Sunday, August 7, 2016

When I was made a scapegoat

Prompt: Promise (Used in a sentence)
Pic: Pixabay
It was just another weekday afternoon. Arched my neck, like a dressed chicken twisted in the sink, I felt my oesophagus strain. Staring at the roof, I rotated my eyes and shut tight to see ripples of white. "Look far ahead from time to time," the doctor had said. "Blink at regular intervals." Dilated and supple, I plucked off the last strand of resolve to see the copy evolve. How the hell can people who can't spell their own names correctly be called reporters? Editing is thankless a job. It only pays bills. All types of bills, but. Thank God for that. 

Back from a coffee break, the newsroom seemed pregnant. Suddenly. Full blown in pin-drop silence.  An almost every-week affair. Someone is delivered. Delivered of their alleged sins, when a reader complains. Chief Editor thunders. One of the staff goofs up. All are warned. Someone is questioned. Someone else is suspended. News reel runs. Edition is out. Following morning is another day. Amen.
"Nisha, can I have a word with you," I heard the Editor.
"How did this story go to press?" he pushed the paper in front of me.
"You approved it at yesterday's editorial meet..."
"But, Nisha. Not this version."
"Of course, yes..."
"Listen, to me. You were not paying attention. I had said, read carefully before using it."
"I had my doubts on this copy. That's why I brought up the matter at the meeting and you said, it's ok to go..." I tried replaying the previous day's conversation.

I could sense the looming dagger come my way. In fact, it was already sent out my way. It was only a matter of time  - time for me to decide where I allowed it to pierce into me. 

The Editor continued: "Well, the Chief is boiling. The ministry is involved. He wants to know who was in-charge of the shift yesterday. But don't worry, I'll handle it. Relax."

"I'll speak to the Chief..." I got up.

"No. no. no. no. Not now," the Editor jumped up. "You are walking into a hungry lion's den. Leave it to me. I'll handle it. He'll calm down in a while," he winked. "You get back to work."

"It's better to resolve the issue right away. Lemme go speak."

"Nisha, Don't you trust me. I know the Chief better than you. He would be at his wits end now. Do you want to get yourself in trouble?."

The Editor sat me down, looking into my eyes, he said, "I want to save you his wrath and the HR issues that may follow. Your promotion is due. We need to be prudent now. Leave it to me."


"I promise you, I'll keep you out of trouble."

"But...how am I accountable!!"

"Get back to work, Nisha."

Did I need a hoodie walking back to my desk? Colleagues dropped their heads, peered their eyes on screen. It wasn't in solidarity. Yet it was to help me bear the assumed pain with dignity. To deliver themselves of innocence. Did the coffee break bring up this shame on me? Being at the wrong place at the right time... whoever said was right. 

Mind didn't allign with work at hand. Ears sensitive. Eyes sharp. I saw the Editor walk into the Chief's cabin a little later. Unpleasant glances once again darted across the room. Some walked out cigarettes in hand. Solve the jigsaw puzzle, idiots. 

The Editor walked towards me. "Chief’s agitated. Wants me to shoot a warning letter, copy to HR immediately."

"But what did I do, what's my fault, I had told you the story is sensitive, how am I responsi...."

"Relax Nisha. Let me complete. I told him it's collective responsibility."

"How is it collective responsibility!!! You approve stories. I asked you yeste..."

"Nisha, Nisha, relax. It’s all taken care of. You see, there is a way of handling him. I know him for the last 15 years. Relax. Consider the issue is closed."

"Are you sure," I asked, shamelessly and yet relieved.

"I promised you that I'll sort it out." I was confused. Something didn't seem right still.

"Hello, relax. It's over." He walked away. 

I heard the voice. The other voice. Inside me. Crawling all outside me. "Get your arse up and speak to the Chief." Heart thumped. Bowel rumbled. I hurried to the washroom. 

Now, I felt hungry. Tension breeds on hunger. Canteen is the best place to de-stress. As I snacked on a carrot cake, I heard the voice. That unsettling bark of a rumble. "You should not have taken that story, Nisha." The Chief. 

"I'm sor...y.."

He walked with his plate to another table. 

