Illusion

What if all

I had been

Seening till now

Was a mirage

An Illusion

My mind’s tricks

And games

And now that I have fallen

Flat on my face

The spell has been broken.

The Paradise has disappeared.

I see nothing for miles

Just me

Amidst a sea of sand

But I wonder-

Who tricked me?

A feeling tells me

From the memory or a dream-

Perhaps

I did.


Does God Exist? – Speculating the relevance of Religion and God in present times. [7 minutes]

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It wasn’t long ago that ‘Happy Navaratri’ messages started flooding my phone and pictures of Hindu Goddesses started flashing over my social media. The auspicious 9 days were here and suddenly people around me had begun fasting and some of them had gone to the lengths of not drinking water, while for others not consuming alcohol and non-vegetarian food is their equivalent of fasting for next 9 days. I wonder if the latter category of people think that God too is a hypocrite? It probably is okay for them they think that as per God, it is okay to butcher animals for 356 days a year but these 9 days should make up for the bloodshed. A counterintuitive argument could be God created food chain and put us on the pyramid to probably not abstain from eating only what is natural. But, nevermind. Coming from a Hindu family, none of this comes as a surprise to me however the question remains: why is there so much suffering in this world if the God is as loving, kind and powerful as the scriptures say He is.The feminist in me cringes while reading the last part of this sentence, but as a matter of fact, God is imagined to be a male across most religions. All the more questioning the authenticity of the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. There has to be some logical justification for the holocaust, wars, famines, floods, rapes – some rationalization except for Drake’s two words: ‘God’s plan’.

Interestingly, almost 1.2 billion people on Earth are non-believers, agnostics or atheists. This numbers is almost equal to Islam followers which is world’s second most followed religion. According to the philosopher William L. Rowe, ‘agnosticism’ is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist’. Until something earth shattering occurs and we decide to base all our beliefs on facts, eventually becoming an atheist. Despite this, 75 percent of world’s population continues to practice some form of religion or another. Believe in God or not, religion is so deeply ingrained in our society that sometimes it’s presence is overlooked.

After all, what drives faith? Also, how relevant is the concept of religion in modern times?

The most accurate description of religion that I came across on the internet is, ‘a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.’

The origins of Homo Sapiens dates back to 200,000 years ago but inconclusive evidence suggests that origin of religion goes back to Homo neanderthalensis, approximately 300,000 years ago, who used to bury their dead- an evidence of the use of ritual. Suffice to say, even the primates couldn’t go on for long without connecting to some kind of spiritual energy.

Even the law relies on the religion to derive its moral compass hence, making murder a legally punishable act. Imagine living in a world where killing people is morally acceptable. Most of us wouldn’t be reading this article. Another example of this would be abolition of Capital punishment in most countries that is primarily based on the fact that only God can create and take life. Even our major festivals, that deeply affect our social calendars are all for religious purposes. Diwali marks the return of Hindu Lord Ram to Ayodhya from a fourteen-year exile (vanvaas) and symbolises the spiritual “victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance”. Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. For Muslims, Ramadan is a holy month dedicated to prayer, Quran recitation, introspection and fasting during the sunlight hours. Similarly, for Easter, Hanukah that have their own religious foundations.

I think a more important question is to ask oneself is can we exist without religion? Maybe not all parts of what was written thousand of years ago is relevant in today’s day and time but I believe some parts of it can be used even as guiding principles. For example: for starters, I think life indeed would be simpler if people stopped indulging in the seven(7) sins as per the Bible: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and pride. These sins, as per Hinduism, have nothing to do with God, but everything to do with our own self, our Karma. It’s more like ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. These sins are not a rebel against God/deity/centralized superpower, contrary to some modern religions.

It’s beautiful how Buddhism preaches to strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods/deities. Another life changing take away lesson comes from Buddhist philosophy are the Four Noble Truths, that state the Truth of Suffering, The Truth of the Cause of Suffering, The Truth of the End of Suffering, and The Truth of the Path that Leads to the End of Suffering. The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome. The Fourth Truth is that the way to overcome this misery is through the Eightfold Path. As per Buddhism, the eight-fold path is the way to reach Nirvana- rightness of belief, resolve, speech, action, livelihood, effort, thought, and meditation.

But it’s no surprise that this is a hard path that Gautam Buddha laid down for his fellow followers, and most of the disciples (in the modern sense) eventually ended up praying to demigods (Asuras and Devas) for the earthly desires and wishes. If only escaping suffering was so easy. But the first 3 Noble truths are definitely riveting — because during difficult times, it’s the thought that matters. These wise words have the power to cure depression and impart stability and strength in face of difficult situations — a lesson that could be life-altering if a person truly believed that any suffering could be overcome.

However, contrary to a misguided belief — Nirvana does not mean to sit under a tree/live a life of a monk/chant mantras eyes shut-day in, day out. Those who think this are actually out of their depth here. It actually is a state of mind which can be practiced by anyone and everyone. Hinduism tactfully guides us towards “object of human pursuit”, or Puruṣārtha. The four proper goals of human life as per Puruṣārtha are:

· Dharma — includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and right way of living. These enables social order, right conduct, and virtuous behavior. Dharma, in another connotation, is that which all existing beings must accept and respect to sustain harmony and order in the world. It is the pursuit and execution of one’s nature and true calling, thus playing one’s role in cosmic concert.

· Artha — signifies the “means of life”, activities and resources that enables one to be in a state one wants to be in. Artha incorporates wealth, career, activity to make a living, financial security and economic prosperity. The proper pursuit of Arthais considered an important aim of human life in Hinduism.

· Kama — signifies desire, wish, passion, emotions, pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations. Kāma is “love” without violating dharma (moral responsibility), Artha(material prosperity) and one’s journey towards moksha (spiritual liberation). Work, indeed, is worship.

· Moksha — signifies emancipation, liberation or release. In some schools of Hinduism, Mokshaconnotes freedom from saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth, in other schools Moksha connotes freedom, self-knowledge, self-realization and liberation in this life.

Hindu literature emphasizes that dharma comes first and without dharma, Artha and Kama can lead to personal and social chaos. Dharma is then preceded by Artha and last but not the least, comes Kama. That is quite pragmatically spot on. It is almost utopian to imagine a life with just right amount of Dharma(moral values) blend into right inclination toward Artha(economic resources), be nourished with right amount of Kama(love) and know exactly when to stop and reflect for Moksha. But with balance, it probably is possible to devour into depths of depth of each in order to explore and savor life to the fullest. It must be at this point, that the inherent tension between Moksha on one hand, and the active pursuit of Kama and Artha on the other comes to a resolution. A meditation in itself if one state seamlessly transcends into another. An example of the opposite end of the spectrum can be read in ‘The Monk who sold his Ferrari’ by Robin Sharma.

This right state of balance where Dharma, Artha and Kama meet to blossom into Moksha is termed as Nishkam Karmain Bhagavad Gita. It means: ‘act and enjoy with renunciation, do not covet’ or ‘Detached Involvement’, further laying the foundation for ‘Business ethics’ in the modern workplace. The Karma theory provides an operational basis for constructive achievement and is perhaps more relevant today than in the Mahabharata times. The doctrine of Karma Yoga emphasizes detachment and equanimous attitude towards success and failure and inculcating virtues like sacrifice, dedication, belief and greater good of the people as the motive for action. Nishkamta doesn’t obstruct any comparisons nor does it mean that one shouldn’t have any targets.

All said and done, if there’s one thing I realized being a grown up then that is — adults are as confused as children and we spend most of our lives making sense out of this confusion. It’s some part guesswork, some research and some just a matter of chance events, mostly attributed as luck, or fate. We remain fragile as a baby despite our fierce accomplishments and the depth of our own emotions blow us away. We find ourselves on our knees more often than we imagine and comes a day we find ourselves crippled to the extent of helplessness that reaches out only to faith, at times blind.

Faith is simply much more than an option for those of us who have experienced sheer joy or immense pain, because in our hearts we know that none of this makes sense. We did nothing to deserve either this happiness or the pain. But who do we thank or blame for this haphazardness? A supernatural power sounds like a good idea to hold on to our sanity.

***

Love is Love.

All this love

in my heart

couldn’t be wrong.

this i knew.

the touch

the sparks

the butterflies

couldn’t be wrong.

this i knew.

the mind doesn’t work

in matters of heart

and that only her love

got to me.

this i knew.

and I knew

my lover was

proud of me as I

was

proud of her.

yet a lot of worlds would crumble

if i told them about ours.

this i knew.

so i cradled this love

close to my heart.

behind closed doors.

hiding altogether

a part of me.

my better half.

but today-

we will kiss

under the stars,

holding hands

just as lovers do.

not worried to be

put behind bars

not worried to

prove the truth.

for they realised

what i always knew.

and i knew

All this love

in my heart

couldn’t be wrong.

Love Does Not Make The World Go Round

They say that love makes the world go round but I would strongly beg to differ. In my humble opinion, it is kindness and the small acts of it which keeps this otherwise man-eat-man world going as it may not be possible to love every second person coming your way. Let alone the first.

What compelled me to write this article is a heart warming incident that occurred just a few days back:

As it happens during every monsoon, all the potholes in New Delhi turned into tiny ponds, creating an illusion of uniformity on otherwise broken roads, only that this uniformity is brought about by rain water and not the more often used mortar in the civil industry. Suffice to say, it’s impossible to distinguish a rut from a road and one usually figures out their way trailing a car in front of them.

