It’s been almost twenty-three years since the concept of blogging came into existence. Twenty years since the word ‘weblog’ was coined by Jorn Barger as a joke. Fourteen years since WordPress was launched. One day since I created my website with WordPress. To say that I am anachronistic would be an understatement. I have been writing for most of my life now, but never published anything on a public platform. When social media bug was biting everyone, I guess my love for all-things-archaic pretty much worked as a prophylactic against it. Now, it does seem very ironic that I am using a social media platform to profess my love for antique. Allow me to explain my presence here. A few days ago, I met an old friend, a friend I would find thousand words for if I don’t look for them, and none if I do. I showed him the latest piece I had written and while reading it, he froze up in the middle and asked me, “So tell me one thing, Why don’t you publish it somewhere?”. Startled by the sudden question, I could say nothing but open and close my mouth like a fish. Thousands of reasons were bustling inside my head, because I am not a social media person, because I am not a disciplined writer, because I do not understand how it all works. All feeble excuses. Ultimately, it came down to one thing. An inhibition that who would read me? In the spirit of complete honesty, I told him about the inhibition I had, to which he replied very cleverly, “Who is reading you now?”. I was baffled by the simplicity of his reply. Being a writer, it was inherent that I would want to be read, to solve the complexity of emotions by words and being applauded for it. But I had always believed that I would be quite happy if I had only one reader who would understand the depth of the words I’ve forged, one admirer who would praise my work for the time and effort I had put into it. So in the quest of finding that one reader, I have decided to start blogging and post my writings here. For that one reader, this rhapsody in ink is my word offering.
On this eve of August 14th, when India was divided into Hindustan and Pakistan and two fundamentalist factions were fighting off each other, committing the atrocities in the name of religion and forgetting the most basic of the truths which religion was supposed to instill, humanity, I thought that posting this poem would be apropos. I had written this a few years back, on the same day, while I was browsing through some partition pictures. One of them had caught my attention and I had been unable to get it out of my mind. It was a picture of vultures feasting on the flesh of the dead people who were killed during partition in the name of the religion, a label given by the virtue of birth rather than anything else. I felt that I had to write something about this, when people were celebrating the day of our independence from the British Raj, I felt it necessary to remind myself of the horrors of radicalism and extremism. And now, when I see what is happening around us in India, which prided itself on it’s diversity, becoming so intolerant and being saffronised for all the wrong reasons, I feel we need to remind ourselves that religion is something which should give us freedom of thought rather than making us prisoner to its ideologies. I realize that it might seem like I have concluded the poem on a very cynical note, but that is not the case, my intention was to make the reader think, think about the repercussions of extremism and religious zealotry. I want us to take the lesson from the past and understand what havoc was wreaked in the name of religion by some foreigners, for whom the differences in our theologies was just a way of serving their means. At least now we should be more educated and think that if we are still divided over the differences in ideologies, are we truly free? Should we really be celebrating the independence as our minds are still beholden to the fire which was ignited by the Britishers? For us to be really free, we need to break the bonds of ideological slavery and celebrate our similarities. Because we have to remember, “United we stand, Divided we fall”. Maybe this poem will serve as a warning that if we do not start towards the path of acceptance, we will end up being a part of similar carnage, a mere feast of the crows.
I have used the same picture which I have mentioned above as the featured image for this article. Below is the link I was browsing through when I chanced upon this image, some of them are very graphic, so please bear that in mind before clicking it –
The carrion birds feast tonight,
In the aftermath of furious twilight,
Black as ink, those despicable crows,
Lurking amidst deeper shadows,
Pecking at dead flesh with copious delight;
They eat the white flesh, as they eat black,
Gorging on entrails going slack,
Horny beaks hammering at gore,
Trivializing the lineage that slaughtered bore,
While corpses lay supine on their backs;
A hand lay mangled on a grassy spot,
A crescent and star tattooed on skin, beginning to rot,
While a child lay prone, turban on head,
Blood pooled between them on the massacre bed,
Death mingled what life could not;
In the name of God, the havoc was wreaked,
Mosques were shattered, temple debris lay heaped,
Do we define religion, or religion defines us?
