Tuesday, February 06, 2007


This is not a story of how things are, but of how things were. I feel I am forgetting the time I had spent with you. Even the colors of curtains that I raised to see the spectacle of your memories have faded and when I get to that room, I find that no purpose can drive me to those windows. It is, as if, a room in me, for I am a house in some ways, has decided to become abandoned. The neglect does not nag me anymore. I think I know now why grandmothers cease to bother about the propriety after a certain age. The music that once forced my feet onto a dance floor is a background score, that by overplaying, has lost its splendor. Yet this is not a story of how things are, but of how things were.

The first snow had brought out a bunch of Indians to the street. The hilarity greeting the crumbling powder, as cameras clicked what was going to be a momentous album for this bunch. After spending twenty-four summer years in Mumbai, for even Mumbai winters qualify as summers by Western standards, you had arrived at the ceremony of snow, dressed in a JC Penny jacket that you had preferred over the cheaper Burlington Coat Factory one. Of course, I was to find this out later in the day, when I was driving you to the Emergency Ward of our University Hospital. The blackness of ice, the sheer, transparent hypocrisy of it, had floored you. Your roommate had reasoned that an ancestor like me was going to be the perfect choice to look after you. I arrived at the scene, and your introduction appealed like a snowflake on my hand, a melting voice send a thrilling note through to my spine. "Himadri*," you cautioned.

A ligament was torn. A swollen foot, a torn ligament, sub-zero temperature, plaster, the hunger that arrived like a mood swing, a hurried drive-thru lunch, warm ginger tea at my house, followed by an evening with Amol Palekar movies and your floating into a deep sleep on the couch had arrived like a symphony score. Each movement had arrived at a pre-destined moment, as if each tinkle of your laughter was in response to an invisible conductor, and it was only the fear of waking you up that prevented me from giving you a standing ovation for the evening. I woke up next morning to find you in the same position, sound asleep. You gave me only few minutes to live my assumption and breathe in your beauty, when your lips curled up into a smile and forced your eyes to open. Wide open. Your express wish was to finish watching the comedy that had consoled you into repose.

Here I was a stranger offering room service, frying an omelette while I heard you crack up at Utpal Dutt's dialogues. Here I was smiling to myself as I stirred sugar in your Microwaved coffee cup. Here you were thanking me beautifully as you matched my courtship (I christened it that just now) with an appetite that commanded at least my awe. I figured that your roommate had too much trust in me, or maybe she had herself suffered a disaster which prevented her from even caring to inquire after you. When I left for teaching a class at noon, you expressed the desire to be woken up whenever I returned. When I called your roommate on my way to school, I found out that she had gone away for a week, leaving you to my care, or whoever you wished to be cared for by. I never thought of myself as a Nurse, and watching Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents told me I never should, but I found myself indeed perfectly incapable of not looking after you. Your incessant talks introduced me to everyone you had ever known, a plethora of interesting episodes, recipes of Pao Bhaji and Varra, music of Jal, Fuzon and Audioslave, and eclipsed every thought I required to progress on my research.

I ignored the nudges of my friends. Only a select few hadn't evaporated by the hiring spree in this summer; most had left years ago. For last two years, I had avoided new students, knowing that a Bohemian like me, already thirty then, with endless PhD years rolling before me like the plains of Ganga, could be of no interest to their gaiety or them. A freak accident that happened years ago had gulped my fiancee and I had risen from dead six months later, with several iron and steel beams in my bones, only to enter a year or so of depression. I had spent three months at my parents house in Punjab, where a stream of visitors marred the hours that I so willed to pass in silence and sorrow. Then I retired to three months of stay in a Tibentian monastery in Kinnaur, a district in the hinterlands of Himalayas, in Himachal Pradesh. When these failed to cure me, my zealous uncle had taken me to work with him in the slums of Delhi, where it took a few months for me to recuperate. It took me those months to repent for living like an afterthought while my love had become a faded diary entry. I then returned to the United States to resume my research work, though all I had wanted to do, was published and buried by now. I had started afresh. Himadri was spreading her own mist over the lake of my past.