"Get your asre up, now. Go. He's alone. Speak." The other voice screamed inside me.

Cheated. Abused. Shame wrenching from within, I hurried, this time to weep on the closet, locked in the toilet.

Through the haze of tears, I made a promise to myself - 'I am getting out of this place at the earliest'.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Tummy folds are okay

Prompt: Wishful thinking (Used in a sentence) 
3 inches down, few more to go!
The next time I hear a woman cry about how she puts on around her waist, I’m slapping myself tight. 

Yes. You read right. Myself!.
I was just like my typical ilk… ‘Gosh! all I eat settles only on my waist!’ ‘It’s next-to-impossible to shirk off the cellulite in the middle!’ ‘I’ve put-on you see, can’t get into any of my trousers breathing...”
April 2016, rummaging through my wardrobe I found one of my favourite kurtis. A closed-neck, long-sleeved one, I had kept aside to be worn with red palazzo. But when I finally got my red bottom, my middle looked like a toad. I had put on about 5 kilos during last year, all of which I saw only on my tummy folds.
Determined to flatten it out, I set a deadline. June – 2 months from that morning – I’ll cut my birthday cake in the black-n-red combo.
"Wishful thinking mama," cautioned my girl.
"Nope. This is confidence, darling. This is determination. Have you heard, where there is a will there is a way? I'll show you."
I did crunches and planks alternatively every morning. Walked 30 min 5 days a week. Cut down carbs and ate nothing solid post 6.30pm.
Week 1 - Nothing changed.
Week 2 - The scales weighed half-a-kg less and I had an adrenalin rush.
Week 3 - Was my time out. I was parked on the bench.
Week 4 - The scales discovered the lost half-kg .
Week 5 - I limped back to renewed routine.
With less than 25 days to go, I was desperate now. I kicked the weighing scale out of my sight. Concentrating only on the tummy, I gave up on sugar totally. And took to crunches like duck to water. Three times a day, 15 minutes each.
Two days before my birthday, I gingerly got into my black, full-sleeved beauty.
I jumped with joy. I had lost about 3 inches. The big, fat toad had but almost disappeared from my middle. Now, possibly a small tadpole whooshed around.
I rushed myself into the red palazzo. I felt so light. Took a selfie and Whatsapp-ed Sanjeev. Look, look, look...Your gorgeous wifey, I captioned it, too.
I was enjoying the dress rehearsal, planning my birthday celebration, when the phone buzzed.
"So you did manage to lose a few inches, yea," Sanjeev on line.
"I only need to decide, and it's done," I finished with a throaty laugh.
"Are you still in the dress?"
"Yea. I just don't feel like stepping out of it."
"Did you try doing the buttons?"
"Oh, All you see is only boobs. Didn't you notice the fit now, isn't it slightly better?"
"Try buttoning it up. A little stomach is okay, bust-gaping no."
I cut the line. Threw the phone.
That evening, the husband asked his side-kick, "Mama's birthday is here, beta. How about buying her an outfit?"
"Oh, yea, btw, what happened mama? Did you try your amazing, awesome, black-n-red birthday suit?"
"Yes, miss creep. I did. I lost a good 3 inches. But I am not wearing it yet. My dress. My birthday. My decision what to wear. Clear?"
"Why you angry?” And she whispers, “Papu! What? Not fitting?" 

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Friday, August 5, 2016

Mom's verse

Prompt: Tiny shoes (used in sentence)
Pic: Pixabay
Quite a handsome, a well-built young man – father anew

Thrilled in joy was confused to see the world in one view

Delivered his wife, two cute sunny girls

Knew not he what to do, so swirled her in whirls

Costliest sweets of taste he distributed to palate

Cashless-ness he forcibly closed in his wallet.


Temples he rushed to thank the Gods and fulfill vows

His wife teased, double the vows for the surprise pack given

In letters he informed one and all, enemies alike.

