Thursday, June 9, 2011

Chasing a Dream - Part 1

"Plea, passe, kick, passe again, and then you put the foot down"

Our dance instructor, Shweta, yelled as she walked around the class, observing everyone like a hawk. I love our instructor, she had acquired the perfect balance in every aspect of teaching - strict yet understanding, funny yet serious, confident yet humble. She's also very inspiring. At the age of 23, she left her high flying job as the HR manager in an MNC to pursue dancing.

Yet, she scares me to death.

I checked my feet again to see if they're in parallel, if my legs were in a proper plea and if my passe looked messy as she came around behind me. I know we learn slowly, and perfection cannot be attained overnight, but the adamant part of my brain always orders me to be overly harsh on myself. Especially when my instructor is around. Especially because, she's the one whose going to promote me to the next level. 

We were doing a lyrical jazz routine this month. The pace was semi-quick and there were various extensions placed at different points of the song. Shweta told us that the extensions were the main part and everything else was mainly filler and was meant to prepare us for the extensions. After a few classes, I realized that I was pretty good at the filler part and sucked at the extensions. Each time I stretched my leg towards the ceiling, I looked like an imbalanced Kung Fu Panda.

I'm quite flexible but I struggle a lot when it comes to balancing oneself in a particular position. I always:

1) Fall down
2) Wobble like a jelly to find my center.
3) Shake my hands around me like I'm drowning. 

I'm struggling right now too. Shweta noticed me hopping around like a madman and walked towards me.

"You need to squeeze your thighs and hips together when you're in a passe position, it helps you to place your weight in your center", she said as she lifted up my arms and tried to straighten my back. I nodded stupidly and tried to follow her instructions. It worked for a second and then I was back to my wobbly self again.

We continued to practice the routine for the remaining part of the class. At the end of it, I was only 0.1% better. 

We gathered around Shweta outside the studio after the class had ended, for a 5 minute chat session. It was a ritual that we followed. After the class got over, everyone was supposed to pick their stuff up and talk to the instructor about that day's class. 

"So guys, do you like this month's routine?", she asked in a cheerful voice. She transforms herself into a completely different person outside the studio.

Everyone murmured a soft 'yes', as though it would camouflage their real sentiment towards the routine. Shweta looked at us and grinned, "I know it's a little tough but you'll get used to it. It's just been 3 classes so far. You need to realize how important extensions are in lyrical jazz"

Again, everyone nodded but hardly seemed convinced. Shweta shook her head lightly and moved on to another topic, "Anyway, so there's an important announcement. As you all know, the summer workshop is approaching and it will begin in two weeks. Registrations are open now and you can come to either me or the studio manager to register yourself"

As though someone had just turned on a yellow light bulb, everyone's faces switched from sulky, tired expressions to 'yay-fun-time!' expressions in a split second. A soft buzz grew within the group, which soon escalated to a loud chatter. Workshops are indeed, fun times. We're taught a choreography which we ultimately go and perform on stage. It's a huge event because all batches, levels and classes perform and there's always a large audience (mostly parents) who come to watch the show. 

I had so far been in one workshop and it had really helped me evolve, both as a dancer and a person. God only knows, my fear of the stage was almost palpable before I performed. Even on the day of the performance, I was shivering like an old typhoid patient who had just walked out of the ICU.

We asked a few more basic questions, and then slowly started dispersing. As I was walking towards the main gate, I thought of the wonderful two months that lay ahead. IF I took part in the workshop. And then I thought of my parents. My hopes plummeted. They were already quite pissed with me, due to my grand revelation. I don't think they'd allow me to participate again.

I had almost reached the main gate when someone called out my name, "Shruti!", I turned around to see a boy in my class, I forgot his name, striding towards me. I looked at him confusedly, 'Yeah?"

"Shruti, right?"

I rolled my eyes, "Yep"

He grinned, "You're going to be promoted soon"

Something in my stomach just did a somersault, "How do you know?"

