Category Archives: fiction

Twenty Steps

I had smelled the perfume before. Its fruity aroma upset me more than the effect of her nimble hands pulsating through my aging arms, up my spine and down to my legs. I talked to my trembling feet, “Dare not collapse on me now. We got to make this journey of twenty steps, mere seconds away.”

“Are you okay, Sir,” she asked me, her bright red lipstick blinding my cataract-operated brown eyes.

“Eh,” spoke an unrecognizable voice emanating from my interior.

I may have had the unmanageable, grey beard, a collapsing turban over my head, deep wrinkles on my face I turned away from in the mirror, but I remembered another time vividly. A time when I could walk on my two feet.

Camilla’s perfume, lipstick and the worst of all, her hands holding me in double embrace accompanied by another stewardess following us with her hands on my back certain of my fall, played with my mind. The experience proved to be more painful than the pain that incapacitated me. Because I failed to make the journey of twenty steps with my head held high, relying on my two feet, I was a giant mass of crumbling mess to the glaring eyes of the seated public hearing the screech from my dragging feet, my ill-drawn caricature of lips, and my watery eyes.

Ten steps in, a wail slipped from my lips forcing Camilla to stop. Half my size, I could tell she was exhausted.

“Are you okay, Sir?” she asked.

I wanted to tell her I could carry her down the aisle with herculean strength. My wishful thinking accompanied me to old age defying wisdom.

Another “ah” sound and a nod signaled Camilla to continue. Through hazy vision of the packed airplane, my eyes saw a different view – one of breezy fields of gold, on sunlit Indian summers.

I could see a set of beautiful, hazel eyes and trembling lips uttering last goodbye. I felt the tug of defiance and the wild chase behind her auto rickshaw with speed my legs had forgotten by now. That was the last time I saw her, my love, one of my loves.

Just like that, arrived my seat too cramped for my body and so did the demise of my disgraceful twenty steps. Camilla tucked me into my seat and fastened my seat belt like I was a baby. Despite the difficulty of her latest chore, she kept the smile on her face intact. I pictured her as a lover. For my heart remained young, fierce, and hungry. “Maybe in afterlife,” advised an inner voice.

“Is Amritsar your final destination, Sir?”

She surprised me with the question.

Now seated, no longer humiliated by having my manhood shrunk to the size of a peanut and having taken a few sips of water, my quivering voice made a comeback.


She smiled as though waiting for more.

“Going to a funeral.”

“Ah, I am sorry. A family member?”

My heart choked. She stood there unwilling to depart.

“Closer than a family member,” I said.

“Ah,” she nodded, “A friend?”

Nosy Camilla. Maybe, she too saw me as a lover. I should make a move.

“Better than a friend.”

Camilla waited with a faint smile on her face. An attendant tugged on her shoulder, and I labored to turn in my aisle seat to take in her sexy gait to the rear of the plane.

She was young, too young to be told I flew to the funeral of a lover, another lover active in my dying brain. Some would argue my brain concocted my love. Camilla was too young to be told I lived my life without her whose funeral I now flew to. She was too young to know the other endings to lifelong loves, the unsuitable endings to unrequited love. I wanted Camilla to hunger the bookish love. I wanted her to have the bookish love unlike my life.

I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and focused on the hum of the plane’s engines. An image appeared in front of my closed eyes. I became a dashing, tall, athletic figure. I smiled. I was young again. And I flew.

The Walking Snowman

It was a beautiful crisp winter evening. Few flurries hung suspended outside. Little Sahir sat there staring out the window with joy in his heart he felt each winter. He rarely sat still but waited patiently for his mother to finish her kitchen chores. He had some exciting news for her. But he was afraid she would not believe what he had to share. As she came with her coffee mug oozing warm vapors and sat next to him, Sahir wasted no time.

“Mama, I want to tell you something about my day.”

That elicited a quick response from Sahir’s mother who was used to asking Sahir all sorts of questions about his day, but always hearing the same response, “good”. How can all days just be good?

“Great, I am listening,” she exclaimed with anticipation.

“Mama, I climbed on top of the snowman in our backyard, and it started walking.”

Sahir’s mother chuckled in response. “Wow, that’s some awesome imagination!” was all she said as Sahir suspended his head low disappointed. He whispered to himself, “except it wasn’t imagination.”

