Friday, October 31, 2008 0 reflections

The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 1 of 2

The ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse – Part 1 of 2
A ShaKri Tale

IT TOOK MORE THAN A COUPLE OF MINUTES for Nandini to recognize the old bag and register a mental confirmation. The crooked nose, the hollow cheeks, the ridiculously obvious mole that stood staring back in brazen shamelessness from just below a dangly chin. And of course, the trademark gold rimmed spectacles that had lost its bi-focal power centuries ago yet remained on that bridge clinging for dear life. Yes – there was not an ounce of suspicion left that it indeed was the mug shot which was connected to a sinful hand that had once planted intense slaps across little Nandini’s sobbing face.

The incident back then had consumed a little over three minutes of Nandini’s time and six minutes of the classroom’s but had haunted the girl for over three decades after. The moment she had realized it was her long forgotten nightmare, Miss Devaki Rani, sitting just two seats beyond her on the bus that fateful afternoon, Nandini’s graveyard-friendly fears suddenly made a brief but shocking comeback. She found her hand automatically heading to her right cheek that had felt the sting of a heavily ringed and immensely flaky palm one rainy afternoon back in Vidyavardaka Girls’ Primary School. An image flashed by the following second in black and white where she saw herself as a seven year old standing helplessly in front of a figure larger than any door she had ever been through at her grandmother’s ancestral house. She then witnessed the Hercuelean silhouette barking those unforgettable words – ‘…Why you little cunning witch! You are not even as tall as my thumb and you are already stealing! What do you want to be? A dacoit? A robber? Will that make your mother happy? Is that going to bring your father smiles? Tell me! Should I call the police and ask them to take you away? Should I? Tell me! SPEAK UP!’

As tears flowed from silent Nandini’s saucer cup eyes, she had found further reason to bellow in pain as the large trunk like arm swung up once into the air and flung back on to the little girl’s reddened face.


As Nandini’s head reeled under the ripples of shock that impact had created, her ears had gone momentarily deaf to human sounds. All they could hear was the faint buzz of a telephone ringing in the distance. But before she could inform the furious teacher that the phone needed to be answered….


Two more freshly baked crisps had been stamped on the little one. And with that it was over. The woman had carelessly pushed the child back into her place and had yelled out a stern warning to everyone that any further attempts at trying to find ‘the ghost who lived in Miss Devaki’s purse’ would result in more serious consequences.

As Nandini returned to her present state of nostalgia she couldn’t help but feel relieved. One couldn’t blame her since she had been after all – guilty. Thanks to the endless taunts of her fellow class mates as to how cowardly and puny she was, there was never a chance Nandini would not have dared to explore the five rupee note sticking out of her teacher’s purse while the woman had left the classroom for an errand. What Devaki, on the other hand, didn’t know was the child was actually looking for what was popularly called ‘the ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse’. This had been a trendy way to taunt the woman by the kids as they had all wondered who exactly would release that ‘ghost’ some day. That brave girl! Who would it be? The one who would go ahead and do the impossible! Unfortunately the day Nandini had taken it upon herself to become ‘the one’ was the day she had been stung by the owner of the purse so badly, that it became one of the most traumatic experiences of her entire life. An incident that had come back to her thirty something years later, while traveling to meet her class mate from that very class in her native.

As Nandini struggled with the dilemma of whether or not she should go and reconnect with her nemesis, the old lady’s stop arrived. Despite being four stops away from her original destination, Nandini took a deep breathe, adjusted the long flowing veil of her salwar-kameez, pulled the tiny lock of hair hanging near her temple back behind her ear and got down too.

The first thing Nandini noticed was the location she had chosen to pursue her past. The stop was located in what was easily one of the dirtiest neighborhoods of her city. Strewn with open sewage drains and scantily spread out garbage bins surrounded by trash around it rather than in it, Nandini suddenly covered her nose with the edge of her veil to escape the stench emanating from almost everywhere.

‘Gosh!’ she thought. ‘What sort of a place is this!’ But given the reasoning behind her rather abrupt move, she didn’t have a choice but to see its end. And so she walked slowly behind the frail looking figure staggering a few feet in front of her avoiding cow-dung and other manure.