Are we cut of cloth, as ignorant as treacherous?
In answer, distinctly, the humanity shrieked;
Air blew thick with stench of rot and offal,
Dignity lay tattered over meaningless squabble,
Faith was shrouded with rigid tenets,
The face of sanctity, hypocrisy personates,
While scavengers feed upon the moral rubble;
Mosques will be erected, temples rebuilt by men,
The carnage will be deftly forgotten by then,
Again will the pillars of self-righteousness stand,
Once more the blood will spill on holy land,
The carrion birds will sleep bellyful again.
Have you ever been overwhelmed by a piece of music so much so that you close your eyes and you find yourself sleeping under a blanket of stars, all alone, the silence so deafening that it makes you forget the memories of noise, the music being the blood in your veins and you are afraid that at any moment your heart will burst out of your chest and hover over you, teasing and taunting, and each time you will try to touch it, the fingers will just brush by and then it will go up and up until it is obscured and lost in the unknown vastness. Do you feel it ever to just lie down and surrender to all of this, let it be your life blood and your ruination at the same time. Does the music ever makes you feel nostalgic for things you have never done, never experienced, never even thought of before, but then suddenly the thoughts, the desires, the need is there to do those things, experience those moments once. And that it is absolutely necessary for you to experience them at that very moment or you will positively die from the lack of it, but then that moment passes and you are awash in a deep sadness of losing something which never was to begin with. Am I making any sense to you? Or am I a lunatic for writing this while sitting on the terrace at two in the morning, shivering and searching for the correct words to channel the overwhelming sentiment I feel myself drowning in. I wish somebody reads this. I wish no one reads this ever. What difference will it make when all of this is over. If I believe in the Nietzsche’s concept of eternal return, do I want this moment to happen again and again and be trapped in the cycle of eternal loop or do I want to escape it? Would I be a fool to say yes, I do want to feel the way I do right now again and again, like that moth who is bound to the flame eternally. Oh how I wish I had two hearts, one just for music and all the purple prose I could write for music, the other for all the other things I love in my life. But what if I never get to feel what I feel right now, what if this could never be recaptured, what if this is just it, whatever I can make of it. This reminds me of a quote I had read of Heraclitus,
“We both step and do not step in the same rivers. We are and are not.”
We can’t step into the same river twice, the river is constantly changing. Moreover, we step into and out of the river as different beings. The river changes and so do you. So, if that were the case, the next time when I feel something akin to this, I will be a different person and the feeling, which will be different from what it is now, might mean the same as it means to me right now. The only thing constant in this world is change, the feeling you derive from the world is relative of the time. Maybe Oliver got it right in Call me by your name, when Elio reads Oliver’s observation out loud,
“The meaning of the river flowing is not that all things are changing so that we cannot encounter them twice, but that some things stay the same only by changing.”
Whatever the case be, eternal return or the constant flux of change, I hope I remember this feeling forever, the music thumping in my veins and the sound of silence.
“Your soul is the whole world.” – Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha
Have you ever come across a feeling that you are floating while people around you are firmly rooted to the ground? And while floating, you begin to realize that you are at the brink of something, maybe a portal to some other realm, or an edge which you just can’t seem to cross over and you are so immersed in your struggle that you do not realize what has been going on around you, like you are living in an opaque bubble which is a microcosm in itself. I find myself feeling like that more often than not nowadays. It is an agitation, that there must be more to life than what I am simply doing, that there must be something that I am supposed to do, to seek, to find to settle the unease which writhes inside my bosom. I would be walking, eating, or doing any one of the numerous tasks that I do in a day, and suddenly the absurdity of it would hit me like a slap of cold water. My body would start to feel buoyant, my movements sluggish and I would be performing the task by sheer reflex and muscle memory. The human life and human concerns would seem like a distant memory, very farcical in reminiscence and my own body as a third entity which I would observe as a mere spectator. And then in a few minutes or few hours I would snap back into the reality, but with a heavy heart and a penetrating sadness that I had once again missed the opportunity to cross over the edge, to discover what has been hidden from my eyes for so long. I hesitantly ask my friends whether they also feel the way I feel, is the anxiousness a normal human discourse which all must go through at least once in their lifetime, but alas, to my utter disappointment, I get the answers in negative. How lonesome it sometimes is to feel what no one around you does, and to not understand the feelings which come easily to them.
