The Rain Child

The house is heavy with grief.
Twisting an escaping strand of my straightened hair in my finger, I bite my lower lip to stop myself from getting emotional.
Outside, as I hear thunder, a sudden smile of secrecy escapes my pursed lips.

Abandoning my family in time of their need, I take one step back, listening to the sound of my bangles as they gently clink against one another.
I take another and then turning around, I run out of the main door.
My long, curly hair is brushing softly against my back as I break into a sprint, my lips slightly apart with the struggle of breathing. Hoisting my ankle length skirt up, I continue running till I reach the far end of my back yard.
Around me, mango trees are swaying with the wind, waving to the lightning in the sky.
I stand still, closing my eyes, my head turned towards the clouds.
My fingers have let my Tulip red skirt fall beautifully over my legs as my arms slowly start moving upwards, till they’re outstretched beside me.
A warning thunder resounds in the sky, nature’s call, and as if on cue, a drop of rain falls on my forehead. Within seconds, another plops on my nose till eventually, the drops cover my face.
I smile; loving every minute of the beauty with my eyes closed and then, I begin spinning. I don’t know how I look but if my dad were standing next to me right now, he would have said that I looked like a rose amidst the lushness of nature.

My father is my most favourite person in the entire world.
He always says that when I’m happy, he’s happy.
But I haven’t told him yet that I’m only happy when he’s around. Now, I think that it may be too late.
“Darling,” He’d say on a random day, as we both sat in our lawn, lazing around and taking in the beauty of the sunshine. “Have I ever told you the story about you and the rain?”
I’d giggle and say, “Yes! But I want to hear it again.”
He’d chuckle at my excitement and start off with the story I had heard over a hundred times in my life
“You were only nine months old!” He’d tell me, with stars in his eyes, every time he repeated that story. “A lucky baby. One day, we had left the main door ajar and you heard the rain pouring outside and crawled out.” His face would turn into dismay. “It was a good fifteen minutes before your mother and I found you. God, the horror in my heart! Would you believe, just when I was ready to call the cops, I saw you from out the window, sitting near the mango trees, giggling in the rain? I never left the door open again!”
At this memory, he fondly laughed. “My rain child.”

My father doesn’t know that he’s my rain.
I mean to tell him that if it still is possible.
Outside, where I’m standing, the rain gets heavier. I feel the cold rain drops fall on my skin and mix up with the hot tears that are scalding my cheeks.
That’s the best thing about this season.
No one needs to know how much your heart is breaking.
My father always tells me that tears are a sign of weakness
.
“Don’t ever let people catch you crying.”
“But dad,” I’d whine. “Everyone cries every once in a while!”
“Not you!” He’d smile then, fondly touching the tip of my nose. “You, my dearest rain child, will just run out to where you belong. By the mango trees in the rain. Your real home. There, you’ll find happiness. If you don’t, I’ll always be here for you.”
My childish mind did not think deep enough back then to realize that ‘always’ was not a word that meant ‘forever’. That immortality will always be our biggest weakness.

I look out at the mango trees. They’ve been there for longer than I can imagine.
My father once told me that he and my mother planted them together.
I love my mother a lot. But she doesn’t compare to the bond I share with my father.
I’m careful not to tell her that because I’ll hurt her feelings but she’s aware. Anyone would be.