This is not a story of how things are, but of how things were. You were spreading your mist over the lake of my past. I started to feel like a bulb, buried in a flowerbed somewhere, who carries in itself the blossoms of spring. In your aroma, my old smells were getting ransacked; on your flesh, my old mole counts appeared like constellations that had ceased to exist. My emotions announced themselves without the fervor of yore, my emotions arrived not like the monsoon showers but like the cool sea breeze that enters an overcrowded room, when a window is thrown open, unsuspected, unannounced by an unknown hand. Perhaps you were too overwhelmed by my affection, my kindness, for in your incessant talk, you missed out every mention of him.You spoke to him everyday, but in my absence. You had him as a consoler and a confident in my absence. You never ceased to love him in my absence. The day your roommate returned, she returned with the talk of him, who she had met during the week of her conference in a sunny California city. The mist off the lake cleared out. I recognized the lost houseboats again.

*Himadri: Snow Capped hills (refers to the highest mountain range of Himalayas)


Vivek said...


« Back to Post
supriyad comments: on Feb 6 2007 7:42PM
delete this comment - block this user
Gabriel congratulates the poet. The princess loves love stories.. the subtle ones.. not the flashy loud kinds.. the ones that gurgle like a ripple on calm waters.. silent, subtle and subdued.. this one was like a whiff of sea breeze... filled with the aroma of longing.. promises not made... anticipation...

Loved it! O' Poet, DO write more prose!

L Rao comments: on Feb 6 2007 5:41PM
delete this comment - block this user
woww... nice narration and nice story. Is this just a short story ? doesn't seem so. Either way - nicely detailed. Does the fog ever lift completely? don' t know.... good one vivek.

Vivek said...

more from

« Back to Post
denice _menace comments: on Feb 6 2007 9:14PM
delete this comment - block this user
uh very tender, u write like a woman..:)

svengali comments: on Feb 6 2007 8:53PM
delete this comment - block this userA very refreshing read. Poignant yet not wallowing in emotional overkill.

Very smooth narrative. You write so well.

Vivek Sharma comments: on Feb 6 2007 8:10PM
delete this comment - block this userSupriya: O princess! you are too gracious in your praise. A failed poem made way for the short story. My hearty bow, that you liked it so.

L. Rao: The mist ever remains I guess. I wanted the readers to be left wanting for more, like the protagonist of the story, and hence I finished this piece in one of my fastest writing sprees.

r said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
r said...

Like the way you write ..Specially they way you unfold things and fill in the details and then bring them back to where they are ..
Enjoyed reading it

Vivek said...

comments from dud sea scrawls

By atrakasya on Wed, 2007-02-07 07:57

Dude, you are slowly turning too good in your writing!
Lovely narration, I must say.

I think you need to add some formatting and para-breaks, to improve readability.
Good content deserves good readability.
» login or register to post comments | email this comment

a very refreshing piece,
By El enigma on Wed, 2007-02-07 17:32

a very refreshing piece, Vivek….one of ur best in quite a while I have to say. I did like ur travelogues too, altho they were too fast paced (I need to read them again maybe!!)….this one has such a relaxed tone to it..almost like it was written sitting amidst mountains one day…everything flows so well - the beginning, the ordinary yet beautifully put middle and the end…loved the ‘this is not a story of how things are, but of how things were’….the imagery created in the piece is also really really vivid..and I was blown away by - ‘It is, as if, a room in me, for I am a house in some ways, has decided to become abandoned’ … u shd patent these lines maybe!! loved the name that u chose too - ‘Himadri’ and when u say ‘Himadri was spreading her own mist over the lake of my past’..all that said, I have to admit that I didn’t like the way you ended…where u mention her love or her significant other in the end…it’s almost slapping accusations on someone who’s side of the story reader does not get to know..wud love to see someone’s take on it…oh and I thought it was just a week, do u really expect women to confide in strangers about their personal life in that time..hehhehe Smiling ….just pulling ur leg….on a serious note, it is the ‘loving with expectations’ part which stares back at me from such stories…why do we always start relationships or start looking at people who we meet with the means to an end…why is the ‘happy end’ so glorified…and whatever special moments we spend with them otherwise, amount to nothing much…I think some journeys have no ends…they are meant to be just that, journeys……and where they lead to is not nearly as important always..