I discovered long back that reading is my haven from the restlessness and the demons, who poke their heads in time to time to check up on me from the periphery of my existence. But lately I have built up a forbearance against it, just like a chronic alcoholic develops a tolerance against being easily inebriated. Now, even while engaged in reading, I find the restlessness creeping in, my heart fluttering and a rushed feeling of longing piercing through. Rarely do I get the chance to immerse myself in a book so much that I am able to overcome the unaccounted thoughts that I have been having and attain the simple pleasure of living another life and imagine a different world come to life. And when I find the read which takes me on such a pleasurable voyage, I feel blessed. It happens every time when I read Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ or Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’. And it happened again when I read Hermann Hesse’s ‘Siddhartha’. It was an emotional and spiritual journey, an expression of self and a reflection of self in others, it has been a long time since I have felt this contentment after reading a book and in such a way that immediately after finishing it, I started it again. Looking back, I realize that the reason these books have a permanent place in my heart is not because of the flamboyance of the prose or an intrinsic plotline, they had none of those things. The thing which got me hooked was the simplicity of the language and a story which trickles down like the flowing water, natural in its discourse. The philosophy discussed and delivered in such a coherent and unassuming way was a magnet for me. If anyone asks me, do you think ‘Siddhartha’ was a work of art, I would definitely say yes. Art is a personal experience and it means different things to different people. For me, art is a spiritual term, an access to a higher power, a rush of euphoria, a staircase towards heavenly gates. It puts tears to my eyes, smile on my lips and grandeur in my heart. It is much more than what we mortals comprehend, but we strive for it. It’s the universe’s phenomenon of creation and destruction at the same time, a synergic force. Is not the whole cosmos a piece of art and its creator an artist? It can never be explained away in mere words, it must be felt. The feeling of divinity when you create something, something never done before, and you realize this is how God must have felt while creating the Universe. I read Siddhartha and I felt a part of what Hermann Hesse would have felt while writing this book. It is the story of Siddhartha, a Brahmin and an ascetic, and his journey to achieve enlightenment. I see Siddhartha in his childhood and feel the longing he does, I see him grow up and feel myself becoming one with him gradually, tearing up when he is saddened, smiling when he is joyous. When Siddhartha describes his feeling of restlessness and a sense of disquiet for an unknown, I feel like I have known him for a long time. His decision to join the Samanas, an esoteric group of severe ascetics who wander from one place to another to discover the path to enlightenment and then meeting Gautam Buddha and realizing that he would forge his own path instead of following any established school of thoughts made me conscious of the fact that even I have never felt satisfied with any of the established philosophical doctrines and have always tried to follow what I felt right. Though I wouldn’t presume to compare myself with Siddhartha, I feel a small part of him resides in me, in all of us. His eventual fall into the trap of Maya(illusion of the phenomenal world, materialism) even after consciously trying to avoid it, is felt by us all at one point of time or another. There’s a lesson to it, in Siddhartha’s own words,
“Siddhartha now also realized why he had struggled in vain with his Self when he was a Brahmin and an ascetic. Too much knowledge had hindered him; too many holy verses, too many sacrificial rites, too much mortification of the flesh, too much doing and striving. He had been full of arrogance; he had always been the cleverest, the most eager – always a step ahead of the others, always the learned and intellectual one, always the priest or the sage. His Self has crawled into priesthood, into his arrogance, into this intellectuality. It sat there tightly and grew, while he thought he was destroying it by fasting and penitence. Now he understood it and realized that the inward voice had been right, that no teacher could have brought him salvation. That was why he had to go into the world, to lose himself in power, women and money; that was why he had to be a merchant, a dice player, a drinker and a man of property, until the priest and Samana in him were dead. That was why he had to undergo those horrible years, suffer nausea, learn the lesson of the madness of an empty, futile life till the end, till he reached bitter despair, so that Siddhartha the pleasure-monger and Siddhartha the man of property could die. Siddhartha was transitory, all forms were transitory, but today he was young, he was a child – the new Siddhartha – and he was very happy.” – Siddhartha
It’s the experience which is the ultimate teacher and humility the true virtue to possess. After coming to this realization, he let’s a river and a ferryman become his spiritual guide and he attains the state of Nirvana in the lap of mother nature. There’s much more to the story than what I have summarized here. I feel this is one of those books whose new depths you discover every time you revisit it.
