Time, space and her

What happens when you fall for someone at a bookstore?

I wonder if books gossip about us later.

I shared time and space with her in that old book cafe.

The classic authors stood witness to our awkwardness.

We drank some tea, some ink,

and then some undercurrents of emotions.

We had everything but words.

Like lonely bats cutting the night in half,

our thoughts walked around the room in circles.

Our souls could defy gravity,

but our feet stumbled at the edges of conversation.

The words were supposed to be our seatbelts,

but we were already falling.

She shook her head and laughed a little,

And that was the poetry I’d never know how to write.

I could only float from one moment to the next,

and hope that she was there in all of them.

Drunk on the clusters of hope and desperation,

I opened one book and closed one self-doubt.

About time.

“May I”? He asked her finally.

“Sure,” she turned around and let him join her at the bar counter.

He ordered a drink. With a side glance, he watched her askance.

She was nodding her head to the tune of some song and was humming along with it .

She stirred her drink and smiled a little. She was conscious of him looking at her.

“You like The Smiths? They’re one of my favorites,” she lowered her head as she spoke.

“Yup. I like them,” He replied.

“And I like this time, specially.”

“What, 10 pm?” she had her eyebrows raised.

“No. The 80s.”

“Why so?”

“Because it was the best time.”

“Was? Hmm…” she looked at him from head to toe as if to study him and asked again, “Why so?”

“Well. You know, the rock music. People becoming more open-minded. Technology was changing. TVs and later, computers coming in…, and there was some innocence in these times” he scratched his head and continued speaking.

“In 90s, we had FRIENDS as well.”

“Well, that’s true. But then, no Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. No Twitter,” she responded.

“No virus pandemics either.” He completed.

“Wait a minute! How do you know about the social apps from the future?” He said with a surprised look.

“Well, you think you’re only one who can travel?” Her left eyebrow went up and down like a wave.

He smiled and the edges of their glasses kissed.


“I didn’t’ ask. What’s your favorite time?” He turned his chair to face hers.

“2040s.” she answered instantly.

“2040! Wow. I don’t get it. I keep coming back here for the love of simplicity and the tranquility of this time.”

“Why 2040s?” He stared at her.

“You’ll know.” She smiled and gulped down her drink.

He pondered over that for a minute before turning back to her.

“I do not see how a girl from the 80s be in love with 2040s. I mean I live in 2020. And It’s terrible.

I can only imagine how 2040…”

“It’s beautiful,” she interrupted. “And I like it precisely for the same reasons that you keep coming here for.”

“For ‘the simplicity of…?’ I don’t get it how 2040s can be beautiful.”

“Yup.” She stared at him for a few seconds before speaking. “It’s a different kind of beautiful to be honest.”

“Tell me more. I don’t think I can wait for ten long years to figure it out.” They both had pulled the chairs closer as he spoke.

“Ever heard of post-apocalyptic world?” She said.

“You mean there’s been a world war? The world’s come crushing down?” he almost kept his drink away.

“When was the last time the world was not crushing apart, eh?” she retorted.

“Agreed,” he said, still impatient to hear more.

She could sense his curiosity and decided to push him a bit more.

“Shots?” she tapped her fingers on the bar table and looked at him for an answer.

“I’m not getting more out of you that easily, am I?”

“Nope!” Her cheek sported dimples as she giggled.

He couldn’t miss them.

The shots were ordered.

“The 2040s isn’t perfect. But it’s closest to what we have imagined of going back to creating a perfect world.” She spoke while licking the aftertaste of vodka off her lips.

He rested his right elbow on the table and gave her all his attention.

She went on speaking as if on a momentum.

“The 2040s are changed times. Third-world-war means that we have pretty much damaged the painting of the world map. The technology has sunken deep into the black sea. The phone lines are dead. The internet is a distant dream. But owing to our character of adaptation, those who managed to make it through the night have learnt to survive under the new Sun. For the time that’s on our hands that is. It is in a way a utopian dream for us lovers and the artists. The borders have been smudged. Who is the refuge and who owns the burnt lands is a question as orphan as the small faces around.”

“Tell me more.” He was all ears.  

“What do you want to know?”

“Are people still fighting? Is living in the mountains back?” His questions were almost ready.

“The gunshots behind the mountains are slowly fading out. People have gathered from the lands afar and speak the common language of survival. Because what better than to swim together in the waters today that could drown us tomorrow? We light these little campfires in the corners of the lakes and sing the songs we thought we never will.”

“We? You mean you have friends?”

“Well, I did meet someone. He was singing this Bob Dylan song…” she snapped her fingers as if trying to recall something.

“Blowing in the wind?” he said rather confidently.

“Yes” she said cheerfully.

“He was humming that song while we sat there, and I warmed my hands at the flame. That’s my favorite memory from it.”

“That…that sounds interesting,” he replied while slowly getting lost in his thoughts.