» login or register to post comments | email this comment

Vivek said...

more from dud sea scrawls

By asuph on Thu, 2007-02-08 04:29

It’s one of those rare pieces where porse sounds like poetry. Great flow (in fact the flow is so good that some slightly twisted construction like: “or whoever you wished to be cared for by” that would normally go unnoticed suddenly seems to disturb the flow!).

Responding to Enig’s comment, I’d not say that there is no need to know all sides of the stories. First person POV gives us that liberty, no Eye-wink. And why assume the narrator ever knew that other side either?

No I wouldn’t even want to find any faults in here. It’s beautifully written.

» login or register to post comments | email this comment

By kanurite on Wed, 2007-02-07 23:40

I can almost feel the feeling with which this was written. Simply beautiful.
» login or register to post comments | email this comment

Vivek said...

Of Himadri
By Vivek on Fri, 2007-02-09 00:29

Atra and asuph, I’ll keep the grammar and formatting issues in mind. Since Bilbo hasn’t pointed more errors, I feel the analysis is just incomplete. Smiling I do know I need to be more careful with grammar and spelling mistakes, but I always write and post in a rush. (And I have forgotten what Wren and Martin taught me in school). Please recommend any books that you think can prove to be helpful.

Enig… except for your name, you never wish to leave any enigmas in print. A week is too long, if you spend as much time together as Himadri and the narrator did.

I enjoyed writing the piece, which started out as a poem, failed to progress beyond the first sentence and then wrote itself as a short story. I am both happy and relieved that you all liked it. Somehow prose never satisfies me as much as writing poetry does.
» edit | reply | email this comment

Vi said...

Pao Bajji's are wonderful and Jal is a great band.

Lovely story.

Vivek said...

more from

Vivek, This is a very well
By Scarlett on Fri, 2007-02-09 00:36

This is a very well written piece. Like Asuph said, it is very poetic prose. I like the languid pace with which it unfolds.IMO any piece of writing that takes time to build up its characters and especially with such elan is a worthy piece.

This is the kind of writing that I would come back to. Please write more.

» reply | email this comment

By bilbobaggins on Fri, 2007-02-09 06:04

bilbo did not point out any errors cus of a few reasons.
I’ve been busy and also felt that offlate I’ve been way too much on your case.
that said, it read beautifully and for once smoothly. I usually point out stuff when it jarrs.

As, you’ve already pointed out, you write and post in a hurry. That hurry comes across in your writing, may it be prose, poetry or comments. I guess its become a habit and all you need to do is break out of it.

Its sad, if you’ve forgotten Wren and Martin. They are good friends, I feel.

Also, this is something I tell all my friends , especially those who are working on improving their english. Whenever you write something, read it aloud. Any errors therein will point themselves out. Anything written wrong just does not sound right. Again it could just be personal experience and may not be helpful, but do give it a try.

Shorter sentences , in small paragraphs not only make for easier writing and consequent reading, but also, will make it easier for you to spot any spelling or grammar mistakes before you post it. Good writing is a work of love. Rush it and it’ll show. Take time with it and love it , and, that’ll show too.

This piece was beautiful. I would second nazi and scary ( or is it third?) that it is poetic prose. It also conjured up an imagery of its own that was beautiful.

You’re getting there. keep at it.

» reply | email this comment

Vivek said...

More from dud sea scrawls:

By atrakasya on Sat, 2007-02-10 05:04

I wasn’t speaking of your grammer. And probably, nor was asuph speaking of your grammer (I think!).
I myself was simply pointing out the graphical layout, in terms of word, para, line breaks.
In real life publishing, you could ideally leave that to your editor, probably - its not that big a deal - It just helps readability thats all.