Falling to my knees, ignoring the pain surging up my legs, I clutch the grass with both my fists to compose myself. My head is bent low and my tears are falling with a speed that matches the rain.
Death is the most terrible gift of life.
It takes away from you, precious moments that you no longer have time to share. You see your future right in front of your eyes but it’s a future you can’t have because your time is up.
My sobbing gets loud and I’m scared that someone in my family inside, weeping, will hear me.
Behind me I hear footsteps but I don’t turn.
Then, a voice.
“My dearest Rain Child,” it says, a deep male voice choked with emotion and regret.
I know it’s my father.
He wipes his tears and crouches beside me.
I look at him, one last time, my eyes brimming with tears, matching his.
Like father, like daughter.
Then, he speaks.
“You’ve decided to go to the rain!” He says, breaking down. “But why didn’t you take me with you?”
I’m sitting right next to him but he can’t see me. He can’t see me sobbing hysterically now, shouting ‘I love you’ to him over and over again. I want him to know that I’m glad that car accident took me and not him. That I’m glad that I am not the one alive right now, crying for him. That it may sound selfish but I may not be able to survive without him. That mom now has him to lean on but if he had been the one to go away, then our family would collapse. But then, I want him to understand that this is what fate has written in our lives and that’s alright.
But it’s too late for all these things.
So, I just take in the sight of him.
We have one private moment together, joined in our tears and agony.
Then, getting up, I pat his head, though he can’t see me.
For one miraculous moment, he looks up, directly into my eyes.
He may not be able to see me but he has felt my touch.
Knowing that this is the most that I can have, I run towards the pouring rain till I’m finally one with it.
Then I’m gone and so is the rain.
The sun comes up, shining brightly, as if I’ve never existed.
But far away, in my house, the wails continue.

The Wedding

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Her ring is sparkling under the sun.
Looking at her, beautifully decked up, I know that I am doing the right thing.
Her white, flowing dress falls around her neatly as she walks down the aisle, her eyes fixed on the man she is going to marry.
I wipe a silent tear, remembering my own wedding, 26 years ago.
Ours was an arranged marriage.
I had wanted to be independent.
My parents had wanted dowry.
In our struggle to decide my future, they won.
Before I turned eighteen, my marriage had been fixed.
I look at my daughter now, vibrant, an air of independence around her.
At 25, she radiates brilliance.
The man down the aisle is her boyfriend of eight years.
She made the choice that I had been too afraid to make almost three decades ago.
I remember our discussion, about five years back, when I had brushed upon the topic of marriage.
Had I been as firm as she was back then, and my parents as understanding as I am, things would be a lot different now.
Wiping away another tear, I watch as they seal their love with a kiss.
Her happiness makes me happy.

This is an entry for the FEMFLASH 2013 writing competition from Mookychick Online. Enter now.

The Sun Effect

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My mother always told me that summer was her favourite time of the year. She said it was so powerful, that the trees swayed to escape its heat. She said it was so holy that rivers willingly sacrificed themselves to be taken up as an offering to the sun. She said it was so amazing that people rushed to beaches to be bathed in the sun’s rays.
Frankly, I never understood it.
I only saw it as an excuse to eat a lot of ice cream.
But now, as I stand in this room, my head leaned against the window pane, my eyes closed, I realize with reluctance that she was right. Summer really is magnificent.
One cold winter, when I was ten, my brother passed away. Ever since, I’ve seen my mother detest winters. She’s always sat at home and blamed the frosty air. She called it fatal.
But every time summer was around the corner, some hidden happiness seemed to take over her mind. A lasting smile crept up on her face, her skin began to glow and her eyes would sparkle. She fondly called it ‘The Sun Effect’.
Recalling that now, I look at the photo of my brother hanging up on the wall. He was 21.
That was when horrible things started to happen to us. His passing devastated my father, till eventually, it took a toll on the marriage. But one day, he and my mother came to a mutual solution that seemed to be the only one that would work. He left.
That sent my mother further into depression and I would wish that he had taken me with him, just so I could escape her moping. But now, looking back, I realize that had he done that, I’d have missed knowing my sunny mother and that would have forever been my life’s biggest mistake.
So, I’m glad he was selfish enough to not care.
The sun hits my face and I squint, moving away from the window.
The room around me is dull. Bare.
There is an aura of sadness around it that engulfs me.
It reminds me of the time when I was a little older and started going to high school. That was when I worried a lot about my mother. She would hardly leave the house and I sat in school picturing her cutting herself or hanging from the fan in our smelly bedroom.
So, I would run home and upon finding her to be fine, hug her tight.
Looking back now, I realize that a lot of my teenage was filled with such constant panic.
But then, I’d have my good moments too.
Eventually, after the dark, cold days, the sun would rise, bright and high, and so would my mom.
She’d dress up in her best summer skirt and hold my hand. We’d run into the fields and lay on the grass for hours, enjoying the sweat and the feeling of the occasional hot breeze against our moist skins.
I am old enough now to admit that perhaps my opinions were misguided. You see, I’ve always hated this particular season. But I loved what it did to my mother. And that indirectly forced me into loving everything about those two sweaty months.
I feel a groan calling me from across the room.
Pulling myself away from my thoughts, I run to the other side to where my mother is.
I look at her frail figure, unmoving, on the nasty old bed in our house.
Holding her hand, I sit on the edge of the spread, looking into her eyes.
“The sun is out, mom!” I smile, my eyes filled with tears. “Please, please get up.”
She groans again.
I notice the harsh contrast of how bubbly she used to look and what age has done to her now.
Outside, the sun is still round. It still shines brightly.
But inside, my mom doesn’t. Years have gone by and now she’s become dull.
I miss that smile of hers, the bounciness of her hair, the twinkle in her eyes. These were the things that I have failed to cherish back then. Things I can’t get back now.
“Window” She whispers, her voice raspy.
Shaking my head in amusement, I smile and get up to open them for her.
Even in her last few moments, she can’t help but think about how wonderfully hot it is.
I see a small smile on her face as she takes a deep breath and squeezes my hand as tightly as she possibly can.
Her eyes make contact with mine briefly.
In that one look, she has managed to tell me a lot of intimate things that she hasn’t shared with me over our decades together. I reciprocate, hoping that she understands how much I love her.
The rays hit her face with delicate brutality, as if reaching out to her.
That’s how she breathes her last.
My mom was right. Summer is magnificent.
It gave her life.
But, it also took that life away.
I see my mother, completely still and I let a few silent tears fall.
She’s gone to her son. She’s also gone to the sun.
Minutes later, I step outside.
Looking up at the sky, I know with absolute certainty that I will always love summer.
Not because of the unknown reasons that made her happy, but because to me, summer is my mother.
Because I know that as long as the sun is up there, my mother is with me, laughing.
As I begin to walk, the rays touch my skin and I smile, knowing that it’s her.
Knowing, that it will always be her.