As brave as I am, I decided that nothing must stand between me and my daily humdrum activities and so I turned on the ignition of my old-as-time Honda City and set out to fetch groceries. Yes, groceries. Everything was rainbows and unicorns, with the former actually gracing the storm struck sky until I reached the supermarket and decided to park my car in an isolated spot. That should have been the first warning sign! One never just finds an isolated parking spot in the capital of second most populated country of the world. As the reader might have guessed already, it was actually a rut full of water and I drove straight into it. I realized I am in hot and muddy waters for real and a humdrum activity had turned into an adventure. A while later, a few people who seemed to be enjoying their perfect afternoon tea at a cigratte stall noticed my struggle and decided to help me, God bless their soul. I may have heard some remarks in reference to being a ‘lady driver’, but nothing that I hadn’t heard of earlier. That day, those gentlemen got their hands and clothes dirty in order to help me out.

In retrospect, I think even my car protested a little that day to not go for a ride, but it’s old and I anyway ignore most of it’s warnings unless it drops dead in middle of the highway. And then we call the crane services and show some love in terms of oiling and greasing and replacing this and replacing that until it feels pampered enough and finally decides to play along just like a puffed up boyfriend who needs some ego massage every now and then. Moving on.

I can also count numerous such encounters where I have been helped by cab drivers, by-standers, strangers and so many other kind people who spent as many as 40-minutes from their life trying to explain me a direction, or fixing my car for free, being my local translator or in general getting me out of trouble. I cannot even begin to imagine how the situation might have turned out be, had it not been for these kind hearted people. In numerous tough times, the people that ‘love’ me such as my family and friends were not around to help me .

As Yuval Noah Harari, stated in his bestseller book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, ‘…Homo Sapiens is primarily a social animal. Social Cooperation is our key for survival and reproduction. It is not enough for individual men and women to know the whereabouts of lions and bisons.’ By lions and bisons here, he indicates our surroundings. We have needed each-other’s help since the start and even our ancestors went out in groups to hunt for they knew that alone, we cannot by-any-means hunt a giant animal. Mr. Harari further goes on to explain how a human singularly is of almost null significance but together goes on to create civilisations, governments and nations.   And yet we tend to forget how much we need each other at the end of the day. We forget to be kind. We forget to smile at others and sometimes, we even go on to think we can make it on our own.  

In a different part of the country; called Kerala, the wrath of monsoons has been anything but deadly and hundreds of people lost their life to nature’s fury, which as much as the state would not like to take responsibility for, could have been avoided. Yes, I agree it occurred after a hundred years but wouldn’t really be much of a disaster if it occurred bi-weekly.

But even in these arduous times, the country came together and the Chief Minister Distress relief fund has received a donation of Rs 210 cr so far and it goes without saying that all of this money has come from generous and altruistic people including children and students who are not necessarily rich.

As I scroll through social media day after day, below is a picture that especially caught my attention. The young man in this picture is National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) rescue officer Kanhaiya Kumar who dared to save a child amidst a submerging bridge.

The reason I think the picture above went so viral is because not only it represents but inspires all the emotions at once: bravery, kindness, hope and even love. It sends out a loud and clear message: even though everything is down to ashes or more appropriately, drowned in water, only humanity will suffice to save humanity.

An act of kindness is not just a harbinger of hope but is also a mark of bravery which is best tested in times of adversity. And in adverse times, the kinder you are to those who brought you pain, the liberated you would feel. It is a kind of power that overcomes all cynicism. And just because it is so powerful and liberating, it comes with lots and lots of practice. In different words, kindness is a close kin of bravery which is often confused with the popular opinion of it just being a mere act of taking or giving life for honor. I, for one cannot imagine an unkind brave-heart. The arrogant ones confuse this power with weakness until they have a weak moment themselves post which they lean on the kindest shoulder they can find around. Quite a game changer, isn’t it now?

So — did you do your bit of kindness today? Did you donate for our friends in Kerala who lost not just their homes but also families? Did you release your insecurities and personal issues towards someone such as a subordinate or a loved one who had no choice but to bear the brunt out of position or love?

Well, whatever you did or did not. It’s never too late to take corrective measures. Especially in the 20th century.

The Omitted Girls

Fact: India has second largest number of sex-selective abortions only after China.

Four hundred kilometers in the west of Uttar Pradesh, our great ancestral home stood pretty as a bride, veiled by red and yellow fairy lights that illuminated the otherwise dark rural neighborhood. I could hear faint sounds of women singing wedding folk songs on a dholak as I parked my car in the courtyard. Mother and I had come all the way from New Delhi to attend the wedding of my last cousin brother.

Nostalgia overwhelmed me as I ascended towards the doors of my childhood getaway where I had spent countless summers as a child before I got sucked into the quagmire of city life. Maybe it was the lights, or the folk songs or the smell of the food but I suddenly felt alive again despite the tiring journey.

I looked at my exasperated mother who was striving to find a scarf in her massive handbag. “Do you really need to cover your head, mother? You are going to turn fifty.” I couldn’t help but ask.

“Yes, I do. It would be considered as disrespectful if I didn’t.” she replied sternly and then paused to glance at me as if realizing this for the first time, “you should have worn a longer and a looser shirt.”

“Please.” I scoffed.

Inside, the house was buzzing with all our relatives and friends who had come from across the country to attend the wedding. There were people from neighborhood too because of the cohesive society structure in the suburbs and grandma invited everybody to attend the big fat wedding of her last grandson. I noticed that the house was broadly divided into two sections, men’s and women’s. The men sat in the living room while the women and kids sat in rooms near the kitchen area. The men wore pink turbans and discussed politics while the women were clad in colorful sarees and managed the kitchen. I noticed that mother had proceeded to touch some of the elderly’s feet, a mark of respect in Hindu culture.

I was talking to one of my distant aunts when someone tapped at my shoulder.

“Didi, you are here! I have been waiting for you since morning” said a soft voice. I turned around and instantly recognized that face…it was Maya! She was the daughter of chachi ji, our domestic help who had been serving my grandmother from before I was born. Maya was my only friend during my summer break here. We played doll house, teacher-teacher and threw pebbles in the river in the evening. We used to talk for hours and nurtured each other’s secrets. We were inseparable until she went home at night with chachi ji but only until next morning. She was a long lost friend and a sister.

“Maya, oh my god! Look at you…you got…. married! ” I hugged a petite Maya who stood clad in a bright green saree. She wore vermillion, a red streak along the parting of her hair and a red dot between her eyes, a symbol of matrimony used by Hindu women.

“Yes, I did! I have a daughter too” she said with a weak smile pointing to a little girl playing with other children.

“Oh my god! You have such a cute baby Maya! What’s her name? How old is she? I want to meet her!”

“Her name is Bala, didi and she is three years old. Let’s get you something to eat first and then you can meet her.” She said with a warm smile.

We had dinner in a quiet room, away from the hustle just like old times and talked about our lives in past twelve years. Her eyes lit up like a child when I told her that I worked in a reputed firm, travelled sometimes and lived on my own. It was very fascinating for her that there existed a society, just a few hundred miles from here where women, even unmarried ones were ‘allowed’ to live independently. She told me she had been arranged married when she was twenty years old, as soon as she had completed her graduation. She said she wanted to become a teacher in college once Bala turns five.

“Why did you stop coming here didi? I thought I would never see you” Maya asked.

“Because I started enrolling for summer camps, tuitions, internships and then I got a job. It’s a crazy vicious circle. Though I really missed you and the good old childhood days when…we could just jump into the river.” I smiled and she did too.

“I miss those days too. Married life is complicated especially when living in a joint family but Raghav is very loving and understanding.” She blushed.

“Of course he is very loving, in fact, his love is very much showing.” I teased. “Sooo…when is the baby coming?”

She paused as if searching for the right words. “Never”, she finally said.

“I don’t understand…?” I asked perplexed.

She opened her mouth to speak but instead burst into tears. I held her in my arms for almost ten minutes before she could compose herself.

“They want me to have an abortion because it’s a girl.”

Her next words hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew there existed societies where women do not get equal rights and are required to live and behave a certain way. I knew in this world, we have to cover our faces sometimes and sometimes we are raped. But being murdered while still in the womb because it’s a girl, I didn’t see this coming.

“This cannot happen…” I uttered aghast.

Outside the evening prayers had started and the temple bells were chiming. The priests were singing verses in the praises of Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity.

“Who wants you to get an abortion? And how do you know it’s a girl? Sex determination is an illegal practice and so is abortion. We can go to the police.” I said trying to make sense of the situation although I did know that illegal abortions happened all the time.

“Everybody — Raghav, his parents and the society. But… I don’t want to lose my baby.” she said as tears still streamed down her face, “Having a son is everything to him and his parents”.

“Oh God-”

My mother stormed inside the room pretending to look annoyed. “Girls, come for the Pooja. Grandma will not be happy about you missing the prayers.” She knew I never attended the prayers but then I also knew that she would have to hear an earful from grandma on bad parenting and so I played along.

“Coming Maa.” I said as we both stood up to leave, Maya wiping her tears. “Let’s talk about this in a bit. Okay? I promise you, we will figure something out.”

My head hurt and my heart broke from the information I had just received. Maybe I could talk to her husband Raghav and knock some sense into him, I wondered.

