Friday, July 2, 2010

Mistaken Identity

Anvita always believed in dressing well. Her saree would always be prim and proper, neatly pleated and pined against the blouse. She had 3 sarees which she would wear to work and each of them had a matching blouse which fit her perfectly. A simple gold chain ordained her neck and she wore golden loops in her ears. Even with the meager income and having a large family to fed, she would always ensure that she had a bath with soap, wore a clean saree and looked tidy. She tried instilling this sense of cleanliness amongst her three kids but given the broken down house amidst the slum area where they lived and the vicinity it was very difficult to teach them the tenants of tidiness.

They were never always this poor. She did study when she was young and her father wanted her to study more and earn for herself but things changed one fine day. Her father a railway guard died in a train accident. The whole family was shattered. The pension was meager and the mouths to feed were many. Anvita took it on her to earn for them, she would do odd jobs, try teaching some school kids and give whatever she could earn to her mother and her 4 brothers and sisters. To ease the burden, her mother did what most families in that situation would. She got Anvita married off to the village boy who had a job in the city. Things happened in a flurry since. The marriage, the dowry paid by her mother, the pleadings, bickering followed. Anvita knew that her escape lay in this disastrous marriage, she would go to the city, start a life and earn for herself.

The dream shattered very soon. On reaching the city she faced reality which appeared much severe than the village. The husband had lost his job a year back, he was living off some savings, the house was a rat hole- a one room behind the Kanpur station. There was hardly electricity ever, water had to be drawn and got everyday and the neighbours were noisy and jobless. Her husband sat at home the whole day and told her categorically that she needed to earn for them. This seemed ages ago now. She had toiled everyday, took up maid’ jobs in the quarters nearby, she did some stitching in her spare time and sometimes taught in the night school. Her family had now grown, she had managed to save up some money and they now lived in a cleaner two room premises. Her children went to school. Over time her husband started working for 10 odd days in month as a labourer and earned some money. Their lives were much better comparatively.

She felt the happiest pinning her saree and going to work at Mrs Tewari’s house. She was so nice, she always asked about her, gave her to eat and always encouraged her. She would keep her money with her and save up for the future.

It was one such day when Anvita had just entered Mrs.Tewari’s house. I will be back soon said Mrs Tewari and left the house. Anvita was in the kitchen and decided to finish the fries before shutting the door. Ji madame she said and continued with her task at hand. Glancing up she saw the apron hung in the kitchen wall. The oil was still simmering and she wandered towards the apron. She had always seen Mrs. Tewari wearing this while in the kitchen and curiously Anvita took it out and put it round her neck. Useful thing she thought, now no oil stains on her neatly starched saree as she continued frying the potatoes.

Hello is anyone there.. hello…….. came a voice. Anvita quickly ran out to see a young lady at the door. She opened the door ajar and started talking. Anivita started blurting that madame was out but this young lady was so excited, she started saying oh my what a beautiful house you have Mrs. Tewari, its so beautiful, I hope I did not disturb you, I am Alpana. She plonked on the sofa and smiled at Anvita saying that she and her family have just moved on the first floor and she has just come to meet the neighbors. Anvita again opened her mouth to clarify but Alpana started her story of her move, her family, the locality urging Anvita to join her. Anivita tried several times to interrupt her but gave up after a while. She sat down on the leather sofa, smiled back inquired about her, told her about her family and her neighborhood.

The afternoon went by and as Anvita lay in her bed at night. She wondered and smiled. She actually lived a different identity this afternoon and for the brief twenty minutes she forgot who she was, she forgot the tiredness, the problems and she was Mrs. Tewari at the railway quarters in Kanpur. It felt amazing to be able to converse with someone and not worry about a thing. Maybe she will never have this in life and maybe she will always be Anvita, the maid but for this brief time she lived the mistaken identity. If it was not for her circumstances she could be there, she could be her but she won’t , she can’t. She had come to terms with her reality ages ago but this one time in this make believe world made her feel very alive. The unlikely moment became possible at least once.. Maybe she would live her life on the surreal hope which the mistaken identity gave her…


Sparkling against the sullen sun
Glistening and glimmering
Hurling forward in laziness

Stories forgotten
Mysteries untold
Moments lost

Gliding in splendor
Pausing gloriously
And then moving on

Unspoken words are heard
Unheard voices surround
Hurt and anguish beckon

Saying so much yet nothing
Wanting to be heard
The tears against the stained glass.

