A Bad Omen 

Manali, 1967


“Dadi, you’ve got to stop dropping me everyday. I’m a big boy now, and school isn’t that far!” 

“You don’t tell me what to do Guddu, I’ll come dropping you all your life wherever you go”, saying which she gave him the wettest kiss on his cheek. 

“Dadi, Krishna and Rajan can see. And don’t call me Guddu! You’re embarrassing me!
Despite their little squabble, Dadi knew Guddu loved her. Loved her more than anything else in the world. And so did she. After her son’s demise owing to tuberculosis three years ago, they were all they had. Guddu’s mother had passed away after labour. Dadi was his ‘de-facto’ mother, but their relation had strengthened since his father’s death. Guddu was growing up, and Dadi could comprehend all the signals. But she didn’t mind. Barring his teen outbursts, he was growing up to be a mature and sensible young man. All of 13, Dadi saw glimpses of a gentleman in the apple of her eye. 
“Have a good day Beta”.

“Bye Dadi, I’ll come back by myself, let me!”

He walked a few steps. Turning around he saw his Dadi pondering over what to say. He hugged her.

 “I’ll be fine. Love you”. The peck he gave her on her wrinkled cheek, livened up the old lady. She smiled. Her grand-son knew exactly how to get what he wanted. 
She couldn’t be late, she had to get home. She couldn’t miss the special episode of ‘Bahu Ka Ghar‘. She paced on. A few metres after progression, she stopped. In her path lay a familiar Object. A feared object. It was a combination of a lemon and two red chillies attached to a thread. She prayed Guddu wouldn’t step on it, on his route back. She reached home, in a matter of minutes and settled into her mundane routine.
The door bell rang. Dadi looked at the clock. It had struck sharp 12.45. How had Guddu reached home earlier than they used to? Oh yes, he didn’t have to wait for her to catch her breath every 5 minutes. She made her way to the door. There he was! He’d reached home safely!
“Dadi, I have a surprise for you!”

Guddu stepped aside. There it was, the messiest cat Dadi had ever lay her eyes upon. It had bright green eyes, purring away to glory. The stench was off-putting. But that wasn’t the problem. It was black. It was a black cat

“Guddu, what is this doing here? Get it away! Away from my sight, I demand!”

“But look at her, she’s beautiful! Take a closer look at her eyes. I want to call her Crystal“. 

“Put it down now! Do you want to be cursed, get inside!” 

Dadi was hysterical. 

“No, we’re keeping her. I’m getting her in”. 

Guddu calmly turned around, lifted the stunning Himalayan cat in his arms and took her to his room. 

“She needs to be bathed”. 

“Are you not hearing me?”

“Dadi I know they’re supposed to be bad luck but this is so regressive. Besides, Biswa keeps bragging about his pet puppy, now I won’t have to nod in superficiality. I’ll make sure she doesn’t leave my room. She won’t even cross your path or whatever that ridiculous jargon is”. 

Dadi felt helpless
The remainder of the day was relatively uneventful. Guddu bathed his discovery and took some milk upstairs. Dadi’s usual visits to his room had abruptly and understandably terminated. Guddu tucked himself to sleep that night. He knew Dadi would come around eventually. Would she? 
Early next morning, Guddu woke up. He looked to his right. Yes she was still there. He petted her stomach before realising he was 10 minutes late. Dadi would be fuming! He showered, 

descended the flight of stairs and made his way to the drawing room. Ever since his father had left them, the two-fold family saw no reason in sitting around the table for meals. 

“What’s for breakfast, Dadi?”

“I haven’t slept too well, Guddu. Is a toasted slice of bread sufficient?”

Dadi entered the room. She seemed worried. And tired. It was as though she’d aged ten years, over night. 

“On your way to school, drop it off. You must have bathed it. I think that’s enough compassion for some time”. 

Guddu was stationary for a minute. He took a modest bite of his toast.

You know what, you’re psychotic! Crystal is going nowhere! And I don’t want any breakfast

He picked his satchel and slammed the door behind him. This time too, he’d left his Dadi speechless. But not helpless. She knew exactly what she had to do. She almost sprinted to the kitchen. 
Yes, there it was, in the topmost shelf. Marked LIQUID RAT POISON. In bold. Perfect. Dadi looked around for a platter. Where were things when you need them most? Never mind. She could just pour some milk in a glass, and take it up to Guddu’s room. Or she could bring the cat down. That would make it easier to kick it out of her house. She poured out a glass of milk, followed by an entire bottle of the feared poison. Dadi had a diabolical look in her eyes. She kept the glass on the mantelpiece, making her way to the room inhabited by the wretched. Over the years, it’d become extensively strenuous for her to climb stairs. But she had to do it, this time. 
“Where are you?”, she yelled.