Those Three Words

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It started on a warm summer afternoon. Like most things do.
He was sitting on a park bench, his head leaned back, his eyes closed, with an almost non-existent smile on his face.
As I jogged by, my hair tied up in a ponytail, my face sticky with sweat, I realized that the sight of his perfectly chiselled face and his gym trained body would stay fresh on my mind for quite a while to come.
Ok, so maybe it didn’t start on that warm sunny afternoon. It started on the next one.
Because the very next day, I went jogging by the same spot and there he was, as perfect as a picture postcard.
This time, I turned around and on impulse, decided to sit on that bench, next to him.
I was hoping for him to turn to me and be mesmerized by my beauty.
Before we continue, let me tell you that I’m not really good looking. My hair is frizzy and my face is round. I don’t have a perfect body like the girls on those beauty magazines have. I’m not exactly fat but I’m definitely a bit lumpy in a few places. Probably the only noticeable feature about me is my big brown eyes.
Anyway, I was really hoping he would turn and smile at me. We’d then introduce ourselves and a long conversation would turn into a cup of coffee which would then develop into a proper dinner date. We’d meet every day and discuss every tiny detail of our lives and would never get bored of looking into each other’s eyes. Eventually, we’d celebrate our first anniversary and then our second till we got married. Sigh.
Yes, I admit it. I’m a love-sick fool.
But no, I haven’t fantasized like this before.
This is my first. I promise.
Ok, second.
The first time was a mistake.
But hey, hopefully, the second one wouldn’t be!
Though much to my disappointment, he didn’t even look at me. I sat there for a while, feeling stupid, not knowing what to do. Then, I just got up and left.
That evening at home was worse.
I had just sat down to watch some TV, to drown the miseries of my budding love life (Did I tell you I’m delusional too?), when my mother walked into the living room and started off with her daily dose of ranting.
“Young lady, take those shoes off this instant! Oh my God, look what you’ve done to my beautiful carpet. This was given to me by my great grandmother. Where have you been jogging? In a mud pit? You need to learn some discipline. Wait till dad…”
And then she stopped. Abruptly. Suddenly.
I turned the TV off, knowing that this was the second time this week that she was making this mistake.
Getting up, I walked over to her now crouched figure, hugging her as tightly as I could as she let the tears roll down her cheeks.
I wanted to cry too but then I knew that it would be of no help, the two of us sobbing like fools over a man who was never going to come back.
This is the part where I tell you what happened to my dad.
I know, I know. I’m not that great a story teller but then, I am filling in the bits, aren’t I?
Anyway, he didn’t die, like you must be thinking right now. Though, I wish he did.
He left the house.
With another woman.
Let me make one thing clear. That other woman is nowhere as beautiful as my mother. She’s old and ugly. But she’s rich. And we’re not.
That must be why he left us.
But, I’m not upset at all. I’m glad he’s gone.
Now, it’s just the two of us and we can be happy together.
No more long nights of waiting for him to come home. No more loud arguments that the neighbours can hear.
Most importantly, no more having to see that drunk old fool who was not only a poor excuse of a father but also a pathetic, blind ex-husband.
But obviously, my mom couldn’t bear it.
Obviously, she still cries every night.
But it will pass. And once it does, she will realize that she has a daughter who needs her very much right now.
I’ll wait.

