Beauty and the Beast

“Here” she thrust the folded piece of paper hastily torn from a notebook into my hands. Her perfectly manicured nails, though the school didn’t allow us to wear polish, scratched my wrist and drew blood.

“Give it to him”. I watched her run away. Her lithe figure and grace made even the grey tunic of the school uniform look elegant. I remembered holding the skirt straight while she cut the extra inches of cloth away till it was high enough to ride dangerously above her thigh when she sat. Silver earrings dangled from her ears, hair tied in a messy ponytail and just a hint of eyeliner that was too subtle to break the ‘no make-up’ rule of our campus.

Plump, graceless and clumsy I was the antithesis of my best friend. Our friendship was the biggest mystery of our school. All I knew was that Parul had been my friend ever since I could remember. We had entered kindergarten holding hands and grown up together, sharing everything from toys to homework.

We lived next door, played together every evening, swore a blood oath to be best friends forever at eight, lost our first tooth on the same day, bled together for the first time and even received the same marks in all exams. Yet puberty decided to bestow on her a gift while all I got were pimples.

Suddenly she was the most popular girl in class and I was the fat nerd. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ our classmates called us. Parul would drag me along to birthday parties I hadn’t been invited to; shopping at stores where nothing ever fitted me and to lunches with the other girls….till I complained and refused to go along. Yet every night she comes over to my house, and over homework tell me stories of her life, as far from mine as possible.

Boys fell all over her but she would politely kept her distance from all of them…till Abhimanyu arrived. His family shifted from Dehradun and he was wonderful! Tall, smart and a wonderful sense of humour. Sparks flew from the moment Parul and Abhimanyu met. Abhimanyu wrote a poem for her and put it in a Nicholas Sparks novel that he lent to Parul.

I never expected to see my friend act like a lovestruck heroine from the movies, but she did. She would suddenly drift off into day dreams that would make her smile and blush, and behind her notebook she doodled hearts with ‘A+P ‘ written in them.

She penned down a reply to his poem but her courage wore off when it actually came to giving it to him.

He was sitting with a gang of friends in the garden. I walked over. The other boys sniggered at my audacity to approach them, but Abhimanyu smiled and shifted to make room for me to sit. He was always kind to me, and sometimes when Parul had other plans we would walk to the bus stop together. When we were alone like this he would tell me stories about his childhood in Dehradun, and cracked jokes that had me doubling over with laughter. I loved those afternoons.

“I have a message for you from Parul”.

He looked at me expectantly. The note fluttered in my pocket.

The words came out in a rush, “She doesn’t like what you wrote. She asked me to ask you to stay away from her”.

I ran as far from his disappointed face as I could. And once I was out of sight, I took out the folded note, tore it into as many pieces as I could and threw it in the nearest dustbin.

If this was a divine test of my loyalty I failed.

Cupid in Hell smirked.

 

A Song of Parting

We avoid each other’s eyes.

The fly on the glass enchants me.

He is riveted by my earrings;

Silver little things that sparkle in sunlight,

And dance with the wind.

 

Rip the bandage,

Painful and quick!

“I can’t do this!”

I repeat the oft told lie,

“It’s not you, it’s I”.

 

He doesn’t look at me,

But beckons the waiter:

With an unsteady finger,

“Bill please –

We are done here”.

 

I don’t often write poetry, and this is a shaky attempt after a long time. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback. Thank you. 

Short Story – Nerve

proposal

The clock struck 6, and like every day in the past two weeks, the well-dressed young man with ruffled hair, walked into the restaurant and headed straight to the bar.

“One whiskey”

The bartender was already reaching for the bottle.

The young man gulped down the contents. He shuddered and ran his hand through his hair. “One more”.

The bartender had the glass ready. He slid it across, and in jest asked, “So should I keep a bottle of champagne ready?”

The young man didn’t speak, but his hand sneaked into his trousers’ left pocket and caressed the velvet box inside.

“Show it to me again” the waitress walked over.

Wordlessly the youth took the box out and flipped open the top. The radiant gem sparkled with vivacity for its enraptured audience.

“Wow!” the waitress sucked in her breath wistfully. “She’s one lucky girl!”

The bartender laughed, “Well she would be if he ever worked up the nerve to ask her”.

“We met here…”the youth spoke convulsively and in small bursts. “A common friend’s birthday…I couldn’t take my eyes off her…three years we have been going out…I thought maybe…”His voice trailed off with the despair of his nervousness.

The bartender felt sorry for his young patron, and with a paternal air said, “C’mon, just ask her today. You love each other and it will all work out”.

“Nerves. I have always suffered from it” the youth spoke again. “I would freeze whenever they sent me to the front of the class…well it’s too late now…she was there yesterday…at the metro station…if only I had asked sooner….”

*

In memory of the victims of Brussels and Turkey attacks.

 

 

Your Perfect Date…in a Crate

So…you finally wooed the girl of your dreams and are prepping up for the first date with her. Everything has to go perfect…and this what has got you flummoxed. What variables do you need to get the equation just right?