"I just heard Shweta discussing a few names with our co-instructor. She said you, Neha, Rajat and Meera, might get promoted after the workshop"

Before I could help it, my face broke into a huge, toothy smile and I almost jumped, "Finally! About time. I've been in this batch for almost a year now"

I thanked him for giving me the information and with the smile still plastered on my face, walked out of the main gate. But, suddenly a thought struck me. If Shweta said I might get promoted after the workshop, that means I will have to participate in it in order to finalize the promotion. 

I will have to convince my parents now. At any cost. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chasing a dream - prologue.

Hello everyone! Wozzup? It's been a long time since I wrote anything and it feels great to be back to writing :)  I hope you all like this story. Dance has become a very important part of my life and perhaps the greatest inspiration too. Enjoy and please don't forget to leave comments! :D


"I want to be a professional dancer"

My parents gaped at me with incredulous eyes. I knew this moment would not be easy to go by. The planning for this confrontation had been underway for almost a month now. I tried to imagine all the possible reactions that this piece of news would conjure from my parents. Almost a billion different scenarios came up.

Scenario # 1

"What?! Are you out of your mind? Do you even know what you're talking about? And where did this idea come from anyway? You were dead set on doing architecture a few months ago. Everything was planned. And now this? Dance is your hobby Shruti, you can't make it your profession. It's full of risks. Where is the scope? Have you forgotten that you're living in India? Where are the avenues? The means? This is just impossible.."

So on and so forth.

Scenario # 2

Her parents looked at each other and burst into fits of laughter.

"Shruti, this is really funny but this is hardly the time for a joke..."

Scenario # 3

Her father's eyes almost popped out of their sockets and the next second, he was clutching the left side of his chest tightly. Her mom rushed to his side before he could fall down.

"Shruti, call the ambulance, NOW!"

Scenario # 4

"What? But you can hardly dance. I mean, just because you can do a few steps on Munni and Sheila doesn't mean you can become a professional dancer. Wake up and smell the coffee beta. Go study for your entrance"

And they went back to doing what they had been doing before this conversation - Her mom, watching TV and her dad, getting bored.

Scenario # 5

Her big confrontation given a royal ignore.


"How much would you earn? I mean, do dancers earn well?", asked her dad.

Now it was my turn to gawk. Was that it? Was that the only issue that I would have to face? I didn't know what to say. Lying is a nice idea but my overbearing and annoying conscience would not let me live peacefully. Money was good in the field of dance, only if you were a good enough dancer. And by 'good enough', I mean really good.

I shook my head lightly, "Um, yes dad. I mean, it's decent initially, but as I become better the money will become better too"

"How decent...exactly?"

"Uh, well, the instructors get paid around 50K per month, and you get an increment once you're in the company", I was trying to hold this conversation together, but truth to be told, I was freaking out.

"But the economics still don't beat those of architecture, do they?", my mom spoke for the first time. I really wish she hadn't, though.

"They don't mom, but it's not that bad either. Look, this is what I want to do. When I joined classes a year ago I didn't know that dance would end up becoming my passion. Maybe I just never gave it a thought before, maybe I never thought I had the talent, maybe I never thought of it as anything more than a hobby. Whatever it was, I don't know. But what I do know is that dance is where my heart lies", I finished and let out  a huge breath. I realized that my speech was nothing but babbling.

They started staring at me with that unidentifiable expression again. I hated it when they did that. It was like standing in a witness box like a defendant and waiting for the judge to announce the decision. My impatience was increasing with every passing moment and I wanted them to spit their thoughts out really fast now.

My dad finally opened his mouth, "We'll think about it", and both of them walked away.

My shoulders slumped. That was not what I had expected. Each of my scenarios ended with a definite 'yes' or 'no'. There was absolutely no room for a 'maybe'. That word was like a ticking bomb. I also suddenly realized how smart my parents had been. They could now easily persuade me to do whatever they wanted on a daily basis, all because they now had the control to swing the decision of my life in any way.