She circled her forefinger around the edges of her glass and looked at him.

“What are you thinking?” She probed him.

“I’m thinking that I’ll be quite old by that time and you’ll probably come around.” He said getting up.

“Maybe you’ll have gray hair and all the wisdom of past years. Maybe you’ll sing me a song.”

He looked at her for a moment and said, “Maybe.”

They both wore their biggest smiles of that night.

He checked his watch and said, “I so want to ask you for your number. But you guys don’t have them yet, do you?”

“Don’t worry. You don’t need to exchange numbers when you have the same hiding place.”

“See you around!”



Let’s pick a black hole to plunge into,
Let’s tumble down into the black velvet sky.
Let’s spin around the planets as tiny specks,
Until we transcend the dimensions of space and time.
Inject sunsets into my arm,
Let me feel your rush.
Let me love you violently in the privacy of my heart.
Your rib cage holds an ocean,
It’s the night we drain this sea
And plant flowers on its floor.
I think you’ve become a planet yourself,
Which is why I keep orbiting you like a dead satellite.
Turn the stars back on,
Let the moonlight slice the years gone by.
A taste of the universe sits on your tongue,
Show me how many galaxies you hold in your mouth.
Pour me a thunderstorm or two on the rocks,
Let us riot against the time.
Let’s tumble down, down, and down into the black velvet sky.
It’s the night we become one with the cosmic sublime.


Poetry. She is a woman.
He ressurects her on nights that keep him awake.
She is his favourite garden dressed in black.
She drags him through the storm where the pretty things bloom.
She is made of all the sunsets he tried to evade.
She is an overdose of wildflowers stuffed in his chest.
She is his bruised knees and a pair of broken wings.
She tastes like his desires with a hint of bourbon .
They meet under the twinkle lights & he presses her against the bricks.
He caresses her like she’s his lifeline inscribed on a parchment.
She likes the way he calls her name with his hands around her neck.
She tells him things that petals confide to the Sun.
He can’t remember the first time her soul whispered to his. He knows she woke it.
But it hasn’t slept since.
Poetry. She is a woman.
A sunset chaser, star gazer.
A wide-eyed pretty little mess.

Hatred & Love


“Romance after the fight is the best romance in the world” is a pretty mashed up line now. And I do agree with it for starters. But what they don’t tell you is ‘why’. I think you have to look for the reasons in the fight. Hatred. Anger. The words themselves are so strong and the feelings so intense. I think it is the intensity of the fights that resides in our hearts, lurking like a molten lava challenging to be calmed down. You cannot. You could only channelize it. And what is the best stop apart from romance to get down at?

Call me crazy. Call me a lunatic. But I feel I am equally in love with her while she is screaming at the top of her voice and am trying to subdue it with my husky (clears throat) one. I think I’m oddly drawn to her flushed cheeks and her fuming eyes. I do not think I love her any less even when we are fighting. And the secret is neither does she. The anger burning in her tone only  tells me how much she believes that she owns me and cannot settle down to agree with any disagreement that may happen between us. The little things that she does not shy away from, tell me that it is the version of us belonging to this moment or the period of time we are battling and not us – whole ourselves. She inherently acknowledges this far superior worth of our bonding and knowingly or unknowingly she is careful about the fragile nature of it even when we are fighting. That knowing and yet not knowing part is what builds our castle of cards, our cloud of dreams. And each time we have an intense fight, we only prick away the least important clouds that we made together. We do have to sacrifice a cloud or two, though, each time we quarrel. That’s the rule of the game.

But hey, we have only been talking about the before romance – the fight part. Once you clear this stage of the multiplayer game, romance awaits you to rekindle few dying sparks and ignite the new ones. The fire that was set up by hatred, jealousy, possessiveness and all other motherfucking siblings of them, is now waiting to draw you close. Fucking close. It starts with her pushing you away. That is the first stage of it. Then there are more attempts from your end, marinated with sweet words of affection. The names you call her, you know. She says, Do not call me that! You then call her ‘that’ again. Next stage is your ego making an intermittent appearance questioning your pursuance of her. You ignore it at first and swallow it down at second. She then surrenders. Not completely. But you see the glimmering hope in her eyes with a reflection of yours. That hope is what we live for and die for. The hope in her eyes. Yes, that is the end. It starts with once upon a time and ends with hope and grace. Not ‘they happily lived ever after’. That is your job asshole. You write, edit, proofread that. Good fucking luck.



Evanescent Happiness


Through my bedroom window the other day, I saw it was only a little time left for the Sun to set over Rock garden – and my favorite spot over there.