And I don’t think you need any wren and martin at the level that you are operating.
Those books are for grammarians and critics, not for writers. Flow and good writing is obviously not created by being obsessed with grammer or typos.
Again, those things have a certain value (and certainly should be incorporated whenever possible), but you are fully right in not obsessing about them. The people who obsess with these things will turn out to be editors or critics - rarely good writers. Thats kinda not for you, dude - you could just hire an editor or critic when you want - they’re a dime-a-dozen, unlike good authors.

I can see that you will be good at dealing the typical nitpicking that comes from all editors and critics (which every published author has to tolerate with a grin). And that is good, because unfortunately in this topsy-turvy world, editors/publishers/critics do call the shots in the beginning stages of an author’s career.

Meanwhile, you just keep doing what you are doing.
I like the way that you are zooming in to a particular style that is emerging in your writing.
Very systematic approach (I think I have said that before), and the validity of the approach is directly seen in the steady growth of the captivating factor of your writing.
» reply | email this comment

atra and vivs
By bilbobaggins on Sat, 2007-02-10 05:58

When I first read this comment, I felt it as a personal attack. I am hoping it isn’t one, and, for the moment, won’t consider it one.

that said, Wren and Martin were my constant companions back in 6th and 7th grade. Not, because I was obsessed with grammar ( I still wonder, If I spell it right), but because they were simply the prescribed text for english , at the school I was attending. I do believe, they have done me good. It is nice to be able to write without grammatical mistakes . Makes for a better understanding. I do despair when I can’t make out what a person is saying because his ( don’t come at me for male bashing, I am just using the his as a gender default) grammar sucks. Going back to a conversation to be able to understand it correctly is quite frustrating.
I haven’t gone back to Wren and Martin since then , but the lessons learnt are with me, as they should.

I started blogging because I needed to learn to write in a coherent manner. Not saying, I’ve gotten there. I am still learning and would appreciate the kind of feedback a blogging community like ours is capable of providing.

I do believe, that we can only ask of others what we are ourselves willing to offer. If I want feedback, I should make an effort to give it.

That is the only reason, I pick on grammar and in viv’s case , the stuff that jarrs.
We’ve already agreed that it is also a case of difference in sensitivies. What may jarr for me may stand out and be pleasant for some one else. However a factual error ( karejva translated to liver and not heart, just one example) is just that.

Brushing aside a feedback as obsession or nitpicking is hardly something any one with literary ambitions should ignore. If language is the tool you’ve chosen to use, is it really wise to ignore its finer nuances or leave it to some dime-a-dozen person to sharpen it?
Editors don’t look for errors and typos. I think proofreaders do that. I could offcourse be mistaken about it.

Have a good day
» reply | email this comment

Vivek said...

from DSS

uff yeh grammar:)
By Vivek on Sat, 2007-02-10 06:44

I know I make mistakes, and I know I need to be more careful. I love Bilbo for ensuring that I tread the right path. I wish there were more incarnations of her. More heads, and more hands lending me whiplashes ( Smiling ), advice, knowledge and encouragement.

I guess Atra is right in saying that the objective of getting better in writing requires someone to write coherently and fluidly. An idea makes my day, a similie causes me to smile and a good metaphor elevates me to ecstasy.

Yet in this process of learning to write well, I guess both lucidity and grammar are important. All the published poets I get to interact with, emphasize both these things. Even my science professors obsess about the “articles” that I drop while making sentences. Poets like my ideas, and denounce my poetic license, essentially amounting to liberties I take with grammar; Scientists approve of my mathematics and pronounce presentation as inadequately diluted or dense.

There is much to learn. One good thing about DSS is this feedback, which is honest and open. I am no longer at a stage where I would consider a criticism as a personal affront. I am rather disappointed if someone doesn’t come out and say something. Maybe I have lived in graduate school too long. Maybe I know how important it is to eat a bitter pill if you wish to get well soon.

