Word of the Day – Deity

Suman always wondered where do people go after they die and more importantly why do people die?

She had gotten so many different answers from everyone  around her in all these years. The superstitious world that she was being brought up in was the kind where she was  surrounded by people forever instilling fears of different sorts in her mind. A black cat crossing your path means bad luck. You should never give salt bottle or knife to another person hand to hand and so on. To the extent that when her dear neighbour and soul sister Aishdidi was to get married to a man, she was first made to marry a tree in the belief that her first marriage was not destined to last.

At school too, different versions of different superstitions prevailed. For example, the first page of every notebook was to be always left blank if you wanted to score well. One’s name should never be written with certain colours and many more.

“Mom, I know why Amma died.” Suman sobbed as she returned home from school one afternoon.

“Why” Radha asked.

“Because I misspelled the word Deity to be Diety when I wrote an essay at school talking about Amma and how she feels one with the deity at some moments. My friends told me so Mom. I feel so terrible.”

Radha could only hope and pray that this would result into Suman learning spellings more accurately from now on and one day she would be mature enough to not let superstitions come in her way of living, loving and progressing.

© Bijal Mehta

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Word of the day – Dad

He always told her to stand up for what’s right. He ensured she is equipped enough to not let the gender biases of the world come in her way of living life to the fullest. He taught her to love and be loved back , to respect and be respected , to care and be cared for, to be fragile yet firm,  soft yet stern and gentle yet  zealous. He was and is her first hero for he prepared her to be as consummate as any person whether man or woman could be. He is Dad.
(C)Bijal Mehta

Word of the Day – Savings

This is what I came up with in 60 seconds for the #wordprompt on http://www.oneword.com

Word of the Day – Savings

All his savings were still intact.. life had been kind.
Reema was a successful woman, earning far more than him.
but all he wanted to do at this minute was to spend all the money he had on her getting better.. as fast as possible.

(c) Bijal Mehta

Contemplating a plot to develop this further. Would love to know your thoughts friends!

This is what I came up with in 60 seconds for the #wordprompt on http://www.oneword.com.

Word of the Day – Legendary

The little boy was arguing with his mother on why he should be allowed to have that one last chocolate left in the refrigerator.
“Because too much chocolate is not good for your teeth, throat and overall health”. She said.
“But its good for the brain and would help me remember better especially if I have it while studying!” He argued with incredible confidence.
“And how can you be so sure of that?” She asked.
“Look in your phone Moma. Hina aunty has sent a picture in WhatsApp that confirms this information. You know I don’t argue without evidence!” He rolled his eyes and smiled as he said the words.
For a 05 year old who is still learning to use the phone and to make logic in conversations, his argument seemed legendary.

(c) Bijal Mehta

Contemplating a plot to develop this further…Would love to know your thoughts !

 

The Garden

“It is decided Rahul and my decision remains final. There is no change. You are going to do as I say.”

Rahul slammed the door in frustration as Nikita said these words. He did not want to go anywhere, especially nowhere that lead him away from Nikita. He knew Nikita wanted that too. She could not stay away from him even for a minute. Every time that he was away, she would wait for his calls as pre-decided, 03 times a day. Morning 8am, afternoon 4pm and night 10pm. They were never long conversations, just the usual catching up on the happenings that took place in the small gap between one phone call to another.  Then why was she doing this? Why was she sending him away?

Rahul and Nikita were living in Apple Woods, House Number 18 in SoBo, the newly formed residential township in the ever expanding city of Ahmedabad. It was a cosy 03 BHK house that the two of them had together made into a home.

Nikita a beautiful, hazel eyed Punjabi woman, though in her mid-40s, she could easily be taken for someone 10 years younger. Rahul, her tall and handsome son, all of 19 was the only reason people had to believe the number of years that lay behind Nikita. But neither her looks nor her son could give away the experiences that Nikita had at a young age and the battles she had fought in bringing Rahul up.

“How hollow and barren this place seemed when we first came in. Remember Rahul? said Nikita with a look of awe and accomplishment in her eyes as she looked out from the window. Weekends were always special when Rahul returned home from his hostel, once in a while.

“Yes Ma. For me the most vivid memory is of the day Daizy came to be with us and the ruckus it made in the garden.”

Daizy their beloved Alsatian dog was barely 12 months when it was gifted to the Mehra’s by a friend as a house warming gift. Rahul was 08 years then. Nikita had asked the gardener to mow the lawn and put fresh soil the same day. The garden was still soggy with the renewed treatment, when Daizy in all its excitement ran across the area smashing it to smithereens. Nikita was never in favour of the idea of a pet in the house with her running a busy schedule and this behaviour had further fortified her opinion but only temporarily.