I left home hurriedly & crossed the road to enter the garden located on the opposite side.
‘Hurriedly’ because I knew it was a fleeting, evanescent moment that I had to catch. Universe painting the sky with its blue, pink & saffron crayons to remind us again that the nature is the biggest artist of all. And we both watched it together all those times, pausing for minutes, letting our silence appreciate that moment; for we knew it was a transitory one. We knew that something so beautiful would last only for seconds before the darkness conquers the sky. 
But honey, we let the nature fool us by its artistic sorcery as if it would not return the next day.
It did, right? And we watched it again, enthralled by its magic. I watched your face yet another day, lit up by the golden sunshine and the wind complimenting the scene by gently flirting with your hair.

Today I ran away to reach my spot and thought of all the times we could rewind the sunset and beat the so-called fleeting happiness. The other side of the bench was empty though, as I let myself to be tricked by the Universe again, as if I was Vikram & nature, Betaal.

The warmth of the setting Sun reminded me of your nudging me when I used to be lost looking over the horizon. And then you would shake your head like you always did, before you smiled, showing an even row of teeth. I would ask how your day was. And as I rummage through this past, I realise that the biggest trick the Universe ever pulled on us was not hinting that ‘us’ sharing that time and space was the only evanescent moment of them all.

You know, I desperately bleed ink on the paper tonight, gasping for thoughts and hoping to preserve our memories before the darkness conquers the sky yet again. Because every time I sit at my favorite spot, I remember so much and yet forget a little. That little is a scary part. I keep wondering if you remember the part of the memories that escaped my fingertips. For I am just a writer with only a limited power to immortalise the part of us that I can recall. I sometimes wish you could lend me few of our laughter & fights that I must have forgotten now.
Because I’m just a lover with an aching heart. If only we could become those purple sunsets and make a pact with the Universe to let us meet behind the horizon. If only if we could blindfold the Sun and trick the time into thinking that it isn’t yet the time to set apart. Because girl, I am just a writer, not yet a match to beat the nature’s art.


Little Winston



Sunday late evening, December 1989.
Rajendra Nagar, Delhi.

“Not now, buddy. It’s almost nine. It is super cold. Let’s go home” Prateek told his roommate standing in front of Winston Bookstore.

“You go ahead. I’m going to take a look once. The chap had told me that they are getting a new stock soon” Ayush said with his eyes fixed on one of the oldest bookstores in the Capital city.

Prateek exhaled out fog once and nodded his head with an expression on his face that says ‘this has happened before and there’s no way he can change the outcome’.

Ayush, on the other hand, rolled up the sleeves of his Navy Blue sweatshirt and swung open the door of his favourite hangout place.

The old man behind the counter was playing with the knob of his newly bought Crown television set.

“We are about to close down for the day, son. The keys are up…”

“I won’t take that long” spoke Ayush and marched towards the section marked FICTION in bold Gothic letters.

Winston bookstore was quite old. More than 100 years as per the old man.  Ayush did not care much about the intricate details of its history. But he liked it for a couple of reasons.

First, it was the musty, dusty smell of that place. He would say that it transports him to another world.

Second, a tiny room behind the Comics section which only he knew about. On a busy day, when the bookstore would be filled with people more than Ayush, he would take a refuge in that room he called ‘A little Winston’. The old man did not mind as well, as Ayush had already bought more books in a year than anybody he had known for a lifetime.

For the first time, Ayush was not able to find anything interesting in the Fiction rack.

‘Non-Fiction’  – No.
‘Autobiography’  – No.
‘Education’  – No

So he moved towards the last section of the Winston.


The shelf’s top half was filled with Archie. ‘Archie and Veronica’, ‘Archie and Betty’, Jughead’…’ Ayush browsed through the stacked books. The bottom half of the section was a mixture of Marvel and DC comics. ‘Star Wars’, ‘House of Secrets’, ‘Conan’ and much more.

He pursed his lips and raised eyebrows in admiration of the effort of the owner to have gathered as much variety in the book shop.

Let’s pick up ‘Archie’ tonight” he murmured and as he said that, Winston blinked its eyes twice.

Lights went off and came back on. And went off again. And…off. Still off.

Ayush hoped in his head that he would not need to curse the state government again for the power shortage. To his displeasure, the power did not come back.

Damn!” He suddenly realised how scary the bookstore looked in darkness.
Struggling to find his way out and dropping a few books off the shelves, Ayush somehow managed to find his way to the front side of Winston. Near the billing counter.

The area near the counter was partially illuminated by light blue moonlight crawling through the crevices of the thick glass door. It was without the old man. The television set was already turned off. And the door. It was locked with ‘WE ARE OPEN’ sign facing inwards.

Oh no! Do not do this. Let me out. C’mon.

The keys are up…”

He remembered owner’s words.

“Up what?”

He glanced around. The entire bookstore was draped in darkness. How the hell was he going to find the keys?

Ayush thoughtfully scratched his forehead.

‘Little Winston!’

Yes. He normally keeps his torch over there” Ayush thanked his memory and decided to go check in the tiny favourite room of his.

Don’t think much. There are no ghosts. The bookstore is never haunted. 100 years old place. Oh, stop it. No, don’t think of Evil Dead. Think of good stuff. Think of… Don’t think at all, damn it.

