The Creaking Chair ...

The Creaking Chair – Part XXX

29th May 1954

Cat Stevens couldn’t have captured the emotions I feel right now
better than how he did in the song “Father and Son”
Now this song has been and I am sure will be one that would be close to my heart all my life
and for multiple reasons
As I write this today though, I feel pulled the anger and frustration
of the high-pitched voice of the son in the song
and ‘I know I have to go away’

To be frank I should not have much to complaint about

if I look at it from the idealistic way
I have a room to myself at my parent’s house
my privacy doesn’t get overly infringed and I can practically do what I wish to
as long as it is in my own quarters and does not draw enough attention
I get good food and don’t have to worry about cooking it
I can get and borrow all the books I need from the local library
and devour them in my room in my solitude
while I also write down all my pent up thoughts in my multiple diaries
and most importantly I don’t have to see or hear domestic quarrels
or worry about someone snapping up at me for anything and everything I do
which I know quite a few of my friends have seen in their homes

But in spite of all this, there is something which is eating me alive

I don’t know if it is a factor of my age that I see and sense and feel so
or can I attribute it to the days I have spent alone over the last few years
which have turned me into a person which is so distant from what I am at my home
and the dichotomy of my emotions and personalities is too much to cope up with now
but there is a constant sense of suffocation, which is drawing me in everyday slowly but steadily
It’s creating a rift in my head where the distant personality of what I was when I lived in this house for the first time as a kid
and what I have turned out to be now as an adult – independent and different in many ways
they clash and try to resolve the outward expressions of my being in a constant duel
It has also got to do with the presence of my parents
and the lack of communication that we have had for so many years

Ok, to be fair – we do communicate and talk a lot and are there for each other

but in spite of all of that there is a huge chunk of my personality which they are unaware of
and it has to be a two way lack of communication
while they possibly never left the time and space of this house when I was an innocent kid
and life was pleasant and they were young and had their ambitions alive
I on the other hand, have never taken the initiative to truly introduce the new me to them
for the fear of conflicting principles and ideals, or simply to avoid the effort of explanation
but the conflict in my head due to all of this now seems to be reaching an extreme point

Time flows differently when I am alone in a different city
and it is weird – because even now I am alone in my room
but the underlying thought in my head is aware that my mother is about to set up supper
and this being the and off day for me (there is a different story of how everyday is an off for me but they don’t know about it, yet)
the expectation is that I should have the supper together
but I am in the flow right now, letting out my emotions and thoughts,
breaking my routine of a night time diary entry and rather during it right after my bath
(and that is special and exceptional for me)
but I can feel the hands of uncalled for pressure in my head to stop this and go and have supper with them, smile and make small talks
all the time craving for the silence of this room when I can be the real me, without any judgement or analysis of how I sit, or what I am about to say, or how I am feeling

This over obsession with my wellbeing and at times the worry of if I am ok,
it is unnatural and unhealthy, not only for my folks but it has been for all of us
and the lack of communication I promised myself post the famous bust up I had when I was in my undergrad has ensured that our relationship also doesn’t live up to the real potential it could
Living alone in a different city, time goes slower and much more peaceful
because the daily routines are not sacrosanct and there is fluidity to life
which makes life worth living and exploring, because that is the true me
unbound from the rules that we create for ourselves and hinder our growth
or stop us from evolving and seeing the world in a new light, when we can

I must stop though now, and come back and finish this when post my supper
I guess my dad was wait for the weekends to be the only time in the week when he can have a meal along with me
This both makes me reek under pressure, guilty and privileged all at the same time 

And as is the case most of the times, the flow is gone now as I sit again to complete this entry
All I know is that I have to go away …

~ Ashk

P.S. – This was the time when I had given up my daily stable job and was pretending to be working on an IT project to my folks, while I closed the room and was trudging away doing my side art gig

The Creaking Chair – Part XXIX

08th July 1999

I have been told I suffer from an elevated sense of narcissism
and I don’t think I can deny the allegations
you decide to agree and accept things when they are repeated
from multiple loved ones and time over time
I think I even get a sense of pride in the title, if it can be called so
it goes with being a narcissist I am told – a circular cycle

I have also tried to dig deeper into the reason of why it should be so
I am otherwise quite a humble character
if I were a part of a movie or a character in a book
I would be one of those on the edge characters
those whom you don’t etch themselves in your mind when you finish the book
but who linger on the periphery, with a few moments clearly remembered

But I digress from the point and linger on my own narcissism, again
No surprises..
what I want to write about is an introspection
which you would have guessed by now is on my narcissism
Yesterday I was speaking to Atul
and in the backdrop of the fact that the world is going through a shit storm
it was a conversation I had picked up to check on him
and his grandson who was unwell and in the throes of COVID
it should have been a one way conversation with an attempt to unburden the worries
“get some of the pain and frustrations out of the system by talking it out” as they say
and my part in the act was to lend a genuine ear, listen intently and support where I could
no rocket science

It was going on those tracks, till that point when Atul spoke about the fear of being useless
and not being able to provide enough help when the family needed it
the realization that we have grown old and were we a liability more than support
do our children feel more scared about our wellbeing than feeling a sense of comfort
it’s a thought that can wreak your mind – at our age, it does
but that line of thought was not the seed to be watered by me then and there
it was about Atul and his worries and I was supposed to be passive

But how do you maintain an air of neutrality in your head
when you are going through the same doubts and fears
and when that happens how do your prevent the stories from getting mingled,
fears becoming one and slowly but surreptitiously the narrative turning to your own life
so I guess it not just about me being narcissistic, but the fact that it is human nature
that is how I am justifying it to me tonight for a peaceful sleep
and in all fairness, we all have spend hours cribbing together about our life problems
when we were young and dumb, why should it change when we grow old and wiser as they say

~ Ashk

P.S. – Of late, I have realized I am being lazy in my entries. I build the background and hover on the edge of what happened, but don’t really go into the details when the time comes. What am I afraid of, I wonder!

P.P.S. – Atul lost his grandson 2 weeks post our talks. I am meeting him today to raise a toast to him. I hope I have the right words to say to Atul

The Creaking Chair – Part XXVIII

9th November 1988

When I was a kid, I was rarely exposed to any foreign language movie or play
we came from a humble background and were just catching up to the so called ‘upper middle class’
and we had certain values which we adhered to and certain unsaid ways of living
that changed when I moved to Delhi for a couple of years
for my first tryst with life as an adult – that is when I could relate to the movies & plays I saw
this was also the time when I had fought with my father in my effort to join the armed forces

That was the beginning of a curve in my life that took me to twisted routes
of ups and downs, of joys and sorrows, of adventures and misfortunes
but none of them did I regret or feel sorry about even today
had I not taken that route, I would possibly not have spent my time in Paris or Madrid
I may never have met Paul or Jamie or Harshita or Vani ; I can go on with the list
all treasures in my memory vault

I explored the emotion of love and the tickle in the stomach that comes with it
during that phase of life; and I think all these experiences turned me into a hopeless romantic
This was the time I was relishing in the absolute joy of writing
and all my amoral interests used to ask me – ‘why don’t you send me love letters?’
How I could never explain to them that I always wrote them love letters
but never attached the sentimentality of that name with what I wrote for them
Love letters need not be an event I always believed,
just like love was not meant to be celebrated only on the Valentine’s day.