The next day, I went jogging again.
Just to look at him.
But he wasn’t on the park bench.
My heart attempted a somersault and landed on its butt.
But then it got up again, when at a distance, I saw a boy lying on the sand, shades on and a hat on his face.
Instantly, I knew it was him.
Knowing I had to make a move, and fast, I gathered all the courage I could and sat next to him, pretending to tie my shoe laces.
“Hey there! Nice day, isn’t it?”
At first he didn’t respond.
Then, he slowly took his hat off his face and turned to look at me.
“It’s amazing” He said. “I’m Jack. You are?”
“Buzz” I said, embarrassed. “Ok, ok! Don’t laugh. I know it’s a weird name. But I like it!”
“I like it too” And he smiled.
This time, my heart was performing all sorts of gymnastics.
Adjusting the shades to his eyes, he sighed peacefully and lay back.
“Um,” I said, fidgeting. “I’d better go.”
“Busy day?”
“Not really!”
“Then lie next to me for a while” And he patted the soft sand next to him.
This was going better than I expected.
I lay for a while, my feet crossed as we began to talk about our lives.
“I live with my mom!” I exclaimed. “She’s perfect. My dad’s a jerk. Thank god I don’t live with him anymore!”
He laughed.
“I live in the big beach house by the sea.” He said. “I live alone but I love it there.”
“I came here for the summer”
My mind started telling me this wouldn’t work. He lived here. I was only going to be here a few more weeks.
But I couldn’t walk away.
Not now.
Not when his voice sounded like heaven and his face looked like a dream.
We spent the next hour talking and then I said I had to leave, that my mom would get worried. But I didn’t want to go.
“I’ve never felt like I have known someone my whole life in such a short time” He grinned.
“I’ve never told someone this much before. Ever”
“Why don’t you come over to my beach house sometime?”
He sensed my hesitation and laughed.
“Ok, then. Why don’t we meet at the beach again? Same time?”
“Yes” I squealed.
He waved as I walked off and I ran home, elated.

The next day was even better. We seemed to have hit it off really well and over the next week, we became very close. I loved every little thing about him. The way his shades complimented his complexion, the way he crinkled his nose whenever he didn’t like something, the sound of his laughter and the way he sat close to me when we were on the park bench. I found out that his parents had died when he was a child and that he had been living alone for a long time now.