Ayush brushed towards the end of Winston and was suddenly greeted with a cold breeze coming from Little Winston with its door pushed open.

“Holy shit! Who’s there?”

“Who the hell are you and who turned the lights off? It’s only nine” said the girl coming out of Winston. She balanced a pair of books on her one hand and moved streaks of hair off her eyes with another.

“I am…Well, first thing, I did not turn the lights off. And second, it’s not nine. It is ten thirty” Ayush said while trying to make out how she looked.

“Oh! Okay, I’m sorry. I guess…I guess I was a little rude. And is it ten thirty? I mean it was just Eight O’ clock when I went inside the Pumpkin room.”

“Inside what? It is called ‘Little Winston’ and not some ‘Pumpkin room’”.

“Says a guy who reads Archie?” She smirked. He was sure she had a smirk on her face as she said that. Not sarcasm. A light smirk.

“Hahaha funny! Anyway, here is the situation. Do not panic. But the store is locked. I mean it is shut. We are locked inside.”

“Yes, I figured that out.”

“What do we do now?” Ayush was rather perplexed by her lack of worry.

“We wait for it to become morning. What else can we do?”

“We can find the keys. I’m sure he keeps an extra set somewhere” Ayush was consoling himself rather than her.

“Stop panicking. It is all right” she said and flipped on the torch.

“Let’s go find the keys,” said Ayush, and she followed him.

Ayush focused the torch light onto the desks, on the top of books shelves. He tried to see her face as the light ricocheted off the window bars onto her.

She had dark brown eyes. Eyes that came at you like an arrow destined to hit the target. There was a confidence in them that said she knew people. What they could do and could not. She wore a pale blue shirt with sleeves rolled up just before elbows and a black skirt reaching mid-calf. Elegant as writers would call it or classy as magazines would like to publicise.

“My name is Nadia. You are?”

“Ayush. I’m Ayush”

“Ayush, hmm. What do you do Ayush?”

“Well, I am a writer and a photographer. I am here for a project.”

“Interesting” Nadia said before continuing, “Do you have those big-sized cameras that you mount on a stand. What you call it, umm?”

“A tripod. Yes”. Her interest made him smile.

“And what camera do you use? Tell me about it” she kept him busy as they searched for keys in all the possible corners of Winston. Upon the shelves, over the desk, under the desk, behind the counter and other places. Ultimately, they gave up and rested themselves on the leather couch kept for visitors.

“Yes, so you were telling me about your project” Nadia was not the one to let go of her curiosity.

“Yeah. I use Kodak Kodamtic 980. It lets me make pictures the way I see them. I think that’s the beauty of photography. Capturing something you have seen with your eyes and carrying that image gingerly in your pocket and presenting it to the world in the form as similar to the original as possible. I feel that’s the very essence of photography. Reaching places not everyone does. Seeing things differently and help other see it with your eyes. But sadly the definition of good photography is changing slowly to enhancing the quality alone. I keep arguing with the editors of magazines over the same, and they keep saying that the readers only want to see beautiful things irrespective of originality. But I do what I do. And so far it has worked well for me. Besides I feel that photography is incomplete without a story. So yes, writing keeps me busy too. In a pleasant way. I think life is too short to click as many places I want to and as many people I would like to write about.”

Nadia kept reading his eyes as he went on speaking. There was a certain spark about him. A spirited one. She watched the muscles of his forearm flex as he lifted a pile of books and wondered how strong his arms would be. He wasn’t particularly well built, but muscular where he needed to be. He moved fast. Like the wind. Yes, that was it. He was like the wind. Maybe he came with it. From somewhere, searching for her to spend time with, that night.

“What’s your favourite book?” He asked her and pulled one out of the rack.

“This is mine. The bridges of Madison County. Maybe because I can relate to it a lot. See here; these are my favourite lines” Ayush’s forefinger pointed to a paragraph on the yellowish page.

I look down the barrel of a lens, and you’re at the end of it. I begin work on an article and am writing about you. I’m not even sure how I got back. Somehow the old truck got me home. Yet I barely remember the miles going by…”

“It is one of my favourites too,” she said without taking her eyes off his.
“You know which are my favourite lines from it?” without taking the book from his hand, she leant close and flipped the pages until she landed on the right one.

I am the highway and the peregrine and all the sails that went to the sea”. He says it to her remember?” Nadia looked up to see him looking at her already.

“You love people, don’t you Ayush? Maybe because you never stay with them forever. Like Oscar Wilde said, ‘people ruin romance by trying to make it last forever’. You, you know when to move to the next place. Shifting gears from one utopia to the next, before the reality jumps in.”

“And what about you? What is it that you keep seeking inside the pumpkin room? What is your kind of utopia?” he asked.

