To You, wrote her pen.
If I only have this night and insomnia;
I hope I can capture the entire ocean of our story with all its waves of emotions,
Rushing to engulf me;
I hope I can tell the tale, and leave a cliffhanger at dawn;
For another day to pause,
For another night to drown in…
Until we have an eternity of days waiting for nights…
For nights fighting for dawn.
For me and you;
For now I understand what the Princess from the Arabian Nights went through…
It was early in the morning and dawn was beginning its daily tryst with the sky; a vast canvas of colourless clouds waiting for crimson streaks to paint them in distinct hues of orange, purple and gold.
Her eyes had grown accustomed to the dark and they were now adjusting to the onset of light. What a difference a few hours can make, she reflected. She also wondered at the mechanics behind one’s eyes – a system that was put in place by an unseen hand, to see the world created by the same hand. She smiled and thought, we have eyes to see everything created by a force we cannot see. Yet, we only believe what is front of our eyes. We do not believe in the creator of those eyes.
She caught herself mid thought and shook her head. Staying up the entire night must have made me delirious, she decided. For a while she debated on whether or not she should try and get some sleep. She picked up her phone and looked at the time, before sighing and placing it on the night stand again. It would be pointless to sleep, she decided, with her eyes tracing the figure of the blanket clad person next to her.
Her daughter, Ishita.
In an hour or so, it would be time to face the world. A lunch box would have to be packed, war cries would be uttered as five more minutes of snooze time would be negotiated, and finally, with breakfast down her throat, the big daily send off to the school bus would happen. Motherhood was all about resisting the urge to either scream in frustration, or squeeze your child with all excess outpouring of love.
Well, that’s just the way it would be, she decided as she swung her legs off the bed and placed her hands on either side of herself, pressing into the mattress as if willing it to feel less comfortable at that exact moment.
Slowly, she made her way downstairs and daylight began to trickle in, almost lighting each step as she placed one foot after the next in a bid to reach the kitchen and begin the dance of nutrition, as she liked to call it. Reaching out for things from memory and no particular thought, she functioned in a sequence that had now become muscle memory for her. Reach for the lunch box. Layer it with foil. Open the fridge. Bring out the ingredients that would make a quick wrap or layered rice. Then, heat, saute, garnish and pack. The water bottle gets filled at the end and then the eggs and cereal come out for the final act in this performance. Award winning performance, she decided as she laughed to herself. The reward lay in the growing height of the child, who was already towering over most children her age. Or as she liked to joke – all the growth is happening vertically, nothing in the horizontal department. Jeans easily turned into capris, and tee shirts into crop tops.
She was instantly besieged by the now unwelcome thought of genes – because genes probably had more to do with the child’s qualities. With a sigh, she tried to recenter and relax; but to no avail. The acid attack had begun and memory after memory began to pour through her.
“Why are you tugging at her hair like that?”
“Look at her – she’s crying!”
“She’s always crying when you are around!”
“Just leave her – I will handle this. And what is that you are packing for her lunch?”
“Relax – it’s not poison.”
“What did you just say?”
“What did you hear?”
“You really should check your attitude – I am only trying to help.”
“Yes, I know all about how much you want to help…”
“What does that mean?”
“You think I don’t know what you have been telling our therapist about me? I saw her messages on your phone.”
“Well, you are the one in therapy – not me. It may be marriage counselling, but we both know that the problem is with you.”
“Will you just shut up? The child is right here!”
“Well, you started.”
“Started – what?”
And on and on it would go. She sighed and cringed at every memory – now the words and his thundering expression did not matter; all that hurt was the memory of her child’s tear filled eyes as she would watch her parents quarrel and squabble. Apparently over her. How could she explain to a four year old that it wasn’t her – it was them, the combination of two right people who were completely wrong for each other?
Ishita’s voice brought her out of the dark shadows of her memories and into the sunlit kitchen where she was standing with one hand holding the spatula and the other clutching at the pan where the fried eggs threatened to char and burn.
“Oops,” she said as she quickly turned the stove off to slide the egg onto the plate.
“What have you packed me for lunch?” Asked Ishita as she took the plate and headed towards the dining table.
“Pasta and chicken.”
“Ooh – yum! My friends always wait to see what’s in my lunchbox – you really should start that pop up restaurant!”
She smiled and said, “Well, okay – finish your breakfast real quick. We don’t want to miss the bus.”
Andrew looked at the mess in front of him and then at the character sitting in the middle of it all.
“Bullet – honestly…?” He muttered.
The dog, a great dane with a beautiful grey brown coat, whimpered and covered his head.
The apartment was a small one with just two rooms. The main hall had a sumptuous leather couch with a TV on the wooden wall in front. The neat and clean wooden floor was now littered with the shredded remains of a stack of newspapers and a random sneaker – courtesy the teething woes of his rather energetic new dog whom he had aptly named Bullet, who was now eyeing his master and friend from under his paws.
It was all Andrew could do to keep a straight face. He collapsed on the couch with laughter and whipped out his phone. Bullet was now next to him on the couch, staring up into his eyes and trying to lick his face – if he was to ever understand what making up was, this was the perfect moment, the perfect lesson. Andrew clicked a few pictures and committed them to his phone’s memory too.
After he cleaned up the mess and put out a bowl of fresh water for Bullet, Andrew decided to get to work. His tiny apartment doubled as his lab and he sat down in front of his desk to start a new project that had him excited from the get go.
As usual, his first thought before he began was, “Don’t screw this up!”
