Enough

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She must cook

And she must sweep

So packed she is

She can’t even weep

You don’t budge

And you won’t help

When asked for a hand

You let out a yelp

You go to work you say

Come on – so does she

Allow her a breather

Be a man – can you be?

When she is all done

You don’t even thank

Somehow being a man

You get a higher rank

I don’t think you care

She’s living or she’s dead

I know you love her

But only when in bed

It’s not a home for her

It’s more like a cage

I think she’s had enough

Just beware of her rage!

© Sundaram Chauhan
(Image Source)

Fiction # 2: Let’s Catch Up!

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He had been waiting by the roadside for some time now. Perhaps fifteen minutes. Maybe more. The tin shed overhead did manage to shelter him from the scorching sun but he had no shield against the heat, smoke and dust that was swirling about in the air, filling his lungs.

Across the road, the heavy wooden bar at the gate of the building rose and fell probably for the hundredth time to let yet another car pass. But there was no sign of her.

He squinted up at the building again to confirm its number. Was he even at the right gate?

Intending to call her again, he unlocked his phone, and flicked a quick glance at the gate. And he stiffened. Was that her? Twisting aside, he peered through the crowd, again.

Yes!

Swaying past the guards now, in her business suit, there she was, with a purse slung over a shoulder. His heart started pounding as he quickly hand-combed his hair, and smoothed down his T-shirt.

She came out of a small side gate, and looked across the road, shading her eyes against the sun. He took a moment gathering some courage, and then stepped forward raising a hand.

She waved him a silent ‘hi’ as he came into view, and saw him hurriedly crossing the road, dodging a speeding bike on the way.

“Hey!” She extended a hand, smiling. He had been expecting something more dramatic and emotional like a hug, but he took the hand anyway.

“You… look stunning,” he said, shaking her hand a little too eagerly.

“Can’t say the same for you, I’m afraid.” She grinned.

“I know.” He wrinkled his nose, and scratched a cheek.

“When did you last shower, Sam?”

“Hey, come on now… beard is in. And long hair never went out of fashion,” he protested. “I look no uglier than I used to.”

“Agree. There was no scope left for that,” she said, and both of them laughed.

“Let’s go someplace else. A restaurant or something. Should we?”

“Sure,” she said, and led him towards a building, a few yards away.

Inside the café, they picked their seats around a corner table, and settled in the chairs. “I’ll go order,” she said, picking up her purse.

“No. Let me.” He stood up. “You need anything to eat?”

“No, no, I’m full. Just the coffee. Thanks.” And he headed off to the counter.

Sweet old memories flooded his mind as the smell of coffee filled his nostrils. The days when he would sneak away to a café during breaks to write. And she would always cover up for him. Always. So many times, she had to finish my work… to save my ass, he recalled.

At the counter, he ordered two cappuccinos, like old times.

“Sir.” The man behind the counter squinted past him to where she was sitting, and suggested, “Would you like to reconfirm? Shariva ma’am never takes a cappuccino.”

Before he could say anything though, she was right behind him. “Right you are! Make it one cappuccino and an espresso. Thanks!”

Back at the table, he was still glaring at the counter, fiddling with a sugar pouch while she was stirring her coffee. “When did you change the job?” he asked abruptly.

“A few months after you left, I guess.”

Wrong direction, he realised, and swerved. “Well… it’s been around three years now. You must be on a senior position here.”

“Yes. A Team Lead,” she said, sipping her coffee.

“A Team Lead!” he exclaimed. “Well, you’ve always been fast.”

She shrugged. “You know me well.”

“Yes. I do.” He nodded, and a moment of awkward silence followed before he met her eyes again. “How’ve you been, Shariva?”

“I’m doing okay, Sam.” She held his gaze. “What about you? Found wisdom in the mountains, yet?”

“Wisdom!” He laughed. “I was wise all along, wasn’t I?”

“Wise! You?” She joined in the laughter. “But yes. Actually you were. At least in breaking up I’d say. I was no easy maintenance after all.”

“Hey!” He went pale. “I’m so sorry. I… I didn’t mean…”

“Oh come on! Chill,” she said, waving a hand, “I’m not gonna cry over a breakup I had in my previous birth.”

“Right.”

“And I know it was all for the good,” she added.

“Sure,” he said, but he wasn’t so sure about that.

“Okay. So we were talking about you. What brings this lonely writer back to the materialistic world?”

He smiled broadly. “I just wanted to see if you’re doing fine.”

“Really!” She raised an eyebrow. “Well, I appreciate the gesture. Now, come on, the real reason.”

“I am shifting back,” he let the words out finally.

