Monday, June 19, 2006

Kaavya: Episode VI (Finale)


After we returned from the park, Kaavya was anxious to get through all that was tormenting her. She told me that she tried to be cheerful around Rishi that evening, but he carried a steady swollen look on his face. “I just went to my room, for I did not wanted to spoil my mood after such a pleasant evening with Videshi. Rishi talked to Ruchi for a bit and left and then came Varun. He looked extremely distraught. I was scared by the anger he displayed. His fist was taut; his six feet frame held tremors of rage and his words fell like whip lashes. He was particularly cruel in his choice of accusations and I just froze, entranced by the ferocity in his body language. Now I know why they say, passion can turn men into beasts.

I have had known Varun as this delightful person, whose jokes are measured, words are well chosen and actions reveal an innate goodness. I have heard you used to call him girl shy, though I know that he is the best company a girl can have. Maybe having two sisters, made him so particular about knowing and attending to the needs of girls. Actually, I guess I never even thought about how much better I felt around him compared to other people. His presence always had this sense of security and sensibility about it.”

“Exactly, my point Kaavya! How many times have I asked you to give at least sometime between meeting acquaintance A and B and C? How would you ever figure at the end of the day who made you happy or miserable? More so, when you have Rishi breathing on your neck like a dragon in heat, unable to contain his fire, seeks to burn the very thing he cherishes by bring it in direct contact with his irresponsible passion.” I guess as soon as I got an opportunity to say what I had often repeated to Ruchi and suggested to Kaavya, I jumped the gun. It backfired.

“Well Vivek, if you want to listen, listen. I don’t want either your witticism or satire at present. If you really think you can fix anyone’s life’s romances, fix your own.” She paused for a moment or two, while I was tired enough of it all and anger was building up inside me. She continued, “I am sorry, Vivek. I am not in the best of my moods to be courteous right now. But you should have seen Varun. Varun was angrier than anyone I have ever, ever known. He couldn’t stand still. His fists pounded his hands and kept shouting at me.”

She told me, some of the things that Varun said were: “You are only concerned about having a good time. All you care about is having your dance, your dinner, your imaginary romances. It is only about you, the whole world must think about you, work for you. I am such a joke for you. My words have no meaning for you. If I help you in shopping or watch a movie with you, I do it because I like spending time with you. But you don’t give two hoots about who is with you, for if it wasn’t me, it would be Rishi, Gandharav, Mahadev, Pathan, Kulkarni. If not these, you would pick some Jamaican rag seller or I don’t know, any prick on the street would work. You let those lechers feed on you, take advantage of you and talk of you as if you were a shameless whore, and you don’t even notice. Don’t you know what a woman who spends so much time with so many men is called? I know that Rishi has spent five nights here in last two weeks, and I know he slept on this couch. How do I argue with Gandharav when he says what proof I have that you are sleeping alone? Even Sita was not pardoned by this world. How do I silence them when they talk about the curves they savor when you decide to look pretty in your skimpy skirts or sleeveless tees?

But well, I very well realize now that you cannot tell between apples or oranges. I realize now why Vivek says that every female has a Madhu-Makhi (Honey bee) in her, and one must always be ready to be stung. O how I have adored you so far, and how I despise you now. I should have known it is not worth the trouble. I have too many things in my life to take care of anyways. You are just like the tricycle I never owned, and now I don’t care about you or the cycle anymore.

I ask you to not dance with someone and you just don’t get it. I have known this person for eight years and I know what goes on in his head. He has no shame, no respect for woman. But why blame him? When my words, my being, my presence has no meaning to you, why am I even bothered with this bull crap? I guess I might regret saying this later. (Kaavya had been sobbing for a while when he was uttering all this, but like a tornado, he couldn’t have stopped before the damage was complete.) But I need to end it here today. You are not worth my craving or attention or time. You can never appreciate what I have to offer, and I don’t think you can change, or at least I am not willing to wait till you realize my worth. You have too many admirers for you to realize that you are not as perfect as their compliments make you seem to be.

Honestly, I never told you, but Kaavya, I really have pined for you. Remember the poem “If I were to live only one day more”. It was written about you. I loved you, but I now see how pointless it is to care for someone who is too busy to notice and appreciate it. I don’t have heart to see you cry like this, and I cannot change whatever I just said. O why is this so hard?” According to Kaavya, his words came with a lot of effort, for by now his anger had subsided and his immense heartbreak ceased him. At that moment entered Gandharav and Mahadev, who were let in by Ruchi.

Gandharav was dressed nicely, as was Mahadev. They were leaving with Ruchi, who had changed into jazzy black trousers and a light pink shirt with frills. As soon as Gandharav saw Varun, he guessed something was up. Varun stared at Gandharav with all his anger that resurfaced now on seeing his nemesis. Gandharav made a small talk with Mahadev saying, “Bloody beer was too warm man. If Ruchi hurries up, we will get a good table at the tavern, and then I will win tonight’s drinks from her at the pool table.”

Gandharav basically looked everywhere except in the direction of Varun, and even before Ruchi came out again, he had walked out of the door on excuse of going to get gas filled in the tank. You know how even after Ruchi is seemingly ready, she walks back into her restroom and spends extra fifteen minutes of the finishing touches. Vivek could visualize the scene, and had never understood the importance of curling eye lashes, almost invisible lip gloss, a brush of little color that Ruchi explained formed the last rites in her dressing up. While Gandharav was gone, Mahadev went out for a smoke and Varun said, “Kaavya, I’ll see to it that our paths don’t cross again. It was good knowing you, and I guess it is a goodbye. I won’t wait for your words, for they will make me weak or stay. Tell them to Vivek later, if you wish. Before leaving, he was nearly crying, and like so, he slipped a note into my hands. As he did so, a saw a tear tumble down his face, running down from lowered eyes, and here is that piece.” I read Varun’s nearly illegible handwriting on a crumpled piece of paper:

“Many sparrows will chirp on your porch,
Many will fly in and away,
But forget not him who loved and loved
But forgive him who migrated away.”

Kaavya sobbed for a bit, and said, “See, Varun had come prepared for it. I am sure I missed on many things he said. He said something about Gandharav’s way of treating these foreign women he dated and mated with. He said something about how ridiculous Rishi’s face and demeanor is when he is about me. O Vivek! He said more mean things but neither can I recollect them in right order, nor do I have the heart to repeat them. Plus as we know him, he is gone forever. The one guy I could have liked to love is gone forever. But Vivek, never mention this to him. Tell him from my side, to have a good life.” The rest of the story is known to people. After Varun left, Gandharav and Mahadev came back, took Ruchi away, met me on the way, when Gandharav’s swerving car scared the daylights out of me and then rest of the night I talked to Kaavya, while Ruchi was missing. Yes, at this point of time, Ruchi is missing, Kaavya has just gone into her room, and I am sleepless on their couch.

I was thinking about the repercussions of what happened today. I knew Varun loved this girl, and I knew what agony unrequited love can bring. More so if the person is in the same town, and is seen happy in anothers company.


I had often talked to Varun about how Kaavya was one of those highly self conscious females, who would not stand a moment of criticism. If exposed to some, they just lash out back at you with whatever fangs they hide. It was only a week ago that during a similar conversation, Varun rationalized this by saying, “Come on Vivek! Don’t be so harsh on her. She is a nice girl with a male ego. Perhaps therein lays her biggest charm.”