Home he bought pretty frills and tiny shoes in pairs

Leave he took to change nappies tirelessly

For vaccinations and drops he alternatively rocked them

Songs he learnt to sing, at times his own surprised him


…..Twenty-five was he, touching his mother’s feet for blessings

For work he strode to a private firm, as a sincere clerk he shone

Heart his was hollow where the boss’s secretary slipped in to fill

Only to end at the coffee table, didn’t even vomit his feelings once


His mother chose him the horoscope and demanded his happiness

While he set day dreaming planning excuses to glimpse her

Marriage was contending to both families, their hush-hush revealed

On the first night he declared his crush to his beloved

Washing himself clean of his past, he sought her love

It’s she all he wanted and chose a farthest hill resort

Morning he woke up late, home he returned early

Office mates tired of her culinary skills

Stopped complimenting him on putting on weight

Dreams they dreamt together, plans they promised each other

Scooping each other’s heart buoyant they reveled in eternity….


Itched her nose, his mother’s roof split

Apple of her eye for months turned evil a soul

Reverend mother’s hand dominated and age-old wisdom filled his ears

‘No noble family has girls begot to first inherit

One girl I could bear, but two what will our ancestors say!’

His annoyance rose, her voice calling his sweetheart’s attention

From generation gap and orthodoxy to ‘it’s our life’ exploded his patience

Feminine tears welled even as blackmail rattled and he chose to hold his love

‘He is a small boy, how could he know better!’ concluded the I-know-it-all mother as she planned her scheme

Sweet was she on the twenty-eighth day celebration of the kids

Family and friends blessed the couple, ate and left

But later that day he heard shrieks

Rushed inside to see his wife wail in pain

Their bundles of joy puking blood, they hurried in panic

Doctors struggled for hours on the tiny bodies and declared

‘You arrived on time, but how did such poison enter their body?’

He went home straight, packed his bags and bid his mom good bye

Before he walked out, he faced the old woman, looked her in the eye

And said, ‘Don’t worry, kids are fine, possibly swallowed some dirt’.

As he touched her feet seeking her blessings, he prayed

‘O Lord, please forgive my mom for she knows no better’!

"Don't go my son, she wailed. I am alone, don't you know"


Three months later, he rushed to a call, wife in tow

He made his way amid people gathered around the well

They lifted her bloated body

From inside his mom's palms, grasped tight to her bosom

He retrieved two tiny shoes!

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

She never gets caught

Prompt: Caught red-handed (Used in sentence) 

Pic: Pixabay
The matriarch opened the gate leaning on her walking stick, and limbed her way to the portico easy chair, which Appu, her younger brother, vacated for her. 

It was daily morning routine for 75-year-old Savithri. After her breakfast, she slowly set out to her brother's home across the street, to check on their matters.  

“Tch, what a man is he to allow his daughter dress like that. And what had she done to her hair, colour it like a cock?” Savithiri scorned as she lowered into the chair.

“Whom are you talking about, akka,’ asked Appu, the newly-retired public servant, who never once cross-questioned his eldest sister. If she was wrong, he ignored and expected his family to do so. If she was grossly wrong, he taught them to forgive her. That was his way of respecting his eldest sister.
“Our nephew, who else. His wife has no sense. Shouldn’t he advice her on such matters. Vulgarity in the name of fashion. Haven’t we brought up our daughters too. And aren’t they leading decent lives now?”
“She’s a young girl; just 17 years old. Let her…” said Girija, the old woman’s sister-in-law, and swallowed the rest of the sentence, no sooner than she caught the how-dare-you-contradict-my-elder-sister look in her husband’s eyes.
“But where does his wife have the time. Now she’s begun a new thing - kitty parties. Useless and dumb women of her street gather and gossip. What all more will I have to see, O Lord, in the name of modernity!”

“I’ve heard they practise yoga, akka. Isn’t that a nice thing,” Girija said.

“What nice thing? If your heart is clean, you’ll be at peace. No amount of yoga will help if you if you only have evil in your mind. And if at all she’s doing it, I bet it’s to show she’s keeping up with the trend. Modern, you know! uh! There’s nothing like doing one’s household chores with dedication. It’s a medicine and therapy in itself — from sweeping to cooking and washing and teaching kids. It’ll keep you fit as a fiddle.”