Why wouldn’t anyone ever believe him? He walked over to his father who was pressing buttons of his phone.

“Papa, guess what?”

“What Lolo?”

“I sat on a car and it just started moving.”

“That’s very nice. You want to drive a car?”

“I did it, for real!”

A few hours later as the dining table was cleared up, Sahir’s parents overheard their children talking.

“Guess what Dua, yesterday I sat on your big yellow horse and it started moving.”

“Woooooow” gasped Dua. They both erupted in crackling laughter. They emitted out sounds of a horse galloping, imagining riding it through the forest as their parents glanced at them fondly.

Soon the day ended in darkness and silence of the night. In the morning, while Sahir’s mother performed the daily monotonous chores thinking, may be it was possible for all days to be the same as one another. She peeked out in the backyard and noticed something peculiar. Sahir’s snowman was still intact under the cold, but it indeed, had moved. Sahir must have moved it, she explained to herself.

But from that point each morning she walked up to the window. And, each morning the snowman shrunk a little and moved a little. One day she grabbed hold of Sahir who had long stopped talking about him climbing on top of things to watch them move.

“Sahir, you want to tell me more about your ride on the snowman?”

Sahir did not answer. He was busy making buzzing sounds and rolling his favorite orange school-bus toy back and forth.

“Sahir, are you listening?” repeated his mother.


“What happened to the snowman, did it move again?”


She sounded disappointed and didn’t probe him anymore.

That night dense fog enveloped the area. It appeared as a still from a scary movie with mystery shrouded in each nook and cranny. Her footsteps were gentle as she climbed down the stairs careful not to wake her family. Despite the fog, the outdoors was lit from the reflection of all the snow on the ground. And up very close you could see for a few feet past which the fog drenched the view in total whiteness. She could hear the crackling laughter, mumbled conversations as her heart raced. She imagined herself part of an animation movie except the crackling of the wooden floor beneath her feet was real, the coldness of the door knob to the backyard was hand numbing, waft of ear reddening winter breeze was chilling, and the sound of snow crushing under her feet was ambient as the laughter grew louder and louder.

And at that moment, from under the canopy of the fog emerged the waddling snowman with a shrill voice with Sahir atop it, his hair rustling up and down, his cheeks red with cold and eyes closed in joy. Round and round they went buzzing and electrifying.

And, the next morning, nothing had changed. Fog remained suspended in the air. The children worked on their omelets and fussed over milk. As Sahir’s mother stared at her son, with fresh memory of his hair flying in the air and cheeks red as watermelon. It must have been a dream, she dared not cross check.

As Sahir put his plate in the sink he winked at her and disappeared into the garage on his way to school.

That evening as temperature rose and lifted the fog, out came the sun, and the snow man melted away. There was an old carrot and couple of sticks where it once stood. The snowman was gone but little Sahir’s mother could never forget what she saw on that foggy night, and it didn’t matter if it was real or just imagination.

I Gave My Daughter Away


I have been blessed with lots of wondrous gifts life has to offer. I embody a laid-back carefree spirit.  After I graduated twelfth grade I had one aim in life and that was to be a mother. I never imagined working, and was content trying new recipes, learning to stitch my own clothes, and other qualities of people like me – “the home scientists”! That is one reason when the first respectable marriage proposal came my way I accepted it with glee in my heart, and purpose in my soul. My journey had just begun.

Within the first year of my new life as a married woman, before heartfelt reflection on who we were as married adults, before we had our first passionate fight and before any anger or resentment ever seeped in, I was blessed with my first daughter. We named her Miriam. Being a mother completely uprooted me, lifting me into another world, not one akin to my dreams, more mind-wrenchingly intense and devastatingly beautiful. I wept when she bawled and I sobbed harder when she split into her first smile.

And, soon after finding out I was pregnant again I embraced that reality with open arms as did my husband who was now spending longer and longer hours at the shop he started not too long ago. He was still learning the tricks of the trade and learning how to stand on his two feet.  After delivering my baby with pious grace my mother taught me, without a scream, I welcomed another baby girl. We hadn’t yet picked a name when we brought her home.  She was not even a week old, while we were weathering a sleepless life passage, when I heard the quietest of whispers coming from the living room from the darkness of our tiny bedroom.

