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Thursday, 30 October 2014

Redevelopment 5 ... My Balcony

“This house looks exactly the same, it has your personality.” Said my friend who visited me the first time, after I moved into my new rented place.

I was lucky that I was able to find a completely empty house. That meant that I could bring my furniture, my personal possessions and jigsaw them to fit them all in proper position. The only difference was that this house was smaller than the previous one; hence I got rid of all the extra furniture.

In my new abode, the living room has the same set up, with same artwork decorating the walls. The kitchen has the same cabinets, arranged in the similar pattern, same beds, same mattresses, same wardrobes and the same dressing table. There is not much difference between my old house and the new one. The colors and the tones are also similar. Yes, I agree, it suits my personality.

But still, I am yet to find a new comfort corner.

I miss the balcony of my old home.

Nine feet by four feet balcony was the area where I would spend most of my evenings. As the sun slumped across the horizon, its golden rays filtered though the tall trees spreading its warmth over me. I sat in my balcony with a cup of tea on the ledge and a mobile in my hand. Many evenings were spent sipping tea and surfing through my ‘WatsApp’ messages. Sometimes I would listen to the music and sometimes watch videos on its tiny screen. Then there would be chats on social media, forward messages to read or the missed phone call to be answered.

Balcony appeared to float above a large open space between wing A and wing B defying gravity. It was a structural masterpiece as well as architectural one. Fancy cars sparkled under daylight and occupied most of the building compound, but the area between the parked cars was large enough for children to play outdoor games. On weekends and on holidays, children and their friends from neighboring buildings played various outdoor games that included cricket and football. Younger children played running and hopping games. Babies sat in their pram chewing on fingers. Old men walked carelessly, lost in their own world, distant.

A group of senior women sat on wide, rectangular platform, built over the water tank. They met every evening for endless conversations dissecting the TV serials, or discussing the news that they had collected during the day from their maids who were the carrier of tales.  The distance from the tank to my balcony was not much, two floors upstairs their murmur was audible. The news that I collected while surfing the net seemed pale against their juicy gossip. At regular intervals, they would glance up to acknowledge my presence.

My relationship with balcony is deep seated. During my growing up days, I was a loner. I tagged along with my mom wherever she went, but I was a child of minute importance, everybody ignored me. I was different, somebody to be left alone. I found solace in balcony. Most of my childhood has been spend in balcony, counting car on a busy road, differentiating vibrant colors on the street, reading ads on the moving buses, it’s the little game I played on my own. I didn’t need friends to sit with me in the balcony. I was happy when left alone.

One question I always pondered. If one is in balcony, is one inside or outside the house? The fresh wind stays outside, but the warm glow is inside the house.

 Many evenings I sat in my balcony, on a stone bench, cross-legged, with my back against the cool wall. Through the grill cage, I watched the sky change its hues from pink to red to blue to dark blue. I sat there immersed in my own thoughts, the sounds in the building fading away slowly, leaving the silence behind. On other days, I would cuddle up with few soft cushions flung careless against me, and be engrossed in an interesting book.

My balcony was also my rendezvous, a place to entertain my friends. We sat in the balcony, munching on snack and sipping coffee. The fresh air lifted our spirit. Laughter and happiness filled the crevices of the walls. Even on sleepless night, balcony was my refuge. Suspended mid-air between heaven and earth, I could solve the undeniable inner conflicts, I would sit under stars, watching the moon till the eyes drooped.

I miss my balcony. There is none in my new house. There are just windows that have been covered with long curtains. I feel claustrophobic sitting inside four walls.

After I moved from my old house, I revisited the lane to have a look at my balcony that I had loved so dearly. The grills and doors of my balcony had vanished. It was bare, with its mouth wide open; it looked like an old man without its dentures. I heard it complain that I had abandoned it. I could not bear to look at it.

Last week I went back again. The balcony had met its death. A big crane occupied most of the ground. Huge trucks transported the debris. There was no compound, no rectangular platform over the water tank. The golden rays still filtered through the trees but they reflected on the pile of stones and mud.

The beautiful memories of the time spend in my balcony are buried now deep under the sand.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

October Read Meet In Khar

Some read from their laptops,
some from their android phone 
Some recite from their memory 
while some from their written notes, 
but the stories that they share are 
their original work 
written with great care

When the read meets are on Saturday and the venue is closer to my house, there is no reason to give it a miss. This was #22 readmeet and the theme was interesting too. Writer friends brought their naughty work because that was the theme…’Inverse Bowdlerisation’…inserting naughty bits to the respectable ones without altering the real script. They said ‘it was not easy’ but they did it well. Their work was so good that it was difficult to differentiate the original from parody. 
I did not write on the theme, because I was not sure what I was expected to write. I took my story that I had written during #CelebrateBlogging organized by Blogadda. We had to create a story with our team members. There were 30 teams who had participated in this event and our team had reached 12th position. I read the part that I had written during the event.
Here is what I read:
Immaculately dressed, Cyrus made an impressive presence, as he moved with authority in the crowd, his smile plastered perpetually on his face, and a drink goblet held loosely in his hand. He had lots to celebrate, as ‘Play Deo’ his ad company, was the new talk of the town. It took over the turntables and was enjoying the success.