I put my arm around his shoulder, drew the last, prolonged puff of my cigarette, and released the smoke facing away from him, while my foot was mercilessly pressing the stub that I was kissing just a moment ago. “Charm or harm, time will tell. I don’t know if I burn the cigarette or the cigarette burns me, but at least I get to extinguish it and throw it away. Ah! Women with ego, in the beginning they are like a cigarette, but somehow the smoker becomes the stub and find himself being minced by the heel of the same woman.”

Varun was smiling now, and said, “Madhu-makhi again. Sometimes I think she got all your nectar, and don’t know who gets the honey now.” He knew how I still despised myself for a childhood fancy that had unsettled me absolutely.

If I hadn’t got the rude shock in X grade, when I was too sick to even write the board examination, I would have ruined my life completely. My smoking, capacity to drink six pack of beer without flinching and an avalanche of useless giggle at every opportunity were infused into me at fifteen. She wasn’t the prettiest face in the class, and I wasn’t so bad looking either. In fact, she was the one who was like a house-fly that buzzed about me all the time, “Vivek, help me with this drama please? OR Vivek, why don’t you reply to my letters? Or Come home someday. I’ll make tea and pakoras.” I never understood why she wrote me those sugary letters, even though we met everyday in school. She had this everyday wink as a salutation for me, and followed it with some typical high-school sigh, saying, “You look so tushiony today. Ah! There you go, shattered a heart!”

With some encouragement from my friends, I finally managed to fall for her. Perhaps she just wanted that to happen, for within a two week she turned into a cold stone-hearted female. She stopped talking to me, made faces if she saw me staring at her, and what was most painful to me was the way she maligned me in front of all classmates when I gave her that birthday card.

She tore it without opening, and said in the loudest voice, “I don’t like you, and I don’t want to have anything to do with you. Is it so hard to understand?” For weeks our class surmised what was going on, no one still knows why she changed that way. Everyone suspected that I had done something, and hell, I should have, to deserve that trauma I went through. The class episode was trivial compared to the later events.

The icing on the cake was her clumsy romance with a guy, nicknamed Makhi by his parents (what vision parents have) who had passed out of the school four years ago. This loser was now a shopkeeper, and left his shop twice a day, for spending the half hour in bus with Madhu. The bus was usually overcrowded, and these two would stand facing each other, letting crowd push them closer and closer. The guy would steal a kiss every so often, and sometimes his hand would be seen at a place that allowed all the school children to talk about the Madhu-Makhi.

My parents left me in care of house servant and went away to Saudi Arabia for six months, where my father had worked for fifteen years, while my mother went there every two years for six months. So I was all alone, and heartbroken, and had enough money with me to savor every cheap rum and whiskey in that time. The worse my state got, the stronger Madhu’s romance became. In October, my friends started advising me to stop drinking, in November all my teachers took turns to talk to me about it. By December, I had received warning from the principal, but my drinking continued unabated, as did her bus travel. I memorized whole of Harivansh Rai’s Madhushaala, and I talked in shers (couplets) I picked from Jagjit Singh’s Ghazals (songs).

By the beginning of February, I had lost ten kilograms in four months, my parents were returning two months early for they received too many phone calls urging them to come and save their son. Thankfully before they arrived in shock and anger, I was in hospital diagnosed with jaundice and stayed there for nearly two months. I had killed my one kidney, my liver and digestion were strained to their limit, and of course, the question of writing exams in that condition never arose.

On Fools day, I was released from the hospital. I went home, cried like a new born baby for hours, and vowed to my parents in front of small temple in prayer room, that whatever happens, I will never ever let them find me in that situation ever again. The day Madhu turned eighteen, she eloped with the shopkeeper, and soon after Madhu-Makhi have left the country to work in Kenya. Her twenty or so emails and several phone calls that I missed tell me that she regretted whatever happened. I pity her now, and the memory still sends shivers down my spine.

The noise at the door was followed by Ruchi’s stumbling in. I covered my face, and lay still. Mahadev was saying, “One quick kiss before I go.” Ruchi said, “Sshh! Rishi is sleeping here. He’ll wake up.” I was amused by the thought that Ruchi thought I was Rishi and for some reason, it did not sink in that Mahadev asked for a kiss and Ruchi did not say anything. I heard a loud kiss, and it was followed by two more long lasting kissing noises and “umm, ummm” from Ruchi. My whole body was trying to lurch out of my throat, and I heard Gandharav’s voice, “ Oh Ruchi, You will easily give Mallika Sherawat run for money.” Ruchi laughed aloud and said, “What Mallika? Is she even a competition?”

Gandharav jumped the gun, “But yaar (friend), why not drive Vivek away? Why have him around you when you don’t love him?” Ruchi growled, “Who said I don’t love him? Ok yes, I haven’t made love to him. Man, I am so drunk, and Mahadev is so sexy. Vivek fulfils me spiritually and emotionally like no other. He is the take to home, make the parents happy, kind of person. Mahadev, like you, is only a good fuck, though don’t you dare tell Vivek anything about this and don’t you dare laugh at me.” Gandharav said, “I’ll leave you two along, but don’t make too much noise. Even walls have ears.” Ruchi said, “Run along with him Mahadev. You had enough fun on dance floor already.” I heard another quick kiss and then a dead silence mingled with drumming of rage ran through my heartbeat. I waited till I was certain that Ruchi has dozed off, got up and left.


This was the story of one night that changed the course of our lives. I raced home, and woke Varun up. We talked for two or three hours. By then, my anger had subsided, Varun’s had tired him out. Gandharav came into the room then yawning, saying, “Vivek, I thought you were sleeping on the couch in Kaavya’s home?”

“You son of a mother, you saw me there.” Gandharav smiled, and said, “You have more body mass than Rishi, and you sleep lying straight. Rishi is always coiled up like a baby in the womb. But that’s not what I noticed first. What I saw was the shoe that Ruchi stumbled upon as she entered, and I have seen this rotten sneaker for so long, that I could tell.” I looked at him in awe, while he just shrugged his shoulders.

I asked him to sit down and after some effort on my part, Varun and Gandharav hugged each other. Varun proposed we needed to celebrate our new found singlehood. Gandharav suggested we go to the beach. Two hours later, we were on the road to one of the most enjoyable trips I have ever been on. At night we had camped on the beach, and after getting dead drunk, cried and laughed for hours. It actually took us months to recover and forget the agony of it all, but that one night had changed our lives.

Whatever happened with Madhu had nearly destroyed me. Somehow, the Ruchi episode made me stronger. It also took away some anger I had against Madhu, and I became more peaceful within. My catharisis was unusual, but I am happy that it came about.

What happened to Kaavya? I stayed in touch with her for a few years. That is till she got married. Rishi actually changed quite a lot in the months that followed. He looked lot happier as he got to spend much more time with Kaavya. But Kaavya insisted that the relationship with him was a platonic friendship. After graduating in next summer, she found work on the other coast. The time difference and the distance, plus appearance of new characters in Kaavya’s life slowly, but surely killed Rishi’s hopes and dreams. He underwent a brief alcohol problem, but later moved to New York and became a reporter with India Abroad.

