Shadows of the dawn 2

Shadows of the dawn 1

You often wish that you could go back in time and erase that few odd minutes from your life. You wish you could unsee what you had to see; you wish you didn’t have to know what you knew; you wish you had not lost your innocence and optimism even before you had a chance to comprehend the essence of life; you wish you were not trapped in this cynical, hopeless existence, the one that you have grown to hate more with each passing second.

My mother watched silently as I continued to brush my hair. I tossed the comb on the dressing table and grabbed my bag. She silently followed me into the hall where my father sat, looking helpless and weak. My parents exchanged a nervous glance as I walked towards the front door, but neither of them dared to ask me anything.

Since I have moved in with them, it has been like this. My parents never talked to me until I asked them anything, which was indeed very rare. My mother dutifully followed me from room to room, in pretext of carrying out some errands, probably making sure I wasn’t trying to kill myself. Dr. Shetty must have warned them. He wasn’t very happy to let me go. But I was persistent and my test results were good. He couldn’t keep me in if I didn’t want to stay. My parents were too eager to take me in; they perhaps wanted to make up for all the things that had gone wrong in the past. I am sure they didn’t have any idea at the time about what they were signing up for.

When I lock the door to my room from the inside, they would linger in front my room, listening intently for any sound of distress. I often see my mother wiping off her tears and I have never seen my father look more pathetic. I know they are worried about me, I wish I could be more sympathetic. But they have lost all their right to be concerned about me years ago, the day they refused to believe me, the day they left my sister to die.

Perhaps I was being cruel to two old souls who had suffered enough in their life. But I can’t help myself. All these years of delusion and guilt has left me empty. I can empathize with no one. I feel nobody else’s pain. How am I expected to when my own pain is more than what I can handle?

I closed the door behind me. I paused for a second and closed my eyes. This could be the last I see of my parents. They were good people, they deserved better. I was surprised to feel a drop of tear roll down my cheek. I haven’t cried in years. I quickly wiped it off and headed towards the gate.

As I kept walking, I saw her face again –her face stained with tears as she pulled me closer and whispered-“You should not tell anybody Aanya, promise me that you won’t.”
The ten-year-old-me was perplexed. I had raised my shivering hands to her head and said-“I promise, I won’t tell anyone” .She had buried her head in the crook of my neck and sobbed while I stared at the blank wall and tried to make sense of the things.
It is that same tear stained face and red eyes that have haunted me all these years, day and night.


Shadows of the dawn 1

Sometimes a part of you gets stuck in an ugly moment from the past. No matter how far you go or how old you grow, your mind refuses to budge. A piece of your soul gets trapped in that fragment of time and space. You feel incompetent, guilty and incomplete for the rest of your life. You try all the tricks in the world to persuade the inner you to move on; you go lengths to get yourself fixed, but eventually nothing works. Your mind remains in the same twisted state and something prohibits you from living your life. You reject anything good that comes your way; you deny every chance at happiness – because you feel like an impostor who deserves nothing but doom.

“I feel much better now”, I made an attempt to smile and casually ran my fingers through my hair.

Dr. Shetty said nothing. He just kept looking at me, his glassy brown eyes trying to elicit every hidden thought within me. I felt the strong need to keep talking. I was always scared of these unfilled silences that had become an integral part of our sessions. They spoke more volumes than the few words that I usually managed to string together. I knew that silence was his trump card and that if I did not say anything soon enough, I would be squeaking and squirming under his watchful gaze.
“I can think more clearly, as if a blanket has been lifted off my brain. I realize how irrational I used to be before. Trust me Doctor, I feel very normal”

Dr. Shetty smiled one of his ‘I-know-you-are-lying’ kinds of smile. He bit his visibly non-existent upper lip as he bent down to jolt something in the blue case file- my case file. It was perhaps the thickest one in his cupboard.

“I am glad you are feeling better Anya”, he finally said. He always mispronounced my name. My name is not Anya; it is Aanya which means inexhaustible. Inexhaustible indeed! Huh, what an irony! I was exhausted even before the race called life began.
Anya on the other hand means a stranger or a third person. Perhaps Anya suited my persona more. I was indeed a stranger everywhere. I had never felt belonged, I had never felt wanted.