This was a disaster.

I didn't know for how long their 'thinking' session would go on, but I knew that I couldn't let my determination waver. At exactly 4 pm, my eyes darted towards my wrist watch. It was time for my class. I smiled. It was time to go back home. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deceptive dreams

Everywhere she looked, she saw destruction. It was an ugly sight; but something else bothered her even more – how exactly had she come here?

The last thing that she remembered was falling asleep in class, she felt like she was falling into a dark, black well, and she kept falling until she hit the bottom. Then she woke up to find herself surrounded with mass destruction. Dead bodies lay unceremoniously like ragged dolls. Massive holes in the building seemed like deadpan eyes boring into hers. The ceiling looked like it would fall down any second.

She looked down at herself. Her salwaar was torn in many places, and so was her kurta. Her lower lip bled and her abdomen felt like it had just been hit by a truck. What happened, she wondered once again, trying to collect her scattered thoughts. She took a step ahead, and excruciating pain pulsed through her leg. She pulled her lips in tightly to stop the scream that was threatening to burst out from her mouth.

Trying her best to think logically and rationally, she decided to fix her leg before taking another step. She slowly pulled her bloody, torn salwaar up. There was a deep, long cut along her lower leg. It was bleeding profusely and it wouldn’t be long before she bled to death if it were to be left unattended. Shit, she quickly tore a part of her kurta and tried to tie it around her leg. The bleeding didn’t stop.

She realized she was standing amongst at least 30 dead, fully clothed corpses, which included her class teacher. Tears stung her eyes at the thought of what she was going to do, but her survival instincts had kicked in and she knew she’d have to do whatever it took to get out of here. She slowly walked towards where her teacher lay, careful not to step on anyone. Upon reaching her teacher’s corpse, she breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of her partly torn duppatta still draped across her chest.

She pulled it up and tied it tightly around her leg to maintain the pressure on the wound. After taking one last glance at her class, or the class that was, she turned around and walked out of the class.

But the sight that greeted her outside was a 5 times magnification of what she had witnessed inside. It looked like a heinous genocide. Bodies were everywhere. Not just murdered, but brutally murdered. Some had been impaled multiple times, some had their heads chopped off and some had been castrated. She instantly put a hand on her mouth in an attempt to stop herself from throwing up right there. Trying to avoid the ghastly sight before her, she quickly made her way towards the closest exit, this time not caring about stepping on the bodies.

As she made her way towards the exit gate, she felt a presence behind her. She stopped and turned around, ‘Whose there?’ After lingering on for a while, she thought she must have imagined it. Just as she turned back around, she was welcomed by a familiar face situated inches away from her.

‘Jeez’, she spat out and staggered. It was her best friend and class mate. And she was grinning.

‘Why are you grinning?’, she asked.

‘We need to get out of here’, the friend replied, calmly as though they were standing on a beach.


Before she could complete her sentence, the friend took hold of her hand and started pulling her through all the destruction, but not towards the exit gate, but somewhere else.

‘Where are you-’

Her question was left suspended in the air as the friend cut her off, ‘Sshh. Be quiet. Just come’

Even though she was her best friend, her gut told her that something wasn’t right. That she must break free and run away right now. But then the friend turned around and smiled at her, and said, ‘Trust me’. She decided to give her friend benefit of doubt.

They finally came to a stop infront of a large gate. The friend slowly pushed it and it swung outwards. She took a step ahead to look what lay inside.

The sight made her stagger and gasp in horror. The gate was an opening to a massive, deep well. Hundreds of sharp, extremely long nails were embedded in it’s surface. She looked at her friend, and saw that she had an evil smirk on her face and her eyes twinkled with sadistic satisfaction.

She shook her head and tears brimmed in her eyes once again. But before she could act on her impulses, her friend pushed her into the well. A loud scream of terror was stifled in her throat.