“I am a teacher. I teach the language. I teach because I like the sound of it. The sound of everyday routine. Simplicity keeps me happy. I like giving myself to it, as much as I can. Shakespeare, Hemmingway, Charles Dickens, Faulkner, Sylvia Plath. They all keep me occupied. But I see a different world coming up, Ayush. The world which is far less interested in spending time on one thing you love. Such as books. I don’t see many people who can spend hours in a library. Like I do. Like you do. The world where people keep running, chasing things. The technology that is coming up is kind of scary. I don’t see much point in staying glued to these television sets all the time to watch the world someone else is living. You think I’m making sense?”

“Of course you are, Nadia. I feel the saddest thing is everything is getting too systematised. They are setting rules and orders for you to live in. Right from what should be your education. How much time you are going to spend on it. What shall you become? They are making youngsters chase things they might not be supposed to. I mean who cares if you graduate a little late. Don’t become an engineer or marry by the age of 25-27 and don’t have kids in another couple of years?”

“I understand. And I think there are very few like you who still exist.”

“What do you mean?” He asked.

“I mean you are doing your own thing. I think that’s the most attractive thing about you. You know what you are born for. And you are doing exactly that. You are clicking.”

“And we are clicking” Ayush so badly wanted to say that, but just smiled instead. He thought she heard it anyway.

“You know Nadia, this Little Winston or Pumpkin room as you call it is actually a time machine. It lets you be in a time where you like to be. You want to live in the 70s, and it gives you just that. The golden period as they call it. And me, I’m running ahead of time or maybe far behind. I do not know where I belong. I feel I belong nowhere.”

“You belong here. In this conversation. Right in this moment. You belong now. You were not made to chase tomorrow or to stay back with yesterday” she said, and Ayush felt the sudden urge of telling her how much he liked her already. Is this real? Could this feeling be a little more tangible? He could hardly see her face in that dim light, and yet he found her so beautiful. He loved her already. What was love anyway? A mother of all feelings. An intense belonging to someone.

It must have been past 4 am.

Nadia titled her head to look outside the glass window. An azure sky was filled with December fog. Just the thought of how cold it must have been outside made her shiver. She wrapped her hands around herself and shivered sitting on a leather couch next to him. Her shoulder brushed against his, and he subtly put his left hand on the couch hoping she would rest on it. It took her twenty another minutes and several more conversations to do that.

He looked at her face and tried to read it from whatever he knew about her in the past four-five hours. There was a blend of emotions on her face – of contentment and weariness. Of being happy where she was and at the same time wishing she was somewhere else. He thought of kissing her closed eyelids and then laughed at his thought.

It was good. It was beyond rationality. It was not to be pondered upon, as to how close they got to each other in a matter of few hours. They did not want to think about it. They simply chose to sink in the feeling. Float along the surface of right and wrong.

The hour hand took another walk around the circular path. Nadia woke up, and he pulled back his arm, now aching because of having worked as a pillow.

“Here,” she said and pulled out a set of keys from her bag.

“You had them all this while?” his answer was met with a twinkle in her eyes.

“There’s something I want to give you,” Nadia said while stuffing her right hand inside her handbag. Chewing on her lower lip gently, a search was done for something she considered as the perfect souvenir.

“A mixed tape that I made for myself last year”, she pulled out an HMV cassette and put it in his palm.

Judging him looking at how old it was, she said “Don’t worry. It does get stuck in the recorder at times. But a turn or two of the wheels by a pencil shall do it. And once it plays, the effort is worth it. It has all of my favourite songs.”

She smiled the smile of a ten-year-old girl giving away her favourite toy just to make her younger sibling happy.

“I can’t wait to play it,” Ayush said and pushed it gently down the pocket of his denim.

“I have nothing to give you,” he thought out loud.

“Because I am hoping this is not the last time we meet”.

Nadia said nothing. Just dropped her eyes, and smiled a little.

“I think it is time for me to leave”.

She spoke and set her brown eyes on Ayush’s in the way she hadn’t in past six hours. As if she could read his thoughts.

While Ayush kept wondering if he should shake hands and or hug her goodbye, she leant forward and kissed his cheeks. He opened his eyes slowly and watched the best six hours of his life walk away in the purple mist of December 1989.

Leaning against the counter, he flipped open the note behind the cassette.
See me outside Royal Cafe tomorrow by 7. Don’t forget to bring your Kodak along. I have heard that photos survive time.


Saket Metro to Dadar West (Long journey cut short Part3)

Romance, Fiction



Jia looked around at the mute crowd in that Metro train’s compartment. Few had their eyes closed, rest chose to stare into the cellphone screens in their hands. Metro ran smoothly over the tracks towards Huda city center. Other than the occasional sound of breaks kissing the tracks, there was no noise.

Please stand clear of the yellow line. Doors will open on the right
Jia zipped her jacket up again and got down at Saket metro station.
After few rounds of negotiations with the auto guy which she won almost every day, she was on her way to meet the Publisher of her recently published book ‘A beautiful lie’. She had previously gotten published two of her novels from the same firm and was therefore rather confident about this one as well. This meeting was a way to thank him for the same. And for him, it was a date.