So be it grammar or writing, there is scope for improvement, and every help I get is deeply acknowledged and appreciated.

But bilbo karejva is liver, urdu and hindi are miscible Sticking out tongue, and poets must use the language of the masses. That is another dispute, another discussion, for another day. Smiling

Vivek very happy after all the Friday beer, Lion King (!!! what girls make u watch !!!), and all this talk.

» edit | reply | email this comment

Vivek said...

from dud sea scrawls

By bilbobaggins on Sat, 2007-02-10 06:49

is heart not liver, gurda is liver , fefdein are lungs, and miscibility has got nothing to do with this . A heart throbs and not a liver.
language of the masses does not have to be incorrect.
Though , I must say, this site is giving me serious doubts.
» reply | email this comment

kaleja is liver
By Vivek on Sat, 2007-02-10 07:21

bilbo:) There are certain things in life that I am certain about.

For example, kaleja is liver Eye-wink

We in Himachal, even Brahmins (as also Kashmiri Pandits), eat goat’s “kaleja”, and it is always more expensive than rest of the meat. My grasp over Urdu may not be as good as my grasp over English, but when it comes to Hindi, I am ready to have a face off with most people. Jigar and Kaleja are misused in songs in last few decades, which does not change their meaning:)

other things like this:

ishq and mohabbat are different.
aadmi may or may not be insaan.
» edit | reply | email this comment

manishi... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manishi... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
manishi... said...

I've been reading ur blog from quite some time. I'm sure lot of ppl must hv told u by now that u write well. What i like in ur style of writing is the way it captures reader's interest and the way any thought proceeds. Keep writing and keep posting.

Vivek said...

Just found som time to read
By Pradzie on Mon, 2007-02-12 07:22

Just found som time to read it and dude, what a piece!

Very nicely written!
» reply | email this comment

By asuph on Mon, 2007-02-12 06:46

i wasn’t talking about your grammer, just to clarify. i was just talking about the flow. i agree with most of what atra is saying here. your grammer (AFAIK) is the last thing you shd be concerned about. it’s pretty okay.

» reply | email this comment

By India Whining on Sun, 2007-02-11 08:21

Beautifully written.. *sigh*
» reply | email this comment

By atrakasya on Sun, 2007-02-11 06:41

The prob is this - billo has an irritating and predictable behavioural pattern of perceiving anything said by me (if it happens to be contrary to what she believes) as a personal affront to her.

Seriously, My kaleja (or karejva ) bleeds at her mentality, which always pompously insists that she is right in her perceptions, and walks away when the perception is challenged (interestingly, only for the debate in question). Its like, she lives in perennial fear of being seen as a ditz.

This behavioural pattern is as inbred as her self-acknowledged habit of pointing out typos and lecturing people condescendingly on how to write better (another mark of a person caught in mindless crystallized behavioural patterns). I mean, imagine BILLO giving fundas (not just feedback) to VIVEK on how to write! Fortunately, the chap is a complete gentleman.

Now I wouldn’t give a shit about her behavioral patterns or persecution mania, if she didn’t try to keep painting anything I say as a mark of personal bias against her.

Its clearly only a way of nullifying the substance of any debate by declaring the statement has been motivated by personal animosity. Standard trick.

Well, I know I should not get irritated at stupid behaviour and walk away, etc. Hopefully, with some more doses of people like billo, I shall soon attain that blessed indifference by understanding the nature of the creature.
I mean, why the hell would anyone be interested in personally attacking her? What for?
» reply | email this comment

hey vivek
By La Louve on Sat, 2007-02-10 22:01

me too.. liked your story, have to read it again tho.