Later that night, I tossed and turned in my bed, lying next to mother. Not knowing what else to do, I told her about Maya’s situation. She heard everything and lay there silently. I thought she was shocked too until she said, “I know this is not what you want to hear but sex-selective abortion is a common practice here and I think you should not interfere especially when she is not family. It’s between a husband and wife.”

“You cannot be serious! Please Maa, Maya doesn’t want this, she was crying like a baby, we need to help her.” I protested.

“This is not your place. Be rational about it and get some sleep. We have to wake up early tomorrow.”

But I didn’t sleep that night because if I knowingly let a baby die then I would forever bear the guilt of it. I finally got up and opened my laptop to make a presentation on some of the powerful Indian women who had earned respect and laurels to show to Maya’s husband. I did some research and prepared some arguments.

Next day, I approached Raghav who was reading the newspaper in the verandah. He looked just slightly older than me and was a brashly attractive man with broad shoulders that came naturally after a lot of fieldwork. I did recall Maya telling me that he was a farmer. He greeted me politely and told me that he had heard a lot about me from Maya. He came across to be a gentleman and seemed a bit surprised when I requested to talk to him in private but nevertheless obliged to my request.

“What can I do for you?” he asked in his thick local accent.

“Raghav ji, I know that Maya is pregnant with another baby girl and that you want her to have an abortion.” I saw his expressions change from kind to grim.

“I want you to understand that times have changed and girls are as competent as boys these days. What you are doing is not only illegal but irrational. There is no need to murder an unborn and put your wife’s life at risk and -”

“Are you done? Can I leave now? This is none of your business” he barked as anger flushed his face.

“I will report this to the police.” I stated. He stared at me and then rolled his eyes.

“What is the matter with you city girls? Why do you always have to show off all this fake power? Go tell the police, I give no damn. And if you must know, I always wanted to have a son and I will not stop until I have one. And though you think you know it all but let me educate you a bit. It’s a son who carries on a family lineage and takes care of his parents when they grow old. Daughters get married and leave their families. A son becomes the man of the house who earns money for his parents, protects honor and guards his women. It is he who will light my pyre when I die. A son means security and a social status. Having only daughters is like watering your neighbor’s lawn. You collect money all your life and give it away in dowry and god forbid, if she brings dishonor to the family. Plus I already have a daughter so you better not lecture me on family planning especially when it looks like nobody wants to plan one with you.”

And then he stormed out of the room as I sat too shocked to move. That man was right in his mind and that terrified me.

However, later that day when all the women, including Maya’s mother and mother-in-law, had gathered to sing folk songs, I thought maybe I could use this opportunity to talk to them. One last shot, after all there wasn’t anything to lose but a lot to gain. I stood up and clapped my hands to draw everybody’s attention and after a few claps I had almost fifty pair of eyes gawking at me.

Namaste. We have all gathered to celebrate my brother’s wedding but I must confess to you that finding a bride for him was not easy. Wonder why? Well…because there is only one female to every eight men in our country.

Surprised? I am not.

I stand before you to talk about my friend who bears with her an unborn daughter. It has been told to me that she has been asked to get rid of this unborn child on the grounds that it’s a girl. I have also come to know that having a son is of prime importance in some households because a girl is considered to be a social and economic liability.

At this point I cannot help but wonder, did nobody have sons who never called once they left home? Sons who turned their backs when you needed them the most? Sons who never earned a penny and never built a house? Sons who left for good and made choices that didn’t exactly align with the moral compass. Then what is it that assures this ‘social security’ and why is it that a girl cannot provide this? The difference here is not of gender but of belief. There were some who believed in their daughters and those daughters became Indira Gandhi, Kiran Bedi, Kalpana Chawla, Saina Nehwal and I could go on. These girls became prime ministers, sportspersons who won medals for the country and went on to the space. And there could have been more like them but they were killed while they were still in the womb. Imagine what would have happened if you and I were killed in the womb? Then what gives us the right to take another life? If you believe in God, then you must also believe that only he is entitled to create and take lives.

The times have changed and we do not need men to fight in wars anymore. They work in offices and earn money and there is no reason a girl cannot do the same. In today’s times, education is a game changer.

We should not forget that when a girl is killed, an entire family tree is killed with her and for what? The law now states that the family property is required to be equally divided amongst all the siblings irrespective of the gender upon parent’s death. The law also provides free education to all girls up to elementary school and it also bans dowry.

I can only request you all to just think about it and if you still think only a son can save your family then, god help us because soon we will be living in a society of all men who will share and rape women because there will be so few left and they will treat us even worse because the minority is always treated the worse. The solution here is to not have few of us but to have more of us. Let’s not kill our daughters. Please.”

After I finished speaking, I saw that there were few women who had tears in their eyes and there were few who were visibly derisive and thought I was out of my mind. Maya had left the crowd.

Next morning mother and I left for home after attending the wedding, this time not talking much during our journey. I till date not know if Maya got to have her baby girl but I do hope I convinced at least one mind in that crowd of women that day and saved at least one family tree.

I cannot help but wonder if some battles will end with the end of humanity for their seeds were sown as early as with the beginning of one.

Silence

They say
Silence
talks,
So I said
Not a word
even when
there was a storm
Raging within me
I stayed quiet
as the sea
But you never saw
The life
breathing within me
But then I spoke
Only to experiment
To see how it feels
And my voice-
 Echoed
Across millions
And I realised
I was not alone.
I learned that silence,
It’s tricky
Using it,
an art.
For silence also
Means consent
Means acceptance
and I had to ask
for what I thought I deserved
Object to
What was wrong
Fight against injustice
And silence
was not enough.
Silence wasn’t enough to
Express the love I held
Close to my heart and
The heartache,
I held even closer.

LONDON

Although I spent about six months living in London, now that I look back a few months later, the one thing I remember most vividly is the Red couch in my apartment. My couch was flanked by two table lamps on either side against a back drop of a cream colored wall. It was on this couch I’d sit for hours holding my laptop hoping to squeeze some words out of my brain. I’d wake up and lazily drag myself to this couch after which I would eventually open the curtains to allow the sunlight to flood my apartment. It was sitting here, I’d look outside the window at the houses, as still as a painting against the clear blue sky, wondering if anyone lived in those houses as no where ever seemed to come out. At times, I would try to analyze the sky for tens of minutes just to determine if it would rain that day. I would go through all this trouble just so that I did not have to carry an umbrella. I eventually learned that on days it shined the brightest, it rained the hardest and as always, I learned my lesson the hard way. The lesson in itself being that ‘always carry an umbrella’.

But the illusion of a quiet neighborhood broke as soon as one began to walk towards the Underground. An interesting fact about the London Underground is that around 55% of  it is actually above the ground. Ironic, right? But what I loved the most about the Underground is that there would always be some artist playing a guitar, a piano or even a violin, calm as a sea in midst of a hasty crowd of people. A reminder to smell the roses, as the Americans say. The nearest Underground station from my apartment was the Stratford station adjacent to the Westfield mall. They say that the Westfield mall is one of the largest malls in Europe. I am sure I never covered it entirely for like most humans, I am inclined towards familiarity. I’d often visit the same places and eat at the same resturants. The waiters in the resturants and the sales persons at the shops apart from the general public usually comprised of what are known as ‘immigrants’. I later learned that London is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world that gives you a fair glimpse of people from across the globe. I could hear hundreds of dialects as I would ideally window-shop for hours. However, my ears shot up only when I heard someone talk in Hindi. The beauty of this diversity is that you never feel like an outsider. You just blend in. Why? Because almost everyone else is an outsider too. In retrospect, I think that the Westfield mall is a correct representation of London in itself.

On some weekends, me and some friends of mine would go to central London and wait in never ending queues in cold and rain just so that we could tick off a known eating joint and kickstart our weekend. I have to admit that London is a food paradise even for a vegetarian like me and I always looked forward to eating at Punjab, Spaghetti house, Pret a Manger, Where the Pancakes Are,  Roti King and Wahaca to name a few.

We would later stroll on queen’s walk along the south bank of the River  Thames.  We would start somewhere near the London eye and go on till the Westminster bridge. It’s remarkable how almost everything has a piece of monarchy in it. The monarchy in itself contributes to ninety percent cultural heritage of the country which includes all the museums, palaces and other landmarks such as the big ben itself. In ways, the monarchy will always live through it’s subtle reminders.

sky sunset people tree
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

On evenings, when my friends felt particularly adventurous, we’d go to Piccadaly circus and SOHO which is extra lit-up with the onset of the Christmas month. I’d look at the LGBT clubs in SOHO and wish for the same to happen in my country where the LGBT community is not only unrecognized but also ostracized. How wonderful it would be if people could just work anywhere without having to justify their genital status. I know one day this day too would come for it is only natural, I just wish it would happen sooner.

On weekdays, I would go to the same tube station to take the Jubilee line for my office in Canary Wharf. It used to be a short ride but it doesn’t take long to recognize that the Londoners don’t like it if you stand to the left of an escalator, cut the queue or try to get on a packed tube before everyone’s gotten off. The Canary Wharf comprises of endless high-rise glass buildings. At night, the buildings glitter as if studded with millions of yellow diamonds and the dainty Thames glitters along with these buildings. The ladies and gentlemen around here are often seen trotting in black coats and polished boots with an aura that states no-nonsense, strictly business. But no kidding, these buildings have very important roles to play in the practical matters of the world.

lights night water photographer
Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

On some evenings, I would come back home to an overheated apartment, often with a bag full of groceries from TESCO or Sainsbury and realize that I had forgotten to turn the  heater off. I would draw open the curtains and open the window to allow the fresh air to come in. Sometimes, I would see a couple making love in the apartment right across from mine. I would wonder if they left the window open on purpose for they put up quite a show. I wondered if the other residents of my building were hanging by their balcony too. It has always fascinated me how men let go of their ego behind closed doors. On some of these evenings, I would draw the curtains close and go back too doing my work but on other days, I would grab a glass of wine and enjoy the show once I slouched on my Red couch.