I specifically remember the debate I had with Venessa on a sun kissed morning in Madrid
that’s when for the only time I tried to explain how my love letters worked
They were hidden in the notes I left purposefully in the books I borrowed from her
I know she hated any scribbles on her book – she believed books were sacred
but I always marked in pencil passages that was us, and scribbled my thoughts besides them

My love letters were written in small passages when I used to chat with her
The text messages we shared were full of hints of what I could say in plain sight to start with
which then moved to more overt expressions of adoration and desires
then, of course, there were phases of frustration – when I felt my words were not registering
or when she could not listen what I was talking about or maybe ignored the real meaning
I would never know if that was on purpose or because of her inherent fears

But then the emotions finally settled in
like sunlight falling from an open window in a darkened room
these hidden text became more about care and support
of knowing when she would get angry and when she would want to vent out
knowing when to push the buttons and when to stop sharing my not-so-funny jokes
of knowing how to make her smile and doing it even though I knew she may not respond
or decide not to acknowledge my efforts to make her day a little lighter

Of all the miniature letters I shared with her in this way
the ones which I would cherish are on those days when she was just her
not agitated after a grueling day at work or her struggles with her side gig
and definitely not on days when her spirits were high
No, it had to be the days when she was just herself
for those were the days, when my hints and my covert expressions of love made their mark
whether she acknowledged with a smile or a diversion in conversation was irrelevant
those were the days when I was making progress in my pursuit for her companionship

And yet I was sure she craved for a love letter, if and when we openly accepted our relationship
while she always said that she wanted relationships to not kill the individuality
and yet she was fiercely possessive
how did I know that and of other things she was – I possibly wrote in my year end memoir for the year 1962


~ Ashk

P.S. – The only time I did write a love letter was a 12-page note filled with poetry and excerpts from our first chats on a hand sketched paper backdrop

P.P.S. – Maybe the reason I never wrote an actual love letter post that was to hold the purity of the memory of that letter in my heart 

The Creaking Chair – Part XXVII

17th October 1988

‘Of evenings that smell of you’

Often times I have written about heavy clouds in an evening sky
and many a times of winter or summer evenings
all coming with their own character of restlessness, calm or anger
but there have been only a few instances when I have written of a casual evening
one that is uncharacterized by anything unusual, rather is surprisingly plain
As I remember now, such evenings belonged to you,
beautiful in it’s own serene ways

And such evenings were divided in two phases in my life
one was the phase when I spent those evenings with you
whether you were physically present around me
or we were separated by distance, yet connected by spirit
and the other phase is one with memories
of you, of a distant me and of us
of reminiscence and stories and letters on the balcony

But most of all I remember the evenings when I felt restless
and you getting out of your evening bath would come to sit besides me and my chai
and the fact that your smell made me aware of your presence around me
how that calmed my troubled mind
I don’t we used to speak much during those evenings
but it was time well spent on the verandah
looking at the children playing in the garden and letting time flow in peace

Even as a kid I used to dislike twilight
you remember one time, we even had a heated debate on how I don’t “hate” twilight
rather how I “disliked” it for reasons you could never understand
There is such a sense of sadness watching the sun go down every evening
after shining with all its glory – symbolizing that time runs away – sooner or later
and possibly it excited in me my fear of time running out
maybe that was the reason why I never enjoyed twilight

It may also have been because of how I missed playing cricket in the evenings as a kid
or the fact that I started sleeping around 5 PM and waking up to dusk at around 6.30 PM
or it may also have been due to the timing of the calls with her – she would know which her am I talking about
I started using that conversation as a crutch to get over my sense of loneliness during those days
and then we stopped talking making my evenings even drabber
but with you it was always different, we were never addicted to each other
we lived completely with each other – I guess that was the difference

And maybe that is why I do not write so much about such evenings

~ Ashk

P.S. – In a weird way, the best part of the day for me has always been after the twilight ends and the night engulfs you into its mystique

The Creaking Chair – Part XXVI

07th April 1988

‘A commentary on struggles and injustice’
this was the pamphlet in my hand
as I entered the market place in Toulouse on this Sunday afternoon
I was out to buy some croissant and wine for an evening of recluse
in my immaculately neatly kept apartment
a fetish I had developed recently and was slowly developing great pride in

It was supposed to be a dialogue followed by a rendition of Warsaw concerto
and the orations would focus on the themes of
‘human spirit and resilience’, ‘the fundamental nature of the oppressor”
and ‘the anatomy of a revolt’
to my Sunday slumbered mind these sounded quite grand
but then the name of one of the speakers stood out to me
We had dated for sometime during my stay at Marseille
and I realized how organically had we drifted apart 

The fact that the passage of time between us was so vivid in my head
was a revelation for me – I had barely thought about her for the last 5 months
and it had been only 5 months since we bid our farewells to each other
The name reminded me of how we had met – on a metro reading the same book 
‘Incest – by Marquis de Sade’ – it was one of those unplanned book pick ups for me
may be it was providence playing its subtle hands
I was almost finished reading the book and she asked me while we sat in a café that evening
what did I think about the book and I remember word by word what I had said

“The book for me started on a note that shook me out of comfort. Reading it induced raw un-supplemented emotions of fear, love and pity, slowly building up to anger and disgust. The best part of the narrative for me was the dialogue with the priest - provocative and questioning societal norms with logic and not emotions. There was something raw about the entire book”

And she laughed whole heartedly at my comments
How little you know about the struggles of human emotions
as if you don’t want to touch the real surface and be content with what floats on water
abashed and angered – I let loose a discourse on the genesis of human emotions & our responses
passionately peeling away each layer with great care and little remorse 
by the time I had finished, we were near the Old harbour somewhere in Le Panier
and the night goaded us along towards the sea and to many nights of passionate debates on human
emotions, the justice of struggles and of equally passionate love making

So when I saw her name on that pamphlet I knew I would be pulled to the auditorium
to listen her speaking with the same audacious ferocity on a subject she adored
by the time I entered the venue, it was already twilight and my heart was pregnant with anticipation
of possible recognition, of awkward silences, of uncomfortable laughter and possible reunions
for someone who had just finished writing a section of romantic prose, nothing was an impossibility

2 hours later when I left the building to a moonless night
I was troubled and knew the writer in me would be awake for the next few days
trying to pen a soliloquy on the struggling emotions of the forsaken spectator in a revolt
I felt a thousand thoughts brewing in my head on the real motives of struggles and revolutions
of propagandas and high collared talks of reforms and need for change in mentalities
of the stories being told of the victims in a tone of superiority rather than empathy
like a trophy being displayed upon the deliverance of a speech which serves none but self-aggrandization

Two hours of the discourse pulled me away from my hopes of a romantic reunion
and rather edged me towards a shady escape for the fears of being spotted by the lady
As I sat through, I was slowly transformed from a placid listener of a commentary to the oppressor in the play.
I was the ringmaster of oppression in the commentary, the person who grew in power by deceit
I had become the example amongst the multitude of generalized aggrievements  – without reason or action 

And all for the purpose of a proof of a paper written without consent about the struggling emotions of the victim at the hands of the oppressor
But did I have a say in the act of becoming an unsuspecting villain in the play of a revolution-in-making
was it even a necessity when I had passed the audition without my knowledge, for representation of a character that I might have resembled
but in the long run it should all make sense, for the achievement of equanimity would demand a few sacrifices on both ends
and the liberals and neo-liberals ready to salvage what would remain of the aftermath

~ Ashk

P.S. – I did end up taking a bus to Marseille to have a cup of coffee at the same café that night for closures 

P.P.S. – If you want still more understanding of what I really meant, my discourse on “The faux-perils of the perceived oppressor” was inspired by that night in the auditorium

The Creaking Chair – Part XXV

12th September 1990

There are days when your body and mind craves for a fight
it can be in a brawl in a bar
or a war of words and emotions with your dear ones
but there are days when you just crave for some kind of a outlet
of course you don’t want to really hurt anyone
or get hurt yourself – physically or emotionally
but you want to have that rush of adrenaline to cleanse your system

The feeling is like that of a rusty door frame
the hinges are crying out to come out – to break into dusty forms
and yet holding on too afraid of the sound of a falling door
as if it would break the slumber of a sleeping giant in the room
and that can not be good, is it?

The dichotomy of emotions at that moment,
it’s like the sound of wind slowly gaining speed before a storm
they say silence is the deepest before a storm
I disagree, I think it is after the storm that the silence really kicks in
when you realize the magnitude and reality of the destruction caused
before the storm is a sense of fear of what may become of the next few hours
you circle around that fear looking for something to hold on to
hopefully a belief or a faith that would not be blown away in the storm deserting you

The same sense prevails sometimes when you are looking for a fight
there is an unease inside you knowing that you are skirting on danger
relationships are delicate bonds that tangle at the slightest strain
the art lies in knowing when to stop when the debate kicks in
otherwise by the time you realize the knots are too string already for any respite
but there would be days when you would have the craving
to give into the dark side and join forces with the Sith Lord

I have a few of these skirmishes with friends and family over the years
it’s a blessing when they know your nerves are on the edge
and they ignore the venom on your tongue
but there are times when your anger needs to be on display
for you to be confident more than for the others to be mindful
the fine line draws or erases itself depending on how much you let it burn though you

~ Ashk

P.S. – I decided to start writing a few letters for Sahil. ‘WTD’ is what I am going to call it – Wisdom Thought Doodle.