Girija, tactfully took leave of the brother-sister duo and went to the kitchen “to clean fish, else the crows will savour them for lunch.” She squatted down on the backyard steps with an earthen vessel of fish and a knife, murmuring, “has no better work but discipline all and sundry. At this age instead of sitting at home and reading the Geetha, she’s out to gossip. Can’t tolerate anybody leading a good life...”
“What fish did you get today?”
Oh, just after my life…“It’s Tilopia, akka. Fresh catch. He gave me this vessel full for just Rs.20.”

“Where’s your daughter-in-law?”

"She’s studying, akka. Her final semester exams are round the corner.”

“Listen Girija, once a girl is married, her first priority should be to help in the kitchen. Does she plan to work, when she joins your son in Australia?”

So that’s the purpose of this morning’s visit - to take on that innocent girl.
"Where does she go early morning these days. I see her on her scooty going north."

"Oh! She's joined the gym here akka. She goes there in the morning."

“Why? Why can't she help you with house work. Sweep the garden, this courtyard. Isn't that physical work? Spending money simply on gym. Does she even know anything? What work will she have in Australia when she joins your son? Caged in a flat."

“Doesn’t she have the whole life to do house work, akka?”

“Well, spoil her. Don’t forget, your son will suffer,” she said and turned to leave, saying, “Let me go, it’s 11 am, a new serial has begun since yesterday. It’s good. Ahaa! it’s so difficult to cross your road now. That’ll take me another 10 minutes. I’m surely going to miss the first part.”

What my road?

“Why don’t you watch it here, akka? I’ll switch on the TV for you.”

“There’s no clarity on your set.”

“Wait a minute, I’ll just wash my hands and join you,” said Girija. 

Asking her husband to check the curry on the stove, she helped her elderly sister-in-law put on her slippers, and helped her cross the road to reach her home across the street, when her granddaughter came running to her with a paper kite. 

“Oh, Poornima was here. When did she come?” asked Girija.

"Her father drops her here every alternate morning for two hours. Didn’t I tell you? Oh, yes I had mentioned this to Appu. Her parents have joined a fitness centre. They go thrice a week. My daughter and son-in-law are very health conscious, you know,” explained the matriarch with pride.

Uh! Shameless. Even when caught red-handed, she's never red in the face!

What are you murmuring Girija. Talk loudly to me. I am short of hearing these days."

"Nothing akka, wondering how age thickens our skin!"

"What! It's so noisy here. Your home is quieter."

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The cabbie drives on…

Prompt: Fragile Lives (Used in sentence)