Miriam lay asleep as I rocked my newest bundle of emotions in my arms and peered through the transparent white drapes. Our neighbors were talking to my husband who was nodding back in what appeared to be an agreement. Soon the men rose and hugged each other in a strong embrace, one reserved for very near and dear ones. I hurriedly turned as my husband, who had never raised his voice at me, locked the door behind him and marched towards me.

“You may want to sit down,” he said turning the light of the bedroom on.  I did as asked, holding my newborn and stroking Miriam’s hair, wishing not to break the peaceful spell of her sleep.

“Those were our neighbors…” he started his ramble. In the mangled monologue that followed, he explained to me like a tutor how unfortunate the Patels were to not be able to conceive and before we got too attached to the littlest baby girl, we could gift it to them. She would be in the neighborhood and would grow right under our noses.  We could visit, and they would gain an offspring and we had nothing to lose.  And, they had promised us a large amount of money, one that he could invest in his shop, he explained.


I wish I could say I revolted, or was mildly repugnant.  I cannot explain if the reality of things hadn’t registered yet or I was trained for years the art of saying yes, but I simply yielded.

Next morning, at the first streak of dawn, we bundled our nameless girl in her best clothes, packed all her essential items like diapers, wipes, milk bottles, clothes, blankets, wash cloths carefully folded and hand pressed which was similar to a sendoff of a girl at the time of marriage.  I watched the tearful Patels shower their affection on her and then cradling her, recede around the bend of our old dilapidated street, too narrow for a car to fit in, with menacing odor from the open drains whose stench hadn’t reached my nostrils until that morning. With those walls of homes closing in on me, I embarked on my own private battle between the passive submissiveness on the outside and an angry witch inside my heart.

Because I had given my daughter away.

That night in my sleep my hands kept reaching to my left feeling for my newborn as though it hadn’t yet registered with them, that she was not there, and never coming back.  The next morning I was so restless that only one thought comforted my agitated spirit.  So, when I heard my husband’s approaching footsteps back from the shop, I ran outside to greet him and beg him to bring my daughter back, and that I had changed my mind.  His hands were full of bags.  He unloaded a flurry of gifts he had got for me and Miriam and told me how the money was already helping him kick start his shop that hadn’t done so well up until then.  He could pay off his debt.  He was elated.  Me?  I didn’t utter a word.  I held my head low, rose like a slow-motion picture plot, moped to the kitchen and made him his cup of evening tea.

I made dinner next.  Next morning, I and Miriam walked along the street to get groceries.  I clutched on to Miriam tightly, stressed if the passersby would dare ask me for her and I would not say no. I toddled along with my toddler meekly with breasts soar with unwanted milk, like a brace broken from a torn-away hug too soon.

I transformed as though from a butterfly to a caterpillar miraculously backtracking in my life in haste. I washed the utensils in kitchen with fury, slamming the steel against steel, letting droplets of water spring further and further away like a fountain creating an orchestra of utensil banging music.

And, I and my husband of two and half years continued our fight-less journey with unspoken grievances that I now lugged around buried inside my heart.

A year later I found myself in the cold embrace of the hospital yet another time waiting impatiently for a boy, except it was another girl. He came, he saw, and he turned around without touching the little girl and disappeared into the night – my husband, this time not hiding his disappointment. Or I wondered if he too had tasted his share of the guilt pie I was savoring all by myself.

I waited a painstakingly long time for each day to rise and fall, behind fluttering curtains, meandering corners of streets for takers of another of my girls, but I welcomed the days that turned into weeks, months and years without occurrence.

After 4 years, we tried yet another time for a baby. And, in the span of all these years, living so close to the Patels, not once did we pay them a visit or invite them over. So much so, I never walked in the direction of their home street, avoiding it like a hypochondriac avoided germs. But after the fourth baby turned out to be a girl yet another time, and I walked into our living room finding Mr. Ravi Patel, the same Patel from that wretched evening when I unfriended my own soul, I lost it. My husband invited me to a seat at the table. Instead I stood there petrified like a stone.

He wore an expensive suit and spoke politely in a polished accent and in front of him laid a stack of pictures of a little girl I did not need to see. I stared away listening to the bargain of yet another informal adoption this time on the premise of uniting two of the sisters.

I leapt forward, springing the table with herculean force and toppling it over. My husband, taken aback, screamed without inching forward towards me as fresh flow of warm tears sprang down my face.