The vision of seeing Miss Devaki from behind suddenly seemed like a new context. The woman now looked old, fragile and extremely unhealthy. There had always been a rumor that she secretly smoked but considering Nandini had left that school just a year after the ‘smacking’ incident, she knew nothing more about the teacher’s life except the three minute physical ordeal she had endured. Devaki kept coughing into what looked like a napkin as she shooed away stray animals that seemed interested in what she was carrying in her four plastic bags. Nandini suddenly felt insecure as she began noticing that she was the clearly the odd man out in what looked like a lower middle class locality with bare-bottomed kids playing outside with rabid looking street canine and bare-chested middle aged men staring emotionlessly at the well dressed woman who was following an ill tempered old lady.

To play it safe, Nandini did the unthinkable. What had started as a non-plan was now turning into a sequence of meaningful events. She paced herself and joined the old woman who was struggling with her bags.

‘Can I help you, Miss?’ she enquired in her British accented English that had only improved after she had moved to the United Kingdom with her husband a decade ago.

‘What?’ coughed the old lady back as she strained her aged eyes to recognize the stranger offering her needless and intrusive help.

‘I said can I help you?’ she repeated with a genuine smile that she hoped would vitalize the aged soul.

‘Who the heck are you all of a sudden? Go away!’ said Devaki making it clear to Nandini – that she hadn’t changed one atom. Age had definitely not deterred the will of this woman who could only spew bitterness. She was treating Nandini the same way she had fanned away the canine earlier.

‘O! I am no one…’ Nandini found herself saying almost apologetically. ‘I noticed you were being hassled by the dogs…so I wanted to help, Miss.’

She found it odd that she couldn’t stop herself from calling the woman ‘Miss’.

‘No need! I do this every day. Now go away! Lot of thieves these days. I don’t want you stealing my things. You can’t fool me by putting on make up, I say!’

Nandini was shocked. She couldn’t believe Devaki still accused people of being criminals who were out to burgle her blind. Even if it meant random blokes who were trying to be good Samaritans.

‘Miss please…’ Nandini insisted as she found the old woman almost dropping one of her bags. ‘Please let me help. You can hold my hand if you don’t want me to run away. OK?’

Once a teacher – always a teacher. They cannot stand too much whining. And so this tactic worked somewhat. Devaki immediately lost whatever was left of her temper and flung one of the bags at Nandini and grabbed her right hand. ‘Amma!!!!Fine! My God you are a pesky little girl! What a pain! But listen! I wont pay you anything for this service you hear me? I don’t want you haggling outside my door for money!’

Nandini smiled back and responded, ‘That’s OK Miss. I don’t want anything. Let’s go.’ And then they walked. Devaki held on to Nandini with the same sinful hand that had come crashing down on the child one rainy afternoon in pursuit of a rumored ghost. What Nandini didn’t know then was within the next few minutes, she would actually meet the ghost in Miss Devaki’s purse.

End of Part 1

Click here to read Part 2 of 2

Thursday, October 30, 2008 0 reflections

Kannada Rajyotsava with

ಪ್ರೀತಿಯ ಬ್ಲಾಗ್ ಬಾಂಧವರೆ,

ನವೆಂಬರ್ ೧ ರಂದು ನಮ್ಮ ನಾಡಿನ ಹುಟ್ಟು ಹಬ್ಬವನ್ನು ಆಚರಿಸಲೆಂದು, ಶುಭಾಶಯ.ಕಾಂ ತಂದಿದೆ ಇ-ಕಾಗದಗಳ ಹೂಮಾಲೆ! ಕೆಳಗೆ ಕಾಣುವ ಕೊಂಡಿಯನ್ನು ಕ್ಲಿಕ್ಕಿಸಿ ಹಾಗೂ ನಿಮ್ಮ ಕನ್ನಡಿಗ ಸ್ನೇಹಿತರಿಗೆ ಮತ್ತು ಮನೆಯವರಿಗೆ "ಸಿರಿಗನ್ನಡಂ ಗೆಲ್ಗೆ"ಯ ಹೆಮ್ಮೆಯ ಮಾತನ್ನು ಕಳುಹಿಸಿ.