When the Going gets Tough

action activity adult attack
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

When the going gets tough,
Tough gets going.
Hurdles distinguish
the great from good,
something like winnowing
-but nothing must stop you
the sun, storm or the rain.
The bull’s eye should be clear
Like Arjuna saw his aim.
Let not a setback,
Ever pull you down.
Know that you are a hero-
You ain’t meant to drown.
So what you lost a fight?
So what if you slipped?
the battles in life
Go on till the end.
And the winner is the one,
who stands last in the ring.

I am Not an Object

art asian butterfly color
Photo by Miguel u00c1. Padriu00f1u00e1n on Pexels.com

I am not an object

but they tell me

to become one

To polish my scars

and my Blemishes

so my edges remain sharp

untouched by age.

Like I never fell

Like I never faced

life as it is.

Like I am new as ever

waxed and furbished.

and I do.

and I attract

other objects like me.

comes a day, they sense

I am more than what they see

fragile, vulnerable and shatterable

and alas, even human.

Some stay, some lurk

but I count my blessings,

for only objects that leave.

 

 

 

Amelia- Part II

Every morning I wake up with a burden of million tons weighing me down, immobilizing me from leaving my bed. If I could put a finger on where it weighs the heaviest, I would point to my chest somewhere close to the left shoulder. I bury my head into the pillow waiting for this feeling to pass because succumbing to it is a trap. You cannot surrender for if you surrender, it sucks you in and before you know, you are standing midst a labyrinth of madness. You are spiraling, circling and nothing makes sense. It’s a place untouched by a ray of light.  I know the drill to escape these traps. I created it. I give myself a minute for the haze to lift up and the reality to sink in after which, I get up and walk towards the bathroom to splash my face with cold water, hence triggering the domino of routine.

But seldom. I do wonder if there will come a morning I will wake up to, feeling not this way. Any other way but not this. Some days I do get lucky when I am in a hurry and my brain gets no time to think. In a hurry to reach somewhere, be someplace. I hurry as if things depend upon this thing that I am hurrying so much about and for a moment I do feel like it’s all not so bad. My heart sometimes, feels light as a kite. I smile an untainted smile like nothing heart retching ever occurred to me.

Conversations, sceneries and events also play a role to keep me momentarily distracted. But life passes somewhere between these brief moments. Doesn’t it? And one day, maybe there will be peace, unperturbed by any of my yearnings. Undistorted by pain. I am willing to make peace with peace brought upon by monotony. But I know there will come the night, as constant as it is, followed by the morning and yet again, the feeling will return, tiptoeing like the moonlight behind the clouds and it will begin all over again: I will wait for my phone to ring. I will envy anyone who has been fortunate enough to be loved.  I will yet again wish I hadn’t woken up. But I also know that I will find a way to dodge this familiar trepidation somewhere between my drill and distractions.


Chapter 4 – Surrealism

Café Viena was bustling with people and activity which gave Amelia Buch more choice of subjects to draw and observe. She would rise with the sun at five am to go for a run along the Mediterranean Sea and would later cook breakfast for herself that mainly comprised of toast and omelette on all seven days a week. She would be ready just in time for her daily tours after which she would go to Viena to work on her thesis. She had set short term and long term checkpoints for her thesis to track progress and had targeted to finish it within a month after which, she had decided post much consideration that it was time to move to Paris to complete its final leg. On alternate days, she had arranged to take Spanish lessons from Africa in exchange of English lessons that she gave her. She would return home tired and exhausted mostly just to sleep ensuring to give herself not much time to think. Why think when you can act and accomplish? She would occasionally drop by the studio to catch up with the band who were busy preparing for their upcoming multi-city tour. Amelia was relieved this would give her some time to reconsider her feelings that she believed, she had delusionally developed towards Diego. She felt utterly silly for deciding to admit her feelings to him and then him taking off to see his ex-wife the very same day. A sign, she thought, only a fool would ignore.

But today she would face Diego for the first time since he had left for Seville. It was Nicholas’ birthday and there was a party at the studio At around eight pm, Amelia and Africa reached the studio where everybody including Nicholas’ family and friends had already gathered. The studio looked different decorated in fairy lights and white balloons, matching the white studio walls.

It was almost midnight before everyone went back home leaving just the band members, Amelia and Africa. Clarence had passed out on the couch while Matteo was helping Africa in cleaning up the studio.  Diego went outside to sit on the porch which was dimly lit by the lights escaping through the studio’s door and windows. The night was dark and across the lawn on the other side of the road hung a huge billboard of a cement commercial with a funny tag line. Diego smiled.

“What’s so funny?” Amelia asked as she sat next to him.

“You would know if you could read Spanish.”

“Ouch.”

“Long time.” He said looking at Amelia.

“Indeed. How was Seville?”

“Successful…if I must say. It’s over now. The divorce papers have been signed. I am a free man.” Said Diego feigning enthusiasm.

Amelia recognized a similar somberness in his eyes, the one she had first seen the time they had had their first conversation outside Marty’s. A pang of guilt overcame her as she realized all through she had been thinking only about herself, oblivious to his problems. They both sat quietly looking at the bill board, not speaking anything.

“Is this is your diary where you write your compositions?” Amelia continued as she reached out for a ragged brown diary sitting next to him.

“Yes…”

“How long have you had it, it looks really torn.”

“Almost two years now. I always buy the same journal when one runs out, makes me feel as if the sanctity has remained intact.”

Amelia smiled. “So this contains all the songs that you wrote in past two years?”

“Most.” He looked at her going through the diary, “In fact, there is something I wrote about you.”

Amelia looked at him surprised but his face was expressionless as if he had said the most natural thing in the world.

“If it’s about me, then I deserve to hear it.” She said.

“Well, if you must.”

“Yes of course, nobody ever wrote me a song. It’s good to be somebody else’s muse for a change”

He took a one long glance at her and began:

“Thought that I stood

Made in time

Been there, done that

A man past his prime

But then came along you

Oh Amelia,

Like sunrise

Like sunshine.

And I was hit

By a wave of surprise

For they said there was more

To the air we breathe

But I didn’t know

that there existed

A scent so sweet

I didn’t know

There was a void

as old as me

But then came along

You, oh Amelia,

and life itself

rained over me

and now I am alive

more than ever

more than life

itself could be

For you are a rainbow

With all shades of life

Oh Amelia.”

Amelia looked at him both surprised and confused. Does this mean what I think it means? A million question crossed her mind. Why doesn’t it feel so great?

 “It’s lovely.” She said, “Could you please read it again?”  Diego did without asking any questions. He could almost sense her confusion and did not rush her to respond. His face radiated composure as if it was only important to tell.

“I didn’t know I inspired you like that.” She finally said.

“Everything about you inspires me. I think it’s very brave of you to travel by yourself. You are so young and look at you…” he trailed off.

“How long did it take you to write this?”

“I don’t know. 15 minutes.”

“15 minutes?” Amelia echoed. “That’s it?”

“Well, what can I say? Strong was my inspiration.”

“And when did you write this?”

“It’s been a while. A month maybe. Look, I am sorry if you think this is inappropriate…”

“That was a lovely poem, Diego. Loveliest things anyone ever said to me…in years.”

“I am glad you liked it.” said Diego.

“I am leaving for Paris in a month… maybe.” Amelia said.

“Oh, is it? You never told.”

“Well, how can my thesis on Picasso be actually complete until I cover France.” She smiled.

Diego felt uneasy. He wondered if this was in reaction to his poem. He knew something remained unsaid. Her lips were talking but her words were empty.

“It’s not you.” Amelia said almost reading his mind.

“So what’s the plan?”

“The plan is to go home, sleep. Wake up tomorrow morning, go for a run, go for the tour, study, etc.”

“That is an excellent plan. But seriously, what’s the plan?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I will study further or I will follow my ancestral footsteps.”

“Had enough of Spain?”

Amelia smiled. “Can I just say that I felt at peace after a very long time. I felt…” Amelia paused to light a cigarette, “hopeful. And it’s been all because of you and the beautiful family I found in you guys.

They sat there in silence and shared a cigarette looking into vast nothingness that spread forth their eyes.  Both united by pain they had quietly suffered but never shared.

“You gave me a hope too.” Diego added after a while. “And this poem that I wrote about you, is in itself a sign of that. I wrote something after…almost a year, something I truly felt other than indifference. So, thank you. You should know that you will always have a home here.”

Amelia leaned forward to kiss Diego on his cheek.

“Please don’t slit your wrists when I leave next month.” Amelia teased.

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“Do you think I will ever make big as an artist?”

“Big?”

“Yes…you know. Successful?”

“That depends upon what your definition of success is.”

“You know…like Picasso.” Amelia said carefully.

“Do you think Picasso drew because he wanted to be successful?”

“Hah! I doubt.”

“Tell me, would you continue to keep drawing if I told you that you will never be a successful artist?”

“Yes I will.’

“Would you continue to keep drawing if only five people came to visit your exhibits including Africa that is. I am not making any promises though.”