As I became aware of Dr. Shetty’s eyes on me, I sat up straight to look him in his eyes and smiled again. I knew how important it was to appear confident.
“I can see from the test results that you have passed with flying colors. That is very good. But Anya, let me be honest with you. I am sure you would appreciate a bit of honesty, right?” he paused.

I could feel the smile freeze on my face. I nodded innocently. Though I knew exactly what was coming, my face betrayed nothing.

Dr. Shetty smiled again. Oh, how much I hate these lopsided sarcastic smiles of his!

“I would strongly recommend that you stay in the facility for a few more days. I am concerned about you Anya. You are a very bright woman; you can do great things in life. I just want you to be fully recovered before facing the real world”
A few more days could grow into a few years if I was not careful enough. Not that I cared about being locked in in the asylum. But I did not have any time to waste. I had to act fast, I had to get out.

“I am totally ready to face the real world, Doctor. Moreover I won’t be living alone anymore. Did my parents not call you? As I said earlier, I will be moving in with them”
“Yes, they did”, Dr. Shetty removed his glasses and gently massaged his eye lids. “But I also know that you have had issues with them in the past. And I don’t know what effect their presence is going to have on you”

I swore silently. I had been such a fool to blurt out a few things in front of this puny man. The fact that I was totally distraught when I first met him was not a good enough excuse. I had let down my guard and since then he had been using each and every bit of that against me. I had always been right about not trusting anyone.
“I need a change of scene, Doctor. And I realize most of my anger came from my unbalanced mind. Now that I am lucid, I understand them. I want to spend some time with them. It is long overdue.”

Dr. Shetty noted something else in the case file and looked up. “We will see.” he said. “And I will meet you tomorrow. Before we decide on anything, let me meet your parents. When did you say they are arriving?”
“The day after”, I answered as I rose to leave.

Even though they were my only ticket to freedom, I was not very happy at the prospect of coming face to face with my parents. The combination of my presence state of mind and years of bottled up emotions might be deadly enough to break me again. But I had to be strong. I was a woman on mission and I was running out of time.
Shadows of the dawn 2


A house, a ghost and Philip Norman Part III


“So how are things going?”, Lizy asked me as we sat watching Law and Order at her place a week later.

“Not bad”, I replied. In fact things have been good so far.I have been working my ass off. It was late spring and the most busy season for someone in landscaping business. Winters are usually slow for us, sometimes edging on scary. Last year we survived solely on a few snow blowing jobs. The good thing is that I get to hire most of my workers seasonally.It is a risk, sometimes one can end up with no good laborers during the busiest weeks. But this year I think I got lucky, most of the lads who worked for me last year have come back.We have got the contracts from two major corporate business parks and a new community with around 15 houses under construction.

“And how are you finding the house”, Lizy pressed. I did not reply. Yes, there was definitely something off in my new home. But I did not find it very concerning.

“Jeff told me that the workers are a bit paranoid”, Lizy added.

“Most of them are young and stupid”, I justified. Yes, I was aware of the talks that went behind my back.  “And most importantly, they don’t get to spend any time in the house, now that they are mostly stuck at the work sites.I don’t understand why they make up all these stories. I am the one who lives there and I don’t find anything out of ordinary”

“Phil…look at me”, Lizy switched off the TV. I reluctantly tore my eyes off the screen and looked at her. ” I distinctly heard the whisper”, she spoke in a low voice.

“I doubt it”, I said without breaking the eye contact.

She raised her eye brows and I continued. “I am sure Jeff had already filled you about the rumors before you visited the house. And you just imagined things”.Lizy was a fitness instructor and Jeff, my work supervisor, was one of her first and oldest clients. They spoke almost everyday.

“So what?” Lizy became defensive.” I did not imagine that voice. It was so disturbing, I still can’t sleep at night”.

I smiled and shrugged. “And I have been asking around..”, Lizy continued.

“Of course, you have been..”, I rolled my eyes.” Now why don’t you stop and let it be? There is nothing wrong with my home, period”

“And I have been hearing stories”, Lizy continued as if I had not spoken.