“Shifting back…” She leaned on the table. “What do you mean? You said you’d not until… does that mean your book is complete?”

“Book…” He winced. “No… not that. It’s for the doctorate program I’ve enrolled for.”

“Doctorate?” She seemed surprised. “Where did that come from? You went away to write a novel,” she reminded him. “What happened?”

He didn’t need reminding of that. He wanted to tell her how difficult these last three years had been. He got the solitude he sought, all right. But along came the frustrations of writing. His depleting bank account didn’t help much either.

Writing was a pleasure, as long as he did it alongside a job. But alone, the expectations weighed heavy on him. The burden of getting a novel published was too much for him to bear. It affected his writing.

It was indeed foolish of him, he felt, to have left everything for a life of such uncertainty. Just as she had told him back then.

But, instead he said, “I think I’ll benefit from literary research. It’ll only help better my writing.”

“Well…” she began, looking unconvinced, but her phone vibrated and cut her off. She picked it up. He stole the moment to scan her face while she stared at the screen, frowning. He couldn’t believe he really once held that beautiful face in his hands, and kissed those lips.

It all seemed a dream now.

He was about to dive into it, when she pushed back from the table suddenly, startling him. “Sam, I gotta go, now.”

“Hey! What happened?”

“Something at work,” she said, stuffing her phone in the purse.

“No, please stay some more?”

“I can’t Sam. This is urgent.”

“Okay then. Five minutes? Just five more minutes. I need to talk,” he pleaded.

She quickly drew back to the table. “Okay. What’s it?”

“Thanks,” he sighed. Then, hesitating a bit, he started, “Shariva…”

“Yes Sam,” she urged him on, impatience written all over her face.

“I wanted to ask…” His voice was barely more than a whisper. “If you… are you… seeing someone?”

The sudden change in her expressions told him that the question was not welcome, or she hadn’t expected it at all. “No Sam… no…” She shook her head, her tone no more friendly. “You can’t really be asking me that. You simply can’t.”

“Why not? If you have a boyfriend, tell me, I’ll understand, but if not, then…”

“…then what? I should come running into your arms, right?” she said sharply, “Yes, of course, now that you’re back in town, it’s so convenient for you.”

“It’s not that Shariva.” His voice rose slightly, but he lowered it immediately. “I’m saying that I’m here now, and not going anywhere this time. I promise.”

“You promise!” She stared at him, incredulous. “Oh, you promise! Right, and you think that’s what I live for – your fucking PROMISES!” She lurched to her feet, pushing the chair so hard that it fell back, and snatching her purse, she turned around and walked off. It all happened so quickly. Paralysed, he watched her pausing a moment at the counter, and then storming out through the door.

It all came out wrong, so wrong. He slammed a fist on the table, as his senses returned. That wasn’t how he intended to say it. That wasn’t how it was supposed to go. I need her. I can’t simply let her walk away. No.

He jumped to his feet, and hurriedly dialled her number. It didn’t go through. He tried again. But the call didn’t connect. Only when he dialled it the third time, did he realise, with horror, that he was blocked.

Shocked, he stood there motionless for a moment, not able to think.

Then sighing deeply, he began shuffling towards the exit, disoriented. I deserve it, he thought. After what I did to her, I totally deserve it.

“Excuse me, sir.” His hand had just closed around the doorknob, when he heard the voice behind. He wheeled around. “Sir, that’s for you. From Shariva ma’am.” He was holding a packet.

Puzzled, Sam took it, and without wasting a second tore away the wrapper. “Her book!” the man beamed, and with a puffed up chest said, “She wrote it all here sir. Just came out last week only. Why don’t you take a seat and read it? I’ll go steam your coffee again. It’s untouched. Should I?”

He nodded, lost in thoughts. Her book!

He stared at the book in his hands, amazed, as the man walked away. With fumbling hands, he flipped through the pages, and read about the author on the last page, then came back to the cover to see her name again. It was her book.

He ran a hand through his hair, his heart hammering inside. How was that possible?

He took a deep breath, and sat down on a nearby chair, the book in his hands. He ran his fingers slowly over the smooth cover, his fingertips tracing the slightly protruding letters that made her name: SHARIVA SEN. It still feels mine, the name.

“I need the first signed copy of your novel Sam,” she used to tease, “write it quick. If you don’t I will. You know I’m a blogger, right? Who knows you might have a signed copy of my novel first…”

He quickly turned over to the page where her autograph was scrawled. She did it. Even with a job, she did it. He felt a surge of pride running through him.

He adjusted into his chair, as the coffee arrived, and looked up. “Sorry. Could you bring me an espresso instead? I’ll pay extra if needed,” he requested apologetically.