It was the instant attachment that Rahul had for the four legged monster that made Nikita come to like it initially and eventually fall in love with as it became a part of the family. In one such instance, Nikita was at work when Rahul was about 13 years. An ever experimenting child, Rahul decided to experiment in the kitchen that day. When Nikita returned from work, she could smell something burning. She rushed to the kitchen to find 03 buttered pans, turned near to charcoal on the gas, broken eggs and softened bread on the kitchen platform and Rahul surfing the iPAD for cooking for beginners. Daizy greeted her excitedly at the door and the reason for its excitement was all the experimental delicacies by Rahul that were being passed on in its plate. Little did Nikita know that Daizy would be the reason to hold on to for Nikita in days to come. God does everything for a reason.

Finally Rahul was able to develop a piece to his satisfaction which was presented to Nikita with the utmost innocence and nervous excitement. “How is it momma?” His big eyes widened as Nikita opened her mouth and took the first bite of the egg roll Rahul had made from Roti, eggs, some sauces and some spices. To an outsider it may have seemed a half-hearted effort by an adult, but to Nikita it was yet again a reiteration of what she had realized when Rahul had innocently told her years ago “Mom there are more carrots in this Gajar Halwa. Next time please put fewer carrots” Everyone had laughed at his innocent statement that day but to Nikita it was the instant that marked Rahul’s bent towards the art of culinary. From then on, Rahul and Nikita cooked smaller simpler dishes together regularly. The kitchen became alive with Rahul’s gradual yet steady learning of simple everyday food. First with buttering a bread, cutting an apple, chopping okra, moving on to Oreo Pops and the like of gasless cooking and gradually progressing to preparing Masala Tea, Maggi, Pasta and making roti in a perfect circle, it all came so naturally to Rahul as if it was destined to be.

Rahul followed both his academics and his hobby which had by now clearly become a passion with an equal and innate rigour. In his free time too Rahul would watch cookery shows on TV. “FOOD FOOD” by Sanjeev Kapoor was his favourite and his never ending questions and ever enduring desire to explore this art made Nikita realize that he had to be channelized in the correct direction to make his dreams a reality. By the time Rahul was in college, he had won several small to big accolades for his culinary skills from society to school to city to state to national level competitions and from radio to television to the fast emerging online platform where Rahul had his own website http://www.passionatechef.com.

Despite his studies, friends and the time discovering various varieties took up of Rahul, he and Nikita were always connected. Sometimes this attachment worried Nikita. She knew that eventually Rahul would have to be sent to pursue his dream further. All these years there were several occasions when she was tempted to move to a city where Rahul could explore more outlets for his work but the strings of her past, the love for their home Saahas and her work had compelled her to stay put at Ahmedadad. Nikita was at a stage in her career where she could not leave the job as it would lead to her losing her retirement benefits. Every time she discussed the idea of Rahul moving to a different city his response was always the same. “What’s the need mom? People eat here too. Restaurants run here too. Chefs find jobs here too.”  

Nikita knew better. The time had come now. She picked up the phone to call Ketan her friend and confident at Noida. “I want you to call up Rahul and share with him about the upcoming contest at the International Institute of Culinary Arts, New Delhi. He will listen to you and come to participate. You know how capable he is and its time he saw a world beyond mom and Manek Chawk”.

Rahul and Nikita visited Delhi that year. Though it wasn’t the first time, this time was different. Nikita and Ketan showed Rahul all the possible places where he could explore his dream. Ketan introduced him to some of the best chefs in NCR and convinced Rahul to move to New Delhi for the contest.

The rest of the months went by in a jiffy. Rahul entered the contest and cleared the finals. Nikita became all the more unwavering for Rahul’s happiness which she knew was in moments when he adorned the chef cap – Toque. She was determined to ensure Rahul pursues his next degree in culinary arts from a reputed institution at India.

Five years later…

** It was the first thought that came to her as she woke up. He was gone. And, soon, this bedroom, the house in whose eastern corner it sat, and the tiny garden outside with its gnarled old red hibiscus and the half-grown mango tree they had planted  together, all those would be gone as well. It was the strangest feeling ever.**

Nikita went to the kitchen and had a glass of water. In no mood for breakfast, she still opened the refrigerator more out of habit than anything else. She pulled out the pastry Rahul had made the day before he left for Delhi from his work visit, placed two tiny pieces on two plates, one for her and one for Daizy and sat on the sofa with her phone in one hand.