‘No!’, she snapped her eyes open and jerked her body up. She was breathing heavily, and her face was smeared with tears and sweat. Looking around, she realized she was sitting in her class and everything else was normal, except that people were staring at her because of her loud scream. She looked down at herself, and saw that she wasn’t hurt anywhere. Had it all been a dream?

Her best friend sat right next to her, but was one of the few who wasn’t staring at her. The friend seemed engrossed in her homework. She continued to stare at her best friend for a while. The friend sensed someone looking at her. Looking up, she smiled.

She saw the same sparkle and sensed the same dark vibe. But it had all been a dream, or had it?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Solace on a hiatus!

Heylo guys. I'm here to tell you all that Solace is on a small hiatus. I need to get creatively inspired and I'm still looking for that inspiration. The story will be updated soon enough! Till then, I plan to write another short story will be completed in 4-5 parts. I hope you all will like it as much you liked Solace.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Part 17

What do you want to do in life? You know, after college?

MBA, and then some real solid private job in an MNC

I want to do IAS.

I just want to be happy

I came back to reality as I recalled the last answer. Last year, a couple of friends and I had had a discussion about our future. Majority of them talked about how they would love to get a good job or a good business setup, or a government job and it’s securities etc etc. But one of them just said, ‘I just want to be happy’

Sounds stupid doesn’t it? But for me, right now, it seems like the most valuable lesson of my life. Where is happiness? How does one attain happiness? I turned around and looked at mom. She was fretting over a bill that had not been paid. My mom wasn’t happy.

She was living a life that wasn’t a ‘life’. She woke up each morning, did the routine house management, went to office, came back in the evening, had dinner and went to bed. There was so much to worry about, so much to think about, so much to do all at once, where was the time to be happy?

With each passing day, I felt as though I was losing her to an unknown darkness, and fear that I might not be able to get her back hit me like a ton of bricks. She seemed out of reach, out of contact. I wish I could do something to make her happy. Anything.

Last year, I was determined to choose a similar life for myself – becoming a businesswoman, running an establishment, making money. But now, that determination has started to waver.

I walked towards her and gave her a hug from behind, “Relax mom, it’s gonna be okay. The bill will be paid, okay?”

She smiled at me and said, “I know, it’s just that the due date’s passed and these guys might-”

“We do have candles”, I said sheepishly. She just stared at me for a while, shook her head and started smiling. My suggestion wasn’t practical, but the idea of a candlelight dinner with mom made me happy. And that was enough.


“I love to paint trees in my paintings. They’re just so calm..and serene..and lively at the same time..”
Nandita is still morose. I don’t know how things are at her house. We still haven’t talked about that little fight we had yesterday over Varun. It still bothered me to remember her reaction. She should have been happy.

“ is a really beautiful song. Have you heard it?”

I don’t get the deal with her parents. They’ve been going around beating the bush since the past two years, and the only thing they’ve done is make Nandita’s life worse.

“Naina? Naina?!”

I jerked back to reality, “What? What?”

“Are you even listening to what I’m saying?”, said Ayush exasperatedly.

I was at his little ‘secret’ place. The place had a certain charm about it. Last time I had spent time here, I knew that it was a place I’d want to come back to. Singing was special to me. This place was full of it. And perhaps it was because I wanted to cherish music again, when I thought of ‘calmness’, this was the only place that came to my mind.

Ayush accepted my request after a little hesitation. This was his hiding place, afterall.

“I’m sorry. I just slipped into some third world for a while. What were you saying?”

He sighed, “I asked – do you like this song?”

“Which one?”

He started to pick up an album cover from the floor to show it to me, but then dropped it and said, “Why don’t we just play it?”

I grinned, “Surprise me”

15 seconds into the song and I knew which one it was. Before I could stop myself, I yelled, “Oh I love this song!” It was ‘Maeri’ by Euphoria. I remember dancing to this song years ago when it had come out.