Even though the book’s title is Siddhartha and we can see references to the Gautama and Buddhism, there is no place where Hesse tried to nudge the reader towards Buddhism. This book doesn’t preach, there’s no doctrine to it, it doesn’t put forth some tenets for you to follow for achieving a perfect state of mind, instead it encourages readers very subtly to become a path finder, and that there is no need for renouncement and severe asceticism to achieve Nirvana, a person, living a common life can also attain it. He need not be a monk in form, but a monk in heart. A common ferryman, living in a small hut and helping carry people across the river for a small sum of money could also be an enlightened man. I felt there was a freedom to his expression, following yourself and let the nature guide you. Do not be trampled by some doctrine just because it has been an established form, forge your own path and become your own master through experiences. After all, is it not what they all did, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, to attain Nirvana?
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Rumi
Last night, I dreamt about my grandpa (whom I used to call Daddu), I don’t remember the specifics of it, but we were sitting on a garden bench, talking and silently contemplating the world around us, and there was a sense of profound serenity surrounding me. I woke up refreshed and energized, and since morning I have been trying to recollect the memories I have of him. It’s been almost five years since he has last breathed, but I find some of the memories are still as fresh as a sweet Sunday morning. The way he used to scrunch up his nose while watching television, the twinkle in his eyes when he used to make a sarcastic remark, the way he used to raise his brows while imparting some life lessons to me, these memories are like lemon tart topped with meringue, flaky, smooth and sweet with a twist of lemony zing to it. He used to be a jovial person, leaning towards naughtiness when my grandmother was alive. I remember he used to spit on his hand and slap her butt to spur her on for some errand while we kids used to giggle with glee.
After her death, he had become a little moody, more introspective. I had seen the gradual bow in his shoulder within one year of her death, a look of a beaten man saying I faced everything that life threw at me with a stern back and smiling face, but the day you departed Ashi (my Daddu’s nickname for my grandma), I tasted the dust of defeat. He had become a shell of a man he used to be, following the routines without the motivation behind them, laughing with a hollow ring to it and living without a trace of will. He had his friends he used to meet daily over evening tea, he had us, his family, but I guess we were all busy with our routines to give him our constant company. I had once asked him, “What do you think when you go all silent staring at space?”, his reply haunts me to this day. He had said that I stare off at space and bring her picture to my mind and say to her, “Agar tum hoti to aisa hota, agar tum hoti to waisa hota” (How life would be if you were here with me today). I still find my eyes watering when I think about his suffering, his loneliness, a profound sadness over the loss of your soul mate with whom you have faced life’s every ups and downs. It made me wonder, was it worth it, loving someone to this extent and then suffering from the loss of them, I asked him that. He just smiled at me in a way which said million things at once, and my young mind struggled to make sense of it.
