Letting The Spectre In

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In the midst of forty other children, with forty pairs of eyes gawping at her and the muffled sniggers that erupted in the wake of what she had just said, she stood mortified, stock-still at her seat. Beads of perspiration broke out across her forehead and then coursed their way down her temples.

She would’ve liked nothing better than for the floor to split open and the vacuum to suck her in and consume her whole.

She looked at the teacher, who stood behind the flimsy wooden table; her matted hair with streaks of grey here and there; the light, gaunt face that was now absently looking down at the textbook  that lay open on the desk in front of her; the well pronounced collar bones, her angular arms, her fragile frame and the plain red salwar kameez she wore that now reflected the colour rising steadily to Leisha’s own face.

Why doesn’t she just ask me to sit down and plough on with the lesson, Leisha’s heart was pounding in her throat.

The clocks were set to the speed of a snail’s pace. Leisha’s fingers absently picked at the edges of her desk, her nails chipping away the cheap brown paint.

Casting a furtive glance sideways, she glimpsed two boys, who had whipped around in their seats and were whispering to two other girls seated behind them, snickering, gesticulating, whispering and then laughing mutely . The derision amply evident on their stupid faces.

Scumbags, Leisha told herself.

The classroom felt nauseatingly stuffy. A muscle in Leisha’s jaw twitched.

It took the steelshrill sound of the bell at the end of a few light years to bring her ordeal to an end. The teacher left the class and Leisha thudded back into her seat, her empty gaze directed straight ahead.

‘It’s okay, man! Forget about it,’ Pia said to her casually above the drone of the casual conversation and snorts of laughter that issued from the rest of the class.

For all her bellicose yearning to yell at Pia and tell her that it wasn’t okay, at all, and call out her nonchalance whilst squashing her nose flat with a hardcover book, Leisha managed to shut her belligerent self in. The rest of the day and night was a haze.

As the days, weeks and months rolled by, the spectre of this horrible incident would cull itself out of Leisha’s spool of memories and rear up right in front of her, making her stop dead in her tracks, whitening her knuckles, draining her face of all colour and casting her mind back to the worst day at school as scenes from it careered through her mind, lucid and fresh.

As every other workout, night out, driving lesson, nap and dance session was haunted by the mind numbing spectre, which Leisha thought lurked in some shadowy corner, merely biding time, looking for a chance to lunge at her, seizing her off guard whilst the air around her was rent with the piercing sounds of derisive laughter and sniggers,  Leisha conceded defeat.

Years later, she would lie in bed, and the spectre would airily descend upon her. Unsolicited though, as it always was, Leisha wouldn’t make any effort to stave it off. It would hang there, nimbly, floating inches above her. In conceding defeat, Leisha had let the spectre become one with her.

Subservience would give way to wonder. Out of curiosity, although interspersed with unwillingness, Leisha would finally begin perusing the spectre at close quarters. Flaying multiple layers and deconstructing the illusionary complexities, in the end, Leisha would find herself gaping down at hollow bowels and nothing else.

The thought of having accorded the wanker a space of such pronounced significance, when it was insignificant enough to vie for prominence with a single sand grain of the Sahara, like the rest of its ilk, all of who walk the face of earth through those who let the spectres in, would be hard to come to terms with.

Yet, Leisha would smile, mildly. Her face would beam up at the prominent feature, which would gradually become a thinning column of wispy smoke before vanishing altogether.  

Acquiescent No More

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In that one brief minute

Of pristine frolic, my first

In a dozen light years,

When the yearnings decided to sidestep

Every norm of social convention,

When the heart remained no longer acquiescent

To all the diktats issued by those austere,

Wielding a false sense of entitlement.

In the midst of a sea of the unquestioning,

I resolved to not end up a clone.

My feet remained no longer tethered

To the shore they had passed off as the threshold

We couldn’t overstep.

I broke away, gleefully

Arms flailing,

Embracing the waves.

As tide after tide slathered me with salt,

The rendezvous with liberation

I knew had come about.

Just as the trance broke,

Looking over my shoulder

I found that the herders had long departed.

Too stunned to chastise the defiant.

And glimpsed only the last of the sheep.

Epiphany.

 

Enchantress

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She’ll allure you from afar.

Her tome of incantations,

Alongside her tender ministrations,

For a homeless vagabond like you

Is akin to a tattered blanket

On a cold winter’s night.

Only, your winter lasts the year round.

 

You’ll discover sound ground

Under your footing.

No longer consumed by the fear

Of the cracks right beneath

Opening up into dark, endless chasms.