ಕನ್ನಡ ರಾಜ್ಯೋತ್ಸವದ ಇ-ಕಾಗದಗಳು

ನಿಮ್ಮ ಸಹಕಾರವೆ ನಮಗೆ ಸ್ಪೂರ್ಥಿ.




Dear reader,

To celebrate the birth of our dear Karnataka and Kannada on November 1st, proudly presents a new set of E-Cards that you can send to your near and dear Kannadigas to spread the message of 'sirigannaDaM gelge'.

Kannada Rajyotsava E-Cards on

Your support remains our inspiration.

Thank you.



Sunday, October 26, 2008 2 reflections

Deepavali Kannada E-Cards @

Dear readers,

As always, presents its entire collection of old and new Kannada E-Greeting cards that can be sent out during this Deepavali /Diwali season. Here are a few preview images of some of the new cards added. Feel free to explore the 3 pages of options and let your near and dear ones know - you care.
Add Image
Direct Link :

And many more to choose from!

Wishing all the readers of my blog a wonderful Deepavali festival.



Friday, October 24, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : Il Pantheon e Fontana di Trevi

Il Pantheon e Fontana di Trevi, Roma
The Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain

The manager of the hotel I was in strongly recommended going to the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain. When I asked him why they were so popular – he just smiled and responded – ‘You cannot leave Rome without seeing them.’ A comment quite justified, I thought, coming from an Italian and most importantly – a Roman.

And so to wrap up the collection of interesting places I had been to over the four day period, I decided to pop into a monument called The Pantheon first.

When I asked a guide who stood smoking a cigarette outside the monument what the word ‘Pantheon’ meant, he shrugged in an obvious kind of way and said ‘A temple of the entire God…ya?’. Notwithstanding the grammatical error he had made, I soon found out that the Pantheon was indeed – a temple that was built to honor all of the Roman gods.

The first thing I noticed was the inscription written on the entrance of the building –

Further investigation about its meaning revealed that translated to English, this Latin text meant

“M(arcus) Agrippa, son (F) of Lucius (L), Consul (COS) for the third time (Tertium), built this.”

More information about the authenticity of this sentence can be found here. The most captivating thing about this temple was a large circular opening at the top of its ceiling. Almost seemed like a beautiful metaphor to let the superior powers bless the visitors' lives with water, light and prosperity.

As I entered the large edifice, it became clear that they wanted visitors to behave like pilgrims since the stress on Pantheon etiquette, as it were, was on two vital things – silence and decorum. I couldn’t help smile to myself as my mind went back to my own Hindu temples back home. One of the noisiest and chaotic examples in the world of religious places, I thought. I have always appreciated the quiet and spiritual atmosphere in a church or a Gurudwara given the scope they provide for actual seeking of wishes and being one with the Almighty. I can’t say I agree that Hindu temples provide the same sense of solace without some serious effort.

Be that as it may, the Pantheon’s architectural finesse aside, I realized how beautifully the dome sat on top of the monument encompassing all that was holy into the shrine. Despite not being of the faith, I found myself feeling the presence of something divine in a place that had been frequented by many an emperor to seek blessings from the one above.

Moving out of the Pantheon, at about a fifteen minute walking distance amid the narrow streets of Rome is ‘Fontana di Trevi’. The word 'Trevi' basically means Tre Vie - as in three streets/roads. The fountain is situated at the intersection of three streets/roads and hence the name.

Legend has it that the Romans found a water source here through the help of a virgin girl 800 years ago and whose statue adorns the face of the fountain. It is also believed that throwing a coin backwards facing forward assures the visitor’s return to Rome. Of course, this is just a legend but without a doubt, hundreds of tourists fling coins into the fountain each day. Not to be left behind I did my bit as well, wishing that I return to Rome someday. Hopefully with my best half. It just seemed like the perfect end to a wonderful trip. Started with an eagerness and ended with a wish. The complete circle.