“Yes I would. Amelia chuckled.”

“Would you keep drawing if you didn’t have to?”

“I don’t think see that ever happening but yes, I would.”

“Would you draw if there was no hope and would you draw honestly?”

“What else would I do?”

“Well may be, just maybe, you might actually be “successful” someday. Artists, my love, are too consumed to choose. They do whatever they do because there is nothing else they are able to do. And I don’t know if you will be successful, but you will definitely be happy. The joy of creation is unparalleled.”

“I must admit that coming here, really helped me. I think my Blue period might finally be over.”

“Blue period?”

“Yes. Picasso’s work has been broadly divided into: Early works, like when he was a child and was doodling, the Blue period- that was when he was so poor and his best friend died that all his painting looked blue and sad, the Rose period- that was when he moved, eh, wait for it…Paris!, Cubism you already know.  Classicism, Surrealism. I could explain-“

“When was your blue period? Where was I?”

“Oh it was before I moved to Spain. Nothing important.” Amelia said dismissively.

“Amelia, you can talk to me.”

“It’s a story in itself.”


Chapter 5 – The Blue Period

Amelia vividly remembered the first day at the university where she had been wait-listed for more than two months for the Fine Arts course and the anticipation of making the cut had gnawed at her at every waking second. It was while standing in a queue in the Admissions office, she had noticed Neal for the very first time. A guy in baggy blue jeans and a plain white t-shirt standing ahead of her. Amelia only saw his back for first ten minutes until he turned around a couple of times. He had not shaved in days and his dark brown hair were wildly unkempt. His face looked placid in contrast to his shabby appearance while he skimmed through a book titled “Quantum Mechanics”. He was unperturbed by ongoing conversations and the occasional bursts of laughter in a room packed with freshers, as if an invisible wall separated him from the inessential, distinguishing him from everyone else. He would lift his eyes every now and then to see how far along the queue had moved, his hazel eyes in contrast with his dark brown hair.

Amelia did not see him until next two months in the library where he was making notes from a number of books carefully laid down in front of him on the table. His gaze was intense like that of an observer and betrayed his otherwise empty face. Amelia flushed with embarrassment when he suddenly looked up, meeting her in the eye as if he knew all along that he was being watched. It was only after a few minutes that Amelia looked at him again to see if he was still looking and to her astoundment, he was not just looking but also, grinning openly. Amelia’s heart skipped a beat for the first time ever in almost two decades. She knew it was a beginning of an era.

Getting to know Neal was an experience. He came from a middle class family where his father was a high school Maths teacher and his mother was a nurse in a local hospital. He was the third youngest amongst his four siblings comprising of two older brothers and a younger sister. As a child Neal learned the value of money and hardships that came with the absence of it. He witnessed his parents work extra shifts to ensure private education for all their children. As a child he vowed to be rich when he grew up and provide his parents with every luxury the world had to offer. By late teens he had realized that the only way to earn some real money was to become a businessman and he couldn’t wait to finish his education to become one. Every morning he woke up to The Financial Times and The Economist and never missed a class.

He admired Amelia for her kindness and compassion and would often tell her about his dreams as if they were already true. He told her how he would become an industrialist one day and she would tell him how she would own an art gallery. He would talk in facts and she would talk in poetry and they would both lay consumed in each other’s vastness. She was an idealist while he was pragmatic and they both knew how much they needed each-other to complete the spectrum. They were like lost pieces of a puzzle. The more they appreciated each other’s mind, the more they desired for each other’s bodies. They would travel across cities together, at times indulging in inebriated lunacies and on other times just being silently by each other’s side, reading their own books, listening to their own music. On other times, they would just walk by the beach holding hands, taking a dip in the ocean. Occasionally they would argue but one of them would always concede sooner or later. The price of separation was too high to pay in a life this short.

It was in an evening of their third summer together that a nineteen year old Amelia walked into her hostel room, after a hectic day of classes to find her otherwise shabby room to be decorated with candles and fairy lights. In the middle of the room was Neal, down on a knee. Oh my god! He is going to propose!

“Amelia, I know life is full of uncertainties and as we grow older, it is only going to get tougher. But if there is anything I am certain about, then it is you. I don’t know what future holds and but I am certain that I can go through anything as long as I am with you. I am certain that I cannot go on without you and believe you me, I have tried. I am certain that life will be beautiful with you. And so I want to celebrate my love for you and let the whole world know how proud I am of us. Would you spend your life to me? Amelia Buch, will you please marry me?”

“Bloody hell, yes, yes and a thousand times yes! Please tell me I am not dreaming.” Amelia exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms. Amelia couldn’t believe that love had finally found its way to her. That night she lay in bed, cuddled with Neal, beaming at the ring. The ring wasn’t gold or diamond. It was probably aluminium but she couldn’t care less. She giggled as she said out loud, “hello, fi-an-cé” and they kissed for the hundredth time. Amelia knew that the ring was a promise of commitment and she knew the value of one. Even her own parents couldn’t make one to her when it seemed to come naturally to all the others in the world.

Amelia carefully examined her surroundings. She wanted to remember every detail when she tells this story her children years later. She remembered the light pink floral curtains. The dim lights. The white window panes. The light blue cotton sheets sprawling carelessly across the bed. Her roommates’ Black Sabbath posters on the wall. The tilted photo frame on the bookshelf with a photograph of Neal, Grandma Lily and her from her previous birthday standing next to the only picture she had of her parents from their wedding day.

Must they be still together, mom and dad? Amelia knew of her parents only through her grandmother who had told her that her parents were travelers. Her mother had left for a fourteen day trip when she was twenty but had returned only a year later to inform that she will be travelling for the rest of her life. Her mother had blonde hair and sea green eyes on a heart shaped face, it was a face that must have left a string of broken hearts. It was while travelling to India that she had met her father and had been instantly smitten by his sun baked complexion and stout muscled built. Mother wanted to travel through India and father wanted to leave for Europe so they had both decided to take turns. First, her father showed her mother the gigantic Himalayas, and the dry Thar, the valleys of Kashmir, the royal palaces of Jaipur and the beaches along Indian Ocean coastline. And then it was her mother’s turn to show him the colors of Europe that shaped the history of entire world. Somewhere between the two, Amelia Buch was created and that was when her parents got briefly married somewhere over the Atlantic in a cheap ferry. How drunk they must have been, she thought. Her mother had dropped her off at her grandma’s house, promising to come back once she had run a few errands in Japan. But she never did. Never called and never turned up. What was in Japan though? Amelia wondered.

She looked at the photo frame and then looked at Neal who was casually lying next to her. She smiled. It was a moment of absolute bliss. It’s all too good to be true, she thought.

Amelia and Neal had moved in together in a small one bedroom apartment. Neal had joined as an intern at one of the top corporate firms and Amelia had been taken by a local artist for shadowing in central London. It was only five months later when she was looking at the calendar to pick a date that it struck her that she might have missed her period. She sat there baffled to see if there was a discrepancy but in her heart she knew she had never missed a date. Not once. But today she was late by twenty days. Even the thought of missing her period, let alone getting pregnant had never occurred to her as she had never missed a pill. There was even a reminder in her phone for every night at ten pm. Dredgedly she dragged herself to a pharmacy and got five pregnancy test kits. On her way back home, while sitting in the bus, she stared at the cover of the kit, on which a blond white girl smiled gaily as her stick reflected a positive sign. The blonde girl was happy about being positively pregnant.  The sheer irony of it mocked at her. She decided against telling Neal yet, in case it was a false alarm. Hours later, sitting on the bathroom floor, holding a stick, Amelia felt nauseous. All five sticks surrounding her reflected a positive. She couldn’t bring herself to walk out the door and tell Neal about the…baby, she thought. There’s going to be a baby inside of me. She knew she wasn’t ready for this. There is no job, no financial security and no matrimonial bond yet. It was almost thirty minutes later that she heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Babe, are you in there?”

“Yes…yes.”

“Are you okay? It’s been a while.”

Amelia looked flushed when she opened the door. She walked up to Neal who was listlessly changing channels on the television. Neal noticed that she was drenched in sweat. Before he could ask any questions, she handed him the pregnancy stick.

Neal looked at the stick for a good one minute. Amelia could see his eyebrows raise and knit in confusion.

“But this is not possible…just not possible.” He said without conviction. “How’s this possible? You were on the pill.”

“It’s yours”

“I know, oh baby, don’t worry… we will take care of it.”

In that moment Amelia felt as if somebody had burst her bubble. “Take care of it?” She echoed. “It could be a him or a her. There is no it. We created it.” She said, her eyes blazing with betrayal.  She couldn’t believe that Neal had referred to their child as an object who could be taken care of.

“Yes, I mean…you know what I mean.”

“I don’t think I know what you mean. Look, we cannot waste any more time. This needs to be meticulously planned. We need to pick the next date. How about Sunday? And get married as soon as we can so that we can begin getting ready for the baby. I know it’s going to be really tough but I could use my savings and prepare for the baby. We could get married somewhere cheap and save the marriage fund for the baby…”

All Neal could here was “the baby”. He could see Amelia talk passionately for about next ten minutes but he didn’t hear a word.

“Yes…yes…of course.” He said at the end of it.

“Should I call grandma?”

“Let’s wait until tomorrow. Let’s go and see a doctor first. One could never trust these sticks.” He calmed her down and put her to bed. Exhausted from all the weeping, Amelia drifted off to sleep while Neal lay wide awake.