Later that day, Andrew was at the airport in San Diego, ready to take off to yet another exotic destination. While the names Lithuania, Riga, Peru, Latvia and even Taiwan would bring forth images of fun, frolic, excitement, streets filled with new things to explore, sights and sounds that would never have been experienced before – all Andrew could visualise was radars, wires, people who would be buying and selling equipment encased in good looking, well moulded capsules of chrome and plastic. As he buckled his seat belt on, his hand touched the phone and he began to absently scroll through it. That morning’s image of Bullet standing on the couch and surveying his kingdom of mess instantly lit up the screen and his face. Before he could stop smiling, he shared the image on his social media account.
“May I bring you something before we take off, Mr Pane?”
“No, thank you.” Andrew answered. The air hostess smiled and walked away.
As he looked around, Andrew reflected on the similarities between his home and this home he had in the air, where he spent so much of his time. His private jet. As he stretched his legs out before him and reclined into the plush leather seat, he reminded himself to switch his phone off for take off. He picked up the phone only to find a barrage of notifications. Amused, he logged back into his social media account – the culprit that had sent his phone into quite the beeping spree.
“Hi – please check your DM.”
“Is that a great dane?”
“What’s his name?”
There were 46 comments on the picture of Bullet. Confused, he went to his direct messages. There were 5 marriage proposals, numerous hookup invitations, and some random messages asking for business advice (one of them was from a woman who was an editor at a well known magazine all the way from India). One of the messages had a questionable picture attached with a woman with a placard that merely said, “hello handsome”. Only a placard.
Wow, he thought, these women are not kidding.
He put his phone on airplane mode and tried to focus on other things. But there was something disturbing about 46 messages from 46 random women in a span of less than a minute. He instantly picked up his phone, switched it back on and deleted the post before putting his phone back on airplane mode.
Just then, the aircraft began to taxi and he sat back, a little more relaxed than what he had been a few uncomfortable minutes ago.
She pushed the glass door open and walked in.
Several people turned to look at her, some smiling in recognition. As she tried to appear less self conscious than she was, she took a seat at her usual table and instantly, Adra appeared by her side.
“Hi – what’s up,” she said as she signalled for two cups of green tea.
She was still pulling out her laptop when Ishita appeared and answered Adra, “Hi right back – oh, lot’s is up. The fan, the ceiling, the sky, the clouds…with the rain coming down…”
“Pause,” She said to her child, amusement in her voice.
“I should have known! Tell me how your day went – how was school, how are your friends, how are your teachers, and how is that little boy who is one foot shorter than you?” Adra finished with a wink and a dimpled smile that added much charm to her bespectacled face.
Ishita started to giggle and said, “We were made to sit next to each other in class today. I taught him to write faster.” With that she looked at her mother.
She sighed and looked at her friend, Adra. Then, she said, “Yes, the faster she writes, the faster she outgrows this crush!”
There were peals of laughter as Ishita looked angrily at her mother before Adra put a hand on the child’s shoulder to say, “Come on, look at your Mom – she types so fast that her FitBit registers twenty thousand steps in a day. A thousand for walking and the rest because of her typing. That’s why she does not get impressed by anyone easily any longer!”
They all laughed and two cups of steaming hot green tea were delivered to their table by Adra’s staff. As the laughter died down, she watched Adra and Ishita getting into a rapt discussion about one thing after another, the topics zipping by at lightning speed. Her mind went back to the line Adra had uttered a while ago – that’s why she does not get impressed by anyone easily.
If only I had been this way 13 years ago, she sighed as she leaned back against the wall, letting the hot cup warm her hands. She liked to hold on to the cup until her hands and fingers could not take the heat any longer. She would place the cup back only to pick it up again. Rinse and repeat!
She looked around the book cafe where she was seated – Tea and Me – and the sight of the books made her smile. At age 6, she had known she would be where she was now – or at least she was starting to get there. As the owner of a startup publishing house, she was constantly surrounded by all the things she loved; books and words. The only other object of her affection was now bouncing around Tea and Me, and had to be reminded to do her homework.
As she began to open her mouth, Adra said, “Let her be – just a few minutes more.”
They both laughed. Adra continued, “I know your every expression so well now – and more than anything else, I know that Mommy look!”
“Don’t you mean the ‘dreaded’ mommy look?”
Adra laughed and said, “Come on! You know I am sending my kids to your whenever I have them – I mean, just look at Ishita; look at how beautifully she’s turned out.”
As her friend remained silent, Adra knew what was running through her mind; or rather the issue that took a leisurely stroll and sat down for a cup of tea in her brain.
“Hey,” Adra said, hoping to break the chain of thoughts that could lead to no good, “What about the new project?”
Suddenly the woman in front of her was transformed. She went straight from being a worried mother to a confident woman who knew just what she wanted from the world – and was not too scared to go out there and earn it for herself. She instantly went into the details of the new website design and how she would go from having a blog to a blog to book platform.
Adra stopped her and said, “Not that project – THE project.”
Confusion seeped into the eyes of the woman in front of her before sudden realisation and the memory of a conversation from a few days before came into plain view. She guffawed and said, “Oh come one – you weren’t serious.”
“You phone, please,” Adra said very sweetly.
She clutched her phone in horror and looked at her friend, who simply pried it away and quickly went to work.
“What should we call you on this app? It needs a screen name?”
“Why are we doing this, Adra?” She groaned, as if the weight of the entire world was resting heavily on her mind and body.
“Because, like Ishita said a few days ago – just being a mommy can’t be enough for you.”
She sighed and said, “D will do.”
Adra gave a thumbs up and returned her friend’s phone to its rightful owner. The icon of the new app teased her and almost asked, “Am I really here, or is it just my imagination?”
Same question buddy – very same question here, she decided as she wondered what on earth she was supposed to do with a dating app.
And so, the new project began.