Another grand day indeed as I was witness to two more of the several wonderful monuments that have stood the test of time in Rome and other parts of Italy. The saying ‘be a Roman in Rome’ never rung truer as I flew out of the city the following day with fond memories and some notes from Italia.


This blog concludes the 4-part series I have been documenting on my trip to Italy.

Thursday, October 23, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : Torre Pendente di Pisa

Torre Pendente di Pisa, The leaning tower of Pisa

On a dull summer afternoon about seventeen years ago, a young girl turns to her friend and hands out a postcard. Her friend, a slightly buck toothed fellow wearing black thick rimmed glasses and smelling of coconut oil, giggles back and says ‘…its about to fall!’ to which the girl responds ‘…no man…that’s the leaning tower of Pisa…it never falls…’

Yes. It has certainly been almost two decades since that eventful moment I shared with my school mate Poornima under a dusty fan of our noisy classroom in Bangalore. I had a weird flashback when I first laid eyes on this architectural wonder after having read about it for so long. Set on the side of a bustling city that has now gotten used to thousands of tourists flocking it each passing day, the leaning tower sure stands tall. The view is truly picturesque as one walks into an opening surrounded by thick walls about thirty feet high. One wonders if that was done deliberately to give the visitor a well placed surprise after walking past them – the leaning tower. One really can’t see the tower from the street but a clear view emerges once you peek through the giant opening that connect the two ends of the crawling wall.

As I got off the bus (with the red arrow pointing downwards, I was told) right in front of the monument, there was a sense of accomplishment. In a day and age when almost nothing can be taken for granted anymore, monuments like this one are better seen as soon as possible. With time and the termite of history eating them up, it is becoming increasingly difficult for curators to truly preserve these wonderful examples of an era bygone.

The one thing I immediately wanted to do – apart from getting a photograph taken in front of it (and no, not the clichéd one with an image of me trying to support the tower from a distance) – was to explore the source of its support! The base! In all the visuals I had seen of the tower I had never seen a glimpse of the foundation that held this wonder in place. It was truly refreshing to say the least. Given the land slippage that caused this otherwise ordinary seeming tower to become a global phenomenon, they have actually re-designed the base to become a tilted disc. This took place, if you recall, in 2001 when a British engineer led a team that saved the tower from toppling over from further slippage. After what was certainly quite a complicated process, the tower is now said to be stable – albeit still leaning southwards.

Tourists are allowed to walk up the tower but with a pre-condition that only x number of people can go at a time. I noticed people standing on the topmost point of the tower but did not risk going up there since I didn’t want to feel responsible to cause any further damage to a structure that has already seen enough in eight centuries.

All said and done, truly a delightful day in Italia as I finally smiled to myself and sent a mental message to Poornima – ‘Yes, old friend, this tower will never fall. Amen.’


Sunday, October 19, 2008 2 reflections

Note da Italia : La Cappella Sistina

Cappella Sistina, Vaticano : The Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Please click on the photographs for a larger view.

For those of you who have seen the brilliant movie ‘Good Will Hunting’, you will remember the famous monologue Robin Williams delivers to Matt Damon about the things that just need to be experienced, not read about. One of the things he mentions in his speech is the master craftsman Michael Angelo and his paintings, prominently the one on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican Museum. When I saw this movie a few years ago I couldn’t help wonder what that room really smelt like (referring to Robin’s lines ‘…but I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel…you’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling…seen that…’ – video here for those interested in this wonderful scene from that movie) considering it was mentioned under such a vital context. So when I realized I could easily get to the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museum) on a single bus ride from my hotel in Trastevere, it became impossible to resist. After all, when in Rome, right?

So I headed off to make the beeline that formed outside the museum in the Vatican. I also learnt that the Vatican, despite being just another area within Rome has been officially christened the smallest country in the world given the power it contains. Hence this was an eye-opener of sorts for people like me who were always told ‘Vatican City’ is in Italy instead of ‘the Vatican, while within Rome is a state within itself’.