P.P.S. – Star Trek is any day superior to Star Wars (Unpopular opinion but truth!)

The Creaking Chair - Part XXIV

14th October 1949

Habits form due to practice
but hobbies are not developed; it’s like having a feeling where they call to you
that’s what I believe
have you ever heard someone say, I am on a 21 day course to develop a hobby !
And there is no specific time when a hobby may prop its lure in your head
and the trigger can be many
for me my charm for cycling is one of those hobbies which happened to me

I am not yet a professional level cyclist
but glad I am getting good day by day
today is special because I hit the 100 Km mark for the first time
And when I sat to write about it I realized the strongest impressions were of the last mile
The last 10 Km gives you all kind of sensations
I am not even getting into the famed last mile stretch that the marathoners feel
thankfully, I did not feel any of those life changing, hard hitting epiphanies
or the absolute struggles of thinking how would I finish this infinite last stretch
to be frank, I don’t think I had the feeling that I would give up

For me, the emotions were more of a memory reel
drawing parallels to some of the most esoteric experiences of my life
the wind rustling through your ears inside the helmet reminded me
of listening to Opera music when I am trying to concentrate
Also this was the stretch which I enjoyed the most because I was not concentrating on the miles covered anymore
I was looking at the scenery around, the trees and the hues of the sky
Guess because I had finally accepted that I would end up finishing my 100 Km & not give up
the weight of self expectation had gone down & I started to look at it as a joy rather than a task

There was also a bit of palpable anxiety in my throat and stomach
don’t think it’s weird when I don’t say anxiety in the heart, this is on purpose
this was more of a nervous enthusiasm mixed with a sense of fear
think of a countryside in wales or Scotland
now imagine that you had a wonderful day ling drive enjoying the beauty of nature,
the sunshine, the warm mist of a evening pregnant with laughter of your beloved besides you
this was the feeling which you get post such a day when twilight settles
and you have reached a plateau overlooking a valley with an orange hued sunset
that feeling of how fast the day has gone, warming your heart for what a wonderful time it was
and that nostalgia already settling in making you fear the end of the evening – the moment sun would drop into oblivion in a few moments

Cycling is also dichotomous in that sense
when you are in the act, you are concentrating on completing the next km & then the km in an infinite loop
you would feel the troubles of your daily life, would be lost because your entire focus is on ensuring you reach the finish line
but once you start enjoying the process, you reach a meditative stage
when you start to reflect on life as your brain sending reminders to you to keep a track on the kms to go from time to time 

~ Ashk

P.S. – The feeling that came to me when I crossed the 100 Km line was that of being in my school Chemistry lab performing salt detection test and the colour changed in the beaker changed to yellow !!

P.P.S. – I need to gather my thoughts more around how does it feel for the first 90 km as well for a complete memoir

The Creaking Chair – Part XXIII

04th April 1991

There was a time in my early thirties when I was a rolling stone
stumbling from one gig to another 
like I had only a day to live and I had to achieve all that I could in that day 
and yet I had not reached a stage where I was mastering all that I was doing
or anyway close to it for that matter
It was a race in my head that I was running more than anything else

That was the time when I was writing a lot
so many authors had said that write as much as you can when you are young,
you would thank yourself later 
so I was following the route of quantity 
I set targets for myself and in that rut my focus wavered from the depth of what was penned down
I should have spent more time to let the poetry settle in my head
before it even had the far-fetched chance to settle on a piece of paper 
so most of the work from that time was uncooked; 
but at least there was quantity for me to prune later

I was also dabbling with my musical instincts 
restarted teaching myself guitar over the weekends through an online course (never works !)
Last time I had started learning guitar, it was more out of peer pressure
It was the cool thing to do, I had a group that played guitar and I was gullible 
Hence the classes were more of a drag and the drudgery of practice was too mundane for my liking
I was young and wanted results fast – so jumped from one teen player to another
for quick lessons and chords that could be easily memorized 
but this time I wanted to soak in the process – go slow – go through the drag 
but all in a day’s work ! Regular practice without any show off moves was still too painful for me

Back in my graduation days, I used to take classes for others on Robotics
and I wanted to get back to robotics and programming
that was the hip thing – if you have watched any sci-fi American series 
there was that one guy who could hack through any computer, break any cipher or make any gadget
I wanted to be that cool guy (too)
so I started with my pet project of an automated personal assistant 
and guess what I named it – Jarvis
I had to set up my own server, create my own home automation tools 
and have my own voice controlled responsive assistant

And then there were the other minor gigs 
Sketching – because when I was a kid, I used to like that art of expression and I had a few decent strokes I could strike, never really learnt it with rigor though 
Singing – There was this ever looming pet project with 3 friends of mine (all separately) where I had to start an online channel or create a movie where I would give voice over
Language – I started learning French thrice ! and I had wanted to be conversationally verse in Spanish & Mandarin as well, while I wanted to be able to read Sanskrit 
And then there were a couple of other side gigs I wanted to do work wise

So you would think I had my hands full, driven to make the most of my life 
turns out I was more scared than I was driven 
I was scared of the number 30
and I was scared that I had crossed that dreaded no of years of my life
and I may not even have started on the journey of what I can and must do 
that fear was driving me like a maniac in every direction
to search and look for that one source of inspiration that would put me on the right track
Some of these activities were a defense mechanism to know that I am actively doing ‘something’

And now that I look back
I was not completely wrong in the way I looked at life
that fear drove me to experiment and try new stuff
it made me hungry to learn and never settle 
to go to new places, to meet new people, to do something new each day (or at least try)
but it also makes me realize now, I was running shallow
first the fact that I was running – I had to slow down 
and enjoy the art I was trying to explore rather than do this too while thinking of the next gig
and second, I was dipping my fingers too thin into each of my attempts 
the fact that I had too many options I was trying, meant I was not afraid to fall 
and I was not driven enough to be devastated if I did not deliver the best masterpiece 
so I was always “Just there” but never “Wow, I have arrived”

In hindsight it all makes sense 
but I wish someone was there to tell me to slow down 
life will pass you however hard you try to stop it 
the only way to live life is to stop by and soak the sunshine 
and get drenched in rain on a windy day 
then use the memory of those moments to inspire your art (slowly while enjoying the process)!


P.S. – I ended up learning a mouth organ and playing a guitar is still not my best traits 

The Creaking Chair – Part XXII

22nd September 1992

Pratishtha visited us today after so many years
Kamal had no idea she was coming
It seems it was Veena who had received her call last week
and had decided to keep it a surprise for Kamal ;
My son was, let’s say more than surprised to see Pratistha sitting in the living room
as he came back from his evening bicycle ride
boy, he was flustered

First he looked at me, with the same innocent face
like the one he made some 17-18 years back when I first got to know about Pratistha and him
I was more angry at him for not telling me that something was going on
rather than the fact that he was dating someone
I had always been cool about it, and I always thought if he ever gets serious he would tell me
but then he went and told his mom and she unwittingly told me
I was angry at that betrayal than anything else

But how flustered was Kamal today
it was nostalgic to see him behave like a young college kid who comes back from the playground
and sees that his crush is sitting in his house in front of his parents
only in this case, he was petrified that it was Veena
for a moment I think he thought, she was angry
and he wanted to whisk Pratistha away and ask her what was she thinking coming in here

They had dated for almost 3 years during their graduation
and were dotingly in love – or that’s what they thought
she was a senior to him in his class of engineering
and he was quite the nerd of his batch
their favourite thing was the stroll on the park besides the Jawahar Bridge in rains
and did he think I did not know of his visit for ‘robotics project’ to her house every second week

It took him some time to recover and get back to his senses
the realization dawning on his face with relief spreading over his entire being
He had told Veena all about all of his rencontres d’amour in life
and she was having the guilty pleasure of watching him behave like a college kid once again
All said and done, Kamal will open the 15 year old bottle of wine he has preserved for special occasions


P.S. – Kamal thinks no one in the college knew, but his story of waltzing with Pratistha in the park besides the Jawahar Bridge when it rained was quite a story !