Neal wondered what he is going to tell his parents who expected him to join one of the Ivy League colleges. He felt like his head would explode. Next morning, he woke up and got ready for the doctor’s visit even before Amelia woke up. He prepared breakfast and woke up Amelia who ate in silence. The visit to the doctor was a quiet one and even quieter on the way back once their biggest fears were confirmed. He started massaging his forehead with his fingers not knowing how to say what he really wanted to say.

“Baby, I have been thinking a lot about this and I don’t think that the timing is right. I mean we haven’t even started our career yet and how are we going to look after a baby? It’s expensive you know, education, medical, and so on and we are just twenty, we have all our life to make babies and we will. I promise you but not now…please. And think about all our plans of accomplishing things together, travelling together? Prioritizing our career? Please, we are not ready for this.”

“but it’s our baby, Neal? We can’t run away from this and I know we can do this together. I was scared too and I thought about it. Really thought about it. I even googled it and this situation is somewhat similar to cold feet but believe me, we will figure this out. We will love this thing more than we ever loved anything.”

“Do you seriously believe in all these things after what your parents did to you?,” there was mockery and anguish in his tone.

“Are you suggesting that I get an abortion?”

Neal nodded, his lips pressed in a straight line. “You just need to take a medicine.”

“Just a medicine? Is that right?”

“At least sleep over it?”

“I think you should leave.”

“Leave? This is our home. Where should I leave for?”

“I don’t know.” Amelia’s snapped.

“Are you sure you want to keep the baby and there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”

“Bloody hell Neal! Yes I am keeping the baby. You can get lost if that’s what you want to do.” Her eyes were brimming with tears as she stormed out of the room into her bedroom.

In the morning she woke to an empty house and realized that Neal had left. She tried calling him but he didn’t pick up the phone and didn’t reply to her messages. It was on the fifth day that Amelia realized that he probably will never come back. She lay in her bed restless, feeling anxious. She didn’t tell her grandma or her college friends that Neal had left without a word. She didn’t have courage to tell anyone that she had loved a man who didn’t have courage for responsibility, a man who had left her at her worst. A man who had abandoned her and their unborn child. Amelia didn’t leave her bed for next fifteen days. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t change. She never left her home, in case Neal came and always charged her phone in case Neal called. She felt incapable of even crying anymore. It was only when she had decided that things could not get any worse that a month later she woke up in the middle of the night, confused and deranged. Did I get my period?


Chapter 6 – Classicism

Diego looked at her, his expressions soft. They both sat in silence. Diego wanted to give her a hug but he knew she was too strong to be pitied. Amelia understood his silence and was relieved that she didn’t break down, neither were her eyes moist when she finished talking. Instead she felt lighter. It felt like a story from a hundred years ago. None of the characters from this story were around. She smiled at irony of all of it. She wondered where everyone was? What were they doing in this very moment while she was looking at the Spanish sky with a full moon? Were they looking at the same moon or were they looking at the sun? No one could tell.

“Neal was a first class coward and I am not saying this to make you feel better.” Diego finally said.

“He was perhaps a lapse of judgement, now that I look back.” Amelia said nostalgically. “Sometimes I do wonder what the child would have been like. What would I have named it? Would it have been a boy like him or a girl like me with dark locks of hair and Neal’s dark brown eyes?”

“Don’t go there.” Diego said as he held her hand.

“Sometimes I also wonder if I subconsciously killed my own baby. Not willing to face another living reminder of yet another failed relationship for the rest of my life. I wonder if I had been selfish all this while, playing a victim while actually being a perpetrator. You see…I denied myself food when it was someone else who needed it more than me. I did to my child what my parents had done to me. Abandoned it. Selfishness must be a genetic trait.” She said dryly in a flat tone.

“Do you hate your parents?”

“Well. Let’s see. I definitely missed them around the parent teacher meetings and birthdays and sometimes Christmas and I still think about them every day. I wonder if they aged gracefully or if my mother became fat and if father became bald. I wonder if I have step brothers or sisters. I wonder if they wonder I was a mistake. I wonder, if they are even around. I miss them. Sure. But then I also know of a friend whose parents abandoned him and he was raised by his uncle and aunt who were really bad people. His aunt used to burn him and abuse him and what not. They didn’t send him to school for a very long time and said really mean things to him, so the poor guy is still very shaky and sensitive. I think I got lucky to be raised by my grandma who is so smart and intelligent. We both love each other so much. I think she raised me better that anyone ever could. I was home-schooled till thirteen which I loved by the way. But no, I don’t hate my parents because honestly… I don’t really know what it is it like to have parents and so I don’t miss it in that way. I know having parents is mostly about being unconditionally loved and I was fortunate enough to be loved by my grandma. Plus what’s wrong in being selfish? Aren’t we all thinking about ourselves first? Even those who say we love “unconditionally” do it because it kind of makes them feel like a bigger person or makes them feel good about themselves. I don’t hate my parents. I know they must be a little guilty and they definitely are cowards but… what can I say? Right now, as selfish as that sounds, I am happy that I didn’t have my baby. No, I don’t hate my parents.”

Diego nodded.

“Can I tell you I had a crush on you for a brief moment? And I was slightly disappointed when you just left for Seville. All those feelings came back and I felt like, another man I loved has left the town. Déjà vu.” Amelia continued.

“I would never leave you,” said Diego his eyes burning with sincerity.

“We would never know.”

“You are the only women, if I may say, I really liked after a long long time. After my wife left me, I thought this is it. This is the end, I will never feel this way again. But thank god for you and you have inspired me in so many ways and after today, everything has changed. Thank you for telling me everything”

“How drunk are we to talk about life and matters of heart? Think we should call it a night?”

“It’s almost sunrise.” Diego nodded.

Amelia rose and they both hugged each other. They went inside the studio where the others were sleeping. Amelia packed her stuff and headed towards the door.

“Should I walk you back home?” Diego asked.

“I think I’ll just walk back on my own.”

Diego nodded and planted a kiss on her forehead.

“Will you forgive me, if I never come back?”

“I could never be angry with you.”


 

Dedicated to my late grand parents – nani-nanu, dadi-baba, who I know shine bright with the stars.


 

You can read Amelia- Part I here. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Man and the Sea – Book Review

old_man_and_the_sea.jpg

 

Synopsis

This is a story of an aging and a poor Cuban fisherman named Santiago, who hasn’t caught a fish in 84 days – a symbol of ultimate bad luck in the Cuban fishing community known as “salao“.

The book revolves around three characters: Santiago – the old fisherman, Manolin – Santiago’s apprentice and a marlin. Manolin is a young boy who deeply cares and loves the old man however, due to salao, the young boy is forbidden by his parents to go fishing with the old man for the bad luck is seldom contagious. Determined to catch a fish and break his salao, Santiago sails far deep into the Gulf Stream where he finally hooks a magnificent marlin. The reader might be momentarily relieved here only to find out that the marlin is so giant and powerful, that the old man fails to haul him in and instead, it is the marlin that tows the skiff for next two days, pushing Santiago into deeper waters.

Still not willing to give up, the old man hopes that the marlin will ultimately get tired of towing around and will die of either fatigue or starvation. As experienced as he was, he decided to put up a fight. While he battles the fish with sweat and blood for the next two days, he develops compassion and respect for the magnificent marlin because just as the old man himself, the marlin refuses to give in. The old man wonders: “There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity.”

On day three, the marlin finally becomes sluggish in its movement and the old man seizes this opportunity to kill it with his harpoon.  The marlin is now dead and in old man’s control. The old man and the reader is yet momentarily relieved here. The old man tastes the marlin’s flesh and decides that it is one of finest he has ever had and it will earn him a fortune. Could there be a better way to end a what seemed like a never ending salao? However, the marlin’s blood begins to lure ravenous sharks. Santiago kills and drives away as many sharks as he could but the sharks keep coming and there comes a time, he loses his harpoon, his only weapon. It’s almost sunrise by the time the old man reaches the shoreline and not much remained of the magnificent fish. He is so exhausted that he goes back home and slumps into his bed and falls into deep slumber.

Next day, the fishermen gather around Santiago’s boat and measure that the fish is 18 feet long. They feel sorry about Santiago and tell Manolin to let Santiago know. Manolin cries and feels guilty for not being there for the old man when he needed him the most. He vows to accompany Santiago on his next fishing trip.

Review 

A certain kind of wisdom, one which might be comparable to the depth of an ocean is attained only by virtue of age and adversity, for adversity introduces a man to himself.  This book captures the epiphanies and wisdom which only a man as old and experienced as Santiago can posses. The message of the book is quite precise: ‘Man can be destroyed, but not defeated’ or in simple words, it’s all in the head. Experiencing this book definitely  requires some patience. Imagine sitting on a boat in the middle of an ocean and waiting to catch a fish. It could be an hour, a day or days. Life is about being patient and it is only human to hope and romanticize the impending victory. And just as in this book, in life too, sometimes there is no there when we reach there but we have to keep trying. We have to overcome our enemies, our demons – as much powerful as they appear, as much as we appreciate their strength and hold them above us, on a pedestal. Most of the times, they are only as strong as our weakness. The simple plot of this book captures the essence of most complex struggles in life.  Therefore, just as Ernest Miller Hemingway says through Santiago, Man can be destroyed, but not defeated. Righteously marked as one of the finest classics, this novella is definitely a must-read.

Excerpts 

Some of my favorite quotes from this book are:

  • “It is silly not to hope, he thought.”