As I entered the museum I was welcomed by a barrage of some magnificent paintings and sculptures. The tales from the Bible and then onward to the life and times of the Roman Empire were sprawling all over the roofs and walls of the hallways. Every single painting had a story behind it! None of them were really ‘still portraits’ like the ones at a place like the Mysore Palace where Kings and his family are shown posing for the painting. Instead these art pieces were action based images that unfolded scriptures and tales from an era bygone. To better enhance my knowledge about what I was seeing I even picked up a book from the souvenir shop that shed a lot of light on what was displayed in the museum. But despite all that, the one thing I waited for with a lot of expectation was the Sistine Chapel. My mind kept going back to Robin’s words and I just couldn’t wait to experience it.

First things first – it’s a long walk to the chapel. In what seemed like a never ending maze of symbols that kept assuring me that ‘La Cappella Sistina’ is right around the corner, I found myself getting a tad frustrated about the build up that was being given to the room. There was a time I couldn’t help wonder just which floor of the building I was in since I had gone up and down so many times! However, I waited. And to help me get through the wait were some amazing pieces of art spread on the way that kept me busy appreciating the attention to detail artists like Angelo gave to their work. It was a blessed feeling to have been witness to such timeless examples of sheer brilliance.

After what seemed like eternity, it finally came. And it did so with quite a rush as well. You can never be sure if the next room you are stepping into is the Sistine Chapel or not so every room has an arrow indicating that the next room will lead to the chapel. So I must admit I wasn’t completely ready for it which then meant, it took me by surprise.

Absolute and complete surprise.

The room opened up into a wide area that resembled a huge church. At first sight I couldn’t quite make out what to look for since the light wasn’t at its best. But once inside, I knew – I was there. Surrounded by easily about 500-600 other people, I stood in absolute silence. There was a large sign outside that made two things clear – no talk and no camera. I chose to ignore the second one and snapped a quick shot before being reminded by a nosy old lady not to do so. I then politely reminded her back with a well timed ‘…well, it also says no talking…so…’ to which she nodded in disbelief and walked away. That side-note apart, all I could do really was look up…and be spellbound.

The photograph I took above - of the ceiling - doesn’t do any justice to the beauty one experiences in that room. There is something more too – there is a sense of silent compassion which is so rare to find in a ‘museum’. One tends to treat a museum like a house that contains some relics and reminders of a past no one can really connect with anymore. All one generally does is look at them dispassionately, maybe ponder on the date and then move on to the next item nodding in mute appreciation. But it is quite impossible to stand under that ceiling and not feel connected to something higher – something beyond what we represent below. What Michael Angelo successfully accomplished by painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for me at least, was tell the world that hope exists. That there is some chain that has come down from the time the first human was created that now trickles into the hundreds of heads that look up each at that roof each passing hour. A connection quite divine becomes apparent.

All I could do after watching the collection – especially the painting God creates Adam – was take a deep breathe. I needed another breathe to now experience what Robin mentioned in Good Will Hunting – and I did. And it was beautiful.

Another wonderful day spent in magnifica Italia.


4 reflections

Note da Italia : Il Colosseo

Il Colosseo, Roma: The Colosseum, Rome

I am not one to document travelogues since I think it takes a lot of observation and a place worthy of being mentioned. Despite having seen a good part of the world over the last decade, I have found it particularly challenging to write about my travels mainly because of the effort it takes in penning something that does justice to the place itself. That said, when I recently visited Italy for a week, it became almost impossible not to share my visions in the form of words just because of the grandeur I witnessed in Rome and Pisa. Hence the series – Note da Italia – which will be a 4 part series that documents the highlights of my journey. Here is the first part – The Colosseum. Please click on the photographs for a larger view.

Il Colosseo, Roma: The Colosseum, Rome

The first time I recall hearing of the Colosseum (Colosseo in Italian) was when the buzz for the movie ‘Gladiator’ started making the rounds. Scenes of a burly Maximus taking on a ferocious tiger as thousands in the audience cheer on under the watchful gaze of a Emperor Commodus made their appearance. As much as I enjoyed watching the much acclaimed movie, oddly enough, it never really sunk in as to how gigantic and amazing a engineering feat this monument really was until I stepped into it a few days ago.