Bilbsie and Atra, what are you people up to? enough enough, i say! chalo shake hands and no more of anger please.
love and peace on dss
and to you both
» reply | email this comment

By atrakasya on Sat, 2007-02-10 09:01

To save you some trouble, I shall henceforth attempt to label my sentences as PAB (Personal Attack at Billo) and NPAB (NOT a Personal Attack at Billo).
Of course, I can’t do it all the time, but wherever possible, I shall try to save you the trauma of exercising your biases in invalid cases (PAB). I am doing this, since I would like you to conserve your energies for the times when I actually make a personal attack on you - its a selfish motive) (NPAB).

Firstly, I am not surprised that you thought its a personal attack.
Probably, if I sneeze, you would consider it as a potential personal attack aimed at giving you some life-threatening germs. (PAB)

My point was (in case you could comprehend anything in something that you knee-jerk-categorize as a personal attack (PAB)) - good writing is not achieved by being obsessed about grammer and typos - that is not the mentality of a good writer (I am sure you could dig out some exceptions, of course), though it does not mean that a good writer uses shoddy language. (NPAB)
I don’t think anyone here, including you and vivek and others, are in the category of using shoddy language. (NPAB)

My advice to Vivek that he should go with the flow and not put too much attention to minor language thingies was not aimed at you (NPAB), but then someone who is paranoid like you (PAB)is not going to believe stuff like that.

And this is not true only about writing - in any learning activity - obsessing over details always impairs one’s overall grasp of the act. (NPAB). I have specific reason and authority to say this, and I also seriously do not think Vivek’s writing is that errant as to be seen as repeatedly making linguistic mistakes (NPAB)

Unless one has a repeated and predictable lacuna in some specific usage, one must not obsess about that. (NPAB)
First the overall principle, and then the fine-tuning.(NPAB) I think Vivek is doing a great job of grasping the overall principles, which he would not have done as efficiently if he was obsessing about language overtly.(NPAB)

Thats all for now. (NPAB)
» reply | email this comment

Gee atra
By bilbobaggins on Sat, 2007-02-10 09:57

thanks a bunch for saving a ditz like me from the trauma of exercising my biases in invalid cases.

However you could have saved yourself that trouble had you read the beginning of my comment

“When I first read this comment, I felt it as a personal attack. I am hoping it isn’t one, and, for the moment, won’t consider it one.”

I’ve categorically stated that I am not considering it one despite the fact that I felt it as one. How is that a knee jerk response?

Let me save you any more future troubles of categorising your personal and non personal attacks on me.

I am logging out and won’t log back in .

Take care
» reply | email this comment

Vivek Ji
By Silent Melody on Sat, 2007-02-10 17:44

This was beautiful. I loved it. Agree with Enig, some of these sentences were really beautiful.
» reply | email this comment

By atrakasya on Sat, 2007-02-10 12:18

Let me spell that out for you (Sarcastic, yet very mild PAB) -

A knee jerk reaction is what your instant reaction is. (NPAB)

A non-knee jerk reaction is the the one which you assume AFTER the instant reaction of believing that the world (or, moi) is after you for some strange reason.(NPAB)

As for you “logging out and won’t log back in” - if I didn’t know that you only make unfulfillable threats, I would have fallen on my knees and said something like - “please, please don’t take an action which will hurt me so much - I promise I shall not refer to your persecution-mania ever again, even if its staring everyone in the face” (PAB)

Having said that, I am sorry that you have taken such a insecure stand on everything I say, and 95% of the time, I have seriously never meant to provoke you in anything (NPAB).
The remaining 5%, you have asked for it (fact, NPAB).

I am not really that bothered about your existence (as you seem to imagine) to keep poking you, and the only thing I am guilty of is that when you chuck a rock at me, I throw it right back. (fact, NPAB)

Yeah, its a bad habit - not one that I am really proud of, but your reading personal attacks into everything is REALLY irritating.(fact, NPAB).
Hopefully, one day, I shall grow up to the point where I serenely smile like the Buddha, even in the face of your knee-jerk behaviour. (sincere wish, NPAB)

Till then, kindly bear with my irrational counter-reaction to your own irrational reaction. (NPAB)
» reply | email this comment