Daizy lay quietly as Nikita waited for Rahul’s call. The pet too seemed least interested in the sweet in absence of the person who had made it.  The calls from Rahul were less frequent now as he got busier with each passing moment running his Café Brunch till late hours of the day and working as head chef with a well-known multi cuisine restaurant and bar till wee hours of the morning. The hours in between were spent with Kaahini.

Rahul and Kaahini, his girlfriend since 03 years, tried several times to convince Nikita to move to New Delhi but she changed the topic each time saying she’ll help them officially move into a bigger and a better home as one, indicating them to become lifelong partners and join the institution of marriage that she firmly believed in but had chosen not to re-enter for Rahul’s sake.

Nikita had decided to gift Rahul and Kaahini a beautiful apartment at New Delhi on their wedding but for that she would have to sell off this house and with it move away from all the dots that  connected her to her past that was filled with Rahul and memories of his growing years. Nikita swallowed the pastry as if to pull together the courage for bearing the loss of proximity to Rahul and now all touch points filled with memories of his innocence, her sacrifices and their endurance.

The doorbell rang. Nikita answered it as Daisy dallied in the background. The real estate broker had come with the Sharma couple to finalize the deal on the house as they were eager to move in.

“Hi come in. where is your little boy today?”

“Oh he is in the car waiting. He is getting his birthday present today; a Dobermann Pinscher and he can’t wait to move in to his new home with his new friend!”

Nikita smiled as she signed the final papers and visualized history repeating itself. She now had 02 weeks to vacate the place.

She put on her shoes and called out “Come on Daizy. Let’s go for a walk in the garden. I know you have memories here too.”

(c) Bijal Mehta

Note: ** Paragraph originally made available by author Jaishree Mishra for the Times WriteIndia contest April 2016.

Bridged Mosaic

15th November 2014

The cold November wind sliced through Sanjay’s face as he stared out the open glass window of the office cabin on the 23rd floor of Ambitions Complex where he and Maya met often.

‘What the hell is going on between my husband and that bitch?’ Maya’s patience was at its lowest ebb and she was ready to burst.

Sanjay knew that she was serious. ‘Look, Maya. There is nothing going on between the two of them. Just a little bit of healthy flirting, I’d say.’

‘Flirting? Healthy flirting? Really Sanjay . . .’ she rolled her eyes in disgust. ‘That’s what you men call it? There is nothing healthy about flirting, Sanjay, not for a married man.

Healthy flirting is a term introduced by perverted men who want to lend legitimacy to their extra marital dalliances. Flirting invariably has a sexual connotation to it.’ She got up from her seat and walked around the room gesticulating and muttering something to herself. Suddenly she stopped, turned back, looked at Sanjay and asked, ‘Did my husband sleep with her? You are his friend. Did he ever tell you anything about it?’

 Sanjay was taken aback, although the thought had crossed his mind a couple of times too. Binata and Roshan got along well but they ensured that their liaison was never too obvious. Roshan took exceptionally good care of his public appearances and behaviours. How could this thought have crossed Maya’s mind then?

He was short of words unable to decide what to say and how much to say to Maya.

“Your silence is giving Roshan away Sanjay. I knew it! I knew it this would happen with her too! It always happens with every woman he meets.”

Come on Maya. Don’t bring up a past that never existed, you have no proof that those events ever happened!”

“How much more proof do I need Sanjay? When a man returns home smelling fresh as a flower at 11pm in the night, when he brings his wife gifts without any occasion, when he takes her out for dinner the night before and then gets particularly busy for 12 hours straight , presumably in office , the very next day ! What do these things indicate?” She fumed.

“When he came home smelling fresh, it was your anniversary, the gift was because he had gotten a fabulous opportunity at work and wanted to share the joy with you, and he took you out for dinner because he wanted the evening to be romantic and the night to be sensual for you and with you. Getting busy at work is not a crime Maya. It happens with all of us once in a while.”

“Oh yes, I am wrong. Not in my thoughts and opinions but definitely in having shared them with you! I should have known, you are Roshan’s friend now. What we were is a thing of the past” Maya glared at him crossly.

“I wouldn’t mind if you want it to be a thing of the present” Sanjay muttered under his breath.

“I heard that”. She said with a smile. “Well honestly speaking. I wouldn’t mind that happening either considering how lonely I feel at times. May be I should try having an extramarital affair or two. Just to see how it feels”. Maya seemed relaxed as she took a smoke of the cigar.

“Doesn’t feel very different from a pre-marriage relationship. The only difference is, in your single days, you are free to experiment without any official tags and emotional burdens.”