Life is beautiful! I sincerely believe. There are plenty of awesome people, loving souls, provided you are open to attracting them into your life. The more you learn to trust the ways of the Universe and have faith in the Divine, the more wonderful people will walk into your space.
When my driver went on an emergency, I was stranded. Getting to work on time became a task. I had to re-adjust my morning schedule in order to "waste" those extra minutes waiting on the road to flag down a cab.
But lo! I hailed the same cab on three consecutive days. The cabbie was as surprised as me. On the fourth day, we exchanged numbers and now he drives me to and from work every single day. He waits patiently if my meetings run late, offers me soft drinks, switches off the meter if the traffic builds up, seeks my advice on gifts for his teenager... he's become like family. Just like my driver, who has gone to nurse his ailing wife, and calls me every week from Pakistan updating me of his situation and never once forgetting to ask me about Diya and conveying his regards to Sanjeev.
Recently, one day, I caught my effervescent and cheerful new cabbie friend, quiet. Almost sullen. On me pestering him, he opened up.
In his own words...
"Today, it's three years, madam. On the evening of May 14, 2013, I reached home. My wife and children were waiting for me. My old mother also came out to greet me. She can't walk, but she was standing beside me all the time, I was talking to men from the neighbourhood.
"It was 9pm, by the time the house was empty. Then I had a shower and had dinner and slept off. I was very tired madam. The previous night I had not slept, was packing and friends coming over. Then the four-hour drive from the airport. I somehow managed to unpack and give the toys to me youngest son. I told my daughters I will give them their gifts in the morning.
"Morning, my wife woke me up with tea. That's when I realised, I did not speak even a word to her. I didn't even know when she closed the kitchen and joined me at night. I asked her to sit down, but she said that she was very busy. She had a lot of work that day madam. Two goats were purchased to celebrate my home-coming. She had to oversee all the preparations. It's tradition in our place, madam, when we go home all our relatives - men, women and kids, come to greet us.
"It was a feast that day. Houseful. Like a wedding day. Most of the people had stayed back for dinner, too. I distributed all the chocolates and perfumes to the women and kids. Gave money to elders. Everyone left happy. My mother was proud. I could see it in her eyes, madam. At last, at about 10pm, I had some time to myself. I took out the Rolex watch, I bought for my wife, and hid it underneath the pillow. I couldn't wait to see her surprise, when I give her.
"I waited till 12, and she didn't come. So I went looking for her. Our youngest son had a fall, and she was attending to him. I said, "I'm waiting for you. Come fast," and I returned to our room.
"I fell asleep, madam. When I woke up, she was lying beside me. She was awake. I sat up. She didn't speak. I thought she was tired. So I lifted her up on my lap. I asked her to guess what gift I got her. But she was silent, madam. I just held her. After all, she had such a hectic day."
He felt silent at this point. And I let him be. After a few minutes, he continued...
"Then she said, she is uncomfortable. I asked her what problem she is having and she said she can't breathe. That's when I noticed madam, for the first time, her eyes were not bright. Her face was pale. I shouted. I called for my brother. My younger brother heard me and came in. I asked him to call our friend who has a car. Fast I urged him to run and fetch the vehicle.
"She went off madam. In my lap. In my hands, she went off. I didn't even speak to her in peace."
"Was she suffering from some..."
"Nothing madam," he replied before I could finish the question. "She was healthy. Very beautiful. Not like women here, madam. No make-up shake-up. So beautiful she was, natural beauty. She was excited about me going. She had so many plans. We are all balanced on a delicate breath. Fragile lives! As long as you can hold it in you are alive..."
God Bless him!

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Why I love male colleagues better

Prompt: What you don't know (Used in sentence)
Pic: Pixabay

When I landed in Dubai, 17 years ago, apart from adapting to the new work genre, I also struggled to ‘fit-in’. If learning the trade of logistics was hard enough, then I wobbled finding my trendy feet. And because I was determined to hold my nose high up in the air, it was a tight-rope walk atop slippery ice.

Hiding my weakness was my strength, then. What you don't know, stove it under the carpet - was my foolish mantra. I was NOT this me. I doubt if I even had an iota of the current me inside myself then. But, then, if I knew what I know now, I would not be what I am now. Okays?

Well, we had among us one Indian female, a prima donna I called her (only in my head). When we greeted one another with a good morning, she would walk-in, bouncing off her tresses from one side of her shoulder to the other and rubbing her derriere, "hey, is the line showing!" She was one panty-obsessed woman. She had such knowledge about the different brands, the texture, cut and fit of undies, I initially wondered if she was a lingerie sales woman before.

But soon, I garnered she was one helluva detail-conscious nerd about anything personal. She smelled tea but did not drink it; nibbled on pizza but did not bite into it; bought chocolates but distributed it... she only had carrot juice for breakfast, fruits for lunch and salads for dinner. Liar! She might be hogging before she comes to work, I thought.

Every Sunday morning, she hopped on to the weighing machine naked and measured her waist with her tattered school belt!

One day she wanted to treat us. We joined her on one condition that she would EAT. Eat a proper meal. So, the two men and four women of our team headed to a Thai restaurant. It was my first time. I mimicked an order placed by the luminary herself.

“Omg! Such thick chillies!” I exclaimed when served.

Miss perfecto, seated right opposite me, giving me a smirk, delicately pricked into one thick green from her plate and maneuvered it between her painted lips in a manner that would put a classical dancer to shame.

“Too much spice is not good for your tummy!” I advised, impatient to share my knowledge.

Pricking into another, she announced, “This is asparagus, Nisha. Loaded with vitamins. A healthy green,” she swirled her jaws, “Umm…I… love… it!”

The women laughed, as if they were born on asparagus beds. One of the men said, “It’s a tasteless stem, don’t bother eating Nisha.” The other changed the topic instantly.

This is why I love men!