“About the last owner running away in her sexy nightwear? It’s a pretty scandalous picture”. I joked.

“Wait..what?”, Lizy was all ears.”Where did you hear that?”

“My real estate agent told me. A few seconds before I was about to sign the contract. Apparently the ghost had scared the shit out of her ”

“And you don’t think you should have asked around before signing the contract”, she looked at me as if she had just discovered that her brother was the stupidest person to walk on the face of the earth.

“I don’t believe in these ghosts,supernaturals or whatever. And even if I do, I don’t think it’s a big deal, big enough to let go the only option to save my sorry ass ” And with that I snatched the remote off her hand and switched back the TV on.

To be continued


A house, a ghost and Philip Norman- Part II


“I hope you are not serious”, I replied after a few minutes.

Monique shook her head slowly.” I know you are going to think I am crazy, but the last owner herself had confided in me. She is an old friend, you know! In fact one night she was so scared that she had left the house in the middle of the night, not even bothering to change from her PJs. And she never had the nerve to go back in there after that, not even to get her stuffs.”. Monique paused, her eyes as wide as a pair of saucers.”If you believe in God, then you have to prepare yourself to accept the fact that there are evil forces out there”, she added in a hoarse voice that I found a little hilarious.

I wanted to tell her that I don’t believe in anything except one dollar McD burger.But I bit my tongue and swallowed back those words. “Well, thanks Ms Sasha for your concern, but I don’t believe in such things”,I added politely.

She kept looking at me for a while, and I saw her wide eyes fill with pity.”Well, Mr Norman, that means I should be congratulating the new home owner”, she forced a smile. “But I suggest you at least have your house blessed by a pastor. I can recommend some one good”,

“Yeah, may be I will. I will get in touch”. I added and she shrugged. Then I went back to what I was doing, pretending that the conversation never happened.

The deal was too good to let go and I was desperate for a decent space to restart my landscaping business. Falling out with my previous partner had resulted in a huge financial mess and we had to sell the property we co owned. After dividing the money and paying of a few odd debts, I was not left with much.I knew I couldn’t afford anything fancy and this house was the best thing that had happened to me in a long long while. And even if I wanted to back off from the deal, I couldn’t. I only had a week more to move my tools and nursery from the old place we just sold. I had been looking for an apt place for about two months. I had almost given up when this deal came through as a blessing. A crazy story about a non existent ghost was not enough to dampen my spirits.

I signed the contract on the same day. My mortgage was approved without any issues. Finally I felt relaxed, my life was back on track!


She was right. Monique I mean. There is something wrong with this house.

Everything went as smoothly as I had dreamed. The nursery was set up. One of the bedroom was conveniently converted as the office room and the small out house was perfect as the worker’s lounge. However, within a week of moving in I knew it was in there-the ghost or what ever it was- as it became an ever lingering presence around me. I just shrugged off the feeling in the beginning. May be my mind was playing tricks on me, may be the warning that Monique had given me was buried deep within my subconscious mind, causing me to imagine things that were not actually there.

But then my workers started complaining that they could feel cold spots through out the house. Lizy, my sister, came visiting one day and freaked out when she heard some one whispering in the visibly empty hallway. Another night I was watching the TV and felt all the hairs on my body stand up- literally. No, I did not leave the house in my PJs in the middle of the night, not only because they were in such a sorry-tattered state, but also due to the fact that did not feel in any immediate mortal danger. I was not going to let any one, dead or alive, ruin my chance at a better life!



A house, a ghost and Philip Norman

“Mr Norman”

Monique, my real estate agent-in fact my very pretty and overwhelmingly sexy real estate agent- interrupted me .I  was sitting across her in her office reading the sales contract I was about to sign.

I looked up from the documents I was reading- or at least pretending to read- to see her nervously lick her lips. “I have to tell you something, I was debating if I should just let it be, but I guess I won’t get a good night’s sleep without letting you know”

I felt a small ray of hope rising in my heart. Me and Monique had spent so much time together in the past two months, looking at one house after the other and may be, just may be, she has developed some inexplicable liking towards me. So what if I was way beneath her league, don’t they say love is blind!