I was having my first passionate fight of my marriage, seven years in the making, in the presence of a stranger, the very villain that initiated my miraculous downfall as a mother, as a human being. I uttered no words and left the men standing in shock certain that they knew my answer. I packed all of our bags, girls and mine in mad fury and instead of bolting out I lay down on the bed waiting for my husband to finish apologizing for my behavior to Mr. Patel. I planned to leave openly. When he came back in, he parked himself on his side of the bed with a heavy thud.

“I turned him away,” was all he said not demanding justification for my sudden outburst and lack of control.

I wish I could say the words comforted me and that it could reverse the years of rift it created in my marriage but it did keep me from walking away that night. And, I couldn’t hold the grudge against my husband much longer. It was me I had to forgive, because no matter what I did or didn’t do, I would always be that mother who gave her daughter away.

The Murmur of a Silent Heart

Dreams are but vapors of a passing downpour
The rustling from a vibrating tree
The murmur of a silent heart
That speaks to no one, shows its face to nobody

Dreams are but figments of reality
Bits of truth garbled in a cloud
Not what you can touch or hear
Aliens the world embraced as real

The fresh scent of wet grass
the aroma of violet wild flowers
the tickle from a gentle breeze
You think of me, and I weep in delight

Our worlds collide, we crash and burn
Wake up and you are not there again.
Ah, another dream it must be
The world we conjured up in disguise

Replayed, edited, reframed and reimagined
Craftsmanship of a directorial debut
Of a habitual dreamer
Walking in another’s shoes

Dreams are messages from another world
That exists but for you
It is yours to annihilate or adorn
Yours to cherish or loathe

For Sale By Owner – Planet Earth!


The United Nations (UN) has decided to put Earth for sale! This decision has outraged the public and sent angry waves across the globe. UN supports its decision, citing that humanity stands at important cross-roads. With a future that is precarious, and new demands from the wealthy, looking to relocate, for one-way missions to outer space, has coerced them to ponder over the future of humanity. Public, especially the middle-class and the poor are deeply offended by this decision.

This decision deepens the rift between the rich and poor. Those lacking wealth are left to fend for themselves. If humanity has to move, all are not created equal. UN defends its stance that putting the planet for sale is not a secret nod for the rich to fly away but rather a cry for help to save what’s left right here on a planet that has served us dearly for millions of years. Although internally, they may agree that this is a nod of approval for those that can leave, to do so. The human footprint is so big, that with a few departed beings, may very well be the right thing to do at the right time.

But, all this discussion sparks more questions than answers a few! Will a new singular owner protect what remains from the imminent ice ages, super volcanic eruptions, shrinking coastlines, parched drought-ridden states, drowning plains and mountain ranges raging with fire? Or is it what it appears – the biggest dictatorship ever. United Nations hopes that an owner that will invest their huge capital on planet earth, will protect it in a manner all of us have not for free. The shrinking poles, and cries from the scientific communities have been ignored for decades. The countries are so divided to even thrust their trust on the scientists, some blaming the recent climate atrocities on a normal cycle, so much so that they are certain of mistakes in their formula. Public is divided into two groups. One that are non-believer deeming all forecasts as nothing short of fear mongering. And the other camp, that think there is nothing they can do even if the dire predictions are accurate.

United nations disagrees. After thousands of summits on global warming, and fractions within the scientific community themselves, the UN is convinced that whether the climate change is temporary or permanent, it cannot be ignored. Without consensus and clear ownership of the entire planet earth, we all are failing every day. And, without the move to a single ownership, the status quo prevails. And status quo is one of disagreement and inaction.

Not all are indignant at this decision. The activists whose voices had been drowned over the years by constant infighting are rejoicing at this recent outcome. They feel vindicated and are certain that this will bring to limelight the issues they have been pioneering.

Owning a planet is not a new idea. 10 years ago, when Mars mission got the backing from private investors with spaceships and organized programs to send people to Mars, Mr. Tatum Heisings became the first person to own a planet. He paid a whopping billion US Dollars for it. He heads all missions to Mars and holds the fate of millions that will depart for Mars, in the first venture next year. NASA is not very thrilled with this extra oversight for all their projects concerning Mars but Mr Tatum Heisings, some argue is now more powerful than even the president of the most powerful nation on earth. The sales didn’t end at the red lifeless planet of Mars.