Kaavya eventually married a person she met at work, and her parents approved of. The fated meeting was part of the dealing through which her dad had found this job for her. I still don’t see why it happened so, that eventually the sexiest person I met in graduate school, went on to marry this corpulent, bald person. She was pretty, and she was smart. And yet, when it came to marriage, she chose him, who appeared so boring in conversation, never did any outdoor activity and wasn’t the richer or smarter option either. I asked Kaavya if she knew why she married him. Kaavya’s response, “He loves me and I respect him for all he knows and for how much he cares about me. In any case, marriage is about more than having a spouse who is picture perfect. It is about having a spouse who makes you complete, who makes you happy.”

Varun went on to do a PhD. After figuring that Varun was trying to graduate fast, his advisor offered him the opportunity of doing a one year co-op internship that paid him handsomely. This took care of his financial worries and provided him money for his sister’s marriage. Gandharav and his family insisted on paying for the marriage reception. The internship brought in money for him to buy an used car. Also, it kept him on the other coast, which helped as Kaavya graduated before he returned back. I graduated about the same time as Kaavya, for having been in graduate school for five years, I was too eager to get on with my life.

Gandharav was later instrumental in my marrying Varun’s younger sister. He himself settled down with a Japenese female, and we still tell him that just having a Yoko Ono is not enough to make him into a John Lennon. She is an excellent cook and I often joke that she is a perfect example of idealized Indian wife. Ruchi’s relationship with Mahadev went into a charismatic climax, and ended like most one night stand’s do. Theirs had lasted a year, primarily due to the ecstasy the hide and seek she played with me provided her. Once a fear of my catching them was gone, the fun was reduced to a fleshy endeavor and after a series of interesting twists, Ruchi married the Videshi. But that is another story.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kaavya: V (Second last in this series)

The Maggie boiled on, as did the tea. I had a few minutes to think but my head was full of noises. Where is Ruchi? What happened here? Why was Varun so anxious on the phone? I called Varun, and found him awake. He urged me to stay back and put Kaavya at ease. He was too agitated, but said that if Kaavya had called for me, it meant she had some sense left. He said he would tell me stuff, but I should hear her version first. I think I convinced him to sleep. But I doubt he could have dozed off in that state.

While Gandharav Gandhi was a rich kid, Varun Bhardwaj was a son of a poor, dead father. His Police Inspector father was taken by the bullet of a terrorist, leaving him fatherless when he was only fourteen. Gandharav’s father was the SP (Superintendent of Police) in command, and even though he was corrupt himself, he respected Bhardwaj for his honesty. His mother had obtained the job as an office clerk, thanks to the policy of the government that provides a job to a member of employee in active service, and Mr. Gandhi’s active interest in the case.

Varun was the eldest of three siblings, and knew within his heart that he needed to provide for the education and marriage of his two younger sisters. He had come to United States with the aim of finishing with a quick MS and finding the highest paining job. In school, he had thrived on various scholarships. After his selection into the engineering college he paid for his education using money he earned by being a private tutor for four students. Gandharav’s father paid for the room for two years that Varun and Gandharav shared when they were preparing for the engineering entrance, and were in pre-college school. Varun was vaguely aware of this, though his mother had denied it, for she knew he was too much like father, who would die of hunger rather than take even a penny from anyone.

Gandharav’s parents loved Varun like their own son, and knew that his company had ensured that their son, in spite of himself, studied and cleared the engineering entrance. Gandharav owned the guitar that Varun had mastered. Gandharav bought the books, Varun read them. Gandharav fell in love every week, Varun gave him choicest dialogues to impress the girls, for somehow Varun read the pulse of girls quite well. Gandharav would sometimes drink a bit too much, and whenever he did so, he insisted on going home to Varun. Varun would nurse him through the night, cleaning away the vomit, listening to Gandharav’s incessant talk about “how a certain bitch had behaved” or about “how he will kill Ms Paramjit Kaur, the widowed teacher whose his father was long rumored to have a illicit relationship with, though outwardly she tied him Rakhi every year”. When they would eat out, (Varun would come only once in blue moon), Gandharav always insisted on paying saying he owed Varun a hypothetical treat for this or that. Poor Varun found a remedy to this by refusing most of the invites. During their Ragging in the undergraduate college, Gandharav had bailed Varun out from hands of tormenting seniors, by taking upon himself to entertain them with his limitless supply of Little Johnny and non-veg jokes.

Living with Gandharav and Varun meant that I became aware of their several secrets, stories and idiosyncrasies. The friendship that Varun and Gandharav shared was marred by these weeks where they would only mumble the most necessary trivia to each other. They resented each other with the depth of the passion that they had for each other during the happier weeks. Any trifle could set them on this war path. Then with some intense effort on my part, I put them together. Rather, my attempt was only an excuse, for both were in some sense incomplete without each other. Even in those times, they would cook on their respective turns, Varun would wake Gandharav up in the morning, and Gandharav would go through the motion of making evening tea for all of us. After days of separation, they would then meet like long separated lovers. They would hug, sometimes shed some tears and in days that followed would behave as if they were inseparable twins. I often hummed the song from Amitabh movie: Kab ke bichre hue hum aaj kahan aa ke milay (We separated from dunno when/ah see where we meet again) at their highly melodramatic reunions.

When Gandharav had an accident in third year of their undergraduate study, Varun missed his final examination to take him to the hospital. The professor gave him a C, due to which he missed out on President’s Gold Medal. He never said anything about it to anyone. They both had improvised this special chappal dance, done by holding their bathroom slippers as dandiya sticks, swaying their heads and jumping around an imaginary fire like adivasis and singing, “Hum bewafa hargiz na thay (we weren’t unfaithful at all)” and going on in unison with “furr furr” as was in the song. Especially after a few shots of Vodka, the song dance sequence seemed surreal and ended with all of us falling upon each other laughing. When they both went mountain biking, they would sing Queen’s “I want to ride my bicycle” in highest pitch, with words sung in pronounced North Indian English accent. In moments like these, I was an outsider, but I was always too overwhelmed by their field of happiness and laughed heartily with them. Everyone else present got infected by their joviality too.

Kaavya sat pondering about something. The Maggi noodles and tea vanished in a flash. We had walked out of the house, for Kaavya felt that the house was stifling her and sat near the pond in a park near the university. She complained that the bathe always soothed her, but today she felt only more scared and uncomfortable. It is hard to bath when your eyes are overwhelmed with tears. She had taken hold of my hand, and asked me if she was allowed to hold it tight and close. She proceeded to lift it to her heart, and we sat through a silence of few minutes. Her heartbeat against my hand thumped louder than my own heartbeat, and finally she stated the following in a clear, measured tone.

“I came here three months back and as you might remember, you, Varun and Ruchi came to pick me up. You were the first three friends that I made. Then at your home I met Gandharav, and since he was your apartment-mate, and Varun’s legendary friend, I talked to him even more openly and easily than I had talked to Varun and you initially. He has his charm, and he is a capital dancer. But I have no feelings for him, and he has none for me either. We both agree that we are not each other’s type. Plus he loves respects and admires Varun like he does no other, and he calls him his gentlemanly half. I think last week, he said something to Varun, for which Varun slapped him. I found out about it the very next day, for Gandharav came to apologize to me. Of course, he never told me why, and he insisted that he will tell Varun at the right time.”