The celebrations kicked off in full swing when the bare chested Bollywood star Akhay Khan made his appearance on the stage gyrating his pelvic on the hottest electronic music tracks.  Rhythm of oohs and aahs blared from loud speakers. Akhay Khan was spinning, his wet skin shining under blinking colored lights. The Olive bar’s stunning cocktail beauties showed up next to Cyrus and presented him with two glorious gold plaques for his achievements.

Flashing his gold tooth smile, Cyrus held his plaque up high for his guests to see while everybody raised a toast and gold confetti shot up in the air.

Cyrus kept the party going all night, spinning all the way until the early morning.  Throughout the evening, heels clacked against hardtop dance floor as dancers gradually overcame their shyness.

Tara was exhausted. She had not wanted to participate in Cyrus’s achievement. But the world was watching and her absence would be felt in the Ad world. Although they worked together and created terrific ideas for their clients, she hated his insensitive personal comments.  Lately she had been deeply offended when Cyrus had asked her if she suffered from the disease called Munchausen syndrome by proxy or MSBP. She didn’t know what he meant but she had felt hurt that he had mentioned it. Somebody has been gossiping for sure, but who??

MSBP was the behavior pattern that she had grown up seeing her mother suffer from it. Her mother would systematically fabricate or exaggerate the symptoms, and even once induced her with wrong medications when she was unwell. Her dad had explained, telling her that people who suffered from MSBP were willing to fulfill their need for positive attention by hurting even their own child and then appearing to care and save their so-called sick child.

Münchausen syndrome by proxy

The words played in loops in her mind. A hundred times. Revolving round and round till her head began to spin. No, it cannot be true, she held the most responsible post in an ad company, she could handle the most difficult situations. How could she bring harm to anybody? Bring harm to her own child. Never.

“Maybe I should pick up Roohi from school today” she said under her breath as she removed the mobile from her purse and started to dial.

“Hello Shekhar” she whispered into the phone, her fingers pressing hard against her left temple, “I will pick up Roohi from school today.”

“Are you okay?” said Shekhar, shifting uncomfortably in his wheel chair. “Come home directly, she will come by school bus, like she always does.” There was a ring of concern over his voice.

“No, I am fine.” She said. Her mind drifted towards her 9 years old daughter. A flash of pleasure swept over her.

Spending time with Roohi always changed her moods. In worst of situations, a happy chatter and her bright smile lifted her spirit; she needed that at this moment the most. She could come later to work and maybe work late nights, but right now she needed to go someplace with her daughter.

She flung her handbag over her shoulders, plucked the keys from the key stand and emerged from her cabin.

“I will be back soon.” She said to no one in particular as she strode at an easy pace towards the parking lot.

She revved up the engine; it rumbled, gave a soft jerk and then began to move.

She had had the presence of mind to call the mechanic and get her car repaired. It was just a spark plug issue and it was resolved in no time. 

Roohi had just emerged from her school gates, when she recognized her mother’s car parked behind her school bus, hazard lights blinking, and car position a bit skewed. She looked closely. A wave of happiness enveloped her when she saw her mother standing next to the car. She blinked, turned swiftly, her gaze not leaving her mother, her shoes grinding against the sandy ground, with her both arms swinging in air, her school bag thumping against her back, she walked swiftly, reached Tara and circled her arms around her mother’s waist.

“Mamma! So nice to see you. Ooh! I cannot believe it. What a pleasant surprise!”

“Yes, my pretty Rooh. Today, I decided to spend some time with my baby” Tara bend down to kiss her daughters forehead.

“Really? Are we going someplace?” Roohi walked towards the other side, threw her school bag at the back seat of the car, opened the front door and plopped herself in the front seat.

“We are going home, baby!” said Tara, as she put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot. 

“No, no, Mamma please, I don’t want to go home, can we stop for an ice-cream, please?” said Roohi, her voice lingering on the word ‘please’ and her eyes rolling in excitement.

“Hmmn, only ice cream then, okay?” said Tara, her eyes focused on the busy road ahead.

Tara parked her car outside an ice-cream parlor, hand-in-hand, Roohi and Tara walked inside.

With an interior design that looks more like a clothes shop than an exclusive ice cream parlor, this place had more than fifty flavors of ice cream, some of them truly amazing. In winter they also served chocolate delicacies and pastries.

Roohi chose the combination of vanilla and strawberry ice cream, topped with small chunks of chopped strawberries, two tiny kiwi rings, black grapes and broken pieces of walnuts and pine nuts.

While wolfing down her ice cream Roohi looked up and asked:

“You and daddy don’t go out nowadays, do you feel sad?

“Yes, sometimes, but he will be fine.”

“Will he ever walk again?”

“Yes, baby, he will.”

“You know, mamma, daddy is always on skype.”

“He is working no?”

“But he spend so much time talking to uncle Sunil on Skype.”

“Oh, they talk business.” Said Tara, wondering if Sunil was a new friend that Shekhar had found on the net. She would ask him later she decided.

“But I don’t like him.”

“You don’t have to talk to him.”