Thousands of kilometers away from there, I was trying to peep outside the train’s window to check if the station was Matunga Road or Mahim. “It’s Mahim. Where do you want to go?” asked a fellow face in the crowded compartment. “Dadar” I replied and he returned a complimentary smile. I retreated back into my thoughts. Somewhere between fighting for a place to sit and an air to breathe, I had already made some friends. One could never feel lonely here. That was the magic of Mumbai local trains.

Raindrops were bungee jumping from the top of the window to its bottom and then diving inside. Sitting beside the window, I wondered if it really matters whether the train seat you got is facing the direction that the train is moving in or opposite to it? To come to think of it, it does make you feel like you are going to a new place or on the other hand like you are saying goodbye to the old one.
Nevertheless which one you call home is the real question. Places are faces you meet there. The ones you came across while you took yourself out to orient with the place.
Traveling from one place to another, my mind was battling an army of mixed feelings. The nostalgia of things and few pieces of my heart that I had left behind on one side and an array of emotions from hope to fear of going to a new place on the other. It was then I realized that Home was somewhere in between. It was the journey. Over the years, I hadn’t loved anything as much as creating stories about the world that passed by outside my train bogey. They had so much to tell you in so little of time. The trees that waved with their hands full of leaves, vast plains of farmlands satiating a family staying in a tiny hut far behind, Scarecrows looking clumsily at you with birds sitting on their heads, a river bed, a small town fallen into an oblivion. They all struggled to strike a conversation in those flying seconds of time. I could have always settled for one place.  One town. Do my daily errands of the house to office and back. The social life was always waiting for me to go and drown in its flow of five-years and ten-years career plans. A flood I was sure I did not want to flow along with. I did not want that. Not forever. Because the simplicity and nakedness of mind could only be found while sitting besides the train window.


Anyway, let me take you back to Delhi.

So here in Saket, Jia was saying Hi to some Arora guy. Sahil I guess, his name was. Good looking as per her friend, but just fair as per Jia. And he liked Jia. Jia wasn’t sure if she did like him back, but she knew for sure that he had helped her market her last two novels really well. She needed him to do the same for the third one as well. So she met him.

George Restaurant at Select city-walk was the venue. She saw him from far, as he waved his hand. While having lunch, Jia spoke to him about the book. About the guy she wrote about. But that guy being real was kept as a secret. She recalled her conversation with her flatmate, about me. About my photography. How she could sense a story behind each photo that I had clicked. She wondered if she would see me again. The lunch or the meeting lasted for an hour or so. They decided to launch the book in Mumbai followed by Delhi.

And they did. Just a week later.




July 20th.

That week started in its most usual way it could have. Monday blues, Tuesday, Wednes-the middle fucking day of the week, Thirsty for beer Fridays…just the usual set of mornings with a cup of strong caffeine to convince you into believing that this day is going to be a different one.

Until there actually came a day when…

A day when the ground drops out from beneath your feet. The day when hour hand forgets to run around and time makes no sense to you.

Sunday it was for me.

I was smiling happily looking at myself in the mirror. “Write now”, “Blogging is not writing”, “Publish me!” sticky posts on the wall finally seem to make some sense today.

An email from Caravan magazine was the reason behind it.
I was chosen to represent India among 20 other young writers at Literature festival in Paris. A dream it was. I had already shared it with everyone I could think of.

But today I had to take on another challenge. My first day as a staff writer for the magazine. I wanted to pray but then realised that I’m an atheist, so just took a deep breath.

It was a happy moment and I was waiting for it from a long, long time.

Coming outside my apartment in Andheri, I managed to get an auto after several futile attempts.

Auto driver tried to engage me in a conversation over rains and poor state of roads, while I thought about how much this was going to change my life.

Several turns and swinging from side to side finally let us reach the office and I jumped out.

World just seemed different that day. I looked at sky & the Sun almost winked at me as it sat on a pillow of clouds. Doorman said Good morning like he really meant it & I entered the office.

Playing nervously with the leather belt of my shoulder bag, I waited near the reception.

“This way, Neil,” said a girl who appeared like an apparition and I simply followed her to the cabin on far end.

“Do you have any prior experience in interviewing?” she asked me without turning behind.

Following her I said with a raised eyebrow, “I guess you are mistaken. It is my first day at the job.”

“No, am not” she turned and continued to speak. “You may want to refer to this. It has a profile of celebrity you are going to interview.

“Celebrity? In how much time?” I flipped through the pages & lifted my head up to see her gone already.

I pulled a chair for myself in that oval shaped cabin, surrounded by glass doors. The other chair revolved as soon as I dropped my bag on it.

“A celebrity. My first writing assignment. This couldn’t get any better” I thought to myself and was lost in my own world.