“I’m falling for you” I blurted out one day.
He smiled at me, a sad smile, and touched my cheek.
“I’m not right for you”
I took that to mean that he thought I looked hideous and tears sprung to my eyes.
“I need to tell you something” He said.
He took his shades off and stared at his hands on his lap.
“What happened?” I asked, my voice revealing the intensity of my worry.
He looked straight at me, his eyes boring into mine when he said the words that sent me into a state of shock.
“I’m blind”
After that admission, we sat there, not saying a single word.
I recalled how I’d never seen him walking on the beach. Never saw him without his shades. He either had them on or had his eyes closed. He had always been sitting on the park bench or lying on the sand by the time I had arrived.
“I understand if you want to leave now” He said, in a whisper.
I got up, thought for a second, and on impulse, kissed him on his cheek.
“I don’t care” I said.
He smiled, then, a slow, doubtful smile.
Holding my face in his hands, he said the three words that no one except my mom had ever said to me.
“You are beautiful”
I knew then that nothing would mean more to me than those words.
Because he didn’t see my hair or my face or my body.
He saw my heart.
I realized then that, that was the only thing that mattered.
“I want to see your beach house” I said, wiping a tear from my eye, resisting the urge to hug him.
He got up and unfolded the walking stick that was in his pocket.
Holding hands, we walked to the place he’d been talking about all week, his magnificent house.
“Here we are!”
What stood in front of me was not a marvellous palace. It was an old dilapidated building.
“We’ll take the stairs! A bit of exercise always helps. Besides, I’m only on the second floor!”
I didn’t even see a lift anywhere.
One would have to take the stairs whether he wanted to or not.
Rummaging in his pocket for a key, he opened the semi-cracked door to his place, revealing a sight so pathetic, it made me want to cry.
There was a plastic chair in the living room and a mattress on the floor.
The kitchen contained a wooden slab made in the corner of the living room and a provision for a stove.
A glass and a plate lay on one side of the slab and next to it were unopened packets of bread.
“Come, you can hear the sea from outside” He said, as excited as a small child and took me to the open balcony.
Standing behind me, he sighed peacefully.
I didn’t see the sea. I didn’t see anything except a woman washing clothes under the tap water.
“Close your eyes” He whispered in my ear.
The sound of his voice inches away from me sent shivers up my spine.
“Now listen close. Don’t say a word. Just listen.”
I did as he said, till eventually, the rhythmic noises of the washing almost turned into the music of the sea.
We stood there like that, skin touching skin, silent for almost 15 minutes.
“How do you like it?”
I turned, determined not to let the tears in my eyes reflect in my voice.
“I love it.” I said, wrapping my arms around him.
“And I love you”

I knew then what a relationship was all about.
Jack made me feel secure.
He made me feel protected.
He made me understand that life wasn’t about the obstacles.
It was about the way we saw them.
In the short while that I knew him, he had managed to become my life.

I introduced him to my mom a day before my summer had ended.
I was scared she would make comments about him, but the exact opposite happened.
They hit it off quite well and eventually, their conversation turned serious.
“She… misses her dad. She never got to see much of him. You have to understand, that’s why she’s the way she is.” My mother explained, as if I was some trouble child.
I cringed. I hadn’t told Jack about my dad yet.
“Well, if her dad was never around, then that explains where she’s gotten all her amazing traits from.”
I squeezed Jack’s hand.

The next day, after a teary goodbye, Jack and I promised to wait for each other till next summer.
All my friends shrugged it off as a summer fling.
“This is teenage love” They said. “It’ll pass when you find someone hotter.”
“Besides, he’s disabled. You’re just mistaking pity for love.”
But I knew that it was more than that.
Our bond was beyond what the eyes could see.
It was all about what the heart could feel.
And my heart was brimming with love.

We called each other up almost every day.
The next year, I spent summer at Jack’s ‘beach house’.
The year after that, Jack moved to my city.
On our third anniversary, mom and I moved to his street.
On our next, I moved into his house.
Now, after five amazing years, I’m standing in my white gown, my hair tied up over my head, my face still as round as ever, my body still podgy, my confidence still battered.
But as the doors of the aisle open, and I see the man of my dreams stand at the other end, an impish grin on his face, I have to stop myself from throwing the bouquet and running to him.
My friends sit in the front row with my mother as I begin to walk down the carpeted floor.
They will now take all their judgements back, I’m sure.
Jack is above all their boyfriends and husbands.
He sees me as me and not as the round faced, chubby girl that I’ve always been.
They’ll always be surrounded by petty insecurities that revolve around the beauty that will eventually fade away.
But mine will be blissful, as long as my heart is pure.
Like I said, it all started on a warm summer afternoon. Like most things do.
Only, I found my life that day.