Since the sale of Mars, all planets have been put on sale from the burning Mercury to the freezing dwarf planet of Pluto. Some people feel this is a joke. There are questions around ownership and the price. What authority does the UN have to sell something that isn’t theirs to begin with? Or is it just pandering to the narcissistic pleasures of the wealthy? The future will tell. For now, all we know is that our home, the planet earth, in all its beauty, and all its flaws, is up for more changes, one that involves mass exodus. The scientific community predicts major impact of this sale. From changing borders, to more laws, changing education curriculum to changing foods will be just the tip of the iceberg. Though time will be the ultimate test, we know this today, public will sleep a light sleep from now on.


Mr. Hinkles has lived at the old cottage villa for 40 years. He is well known in the town. He wears an old woolen jacket daily. His face adorns a faint white beard and wrinkles on his face stand for the years of his life. He lives alone and follows the same routine daily. He does not seem to have any family. Mary Peterson brings him homemade cookies every Sunday. He is a war veteran and has a long history of American manhood behind him. But from past several years, he has called a small village in Tuscany his home. Roots, he says have power but there are other forces in life, stronger than water. There is a mystery that surrounds his solitude. Mostly people feel bad for him.

Everyday Mr. Hinkles wakes up at 6. He brushes his teeth and smokes his cigar sitting in the solitary chair in his patio gazing far into the field, his gaze piercing through the fog of the morning. There are two more houses next to his but they are far apart. After his cigar is done, he walks slowly to the kitchen. He warms water in a small bowl. He boils the herbal petals over the steam. This is an important step, he thinks to himself. He warms himself some bread and eats it with tea. He polishes his black shoes until he can see his own reflection in the radiant black. He washes and dresses himself in the navy blue suit and steps out of the rusted front door.

He walks about a mile and half when he meets, Lucy on the main street. She is all flustered up. As soon as she sees Mr Hinkles, the beads in her eyes sparkle.

“Jack, How are you, my dear?”

Mr. Hinkles old face splits into a gracious smile. “Fine dear, market is so crowded these days. I have to walk to the Himton junction across the corn acres just to get a few vegetables.”

“Yes, things are getting very busy these days.” They talk for a little bit when Lucy excuses herself in a hurry. He watches her disappear around the bend of the road, a sadness settling on his dark face. He slowly turns back on his journey.

He stops at a shop on the way, buys a wind chime and the daily newspaper. The shopkeeper asks about his wellbeing before Mr Hinkles exits out into the busy street again. It is a busy day and the crowd fills the streets of Tuscany. Life exudes in every activity around. There is not much to explain but the affairs of everyday life, selling, buying, rushing, worrying are written on every face. Mr. Hinkles hurries in his own hurry. He buys few more things along the way, but never stops to look behind.

A secluded road on side of the junction forks out. He quietly and surreptitiously takes the road. He walks for another mile until his footsteps stop on a small spot. The grass is lush green and flowers still fresh exude a soothing fragrance into the air. It is an often visited spot. The stone says but one word, Beloved.

He bends down wistfully, opens his bag, replaces the flowers, and sprinkles the rose essence all over. She loved the fragrance, he thinks to himself. He sometimes sorrowfully talks and sometimes simply sits there till evening every day. Some days he sobs silently, sometimes erupts into laughter. He has his lunch as though on a perpetual picnic that only temporarily breaks at night. And, he does this daily. And daily, the window across from the field opens and acknowledges his presence at least once. Beloved are those that remain even when they go away.

Creek in the Woods

The huge mountains loom over us and clouds move ever so slow hugging the tips of the mountain. There is gushing water flowing in the valley below. It is evening time and the air so fresh and the backdrop of the Himalayas simply majestic. Monica and I step through the bushes down to where the water is as the rest of the class drinks and eats in their snack break by the bus. We simply walk as the roar of the water get louder and louder. As we reach the bottom of the hill, we hear a loud noise from above. It is Shelley. She says something but we are too far to hear or care about.

The water is sliding up and down the rocks with so much speed that it feels there is a thick surf of foam on the surface of it. I can feel happiness rise and fall inside my heart like orchestra. We sit there for a few minutes. Then we start to collect rocks with salt sediments on it. When we go back up we are scolded by the teacher for running away like that. We giggle. Monica and I have been best friends for several years. After the tough preparation for the board exams, this school trip to the Himalayas is a much needed break. We climb back into the school bus laughing and cracking jokes. Happiness is an emotion that knows no end. As the bus starts to move we stare out into the light fog that is developing as the evening is progressing into the night.