I would always find myself drawn towards him, sitting with him silently, contemplating, asking him questions about his life and adventures and listening to his story. I aged years during those times while my body remained that of a teenager. Is it a little wonder that I became cynic of the word ‘love’ people were throwing about without any weight to it. The love I had observed between my grandparents, the love which knew no bound of life and death, the love with which he used to remove the speck of dust from my grandma’s picture after her death the same way he used to remove lint from her saree when she was alive, that is what love is for me. I might sound like a naïve idealist to some people, but they wouldn’t know what I am talking about until they see what I have seen, or what I see when I look at my Mom and Dad. When you grow up in a family where two generations preceding yours are quintessential examples of love done right, you start to expect the same from life and refuse to settle for anything less, and in the process, end up being considered a weirdo amongst your own generation of millennials. Still, I would rather wait and be called a weirdo than settle and be the woman of the new generation family. In fact, I would advise people of my generation to wait and do not settle, aspire for a mature love rather than a flitting euphoric feeling, wait for the people who would be right for you and bring you more happy moments than sad ones. As for the answer to how to know who is the right one, I guess we all just drudge along until we stumble upon it, terrified to the core, at least that is how I imagine myself finding it on the good days. And trust me, it would be difficult, but not impossible, to be different from your peers, to be an uncommon millennial.
यूँही करवट बदलते हुए मेने देखा
एक परी को आसमान में उड़ान भरते
ज़रा नज़र घुमायी तो पाया
एक विशाल दानव को उसका पीछा करते
दिल थाम कर मेने कहा उस हवा से
कि लेजा इस पारी को उड़ा कर दूर कहीं
जहाँ दिल में ना हो डर
सर रहे ऊँचा हर डगर
जहाँ साँसे लेना हो आसान
अपनी हवस का ना ग़ुलाम हो हर इंसान
जहाँ अरमानो के पुलिंदे बोझ ना लगे
ख़्वाबों से ये परी जूझ कर ना जगे
जहाँ आज़ादी एक अल्फ़ाज़ ही नहीं
बल्कि एक सच्चायी हो
जागे वो इसी जन्नत में हर दिन
जहाँ काफ़िर भी बन जाये मूमिन
और यूहिं जब ख़यालों से बाहर आयी तो देखा
उस पारी को अपनी आँखों के सामने से ओझल होते हुए
शायद मेरी दुआ किसीने सुन ली होगी।
कितने अजीब होते हैं ये बादल भी
कुछ ही पलों में एक दृश्य दिखा जाते हैं
और हम नादानों की तरह, उनकी कहानियाँ बुन देते हैं
और हज़ारों ख़्वाहिशों पे दम निकाल देते हैं।
I am a woman.
And I was nude when I took my first ever breath. I guess God forgot to keep my modesty in mind before shipping me off to a country where the length of my clothes decides the size of my virtue. It quite concludes that I was born virtueless. What horror.
Growing up, I was taught that a girl’s virtue is like an open vault, and that it’s my duty to preserve what is there inside that vault. I never questioned the bizarre logic of it. Never once raised the concern why I had to stand by and guard my vault while my brothers ran amok, unconcerned about any vaults, open or otherwise. Later, I just accepted it as a gospel truth and followed the footsteps of the women in my family. I felt secure in the knowledge that I have followed all the rules and I was safe from the big bad thief who was waiting out there to ransack my vault. I could not have been more surprised when life threw a curveball at me, shattering my preconceived notions of security forever.
For a time, I only wore salwar suit with dupattas while going out. I was not teased any less than my girlfriends who wore shorts and skirts. I even disassociated myself with those women, thinking that they were the reason I was marked for eve-teasing. Turned out, lonely women are considered easier targets. My next step was to surround myself with the women who were like me. Still, no change. I was still objectified. I was given street-time monikers like ‘tota’, ‘maal’, ‘pathaka’, which lurking bullies used to call me while tittering among themselves. I learned to ignore them. Learned to be deaf to all those catcalls, whistles and derogatory remarks. Learned that even if you follow all the rules, the big bad wolf out there played dirty and no rules on earth will save you from its claws when it strikes. This might sound overly cynic to some people, but trust me, I am speaking from a lifelong experience. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether you drape a saree, dupatta, burqa or wrap yourself inside a blanket, if they sense you are a woman, they will go for the kill. I used to think that maybe if I changed something from my lifestyle, this would stop, but now, after twenty-four years of experience behind, I can safely say that it’s not my fault, that nothing I do or change will make any difference. That is not to mean that I have stopped taking basic precautions, those are necessary, in fact mandatory. I go armed with a pepper spray, taser and my right hook. I dress to suit the place. But I have stopped deluding myself that the length of my dress decides the size of my virtue. In the society we live in, remarks are like a brand of disregard stamped on the prejudice forever and no amount of cloth can suffice to cover it, six yards or more.