A Cultural Delight

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The delicate gold plated earrings stare back at me.
In the busy shopping centre at the crowded Bazaar, I breathe in the scent of Hyderabad.
People, walking around in search of useless things to buy, crowd the narrow roads; hardly bothered about what they’re bumping into or whose feet they’re crushing underneath theirs.
Middle aged ladies cling on to the tiny fingers of their terrified children as they push and shove their way through the unstopping masses of humans, trying to find the best deals.
Shopping bags clutched tightly, they proceed for more, never tired of the throng.
I look at those earrings again, hanging at the top on a block of cardboard, catching the fancy of a lot of women in front of me.
I try to push forward, but either due to my lack of ability or my restricted upbringing, I watch sadly as the Khadi clad shopkeeper takes my dream pair out of display and hands them to a fair skinned Muslim lady.
There is exchange of money and suddenly, the lady is gone, earrings and all.
My heart sinks as I make my way forward to the next shop in hopes of finding something half as good as the ones I just lost.
Distracted by the man pushing a wooden cart of soda in my direction, I stop and ask him how much a glass costs.
He states a price that is a few rupees more than I had estimated it to be.
I’m about to hand it to him when another customer stops me.
“Wait” She says in Hindi and turns to the man.
What happens next is a heated exchange between the soda seller and this strange lady in a language that seems to be a mixture of Hindi and Urdu. As I don’t know both of these languages, I stare on stupidly, my change in my hand, feeling like I don’t belong here.
Finally, she turns to me and smiles.
The soda man looks at me, annoyed and ends up taking half the price he quoted.
“Don’t let them cheat you” The lady tells me, and walks away, leaving me astonished.
All this for a few rupees, I wonder, suddenly feeling like I don’t belong here, in Hyderabad.
I watch, fascinated, as he takes a glass and starts filling it with soda, squeezing lime into it.
“Sweet or sour?” He asks and I opt for the former.
As he hands it to me, I can hardly contain my delight.
My mother always told me that I shouldn’t have anything to drink or eat from outside.
“They’re contaminated.” She used to say. “So many germs!”
I take the first sip and sigh in bliss as the cold, sweet liquid fizzes in my throat.

I remember how, when we were kids, my mother used to take me and my sister to the second hand book markets of Hyderabad, holding our hands and dragging us around hundreds of shops, shyly haggling for the best price.
We’d stop at the centre of this book market, watching all the vendors sit on footpaths, their books spread on the dusty streets of Hyderabad as we each got a glass of sugarcane juice as a treat for being patient.
Bhaiyya!” My mom would shout at the sugarcane man. “No ice. And I want plastic glasses”
I’d look at the large, unwashed glass ones and then at the tiny, clean plastic glasses, wanting the former, despite their disgusting, filthy condition, plainly for the fact that they were larger.
We still never argued. We knew that our mother knew best.

I finish the soda till the last drop, my mother’s voice a tiny nag in my subconscious mind.
Thanking the man, I give him back the bottle and walk on.
The heat starts building up and eventually, I feel droplets of sweat at the nape of my neck.
I watch as all the women around me start taking hair clips out of their bags, as if on cue, and
tie their hair up in neat little buns.
That, for some reason, makes me cringe.
Maybe because I’ve been brought up to look my best in public.

My mother had thick curly hair that hung beautifully around her shoulders.
She was the kind of woman who looked impeccable no matter what she did.
When it came to her appearance, she always put style ahead of her comfort. I’d watch her waddle through mud puddles in her five inch heels, dress like a star to go to the vegetable market and apply bright red lipstick to walk down to the shop next door.
“Always look your best” She’d say. “It doesn’t matter where you are as long as you’re putting your best foot forward!”