The first thing that hit me was its size. Oh – the size of it! No man-made structure I have seen, maybe with the fair exception of the Taj Mahal, has been this huge in its construction and attention to detail. Clearly, the Colosseo was a key point in the grand Roman Empire that gave the world so many architectural wonders during its reign. Situated in the heart of Rome, the Colosseo is surrounded by various bustling streets and other buildings that look like a super-downsized miniature when compared to this structure. See the satellite image of the structure below.

Right outside the obviously visible Colosseo is The Arch of Constantine. Constantine was the emperor who brought an air of peace to a Rome that had been filled with civil war on and off for a hundred years. He gained power by defeating the emperor Maxentius in the famous battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 CE. The arch was built for Constantine by the Senate and people of Rome in 315 CE to commemorate his victory over Maxentius. The arc creates a wonderful symbolic welcome message for visitors as they note the background being covered with the Colosseo as the foreground is lit with the Arc of Constantine. A great way to juxtapose one magnificent monument over the other.

Once past the arc, it hits you that you are present at one of the most historically relevant sites on the planet. The sheer magnitude of stories, voices, whispers and shadows that engulfs you at the sight of the Colosseo is breathtaking. It is hard to treat the structure as one more ‘tourist spot’ because of the way it is designed. There is a general tendency for the unsuspecting visitor to label almost everything on the tour as ‘great’ or ‘awesome’ but the Colosseo needs no such descriptors. The remains of what was once one of the most powerful empires on Earth becomes very apparent as one approaches the monumental edifice.

Despite the fact that a lot of the building has gone through intensive renovation, there are still hints of what used to be part of a magical time. As I continued exploring the main arena of the Colosseo inside, I could not help but picture the thousands of events, fights, gory battles and the endless crescendo of a roaring audience that had once occupied the very seats we now stood taking photographs on. It was nothing short of a revelation to note the deeply clear concepts of engineering, design and mathematics Romans had when they had attempted to create this amphitheater. The ruins of the walls that once housed gladiators and fierce animals, now stood bare to the so called ‘civil’ world who will probably never fully understand the psyche of an empire that was built both on brains and definitely beauty.

As I walked out of the arena into a mirage of fake gladiators waiting to be posed with and mobile souvenir shops that were out to swindle the foreigner, I smiled at myself as the words came back – Wealth conquered Rome after Rome had conquered the world”. True, Rome was definitely not built in a day.


Friday, October 10, 2008 4 reflections

Questions & Answers

Nandini’s eyes had been blinking almost in sync with the on screen cursor when her alien impulse had taken over. It wasn’t like her to pause and ponder about such an obviously celebratory event, but she did. And she hated it. Not because of what it represented, but because of what it suddenly reminded her of. Herself.

The tussle in her heart had started a little over fifteen seconds ago. Like always at around 10PM that day she had collapsed on the rickety computer chair to check her email messages. Considering the small window between 10:01 and 10:10 was the only time she could call ‘her own’, she had to make quick decisions. At exactly 10:11, her ailing father would yell from the next room – ‘How much longer should I hear that God forsaken chatter? Is it not enough you do that every day for 10 hours in the sweat shop? Not a minute of peace in this darned house! Why doesn’t He take me sooner?’ – and then would word off some choice curses that Nandini had memorized better than her own birthday.

As much as it would be considered a cliché to have an irrational and bad-tongued old man in any house, there was a small nugget attached to it. There were only two occupants in the house – the old man and Nandini. Despite having to live with a father who had stopped caring the day Nandini’s mother had died two years ago, not once had the girl grieved. She did miss the affectionate silence of her mother whose judgments were always muted by the obnoxious husband’s maniacal behavior. But without words, Nandini’s mother had provided the psychological balance she knew the girl would require some day to manage the old man given her bad heart condition.

And she had been right. Till the dusty evening, when she had exhaled for one last time watching Nandini hold her hands together praying for a little more time from God. Apparently that prayer was answered since the heart that had stopped beating within the mother now beat within Nandini. The only difference was – Nandini was now beginning to ask questions. Not just about who she was, but also about what she was becoming.