Everyone knows what they say for a city girl – “You can take the girl out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the girl”. I think the same holds true for a small town girl. You can take us out of those small towns, but you can’t take them out of us. It still lives inside us, the serenity, the peace, the incredible moments we have experienced while living there will always have a special place in our hearts. Living there, we experience a spiritual connection to all cosmos, our city problems seem flimsy perturbations from a far-away world, and we feel time slowing down, letting us savor life while the sand sifts through the hourglass.
Today’s sky, my favorite shade of blue,
It reminds me of something,
It reminds me of you.
The deserted sylvan paths,
The mildly swaying trees.
The leisurely ticking clocks,
The gently blowing breeze.
They remind me of something,
They remind me of you.
The languid afternoon sun,
The placid specular lake.
The simple bucolic life,
The embracing eonian glade.
They remind me of something,
They remind me of you.
Today’s sky, now a parting rosy hue,
It reminds me of something,
It reminds me of you.
To eat, or not to eat- that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler to let men suffer
Let them dance on my outrageous purr-tunes
Or to take claws against those puny humans,
And by opposing end them. To kill- to sleep-
No more; and by a sleep to say I end
The imbeciles, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To kill- to sleep.
To sleep- perchance to dream: ay, there’s the delight!
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When I have shucked off those mortal fools
And taken my rightful position in the world,
Eating fishes for rest of my eternal life.
For I don’t bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, I, The meow-nificent feline is the queen,
Giving my paltry love to no one, I make the laws,
The insolence is my office, and the spurns
I merit upon those unworthy fakes,
Those self-righteous blind snakes.
With a bare claw? Who would these pincers tear,
To scratch and slit a cushioned futon or flesh,
But then the purr-suasion to do something else-
The undiscover’d lasers, from whose bourn
a stream of light- puzzling the will,
And makes me rather a catheletic screwball
To run and catch that impudent beam which dare run away from me?
Thus cat-titude makes claw-oon of us all,
And thus the human race still survives
I’m sick o’er with this pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.- Softball you now!
They say. What they don’t know is,
I have just pro-cat-stinated,
I still have eternity to do all this and more,
And thus ended Queen Cat-herine’s soliloquy encore.
