from you that you still hold in your hands, that you are still going to try to sell to other prospective buyers a few minutes from now. And though you are still smiling at me and you don’t even want my money anymore, I just find myself letting out an inaudible and invisible murmur  – ‘I am sorry’.I know that you are not asking for my apology. You don’t want it. Actually, it’s I who really needs it – as a futile attempt to pacify my own confused conscience. I am sorry because I don’t think you deserve this. I am sorry because I can’t help you escape the circumstances you have been born in. I can’t save you from your parents making you sell these packets. I can’t send you to school and I can’t teach you either. And neither can I ever take responsibility for your better childhood or better future. Not that there is no way for achieving any of this, it’s just that I am lazy and I am running short of efforts to uplift my own life. Looking at you, I raise those never-to-be-answered questions to my fate again. Why you? Why me? They aren’t answered of course. As usual, they turn their backs on me. And then I turn my back on you after one last cheerful, apologetic and perhaps an unnecessarily guilty glance.