Etched in time

It was a relationship of sorts. It had been a long journey and we have never been apart. So many memories, moments glorious moments caught in time or just mundane glimpses rushed through my mind.

I glanced clutching thy hand with all my might. You muttered under your breath asking me to lift you up. I shook my head as my eyes were stung with my efforts to keep the tears at bay. You forced yourself up and stared at my moist eyes. We both knew it was time to bid farewell. It had been a memorable journey, we had shared, cried, learnt, unlearnt, lived, laughed and embraced life. You had taught me that at times it had to be about me, it had to be about oneself – things which were inexplicable. You had taught me to listen and march forward, you had taught me to be brave and often let me walk alone. I misjudged you and called you names. Often, I followed suit of where the masses took me but you always were my shadow- lurking behind and coaxing me to take the less trodden path.

There have been times I have hated your guts, they way you would make me listen to you. They way I would never listen to others and just trust your instinct. You know that by following your word, I have been hurt, bruised and so often broken. Those moments were the worst when I promised myself to close you out of my life, never letting anyone hurt me and never being so vulnerable but you always crept back in. You always showed me the softer facet to a circumstance and helped me re-believe. With time you ensured that there was no hurt and I could trust again.

And there were conflicts between you and the others where I tried to listen elsewhere. Each time I would try, you would be hurt, it was hardly ever simultaneous. I tried to walk the middle path at times listening to both but it never worked and you eventually succeeded in having your way.
I do not want to let you go. I do not want to walk alone. I need your comfort and I need you to guide me. You breathe even worse and the beats are less frequent. I can feel you walk away as I have to turn and face life all alone. .. seconds pass and the heart stops beating.

… I lie open eyed now. The doctor says the operation was successful, the heart transplant happened. He smiled and encouraged me. I wiped the lurking tear in my eye as only I knew that I had bid farewell to my companion- my heart. I was another person now, I had a new heart beating in me. Will it show me the way as before? Will I be guided by my heart and will I be my emotional self or will this heart be too weak for my strong mind?
An undying relationship etched in time- my heart and me!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

