Fact – Stranger than Fiction?

The readers of this blog must be no stranger to the fact that I love books. There is something inherently soothing in the sight of a book; the enchanting scent of it’s pages drawing you towards it and its words promising to enlighten, exhilarate and comfort you. A book doesn’t ask questions, it does not judge. All it does is take you on a journey, lending you the wonderful chance to live vicariously and above all, letting you amass a wealth of knowledge and wisdom. I always tell my friends that a book is the best substitute of a time machine and an excellent cure of boredom.

Ever since I started working, I have made it a monthly ritual to buy books as soon as my salary is credited. My sister and my friends have come to terms with the fact that every shopping trip of ours has to feature a trip to the bookstore. As a result, my house now looks like every bookworm’s dream and every mother’s nightmare. My bookshelf, having being crammed long ago refuses to induct any new book. Creaking repeatedly, it has made its message clear that my books can go someplace else. Hence one can find my books strewn across all the rooms, settling wherever they can, cheerfully making themselves at home and incurring the wrath of my family. However, the flip side of owning too many books is that it takes ages for me to make up my mind about what I should read. All the unread books clamour for my attention and I try not to make eye contact while deciding. I ask myself what I am in a mood for, in order to assuage my dilemma. Each time I ask this question, I come up with a different answer.

“Fiction or no fiction”, every self respecting reader has had to face this pressing question. Answering this does not seem as easy as it seems. One gives the reader a chance to forego reality and the other looks to reinforce it. I have tried but have never been able to come up with a consistent answer to this question. For, there are times when we are worn out by the world around us and immersing ourselves in someone else’s world seems to be a plausible escape. And at times, we realise that truth is in fact stranger than fiction and we do need a dose of it.

I am a great lover of fiction but have learnt far more from reading non fiction. When I was younger, I used to scoff at works of non fiction and I thought there was no fun in it. However, as I grew up, I understood that I was missing out on a treasure of knowledge. I take great pleasure in reading biographies. As a student, I loved reading biographies of business and political leaders. Lately, I have taken to reading biographies of my favorite authors (Dicken and Hemmingway are the ones I have finished) and have been staggered by the way their mind worked. Another favorite reads of mine are the works which trace the history of cities and explain how their culture came into being. I got interested in such works after I read the incredibly insightful Maximum City, by Suketu Mehta. Travelogues are another obvious favorites of mine and I particularly love the works of Paul Theroux. What really impresses me is the amount of research driving such books. I have great respect for such authors who strive hard in ensuring that the truth is presented as accurately as possible. However, few make non fiction as mesmerizing as Bill Bryson does. His body of work is awe inspiring and I admire the way he traces the evolution of mundane things with humour and insight. Brimming with trivias and anecdotes, he is by far the most engaging writer of non fiction I have had the pleasure to read.

I like to strike a balance between fiction and non fiction. However, there are times when works of non fiction really surprise me. It is enlightening to delve deeper into the world we live in and the one we have evolved from. Not to mention the trove of trivias that makes one chuckle at humanity’s quirks and be wowed by it’s ingenuity.

Written in response to Daily Post – The Great Divide

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Blank

I gaze at the paper, eager to pen my thoughts,
Blank as a slate, with bewilderment I am fraught.
Words elude me, or is it my feelings that are numb,
In this drunken world, to the stupor have I succumbed?

I reminisce fondly, when my words had flown like a river,
Now they twitch morosely, curdling in my pen that quivers.
I grope into my soul, grappling with blurring memories,
They refuse to be forced out, afraid to see the light of reality.

My paper remains blank, words dying a silent death,
Martyrs to my despair, shrouded in tears of regret.
And I sit in cold stillness, gaping at my friend once so ardent,
Sighing heavily at the silence, and the wordless night that I am going to spend.

I had written this poem a few years ago. As one can guess, I was inflicted with another bout of writer’s block. 

Teaching Myself Haiku

This morning, I decided to teach myself Haiku. I have been meaning to learn this beautiful form of poetry for a while but somehow, never brought myself to do so until this morning. I must say, writing Haiku is a good exercise. I have been dabbling with poetry ever since I remember but have never been very particular about rhyme or meter. However, creating Haiku is making me realize the importance of economy of words. It has not been easy to adhere to the 5-7-5 syllable rule. Nevertheless, I have been enjoying this highly disciplined structure of poetry writing.

Here are a few Haikus I managed to write today. I understand that traditionally, Haikus was meant to celebrate nature. But I decided to delve a bit further. I look forward to reviews/criticism/suggestions from fellow readers.

In wild clasp,

I lay awake all night,

Drunk on words.

 

I return in time,

Greet forgotten friends.

Books on my shelf.

 

Birds flew quickly,

As rains lashed in yesterday.

Misty panes and eyes.

 

Snow falling gently,

Her smile defies the chill.

Frozen in time.

 

Pages awash,

Pen between my lips,

So much unsaid.