I didn’t realize when I started singing along. It was probably a bad performance, but I didn’t care. Ayush didn’t care. It was the zest that mattered. For a moment, I forgot all about my problems.

When the song came to and end, we were both sitting on the floor and clapping for each other.

“You know what, you sing well”, said Ayush  excitedly. I brushed it off, “It’s amateur”

“Yeah, but the talent’s there”, he pressed on. I looked at him for a moment before shrugging it off again, “Forget it. Let’s do this again. What say?”

He played the guitar once and said, “Voila!”

I grinned, “Have you heard of the song..”

It went on for hours. There was homework piled up at home, and yet I was here, spending my Sunday evening in a hidden hut. Usually I would just be running around like a wild goose desperate to get the work done, but today, the physics worksheet was the last of my worries. I thought about how lucky Ayush was to have such a haven-like place tucked away safely behind his house, that too accessible at any point of time.

School was such an obstruction to doing what you wanted. It’s ironic, since education’s essential aim to help one find their way. School pretty much beats the purpose by stopping us from doing just that.

I finally looked at my watch when another song ended, “Crap. It’s 8 in the evening. I have to get going”
Ayush looked slightly perturbed, “Oh..but you can stay for another song?”

I opened my mouth to say something when he cut me off, “C’mon, just one? We were just beginning to drown into these notes”

He was an artist alright. No one spoke like that nowadays. I sighed, “Fine. But just one, okay?”

He bowed his head, “Yes, Senorita”. I narrowed my eyes and gave him a cut-the-crap look, “Shut up”

We ended up singing another five. I don’t think I’ve ever spent this kind of time at the dhaba either. Knowing that it was getting too late, I finally decided to make a move or else I’d end up spending the whole night here, “Thanks for today. It was great”, I said, meaning every word.

He looked up packing up his guitar in it’s case, “Not a problem. Actually, I’m glad to know someone who shares my passion”

I rolled my eyes, “Yeah, and sings like a frog”

Mild laughter ensued. Would anyone believe we used fight like small kids a week back? I got up started to walk towards the door when he said, “Oh and Naina?”


“Good job kicking Varun’s ass yesterday. I’d like to see that again”

The way he said it made me smile, “Sure. I’d love to”. Turning around, I waved my hand and said, “Bye Ayush”, and walked out of the door.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Part 16

I sat through the entire meeting. I would be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me. It did. I kept fiddling with my fingers while others shared, some experiences a sharp reflection of my own. Sharing this time wasn’t even a consideration, it would be difficult to find the words, leave alone saying them out loud. My head hung low during the entire meeting. Perhaps people noticed, but understood my need to conceal the overwhelming emotions. They had been there.

When the meeting got over, I finally looked up and saw everyone smiling warmly. We got up and held each other's hands firmly, this was a ritual I was aware of. Closing our eyes, we started chanting the customary AA prayer.

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

I felt a soft thrust on my hand as everyone shook the held hands and chorused, ‘It works if you work it!’
Later, the senior group came down and almost instantly, the atmosphere transitioned to something very similar to a family re-union. Everyone hugged everyone, and everyone laughed with everyone. Members formed small groups and talked away about something.

I stood in one corner, looking at the scene before my eyes. Had it been a different situation and a different place, I’d have instantly deemed it to be superficial and fake, but not this place. Not a place where people could laugh so easily at their life-changing events, and at the same time, cry at the smallest of things. A smile played on my lips, I knew that this was a good place. I just didn’t know how I was going to survive it.

I noticed my mom standing in a group of four and laughing about something. I raised my hand and waved at her, trying to catch her attention. She finally noticed me and gestured me to come towards her, I slowly shook my head and mouthed, ‘It’s okay’ to her.

Someone behind me tapped on my shoulder. I turned around to see a guy smiling at me, ‘Coffee?’