Then flipping over to the first page, he began reading, with a smile on his face.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Depths

Don’t ever stop

while walking

the tightrope that’s life

for the fear of falling down.

As downward it may be,

depth is but a distance after all.

And who knows

you might get hold of

a few diamonds

on your way as well,

for that’s where

diamonds are found – 

in the depths.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Fiction # 1: The Trek

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Exhausted, and soaked in sweat, she decided to pause for a breath, and slumped down on a small boulder on the path. The rough-cut rock she leaned back on pressed hard against her back, but she sat there untroubled, looking out over the other side.

The world below had shrunk. Shrunk as well as expanded, she noticed, as her eyes swept across low hills, and unending forests, to settle on the horizon, light years away.

Up ahead on the winding path, the long straight line of the top announced the end of the trek. Not far now, she glanced up at the trees fringing the length of it, feeling satisfied. She’d be the first one to complete the trek, out of the group of fifty-odd people. An achievement, no doubt.

But… it could’ve been sweeter, she thought, had I been with my friends, instead. Far away this place might be from work, they were still her seniors, or rivals, and there was no way she was revealing her silly side to them. She just couldn’t trust them.

Yes, her colleagues, she had discovered in a rather short career so far, did not make reliable friends. And this sudden burst of camaraderie among them here was not going to fool her.

It’s all a fake show, she knew. Once back, they’ll forget all about the selfies they are clicking here, and return to what they do best – stealing credits, and backstabbing.

But for all her misgivings about the people it involved, she still couldn’t help loving each and every moment of the trip.

Up until the day she got a job five months back, her parents never even allowed her a night-out with friends, let alone an out of town trip. And a mountain trek was simply unthinkable. So everything here, including the very path, howsoever dangerously narrow or steep it might be at places, filled her with excitement. Even the jagged stones that constantly pricked through her shoes could not dampen her spirit as she pressed on with childlike vigour, leaving the fittest of them straggling behind.

Time to move, she nudged herself after a while, and springing to her feet strode ahead once again. It took her around fifteen more minutes of laborious walk to reach the place where the trek ended. The ascent from here was short, but very steep. So slowly and cautiously, she clambered her way up the slope, clutching the small rocks jutting out of its surface.

Halfway up she could hear the muffled sounds of laughter drifting from above. And soon afterwards her head pushed past the level of the ground. She straightened up, clapped the dust off her hands, and looked ahead. The trees fencing the place allowed only tiny incomplete glimpses through their leaves but that was enough to hook her.

All along the journey today, she hadn’t really thought about the top. Of course, she wanted to reach it, but that was it. The path itself was so fascinating that thinking of the end actually saddened her a bit. She hadn’t even cared to look at the pictures they shared on the office email. But once past the trees, she knew the pictures couldn’t have done justice to the place.

Before her stretching in all directions was a broad level field at least thrice the size of a football ground, its green surface mottled with hundreds of colourful camps amidst huge swaying trees. The place was swarming with people, laughing, playing, and crowding around shops, as if this was a regular picnic spot in the middle of a city. And, looming above it all in the background, piercing the sky, was a gigantic mountain range, staring her in the face, commanding attention.

It was so close she had to crane her head back to have a good look at it. Winking behind its high peaks, she saw, the Sun was struggling to stay afloat, throwing down great long shadows that swallowed the whole place.

Soon enough, she was walking, her steps leading her to the far end in the direction of the mountain. She weaved her way through a jumble of people, camps, shops and trees, until the last of them passed by, and all the noise reduced to a murmur, barely audible.

There at the edge, though imperceptible from the other end, the ground ended abruptly, and dropped hundreds of feet down to a narrow green valley kissing the feet of the arrogant giant in front of her.

She glanced down at the valley. Thick green trees tangled in a fight for space were crawling up the mountain that rose almost vertically like a wall, stopping only in the clouds.

The wind gusting authoritatively here was whistling in her ears and flooding her nose with the aroma of pine trees, making her eyes droop. Mesmerised, she let the backpack slide off her shoulders and peeled away the shoes. A stream of freshness shot up through her toes when her naked feet touched the grass below, melting all her tiredness away. She stood there, intoxicated, letting the wind caress her face.

It was running right through her, she felt. Cleansing her heart and purifying her soul. A vast sea of calmness seemed to be filling her being, drop by small drop. Overwhelmed, she lowered herself on the ground, shivering. There, she sat hugging her knees – sobbing yet smiling, famished yet somehow fulfilled.