 

She’ll be your safe haven.

You’ll no longer have to brave storms alone.

She’ll obscure the hurricanes,

You’ll be oblivious to the gales.

 

Even if that means

That the wrath of the skies will

Come thundering down upon her alone.

She’ll never flinch.

 

Now that the storm is over, I wish it had continued.

Fortunate are those who have something to pursue, something to do, to affect something or bear the effects of actions other than their own. It’s proof that you exist, that you’re not worthless and have some role to play in this BIG BIG world. I may sound a little too philosophical, or to those who know me intimately, perhaps even hilarious but that’s what I’ve been reduced to after my exams got over recently.

Roughly a year back, when 10th grade began, nearly every person I met, or just randomly ran into tried to provide me snippets or in some cases even lecture me, when I told them I’d be appearing for my board exams this year. From the importance of the report card to how I’d need to furnish it at every job interview to it being a deciding factor for my high school and college admissions later in future to every bit of intimidating information narrating the significance of board exams, I’ve had scores of people tell me all sorts of things in this regard. Now that the exams are over I just have one word to surmise all the lecturing as- N.O.N.S.E.N.S.E.

On the day of my first exam, as I swiftly glanced through the pages of the question paper (unbelievingly) I bemusedly wondered what the song and dance had been all about and how naïve I’d been all along to believe that these exams were going to be one hell of an experience. The conviction only grew stronger with each exam. There were a few questions that no doubt stymied me but that was about it. I wondered what fun people got out of making meek and harmless people feel miserable.

As for the preparation, unlike the bookworms who study 365 days a year, a dozen hours a day and buy up every help book that is available in the market, I’m more like the ones who start preparing at the eleventh hour. Accordingly, I don’t expect to get the same marks as those nerds. As long as I pass with decent marks, I don’t give a damn about what the world says.  After the prelims, as I cleaned the dust off my books and sat down to study in the handful of days left before the commencement of the exams, I found my books were as fresh and the scent in them as relishable as they’d been when I bought them.

It’s in these last minute preparations that I start realizing how much more bearable and easier this ordeal could’ve been had I studied right from the start. I say that every time and know fully well that that’s never going to happen.

The days during the exams were the toughest to bear. While studying, half the time I’d wonder when this torture would end and fantasize how ecstatic a feeling it would be to have been done with all the exams in the end and breathe a sigh of relief. I craved for freedom, for peace and for bliss.

The exams did get over. We did celebrate. But what followed in the days after that was simply too much bear. I discovered that boredom was far more torturous than a grueling study session. That burying your head in books and studying in a tensed yet fervent manner was far better than merely roaming about aimlessly with having nothing to do. It’s in times like these, when you’re totally jobless, that you begin to wonder when you’d be back to the grind again!

I’ve tried everything possible to drive away the boredom. From spa getaways to films to reading, writing, eating out and a host of other things. But the humdrumness lingers on and I wait ever impatiently to get back to school. I’ve been bored nearly to death but there’s little I can do about it.

Till I find myself toiling hard as a busy bee again, I wait. Simply wait.

2013: The Year That Was

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Twelve months make one whole year, a long time that is, given how long even five minutes seem before the Newshour debate begins on Times Now. But what indeed leaves me nonplussed and perplexed is pondering how in a jiffy, this year has just whizzed past in a flash. Even before the feeling of celebration of the commencement of the year 2013 could sink in properly, here I am, writing my last blog of the very same year.

It feels as if it was only yesterday that I was drenched to the bone with sweat during the sweltering summer and now I sit tightly wrapped in quilts and blankets. Like they say- Time flies.
This year has been an absolute rollercoaster ride. Both ups and downs shared equal room. Only, I attempted to savour the ups with far more intensity than the downs.

Reminiscing about the times I spent this year, I can truly say that it was the best one I had so far. Friends who always stood by me and supported me in every way concreted my belief about the fact that there will always be people who are considerate about me. Gurjot, Manjot, Jasleen, Priya, Aditi, Ishmeet, Harsrisht, Manmeet, Ankita, Rippan, Raghav, Harshan, Aadi bhaiya, Akash (both Malhotra and Lamba 😛 ), Shikhar- (Forgive me if I missed anyone out) Love you all.