P.P.S. – I remember the day when I (who could never shake a leg) waltzed on a bridge on a rainy day with my love. 

funny story – she was super jealous when she got to know I had waltz on a bridge in rain with my first girlfriend in my graduation days and never let her make me dance anytime! I had to make it right

The Creaking Chair – Part XXI

27th October 1992

Sahil has been very quiet for the last few days
generally he used to come back from school and be all chirpy
he used to keep pestering me to listen to what happened
what was the latest trend in the playground
which technology were the kids of the new generation drooling over
and of course which girl is he starting to have a crush on

I am like the cool grandpa
something which Kamal is often jealous off
but he has to raise his game if you wants to compete with me
Just because he is my son does not mean I let him win easily
especially when it’s about being the BFF of my grand child  
Sahil told me what BFF means

Last month he also asked me to come along with him
to this gig thing that they do
it is just like the jamming session that I used to do when I was young
but they do a lot of things there
from singing and music to debates and someone also showcases his paintings on and off
reminded me of ‘Dead Poet’s society’
and I think he was just over enthusiastic to have called me 
he later felt quite relieved that I had told him I would not be coming 

So anyways, he seems quiet for the last few days
and on the edge and jumpy
in my experience, that happens either when you have a solid crush on someone
or you are being picked on by someone who prides himself to be a bully
and I have a feeling that since he is not speaking to me about it
it must be a bully. Sahil is tough but he needs someone to speak to
I am torn, yeah even at my age and with all the so called wisdom
should I speak or let Kamal know about it and let him speak to his son

I also feel sorry about how my gang used to bully Kristen
I may have played some part in the pranks as well
but then it was innocent, it was not as horrible as some of the stuff I hear these days
and we heard of nothing ‘bad’ that could have happened
so I guess we were not crossing the line
but then when I was bullied I also always smiled so that no one would hear my stories
I think best I focus my energies on Sahil and how to help him
maybe I could also call on Kristen and check how has his Harvard degree helped him - what a snob ! 

~ Ashk

P.S. – Amongst all the names I was called when I was bullied, the one I still laugh at today is ‘Sabrina’. How that video found on the internet with misplaced identity spread through in my graduation !!

The Creaking Chair - Part XX 

21st February 1986

I have hit a ‘Writer’s block’
I have absolutely no doubt about it
it’s been 6 days and I am stuck with the same 3 lines
no new rhythm in my thoughts and no cadence in my words
It’s like being stuck in a passage where you don’t know which side to go
I am not sure if I have to let go of this thought
and move on to writing something new
or should I persevere with this and be patient

22nd February 1986

I went to a coffee shop today
thinking maybe that would help
looking at strangers sitting and sipping their Mocha and Cappuccinos
engaging and thoughtless conversation with a random stranger
would help I thought to stimulate my grey matter
as if they would involuntarily push me forward in my endeavor
to pen down the next 3 lines
and then maybe I can come back here again and wait for another stranger
willing enough to come & sit by on the empty chair in front of me
and I would write another 3 lines that night  


23rd February 1986

I have bolted myself shut and promised to myself
that I would only leave this room when I complete this poem
The day has not been so productive, but maybe the night would have my creativity flowing
How do these authors end up producing novels on a trot
like it is some kind of an assembly line
I remember someone close to me used to tell me
how she envied that I could write so effortlessly
if only she saw me now


24th February 1986

After behaving like a maniac for 3 days, I am back to my senses
Vishal called – someone told him how stupid I was acting – I have a suspicion I know who told him
Anyway what he said made absolute sense –

“Poetry needs time to precipitate – it’s not another item on your To-Do list,
stop treating it like one & give it some respect !! 
It’s like an angel descending from a higher plane, 
it would take its own time and if you rush it, all you would get is a glimpse of its beauty
Just like rushing a poetry would give you only a glimpse of its skeletal thought
and never of it’s true character”

I will sleep in peace tonight,
Maybe I would end up naming this verse as ‘Writer’s Block’

~ Ashk

P.S. – I did end up completing “The Writer’s Block”. Go read it in the withered diary with a faded horse on its cover.

P.P.S. – That diary was a gift from one of my favourite couples. I wonder how many gifts to me were diaries !! I must have been an easy person to identify a gift for ! 

The Creaking Chair – Part XIX

4th April 1998

I have a very strong will power
over years, I have been able to resist a lot of my urges
those which would have caused me much trouble
and even those which were more innocent
But being able to control my desires so that they don’t consume me
has always been something I have prided myself on

And well of course, this is painting a broad stroke
the picture has a lot of finer details
times when I have completely given into my urges
even those which have definitely put me into a lot of trouble
and also joyful stories if I look back at them now
I am no saint, right? Remember the five night brawl in the winters of my 33rd birthday?

But then there is one pleasure which I could never give up on
the absolute joy of eating sweets – and I know some of you would never get what I mean
you need to truly admire the release of happy hormones in you
when you put that morsel of ultimate bliss in your mouth
I had a record in the house where I had eaten a kilogram of rasgulla in one go
how astounded was my sister !

But the reason I am going on babbling about this
is because I now need to reduce my intake of sweets
is what my doctor has told me
it’s like telling a life long smoker to stop smoking
ain’t gonna happen !
so my days of hiding things in the neck of my table top vase are back
good that at least Sahil is on my side
we already have a plan

~ Ashk

P.S. – If you have not tried yet, you must eat kala jamun made in the shape of a jalebi. Can’t explain why but the taste is just so much better than the regular Kala Jamun !

The Creaking Chair - Part XVIII

24th August 1999

Today evening was a surprise for me
Kamal came and sat besides me on the sofa
and slowly he rest his head on my lap and lay down there
Though he makes it a point that he spends at least an hour with me daily
either during my morning ritual of reading the newspaper
or the evening time when we have the badminton matches
he rarely shows any sign of such sentimentality

To start with I was worried 

I did not know what was going through his mind
but I knew he was tired, I could sense that in the way his body weighed on my legs
it was as if he was letting go of all his the weight he was carrying
I started to speak, but then I saw his eyes were closed
like he was in thinking of something old
reliving a memory I should not infringe on

He has been troubled for sometime now
I guess its been a couple of months – it shows on his face
and the way he goes inside his shell when he is troubled
even as a child he used to be highly impressionable
but selective on whose impressions he wanted to imbibe
rarely did I see him shouting at his friends or cousins
and I could feel the weight of all of those years slowly letting off as he lay on my lap

Last time when he felt so heavy was when he had decided to quit his work
that’s when he took to follow his passion – or that’s what they call it in today’s world
It had taken me 14 years to make him follow my pattern
one of choosing life and its mysteries over the ties of the worlds around
and he had told me how it was totally worth it
our conversation on how seriously we humans take our work
and how much of our life we give to it – knowingly & unknowingly
still remains as one of my most cherished memories – for it changed me & him for good

Him, because it made him realize what he was missing out on
it gave him the courage to do things which he was otherwise fearful to do
dreams he was otherwise fearing to dream
Me, because it made me realize how I was right when I took that plunge 27 years ago
and it made me go deeper into the reasons I did it
then it was more for to be called ‘the one who took the plunge’
now I realize it had a much deeper reason – something revolving around self-discovery


P.S. – Kamal had one of those days when he just wanted to let go and rest and he wanted to remember his childhood – my lap was the only memory which he could touch and transport himself back.

P.P.S. – It was a new experience for a son to watch his grown up dad lying like that on the laps of his old man..