There are moments, which are so humongous, so loud that they affect you and all the people around you in a most incredible fashion. Your senses become sharper, your heart beats a little faster, and you eyes see a kaleidoscope of colors you had never imagined before. And then there are moments which are silent, just like the murmur of an autumn leaf when it falls to the ground with a soulful sigh, unbeknownst to the passersby. In those moments, your senses are jumbled, your heart feels heavy, and your eyes, those windows to your soul, well, they see the world a little blurred. I experienced one such moment two months ago. It was a beautiful Monday morning, the sun was keeping a low profile, my scar from the zit which I had popped two days ago, had almost faded, and I had made a perfect half-fry for breakfast, which to be honest, is once-in-a-blue moon kind of thing. The only fly in the ointment was that we were celebrating ethnic day in our office and we had to wear the Indian ethnic wear equivalent, saris. Now, there’s nothing wrong with wearing a sari, in fact, I find them quite exquisite, but when you don’t know how to drape one, then the real nightmare begins. And mine began when after my nth unsuccessful and pitiful attempt, I looked at my watch and realized that the time was not in my favor. I ended up wrapping the six yards of grace in the most ungraceful way I could find. Between continuously cursing while glancing at my watch and stumbling through the sidewalk, I reached office. Huffing and Puffing, I dumped my bag upon my desk and adjusted the loose end of the sari which was about to fall off my shoulder. Somebody called my name and I turned around to see a guy holding a flower, a noticeably red flower, in his hands, making me raise my hackles up. Flustered with embarrassment, he coughed into his fist before speaking, “We are offering flowers to all the women on the floor, and this one is for you.” Relaxing a little I took a step forward to take the flower and promptly fell upon him. Ordinarily, woman fall for a guy when offered a flower, but I? I fall on them. Mortified by my clumsiness, I stood up and apologized profusely to the guy. He, of course, said it was alright and again offered me the, now sagging-and-bruised, flower. As soon as I took it, he ran away, leaving a sad tale of mortification behind. My nail-in-the-coffin moment came when I realized my sari had come undone and the distance between my cubicle and washroom was not, let’s just say, anywhere near short. I made a wild dash towards the washroom, all the while holding my sari in place in case it slips off and reveals my birthday suit to everyone present. I distinctly remember people greeting me while I was orchestrating the awkward waddling dance, but naturally I did not mind them, as my focus was on reaching the ultimate women’s destination without any further mishap. Reaching there, I went inside the first empty stall and covered the lid to sit on it and think about the damage control measures. Calling one of my female colleagues came to mind, but my cellphone was in my bag so that option went into the bin. Thinking that I would ask the next person who enters the washroom for help, I came out and checked my reflection in the mirror. From the corner of my eyes, I saw a woman sitting at the end of the washroom, near the last stall. She works as a help for my company, I knew her by face, as I would see her daily in the washroom, cleaning the stalls and arranging the wet towels for us. Looking at her closely I remembered that I had once bandaged her hand when she had cut it from the sharp edge of the aluminum tissue holder. I was so busy staring at her that it took me two minutes to realize that she was gesturing me to come near her. Befuddled and curious, I went to her and stopped at a short distance. On a closer inspection, I could gauge her age at about early side of the forties. Her face was covered with irregular port-wine stains, and her eyes had crinkle lines at the edges. She stood up as I approached her and started to set the pleats in my sari. I think she had taken pity on me, and feeling grateful about it, I started to tug here and there to help her help me. Finally annoyed, she took both my arms and raised them vertically at the shoulder level. While I was busy imitating a scarecrow, she magically draped the sari around me perfectly. She even used her own safety pins to hold it in it’s place. Happy and satisfied, I thanked her and looked at my reflection again. But as it turned out, she was far from done. Taking my head in her hands, she started to smooth my frizzy hairs with her palms. She was doing it with such tenderness and such dedication, that I just froze up. She pulled a bobby-pin from her own hairs and fixed into mine. And I found that my heart was getting heavier by the minute, the simple act of breathing was getting difficult, my vision was getting blurred, and to top it all, my mind was playing tricks on me, because I could feel my mother’s hand caressing my hairs rather than hers. Feeling foolish and surreptitiously rubbing the moisture away, I glanced at her and found her eyes moist too. By gesticulating, she explained to me that she had no children. Speechlessly, I squeezed her hands and tried to communicate the sympathy I was feeling towards her. Later, I went about my day as usual, but the whole time I was thinking about that moment, the silent one, where the emotions had broken the barriers language had put. That moment when I had caught a brief glimpse of a mother staring back at me, and she probably caught a glimpse of a daughter she could briefly imagine was hers. In the end, these words, mothers and daughters, they break down to their lowest units, sentiments. For a brief moment, the mirror was reflecting a mother and a daughter, and in that moment, it did not matter whose mother she wasn’t and whose daughter I was, the identity of those labels had become obscured. It’s been two months since that happened, but still whenever we meet, we hug and smile at each other. That moment had created a bond between us which cannot be explained away in mere words. Was it just life running it’s usual course? I’d like to believe otherwise. It was serendipity.