of the summer of ’89 (Part 1)

I can’t remember which month it was, but let’s say that it was June. I was outside on the streets in Sarojini Nagar, playing with little boys and girls my age. I’d say they were my friends, but they most probably weren’t because I didn’t have any. (Except for Gautam, who stopped talking to me after I broke his tooth.)

Anyway. I was outside playing with other children in the colony when he arrived with his ice-cream cart. I stood transfixed as the ball went rolling past me and the children screamed. Kya kar rahi hai? Ball pakad pagal! What the fuck are you doing? Get the ball, you moron!

Teri wajah se haare hain hum aaj rang in my ears as the other team did a victory dance. We lost because of you. The crowd dispersed. Kal se hum ni khelre iske saath. We’re not playing with her anymore.

I didn’t care. I just stood there, looking at Nitu didi as she unwrapped her ice-cream, revealing a Mango Duet (the most glorious treat I’ve ever had) and threw the wrapper carelessly on the road.

I licked my parched lips. She saw, and my already sunburned face felt like it was on fire.

Khayegi? Want some?

I nodded.

She split one of the duet sticks and handed me a singlet.

I went home happy, unperturbed about the other children not wanting to play with me. I was greeted by my mother at the door. She looked angry. Beta, agar ice cream khani thi to humein bola kyon nahin? If you wanted an ice cream, why didn’t you just say so?

I wanted to say something but the shame rising through my oesophagus choked me until lava-hot tears sluiced out. Though she never said it out loud, I felt like I was pure evil and had somehow let her down.

I shot a look at my father. He looked like he disapproved too. Aage se kisi se kuch nahin maangna, he said. I had just learned my first life lesson. Don’t ever ask anyone for anything.


Do you remember your first life lesson? Where were you in 1989? Have you ever had the Mango Duet?

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of motherhood

Your baby? She asks, visibly amused.

You’re beaming with pride as you talk. Yes, my baby. I am the one who tells him bedtime stories, wakes him up with kisses and irons his clothes and cooks for him and packs his school bag and helps him with homework and goes to his PTA meetings. I am the one who hand-painted the t-shirt he’s wearing right now. I am the one he comes to with bruises on his knees. I’m the one he counts on to protect him, you know. So yes, he is my baby more than he’s yours. Continue reading of motherhood

of hope

So the fiancé met my parents yesterday. I’d like to think it went well, considering the warmth with which he hugged my father before he left, but it didn’t start that nicely.

I’ve never really thought much of my parents, and don’t get along with them at all. Mom was basically away a lot; she was (still is, actually) a struggling actor, which, by the way, I would happily give an eye and an arm to be. The thing is, she was really good and deserved more chances than she got, and I always sympathized with her on that front. The trouble is, she is always play-acting, and will mostly choose from among the following parts: Continue reading of hope

of hangups

You remember how, when you were young, calendars were meant to be hung on the wall. You liked being the one to see it first – to check if they had mountains, or flowers or deities on them. You always hated the ones with the deities; the house was full of their pictures anyway!
As soon as a new calendar arrived, you’d turn to February. Your birth month. The picture on this one was always the best. Next, you’d go to October. Your brother’s birth month. You’d show it to him, but he would be unimpressed. He didn’t care much for calendars anyway.
Dadi would look for a clean spot on the wall in the kitchen and hang it there, out of your reach. You’d loiter around for a while, but eventually forget all about it.
At the beginning of every month, dadi would take you to the kitchen, where the calendar was hung. Smiling, she’d tear out the first page from the calendar, almost in slow motion. She’d look at you intently as she gave you that old, yellowing month, stained with turmeric and oil and memories. You’d hold the sheet in your hands, look at the new, glossy picture that had just been revealed, and wink gleefully.

Continue reading of hangups

of wanting more

One dull day

at the heels of another.

Months pass.

Come September, and you know.

You want more of everything

I love you said less often

but meant just a little more;

lilies bought;

phone calls made for no reason,

breakfasts made before you wake.

Each of your thousand expressions captured

in pictures all over the wall –

smiles and frowns and questions alike.

More memories of closeness,

and a baby’s kick beneath your hand.

You deserve all this, and more.