The Creaking Chair - Part XVII

12th November 1999

One of the first books I picked up as a kid
was a random cover about the Greek Gods – and I was hooked
It was my first tryst with books other than my school books
and I was only a 11 year old kid, so obviously I was excitable
I used to go around asking people in the middle of a conversation 
‘what is your favourite book?’ – more like a hook for them to ask me the same thing, 
irrespective of whatever they answered 
And I would go on describing how I had found this book which described the history & mythology of Greek Gods
and how they should definitely pick it up – of course I don’t remember the author !

The sheer pleasure of getting hooked to words, I guess
coupled with the innocence of a child 
But somewhere my love for mythological characters, superheroes, Demi-Gods & super-villains with mythical powers originated from that innocent choice of book
And this is one of the reasons that I went to the Norway
well the allure of ‘Northern Lights’ came much later in my decision matrix to be frank 
I wanted to be in the land where the mythology originated

Two and a half months of travel through the Scandinavian land
And among other things which captivated me was the weather on some of those days 
the constant mist, the coldness and the sogginess of the day 
looking and searching for the sunlight and enjoying the clouded dampness 
I found it romantic in its own way and also mystic 
I think more mystic than romantic 
I was young and with a different temperament

I don’t know when did the transformation happen,
but I had started liking sunshine more than the constant cold of a misty day 
I could feel the lyrics of Beatles’ song in my bones 
the warmth of the sunshine hitting me and making me smile and cry 
not in a sad way though, like in a hopeful way 
but what is amusing to me is the shift from one spectrum to the other 
and the absolute love and joy for both when I was in those times

That’s what time does to you, I think 
experiences in life and your cravings decide how you feel about not just the weather around you, but so much more
and if you decide to stop and look back you would find it a fascinating journey
like for me the placement of my bed along the window side 
where I enjoyed the patter of the rain against the glass with an opened curtain 
while I drifted off to sleep
to moving my bed to the other corner of the room, 
closing off the curtain during the rainy nights 
and be content with the dim background noise of the rain pelting outside 
it was more symbolic of the shift in my temperament than I realized then


P.S. – The only thing which can put me to sleep though when nothing else can is the sound of Thunderstorms !

The Creaking Chair - Part XVI

15th June 1999

I have not been writing for the last 2 weeks
It is not the pattern I generally follow 
The last time I stopped writing my journal was when I was in the prison
but I had a sharper memory at that time 
so could remember all my thoughts to be filled in the journal later
The last 2 weeks were different though

I caught some infection and felt horribly weak
it started as a throat infection & then started having chills & fever
lasted 2 weeks, but now I feel better
but these days took me back to the times when I was writing my PhD thesis
There were so many topics I had shortlisted
and one of them which I had let go was “The true value of time”

But had done quite a lot of work around the topic
I found the entire idea of having a currency called ‘time’ quite absurd
and fascinating at the same time
how it controls everything we do – it has possibly the most control over our lives than anything else does
We invented time to ensure we have more focus & structure to our days
But how it confused the hell out of us – the entire conundrum of what happened before Big Bang
which they say is when time began

But then again, I was reminded more of the title & its implications
“The True Value of Time”
If you knew you had only 2 hours of free time before your shift at work started
you would know what to do with it
and more importantly your loved ones around would know what to do with that time
you would play, talk and ‘spend quality time’ together

What happens when you don’t know how much time is left before the start of the shift?
You can either worry about it and waste the time you have in the present
hating the fact that you don’t know when would you be called
or you can relax and let not time take a grasp of your mind and stay free till you can
I sensed anxiety in Sahil’s voice during the first week
he was fearing time, or possibly, the lack of it

It’s about time I finish that thesis too I guess
just for the records maybe..

~ Ashk

P.S. – Why was I in prison? Go read about my days in the North East States and the one time in the State Capital

P.P.S. – Sahil made Veena gift me a typewriter when I felt better. He wants me to start writing him letters. Some of my idiosyncrasies are rubbing off on him I think. 

The Creaking Chair - Part XV

30th November 1986

I like Suzanne
But the only thing which we can speak of now-a-days 
revolves around politics and the shift in world power 
discussing if it is for the good or bad ;
of the country, the people and more importantly world in general
Now you would think that this is good 
Conversations with substance and not just idle love making 
That sounds like a relationship to look out for

Well if I were to compare myself and my interest in politics
to any species in the Animal Kingdom apart from the Homo Sapiens
I would come closest to a Panda or a Polar Bear 
And she would be the Chimp or the Bee or the Ant  
So it’s not really a fair match

And well to be frank, I am not apolitical
I am aware of the nitty-gritties’ of the left wing and the right wing ideology
And all that rhetoric which falls in between 
I also have a well defined process of assimilating the political opinion 
and the art of political warfare 
But what I am not comfortable with is carrying my political belief on my arm
and picking up fights wearing that arm band 
for I won’t win an election or a war – but possibly tie a knot on the thread of my current relationship

I have a longer blog post on this thought which I have put out 
so if you are reading this, do not judge me lopsided on these surface thoughts alone 
Neither is this lack of courage or a desire of escapism 
It skirts on pragmatism with a hint of indifference 
but deeply entrenched in the fabric of moral principles 
It takes a deeper intent to make a difference in a matter 
than to have a rhetorical conversation on a decision taken miles away 
Judging on the spectrum of rigid beliefs to fluid conservatism

Remember what George Orwell said & I quote 
‘ All the war propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, 
comes invariably from people who are not fighting’
Political debate is no exception

But then I think it takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable 
in the field you feel so passionately about 
and maybe we would reach that place over time 
for now it’s an exploration..


P.S. – I later learned Suzanne was a major in Political Science from Berlin. Some secrets she kept from me, some vulnerabilities I never exposed – so I guess we were even..

The Creaking Chair – Part XIV
11th July 1999

“I am writing to you in a state of unbridled passion
I have intoxicated myself on poetries from Pablo Neruda 
and the 90’s Bollywood love songs 
Remember how you found my love for ‘Zara Zara’ from RHTDM 
to be hopelessly romantic !
I am in one of those moods right now 
And it’s pouring outside completing the setting for reminiscence

It’s funny how in spite of calling myself a poet,
I have never written many letters to you 
That is supposed to be the thing with lovers who are poets, right?
Wasn’t that my biggest pull when I tried to woo you? 
Oh those were the days !
The butterflies in the stomach, the incessant checking for text messages
Do you even know how many times, I wrote an entire poetry 
just because I wanted to tell you something 
and was too shy to speak to you directly

How far have we come from there
From writing messages through my words 
to concealing messages between my words 
and you still read me; with all my apostrophes and full stops.”

I found this handwritten note in one of Pablo Neruda’s anthologies yesterday 
I think it was ‘twenty Love poems & a song of despair’ 
the letter was half-written, in fact I was just getting started
and I don’t remember why did I stop
This was the time when she was in a foreign land 
and we decided to experiment with letters so that we would have a story to tell later
Maybe it was a call from her that made me stop writing 
or it was the use of full stop – like a valve shutting off the flow of thoughts & emotions

~ Ashk

P.S. - Should it be ‘Lovers who are poets’ or ‘poets who are lovers’?

P.P.S. – The letter must have been somewhere in the early August of 1949 or 1950

The Creaking Chair – Part XIII

3rd August 1953

I woke up in the morning at 5.23 AM

Something like my regular routine these days 
It had been an uneasy sleep 
Remembering when I ended up sleeping is a lost cause 
Its happening most of the nights these days 
I generally sleep between 2 or 3 AM
Must have been some time similar

It is a shady chapter of my life 

if anyone ever cares to write about it 
though I doubt they would get to know much about it in these pages
but I would still try 
understanding human nature & emotions is a tricky act 
some excel in it, while others run away 
They call it escapism – couldn’t find another fancy term it seems

I have been practicing Hikikomori for a 2 years now

Never thought I would start to love it so much
at first, it started as an experiment 
the charm of total isolation without any human contact 
without any worries of handling emotions which come from human interactions to be honest
but then it grew on me

The first few weeks were blissful

you could do whatever you felt like 
It was my space – shielded from all consequences and associated responsibilities 
then came the months of reality hitting you
the self-doubts and existential questions 
realization sinking in of the extent of your escapism 
That was the toughest part, where meditations worked, at least for a while

It was a time when every action you have ever taken in your life comes back in colored reel 

And so does the bundle of emotions like a wave on an ocean front
battering your psyche like that rock on the water front
It’s amazing how there is so much talk about the effects of depression and anxiety on people 
but the issue is that it talks in generalizations 
these demons never attack a herd
each story is unique and each reaction is personalized 
that’s what scares the mental health awareness groups I feel
though I am sure it is sprinkled with some amount of genuine care

I have been told when I look back at these days

I would have a happy laugh about it and how I blew the minor issues out of proportion
while also stating that these are significant emotions & important to me
Choose a side, guys!