“My goodness”, I said. “Go on.”

“You guys think that we girls were born yesterday and cannot distinguish between who respects us and who doesn’t. You think we are morons who can be won over by some stupid gifts or plagiarized poems. You think our actions are crafted to either seduce favors from you or to keep you interested in us. You chase us with sweet words, niceties, showing pompous promises, giving chivalrous excuses for opening the door here, you offer knight-like dedication, and you avow all this is just the way you are, your characteristic way of showing friendship. You insist that it is so, try to believe in it and want us to believe in it, and of course, either way you call the women the heartbreaker. Guess what mister; it is too easy for you guys to hold both your heartbreaks and your successes as mementoes and it won’t make any difference to your future prospects. We have to bear the brunt of your actions and your propaganda. A female’s reputation is destroyed so easily, a male with a bad name only rises higher.”

My hand had been released while she had this outburst. I knew that it wasn’t the right moment for me to dispute the allegations, and listened with a patience that only writers can have. “Everyone accuses me of flirting with too many people. What do I do, I ask the girls? The girls announce, that I encourage the guys or that I don’t act to announce a winner soon enough. Why am I supposed to pick between them who have fallen for me? Why can’t have the luxury of falling for someone myself and hoping he accepts me? The girls dismiss this with a smile that infuriates me, for it says that I will live and learn. The guys, each one wants to show that he is better than the other. The same actions done by them that are justified by the argument of “Crazy little thing called love” are considered a mark of deceit and conceit when they come from the others.”

“We gals are considered inconsistent and indecisive, and all my experience with men tells me they are weak, selfish and egoists. Why is my trying to have a good time, say a nice lunch or dinner, or watching a movie or play, considered flirting? I am usually just driven by the activity, and the person, as long as he creates no trouble is of secondary importance. But every man wants to be at the center of the world. Even when he knows how I think, he does not accept the facts, the reality. And then, we girls are termed romanticists. We are called dreamers. It is all also unfair. You are all the same. You are really, all of you are just Male Chauvinist Pigs.”

My lips were pursed in an uncomfortable way, and eyebrows knotted in disapproval. She looked at my expression, looked as if she did not know who I was and why I was there. Then she collected herself, and said, “Ok! I am coming to the story now. I am too pissed with how people blame me for everything. Take the case of Rishi. Everyone tells me he was so jolly and outgoing before he became obsessed with me. He was known to give these gala dinner parties, where two dozen Indians and others collected together for weekly entertainment. You know all that, and you took me to one of those.

It was first time that I found that someone liked Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee movies as much as I did. He remembered every movie, every song, every dialogue that I so treasured. Then we loved the same old songs, the same old television serials formed our shared nostalgia. He did not mention any book-shook that day. (She smiled and flushed, and then reverted to angry, but pained tone). Next day I ran into him, while coming back from a class, and he invited me for a coffee and I accepted.

He was quite funny initially. But them some ghost seized him. He started becoming so irritated at the mention of any guy, that so many of our coffee conversations ending up as arguments. Then he would come to my house and just wait for my return to apologize. Every time he would promise that he trusts me and he has no objections to anyone. Sometimes I gave in to his tears, sometimes he won me over with display of his former self. But of course, as we all know, he has become so obsessed with this idea of being with me at every opportunity that now he sits in a state of perpetual readiness like doctors on a war duty. I cannot spend all my time with him.

He has become so unstable, that even my best attempts cause pain to both of us. On top of it, everyone either asks me to cut him off completely, or cut everyone else off. Is that possible? I respect him for certain qualities he has, and I can believe that he was not like this earlier, but Vivek, on present analysis, I cannot bring myself to match his passion or affection. I have to be purposefully rude to him, though I treasure his friendship, his care. But he seems like a dog, who keeps wagging its tail, and even after your kick him and shout at him, returns to your door for food, with the same pitiful look, and same wagging tail. Oh God! I don’t think of him like that, but he leaves me with no choice, and mind you, I love dogs. I know you hate them, but lets not get into that.

Then on this Valentine’s day, Varun and Gandharav had their annual “Only for broken hearts singing drinking party.” I know you had finished your own date with Ruchi at seven in the evening to join them. I wanted to sit alone at home. I had refused Pathan, the Pakistani who somehow thinks his Urdu Nazms can bridge over the differences and animosity in our communities and country. I had laughed off Mahadev’s suggestion of going to dance club with him, and guess what, Kulkarni had sent me those dozen roses that I lied came from my distant cousin Vikrant.

Vikrant, who I have had portrayed as one distant, distant cousin who was head over heels with me, is my extremely affectionate cousin, and cares for me as a brother must. He knows all about the fiascoes here and he asked me to misuse his name to stop the bother. Of course, I never thought what I mentioned to you and Ruchi would reach Varun and Rishi so easily. Anyhow, I was sitting quite melancholy that day at home and then Rishi came all dressed up. I saw how much that evening meant to him and I guess I was too bored and displeased with the idea of spending my first Valentine’s day in US all alone. I hadn’t the heart to refuse him the dinner he asked me out for. All through the evening he fumbled, mumbled and made such an entertaining fool of himself. I wish I could do something for him, but at present he is in a state that arouses a mixture of fear, guilt, pity and confusion in me. He leaves these half sentences hanging in air, and I can well guess how they can be completed, but for our mutual sanity and peace, I purposefully ignore them. Who asked him to get into such madness?

But let us not talk about him for the moment. Oh! That cursed Varun! (She broke into sobs now.) How he broke my heart today! How could he say all that he said? All this while I considered him as the only understanding and sensible fellow! Everything is so messed up. I cannot sit here and cry on like this. (She sat up wiping her tears, and yet shaking all the same.) Plus it is getting chilly and these university cops have already passed by us twice. Let us go back to the apartment and talk there. What time is it anyway?” I saw the time. It was four am.

We reached home, walking very silently again. I was going over whatever she had said so far. I thought that like most girls do, she spent too much time on talking about trivial details. She hadn’t told me squat about what happened that night. Ruchi wasn’t back yet. Kaavya mentioned that she’ll tell me something about why Ruchi was graduating in December after I hear her story to the end. I did not press the issue.

We again sat down on the couch, and she sprinted through rest of the details before breaking down into soft sobs again. But she was too tired to cry for long and by five she decided to go to bed. I was asked to sleep on the couch, for she was scared that she would wake up and start crying again. As I lay down thinking about what she told just me (and it appears in the next episode, which is last, the finale in Kaavya series), I heard key being turned in the doorknob. I covered myself with the bedsheet, and I was planning to scare Ruchi by suddenly jumping off the couch. I heard a drunk Ruchi enter through the door with Gandharav and Mahadev. Kaavya’s outburst and events that led to it were still ablaze in my heart, when what I heard this whispered talk that annihilated a whole realm of my understanding and existance.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Kaavya: Episode IV


To talk about what happened that one night to someone who knew all the people concerned would be perhaps easy. They could know that Gandharav and Varun had been friends and foes forever. Yet the details and depth of both their affinity for each other and their animosity were known to no one, least to me who had become their apartment-mate only seven months back. I knew even lesser about Rishi, Mahadev and Videshi then. I tell this story many years after everything happened. Through conversations with many people, and observations over many years, I have formed my own interpretations. If Varun or Gandharav were to tell the tale, it would be quite different. If Kaavya were handed the pen, her story will be interspersed with tears that she would shed at the supposed cruelty of the world around her, a world full of men who cannot leave her alone. It is another matter that ever since she acquired her feminine form, no girl was able to become her close friend and it were men who entertained her and then lay heartbroken in her wake.