“And how do you know all that my ‘friend’ ”? Maya looked at him with a familiar grin as she left the room and the very statement made Sanjay go back a decade in time.

10th March 2004

All of 25 years then, Sanjay were a carefree soul and had a secure and high status job with an international bank. Binata, an ambitious financial advisor was amongst the few to be on company payrolls in that profile. That’s where the two of them had met. Handling client calls together, going on field visits, discussing HNI Accounts and sharing occasional cups of coffee. As their careers progressed, so did their relationship from client calls to casual coffee to deliberate and welcome dates. Binata and Sanjay became two names synonymous to each other. It did not take long before Binata popped the big question to Sanjay and they decided to commit to each other. Things were going very well, but Sanjay’s heart felt something amiss all the time. His best moments were when he scribbled words onto the ever inviting blank pages of his journal.

Roshan was a dual major gold medallist in finance and marketing from a premiere B-School at Bangalore and Maya held a Masters in communication management from Mumbai. Roshan, a high flying business honcho and Maya, a beautiful gray eyed woman with a hard to understand mystery around her, made an interesting pair of contrasts. Together they ran a business solutions firm that provided financial, management and communications consulting to new and aspiring business ventures.  They were partners in Axelon Business Solutions and partners in life.

It was during a meeting at the bank at the time of their search for venture capital for their new business that they met Binata and Sanjay. Sanjay with his firm yet approachable persona and Binata with her sophisticated yet outspoken personality, made a fantastic pair in all ways. Roshan was instantly impressed with Binata and her ability to sense business potential and her impeccable sense of style. The two of them exchanged phone numbers and decided to stay in touch as Maya looked on with a thoughtful expression.

16th November 2014

11:00am

The phone rang. “Hi it’s Me. Any idea where Maya is ?”

Sanjay chose to not answer that question and instead asked whether Binata and Roshan were together.

A wife asking her husband for the wife of a man she  was so frequently with, should ideally have been a point of contention but Sanjay knew Binata better. Extremely ambitious, his wife, according to him, was an open minded and flexible, crude and crafty individual, possibly not adulterous.

“Yes, we had some important points to discuss regarding the loan and..”

Sanjay barely heard the rest of Binata’s chatter as he saw Maya walk into the room wearing the most sensual black dress, ready for the evening.

“How do I look? Do you think he will like this?”

“Well I believe Mr. Mathews will look more at the proposal you are submitting than at the outfit and how sexy you look in it”.

“Hmm. Some fuel is always helpful for the fire. Who knows, Mathews just might be another Roshan who can easily be two.. ?” Maya stopped her sentence abruptly and adjusted the pearl necklace Roshan had gifted her that date night.

Today’s meeting was important. Sanjay knew what the game was. Roshan needed the money to expand his fully flourishing venture and Joy Mathews, President of a fund raising company, enjoyed the company of beautiful middle aged women to fill the emotional void in his life. Such deals worked just fine. Binata and he had had several discussions on what looked like an absolutely professional arrangement that Roshan and Maya may have agreed upon. The conflict between values and greed never failed to amaze Sanjay. Although knowing Roshan who believed “Money can buy everything and green bills justify all evil”, Sanjay was not surprised.

What perplexed Sanjay was how Maya had accepted the bridge role she played in making these deals happen? Did she really think Roshan let her spend all this time with Sanjay because he knew they were childhood friends or was it because Roshan  was well aware of the money that lay in the line of his secret partnership with Sanjay? Did Maya never question Roshan on the amount of time he spent alone with Binata? Why did she accept his obvious conducts of infidelity so easily?

Come to think of it, he and Binata had also gotten into some sort of an arrangement over the years. Binata enjoyed maintaining relations with important clients and Sanjay did his bit by bringing 2 to 3 high profile clients every year. The rest of the time he spent in his world of fiction and with Maya. He never questioned Binata on her whereabouts and had accepted Roshan’s extended hand of friendship so he could be close to Roshan’s wife and his childhood fantasy, Maya.

Maya was Sanjay’s classmate, friend and secret crush in school days,  a beautifully innocent lass who had grown up to be a pampered and an outwardly happy, married woman. Maya had always surprised Sanjay with her ways and sometimes scared him with her risk taking abilities and swindles as a kid in school. Yet there was something about her that made Sanjay’s heart skip a beat even today. When they met at the bank after years of school, Sanjay could still feel the same stupor in his eyes when he saw her.

5:00pm

Maya and Sanjay waited for Mathews at the coffee shop. It was nearly 6:30pm when Joy Mathews got down from the pristine BMW with a lady in stark white official attire. That lady was Binata .