I looked at him for a moment and said, ‘No thanks’

He nodded, ‘New member?’


‘I’m Yash, you?’


‘Aah, I always loved that name. Extremely symbolic, isn’t it?’, he said, grinning.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I just managed to give him a small smile and said, ‘Um, I guess?’
“Come, I’ll introduce you to my group”, and having said that, he started walking towards a small group sitting in one corner, leaving me behind to follow. I glanced around, feeling absolutely and completely fazed out. Was everyone here so bizarrely welcoming?

Sensing that it would be awkward not to follow when he had assumed that I would, I slowly walked towards them.

“Guys, this is Naina. New member”, said Yash as we joined them. And then hands were shook, introductions were exchanged, and in no time, I was being treated as just an old member as any of them. Many offered to be my sponsors, but I wasn’t ready. Not yet. Any who, we exchanged numbers.
Finally, after the ‘voluntary extended meeting: VEM’, as Yash’s group liked to call it, got over, mom and I walked out of the church and towards our car, waving and saying ‘Byes’ to everyone. As we neared the parking slot, she asked me, “So?”

I looked at her, “So?”

“So, how was it?”, she said expectedly.

I nodded, “Good. Better than last time”

She smiled, “Does that mean you’ll come next week?”

Silence followed the question for a few moments. Did I want to? I had no idea. My conscious wasn’t answering the question. But then I looked at her in the eye and nodded, “I will”


“Nandita, have some breakfast beta”, said her mom gently as she stared at Nandita roughly stuffing her books into her bag.

“Not hungry”, she mumbled, picked up her bad and started to walk towards the door. But her mom stood in her way, her expression mellow and almost apologetic, “Please Nandu, have something. You didn’t have dinner either”

Nandita took a deep breath and said, “Please mom, I’m getting late. I have to go”, and without looking up, she walked past her mother, leaving her mom on the verge of tears.

She rushed out of the gate, thankful that the tears hadn’t spilled in front of her mom. Anger, mixed with sadness overwhelmed her, and before she knew it, she was crying. But she kept walking fast, hoping that the exercise would somehow make the anger go away. Make the hurt go away. Onlookers stared at her tear-stricken as she walked towards her bus stand, but she didn’t care. She could no longer suppress her emotions behind the facade of happiness.

As the bus station faded out of sight, she stared out of the window, thinking about how messy the situation had become. After the confrontation last night, she had shut herself up in her room. Her parents, who were shell shocked at her outburst and particularly at the mention of divorce, didn’t know what to do. It was a slow night. Nandita tried to sleep, but the tears wouldn’t stop.

Now, devoid of all energy, she sighed and closed her eyes. Her head spinned, but she made no effort to open her eyes. Sometimes, being in the dark was better than being in the light.


Nandita walked in, looking as dishevelled and tired as someone who had been to hell and back. She sat down beside me and put her head down on the table. I didn’t ask what was wrong, I knew.

I put a hand on her shoulder, “You didn’t sleep?”

She shook her head without looking up. My heart broke at the sight of her. Someone who was so strong, so tough, someone who faced every problem with a smile, had been reduced to this state. Finding no words, I continued to grip her shoulder tightly, trying to convey my support through that touch.

I took a deep breath and looked up, wondering how pain always lasted longer than happiness. Just then, I noticed a few boys of my class stealing glances at Nandita and smirking at their inside joke. I knew who it was, Varun, the wannabe stud cum ass**** of the class. And his followers.

Rage washed through me. Suppressing my compulsive desire to punch his face, I suddenly got up and yelled across the class, “Hey Varun, what’s so funny? Did you just look at yourself in the mirror or did you and your kids just scare a 1st grader?”

The smirk was wiped off his face as the entire class turned to stare at him. Nandita realized what was going on, and she stood up too, “Naina, just let it go. Forget –”

But Varun cut her off, “Who the hell is talking to you, Ms. freak? Can’t you mind your own f****g business like always?”