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And then there were those who thought that they could cover up their insecurities and incompetency by trying to outfox me in the silliest of ways, whereas they themselves stand nowhere. You tried to pull me down, only to make me realise that I’m way above you. Another couple of years we’ll see for ourselves who stands where. The way you flinch is so uncontrollably laughable! LOL. But no matter what, your lot deserves more gratitude than my friends do. You along with your insecurities time and again boost my confidence like nothing else does; I hope you continue to do that in 2014 as well. Thanks a ton!

The time spent in school mostly made this year what it turned it out be- fantabulous. From becoming house prefect to giving a jaw dropping and eye popping performance at the annual function- everything went off well and good, save the academics part. AARRGGHH! :/ But in this regard, the final nail in the coffin is yet to be hit- The boards!!! 😥
And now as I sit writing this blog and gape at the screen, I try and reckon how not having been able to study throughout the year was not a very good thing to have happened after all and if I still have options open before me….
I gotta go bury my head in the books. Ciao!

Blog Mitra Da: About The Need To Make Merry

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“Prachi, do you realise it’s been almost a week since the day of submission and you’ve still not given me your assignment?”

“I’m sorry ma’am, I’ll positively submit it to you by tomorrow”, I replied diffidently, clearly knowing I wouldn’t be able to do so. My backlog was only mounting with each passing day as I tried to juggle between studies, notes and assignments. Despite all this, I tried to keep myself calm, always sport a smile and most importantly- not buckle under such pressure.

Even so, feeling the heat was inevitable. As I withdrew into a corner and pressed in the inner corners of my eyes with my thumb and forefinger, I prayed and hoped for this entire chaotic mess, which apparently included the class work, assignments, tests blah blah blah (in other words, the school itself) to simply implode!

The annual day preparations had by then started in full swing. It took me quite a while to decide whether or not I should take part. Knowing very well that I have to appear for board exams and studies are of paramount importance this year, I was initially very hesitant. But eventually I really didn’t care much and plunged into it headfirst! Reminiscences of the past year’s practice sessions and the endless fun I had were enough for me to convince and reassure myself and help me make up my mind in all firmness that this participation was a must and that this session being my last year in M.G.N, I won’t get another chance to be part of this extravaganza ever again.  

The worry of pending assignments and incomplete work was always at the back of my mind and constantly interfered with my work while I was writing the dialogues for the skit. (Yes, English skit, that’s what I had participated in, both last year and this year.) More than anything else, what bothered me was how my unfinished work and recurrent absence in the class (mind you, I was NOT bunking, I just wanted to stay committed and sincere as far as the practices went which ultimately required my presence at the rehearsals all day long) would shape various teachers’ opinions about me. I feared them thinking of me as just another stereotypical excuse maker who fancied herself loitering about aimlessly in the school all day.

Nonetheless, I gradually brought myself to terms with this stark reality and learnt to cope with it. Somewhat. I had been entrusted with the mammoth and colossal task of penning down the dialogues, as I mentioned earlier. This was perhaps the only thing from the entire stockpile of other back breaking tasks that I enjoyed and something that I could pull off effortlessly (My hobby of blogging probably shows my love for writing :P). The rough framework of the skit had more or less been prepared. But writing the dialogues certainly involved a lot of brainstorming and deliberation. All characters of the skit were actively involved in this and thank god for that! A majority of them though only shot the bull when it came to giving inputs. There were only a handful who provided ideas that were sane enough to be incorporated in the script. However it were these absolutely nonsensical and silly suggestions many gave that ultimately made for the fondest of memories! :’).

Now the biggest jeopardy that we were faced with was finding quality actors. Unlike places where there’s often a beeline of people trying to audition for even the pettiest of roles, here even after having cherry picked a few select probables, one couldn’t help feel tentative. It’s not that people here lack talent or passion, it’s the exponentially high consciousness quotient and the Oh!-What’ll-the-people-say attitude that keeps them from unleashing their true potential. And for the few who had been convinced with great difficulty to take part, their ridiculous demands for amendments in the script and the endless time they bought for learning merely a word or two (it’ll be impractical to even term that as a dialogue) were demoralizing enough for many of us to assume that this play would turn out to be nothing but a flop show. 

And the worst part was that the very same people who demanded our much valued time and patience later very clandestinely slipped out through the back door without letting us get the slightest hint that the back breaking task of looking for suitable actors wasn’t going to be over anytime soon. And when we did find out, it was quite unequivocally an egg in our face. But the treachery of a few cowards really couldn’t hold us back. As they say- The show must go on, and it did.