“Hi Binata , So good to see you here”.  Maya said with a familiar smile. The women were not surprised to see each other at all and the scandalous look on both their faces seemed to give something else away.

“Mr.Mathews, meet Mr. Sanjay, our business alliance partner. Mr. Sanjay this is Mr. Joy Mathews. He needs no introductions I believe.” Binata said in her charismatic finesse as she looked Sanjay in the eye with a dense yet disarming expression.

Sanjay wondered whether it was Maya who was playing the bridge or was it an unaware Roshan or may be Sanjay himself getting bridged in the mosaic.

*passage from Ravi Subramanian’s The Best Seller She Wrote”.

**Short story originally written for and submitted to the Write India Contest by Times of India, October 2015.

©Bijal Mehta

Inspiration…

The hall was all too silent. Filled with more than a thousand people, yet with pin-drop silence. But there was a reason behind that. It was an endless wait for this special moment, for more than a year.

It was a day for the greatest awards in the world of words. Finally he came, walked on stage and the name was announced. ‘ And the award for best writer of the year goes to Lalima*!’ With that just one sentence, the silence was broken. Cheers and claps, hugs and happiness filled the room. But she could barely move. Frozen on her seat with tears trickling down her cheeks, there in the distance she could still hear the wheels of the train turning, moving and taking her far away from her inspiration, into her future.

An unsure yet exciting future. The one she was scared of, yet looked forward to. And she remembered once again, that one special month in her life when she had just finished college and was stepping out into the world. Looking for a fresh start in a new direction. She had ideas but not options, chances but no choices, she had the will but she was yet to find a way.

The wheels moved forward and her memories took her back to that first day of her training. The office was filled with people busy with different jobs. Meeting deadlines, attending phone calls, working under pressure yet with pleasure. The seat next to her was surprisingly empty. ‘Who’d be sitting here?’ she wondered as she was given previous briefs to refer to, to get a hang of the place.

So busy she was with the material, little did she realize when the seat next to her was occupied. ‘Excuse me, are you the copy-writer here?’ she managed to ask him, to break the silence. In just a matter of a few hours, the two of them were the closest of friends. She somehow found it so easy to talk with him, share things with him and ask him for advice.. Look up to him.

‘What do you see yourself doing six months from now?’ where do you see yourself at that point?’

He knew she was confused, didn’t know what the future held and somehow he made it his responsibility to get her out of that. To make her think about what she wants to do, where she wants to go.

‘You’re different, there is something different about you, and that difference is what no one else has, and you and only you can get it out and show to the world.. What do you like to do?’

‘I like writing. Its like when I write, I can put in full emotions of what I feel. I want to be a great writer someday.’

He would assign her different jobs, sometimes to make an ad for a product, sometimes to write an article for a magazine.

‘It’s either full one hundred points or it’s a zero. There is nothing between the two. I don’t understand how does a teacher manage to give someone sixty five, seventy five or even eighty?’ He’d say.

You have to be your own critic, don’t wait for the world to tell you that you’re good. What right does somebody else have to comment on what you have done?’ its you who has to decide. Don’t ever be scared of difficulties. Remember, there is no way of walking ‘around’ your difficulties. You have to learn and walk ‘through’ them. And anytime you feel confused, call me. Talk to me, tell me and ask me anything you want. Don’t hesitate. I’m always here.

How could someone be so kind? So nice? A person she had known for less than a few days had that special feeling for her which comes very rarely, perhaps just once in a lifetime. And to her, he became her friend, her teacher, her critic and her inspiration.

One month of her training passed in a jiffy.

On the last day, he gave her a leather bag and a waist. The kind those professional writers would use. ‘You don’t know what the future holds. But I know that this can hold your future very well. Be a winner always, in all the ways!’ he told her before she left.

Her training was over, it was time to go back to her hometown and face the challenges of a new life. Face them she did. She began with an entry-level position in the creative department of an ad agency. For six years, she worked hard at all that she did. Creative director in a respectable ad agency, a freelancer and at one point a famous and respected writer. Anytime she felt lost in a sea of people, lonely in her own world, or anytime she felt like running away, she looked up to him and she’d be on the go again.

His words echoed in her ears. ‘Do something great someday. Get that genius out of you. Make me proud.’

And the wheels of the train came to a halt.

She went on stage, took the award and said on the microphone ‘Thank you *****, I’m proud of you. This belongs more to you, my inspiration, than to me..’

*Lalima ‘ Early morning spread of soft orange sunlight in the sky. Used as the name  of the main character of the story in this case.