The dusk had begun to settle around her when a sudden burst of music in the camps behind broke her reverie and made her heart leap up in delight. A latent longing to be among people – dancing, cheering, and laughing ones, rushed to the fore, and took hold of her as she gathered herself.

Just as she was turning to go back, the shouts of her name startled her, making her jump. Peering down the ground, she saw half a dozen people moving towards her, silhouetted against the campfires in the background. Their steps hurried, as they waved at her frantically, visibly relieved at finding her at last. She was surprised to find herself waving back in excitement too. Their voices, and their forms were all too familiar to her but she never knew they cared enough to come seeking her.

Maybe she was wrong about them, maybe not. But she seemed not to care anymore. At that moment she knew she wanted to be with them, and that was all that mattered – the moment. She would deal with everything else later on, but tonight she was going to be herself, even if that meant people judging her. She decided she wasn’t going to stop being herself for that fear. Nor was she going to judge them in return.

Forgetting everything, she just wanted to dance. And, if she was still hesitant, she had vodka inside her bag, she thought. But she knew she wasn’t going to need it.

She was already drunk.

Quickly, she scooped up her bag, and then ran towards them beaming, dreaming of the night to come.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Break the Jinx – Recommence

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About a couple of years back, when I was very new to writing, I faced a difficult period where I felt a sudden and overwhelming indifference developing within me towards writing as a craft.

A conviction that my writing ambitions were futile grew so strong in me that I stopped hitting the keypad completely, terrified of the new state of affairs in my mind.

All this while, even if an amazing idea were to pop up in my head, I knew I wouldn’t go for it, quite contrary to my general approach where I didn’t let go of anything that was worth expressing. In the rare events when I found my life laden with disappointments and defeats, I used to write about conquering them or facing them or just about them as they were.

But not writing at all – was new, to say the least.

This confusion resulted in the longest stretch I have ever had without writing a single word. And, I still regret it.

But the period didn’t go without gifting me a lesson, a rather harsh reminder that writing, irrespective of how much you love it, is simply a habit.

You might feel you are effortless and natural, and writing is an integral part of your being – but for all that, it still isn’t self-sustaining. Try resting your faculties for one week, for any reason, and you will find it harder to come back.

The next week will present a much more compelling case for not sitting and stringing together words. Give an ear to yourself in such times, and it wouldn’t be long before your so dearly maintained blog goes defunct.

Interestingly you tend to somehow convince yourself that it is all for good – that you never really meant to write that often anyway. That you already have a job, or a career to look forward to, and a blog was just an experiment, probably a waste of time.

But no, it’s not, and it will never be, whether you harbour desires to author books some day or not. Writing is much more than that. It’s an outlet; it’s freedom. A friend, and the best one at that. You’ll always have an edge over others if you know how to write, whatever may be the field of your work.

Remember, just as writing is a habit, not writing is a habit too (and unfortunately an effortless one). So please pick up that pen again. Read your earlier works if you need reassurance, as you might after a gap, and write.

Break the jinx by writing anything, but don’t give in just yet. You know you are full of thoughts that need writing down. You know you have the talent, even if that requires years of honing to reach your desired level.

Just remind yourself of the reasons that forced you to take pains to understand how a blog works, and get going.

Happy writing!

Flexibility and Rigidity

When circumstances

pull you down,

be flexible like rubber,

not rigid like steel,

so that you can

bounce back on hitting the bottom.

For steel will only crack it further

and create a new one –

still deeper.

© Sundaram Chauhan

I Am Done

Starting from scratch
Yet again!
Why do I keep
Falling back to zero?
Was so far ahead
So quick that
They told me
I was a hero.

There perhaps
Oh God!
Is something
You want me to know.
I only wish
You’d use
A kinder way
Than pushing me so low.
Each time
I looked back
Connected the dots
And dug something wise.
But this time
Let me stay
A little longer
If I reach new highs.

Falling down
Getting up and
Clawing my way out
Used to be fun.
Give me back
My peace now
I surrender
I think I am done.
© Sundaram Chauhan

Movies

I loved watching movies so much

that I started reading the books they were based on.

Now, I don’t watch movies anymore.

© Sundaram Chauhan

It Really Is Your Choice

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Image Source

Some things will work

And many will not

But nothing will stir ’til

You budge from your spot

Don’t ever think that

The moment you blink

Some music will flow

Beer bottles will clink

You’ve got to begin

Quit pondering anymore

The time is to act

To push open the door

You know you’re good

And that’s your true voice

It all depends on you

It really is your choice

Others come mocking

But who the hell are they?

This game is but yours

Alone you have to play

The doubts aren’t real

Afraid them you not

In walking the path itself

A treasure you’ve got

© Sundaram Chauhan

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