So our brigade of 17- Shikhar, Bhavleen, Harshan, Ripan, Manjot, Priya, Akash, Aakarshan, Ishmeet, Gurkirat, Raghav, Charvi, Jasleen, Aadi Bhaiya, Anmol, myself and our commander-in-chief Rohini ma’m got down to work. Once a particular set of dialogues was prepared the tedious job of making the characters learn it and that too with the right expressions would begin. But it was here that the real fun lied. The entire day we would spend in making merry. And rehearse with the same amount of vigour as well. So we struck just the right balance between the two. And suddenly in the middle of all this fun and frolic, all my assignments seemed complete. My worries about the pending notes seemed to have drifted away to Antarctica and I felt as though there were ages to come before the exams began.

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Then came the day for the mother of all tasks- Recording. Even before we could prepare anything in entirety, we were supposed to record the entire skit and then perform it that very evening in front of our Principal and other senior members of the faculty. By the looks of how our recording session was progressing, I’d roughly got a whiff that we were gonna make a complete pig’s ear out of everything. Little did I know that that was indeed a hint of something much more disastrous that was coming our way. Fun and play somehow always occupied the top slot in our list of priorities. The recording session was no exception. While the entire skit was about 10-15 minutes long, even 6 hours weren’t enough for us to record all the dialogues. When the last bell rang, we still had 3 scenes that were left to record. We decided that we’d record those in the evening practices and hence everybody was asked to come a little earlier than the scheduled time. Here too, things just didn’t seem to fall in place. Some went back home to change into the right uniform, some had been caught by the police for rash driving, some were in no mood to get themselves excused from their tuitions a little earlier and then me- I rushed back home to get the pen drive that I’d earlier forgotten which contained the partly recorded skit. Gaawwd! (Somebody give us an award for how much chaos we were in). And just minutes after we’d begun recording the remaining scenes, came the call for our turn to perform on stage. We stared transfixed at each other.

“And the recording?”, said once of us. That was only an audible form of the question that was echoing inside each one of our minds but none had the guts to ask out loud. All we knew was that this was going to be our first official stage rehearsal, which would, within a few minutes become synonymous with the word “Faux Pas”. Perhaps the biggest one M.G.N had seen in years. So we strode towards the stage, lips clenched, silently praying for some miracle to happen that could save us the brickbats that would ensue.

And then it started. As soon as the first dialogue played out, not a word could be assimilated by any of us, let alone the audience. Even the loudspeakers seemed indignant. It sounded as though someone had held a microphone against an age old broken transistor. Nearly every second dialogue was missing and what instead played out was all the gobbledygook that happened in the background while the recording was underway. And finally the horror film ended, only for the next one to begin. This one being much scarier. The royal screaming we received would even make Osama Bin Laden shudder. We had been served an ultimatum, either to record the entire skit all over again by noon the next day or forget that there was ever going to be any English skit.

This time, we put in every ounce of devotion and commitment we could muster and the recording session progressed like one would wish for it to, save the enjoyment part. And that evening we defied all the criticism and questions that were hurled at us the day before. A sense of achievement had begun to seep in. Even though there was a long time to go for the final show, lots of flaws that still needed to be worked on, we felt like we had achieved a lot already. And since then there was no looking back. With every rehearsal, our performance only got finer and it was on the day of the final show- 10th November 2013 that we really took the entire school by storm. The feedback and reviews were overwhelming. Many said that it was the highlight of the entire function and that nothing else could match up to it.

Getting such appreciation is what makes u realize that all the hardships, commitment and criticism (not to mention the money splurged on outfits, hair and make-up :P) was entirely worth it. The biggest and the most important thing that I learnt out of this experience is that no matter what it takes for you indulge in a bit of fun, you should. Even though these rehearsals forced me to miss classes for over two weeks, I have no regrets. It’s making memories that ultimately matters. THE NEED TO MAKE MERRY IS INEVITABLE AND SHOULDN’T EVER BE NEGLECTED. When 10 years down the line, I’ll reflect light on past, it’s these memories that are going to make me smile, and not the satisfaction of having completed assignments or notes in time.

Credits-

My heartfelt thanks to our supervisor Mrs. Rohini Kapoor who made this entire affair a success. Ma’am, you’re the best! 😀 A big thanks to all of you- Jasleen, Shikhar, Bhavleen, Akash, Aakarshan, Ishmeet, Aadi Bhaiya, Gurkirat, Raghav, Charvi, Harshan, Ripan, Manjot, Priya and Anmol. You guys gave me this blog and MOGE WALA KAAND will stay etched in my memory forever. 😛 Thanks are due to Aadi Bhaiya as well. Thank you so much for the unconditional help that you extended whenever I couldn’t find headway. 😀 And last but certainly not the least, M.G.N Public School, Kapurthala- you are the best thing that ever happened to me. May you live eternally. 