“I don’t want to talk but daddy asked me to.”

“Just say ‘hello’ and go back to your room.”

“He said he might come to Mumbai and stay in our house.”

“Don’t worry, he must have just said so, daddy friends always stay in hotel. No?”

“Mamma, he said he might come home.”

“Okay finish your ice-cream, I will drop you home then go back to work.”

“You will go back to work?”

“Yes, baby, Mamma has work to do.”

“Please, stay at home today, please, please.”

“Okay, lets go home first then we will decide.”

They drove home with Roohi chatting all the way, telling her stories about her school, friends, teachers, food, games…

Tara was already in good spirit when they entered their building compound. She inserted her house key into her main door and walked in.

She could hear soft murmurs coming from her room.

“Go to your room and change your school uniform Rooh, I will just be back” she said, nudging Roohi's shoulders to steer her towards the other room.
She decided to surprise Shekhar

She walked into her room. Shekhar was in the front of the screen, his back towards the door, deep in conversation. A shock wave travelled from her foot to her heart, as she focused her eyes to look at the face in the screen. She shivered, her nerves pulsating against her temples.

“What-the-hell!” she screamed as she clutched the mouse to switch off the Skype call.

Shekhar turned and looked at Tara in surprise. 

“You know him?” Asked Shekhar

“Yes, he is Cyrus’s brother.”

“Wait a minute, how well do you know Sunil? Have you been gossiping about me??” 

Read meets are always interesting, and every meeting I attend, I always learn something new. An evening well spent

Monday, 20 October 2014

Journey Through Game Of Blogs….The Game

As a blogger I happily volunteered to participate in Game of blogs to #CelebrateBlogging organized by BlogAdda

The game was to create a fictional story around five characters created byBlogAdda. It was to be a team effort of ten members where each blogger would post one part of the story to be continued by the next blogger of the team. The race was to create a best fictional story that would materialize into published work.

I didn’t know a single blogger at the beginning of the game but I found myself in a team of six active bloggers. Seven was the minimum entries to qualify, but we were short of four members. We requested for set of ten members and three more members were added to our group after few days who missed the initial introductions.

Everybody was excited and a big confusion followed. A conference call was made between members where the story was discussed in details. I was unaware of the conversations the group had, because I had got disconnected after few words. The real conversation took place between three members where by the story was discussed, team leader of contact chosen, editors selected, blogger judged from the traffic the bloggers recieved on their blogs.

I was happy to interact with my team members and found all of them intelligent and creative. They had great ideas and fabulous stories to share. The only problem was that it was difficult to coordinate with them on common platform because of their own personal busy lives and finding a common timing to communicate was difficult. A WatsApp group was formed for discussion but most of the members were communicating amongst themselves on a private chat.

What was amazing about my group was that in round one, the story was creatively written with no proper planning, no proper storyboard, no clear idea. It was started with one member writing a story from her own personal viewpoint. The story moved forward picking up ends of the previous post to create a new scene. Every segment of the story was made on the spot, where the previous blogger had left the track. I didn’t know where the story was leading or how it would end. But I played along. It started off well, it was a game, after all, when suddenly the story took a steep turn with protagonist having a disease called Munchausen syndrome by proxy. That took members by surprise and sent us on Google search to do the study of the disease, and that was when the confusion began. Some members refused to go with the flow and wanted the protagonist to be efficient and intelligent. There were temper outrages and lots of disappointments, with some member knowing not how to carry the story forward and rejected the story outright..

But luckily, we also had some very talented writers who happily took up the challenge to carry the story forward. The story shaped into beautiful plot and I was quite impressed with the story.  At the end of round one, three of the members, who could not cope up with the challenges and the time that it demanded, dropped out of the game and we were left with six members.

One new member was added in round two (following the story midway, might have been difficult for her, but she turned out to be an excellent story teller) I was very happy with the way the story was unfolding. During this game, I met wonderful people. We chatted, we joked and we had long private chats. Everybody was willing to edit each other’s work, help each other, and the interaction was healthy too and we worked late nights to create a beautiful story. I wish we had time to edit and connect the story well, we could have easily qualified for the final round.

At the end of round two, we reached the position 12, we missed it by just 2 points.

It was great experience. Nevertheless, I feel sad that there was not much ‘updates’ on twitter about this event. I had created a list on twitter of the participating members of other teams on #CelebrateBlogging, to keep abreast of their activities and their challenges, but there were not much feedback. I wanted to know how the other participants were performing, I wanted the organizers to interact with me, but there was lack of communication.

Moreover, I didn’t know it would eat away so much chunk of my time. Participating in such event demands too much concentration and attention. My other blogs were getting neglected too. It was not just writing one post per week, editing and planning the story was tiresome too.

My team wanted to continue through round three too, but I thought it would be waste of time. Winners were already inside inner circle. I had no inclination to go for round three because I had other priorities.

Let the best win. I opted out.

I have learnt that in the game of blogs, coordination and cooperation is very important but it is difficult to demand loyalty from strangers. It hurts when team members walk away midway when their egos are hurt.

I am glad I met some wonderful batch of bloggers and some of them will remain in my friend list for long time in future.

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