 

  • “He [Santiago] was too simple to wonder when he had attained humility. But he knew he had attained it and he knew it was not disgraceful and it carried no loss of true pride.”

 

  • “No one should be alone in their old age, he thought. But it is unavoidable.”

 

  • “You were born to be a fisherman as the fish was born to be a fish.”

 

  • “Why do old men wake so early? Is it to have one longer day?”

 

  • “I have never seen or heard of such a fish. But I must kill him. I am glad we do not have to try to kill the stars. Imagine if each day a man must try to kill the moon, he thought. The moon runs away. . . . Then he was sorry for the great fish that had nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for him. . . . There is no one worthy of eating him from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity. I do not understand these things, he thought. But it is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.”

 

  • “He did not say that because he knew that if you said a good thing it might not happen.”
    But, thank God, [the fish] are not as intelligent as we who kill them; although they are more noble and more able.”

 

  • “He looked across the sea and knew how alone he was now. But he could see the prisms in the deep dark water and the line stretching ahead and the strange undulation of the calm. The clouds were building up now for the trade wind and he looked ahead and saw a flight of wild ducks etching themselves against the sky over the water, then blurring, then etching again and he knew no man was ever alone on the sea.”

 

  • “She is kind and very beautiful. But she can be so cruel and it comes so suddenly”
    “the fish’s eye looked as detached as the mirrors in a periscope or as a saint in a procession.”

 

  • “They were as old as erosions in a fishless desert. Everything”

 

  • “Fish,” he said, “I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

Amelia – Part 1 (16 minutes read)

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. – Pablo Picasso”.

On a sunny October morning, Amelia fathomed the depth of a graffiti inscribed on a wall of a buzzing La Rambla street. Though it had been a while since she had moved to Barcelona, Spain, the artistic aura of the city still captivated her. Appeased with herself, Amelia smiled knowing that she had made the right decision.

She looked at her watch and it was fifteen minutes to twelve pm. She opened up a big red umbrella that read ‘‘Amigo Tour Agency” and wore her badge around her neck that spelled out her name in black bold letters, big enough for anyone to recognize from a distance. Her black hair floated in the soft breeze and her luminous olive complexion reflected the sun’s light. Standing tall at 5’8 in brown khakis and a red polo, she was hard to miss.

In next few minutes, she was approached by a middle-aged English couple, “Hi, are you from the tour agency? We are here for the walking tour.”

“Of course” Amelia flashed her best smile as she diverted her attention from the graffiti, “Let’s wait for another 10 minutes so that everybody’s here.”

A group of enthusiastic tourists soon began to swarm around her. At exactly twelve pm, she gathered her audience as she cleared her throat to recite the same speech that she had been reciting every day for past six months.

“Hello everyone, I am Amelia Buch and I welcome you all to the walking tour by Amigo tour agency. Today, I’ll take you through some of the best works in the history of architecture by the legendary Antoni Gaudí i Corne also known as just Gaudi in… English language. Spanish speakers can join my friend José in that circle.” She pointed across the road where another group of people stood with their backs showing. She paused for a smile as a few people left. “Okay, so that’s 4 less.” She resumed. “For those of you who are here today because they didn’t have anything better to do this afternoon, rest assured that you have made the right decision because Gaudian architecture is the essence of this beautiful city of Catalonia and without this experience your trip remains INCOMPLETE.

To give a brief introduction about myself. I am from England and I am half-British, half-Indian. I decided to take a gap year after university and come to Barcelona for a month-long vacation. Well, this was about a year back.” Some people in the group chuckled.  “I would say I am still discovering this city and it amazes me how much it has to offer, including the sun which you barely see in England. I love my job as I get to meet people like yourself from across the globe on an EVERYDAY basis! How cool is that.

That’s pretty much all about me. Now let’s hear your names and country. How about we start from this end of the circle?”

Over the next four hours, Amelia took her tourists through Palau Güell, Plaça Reial, Block of Discord, Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gràcia, La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia, saving the best for the last. At the end of the tour, the tourists often tipped her generously for her accuracy of facts and her energy that she would continue to maintain throughout.

After the tour was over, Amelia would stop by café Viena for lunch, usually accompanied by some of the people from the tour. She had now become a regular at this café which was a cozy little restaurant near Sagarda Familia. The staff treated her warmly and the owner Javier was a heavyset man in his early fifties with curly locks of black hair. Javier never charged Amelia for food as she always brought new customers through her tourists.

Everyday, Amelia would sit at the same spot in café Viena which was a quiet corner by the window. Now a routine, she would first order her espresso and then count the tip she had received for the day. Then she would order ‘today’s special’ for lunch. Sometimes her quiet routine would be interrupted by over-zealous tourists who would ask for recommendations for places to see, food to eat and clubs to go to. Amelia always answered patiently to all the questions for she related to being a foreigner in a new city. She remembered what it was like when she had just moved to Barcelona. She didn’t speak the language and was completely clueless about where to begin but the locals had helped her figure out everything, from an accommodation to a job and she felt like she owed a lot to this city especially after everything she had been through.

After she finished her lunch, she would either read a book or draw sketches of people who stopped by the café for a coffee or a drink. She found it absolutely intriguing the variety of people who visited the café on an everyday basis from across the world. It seemed almost orchestrated how strangers in strange clothes with strange accents would blend in. Strangers that would describe the city with brand new perspectives and enthusiasm towards things that had been constant in the Catalonian streets for hundreds of years. Strangers who walked out as friends and lovers.

At the end of the day, Amelia would walk back to her apartment which was in Carrer de Còrsega, a place she had discovered with Javier’s assistance and was a fifteen minutes’ walk from the Viena. She had rented a tiny studio apartment on the 3rd floor of a private building. The owner was an amicable old woman named Mariana who lived on the first floor.

Amelia had decorated her apartment with posters of artworks by Dali, Degas, Picasso, Goya, da Vinci, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. She had studied 20th century arts during her under graduate program in London and had been especially taken by the works of Pablo Picasso. She appreciated the modern artist’s talent, struggles, spirit and his attitude towards life but more than anything she admired his display of boundless uninhibited imagination. There was no apprehensions in venturing. Though ages apart, he inspired her in ways and it was this inspiration that prompted her to write a thesis on him. She believed that researching about him might throw some light on her own self as an artist. It was then she had decided to move to Spain, Picasso’s birth place.

At exactly eight pm, she would call her grandma who lived in Birmingham to tell her all about her day. It had been a ritual for past six years, since the day Amelia had moved out from her home to the university hostel. There had been a brief period of time when she resented calling her grandma everyday but over time she had realized that through every thick and thin, this was the only thing that had remained constant in time – a phone call to her grandma at eight PM and now it had become a habit ingrained so deep that her mental alarm triggered off naturally no matter how busy she was or in which corner of the world she was.

Chapter 2 – The Rendezvous

One Saturday afternoon, Amelia noticed a poster of a band performance outside café Viena , when she reached their after finishing her tour. She approached Javier who didn’t notice her coming as his eyes were glued to the television screen showing Barcelona vs Valencia and the latter was making the former sweat. Javier almost looked cross.

‘Isn’t 25 euros a lot to see some random band? I could see Imagine Dragons for 30 pounds in London. I haven’t even heard of these guys.’ Amelia said as she sat on the chair next to Javier.

“Ah…not you Amelia. You don’t judge music by cover. And why you worry? We no charge you. Plus these guys play good music. Even English music.”  Javier for the first time removed his eyes from the screen to give Amelia a quick friendly wink.

“English music in Spain. Jackpot. And by the way, it is a book by its cover.”

“Si, Si..”

Later that night, Amelia reach Viena 20 minutes before the performance was to begin. The stage was being set up and she observed that people from all age groups had come to see the performance. The Viena was buzzing with couples, friends and families and all seemed to be animatedly chatting. A few minute later, the band members walked up to the stage.

The band opened with a subtle ‘Stand by me’ by Ben E. King and progressed to ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson. In no time, the people were singing along and by the end of an hour-long performance that was concluded ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley, a lot of people were dancing including Amelia herself,  who was utterly thrilled. The ‘once more’ chant resonated so loud in the jam-packed café that the band had to return for one last song after which the lights were turned on and everyone had risen to give a standing ovation.

Amelia noticed that Clarence, the lead singer, was standing at the bar surrounded by people who wanted to congratulate him for their extraordinary performance. He was a colored man in his mid-forties who got freckles around his eyes when he smiled. Unable to contain herself, Amelia approached him herself when the other fans had left.

“I think you are crazzzyyy.” Amelia sang the last song from their gig as she approached Clarence.

“Thank you for coming today.” Clarence replied smiling eye to eye. He was still soaked in sweat after all the jumping and singling on the stage.

“Oh well, thank youu for performing today. The last one and a half hour was entrancing. Bewitching. Captivating. I can keep on talking. I can’t believe I never saw you guys before!”

Clarence laughed “Thank you so much love. We perform every Thursday at Jamboree. You must be new here”

“Well, I have been here for a year now though I must admit that today feels like a ‘Eureka’ moment.”

“haha, Thank you. Would you like a beer?

“Ya sure.” Clarence signaled the bartender for two beers. They had been joined by other fans who wanted to thank Clarence for the great performance.

“What’s a pretty girl like you doin alone here?” Clarence asked when others had left and it was just the two of them.

“Well…” Amelia blushed at the compliment. “The pretty girl is on a break from the pretty boys.” Amelia stated matter-of-factly.