After Kaavya’s tears were cleared away, I sat on a chair, facing her, while she was lounging on the couch. She was still wearing the mini skirt and the light blue tank-top that she had worn for the dinner. A few hours back, when she was with Videshi, she must have made a few head turn as she wafted by, lost in her childlike joy. Videshi was a Jamaican of Indian descent, whose hair fell in splendor like Bob Marley, and all his conversation, the way he walked or ate or did anything, seemed to be done to the tune of Don’t Worry, Be Happy. I could picture them together, Kaavya laughing her high notes, and Videshi letting his hair and hands do as much talking as did his Reggae voice.

Ruchi had explained to me that Kaavya was trying to find some space for herself, some mechanism of having a few hours where she did not need to worry about all her suitors. I laughed at Kaavya’s reasoning and Ruchi’s approval of it. Firstly, because Kaavya’s such escape attempts added more people to the list, meaning extra trouble in the long run and secondly, because in this case, both absence and jealously worked to add more fuel to the fire. Of course, Kaavya wanted to believe otherwise, and Ruchi, I could bet on it on some days, had left her brain in her Automation laboratory. In stead of getting my point across, I managed to get a long lecture from Ruchi on how we guys chase skirts and how we only want one thing and all our love talk is just foreplay. As soon as she uttered foreplay, she surmised that she went too far, and suggested, “Many suitors leads to healthy competition, don’t you think?”

Since Kaavya refers to poetry, we called the suitors as feuding bards and one day had christened them all. Kaavya took particular interest in the christening. Since Varun was an identified poet, so we referred to him as Shakku in Love. I suggested Shakespeare, Ruchi shortened it to Shakku, as in one who always doubted. Kaavya said that Varun is sweet and understanding, unlike Rishi who always talks about one love, fidelity and betrayal, but since Shakku sounds so sweet, the title is accepted. Ruchi laughed at Kaavya’s comment, and clarified, by doubt, she meant he doubted himself. He doubted if he should make a move, if he was good enough and so on.

Rishi hardly ever wrote poetry, but had the presence, the melancholy of one, so we christened him as Shaaiyar Badnaam (the bard with a bad reputation). Kaavya managed to blush at both the names and then suggested the name Nautankibaaz (meaning dramatic) for Gandharava. Then suddenly Ruchi asked what name Mahadev could have, and giggled away as she herself found an apt name for him as Psychedelic Parodist (for he sang Dylan, Pink Floyd and several other bands in Hindi, strumming the Guitar perfect in tune and immaculate translations).

I was named the Bhrast Sutradhaar (the corrupt narrator, why must I be fated to be one, I do not know myself), who profits from both peace and war between all parties, and manipulates the role of actors and actresses to suit his fancy. No one mentioned Kulkarni and Vikrant, and in my head, I put them with other failed or future failures telling Kaavya that The Others are on a list called Dead Poet’s society. Then in am imaginary Swayambar, in a method by which the ancient Indian Princess would choose her prince, Kaavya acted out her part walking into the room with a Crown made out of ingeniously crafted tiara made with puffed polyethene bag. Then in her characteristic gaiety, she announced, “Interested Gentleman! I have looked at your resumes and read your verses and doggerels. I thank you all for your interest, though I must make it clear to you that I don’t like poetry, especially badly written one. But since you have worked hard at writing those, I give you credit for effort and even though it is hard for me, but for your sake only, I’ll accept all your compliments. If it were possible, I would marry each one of you, for no one possesses all that I seek in a man. But since a decision needs to be made, I give my hand to you.”

Saying this she walked towards me, I blushed as I saw her approach with her hand stretched forward. Her smile increased manifold on seeing me smile and blush at the same time, and within few steps it had broken into near hilarity. My heart was pounding louder than ever before, cheeks were strained by red heat of flushing and joy and my reaction added to her hilarity and vice versa. Kaavya’s outstretched hand was just a feet away now. I was about to raise my hand, when Ruchi who was standing next to me all this while, found her hands holding Kaavya. Kaavya was in splits with laughter, and was dancing away with Ruchi. I guess Ruchi did not notice what I had just gone through, for she was focused on Kaavya. Kaavya continued to laugh, swing arm in arm with Ruchi, and winked at me as I sat there shaking my head, feeling extremely embarrassed and simpering at my folly.

When the reminiscence broke as a smile in my eyes, Kaavya stirred. She said, “Ok! Before we talk about what happened, I need to eat something. I am starving. Videshi took me to a Japanese Sushi restaurant, and the food was so yucky. Vivek, could you please cook some Maggi and make some tea for us? I will go in and change, and I need a quick shower. I promise I will be out before your tea is ready.” I was relieved by the idea, as for the last ten minutes we were just sitting there in an uncomfortable silence. For what had seemed like a prolonged scene of tragedy, Kaavya was as still as a statue, only her breath fell and rose with heavy sighs, and to my questioning eyes, her response was an occasional movement of the head, as if saying, “Give me some time. Still can’t talk.” I knew nothing new so far, so had nothing to say to soothe her. Presently I stood near the stove, staring at the water in the tea-pot and the pot with Maggi noodles. I tried calling Ruchi, who did not take my call.

Then I noticed a few missed calls and voice messages, apparently from Varun. “Err! Vivek! Call me.” “Dost (Friend), where are you? Answer the damn phone”. “Dude, I know Ruchi isn’t with you, you aren’t in your laboratory, and you aren’t in any regular place. Pray why vanish toDaaaY? Call up, its urgent!” “Vivek dost, its two forty-five am and I am in my room. If I am asleep when you come back, wake me up. Phone call won’t do, meet me asap.” I saw now how the sugar that I added to water in the tea-pot, disappeared in a flash, while now that the bitter tea leaves were in boil, they were showing their agitation, and their true color. I waited for Kaavya to come out, put boiling leaves to rest and pour out the tea.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Strawberry lip, plum cheek
chocolate chip tongue
slurp, slurp, I begin.

Honey drops, creamy layer
cherry on the top
yum, yum its fun.

Melting down, pink, vanilla
cusp, lisp, whisper, gulp
my tutti-frutti is awesome.

June 09, 2006
11:40 am

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Kaavya: Episode III


I was almost about to reach Kaavya’s house when a car coming towards me swerved dangerously and I caught a glimpse of Gandharava showing his irritating grin to me. The car seemed to be full of people. I caught seemingly familiar laughter from the inside. I increased the pace of my steps, nearly ran towards Kaavya’s house. I knew that Varun had come to tell Kaavya about Gandharava only an hour or so back, and I figured something was amiss. Gandharava seemed to be coming back from their house. So in the same evening, so many things were happening. Kaavya first went out with Videshi and then Rishi was at her house on her return. Later Varun had gone to meet her to disclose the reality about the vile Gandharava. Of course, in my own case, I was trying to understand why Ruchi was graduating in December and why she never dropped a hint to me. My laughter from the evening now seemed coming from memories of days ago.