“Yeah? Then let me tell you something, dude. You crack another joke at my friend and I’m going to break that conceited nose of yours. And trust me, I don’t care what your mommy says about it. Get it?”, I replied, now feeling the anger pulsing through my body. Nandita was now pulling my arm but I continued to stare at Varun who was too, boiling with rage. Just as he opened his mouth to reply, our class teacher walked in and broke the deathly silence that had lingered in the room before her entrance.

Nandita pulled me down to our seat and said, “What the hell were you thinking?”

“He was laughing at you!”, I replied indignantly.

“He laughs at everyone, Naina. That’s what he’s here for, you shouldn’t bother-”

“Well I’m sorry for caring”, I spat out and turned away. I heard her sigh and drop the subject for the moment. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Part 15

"Mom, Do I have to do this? I mean, can't you give me one last chance to face this on my own?" I pleaded in a desperate voice.

"No" she said. And that was it. I knew that her 'No' strictly meant 'No'. Nothing doing. She drove with a straight face, her relentless calm and subtle conviction abating my 0.00001% hope of convincing her to take us back.

With that last try failing, I sighed and leaned back in my seat. It seemed that I really had no choice. We were heading towards Defense Colony, where the AA meeting was being held in a church. I won't be sitting with mom though, there's another group called 'Alateen' which consists of only teenagers who have been subjected to alcohol abuse in their families and/or have had a drinking problem themselves.

I stared outside the car window for the rest of the ride. A sense of nervousness mixed with apprehension and fear was lingering in the pit of my stomach. Denial was definitely a better state to be in. That stupid goddamned workshop ruined it. All was pretty much well before it happened.

The ride lasted only for a few precious moments, and then we were there. I took and deep breath and stepped out. My mom reached out and firmly held my hand, knowing that I was probably turning into a pile of goo inside, but her expression hadn't changed much. She literally pulled me towards the church.

I saw a group of teens sitting on plastic chairs in a circle. They were happily chatting away about something with plastic cups of chai comfortably resting between their palms before the meeting began.

"I'm going upstairs, our meetings are held on the top floor" my mom said, her tone gentler now, "Will you be okay?"

Ofcourse I won't be okay, but I said, "Yeah. Don't worry", and managed to give her a faint smile. She let go of my hand and walked away. I took another deep breath and walked towards the group. They noticed me and one person, who seemed to be the only adult, asked, "Hi, you a new member?"

I quietly cleared my throat and said, "Um, yes"

His face broke into a smile as he said, "Come sit na, meeting shuru hone waali hai. You want some chai?"

I didn't know how to respond to such, shall I say, quick welcome. Everyone was smiling at me. Their smiles seemed welcoming, and the man's words calmed me down a bit. I walked towards a spare chair and sat down, "No thanks. I'm fine"

He clapped his hands together and said, "To meeting start karein?", everyone nodded, and he continued, "Okay. So I'm Amit and I'm going to be chairing this meeting"

"Hi Amit!", everyone said in unison.

"I want to share an incident which is perhaps the most ridiculous stunt I ever pulled in my life. I guess alcoholism drives people nuts after a point of time. Baba, as usual, raat ko late aaye. Family dysfunctional thi, to maa ne dekh kar bhi undekha kar diya ki woh pee kar aaye hain. Mujhe unki taraf itni resentment hoti thi ki kabhi kabhi mujhe unhe maarne ka man karta tha. As usual, we had khana and retired to our beds. Thankful that he didn't hit maa that night, I went to bed. Lekin us din neend nahi aayi, upar se main bada impulsive tha. Gussa control nahi hota tha. A memory of baba beating maa came to mind, and that was it. I decided to leave my house"

I didn't realize when I got so involved in his story that I could visualize all the events in my head. And somehow, my past didn't threaten to plague my mind while he was sharing.