“Pretty boys are the worse.” Clarence responded looking almost nostalgic. “Do you wanna join the gang for the afterparty? We usually go to Marty’s after the performance. It’s round the corner.”

“Marty’s? I may have been there once or twice. It’s so overpriced and shady, I never understand why people go there”. Amelia looked unimpressed.

“I see. Marty is my boyfriend so we always chill at his restaurant after the gig.” Clarence grinned.

“Oh. Oh? I am so sorry. I may have confused it with some other restaurant. Let’s go there!” Amelia replied feeling embarrassed.

“Haha, don’t worry. It’s fine. Marty is a ripper. I have to pack my guitar first”

Clarence and Amelia went to the green room where Amelia finished her beer as Clarence packed his guitar after which they left for Marty’s.  It was quarter after midnight and the streets were deserted. The night was cold and Amelia reprimanded herself for not carrying a warmer jacket. After a ten minutes’ walk, Clarence and Amelia reached ‘Marty’s’ where the rest of band members were drinking and chatting. The lights were dim and yellow. The ambience matched the lights.

“There’s my hero, muchachos” Marty cheered when Clarence entered the restaurant and everyone clapped. Clarence blushed and greeted Marty with a kiss. He later introduced Amelia to his friends and band members.

“Ola, this is Amelia from London and Amelia, this is Juan, Diego, Nicolas, Matteo and this pretty lady is Africa.”

Amelia greeted each of band members with a peck on each cheek while Marty poured her some red wine. Amelia recollected that Juan was the guy on the drums, Diego on the bass guitar, Nicolas on the electric guitar and Matteo on the synthesizer.

“You guys are so amazing! I loved every bit of that performance.”

The gang smiled at the compliment. “Gracias, bella” Matteo responded.

Africa came forward to greet Amelia and said something in Spanish that Amelia did not understand.

“Que? Español, poco poco” Amelia made a hand gesture to indicate she understands little Spanish.

“No Espanol, Catalan.” Africa almost snapped. The election results were round the corner.

“I apologize, I meant Catalan. Of course.”

“Me, Matt’s girlfriend.” Africa continued. Amelia wondered if Africa was marking her territory.

“It’s lovely to meet you. I saw you cheering backstage. It’s great how supportive you are.”

“Que?” Africa called out to Diego, the guitar guy who was standing next to them in a different group, amidst a very intense discussion about Barcelona’s poor performance earlier in the match today. Africa said something to him in Spanish.  “Oh so you need a translator? I charge for my services, ladies.” Diego teased, his wayfarer blue eyes alight with mischief.

Amelia noticed that he was wearing a wedding band and her heart sank a bit. The three of them talked for a while and after which Amelia felt like she needed a break from all the translations, iterations and hand gestures that it took to convey a simple idea. She decided to step out for some fresh air. A few minutes later she heard footsteps and saw it was Diego who had stepped out for a smoke himself.

“Fancy some Mary Jane?”

“I am a reform but by all means, please carry on.” Amelia chuckled.

“Then let’s keep it that way.” She watched as Diego went on to roll his cigarette. There was a minute of silence and Amelia noticed there were very fine lines at his forehead which she hadn’t noticed earlier in the dim lights. She wondered how old he was.

“How long have you been playing?”

“5 years with this band and before this I was a solo artist for almost a decade.”

“Wow.” So he must be somewhere in his mid-thirties but then why does he look like he is in his mid-twenties.

“Yes, I don’t remember doing anything else except for playing music. It keeps me in balance and these guys…they are like family.” Diego continued.

“That’s just commendable, dedicating your life to something you really love.”

“Yes, it is. So what brings you to Barcelona?”

“I am actually writing a thesis on early life of Pablo Picasso and I work as a tour guide during the day.”

“Oh really! I am a big fan of Picasso and I totally love some of his works, you know like Bottle, Glass, Fork painting and of course the famous painting of his girlfriends..Les Demoiselles d’Avigon, saw it when I was in States. Quite a revolutionary that guy.”

“Well, I swear by that-guy and yes, he did like to mix his wine, women and art.”

“but hey, Madrid has a better collection some say. Did you check that out?”, he said as he took a long drag.

“Actually, I do have a trip planned in a couple of weeks. I must admit that I am quite impressed to see your interest in art.”

“What? Whyyy? Because I am a guitarist am I supposed to be all about drugs and alcohol?” Deigo teased pretending to look hurt.

“And women” Amelia added, “and Nooooo. Come ‘on! Even non guitarists don’t like to talk about arts and let’s not forget that you are wearing the clichéd leather jacket!!”, Amelia exclaimed.

“Well, I like modern art, Cubism for one and then I too must admit that my wife used to work at an art gallery and I did my homework right.” Diego smiled like a child who had been caught cheating in an exam.

“I see. Wouldn’t it upset your wife that you are not home yet? It’s 3am” Amelia carefully asked.

“I guess it did upset her but it doesn’t… anymore.”

“I wouldn’t blame her, any girl would be threatened if her husband was a hot guitarist” Amelia blurted.

“Well… we separated a few months back.” Diego said.

“I am sorry to hear that.” Amelia could see he looked sad.

“It’s okay, been a while. Time heals” Diego said drawing a long breath. Amelia could feel an awkward silence creeping in and wondered if she had brought up a sensitive subject.

“So..you think I am hot?” Diego asked feigning to look serious but his mischevious smile gave him away.

“Noo…” Amelia laughed. “Or maybe yes, don’t be so smug!” Diego chuckled.  “Maybe I could read your work sometime.”

“Really? I could use some feedback. You should come by Viena sometime. I am usually there in the evenings after wrapping up the tour.”

They went back inside when Diego finished his smoke. Inside, Clarence was strumming his guitar and playing a Christmas song. Marty was standing next to him and playing a Tambourine. Some others had formed a circle around them and were singing along with him. There were couples who had started dancing by the bar. There was happiness in the air similar to what it was like when the band was performing at the café. Amelia and Diego joined others and the night turned into an early morning before they all went back to their homes. This was definitely a night that Amelia would remember.

Chapter 3 -The Rose period

Over next few days, Amelia would frequently stop by the studio where the band practiced and jammed. She would see them writing, rewriting songs and practicing notes a hundred times over. There were cycles of frustrations, struggles, progress that would ultimately culminate into grand celebrations. In a short time, she had developed a healthy friendship with all the other band members including Africa, who loved to click photographs while the band practiced. They would sometimes go back to Africa’s apartment with a tiny darkroom where she taught Amelia how to develop photographs. Amelia noticed that most of the photos were of Matteo, capturing him in his various moods and just like Amelia, she liked to capture people when they were not watching. “These are the moments of truth,” she remarked.

Amelia learned through Africa that Clarence had been a street artist for almost a decade before he got his first break. It was through one of the locals, who happened to be present in his audience, who gave him an opportunity to perform at a restaurant near Park Guell. He was hired on a trial basis but in no time became a permanent employee as his music lured great number of audience who turned into customers for the restaurant and since then, there has been no looking back for Clarence. It was Clarence who had eventually discovered other band members with time and formed their band.

That night after Amelia came back home, she searched for his videos on YouTube and surprisingly she came across a number of them uploaded by random tourists. Those videos depicted a young Clarence playing his guitar with his guitar case laid out in front of him. Back then he had a much slender frame and shoulder length hair in dreadlocks but the exact same smile that spread eye to eye. There were people dropping change in his guitar case every now and then as he sang some of the songs that he still did with a spirit that had only grown if not remained consistent with time.  At that moment, Amelia felt almost guilty for telling Javier that 25 euros were too much for a local gig.

Next day when Amelia went to the studio she gave Clarence a hug. “What’s up sunshine?” he asked a little surprised. “Can’t a friend just hug another friend?” Amelia replied authoritatively throwing her hands in the air and left smiling.

The incident with Clarence and her time with Africa made Amelia wonder if she had undermined her favorite subject, the people. Something that even Picasso never did who on the contrary loved to explore his muses in various shades and perhaps that brought out the finer artist in him, she wondered.

Amelia that day went back to her apartment to open the folder where she stacked all her sketches. For the first time she noticed that although her drawings were technically accurate, they perhaps failed to talk to its viewer and convey certain emotions. Later, she opened a photo of Diego in her phone and started drawing it on a blank canvas. A few hours later, after she was finished drawing she looked at it for a long time and realized how happy she was in that moment to have met everyone who had become a part of her life in these past few days. But more than anyone, she felt happy for having met Diego, who talked like a child but behaved like an adult. He was kind, compassionate and honest. Every day after the practice sessions, Diego would walk her back home and it had now become an unsaid ritual. Amelia eagerly waited for the day to end for those fifteen minutes of walk back home.  She loved how he talked very openly about things. He was always eager to tell her how his day went and ask her about hers in return. He described even the minutest things in details and waited for a reaction. It was as if her opinion mattered to him.

Amelia wondered if this is the life that she always wanted and all the pain in the past had been culminating for this moment in her life. She loved how she had built an environment around her that fostered creativity and not only her mental health was improving but she was also growing as an artist. That night, she decided that she would express her feelings to Diego but before that she had to tell her Grandma. She poured herself a glass of wine and said a little prayer in her heart, thanking the stars for the family she never had. Next day, Amelia reached the studio after wrapping up her tour but couldn’t find Diego. He had left for Seville to meet his ex-wife.

…to be continuted. 

Picture Courtesy: http://imgfave.com/view/5142195?r=pin