As I had walked to Kaavya’s house, I had gone through a whole range of emotions. I retraced the story of all the possible permutations involving Kaavya as I knew them. I mentally made a list which looked as follows:


Known fighters: 1) Varun, 2) Rishi, 3) Gandharava, and 4) new addition Videshi

Unknown to most, but suspected by Varun and me: 1) The macho, pot-smoker Mahadev, 2) the anemic Kulkarni, 3) her distant cousin Vikrant, who had a Honda Civic and a job already and 4) somehow I realized my own name was in the list too. In fact, it was rumored that I was the one who she talked more easily than she talked to her own best friends, all girls, from the school days and her parents.

But of course, I was knee deep with Ruchi, which prompted a frown on my face and I made a list involving Ruchi and her suitors.


Rumored to be mine (Vivek) It struck me, the word rumor, was what came to my head.

Suspected: Mahadev: he was in Mechanical Engineering with her, and sat with her in all classes, helped her in all theoretical and experimental assignments and was known to be close to her. Well, I guess I suspected it, though no one else ever suggested it.

I always loved lists. I was too forgetful as a kid, and my mother would place a list of items to be brought from the market, then I had a list of topics to be studied when I was in high school, preparing for Engineering entrance examination. In undergraduate, my lists were notorious: I had a wish list of books I had to read, places I wanted to visit and later a wordlist carried me through GRE. For the first time in my life, a list I had tormented me. I felt so listless, so hopeless. Why was Ruchi leaving in December? What was Kaavya crying? Lost in these thoughts, I found myself on threshold of their house. I called Kaavya’s cellphone, and was promptly ushered in by the teary Kaavya

As soon as she bolted the door, she started sobbing very loudly. The crying was accompanied by a deep, long wail that I had never witnessed in people, except when they were crying over the dead. For a few seconds, I just stood spell bound, unable to decide what I could do to immediately comfort her. I did not even know why she was crying, so I mumbled, “Let me call Ruchi from her room.” She kept sobbing and wailing, her face was hidden in her two hands, and on hearing my words, one hand motioned that Ruchi had gone out. Kaavya’s face was swollen and I understood that she had already had a long session with tears. I finally realized I was there not to just watch her cry but to find out why she was crying and soothe her.

Ruchi wasn’t home bothered me, but soon Kaavya’s wails and sobs put all my thoughts into a kind of amnesia. I put my arm around her, and walked her to the couch, bade her to sit down, and rushed to the refrigerator to bring some cold water for her. I made her drink the cold water, and said a lot of sweet nothings, like “hey, don’t worry; everythings goona be alright; I’m here child; hey, hey, stop crying, and tell me whats wrong; for if you don’t tell me kid, I won’t be able to help you; tell me Kaavya, did someone say anything to you.” By now her sobs had become softer, though her hot tears now fell over my shoulder, and I could see those drops leave trails on her cheek. Somehow, in that state, she looked purer and prettier than ever before.

I remembered how three months back, at Ruchi’s request, I had gone to the airport to pick her up. Varun had accompanied us, for plan was to pick her up and catch a quick dinner at the Indian restaurant. Varun had been a quintessential good boy all his life. He had done his homework regularly. He always said namasteji to elders with folded hands and a bowed head. He obeyed his parents in everything and had the tidiest room among all of us. My friendship with him had originated in our shared love for tea, and he was always happy to walk out with me when I strayed out of the building for a smoke. His knowledge of history was immaculate and my interest in political dramas was now directed by his astute knowledge of religional and regional issues. He composed these gallant poems in style of Ramdhari Singh Dinkar that gave me goose bumps. I made raajmah chawal (kidney beans and rice dish, Panjabi style) that he said, could win us the votes of entire country and he declared that he would want even on his deathbed. We both knew so many Amitabh’s dialogues that we could converse for hours just by using them, and many a times did so. I had figured that he was a little uncomfortable around woman, and called him girl shy. This would crack us all up, especially when he blushed in presence of the girls who joined us in teasing him.

I knew he was excited by the prospect of meeting Kaavya. He had tried to show no interest when Ruchi showed us the picture. But one glance and his dimple gleamed in a soft blushing smile. My sharpshooter, Ruchi, noticed the passing emotion on his face and raising both her eyebrows, asked with a all knowing smile, ”Varun miyan, one glance and ditchkyun!” She fired an imaginary shot her two fingers curled up, index and largest finger stretched out like a pistol and she followed it up by blowing breath over her outstretched thumb to clear off the imaginary smoke. He just beamed, and later he beamed even brighter as soon as we located Kaavya, lost and confused, just off the plane at the airport. Even with her hair falling off disheveled, and after thirty hour journey, Kaavya looked stunning. I nudged Ruchi and said, “Who would want to look at you anymore?” She whistled and said, “Very funny. Take your these ideas and smartass comments and march off. My one wink, and a dozen would appear before you can even snap your fingers.” I sniggered, “What happened babe? Jealous eh! You know, how I adore you.”

Meanwhile, our friend, Varun, was putting quite a show. Not only he was pulling her big baggage and carrying her enormous purse, he seemed to have discovered a sudden voice that served these amazing one-liners that Jerry Seinfeld would have been proud of. Kaavya and rest of us just laughed throughout the evening. My MasterCard moment came, when we were in Restroom and in the restaurant and he asked me, “Am I behaving alright with her, yaar?” I, the man known for his composure while talking to woman, the man known for his ready wit and charm, especially around ladies, slapped him on his back and confessed, “Dude, never seen anyone do better.” Truly, if I was asked who one should want to be when one meets the love of his life, I would pick Varun from that day. Needless to say that since then, our man, Varun ceased to be girl shy. Also since then, Varun ceased to be a Dinkar clone, and became a romantic poet. He had found his muse.

After about twenty minutes of crying, the intensity and pitch of Kaavya’s wails damped from that initial, scary moaning to eventual soundless vibrations of her body. Presently she began to speak. Her voice was still carrying the remnants of her sobs, and her words fell like sentences served on a cellphone from a place that has a leaky signal. “KNOOOWbody loves me. Each one of them is only concerned about himself. How can Varun say something like that about Gandharava? Then Rishi doesn’t understand that there is nothing wrong with my being friend’s with Videshi or Varun or Gandharava. Why does he object to everyone? I did not ask for their attention, and I don’t want it. I don’t want to be what their dreams or thoughts tell them as Kaavya ought to be. All I want is have cool life, all I ask is opportunity for some fun, but everything has to be so complicated. This is even worse than it was in Chandigarh. Oh Vivek! Why is everything so messed up!” She was still shaking, when I said, “I’d be right back” and as I was leaving her, her hand held mine for a moment too long. I rushed to the kitchen and got some paper napkins. As she wiped the flow that was hanging from her nose, a smile flew on her face, but then disappeared into her heavy breathing. I was only beginning to understand what had happened there. When she went over the details, it surpassed my wildest speculations.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Sulekha: Ten most accessed blogs!