“Yes, Miss Sasha, go ahead”, I encouraged her and noted that my voice came out a bit more huskier than I had intended it to be.

Monique blushed a little and she bit her lips as if trying to figure out how to proceed. And I suddenly started to have not very appropriate visions that involved me, Monique and a candle lit bathtub. “Well, Mr Norman. I know how much buying this house means to you. But my firm had not been very honest about this whole deal.”, she blurted out after a while

“What??”, I croaked rather gracelessly, disappointment and panic rising within me. “What’s wrong? Is this some kind of scam?” I asked, my glance flickering between the documents, that I had failed to decipher in spite of trying so hard for the last 30 minutes, and her very flushed face.

“No..No Mr.Norman”, Monique exclaimed,”there is nothing’s wrong with the contract. It’s all fool proof”. She assured.

I looked at her quizzically expecting an explanation.

“You see, it is the house. There is something wrong with the house you are about to buy”

Yes, I knew it. How else did I end up with this ‘so good to be true’ deal? I mean, a house in 1 acre land in a decent locality costing only $200,000, way way below the market price. It did come up a few times- my father had expressed his doubts, so did a few friends. But I had downplayed it, proclaiming that I was one lucky bastard.

“What’s wrong”, my voice was unnaturally low.

Monique opened and closed her mouth like a goldfish. I raised my eyebrows and continued to glare at her.

“I was assured a good commission Mr.Norman, but you see, I am a honest woman. I would have never found peace if I had tricked a hardworking person like you”, she finally said.

“Well, I appreciate that, Miss Sasha”, I replied flatly. “But for heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with the house, is it not structurally sound?”

“ had it inspected, remember. Also our firm has every single house inspected by a very reliable professional before we undertake any sale”, She became defensive.

“Then what is it- a rattle snake infestation? Or will I have drug mafia kings as neighbors or has somebody buried twenty odd dead bodies in the basement?”, I almost shouted.

She moved back a few inches, looking at me as if I was insane. Then she cleared her throat and met my stare. “Mr Norman”, Monique almost whispered,” The house you are about to buy is haunted”

I just sat there, with my mouth sagged open. After I while I managed to find my voice,”Is this some kind of joke?”, I looked around to see if somebody was hiding  behind the doors ready to jump out singing “Tricked ya…”. But no one did. So I sat looking at this extremely beautiful woman, who by the way was acting incredibly weird, deciding whether I should just laugh out loud or be offended.



Happy Birthday

Today is your birthday, and yeah,I am sorry I remembered!

But I swear I did everything in my might to not remember. I tried to flush out every bit of information about you from my system. But it didn’t work. It seems like every single thing about you- your special days, likes, dislikes- has some how got hardwired into me. And I wonder if I would ever be able to get rid of them.The more I try to forget, the more I keep remembering.

At 12 am, it took every ounce of my will to not pick up the phone and dial your number. And I am quite proud of myself for that. When I think about it, calling you to wish you a happy birthday wouldn’t have been such a bad thing to do. I mean it’s just a courtesy call, right? But keeping in mind how our last meeting ended, I guess it was safer this way.

Anyway, I couldn’t resist the urge to buy you a birthday present. I have been doing that for five years now and it has kinda become a ritual. I guess you are never going to find out what I got you this year- it’s a pair of running shoes by the way- since I am not planning to give you your present. It had taken me a whole day to finally pick a pair I liked. I would probably return it back to the store, but it would have been really great to see you wear them. I had always loved to give you surprise gifts, remember? I guess the last few surprises didn’t go down very well with you.You had made that pretty clear when you said that you found me a bit ‘over whelming’.

Overwhelming!! I mean I still don’t get it. I thought I did pretty well for a girl friend- I took care of things for you, I was always there for you. I know, you need your space-blah blah. But I was ready to work that all out. You needn’t have chucked me out so heartlessly. You knew all about my past, right? You knew about my Dad, how he left us while I was still in my diapers. And my Mom, let’s not even get into that. You were the very first person whom I felt I could rely on. May be I over did a little, but I still think you overreacted.