The cloud of thoughts was pricked suddenly by a gentle knock on the door.

“Hi, meet our staff writer Neil. He shall be interviewing you. Please feel free to start with the interview as per your convenience” said the receptionist who then turned her face towards me.

“Neil, I’m sure you already know about our interviewee. Meet…”

“Jia. Jia Shah!” I completed her sentence as I almost dropped the file in my hand.






“Hi!” She replied with the equally surprised face.

“Hi!” I said and we both smiled through our eyes.

“You are famous. And you’re the same girl from the train, right? Just confirming” I said laughing.

“Yes I am,” she said. “And you are not just a photographer, are you?”

“Well, I do interview famous people sometimes,” I said and we shared a smile.

Suddenly all the wait seemed worthwhile.



Clipped wings


She dreamed of flying, when others were simply learning to walk, learning to cross the street. She was just nine, when she had made white clouds her home and felt wind was waiting to carry her along.

Twenty one and she had made it up there. Flying along with one of the finest airlines, smiling her perfect smile at 200 new faces every day. From one city to another, from another to the next one…she only halted for a while. She wished she didn’t have to at all. But life had some other plans.

And tonight she sang at Eleventh east street cafe, her new job it was since past one year. A favourite hangout place for the young ones in town. And they loved her at what she did – singing their choice of songs with an occasional melody of her own. For Him, it was his first time at the restaurant.

He had taken a small round table close to the fountain overflowing with water, which failed to drown her voice. She had conquered his thoughts, as she put her dark wavy hair on one side and the battle was already half won…by her. She sang American pie and he couldn’t help but hum it along. Feeling stupid, every time her eyes caught his.
He listened intently to her voice and wondered what her story was.  After all nothing entices an artist’s mind more than pieces of a broken heart. He knew she was much more than a singing lady tonight or any other night. Maybe a little late to go back, a too early to leap ahead. Tonight was hers though. This moment sang her song. Her dreams whispered into his ears in hushed tone as he held onto the words.

They had clipped her wings down.  But nothing could kill the magic in her voice.  If you listen closely enough, you could still hear the flutter of her wings…waiting for the cage door to be swung open. Her heart was jailed and tonight he melted his into a key. She sang all night, while he sat there scribbling on his notepad. Occasionally the glass of wine made it to his lips. But his eyes, they only held one vision in that crimson moonlight – of hers in the white dress, singing with closed eyes.

He knew he had to get past the lyrics somehow and she kept hoping her walls to be never brought down, by another man.  Having reached bottom of the glass several times, he felt more confident. He felt he knew her now, probably more than she did herself. He was sure of having unlocked the draft folders in her heart. And he penned down what he thought had been hiding behind those walls, waiting for the peek-a-boo to be played with the right heart.

Her voice resonated in the four walls that night and his words did the dance to the tune of it over the notepad. Dipped in the ink of feelings, they now left a trail of romance behind. The music stopped and he fervently tried to grasp the notes flying around. She sat back and relaxed, sipping onto the drink she had bought.

“You, you sing well” he said and she shook her shoulders in reply.

“I guess I do fine.” She said and he saw she wasn’t as pretty looking as she seemed while she sang. And yet at the same time very pretty somehow.

“You got the tale you were looking for?” She said with the straw flirting with her lips.

“What do you mean?” He smiled wondering if he had completely got her wrong.

“Your story I’m talking about, the one you were scribbling while pretending to sing American pie. I’m sure you had thousand thoughts in your head, with those characters doing a dialogue with your inner voices.” She smiled and offered him a chair next to hers.

He sat nervously feeling a bit stripped down and let her take the charge.

“I am Nadia. And what’s your name, writer boy?”

“Why don’t you read it yourself?” He smiled and handed over the notebook in her hands.

“I hope the ending is good, as I dreamed it to be” she said watching him read her eyes like ‘he’ used to.

“There isn’t one. She learns how to fly. He helps her do that.” He replied.

“And she leaves him behind? Yet again?” she asked.

“He was never hers to take along. She wasn’t his. They met. Like two kites accidently brushing hands in the sky. They were meant to carry on” said the writer boy.

“Well, she is happy that she met him after all” she smiled her perfect smile. After a long time.


Serious fall of a Humpty Dumpty heart


This is a story of a little bird; I like to call my heart. It stays in the rib-cage inside my chest and locks itself out at the slightest smell of love. No, I have not cut down its wings. It soars high and falls worse than a Humpty Dumpty off a wall. I mean seriously. It keeps falling every now and then.

Just like it fell the other day, when I was taking my regular jog at Rock garden. I was jogging round and round…taking a deep breath while moving on upward slopes & trying to control my speed while running over the downward ones. My lungs bloated big & shrunk back for oxygen as I came to a halt near my favorite spot. I touched my chest with the right hand & could feel heartbeat racing high. Giving out a sigh, I sat at the edge of one of the benches and Hippy came running towards me. It stood near my feet gazing at me awkwardly and I smiled at it. It replied by jumping up in my lap and within few seconds it started making a purring sound. It definitely was the most innocent happiness I had ever come across.

