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Short Story: The Midnight Encounter

I opened the door with my hands that had by then taken the temperament of a log of wet wood- soaked yet thirsty, beginning to smooth out on the outside but on the inside falling apart like a web of dead blue nerves, shivering like wreckage of autumn shrubberies. I sneaked in with my eyes unable to gauge everything of the darkness, with a thunderstorm in my stomach- as if in a while- I’ll be an infinitesimal part of all the gloom in the air surrounding my shivery body. The stillness of the room was sinking in my blood with adlibbed goose-bumps. I was in those moments when the faintness of a dark space bloats itself bit by bit and makes one feel as if it’s coming towards you like an adventurous swing from a soaring height and it will hit you in the face with absolutely nothing but it will hurt and bleed like a severe accident.

In a fraction of a second, I heard a strange voice, at first the voice collided with my heartbeat and vanished unnoticeably and then it remained the same way- a streak of golden light does in a flickering bulb. Half of my heart throbbed in my stomach and the other half was hung in the middle of my dried throat; my head felt submersed in a huge helium balloon, unable to move, blink or breathe. I heard an unsteady, cracked female voice. As soon as I heard the voice I stood frozen since it felt like a voice of my own- not the voice that comes out of the rolling tongue made sensibly heard using syllables but a voice that’s of a hungry stomach, unconscious and alarming. I saw a silhouette of a woman sitting on my bed.

From the tips of her blonde hair rolled underneath- kept neatly on her forehead, a vintage shirt with fluffy sleeves and a cargo pant- to the limitlessness of her aura – she looked like sunlight breaking out of labyrinth of silver linings of besieged clouds in a bereft sky. She made me remember of someone important- someone I know as intimately as myself; someone I remember like the lyrics of an overplayed song, recipe of the special dish Amma cooked every Sunday, alphabets and numbers I learnt as a kindergarten kid- like the things you never notice but they are embedded like stones in your memory.

Conspired by what my eyes could see, my dysfunctional brain struggled to push my calves to move ahead and look closely at this woman but my bones were as usual stubborn. In a small second the woman disappeared and I frantically started moving in the darkness- suddenly my fear disappeared and I turned into a mad lover looking for a closure to a mystical heartbreak. I switched the lights on to find a neatly folded yellow letter kept on the bed.

“My dear reader, I want to tell you, that night my thoughts had ensnared me beyond the capacity of a cage. The flesh holding me together withered like embers falling from a forest fire. I looked at the mirror- I saw my flesh torn apart, rotten and dull- I appeared to myself like those scary sketches artists draw of half eaten bodies. That night- like owl’s talons clenching my heart- I belittled every reason of my life, then I saw a never-ending sea through which I dawdled- with each footstep my body becoming heftier and that sea was my pain: the pain was me; I had become it and I had to go for I could see nothing else but this sea going up and down holding my pain across its waves. I had to drown my own sea. In the moment of my own murder, I was free. I saw the sky- after years of looking at it, I saw my widowed sky and a regret ached in me. I wish I had been the seeker of its vastness since the beginning of my life but I was free of this colourless world only when I turned blue in the shadow of the sky casted upon the sea. I am Sylvia Plath, your Sylvia. You’d grieved when you first learnt about my loneliness, you’ve loved me even when I never touched you, I never spoke to you but you told me how they try to shut you for your madness. You’ve screamed at nights your lungs out and looked for someone to give back to you- the mute laughter you crave for. This is what I give to you- be the sky and live me from here. Choose the madness, the sky, the sea and come to me, here I lie like a solaced wildflower.”

As I finished reading the letter, I was drenched in sweat, a million voices echoed around me, my presence juggled between death and life in a micro-second. Suddenly, someone jerked me like an electricity wire and a jot of my senses came back.

Marina, my 9-year-old cousin, tried snatching the paper from my hand but I refused to give up as if it were a key to my own grave.

“I want my sketch back, Didi,” she almost yelled at me.

“That’s not your sketch,” I said and looked at the paper.

It was a beautifully drawn sketch of a caterpillar. She had coloured it so uniformly that it seemed like the caterpillar was dancing on that piece of paper- maybe it was happy- its life would last just three summer days.


The Joy of Being the Old School Ordinary Girl

It was in grade 6 when someone talked to me for an hour and said, “you’re really old school, I like it!’. I smirked like a clueless girl – immediately went back home and checked what did ‘old school’ mean. There I was, the most appropriate phrase of the universe was found and every time I had to describe myself I loved saying, I’m an old school person.

Only when I grew up did I realize the true meaning and an invincible joy of being this old-fashioned plain girl. All the fun was in the ordinariness I believed in. While everyone’s hashtags looked like this – #potd, #clubnight, #beachparty, #iphone, #hookingup; mine looked like these – #vintage, #virginiawoolf, #mandalas, #peace, #selflove, #soulmate.

I don’t believe in categorizations, so I won’t say a person who parties won’t read books or someone who hooks up can’t ever fall in love; it’s all possible in a single lifetime but being an old school person I did realize that no matter what, I can’t ever make sense of loud music, some bottles of beers and random people calling it the most fun night of their life. I can’t make sense of people who meet someone for four days – fall in love – there are promises of forever made – for the 100th time in their lives. I can’t make sense of people dressing up all jazzy just to be able to match up the environment you’re going to spend your time in. I can’t make sense of photographs that are clicked not for memories but for hashtags and social media banter. I can’t make sense of reading only terribly tiny tales if you’ve never lived a long story for a few months and then cried like a baby that it’s over.