Never fear, Mancrates.com has the perfect solution for you. They are an online shopping service that exclusively ships gifts for men in a wooden crate and add a crowbar to the package for fun (women take notice. There is nothing better [or cooler] that you can get for the special men in your life. Unfortunately, they do not ship internationally yet, but one can always hope ;))  A Date Crate — a crate with everything you need to sweep your date off her feet!

A few days ago, I learnt about Mancrates and their date crate project – a crate with 3-5 items that would be helpful to a man while preparing for a date. As Valentine’s Day rolls forward, here is a list of things that I think should be included in the crate:

  1. A Personal Hygiene Kit with Deodorant, Toothpaste, Shaving Cream and Razor, and Aftershave: First impressions matter. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Speaking from personal experience, I have a soft spot for guys who brush their teeth regularly. Apart from the fact that your teeth look mesmerizing when you smile, it also keeps your mouth from stinking. It is kind of a deal breaker if you are leaning in close, and all I can smell is your stinky garlic breath…or your sweaty underarms! Also, try not to belch or fart during the date.  You would think it would be common sense, but you would be shocked to know how often it happens. Personal hygiene is very important. When I discussed this post with my best friend, the first thing she suggested was “have a bath!”
  2. A White Shirt: If a little black dress is a must-have for girls, then few boys can go amiss with a white shirt…especially if paired with black or blue denims looks stunningly debonair on most guys.

    taken from Google

    taken from Google

  3. A Select Range of Chick-Lit Novels and Movies: The best way to get understand the female mind is to read a few chick-lit novels, especially ones written from a woman’s point of view. Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Can You Keep A Secret? and Remember Me? by Sophie Kinsella, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott are few of the books I would recommend. If you are not into books, maybe you can try watching some of these films instead — Runaway Bride, Princess Diaries: Royal Engagement, Monster-in-Law, Valentine’s Day, 50 First Dates, Letters to Juliet and You Have Got Mail. Chick Flicks and chick-lit are the best insights into a woman’s mind that you will ever receive. download (4)
  4. A Book of Romantic Poems and Sonnets: Maybe it is just for literature buffs like me, but I absolutely love romantic poetry and sonnets. Be it Robert Browning
Only I discern—
         Infinite passion, and the pain
Of finite hearts that yearn.
Or E.E. Cummings:
I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear. And whatever is done by only me…is your doing. I fear no fate…for you are my fate, I want no world cause you are my world.
Or the ever-famous lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
If your date is a girl who loves literature or even only if you want to make your compliments stand apart from the hundreds she has heard before, a book of poetry is a good investment.
5. A Recipe Book for Cooking A Simple Home Cooked Meal: They say the way to a woman’s heart passes through her stomach. A simple, home cooked meal (or even simply one dish) will win the heart of any woman. She will truly appreciate the effort and the gesture.
romantic_dinner
What else do you think would be helpful before a date? (Suggestions for girls are welcome too; I being one 😛 )
[For more tips, you can also check out one of my earlier posts — What Girls Want]

Loves Me, Loves Me Not

he_loves_me_not_by_roxanne_jasmine

Today morning in The Times of India I read an article about a boy who has been arrested in Jaipur for illegally appearing as a proxy candidate in a medical examination in the army recruitment process, for another candidate. He was caught when the astute army recruiters noticed the discrepancies in his signature and the signature of the actual candidate. He had been offered 5000 rupees for the job, and he had readily accepted the same as he wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend in style. He had previously been depressed for not being able to afford gifts for his girlfriend. Now his affection for her has landed him in jail. What do you say to ‘Love’ like that?
What’s ironic is that this incident occurs in a country where certain right-wing activists have already forbidden all Indian couples from celebrating a West-inspired festival. Any couples found roaming in the streets, holding hands or exchanging gifts and roses shall be forcibly married!
Not that this has in anyway deterred lovers or marketeers, for you see:

Love triumphs all. And if not love then definitely cash.

Storefronts, window displays, spam emails, billboards, hoardings and TVCs are all busy advocating the message of love and busy arguing over which branded chocolate, which diamond cut, which neck tie and what oversized teddy best screams L.O.V.E.

Love is definitely in the air, and so is consumerism!

Valentine day offers galore – from candlelight dinners in posh restaurants, themed cakes (and its expensive, younger sister – cupcake), chocolate boxes, helicopter rides, diamond rings (or bracelets or pendants…girls aren’t really picky when it comes to diamonds), rose boquets and fluffy teddy bears – everything you need to give your date and your wallet a day they can never forget! Newspapers and magazines publish articles on what to wear to allure your date, the list of the most expensive and hence most romantic restaurants in the city and which coloured rose conveys what.
Which brings us to the question – Is this all that Love is supposed to be? While there is nothing wrong in organizing a special day for your special one why enter a rat race with the rest of the world for that? Your love for him or her should be what matters, not the carats of the diamond ring. Amidst the riff-raff of cosumerist and materialist gifts it takes a lot of effort to find love. How is it love if he spends more than he can afford to get you a gift on Valentine’s Day, but fights with you and hits you the rest of the year? Even if he is a sweet, caring boyfriend, will he not resent you for burning a hole in his pocket? How is it love if you let it happen?
There is nothing wrong with celebrating Valentine’s Day, but it is important to remember what one is celebrating is not a Western festival rooted in consumerism and materialism but your love for each other. The dozen expensive roses shall wilt in a day. The box of chocolates shall be eaten and digested. The teddy bear shall lie in a corner, gathering dust and in the age of tiny apartments you shall curse it as a waste of space at least once. What shall remain is the sweet fragrance of cherished sweet moments spent together. And that’s what this is all about.