At the hotel darkness shrouds the mountains but not sound of the gushing water from the open window of our crammed hotel room. I am happy beyond measure. Next day we slip out of the charades game into the fields outside our hotel. We run into the wilderness shouting and screaming. Both of us clad in denim blue jeans are inseparable and uncontrollable and this is perfect opportunity to exercise our want to break free. As we stop by the small stream of water, Monica starts talking about how Ram threw up in class when her pet frog jumped out of her bag. The whole class started screaming when the frog (Teddy) jumped around. I hold her arm to stop myself from turning over and my eyes water as we laugh so hard our stomachs would burst open. All of a sudden I see smile on Monica’s face turn into a deadpan expression as though she has seen a ghost. Her gaze is fixated on the right of my shoulder. I get scared and move to turn around and look and I do not understand why but she stops me and asks me to wait. I do as asked. I stare at her face begging her to say something. She holds me for about a couple of minutes and then says, “Look” pointing right behind me.

I turn around and find a small dingy looking house in the middle of the woods on the other side of the stream. Its shape and color make it easy for it to camouflage, no wonder we didn’t notice it from this close. Its old walls are clad with green leaves clinging on to its side. I cannot imagine anyone living in such a place.

“So, what happened?” I yell at Monica.

And, to add to my confusion, she asks me to hush and whispers in my ear.

It was awful, and I don’t want to talk about it. We should leave now.”

Monica is the most fearless person I know and watching her afraid perplexes me. Typically in these situations we rush to adventure and explore unseen buildings. We are always getting in trouble. Yet, I do not question her. I simply shrug and follow her out of the woods.

The next day at the mess she is awfully quiet. I probe her some more.

“Hey Monica, let us go back to that house to see what’s inside” I say to her.


“Why not? What did you see, tell me!”

This time, all she says is, “I saw a figure slip from inside of the house around it. There is something wrong with the house and I do not want to talk about it or go back there!” With that she leaves with her plate still full with food.

Days roll by; we go trekking into the blue hills where there is a sealed bungalow of the old King of Patiala. We see the beautiful pictures of his second bride and admire her expensive clothes and beauty with envious eyes.

A week passes by and we are an evening away from the day when we head back out of the mountains into the plains of Punjab where endless fields with yellow flowers shroud the earth as far out in the horizon you can see.

We are playing cards and Monica is losing badly, I must say. The group behind us is talking about ghost stories.

Shelley is the first to go.

“My grandmother sees ghosts in the bungalow we have in Shushrolley and does not let me visit that place until I carry a cup of raw rice in my bag.”

We look at each other and smile. Kids can be so funny.

“Oh that is nothing” proclaims Shaam.

He continues. “My uncle once gave a lift to a lady on his cycle through the fields of Ropar and in his rear view mirror he saw that the lady’s feet were inside out. He lost balance and fell but as soon as he recovered, he looked around for the lady and she was nowhere in sight.”

We laugh hushed, with our backs towards the group. Monica loses yet another game from me but insists for another. I distribute the cards again indifferently, when I hear Kavita’s voice behind me.

She is speaking dimly.

“Yesterday evening Radha and I played the ghost coin game. We never get anything. But yesterday the coin moved!”

Everyone exclaims with a loud hum!

“The ghost was very chatty. It told us that it lives very near to this place. It said there is an old stone cottage right behind our hotel’s outer fence in the creek and that he sees all that we do.”

With that everyone laughed.

“And let me guess he is here with us right now!” exclaims Shaam.

I drop the cards in my hand and both Monica and I stare at each other both thinking the same thing. At that time Mrs Bhattal hushes us into our respective rooms.

We follow each other silently.

The thunder is so loud that night that every time it roars, our hearts miss a beat. We do not sleep the entire night that night. Every minute noise passes through the filter in our ears and we listen to the deadening silence or a shriek out in the distance.

In the morning, when the sun dawns, we hurriedly pack our belongings and as we step into the bus we turn and look around for the last time in the direction of the cottage and the small stream. We are happy to leave the place. And, when we return to the vast fields of Punjab out of the canopy of green mountains we sigh a breath of relief.