But I still have my hopes up. You were always skeptical. You never believed that we could have a healthy relationship in the first place. Remember what you told me when I wanted to move in with you- that you thought I was too young for you? And look how perfectly it worked out in the end- well I guess it worked out alright until you started finding me ‘overwhelming’ (which I still find ridiculous). We did have fun, the two of us, now don’t dare to tell me other wise. You were happy, don’t deny it. I know you were. I doubt any other girl would ever make you that happy.

Sometimes it kills me. I feel so helpless when I fail to make you understand that we are meant to be. I wish you would also realize that we are soul mates. I just want us to be happy , that is why I still keep trying. And then you call my efforts ‘stalking’? You called me a stalker in front of a bunch of strangers at that grocery store. I saw all of them watch me with widened eyes, as if i was a maniac or something.

Penny says that I have become a whiner and that I have to stop being so pathetic. She says that I deserve someone better than you. But why she can’t see that I don’t want anyone better, I just want you.

I guess I will feel better with time. But for now, it feels terrible. And since I am not going to send this letter to you anyway, let me confess that I still haven’t given up on us. Yeah, I must be such a loser for still wanting you back. May be that’s why I frequent all those places where I believe I would run in to you. But you have made it a point to avoid me on all costs , right?

So happy birthday. I had to wish you, and don’t worry, you will never know that I did.


Grandfather’s wrath

Read the previous part here

We stood transfixed, staring at the fire that showed no intention of dying down.

“What should we do?” Sreedhar looked at me wide eyed.

“Let’s call for help”, I said. The fire was spreading fast and I knew there was no point in attempting to put it off on our own.

“Have you gone mad?” Girish asked. “Come, let’s get out of here. If we tell someone, we will automatically be held responsible for starting the fire in the first place. Nobody has seen us so far, let’s escape”. He rushed towards the gate.

I looked back one last time and reluctantly followed his lead.

After half an hour or so, we heard the siren of the fire truck. I looked at Girish, panic-stricken. “Looks like it’s headed to the school”, I whispered.

“Act as if we have no clue”, Girish told me as he continued to flick pebbles in to the water. I watched the pebble bounce thrice on the water before sinking down into the river. It was a neat trick, something I never managed to learn.

Sreedhar was a bundle of nerves. “I hope nobody saw us”, he kept muttering again and again.
“Why do you worry?” Jamshed finally commented impatiently. “It’s not like we are the best students or anything. We are already outcasts, what worse can they do to us?”
Sreedhar stared at Jamshed accusingly and added “You can say that, what if they ask for compensation, like last year when we broke those two benches in the class? Appa will skin me alive.”

” I can’t believe that you are so scared of your father.” Ravi joked. “He is only half as big as you are!” Sreedhar glared at Ravi as he continued. “Anyway, the school is closed for the next 10 days and by the time it re-opens no one will remember anything about the fire”

We all nodded in agreement. That seemed to cheer Sreedhar up.

Soon we all bid our good byes and parted ways. By the time I reached home, it was already dark. Grandfather was pacing to and fro in the verandah and he stopped abruptly as he saw me.

“Where were you all evening?” he asked. He seemed very angry, a mood I have never seen my Grandfather in. He is usually a very calm person who never seemed to care about anything.

“I…I was with my friends, since the exams got over…” I let my voice trail off.

He just kept staring at me and then finally added, “Have you started smoking?’. I felt a sudden tug in the pit of my stomach.”N…no”, I answered.

“Don’t lie”, he bellowed. I continued to stare at the floor.

“Your principal had called.” I looked up alarmingly.” He told me that you and your friends set fire to the motor shed”, he added.

“N…no, we didn’t do anything”, I managed to reply.
“Ah…is that so? But there are people who saw you and your so called friends sitting beside the shed, smoking.” he paused as if waiting for an explanation. When I did not come up with any, he continued” And they also saw you running away as soon as the fire began to spread”

I gulped helplessly and weakly mumbled, “No, I didn’t smoke”.

I am participating in the  A to Z challenge this April. This is my post in the series – for the letter G