Once upon a time people were ready to die for their lover. The generation now is more pragmatic. They are ready to go to jail in their attempts to organize a special Valentine’s Day for their lover.

Melting Ice: Flash Fiction

flowers-with-ice-janet-webb-2

The chill hung in the room like an unwanted guest. He slammed the wardrobe shut, and rummaged through the chest-of-drawers. He peered under the bed and banged his head on the bottom drawer.

“Ow!”

She ran into the room. “What happened?” she asked in a breathless query.

“This damned drawer —”

She gently rubbed the sore spot “What’re you looking for?”

“My wallet”.

“You could’ve just asked me”.

“You weren’t talking to me” he said. Echos of bitter words resonated from the past.

Outside a drop of icy-water dripped from the point of the thawing icicle.

“I’ll find it” she said.

Inspired by Prompt from Rochelle Wisoff-Fields 

An Unexpected Encounter: Flash Fiction

“Long time no see”, she said, fidgeting with her handkerchief, and then looking down at her painted red toe nails. “You never came to this side of town before”.
“I changed jobs”, he looked at the signal. Still persistently green. “You wouldn’t know”.
She flushed. “I meant to call, but I have been so busy lately…”
“You always were busy” he said. “Why you were hardly ever home!”
“You know I didn’t mean -”
“I know, I know. You didn’t mean to work on weekends; didn’t mean to  leave me stranded at the restaurant without even so much as an explanation; didn’t mean to cheat on me, but you did. You did!” He clenched his fists. “Anyway that’s all in the past now. Why bring it all up again?”
She passed a clumsy hand over her wet eyes, smudging her mascara, “Can’t you -”
“No”.
The light changed.

How To Break Someone’s Heart

The interiors of the coffee shop was warm and comfy. The conversations from the other tables – of teenage friends, business men…and lovers – created a happy drone of voices around us. The coffee in front of me is cold, like my heart. A numbness is spreading across me. You are looking outside the window. Maybe you already know the words I am choking on. getty_rm_photo_of_peeling_bandage A mad impulse seizes me – a desire to get this over with, for once and all. Like tearing a band-aid. You start off slow and then you peel it all off, in one hasty move, revealing the pink throbbing wound underneath.

I can’t do this anymore” I blurt out.

I think I see you wince slightly. Your shoulders hunch.

My eyes sting, but I can’t take my words back. I don’t want to.

I squeeze my eyes tightly. No tears.

I am sorry” I whisper.

It seems inadequate. I should probably say more. But I don’t know what, and so I remain silent.

The silence stretches on…

Finally, you look at me. A laconic smile plays on your lips – bitter but resigned. “I am too”.

The pain in your eyes stabs me like an ice-cold blade. I want to not care, and yet I do.

I know this was wrong. It was never going to work out. We were too different – you and I. Too headstrong. But it hurts all the same. There is a terrible, terrible blackness inside me.  A hole where you used to be, till I ripped you apart.

The repressed tears sting my eyes.

I get up and leave.

I don’t look back. c7a48f192556947849ad36feb5e7c85d

Standing outside in the cool, fresh air, I realize I am relived. It feels like for these past few weeks I had been carrying a burden around with me, and now I have finally dropped it. I feel lightheaded, and that’s when I realize that as much as this hurts, I am happy.

I hate the fact that I hurt you though. Despite all that passed I still care about you…a little too much. I berate myself for not being more tactful; more kind? Maybe I should have waited a little longer, tried a little harder – maybe I could have taught myself to love you, as much as you loved me.

Yet if you are going to break someone’s heart, is there a ‘good’ way to do it? Now or later, this way or that, it was going to be painful. Maybe this was better, to get it over quickly. I don’t know. I guess I never will.

I walk away from the cafe.

I hope you have a good life, away from me. I hope you are happy. 

Today’s Daily Prompt: Handle With Care

Abstract Poems

In today’s class, our creative writing teacher had us writing poems on abstract nouns. Here are the ones I came up with:

Fear glides in the Dark,
Draped in voluminous robes of horrific blackness.
He whispers in your ear, and cackle as you shiver.

Beauty strutters in the glided halls
Dressed in shimmering gold
She looks out of the window, and pales in terror of all that she beholds.

Humanity wails in the desolate battlefield
Bathed in the blood of innocence
He weeps and weeps – a ceaseless sound beating against dead ears.

Love drowned with the Titanic.
Love bled in the graveyard with Juliet.
Love dies everyday…and lives forever.