 

Foggy Window

She sat on the couch and watched the raindrops trickle down her glass windows. It was only the fifth day since the monsoon had officially arrived but she could already see the novelty wearing off. The rhythmic pattering of the raindrops, the general coolness it brought with itself, the uplifting way in which everything seemed to be cleansed; it all seemed like a thing of the past now. She had already started hearing people complain about the nasty traffic jam it spawned and how everything smelled of wet laundry. Yet, she could not tear herself away from the mist forming around her windows. She took another sip from the glass of wine and continued staring at the tiny droplets of water dripping all over the foggy glass, her eyes lit only by the glare from the ignored TV screen.

She was woken up by the screeching of her alarm the next morning. Rubbing her eyes, she got out of her bed and went to the window. It had stopped raining and the window was not hazy any more. The only vestige remaining of last night’s downpour were the scattered puddles of water all over the ground. It was a rather unpleasant reminder, exciting only the little children as they splashed around in its murky water. She walked away from her window and busied herself with her daily rituals; coffee, shower, breakfast, catching a cab to go to work. The rain had resumed as she entered her office. People were rushing inside building, closing their umbrellas and finding a place for them to dry, cursing the evil rains all along. She smiled and went back to her work, letting the computer screen consume all her thoughts for the rest of the day.

It was only slightly drizzling while she was returning home. The sparse raindrops barely occupied the glass window of her cab. All around the city she could see that monsoon had already stamped his authority. There were little schoolchildren in rubber boots, some wearing raincoats, others with umbrellas swirling from their wrists, vast plastic covers tented over irritated street hawkers, vehicles splashing water all over the hapless pedestrians; the romance was already slipping away from this season. She asked for the cab to be stopped before her building was in sight and decided to walk. It was not an easy task with little puddles of water peppered all over her path. She sprang from one patch of dry land to another and reached her building with a triumphant air.

She once again busied herself with dinner preparations as she returned. As soon as she finished, her doorbell rang. She rushed to the door and opened it with a smile. There he stood, with flowers and a loving smile as he pulled her into an embrace. They had dinner and later perched themselves on the couch, limbs entangled in each other’s. It was raining again, raindrops were dribbling at her window, mist forming again. However the foggy window stood forgotten as she had something better to gaze at tonight.

 

 

A Dozen Roses

She smelled the flowers once again as she walked into her building. She was just returning home from work, walking down the pavement and thinking of mundane things after an equally mundane day. Her clothes were slightly crumpled from the train ride home and her hair looked like it had gone to battle with the wind and had lost spectacularly. She occasionally made attempts to straighten her hair but knew that they were of no use. She did not even care in fact. All she wanted to do was to go home, have dinner and plop herself on the bed and watch whatever was on TV. As she was just a few steps away from her building, a man tapped on her back. She turned around to answer and saw him holding a dozen roses.

He was practically skipping down the pavement, humming slightly to himself as he sniffed the flowers in his hands. The intoxicating fragrance further stirred the excitement bubbling inside him. He had taken special care in dressing up for his date tonight. He wanted his first date with this woman to be perfect. He still could not believe that he had finally gathered the courage to ask her out. After months of longing glances and failed conversations, he had finally decided to end the charade. As he walked, giddily lost in his thoughts, rehearsing his plans, his phone buzzed rather ominously. As he looked at it, his smile wilted slowly. It was a text from her, informing him that she was cancelling their plans for the night as something better came up. He sighed incredulously. There he stood, alone in the bustling crowd, thinking how to nurse his broken heart. The flowers seemed odorless now, as if its fragrance had escaped from the bouquet and had folded into the elaborate concoction of scents that was this city. His first instinct was to throw away the flowers, head back home and pour himself a stiff drink.That is when he spotted her walking a few steps ahead of her. He reached to her and tapped her on the back.

She was a bit taken aback but smilingly obliged. The man gave a curt nod of thanks and walked away as she entered her building, taking in the sweet smell. She fished out her keys and opened the door and immediately filled a bottle with water and placed the flowers in it. The flowers really seemed to brighten the house. She smiled contentedly and suddenly decided to have a long, luxurious bath. After about an hour, she emerged from her bathtub and studied herself. Her face was back to its pretty and radiant self, the days weariness having washed away. Satisfied, she got dressed as she hummed to herself, thinking about the flowers adorning her drawing room. A while later, she entered her kitchen. A few hours earlier, her idea of dinner had consisted of sundry leftovers from the morning. But her new found sense of indulgence got the better of her and she decided to cook herself her favorite meal, stealing fond glances at the flowers every now and then.

So there she sat, ending her otherwise humdrum day. She ate her favorite meal in complete and content silence, beside the bouquet of flowers. Meanwhile, a man somewhere in the city poured himself drink after drink, wallowing in his dejection.