"Raat ke 3 baje mein dilli ki sadkon pe akela ghoom raha tha. Sardi ka mausam tha, lekin mere jaisa sanki insaan karne se pehle nahi, karne ke baad sochta hai. I sat down on a foothpath and watched the cars speed by. Subah ke paanch baje tak wahaan baitha raha, lekin saade paanch baje mujhe laga ki boss, ab thand lag rahi hai aur bhook bhi, chalo ghar waapis chalte hain"

Everyone lightly laughed at that. I couldn't believe with the ease with which this man was sharing his story. No one was teary eyed, or sympathetic. To someone else, this may sound like a very painful memory, but to these people, it was that familiar, mutual feeling of utter helplessness that lead them to do something absolutely ridiculous. All of them had done something like this in their lives, and now that they're sitting here talking about it, they realize how genuinely funny it must have been.

Infact, I could vaguely recall one of my own memories when I tried to empty all my dad's beer bottles into the pot and re-fill them with apple juice. I smiled.

"So I went back, and quietly settled into my bed. My parents didn't even realize that I'd been out half the night", and with that, he completed his sharing and everyone clapped for him. If nothing else, this man had adorned each face with a genuine smile. Including mine.


"Vivek, you've become so grown up! What class are you in?" exclaimed his mami. Vivek gave her a fake smile, Yeah, that tends to happen you know, "11th"

"Arre, beta bada ho gaya" she said with a huge grin plastered on her face as she settled down in the sofa. My mom chipped in and said, "kids grow up very fast nowadays, na?"

"Totally. I mean look Alka's daughter Ritu, she's in BA first year now.....'" and so it went. It didn't take much time for Vivek to notice that he was now completely forgotten, and his presence was no longer required in the room. He quietly slipped out without being noticed as his smaller cousins kept running around the room, which was enough to buy him a moment.

He sighed and shook his head. It was always like this. His relatives would come in pairs, with 2 kids dangling from their arms. The women would sit in the sitting room and gossip, while the men would sit in the garden and talk about cricket or the latest political news. And the kids, well, they roamed around pretty much everywhere. With Vivek being the eldest, and all others being less than 9 yrs old, the bunch was nothing less than a riot.

He was about to enter his room when his dad saw him and called out, "Arre Vivek, zara yahaan aana beta"

What the.., why can't I be in peace just for a while?, He turned around and slowly walked towards the garden, knowing the exact words that would be exchanged in the upcoming conversation.

"Yes dad?" He said in a familiar monotone. Before his dad could speak, his mama, who was also sitting there, spoke up, "Arre bhai, humare saath bhi baith jaya karo. Looks like you've forgotten your mama, kyun?"

I would if I had the choice, "No mama. It's not like that. I just have too much homework today and it's all pending", he said instead.

"How much homework do you get? Aaj kal yeh school wale bhi na, baccho ko maarke chhodenge" he said, contemptuously. Vivek nodded in agreement, hoping that his assent would grant him an exit ticket.

Apparently not. His mama said, "Anyway, we'll let you go in a while. Come have a seat"

Which means half an hour gone waste, Vivek sighed and sat down. He was asked the usual few questions like 'How're your results? What's your rank? What sports do you play? etc etc', and then he was again, forgotten as his mama and dad started talking about some other topic. He listened to their discussion for a while before saying, "Um, I think I should go. Too much homework"

They nodded briefly and went back to their conversation. Vivek got up and walked back to his room, shutting the door behind. He laid down on his bed and stared the ceiling. As long as the door was shut, it would conceal him from all the drama unfolding beyond. He could never become a part of it in spite of having born and brought up in such an atmosphere.

It all radiated a feeling of 'fakeness'. Nothing seemed genuine. Did these relatives really love him? No. Did they really care for him? No. Then why pretend? Just to retain the idea of a 'One big happy family' for a little longer?

He didn't know. And he didn't care. All he knew was that this was not the place he was meant to be in. He was meant to be in a place where he would really feel loved, and genuinely happy.