These actually include some posts that never featured on this blogsite, so I decided to post links to these:) If you have any comments, you may post them here.

1) Kalpit: A Love Story (Posted as an entry to compete in India Smiles Contest) Its funny, but marred by long sentences:) yet accessed more than 5000 times!!

2) Neeraj: A five year old (A short story written in 2002, based on my work in slums of Delhi during Summer of 1999); Marred by grammatical mistakes, but my most heartfelt story!

3) IIT: Myths and Miseries (Was posted on this blog too, had maximum number of comments ever): Last in series of blogs motivated by the new Reservation policy of the Indian Govt.

4) Cricket and Physics: On India's win at Lords (After India won Natwest Trophy in 2002; Kind of wacky humor) Another old blog, was published as Article in 2002.

5) Apple: Written in 2002, another lateral thinking, wacky humor piece, published as Article in Sulekha.

6) Loving an intelligent girl (its easy to see why people like to read and comment on this topic) Never managed to write a terser, updated version. Still plan on it:)

7) Einstein's Wife: The real genius (A blog exploring evidence towards saying that perhaps Einsteins wife did the math for his great achievements) Science has its own share of mysteries:)

8) Love stories of my friends: I (One of my most widely circulated poems) Wrote two others in the series. The third I think is one of the funniest I ever wrote (guys agree, girls don't)!@

9) A Cup of Tea- Six (Arranged Marriage) (Again most widely read among tea and other poems) A humorous twist to the tale.... retells the cliched saga of how arranged marriage drama involves tea:)!

10) Random Thoughts of a Graduate Student on Love and Everything; its a little too much of twisted humor; only few appreciate its depth!

Most of these widely read blogs actually won't feature in my list of best poems or blogs I have written (according to my own perception or standards: but well, popularity is guided by perspective different from mine)


Monday, June 05, 2006

Kaavya, Not a Love Story: Episode II


Rishi walked in. The hilarity that filled the room few minutes ago disappeared quickly, like light fades away in the dying moment of the evening. Like the sulky silence that night brings in, the silence that puts all living things into a state of fear and calm, Rishi’s presence was heavy and overbearing. Kaavya was now like a radiant moon, who seems to take no notice of night, and must shimmer guiltless, with all its faults, in all its phases. Our eyes gravitated towards her reaction. She was still enwrapped in the delights of the evening, and Rishi seemed strange, uncouth, disturbing to her. She bought herself time by making tea for all of us.

Rishi must have waited all evening for Kaavya to come back. He knew she had gone out with Videshi, and wasn’t able to reason why. He had asked her not to go, saying it could be unsafe and saying it wasn’t proper to go with someone she had seen only once. She reminded Rishi how she hadn’t refused his offer of buying coffee for her, on what Rishi called the August afternoon when he was enchanted and reborn. Rishi wanted to impress upon her that he was different from these other people, who he called albatrosses about his neck, he had read Coleridge you see, and he was fell short of telling her how angry her flirtations made him. At present, his face was puckered in honest agony, his eyes were full of angry tears, but with a valiant effort, he settled down on a couch, and asked Ruchi if her advisor was behaving any better. She announced, “It didn’t matter, for she was leaving with a MS at the end of the year.” I was stumped, for till that instant I had no inkling that she was leaving that very year.

The tea came. An awkward silence now gripped everyone. My hilarity of just half an hour ago had vanished with one sentence from Ruchi. Suddenly Rishi turned into a brother in agony, and I was in ferment myself. Yet I tried to tell myself to calm down, struck a cigarette and excused myself for few minutes. The smoke cleared up my thoughts a bit, and I reasoned that maybe Ruchi had decided only today that she will leave at the end of the year and had no time to inform me. Like many girls are wont to do, maybe it was when she said that she would be leaving in December, that she realized that this is what she was going to do. I could hear a conversation inside, and feeling full of heavy fog, I returned to the room.

Rishi was pursuing a Masters degree in Literature and hence always found interesting facts about books and authors. It was fascinating for me to see Kaavya becoming an object of his affection, for he had no taste for architecture and she had no patience with his literature talk. But today, Rishi was making a conscious effort to talk about the importance of using right lighting for making parts of house glow to say bring light on the face of the one who sat at the head of table and keep others in a little dark to illuminate their faces in order of their importance. Kaavya talked excitedly about her childhood obsession with colors of the curtains and their role in the play of light and shade. Since her heart was still overflowing with the excitement of the evening, her sentences threw references to Videshi again and again. The color of curtains at the restaurant was mentioned, his choice of purple shirt had caught her fancy and she was talking about how he had described to her the sunset over Himalayas in his peculiar accent. Rishi flinched at every mention of Videshi, and I could see all his labor in reading about importance of lighting in architecture was eating into him. With the tremor in my heart unsettled, I tried to look at Ruchi and try to understand what secrets brewed in her heart.

After washing my cup of tea, I asked Ruchi if we could go and talk in her room. From the corner of my eye, I could see that Rishi approved of my proposal, as he wanted to speak alone to Kaavya. Ruchi smelt trouble in my words, and insisted that she had to talk to her mom that day and basically influenced me to leave the house rightaway. I walked back to my room, thinking about how six months ago, I had met Ruchi at a friend’s birthday. She had approached me to obtain the lighter for bringing birthday candles to flame, and after taking the lighter, failed to light it up. A short conversation followed, and she whispered that she had an impossible Heat Transfer assignment due the next day, so had to leave soon. I surmised that she must be a Mechanical Engineer, and asked her if she thought a Mathematician could work up some magic with her differential equations. She looked with wide open eyes at me, a finger fell and rose on her cheek, and after shaking her head for a few suspended seconds, said, “Hmm! Maybe you’d be useful.” Since then I had realized that engineering was an approximate art form, where my abstract knowledge required a translation far beyond our capabilities, and we still hung out together, sharing lunches and dinners at cheap neighborhood restaurants and cafes. Crosswords brought us together, movies took us to our so called dates and nowadays we spent so much time with each other that everyone including me thought of us as a couple. Ruchi’s sudden pronouncement about graduating in December now forced the question of what this relationship really meant, into my face.

Meanwhile Kaavya was enraged at Rishi for not appreciating how exciting her evening had been and spoiling it by his unwarranted comments. She had walked out of the living room, stamping her feet like a hurt child and had shut her door. Ruchi talked to Rishi about the recent changes in Indian cricket team. He left after waiting for Kaavya to calm down. As soon as he left, Kaavya came out of the room, and said to Ruchi, “Rishi is so silly. He thinks I am a child and any man will fool me into unmentionable disasters. At least, Varun thinks of me as a girl with a balanced head.”

Kaavya did not imagine that at that very instant, Varun was cursing himself for hiding his anxiety at the amount of time Rishi, Gandharav and Pathan spent with Kaavya. He was extremely agonized by her going dancing with Gandharav, who he knew from his high school days. Gandharav, they said even in high school, had no respect for women, and could single-handedly turn a whole town into city of bastards. He used to joke about his name coming from “Gandharava Vivah”, which was the name given to secret marriages committed in ancient times, and he said, that it was just a fancy name for one night stands. He reasoned that Bharat, after whom India was called Bhaarat, was a result of Gandharava Vivah between Shakuntala and the King Dushyant. Even Shakuntala herself was born from a Gandharava Vivah between the apsara, the courtesan from heaven, Menaka, and the most intelligent saint of his times, Vishwamitra. He boasted about how he had hoisted his flag into the female of every race. When he talked in the company of men, he appeared like a serpent, who slowly crawls towards his victim, and quietly wounds himself around his prey, and then reveals the poison in his fangs and kills what he desires. We despised his lack of respect of women, and yet were fascinated by his skill with women, for they worshipped his ability to bedazzle them with his dancing ability, repertoire of jokes and excellent choice of clothes.