She looked on the bed, under the sheets, inside the wardrobe, around the attached washroom. Guddu had left the tap running, but that wasn’t important. She heard a ‘purr’ Only if she knew where it came from. She closed her eyes. Was it under the bed? She would bend over, if she didn’t fear her spine would crack faster than a well baked biscuit. She had to get the glass of milk upstairs. She quietly left the room. As she reached the last stair, she was mortified.
She saw Guddu, on his knees, with a napkin, scrubbing the floor. She didn’t understand.

“There’s a washcloth in the kitchen Guddu, have you ever seen me scrub the floor with a hand napkin.

Dadi froze.

“What are you doing here? And what are you cleaning up?

“I was hungry, I thought I’d come back. I was about to drink the milk you’d kept for me, but Crystal was hungrier than I was!”

“What do you mean?”

“I was about to take the glass, when she pawed at it. Now don’t worry, I’ll clean it up. I can’t give you another reason to hate her”. 

Dadi could see Crystal licking the milk, spilt across the floor, milk that Guddu was yet to clean up.

“Stop her from drinking the milk. Take her upstairs”. 

“So we’re keeping her?”

“Yes, she’s lucky for us”. 
Superstition is the religion of feeble minds- Edmund Burke

Dear You

Dear You,  

 You came into my life on my rainy day. I remember you were unsheltered to those dollops of rain. Your soft silhouette clinging to your glistening body, while you navigate yourself through those introspective puddles. I was not alone, but my eyes, had found their apple. I’d never felt as weakened as I did invigorated. This juxtaposition confused me, but I knew I liked it. I excused myself from the soulless crowd surrounding me, and made my way towards you. We exchanged awkward pleasantries. I asked you to come closer, so we could share my umbrella. You obliged. I dropped you at your destination, forgetting mine. You looked back and smiled. I melted faster than butter in a saucepan. I told you I’d call you that night. My heightened sense of bravery baffled me. I called you. I was trembling, mispronouncing words. I think I cussed whilst talking, punched my arm for doing that. Did you realize? They say, don’t let someone make you happy or sad. Very true, in theory. I’ve never felt more alive than during that conversation. I had to keep biting my cheek to avoid giggling out of nervousness. Yes, that was why I was wincing. I’ve told you, I didn’t sleep that night. I couldn’t get you out of my head. How you were wiping the rain off of your forehead, in vain. Revisiting all the moments we’d had. What I would have said differently, kicking myself for laughing at the wrong time. I’ve never woken up with greater furore than I did, that morning. ‘Coffee, 5?‘ I responded with the speed of lightning. Lightning, yes, that’s how my body felt. Three dates later, I knew I was in love with you. When a man walks all around Causeway with you, you know he’s in love with you. After a bargaining session with shrewd stall-owners, you looked at me. You were beaming, sweat trickling down your throat, and your nose twitching. I’ve never found you more beautiful. I leaned in to kiss you, and I thought I’d be rudely dismissed. You kissed me back. I was swooning, at the peak of ecstasy. We were engulfed in unexpected showers. How befitting. 

 

 And here we are, two years later. I shouldn’t say I don’t know know what to tell you, because I do, I just don’t know how. We’re all scared of loving, lest we don’t receive a certain proportion of it back. You’ve taught me how to love, and receive it. We’re over our ‘honeymoon’ phase, way beyond it. I’m alone here, and I don’t know where I lacked. I can never forget what I saw. I wasn’t disgusted, I wasn’t angry. I didn’t want to kill him, or you. I was paralysed. You make me feel vulnerable, you bring out the worst in me. You make me disbelieve myself. I tear up every time I see you and I feel the blood flow out of my body. I lose the little energy I have left in me. I’m incandescent with humiliation. You make me cry, you make me angry, you make me hate myself. But I want you back. In this war between my heart and my head, I’m losing myself. To myself. I’m drained. In every way possible. My back is against the window sill writing you this letter, when I see the first few drops of rain sensitise the lower of my neck. Memories galore, come rushing back to me. I stare at the grey clouds, relieving themselves. I decide to draw the drapes
Me

As always, I’m open to criticism, appreciation and everything in between. 

kumarakash.10@rediffmail.com

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