Written on 6-13-2006

Blue Umbrella

I found a blue umbrella last evening sitting outside my shop. I close my shop at 7 daily. Punctuality is a second nature to me. Last night I turned off the light, stepped outside, jiggled my pant’s pocket for keys and locked my heavy 20-year-old door. And, as I turned around to walk, I saw this blue umbrella sitting on the second step. It still had picture-perfect round rain drops resembling pearls resting on its surface. What was peculiar about the umbrella was the shade of blue. It was not a common blue. How many times do you notice a shade of a color but this shade seemed almost inescapable to the human eye. I stared at the blue for a few seconds. I walked past the umbrella and looked around, not a person in sight. The storm, now silent, seemed to have rushed the crowd into their homes. I looked hard at both sides and turned and looked at the umbrella that was calling out to me, “I am yours, it pleaded!” I silently picked it up. But, an unnamed guilt ate at my mind the rest of the night. My innocent mind could not get past the idea of picking someone else’s (mysterious) umbrella from the street. I was guilty but also tortured by the mystery of the color and the thought as to why the umbrella was abandoned in the middle of a storm. My mom said that I needed to find someone for myself, that I was too alone. After you have been this alone, it starts showing in the form weirdness, she said. Maybe she was right, but God knows I was so unsettled by this small event that I could not rest my mind on another topic.

So, the following day as I brushed my teeth and stared into the wild haired half-awake person in the mirror, I decided, Yes! I am going to take the blue misery back to its second step. I combed my unmanageable hair, put my book in bag pack, turned off the TV, fixed the glasses on my nose, and picked the umbrella and hid it in my big bag.

It was sunny that day, a rest day for umbrellas. I bashfully but vigilantly opened the blue umbrella and put it back on the step I picked it from as though it never left it. As my fingers trembled I glanced around one more time searching for the owner of the umbrella to catch me, the thief of their umbrella, and hurried inside. The open sign jiggled all day long through the glass window by the wind. It made this quacking noise as it slammed against the glass window. Every so often I would look outside at the blue umbrella still sitting there. Why hasn’t anyone come to claim it? My misery only grew by the hour.

When poppy came in at noon she complained of the umbrella blocking the entrance and moved it in. I didn’t answer and took my book out to lunch with me. I ate at the nearest sushi place. I hate sushi but liked the grilled chicken they make over there. Its taste brought me back here once a week. As I ate, activity in the right periphery of my eye formed an image. Without turning I saw a couple of waiters whispering in my direction. I shut my book with a bang, put money on the table and scrambled my way outside without looking behind. How did they find out about the umbrella? Such was the guilt of a lonely mind.

Every night I took the umbrella home. Every night I stared at it angrily. And, every morning it traveled back with me to work. Poppy didn’t question it anymore. And even I got used to the umbrella, it is just an umbrella, I said. It seemed to belong perfectly in my gift shop. It just fit in. It was a little person.


Then one day when I was getting groceries from the new mart in town, all of a sudden the thunder roared and clapped. The dark grey clouds sped west. And, after a quick round of lightning, rain slapped hard on my face. I loved my red jersey. I wore it every Tuesday with my denim jeans and striped shoes my aunt Bethel gave me. As I drenched in rain, I was unhappy but when I remembered the blue umbrella in my bag, I smiled. I took it out and walked the rest of the way satisfied. My Blue Umbrella, Indeed! It’s mine, a voice whispered in my heart.

It rained for next three days straight but I was not worried. I went to the store across town for antique shopping, I visited my grandmother in Brooklyn and back and I walked across the Hudson River. I and my blue umbrella now went everywhere together.

On the seventh day of May a customer walked into the store. He was shabbily dressed and started haggling over dickens old book. As poppy calmed the old man down, some activity outside caught my attention. Two young men were outside. The one with the mustache was holding my blue umbrella overjoyed and excited.

His eyes were lit and he exclaimed, “I left it right here last week! I cannot believe I found it. I love New York!”

My heart skipped a beat. I felt helpless. I settled the account with the irate customer. But, when I looked outside the blue Umbrella, my blue umbrella was gone. I was sad beyond despair. I walked back that day with a heavy heart. I missed the umbrella. I missed its color blue. I looked at all my other umbrellas with disdain.

I never saw the man with the mustache again nor the blue umbrella that was found and then lost.