Varun knew him for eight years now, and cursed his destiny which made Gandharav his roommate in every city he had walked into in last eight years. Till a few months back, he hadn’t minded Gandharav all that much, but after Kaavya entered his imagination, Varun was ill at ease. He had burned with rage when a week back, Gandharav, in his characteristic fashion, described to Varun, that during dancing he perceived how supple Kaavya’s curves were, how warm she felt in his embrace, how she blamed her own being a beginner in salsa for making mistakes that allowed his hands to be misplaced on her body, and how much he wanted her to turn from a bud into a flower in his expert care. Gandharav had been greeted by a grand slap from Varun, a slap that he never anticipated coming, and after this slap, he had just laughed saying, “My friend, you should have told me.” In his heart, he had decided that Varun deserved to learn a lesson. Gandharav had never failed to lay his hands on whatever appealed to his fancy, and was going out with Kaavya the next day for another dance. He was of the kind of people who by their very nature value nothing and no one so much as to be either in want or be aggrieved an absence. I shared the apartment with Varun and Gandharav, and this new found tension between them made our apartment a gloomy place. When I entered the house around midnight, I met Varun who was going out. I asked him, “Where to?” He responded, “To Kaavya’s house. Gandharav’s secrets need to be spilled.”

It was one thirty at night. Kaavya called, and all I heard were sobs. I rushed to her house in my pajamas.

Kaavya: Episode I



Kaavya entered home, conscious of the knowledge that Videshi’s eyes would have followed her to the door. A smile flushed on her lips, as her thoughts glanced over the evening that had gone by. The dinner was exquisite, for Videshi turned out to be an excellent conversationalist, and he knew the menu like the back of his hand. His accent dripped like honey on his words, and Kaavya was plastered all over with the laughter she splashed in gaiety of his comments. It was only a couple of days ago that she had met him, and he noticed her immediately, declared he deserved to treat her to a dinner to know her better, and without thinking, she agreed.

Kaavya was tall and voluptuous female, whose defining charm lay in the way the corners of her eyes smiled, and the way her lips curled up when she requested a favor. Her body was usually lost to eyes that she managed to get onto her face. She was still only twenty-two, and had been in the United States only for three months. A bachelor degree in architecture was followed by prompt acceptance into city planning program in four schools in US, and before she grasped why she wanted to come to the States, she was already here. It was in US that I met her, and by becoming the boyfriend of her roommate, became privy to all that passed between her and her suitors. What seemed to be genuine gossip to me, that Ruchi needed to get off her chest, I found contained the display of every twist and tragedy of love stories. Of late, Kaavya had decided that since Ruchi was going to transmit information anyways, it was reasonable for her to talk openly in front of both of us. So as she entered in this revelry, our smiles greeted her into a confession.

“He is so charming, so funny. Do you know he had hiked across Himalayas a few years back? Guess what he will be going hiking across the Appalachian trail in summer, and” Kaavya was stating this will flush on her face, both hands held together near her heart, and Ruchi broke into her sentence, “Don’t tell me you are going with him. You hardly know him.” Kaavya stared unbelievingly into Ruchi’s face, and said, “Budhoo! Summer is four months away, and I will know him by then. Oh! He is so adventurous, so charming, so funny. Vivek, why are you giggling like that, shaking from head to toe? Whats so funny?”

“My dearest, do you even know what Appalachian trail is? We’ll come to your Videshi later, but do you how much hiking that will involve?” My words always struck Kaavya like the sound of utensils that she dropped dreamily on the floor, and hearing their noise, wondered who threw them down like that. She took a few moments to comprehend my question, and then simpered, ”Ok na! Don’t tease me now. A few miles, ten miles maybe!” Her naïveté was the only thing that endeared her to me, I chastised her for everything else, and I kept getting angry at her flirtations that I thought increased the level of heartbreak in the world. I teased Ruchi that Kaavya was like my Saali, so I needed to treat her likewise, and would often say, “Saali doesn’t think.”

“Oh Kaavya, what is longest hike you have ever undertaken?” “Vivek, that’s an irrelevant question. But if you want to know, I went all the way to Vaishnu Devi.” Kavya said this and followed at with moving her pursed lips sideways, in almost a Bollywood-like feigning of disapproval of my question. We all had heard about her heroic climb to Vaishnu Devi, that she claimed had taken her life force out of her, but once she reached the top, the Vaishnu Devi rescued her, and asked her to communicate without the need to walk all the way there. So it was quite amusing when she mentioned it, and then realizing what she had told us about that trip, said, “Stop going into pieces with your unwelcome laughter Vivek. Please no! Tell me. Is it really long, that trail?”

“Take Ruchi along with you, she needs to loose some fat.” I giggled, “The two thousand miles of hiking will surely do her good, and of course, I will have all the time of the world to finish my PhD work when you both are gone for the summer.” Kaavya’s expressions went from shock to amusement to tantrum and back to plain hearted joy in next few seconds, while Ruchi took my comment to heart and started clobbering me with her pillow. I was rescued by a knock at their door.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

But was there a need to say?

But you never said,
that you loved me, yes, you never
you never said, you loved me.

But was there a need to say?

Did words matter, when in soft embrace,
your warm breath was like percussion
that held me in its subtle sway?

We saw the moon stuck in tree branches
We saw the moon like dew, evaporate, while the
sun sailed through the days of fatigued longing.

We saw the moon was a jealous loner.
We let him be moody and patchy
and we giggled at the mist of those metaphors.

We were like children, loud, boisterous
till innocence was drenched one evening.
A form filled my thoughts and
you saw us become complicated and old.

Weeks it took, for flood to fill
your hands with the temptation they
traced so tantalizingly on my chest.

We felt so free
and full of lust.

I figured kiss was more than a word.

Your breath meandered into beats.
My blood parched my brain, swelled my heart.

In vacations, we kept the windows open
lights shut, mouths shut,
snow clogged our paths to each other.

One summer evening, we parted on those steps
phone calls became our umbilical cord,
so many words that minutes lost
the count of sounds they heard.

Whenever we met, your odor
like cocaine, exhilerated my senses.

We were always so close.
Our worlds were one, even when
we lived hundreds of miles apart.

I still remember the name of every freckle
that I had christened on your skin, and what
animals arose on connecting them.

Your eyes still show me how
my hair need combing, how to
match this shirt with that trouser.

For six years, I worshipped you
For six years, you stood like a Hindu goddess
in stone, smiling, and your raised right hand
suggesting my future joys were blessed.

But you never said
that you loved me, yes, you never said
you never said, you loved me.

But was there a need to say?

Would it have mattered?

29 March, 2006
Starbucks; Atlanta, GA

Wrote it immediately after writing Pearl earrings (