But all said & done, I at least know that Depression is real 

and it can hit you anytime, in many different peculiar ways 
I also know how stress in life is equated to an anxiety disorder
or even full blown depression 
but glorifying something like this is not a good choice, mate 
Here’s a toast to reality & as my counselor told me self-realization


P.S. – Well, on hindsight this is one of the only dark entries you would see in my diaries. I think the only reason I plugged this in is to remember my days of Hikikomori. 

P.P.S. – Of course, I created a different journal documenting those 2 years of my life. 

The Creaking Chair – Part XII

28th May 1999

I have an abnormally large collection of photographs

moments I have captured over years
and I use them as mirrors to keep me grounded on a plane of simplicity
so my pictures are not the regular friends laughing in a pub kinds
or teens banging their heads in a rock concert
or even the quintessential birthday party as a kid
with the lettered cut out on the wall calling out ‘Happy Birthday’ 
and the beaming smiles of friends behind the cake & the Birthday Boy.

My collection has a rather abstract view of life
A fallen eyelash resting on a copper pooja thali;
the queer expression of a rebelling atheist
An aimless braided chair sitting idle on a sunny day with a hint of cloud in the background;
the untainted memory of a peaceful afternoon embossed upon the mind 
A rope line with my mother’s freshly washed saree hung for drying
the untarnished smell of unfiltered warmth spreading through the heart
A shuttered public library with the leftover ashes of a burning sigri
the aftermath of another cold night in the open for the watchman

But the one photograph which made me write this entry today
was the photograph of my beloved coleus plant 
It was a housewarming gift from a dear colleague when I moved to Kolkata
Placed in a fish bowl shaped casing it had layered soil and tiny crystal like rocks on one side
the plant nestled nicely in the middle of this boundary between the decorative crystal patch & the underlying soil 
there was another smaller budding offshoot on the other side 
I liked the gift – it was good, but I did not love the life in it, yet

And then a few weeks later, I saw tiny new shoots on it
beautiful red leaves with spreading green on its corners 
Oh boy, that was a feeling difficult to match
an untainted adoration and pure love spreading like a smile on my face 
and for the next few weeks, every morning it was my first ritual to watch the new bud & smile 
This was my first experience with the weight of responsibility of nurturing a life 

But the photograph was not of that little bud

the photograph had to be inanimate right? 
if you have not yet caught the recurring theme in my photographs
It was a black and white shot of the same bowl with a fallen plant with shriveled leaves 
In my youthful zeal filled with an arrogant ignorance 
I kept feeding water & sunlight to it – at times too much water & too less of sunlight 
without realizing the underlying build up of tiny root eating aphids
the day I look the photograph, I realized they were too far in their act of weakening the roots 

I did replace the plant with another 
and this time took much better care 
for I was now prepared and a little bit more wiser 
But I miss that original plant for it gave me my love for gardening

~ Ashk

P.S. – Sahil has taken up to ‘digitizing’ my photographs as his project this summer vacations. I have a feeling I have a summer filled with walks down the untrodden memory lanes & loads of stories to tell. 

P.P.S. – Maybe I should convert these stories into something like ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’.

The Creaking Chair – Part XI

10th October 1986

The first thing I saw as soon as I got out of my car was the non-descript street light

It had a spooky feel to it, but also romantic 

like something ancient was peering back at me 
how many such long stares would it have endured in the last centuries
But then what makes me think it has been standing tall there for centuries..
It felt like I almost knew.

The murky yellow light from the lamp was rather dull

but it was the only thing which stood out in that countryside on yesterday’s spring night

Mikhail, his elder brother and me had decided to take a road trip 
They had done all the arrangements – the car, the tent, the camping stove to cook 
and of course the path we would take 
It was not a like a fancy camping trek you see in the Hollywood movies
It was a discreet retreat into the desert wilderness 

I have been on this ‘tour d’experience’

that’s what I am going to call it when I grow old and tell these stories aloud

It’s a fancy dream with a humble beginning
the first one was the visit to the ocean
not that I had never been on the sides of an ocean before 
but this was different
this time I had ‘experienced’ the ocean 
the ocean breeze saturated by the smell of sand & salt 
the sun reflecting on the ocean trying to match my thoughts 
Ah. Reverie.. I must not digress though 

This time it was about a night on the roadside scrub of grass

in an otherwise non-vegetative spread of the Rajasthan desert

We were told there is a massive celebration planned in Gujarat from the coming year
but a commercial hotspot. Not for poetic romantics like me…
This was a night of sitting under the moon in an abandoned dhaba in a nearby state highway 

We had ideally wanted to go completely off the road 

but Mikhail’s brother had been skeptical

and wanted to have access to the cellular network in case of an emergency 
when we spotted the abandoned structure on the roadside, we were elated 
this was the perfect spot for a night spent talking and singing 
I was trying my hand on the guitar and could sing 
But Mikhail was the real musician amongst us with his charm over the mouth organ

As we stretched ourselves on the bonnet and roof of our car

staring up the clear sky, many childhood memories ran back to me 

How I used to enjoy sleeping on the cot in Grandama’s place looking at the constellations
but the emotions it stirred were different 
the breeze flowing from the desert was slowly cooling as the night progressed
it was like an indication that I had moved on from those innocent days too 
and the only totem of time that remained was that street lamp and its light 

It reminded me of the days which went by 

and it gave me comfort of the days that were to come 

youth had given me hope slowly taking over the innocence of the younger me 
fear of the future had started to slowly creep into my spirits though 
and lying there gave me a feeling that the past, the present and the future were all coming together
for that one night 
It is ‘this’ experience which I take along with me today

~ Ashk

P.S. – Now that I have read Julian Barnes, I wish I had just written this instead of the entire diary page. How beautiful these words are -

In those days, we imagined ourselves as being kept in some kind of holding pen, waiting to be released into our lives. And when the moment came, our lives -- and time itself -- would speed up. How were we to know that our lives had in any case begun, that some advantage had already been gained, some damage already inflicted? Also, that our release would only be into a larger holding pen, whose boundaries would be at first undiscernible.” ~ Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending

P.P.S. – Keeping a placeholder for my thoughts here, for I am sure I would revisit this page. If not for anything, but for these lines by Julian Barnes

The Creaking Chair – Part X
08th June 1999

The other day I was speaking to Aman on telephone 

and we ended up talking about how we came to be friends, 

Not in the obvious sense, both of us were in the same batch in my graduation 

but more like when did we actually start talking,
what were our first words; non-verbal cues to each other that our frequencies match as Sahil would say in his generation
and not for the fault of our fading memories 
but neither of us could genuinely remember that moment of first encounter

Its quite ridiculous how easy it is to portray in a biography, a musical or a documentary 

‘We met for the first time in a sports bar while playing pool’ , or 

‘The first time we met was when Calen introduced us in one of her parties and we hit it off right away’

Realities always work differently, and hence the allure & charm of fiction I guess 
I repeated the experiment with Steffi and Manu and guess what?
We drew up a blank again !