taanth ghar

It was always an uncanny feeling when I climbed those long winding stairs. I would always turn back to call for Deeksha. She was the timid one but very curious. Deeksha would always show disinterest but I knew her curiosity would get the better of her. I paused for a minute on the last flight of stairs and turned around. I could see her slowly climbing the stairs and grumbling how futile our adventure would be. I giggled and urged her to run up the stairs. Slowly, we would open the taanth ghar and peep through the cobwebs, dust and blur. This was true adventure I told Deeksha just like famous five and secret seven- we could be the troublesome two! She merely grunted and stood quietly. But I could see the gleam in her eyes. Her desire to discover, to explore and to unravel the mysteries of the past was shining right through. We stepped inside the room filled with old vessels, bronze boxes, marble table tops, steel trunks piled on top of each other. We had so much to explore so much to see and we had the key.. the key to the taanth ghar.
The house was a treasure trove. Built in 1750’s it was an epic in itself, every corner had some memory, some story of its own. The house of my great- great grandfather where multitude of families, lived and grew together. We came each summer and we would be thrilled with all the games we could play and each time we would discover something new. Our grandparents would pamper us with all the special dishes, sweets and chocolates. We could watch our favourite cartoons and we were also allowed to sleep late. Deekhsa always loved to hear dadu telling us the stories of the era gone by when the house was bustling with activities- stories where the family would go hunting into the sunderban or where the house had its own poultry, cows and even peacocks. We would always gape for more stories and ask him many questions which dadu would patiently answer. I would love to peep at didu cooking our favourite fish in mustard and fry our crispy aloo bhaja while we nibbled on the food. She would shoo us away saying we would fill our stomach before lunch. The summer holidays were such a treasure, Deeksha would play house and line up all the dolls and toys which have been played with by generations. She would arrange the tiny wooden furniture which dadu had crafted for us. I would be prancing around in the little wooden toy horse which stood in the corner of the long corridor. I would be curious to try and hold the air gun which was kept to scare the monkeys. I would ask dadu to tell me if there were any secret passages in the house, any treasure hidden, stories of deceit, anger and hate while Deeksha would calmly listen to the happy stories of brides coming into the house at the age of seventeen and learning to cook and take charge of the house. We were poles apart and yet together. We would argue and disagree and I would always win over Deeksha. I could yell louder, jump higher and cry myself hoarse. I got heard and I made sure I always did. Deeksha let me have my way, she loved me too much.
I still remember that fateful summer. The summer of 1988, where we had our 10th birthday celebration. I remember the cake was specially ordered from Fluris it was a large cake in the shape of a sun flower for us. Ma said it symbolized us Deeksha and Disha and she sang for us … “as the sunflower that follows every movement of the sun… so I turn towards you.. to follow you my lord……”. She said our names symbolized the path of the future and we were like sun flowers always bright and sunny like the sun. I for one loved the colour of my cake and Deeksha was too busy adjusting the yellow bow on her head. I could not wait to open my presents and play. It was perfect, everyone sang and hugged us. We got so many presents. I just loved birthdays. I kept hunting for Dadu’s gift to us but there was none. I did not show my disappointment but I was hurt. After everyone was gone and we were put to bed, there was a knock on the door. Deeksha opened the door and there was dadu. He came and sat by our bed side and smiled his peaceful smile. He asked whether we were wondering about his gift. I said –of course not, we had enough gifts. Deeksha remained silent as she often did. He held our hands in his and gave us a wrapped packet. I was smiling- trust dadu to be all adventurous. He was super. I jumped to open it and saw an old diary… almost tattered with handwritten pages. He smiled and said – girls, this is your great grand father’s diary- here he wrote everything about the house, the daily activities and the untold secrets. He said here are all your questions and here are all your answers. Keep it safe. I hugged him and Deeksha glanced at him and muttered a thanks. I knew what she would be thinking – more adventure, more secrets and I would drag her in this journey of discovery.
I was gleeful with excitement. Here I had the treasure map, the key to answers- wow! I woke up early and jumped on Deeksha telling her the plan for the day. I had already read a few pages and there was one part of the house we had to see.. the taanth ghar. I told her the dairy described it as the place where sarees were woven but it was later on used for storing various things. It had a cupboard full of goodies which people had used over the years. The diary said I read out to her …….
“…. It’s a room where you will either discover yourself or loose yourself … but you will meet your true self…”
I told her our great grand father must be wanting to sound mysterious but we must find all the treasures. Deeksha paused, I have never seen her like this.. She asked me to repeat those lines and she closed her eyes and breathed heavily. She glanced at me after a long pause and said don’t you see Disha he wants us to find us. I looked at her with a perplexed expression. My weird sister. I told her just come and we will strike gold………

The taanth ghar ‘s door was old and rusty. It creaked when we opened it and we stopped to see the historical mess of decades of things piled together. The reluctance which Deeksha had shown on the stairs vanished, it was like she was someone else as she floated around the room, browsing through the shelves, touching the vessels. I found an exciting looking old hunter and I was testing it around. Deeksha had opened the huge cupboard and though covered with dust she looked around as if hunting for something. I was bending over to pull out the pile of toys hidden underneath the bed when I heard a shriek. I jumped and turned.. It was Deeksha- she was holding a dagger and there was a gleam in her eyes. She was chanting and saying something. I rushed to her for the first time feeling scared. My timid sister was not herself. Deeksha looked at me, there was a peace in her eyes and I will never forget that moment where she glanced at me and smiled. She said…

“Disha- in this room we find ourselves, but to find you I loose me and to find me I loose you.. We are together yet apart, we are separate yet one.. find yourself Disha.. find your disha.. find me.. find me in you……”

I told her Deeksha stop it you are scaring me. I yelled for ma, dadu and didu..Noone heard me as she plunged the dagger into her heart, as she fell , as she silently lay there.. I stood struck … I stood pale.. It was like time had stopped for me.. I faced death..

I wake up abruptly as the matron pushes my chair to the courtyard.. I had fallen asleep again. It must be dinner time now and then I have to finish the sweater I was knitting. Rishi and Neena were to visit me tomorrow. The matron said I was looking better and healthier. I smiled at her. She inquired whether I got any nightmares again. I answered silently that I have dreams. I glance at the setting sun and I still see the gleam of the dagger, the words still echo in my ears. Fifty years and I can still feel her. They say there was no Deeksha, they say it was me and my mind, they say my alter ego created a dual personality. But, it can’t be.. she was there, she was my blood, my other half, my sister.. she was Deeksha.. In loosing her I lost myself.. Whatever they say I know.. She was there and she was mine as I dose off, the book falls on the ground and the page reads…..
“It’s a room where you will either discover yourself or loose yourself … but you will meet your true self’………

The soul mirror

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