Old school is not just a tag, it’s a way of life. I did struggle a lot – fitting in, making sense of the new glittery stuff I was introduced to each year, the feeling – that may be I’m just a boring person and each one of them are so cool, but to only end up with the realization – there’s an undeniable hollowness within each of us that could only be filled in with things which are more permanent, promising and real.

~ After all the music in the world, you can’t call it a day without listening to Mohd. Rafi, Farida Khanum or John Lennon, Led Zeppelin

Those funky moves, the bass, hipster lyrics, all the loudness is all fine but where is the solace in music if not in the melodious voice of Rafi or Lata Mangeshkar. Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce, Madonna – it’s all good but nothing can match what Pink Floyd or Rolling Stones ever did in the name of music.

True, your playlist is often useless when everyone gathers in a room to have ‘fun’, sorry but not sorry, it’s rather good to fail to call today’s most of Bollywood music – music in real terms. Most of the songs composed and written by classic bands used to be poems sung out loud that meant a whole different world in their heads, today, there’s a single line sung through the whole verse of a song.

May be, their music is trending but your playlist is not less than a friend in solace who shares the little dance you have in your head while listening to songs and feeling a thunderstorm of emotions.
“There’s a lot you can tell about a person from their playlist”

~ A diary and a pen to let your heart out can never be replaced by small iPhone notes.

You love to take out your diary every time a though buzzes in your head and penning it down is such a relief, like you just saved a holy life. As much you love using those diaries, the more you love collecting them – a few with quotes, some with floral designs, a couple of them with plain pages and some small pocket diaries. There’s no end to the stationary you can collect, an ink pen, one pen for each colour that exists, gem studded pen and sometimes a barbie pen is lovely too!

Well, how is it going to be equivalent to a small note typed on an iPhone, even the universe can’t conspire to make a diary lover fall in love with the touch of a phone to let out all the bubbles of poems, stories and journals ensnared within you.

~ You’ll choose one out of hundred thousands and stick to them for a lifetime.

Out of 100 people in a room, you’ll be able to befriend just one or two but the ones who’re your chosen friends, they are the ones you’ll stick by in every situation. They will be the ones who’ll see you crying for food and laughing on the worst jokes – for the life to come.

It’s difficult for you to call someone your friend until you don’t have each other’s updates of personal, professional, emotional, sexual life till date – irrespective of the break in between.

You may or may not have time to hangout or chill but there has to be time to listen to the rants, frustrations and emotional outbreaks of your friend. Worst and best, you cling like a true friend in need because may be you know as an old school person, heart can love just a few, too dearly and truly.

Though, I do not intend to say people who’re not old school, aren’t loyal friends but old school is a lot about – ‘one woman man/one man woman.’

~ Before you choose your kind of people, it might take days, months and years – just to be sure.

You are like the most innocent breathing, almost invisible, mammal on earth who’s nothing to do with the human species all around and is so sufficient within oneself that friendship and relationships are just an added bonus that happen by chance – naturally and effortlessly.

You believe in serendipity instead of making things happen just because there should be a social circle. You’ll take days before you can believe in the friendships that happen to cross your way and you need to feel the most comfortable and accepted – including your flaws.

~ There’s a perennial flow of philosophical thoughts in all situations in life.

You can’t stop being a philosophy freak. Food, drives, films, music, games, books, outings, furniture everything has a philosophy and you feel a little more elated when you can share it with people and even more elated if people can make sense of all of your philosophies.

Everything needs to be sensible and reasonable, jokes included. They make you the person you are, the lessons that you learn in life, you start echoing them each day to make your life and the life of your near and dear ones better.

~ You’re a die heard fan of vintage stuff, be it typewriter, fountain pens, kanjeevarams, phulkari dupattas or a polka dot skirt.

Trends are the most useless things to follow for you. There are things which are universal and evergreen and picking them up is your unconscious choice. No matter how much you try to experiment and add colours and versatility to your closet or collections, you can’t stop running back to the vintage for all the glory and glamour in life.

Those Pinterest and Tumblr images with antique stationery, silk threads and picturesque golden black combinations are your weaknesses and you dream of spaces in a single theme, that is vintage.

~ You love writing letters, journals and making handmade cards to show affection and love.

There’s nothing that can suffice enough your emotions as much as a letter. Though mostly you might end up writing these letters to your own self because you adamantly believe no one knows the worth of them as much as you do.

Gifts are gifts but a handmade card does all the heart melting for you. Someone’s emotions penned down in pictures, words is a golden effort to win your heart.

You also collect all these letters carefully to make sure you can one day open your box of treasure and relive many memories in a single moment.

There’s a lot more that can be added to the world of an old school soul. They feel years older than the rest of the people around them and proudly so.

They grow up with a sense of mystic and it’s harder for them to fit in and make way for the things they want to do and the lives they want to lead but they hardly give up and become who they believe they really are, by heart and soul.

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