By now I was quite determined to find out what had really happened,

I headed for my attic again, pulling out all my journals from Graduation days 

Alas ! no mention of that fateful day for either of them there too 

This comes as a rude shock to me though, 
a man who has always prided himself with capturing every significant detail of my life in these journals 
If that author friend of Kamal every decides to write my memoirs, 
She should just go through these journals, or maybe a movie would be more entertaining

I still decided to revisit the memory lane of some of the most wonderful years of my life

and went ahead reading all those diary entries and slowly these names started to appear

first it was sporadic, where I was massaging my ego by judging Manu for his hairstyle 

The warmth of the relationship slowly crept in
when time routines became intermingled,
the routes to the market to pick up milk started having a pitstop to meet Aman 
and when conversations changed from college gossip to broken hearts and future dreams 
This makes me sure that my story should definitely be a book 
a movie can never do justice to this surreal pace of integrating into each other’s lives as family

It is the second day and I am in the attic again to read from where I left yesterday

I have not yet reached Archit’s mid night accident and the scare he gave us all! 

But it made me realize, I could never find that moment when we first spoke to each other 

In hindsight, it may have been the most relevant moment between us 
but in the grand scheme of life, it was an irrelevant speck
just like the Earth in the Cosmos, and yet a lifeline 
just like Old friends

– to read about the day Archit’s mid-night accident & his temporary memory loss, go to 19th September 1952

P.P.S. – The only friend with whom I remember my first encounter is with Richard & our debate on the why I never learned the lyrics of Opera music and yet enjoyed it thoroughly

- Ashk

Creaking Chair - Part IX

04th December 1999

Last night I could not sleep properly,
It was a cold winter night and in order to keep the chill out
I had closed the window in my first floor bedroom since evening
But it was not the cold that kept me awake
It was the sound of a dog barking outside
Poor soul must have been feeling very cold
And it kept barking till 4:30 in the morning
I spent a wakeful night with it, musing too.

What I was surprised about was how had it stopped crying in the early dawn
For that is the time when it gets really bone crunching chilly
In these Northern states of India
Reminds me of those early morning motorcycle rides with my graduation mates
As I stepped out in to the bedroom I got my answer,
Sahil was calling her Bruno
And Veena was staring at him with daggers in her eyes
‘How dare he get her into my house?’ she asked
Looking at Kamal, she said, ‘You know why I never got a pet for the last decade, right?’

Poor Kamal felt stuck between 2 loyalties
He did not know which side to take – his innocent son or his (extremely) angry wife
As if relieved to see me waking in he said
‘Dad, meet Bruno. Sahil wants to adopt her’
And quickly took Veena into the bedroom
To have a chat.
As Bruno came running to come paddle around my feet
She was a little more than a cub
And was already doting on Sahil

Regret comes in many disguises
And the worst of them stuck around like unwanted guests
One that had taken a deep hold in the heart of Veena
Was of not being around when she had lost Charlie
Charlie was the family Labrador who had lived and played with her since she was a young girl
And he was the only member of her family who had come along to join ours
When she had got married to Kamal
There was not a moment she would not dote over him
Sometimes he even fought with Kamal for his seat on the sofa besides her

Charlie had fit in just perfectly into the family
And was never short of playful deceits
Sometimes he would sit under the sofa to bounce off and scare
As soon as anyone sat on the seat
On other time, he would sneak into the bed
And try to push us off at ungodly hours to wake us up

It was on a similar chilly night that Veena had decided to go for an evening walk
Very uncharacteristic for her. As Kamal said she always liked the warmth of the heater
Instead of the walk in the chilly evening
She must have been pre-occupied with her own thoughts
One of the those which haunt each of us on such winter days
Charlie wanted to come along for the walk
But she did not want company, not even his, for sometime
It took her one and a half hours to get her nerves back and come home
When she came back, did we realize that Charlie was gone

In her state of reflection, as she went out, she had left the door ajar
Charlie must have escaped some time later in the evening
Trying to find her and bring her peace
What happened to him, we never got to know
Charlie was not found
He would never have run away, but we couldn’t have lost him forever
And that regret had stayed with Veena

I was brought back from my reverie by the cold nose of the cub touching my feet
Kamal was coming out of the room with an air of triumph,
of someone who had just dodged a bullet
Veena picked up Bruno and took him to the courtyard
There she poured some milk and chapati into the bowl that once belonged to Charlie
She smiled to Sahil, who was ecstatic with joy
But the smile had a hint of regret which would not be wiped

P.S. – Though she accepted Bruno into her house, Veena could never dote upon him as much as she loved Charlie, and you can see a hint of regret in her eyes and in the eyes of young Bruno…

~ Ashk

Creaking Chair - Part VIII

22nd March 1999

When you are my age, 
the best way to have an adventure 
is to travel down the memory lane 
And I was feeling quite adventurous today,
So I decided go up to the attic 

It was quite a climb by the way 
12 steps on a rickety DIY wooden steps
fun fact : the attic used to be my Man Den 
everything there was fashioned by me 
right from the hidden pool table to the bar counter
There was even a hidden stash of condoms
though I don't remember ever making love with anyone in my den 
for there were always rules right that you don't break 
I still have my doubts though on Samir 
It was during the summer of 88
when he had come over to live at my place with his fiance for a month

The attic now seemed to me like a warehouse of memories
Those stacked piles of DC comics and the coverings on the wall to make it sound proof
I was a peculiar case. I loved to watch all creations from Marvel on screen
But when it came to reading, only DC could satisfy me 
It was here that I had developed my first love for heavy metal
and for opera towards to later half of my youth 

On the improvised bar cabinet rest the hard bound notebook
It was a gift from Harshita with a message 
"Don't stop writing and share your works with me"
I filled that notebook about half way through 
That's when we had broken up 
The book was now a dichotomy 
The first half resembled the musings of Pablo Neruda 
And the second half more like those of Charles Bukowski
I must have spent so many nights ranting into those blank pages 

I can go on with these memories for hours
There are so many of these filling the air inside these 4 walls 
But I must concentrate 
What I came here was for that scrap book
The one which became the vessel for my passion for photography
Those 6 weeks of wanderings in the alps in New Zealand 
And the best picture 
Me holding the book crouching like Gollum
with the look in my eyes that says "My Precious"

P.S. - I am planning to camp in my man den during the week of my birthday 
P.P.S. - I confirmed with Samir. The bugger did use my stash ...

Creaking Chair - Part VII


Creaking Chair Part VI

24 June 1999

It was one of those days which was tiring..
Not physically of course..that’s the usual story every day at my age
It was exhausting mentally.. and I somehow feel just as drained as in the year 1967
And I am glad some things in life never change
Like standing under the cold water shower for a long time
As Manu used to say, ‘as the drops run through your head to toe, it drains away your thoughts’

I still remember that day I took the plunge..
One of the hottest Summer we had seen was ending in June
And my father was fuming with rage watching me pack my bags
My mother was equally troubled … but with emotions much more mellow than my father’s
His was rage filled with concern … hers was concern filled with a sinking sorrow
And there was I, in my late 20’s … as rebellious as my grand-daughter today is in her early 20’s..
That’s what they call Generation Gap I guess

Did you feel a sudden edge in my tone there?
At least I thought so.. I think I could imagine the flaring of the nerves on my temples..
Oh boy.. I was angry that day..
After all what use is youth if not for foolish choices & ill-tempered decisions..
And so I looked one last time into his eyes, and there was this slight tinge of plea
But his vanity was too tall a wall for it to spill over..
And my blood was too young to see through the wall..
Today Manya signed up for the Army..
She says Navy & Air-force is just a façade to brag about gender equality
She wants to test her metal where it is the hardest to endure..
Her personal endurance test she says…

Of course, I did not counsel my Grand-daughter on her choices
I have learned my lessons in time..
And so shall she..
I only hope and desire them to be good, or bad but not horrific
And of course Kamal is agitated at me for not taking his side
But all he can do is sulk .. and not complain
Certain privileges I get with age on my side..

Though I doubt he would set up the lights
For the badminton in the backyard tonight…
I find it difficult to sleep without that hour of cheering..