The first question that came to Nandini’s mind the moment she had read the subject line from Savita’s email was – What could it be? The two word sentence that contained more exclamation marks than the roses in Mrs. Goel’s garden next door definitely had the hint of mysterious exuberance – “Guess what!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Gingerly, Nandini had clicked on it to find out what it is she was being asked to deduce.

Two seconds later, Nandini’s question had been answered with ten more questions – lethal and naked.

“…….nandi!!!!!! i am expecting da!!!! we got the tests done today….and its confirmed! we don’t know the sxe yet but I want a girl nandidiiiii!!!!! Ok bye….will talk to you soon ok? just wanted to let u know!!! Jeevan says hi! bye!!!!111”

Notwithstanding the typo Savita had made with quite possibly the most important word of the message – sex – Nandini was suddenly overcome with two kinds of reactions. One, the more obvious one that wanted to click on the ‘Reply’ button immediately and express how happy she was that her class mate was becoming a mother. And she even proceeded to do that. But the moment the cursor requested Nandini to start feeding her joyous response…she had frozen.

She suddenly asked herself – ‘Why is this happy news making me feel sad?’

A question that had never been asked before. Not to others. Not to herself. Having lived a stereotypical single child life with a silent mother and a loud father, Nandini had never found it relevant to know what was ahead. Even when she chose to do an undergraduate degree in Commerce instead of the more preferred Computer Science, she had noticed almost no retaliation from the family. Even when she had announced that she would be working an evening shift from 1PM until 9PM for a company no one had heard of, there was no debate over it. The first time she had arrived in a cab driven by a stranger at 10PM, her mother had opened the door and let her in without asking a word about how her first day had been.

No. There were certainly no questions anywhere. Needless to say, there were no answers either.

The first time Nandini had realized a probable cause was when she had turned 26. Two years after her work had begun. The fact that she had been born under an ‘inauspicious’ star according to her birth chart had vaporized any little hope her parents had had in getting her married to someone. The vermillion smeared faces of several God-men had prophesized the same thing – ‘Terrible star. No hope now. Better wait...’

Nandini now wondered why no ‘peace making’ prayers had been offered to ‘calm down the stars’. And how long was the wait supposed to be? She wondered why no advertisements had been given out to find out if indeed there were people out there who didn’t believe in this kind of thing. She was unsure why there had been absolutely no initiative even when three years later her mother had passed away with the same silence that she had lived all her life in.

Questions – with no one to answer.

But that didn’t help how Nandini felt now. She was 31, working for a dead end job answering calls from all over the world when there was no such thing as ‘her world’ to begin with. There was no one left in the family that she knew of, who would come forward and ask her – for once – What do you want Nandini? For some reason, she felt she had answers now.

This fact fell around her like shattered pieces of her precious years when the cursor blinked on the screen and mocked her. Its constant visible/invisible factor made Nandini realize how similar her life had been – known/unknown. Within her aging gut was a fire no one had cared to explore. Inside her chaotic mind were patterns of words strung together – the ones she called hopes. The ones she labeled dreams.

Dreams of a family, a partner. Images of a whisper in her ear, and a mischievous hug somewhere. Flashes of a kiss on the lips and the gentle squeezing of the hand. Frames of heads on shoulders and tears with a landing pad. A belly filled with a piece of herself growing bigger each month...

These had been things both Savita and Nandini had shared together somewhere in the past. But now…all Savita had were answers and Nandini, well she was just now starting to ask questions.

A scary choke ran down her throat as these thoughts clouded her tired eyes. A stream waiting to erupt and satisfy the greedy and selfish soul bubbled somewhere in between when she suddenly realized – 10:09PM.

She wiped her eyes to get rid off non existent tears and straightened her back. Within the next remaining minute she had typed a three sentence response that captured everything that was appropriate, happy, celebratory and wonderful about life.

She switched off the light in her room as she lay down in bed for the day. As she blinked into the darkness she heard her father starting to cough. She knew it would last a good ten second, so she chose to weep herself free during that time. And then she grieved.

After ten seconds all the worlds had been restored again…for another day.