 

THE UNWANTED TENANTS

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You are the unwanted tenants, despised.

Occupying way too much space in my mind.

And the rent? What a joke!

Curse you till my last breath,

You loathsome folk.

You’d come to teach lessons,

And that’s where it was meant to end.

But you stayed a little longer, and

Scores of times did me offend.

I flinched a wee bit, yet kept my calm.

But as you went overboard,

In vain I tried to shrug you off,

You were the sole reason,

That people at me did scoff.

Even so, you all lingered on, unabashed.

Making me retaliate,

In an attitude equally brash.

You’ve clung on to me for as long as I can recall,

Abhor you all and your owners alike,

For all these years that me you did haul.

But now that the tables have turned,

It’s time you developed cold feet,

For you’ll now be crushed and churned.

Your creators i forewarn,

Revenge is well on it’s way!

PUNE AND PUNJAB- IMBIBING THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS

 

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Roughly a year and a half back, I, then a thirteen year old, was told that I’d be moving to Kapurthala- a town in North-West Punjab for about two years. Inside I was a mix of emotions, both happy and sad. Happy because I knew I’d be living in a place I’d always wanted to go and sad at the prospect of leaving Pune, the city that had been my home since birth. The latter though eventually got overpowered by the former.

 

So today, having spent a considerable amount of time in this amazing place, I narrate to you some of the experiences of my stay here so far and how Punjab went from being merely the enticing place I’d wanted to visit to the place I don’t want to part with and one I know I’ll always owe a lot.

Since I’d landed at Amritsar Airport till the day I first went to school, I barely had any Idea what this place and its people had in store for me.

So here’s where it all began- first day, MGN – IX A. I still remember the date when school commenced – 4th April (I’m confused whether to mention 2012 or not. Reckon it would sound a bit too obvious and hence stupid on my part.) and it was a Wednesday. When I first entered my classroom, rotating about in a 360° motion and looking around at all the children, particularly boys- their huge frames and masculine physiques, I wondered whether I had entered the right classroom or not and if these guys were actually my age. When I learnt that they were, the first question that struck my mind was- How many times had they failed in the past?

I soon came to realise why DESI GHEE was a such a staple for Punjabis!

When it comes to food, Punjab is undisputedly the winner. That pretty much explains why some of the best Indian chefs are from Punjab. Each time you have Sarson Da Saag Te Makke Di Roti , you end up licking your fingers and it only leaves you craving for more! (There’s even Amritsari naan, kulche, bhature, karhi and the list goes on. Saag however is my favourite and that’s exactly the reason why I’m so restlessly waiting for the winter to set in. :P)

Like they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” My father similarly told me, “When in Punjab, do as the Punjabis do.” I then set myself a goal of learning Punjabi to the best of my abilities. I began with reading. It took me nearly a month to merely recognize the alphabets correctly. It was infuriating to get stuck at every second word while reading but I was simply in no mood to throw in the towel. In the end though, all the efforts and hardships were worth it! And I attribute a huge part of my success to those of my friends who relentlessly tutored me, for being patient with a menace like me really isn’t easy! I can now claim to both read as well as write Punjabi, perhaps not with the same ease with which others here do, but for someone who had never even known a wee bit of this language before, learning it to the extent that I did,  is quite an achievement I reckon!

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Punjabi songs soon dominated my ITunes library. Even Iglesias or Pitbull didn’t appeal to me as much Honey Singh or Garry Sandhu did. Whether it meant strutting to the beat of Gabru or Angreji Beat or simply putting on the earphones to listen to music, my newfound love for Punjabi music had gripped me completely! I still remember my fanatical obsession for Brown Rang and how it topped my ‘Most Played’ list during my initial days here!

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For me however, Punjab is a lot more than just singers, films or food. It’s the people, their kind and affectionate nature (not to mention humorous  :P), the liveliness and sparkle of the bustling streets, the tranquility of the Gurudwaras, the serenity of the yellow mustard fields (they remind me of Raj and Simran :P) that together make for the very quintessence of Punjab!

 

Six months down the line, as the last leg of my stay here would have ended, I shall be carrying back to Pune not just hoards of jolly memories of this place, its people and their warmth, but most importantly a more mature and openhearted ME.

The time I’ve had here so far has been the best phase of my life. Kapurthala is now an inseparable part of me and will always stay as one… 😀