P.S. -  Though angry my father never reproached me for my decision to take a 2 year break from my job & to go on a Solo trip round the world..The only regret I have is not sending him postcard from Alaska, his favorite destination.. (somewhere in the December of 1968 I guess)

The Creaking Chair - Part V

18 June 1988

Was it sandalwood or Rose?
The smell of incense sticks – a lazy Sunday morning
One where I woke up before 1 PM; a rarity
The days of youth come with their own little jar of idiosyncrasies
Its own set of preformed notions about rules…
Just like my grandson frowns at me for being such a pain, as he says
Nagging him to wake up early, to do his bed, to not leave food on his plate

I always wondered why the flavor of the incense sticks
always was sandalwood in the writings
And never Rose or Jasmine…or Mogra for that matter
Was it because it sounds more imperial or royal
Or was it because I read selectively
Picked up authors who would never write about
Mogra incense stick spreading its scent in the backdrop
of an Indian student living in an English household

But the ideas was not about the incense stick
Or the ideosyncracies of the aged
Or the preformed notion of rules in my young mind

I intended to write about my fight with Paul
on Religion
To be or not to be is the question
He could quote Shakespeare or Dostoevsky where you never imagined him to
I used to admire that – still do – it’s just that we don’t get to talk much now a days
Alzheimer’s has taken him to its own world of Shakespeare’s sonnets and Pablo Neruda poems

But we did have a debate that day
On Atheism, on the roots of religion,
On how I was a passive agnostic (I still don’t agree that those syllables together make any sense)
They sound like a glorified way of calling yourself an atheist while still being religious

But we did have an argument that Sunday morning
On whether the lighting of incense stick
First thing after my Sunday morning bath
With the mud colored towel still wrapped around my then athletic waist
Was an abominable attempt to run away from my identity
An argument on how I was trying to hide my nakedness  
in the garb of the rising fumes of burnt sandalwood

I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse”, and I’ll do it till he feels guilty
I knew for sure that he added the second half of the quote
But couldn’t refute for I had not yet read ‘The Godfather’

Out of all the Sunday mornings I spent with Paul (8 to be precise)
This one is etched like yesterday night’s dew on my fading memory
I guess I should pay him a visit
I could check if he is still a pious atheist or has Alzheimer’s made him forget that too…

P.S. Go to 1952 for the real fight – My diary entries were much more factual & less philosophical back then – but then those were the days of preformed notions of rules for the young me..

- Ashk

The Creaking Chair - Part IV

07 March 1949 

Sitting on the patiya on the tea stall

corner of the Jamnabai street
cigarette smoke having a duel with mental fumes
Anger - a newly discovered emotion it felt
The blacksmith pounding hammer on red hot iron
inside my head explosions of hatred intermingled with fear

The sound of the passing train

Like the wheels of revenge running in my head
'Why did I never embrace this feeling before,
Is there any emotion as vivid as this?'

Drop of hot chai fell on my feet

bringing me back to the moment
sweat drenched face of Golu, the chai wala's son
running around dodging people, balancing 5 tea glasses in his tiny hands
If only he had known how angry I was

Like the simmering heat of the Sahara desert

shaking with rage my hands were a rebellious soul
The sound of shattered glasses echo in my head even today
Poor lad didn't know where did the stars strike from
Looking with innocent eyes for explanation

Fear finally winning the duel

Would have apologized had only I had had a voice
parched throat,
The rebel now trembled with guilt
With bashful eyes and arrogant disbelief, I escaped

Anger fueled guilt and guilt fuels anger

I came to you,
Today was the day I cried for the first time in your arms

P.S. This is the first time I have had a fight with you, and u remember how angry I was when u made that cake for me when we met after the fight, with all those sinister plans in my head.

Today wisdom taught me to be angry at myself, and you taught me to handle anger

P.P.S. (Added 23 July 1998) - Now you know why I never drank tea.

- Ashk

The Creaking Chair - Part III

14 May 1998

How ironic,
death had to choose this day,
out of the other 364
it could have sent its icy kiss on...
Or maybe it was trapped like me,
in the ecstasic glow of 14 May,Friday...
The spell so strong that no other turn of the diurnal cycle
could make its presence felt...

Happy Anniversary, my Love !!!

No, not our marriage..
before you pinch me on my right shoulder,
like you always did...
when you punished me,
on one of my moronly stupid remarks,
or at the extremes of our foreplay...
The skin there is still soft...
But our marriage..
still 14 months and 14 days away...

The candle light on the first,
The second honeymoon on the tenth...
The rendezvous on the 24th...
but the one you loved the most
was the bunjee jump on the 16th...

But today is not the day we vowed the celestial ties...
You invariably forgot it year after year,
And how I used to be taciturn the whole day,
trying to show my hurt...
and how you made the day memorable 
with your proposals in the evening at 6,
I still remember the 24 ways you did it..
14 May, the day I had first proposed you...

25th anniversary...
the 25 ways I were to propose you through the day,
I still rehearse it at nights when I can't sleep,
still nervous like a nascent lover...

'Fate', you always said,'You can never defeat it,my love'

The memory of burning sandalwood,rising pyre
at six in the evening,
fate indeed...

I now know you didnot forget 14 may this time...The card i found under your pillow...scribbled upon it with rose petals...

"Happy Anniversary, my love"


The Creaking Chair - Part II
06 January 1998

I was almost enticed to skip my daily ritual,
My bath with cold water at 5 in the morning
I haven't failed for the last 63 years,but once...
Though i must accept, there were a few close calls,
once when Anne added ice cubes into the bucket..
What laugh she had at the site of my horrid face,
dripping with water,shivering,
I had rushed out of the bath to have my revenge...
12 January 1956 -
If you wish to humour yourself with the details...

Now that I mention the singular ocassion
when I did skip the routine,I must elaborate..
I doubt I had time for a diary entry that day!!
I'm sure had I even tried it,Kashish would have killed me,
She was already furious over my morning act of stupidity...

When she had been angry on me for the first time,
she had innocently added salt into my tea,for sugar..
And had stood by,watching me spue,stone faced,
but I had the best chocolate cake that afternoon...
The next time I racked her nerves,
I had to spend the night fishing...
But again she made up for it,
with the most romantic night I had in my life...
I was almost tempted to test her again,

It was as if Kamal had known my hours 
and had planned his arrival at the precise moment.
The alarm did not have its share of credit for waking me up that morning.
Her shrieks did it..
Opening my eyes I saw in horrified bewilderment
her agonised face as she screamed in her labours...

"Pradeep, He's coming..Take me to the hospital"

It must have been an involuntary wont of mine,
I rushed for the bathroom and stood frozen at the door...

"For heaven's sake, oh Idiot man!!
Don't tell me you'll bath while I writh here in labour... "

Kamal was born on 26th September 1972...

Kashish did make up for pronouncing me an Idiot..
That sorry card with the poetry she wrote is still tucked 
besides "The Trial" in the book shelf...
Though I believe it was for not allowing me the bath.. 


The Creaking Chair - Part I

21 December 1997

This is just a veritable diary entry of an old man,
so if you are sneaking through
in anticipation of some covert tell tale,
I suggest you turn to the diary entry on 16 August 1953
All that you'll get here is Cognitive Content....

Its already quarter past 6 in the morning,
and in anticipation of the newspaper
I follow my regular treading on the veranda...
"Kamal !! Babuji is again outside,this early,
Make him come in, you know how susceptible he is to the cold"
I can hear bahu in her cajolery tongue,
trying to wake Kamal from his morning slumber...

When I was his age,I used to be up and running
like a steaming engine by this time.
I was in Bangalore then,
at the center of a mushrooming entrepreneurial hub..
My mornings were mainly consumed in charting out the days work
And by 7 I used to be onto the streets,
riding on dreams,
enterprisingly spirited....

"Dadaji,its cold outside,come in,
I'll get you the paper when it arrives"
Kamal's youngest son,holds my hand
almost dragging me inside the house,
with such ingenious love,
I can hardly resist....

Dressed up in his navy blue shorts,
and white shirt,
that shimmer of a freshly fallen dew upon the pasture,
the infectious vigour,
so easily pulls me back to the days,
I was so like him,
only a bit more impish...

The newspaper has the same story every day,
Its such a regular objection,since ages now,
It has almost dubbed itself as truth...
Yet for a 70 year old man,
with all the time in the world to ponder
on situations that he possibly cannot alter
A critics position is a caper.....

Stopping abruptly....Kamal's arranged for floodlights in the backyard...
Badminton on a cold night....I was a champion once....
alas! I'll only watch today.....


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