So, I end up leaving my hair down, suffering with the dust and the grime while everyone else around me is feeling very comfortable.
I stop at a bangle store and get into it.
The seller has strategically placed the bangles in tall spirals, in magnificent colour coordination.
This, I believe, is the essence of my country.
The vibrant colours.
As I stand in this shop, I see long rainbow coloured shawls hanging from hooks and multiple shiny trinkets piled together.
Customers are walking in, taking the entire beauty in.
Some walk out empty handed.
Others end up purchasing something.
But one thing is the same among all these people.
Not even one of them has walked out without trying to bargain.
I realize that people like me will end up fools and make up my mind to try it at the next shop.
“How much is this?” I ask the vendor, holding out a beautifully carved pair of green gold bangles.
He looks at me, analysing my economic background from my clothes.
“600” He says.
In my mind, I start deciding whether to get it or not.
If I get this for 600 bucks, then I can’t buy those beautiful red beaded slippers at the shop opposite the street.
Maybe I can get both?
Or, maybe I’ll make do with my old slippers.
And then I remember the bargaining.
After a painful minute of mental math, I hold the bangles out to him.
“400” I say.
He shakes his head and tells me the price is fixed.
Then, without a moment’s pause, he starts packing them up for me.
I reach into my bag, bidding farewell to the slippers I wanted.
Just like before, a lady stops me.
“What are you doing?” She asks, in Telugu.
She looks nice, her hair plaited, her sari plain.
I shake my head, suddenly scared.
“This will hardly be worth a hundred bucks each” She says, shaking her head in disbelief and unwrapping my delicate bangles.
The vendor shakes his head again. But the lady won’t listen.
“I’m taking them” She says and hands him 200 bucks.
He refuses to take the money till she threatens to keep the bangles for free.
Then, muttering some curses, he reluctantly takes the crisp notes and pockets them.
I watch, amused.
A few minutes later, I’m wearing my bangles and am trying out my new footwear.
I try the bargaining thing again, but this time, a Tamil speaking, plump lady butts in and does all the work for me.
This happens quite a few times till my arms are aching from carrying the shopping bags.
Walking out of the bazaar, deciding that I’ve had enough for the day, I start searching for a bus.
I’ve never been in a bus before. So, I decide to try it. How hard can it be, right?
Besides, it is really cheap and I’ve seen a lot of my friends use it.
But, I can assure you, I was totally wrong. I’ve never done anything harder.
Three bags in my left hand, a pair of slippers clutched in my right, my handbag constantly running down my shoulder, I start running behind a bus.
The problem with these giant things is that the drivers just don’t care.
They’re stuck jiggling the gears all day long and take that frustration out on us.
One of the men who is hanging out of the bus, one foot on the step, the other in the air, hits hard on the body of the bus to stop it.
It begins to halt and I run, panting, thanking the man with my eyes because I’m too tired to say anything.
As I move to the front to get in, because the men are blocking the other entrance of the bus, I notice that the women are spilling out.
Shaking my head, I apologize to the driver, telling him I can’t get in because I have too many bags with me.
He looks at me angrily and drives away.
Even the man who helped me out looks peeved.
Feeling miserable, I decide to catch an auto instead.
I start looking out for one of those yellow and black, dangerously imbalanced, three wheelers, when I hear a whistle.
Looking around, I spot a group of young men watch me and laugh.
Feeling offended, I look away.
They utter something which I believe translates to ‘What a woman!’ and at that moment, I begin to walk away.
They shout after me, cat calling and using rude words.
Though later on, I shall feel flattered about this incident, I feel fear right now.
Stopping the first auto that comes my way, I get in, telling him where I need to go.
“Two hundred” He says, holding up two fingers.
I say ok reluctantly and he starts driving.
Looking out, I see a lot of spectacular things that I don’t think I’ll find in any other country.
I’m surrounded by unique greatness that astounds me.
Five women and three men crowded around a Pani Puri stall, waiting for their turn for some of that delicious goodness.
A tea vendor makes conversation with a customer, pocketing the cash he makes out of Garam Chai (Hot Tea) and Sambar Idlis.
Overcrowded roads of dented four wheelers, scratched two wheelers and buses that block the way, creating kilometres of blocked traffic jams.
Life here is hectic. But it is also fun.
I breathe in the polluted air of my city and I realize that this familiarity is what home feels like.
Over the pot-holes, the auto driver trundles, knowing he has made a good profit out of the money I’ve saved from all that bargaining.
The sun sets on the busy roads of Hyderabad, only to rise again tomorrow for my imperfectly perfect city, diverse with cultures, tradition and languages.
I only have two words to describe what this place means to me.
My home.