And then I spotted her. Sitting at the far corner of garden with her big round spectacles sitting firmly over her sharp nose. I smiled and heard a knock on the door of rib cage simultaneously.

“Are you serious? We don’t even know her yet’’ I asked my curious heart man.

‘’And we would probably never do if you do not take me to her’’ came a quick reply.

“Well, what if she says no? What if she already has someone in her life?’’ I tried to keep him calm and locked inside.

But little heart man had already made up his mind and was ready to try his luck.

One of us took the other to the bench at far corner of the garden.

“Well, not many come here to do serious reading. I mean at least that’s what I used to think” I said to her after rehearsing and rephrasing it thrice in my mind.

‘’Depends on what you call serious reading’’ she said without lifting her head and I still caught the smile conquering her reddish cheeks.

“Yes. I guess, reading a novel as thick as the one in your hand. I mean most people just come here with a newspaper to read.’’ I said and checked on my heart, luckily still sitting inside my chest.

She turned towards me as I said that and put her dark brown hair behind her ears.

“You are right. But honestly speaking, this is my first time here. ‘Rock garden’. I really liked the name and I just decided to spend some time with it. You come here often?” she asked me and I spotted the little heart man in black suit crawling towards her sneakily.

“Get back you. You Humpty Dumpty. Don’t you do that again’’ I warned him and she waited for my reply.

“Yes I come here quite often. In fact everyday you can say. I like this place. I mean it’s so calm. All of us who come here are like friends of Rock garden, you can say. It’s so serene…”

“And yet kind of an escape’’ she completed my sentence.

“What do you mean, an escape?” I was puzzled and at the same time worried about the little heart man – now sitting on her lap and looking at her. He was going to hurt himself again. I knew it.

She folded the book in her hand and answered, ‘’Yes. An escape. An escape from reality. A much needed break for everyone you see around us. Be it kids playing football just for the summers or those middle aged women walking backwards over the green carpet to fight diabetes or simply youngsters using it as a platform to keep their bodies fit & toned. We are just travelers to this place. We would be waving goodbye to the Rock Garden as soon as our motives are fulfilled.’’

“I guess. But Rock garden does have true friends as well’’ I said. I loved the way our conversation was going. Well to be honest, little heart man had gotten me engrossed in interesting conversations earlier as well. And then I ended up putting a bandage on his wounds from the fall later on.

Nevertheless I continued to fall for this girl and said to her ‘’Yes Rock garden does have friends as well. Real friends. Like you see old Mishra uncle sitting over there?” I pointed at a man sitting on a bench across ours with his hands rested on a walking stick. “Or the brown kitten sitting near him? That kitten has made this place its home even before it learnt to jump over the bench. I call it Hippy. Love the way it looks deep into your eyes and then jumps up on your lap’’ I realized I had gotten carried away a bit with the kitten part, when I saw little heart man now sitting in her left palm.

She laughed a bit and asked me ‘’A cat-person, I see?’’

“Well if it qualifies as a pick up line, yes I am’’ I said scratching my hair with one hand.

“Haha, normally it does not. Anyway I never asked your name. I’m Ayesha. And you are?’’

‘’I’m Piyush. I’m a Lawyer. And you?’’

“I’m studying Literature. At DU.” She said.

“Oh I should have guessed. That’s why books and all.’’ I said as I searched for him. Little heart man had escaped yet again.

That did get me worried. I thought of the previous times it had flown away. And fallen for the ones who never cared for him. Little heart man would later come home to its rib cage with his head tilted and feeling all sad with teary eyes. I would then sit and console him for days.

‘’He had fallen once again probably. She did not even notice him sitting on her palm’’ I thought while she got up to leave.

“I guess I’m going to try and be friends too…’’ Ayesha put the book in her bag and said,

“You know with Rock garden. I guess I’ll finish up this novel here only someday’’.

I was still sulking over the empty space in my chest as she said that. I was going to miss the little heart man.

She zipped her bag up and gently put the other hand in the pocket of her blue jeans.

“Well to come to think of it, I’m thinking I’m also going to be friends with…” she took a pause to see me looking deep into her eyes and continued…”I’m thinking I’m going to be friends with Hippy too’’ she raised her eyebrows and waved me goodbye.

“There I go again. Return of Humpty Dumpty it is. Falling off the wall of love’’ I thought to myself.

“I love cats’’ she said as she turned around and I saw little heart man sitting comfortably on her shoulder winking his eye.

Before I could think anything, I felt something breaking into my mind…tiptoeing down into my chest and yes its beat rhymed perfectly with the tune of little heart man. A tiny red heart wearing a pink top and blue jeans was winking back.