But I loved myself more, even then. So I was determined to bite even.

“We should have ordered bro-co-li soup,” I chimed as best as I could.

“Anyone for broccoli soup,” announced Miss Perfecto, into my eyeballs, “Bro-Co-li flushes out E-Co-li off your system.”

Thanks to her, I took to studying phonetics with a vengeance...and importantly I no more shy away from admitting what I don't know.

I am with Team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016

Monday, August 1, 2016

I saw him… and ate his leftovers

Prompt:  Stranger than Fiction (Used as theme)
The veranda where I saw him, all those years ago...
My aunt - a noble, humble soul, whose middle name ought to be prayer - made hot pazham puris (banana fritters) to celebrate my visit. O! yes, she's also the one who never tires cooking and feeding anyone who passes by her gate! No exagge...ra...tion...umm...okay, anyone who steps into her veranda.
By God! Now, you should trust me.
As I eagerly grabbed a piping hot piece off the plate, she sprung up shooing me away like she would a sly cat, "Aee," and pulled the plate by her side.
"I didn't offer them yet!" she hushed through rounded lips, reprimanding me. "Wait two minutes. Only two minutes, okay," and she rushed off with the plate to the puja room, where apart from a plethora of deities there was also my grandmother, grandfather and great grand-dad garlanded, staring at us.
Decades ago, I remember so vividly, I would trail this aunt like her shadow every time we went to our mom's ancestral home during summer holidays. She was the one who told me stories. That day, it was this aunt, who pacified a confused and frightened 8-year-old.
That morning, sitting in the backyard amid my four other aunts and grandma, listening to their talk and making paper boats, playing in the rain water, I looked up to see through the window a tall, old man in white kurta and dhothi walk past our front varenda.
I exclaimed, "Someone is at the door." My grandmom looked up at me and returned to chopping veggies.
"He just walked there, over there," I said pointing in the direction. None of my aunts paid me attention, either. Curiously, I steered away from the noisy group of women, walked all the way through the inner kitchen, the store room, dining hall, the winding inner corridor lined on either side by bedrooms, connecting the visitor's room to the hall and through to the varenda.
There was nobody.
I ran back to the backyard and announced, "Nobody's there. Where did he go."
"Who asked you to go and see, dear," queried my grandma. "He would have returned to the  kalerra (tomb - his resting place beside our home)."
"Wh..h..at!" Dropping the half-made paper boats off my petticoat, I ran to squat beside this aunt who was washing dishes. "I saw an old man entering our varenda. But when I went there, no one is there," I gasped out my fright.
"Nothing to fear mole (an endearment for daughter). That's our grandfather. He keeps walking around. He is here to protect us only, okay," she said reassuring me, like she just did tapping the cheeks of her now adult niece, "okay, now you can have it all".
Lost in thought as I stood wondering how my aunt has withstood the onslaught of time, unadulterated in her beliefs - I noticed a small tea cup in her hand. "Finish it all, okay." She ordered lovingly again.
"You offered them tea, too!"
"No mole, this is payasam (rice porridge)."
I grabbed the cup from her, "I didn't know you also made payasam."
"Don't have that. It won't have any taste," she said hurriedly taking the cup back from me. "It was offered no!"
"So"! I was now bewildered.
"They drank it no, mole. All of them had it," she explained matter-of-factly.
"Come on, kunjamma. This is the limits." I had to challenge her, at least now after all these years.
"Look at the level of payasam in the cup. It's the same as you had taken it inside," I pointed to her the dried top layer, "How can you say such ridiculous things!"
"Okay. You don't believe me. Taste it," she said, scooping a spoon from the cup and feeding me. "How does it taste?"
"It's awesome. Your magic is intact," I said honestly. She is one of the best cooks, I can vouch.
"Now, taste this," she said giving me another spoon-full from the pan on the stove. "How is this?"
"This is hot. That was cold." I replied.
"This is more sweet, isn't it [the one from the pan]. Taste both again," she forced me.
After the 5th round of tasting the payasam from the hot pan and the cold cup, I surrendered to my aunt. By God!

I am with team #CrimsonRush for the #BarAThon from 1st to 7th August 2016