 

 

Papers by the Window

She glanced once again at the many sheets of paper scattered all over her desk, as they sat nonchalantly, ruffling gently under the fan. It was morning now; sunlight was streaming generously from her open window and the blue ink on her papers glinted slightly. She arose from her chair and dragged herself to the bathroom, eager to get away from her desk. After washing her face, she examined it in the mirror. Her eyes spoke volumes about the sleepless night she had spent, spewing her agony on those innocent sheets of paper. She wondered why she had done that, buying a ream of papers on her way home from work last evening. She did not know why she had not chosen to just type away on her computer.

She got out of the bathroom and intended to go straight to her kitchen. She was going to need a lot of coffee to stay alert today. However, she stopped once again at her desk and started to collect the empty bottle of wine and her coffee mug. Events of last night were beginning to puzzle her. Never before in her life, she had gone on a wine and coffee fueled writing romp. She picked up a particular piece of paper which was wedged beneath the coffee mug. It just listed the many places she wanted to travel to. To an unassuming reader, it would have come across just as a bucket list. But only she knew the emotions that had led her to jot down her travel wishes. The soul numbing monotony gnawing into her life threatening to  crush her dreams was making her remind of what she was missing. Now that she was getting out of the haze of last night’s stupor, she was beginning to understand what she was doing last night. Those papers were not just bearers of her angry, hopeful and passionate words. They were a meditation on her life so far. Until last night, she had not realized that her dreams were finally standing up and wanted to escape the tyranny of her daily life.

She looked at the clock and tore herself away from her desk and made coffee. She then proceeded to the bathroom and took a shower. She got dressed, had her breakfast. She came back to her desk and retrieved the stack of bills hidden under her papers of confession. It was the beginning of the month and those needed to taken care of. She looked at the papers once more and with a sigh walked away, closing the door behind her.

The papers rested there, cheerfully ignorant of the fact that they were confidantes of someone’s regrets, dreams and hopes. They remained by the open window until a breeze swept up and they flew away one by one, outside her home. By the time she returned, those papers were long gone, drifting somewhere far away.

 

 

Fallen Flowers

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It rained. Not expected but most certainly welcome, I imagine that it brought everyone joy and respite. I did not witness how it started but I assume it was at the crack of dawn when the stillness in the air suddenly gave way to a wintry sensation. The sky was still under transition into the light of a new day, slightly unsure of its hues. It must have been a wonderful sight, a curious palette if you may. The pitch black gradually being erased by a blazing streak of orange and pink; and suddenly every color being overpowered by a nothing but a bleak shade of grey.

The clouds occupied the sky without warning and thundered, gently at first; considerately nudging me out of my sleep. I opened by eyes wearily. I am sure they must have looked tired, complementing my weary face still stained with tears. My room was supposed to be filled with soft rays of the rising sun at this time. Instead, it remained as dark as last night. I hesitantly felt the other side of my bed but as expected, found it empty. “I guess both sides are mine now”, I thought as the muffled gurgling turned into a booming eruption and downpour began.

I heard footsteps in the kitchen and an unexplained melange of hope and dread came over me. I quickly made my way and he was still there. For a moment we just stared at each other; nothing was spoken and nothing was felt. Before I knew it I let out a chuckle and he looked quizzically at me.

“I did not know this was possible”, I said.

“What”, he asked with air of resignation.

“Staring into your gaze and not feeling a thing.”

“Why else do you think we are separating?”

I did not know what to say. Words had become superfluous long ago. Months and months of debating with myself as well as him had finally drained us. All that was left of us were meaningless actions and empty stares. We looked at each other silently for another few moments as the rain drops clattered on the roof, rhythmically spelling our doom.

“What are we going to tell our friends”, I asked suddenly.

“We just couldn’t make it”, he said with another shrug of resignation. “Besides, I don’t think we owe them any explanation. And how can we explain to them if we cannot explain this to ourselves,” he added as an afterthought.

“True,” I said as my eyes wandered off to his suitcase lined outside. “Let me know if you find an explanation. I want to know whose fault this is.”

He gave a non committal nod as our silence filled the kitchen again. It is hard to remember when the silence between us had turned from a companionable one to a discontent one. For months to come, I could see myself tormenting myself to find answers; probe every moment of our relationship and think where to assign blame. I knew it would be fruitless and in the end, I would be as hapless as I was at that moment.

“I will make some breakfast,” I said quickly, relieved at finding something to do. He did not protest. Neither did he agree. He just stood there as I busied myself with the pots and pans, wondering all along whether it was him or me who was the first to give up. We ate our last meal quietly. No one brought up the fact that it was not seasoned enough. We simple chewed and swallowed, eyes on each other again, searching for something.

The rain had let up. He looked out of the window and stood up. He walked back to the kitchen and washed his hands. Then, he picked his suitcase and without a word, walked out of the door. I stood up and cleared the plates. I hoped that the water splashing on the plates would drown the sound of him driving away. It didn’t.

After a while, I finally stepped outside the house. It was refreshingly cool outside. The air was redolent with the earthy smell I loved so much. The birds were chirping happily on their newly washed trees. But all I could see were the fallen flowers in my garden; petals scattered all over; unfortunate preys to the rains.