Thursday, August 11, 2016

Count your riches by your friends...


Life is characterized by many phases. Phases in which some things gain importance, some lose their’s and some change their significance. As one’s priority in life changes, so do a lot of things that go with it. 

As a kid, I think the priority in my life was to play outside and have as many friends as possible to have fun with. Importance was given to the quantity of friends rather than the quality. The more the merrier kind of thing. As I grew older, I realized (were made to realize rather) that more than anything else your studies should have your complete attention. So making friends took a backseat as I tackled the maze to end up at the front of the class. Yes, friends still mattered but life was not dictated by the number of friends you had, but rather by the number of marks you got in your Math test!

After the frenzy of studying that lasted more than a decade I finally found myself in an Engineering College. It was intimidating to say the least because I was uprooted from one part of the state to another (which by the way have been turned into two separate states now). I was returning to my native city, but it had been such a long time and I was considered a non-local even in my birth place. As I walked into the huge gates of the college and looked up to see the winding road going up towards the place I was going to spend the next 4 years of my life I vowed to make friends. There was not one friend I could claim at that point of time and more than anything else, I looked forward to making new friends and boy, did I make friends!

It was difficult in the beginning, but I have to say my class was blessed with the coolest and nicest girls in the world. Everyone was so friendly and so willing to help, I realized my fears based on some very mean depiction of college girls in Bollywood movies were totally unfounded. I was blessed, truly blessed to have been part of this wonderful group of girls. We did so many things together. We laughed, stayed together and mostly had a grand time. However, as our graduation day from the college drew nearer, our priorities changed once again. Gone were the carefree days where we could play antakshiri till the wee hours of the night. Gone were the days where we could just sit, talk and giggle without even planning for the next day. Instead we were faced with planning our futures. Not fun at all.

The last day of college was a mixed bag. On one hand I could proclaim to be an Engineer, on the other hand I knew that it would be virtually impossible for our group of friends to retain the same closeness. Sure enough within a few months all of us were scattered over different parts the world. Communication was not as easy as it is today and soon we lost contact except for a few of us who stayed in touch because we were in the same foreign country pursuing a higher education. Even that was limited though – a phone call here, an email there, but that was about it. Since all of us were really busy, we did not even miss each other that much. At least not all the time.

Then of course came careers, marriages and children – a time to do so much for everyone but so little for yourself. There was just no time for anything else in life except work, work and more work. Kids needed to be taken care of, careers need to planned, husband’s needed to be attended to, in-law’s needed to be humored and houses needs to be furnished. The only kind of friends I could make were the one’s I made online. It was like friends’ in the physical realm were almost impossible to maintain. But as the children got older and life seemed to be very slowly but surely allowing time to breathe, I thought back to my old friends – one in particular, especially because I had lost touch with her.
She was titled the baby of our group because of her flawlessness. Her innocence was childlike, her simplicity matched my own. Her wit was legendary and she gave the jester of our group a run for his money. I was always in awe of her ‘haazir jawaabi’ and enjoyed every bit of it. When she was around somehow the sun seemed to shine a little bit brighter -  at least for me. 

I realized that I missed her presence in my life and sought her out. The first time I tried she was in Dubai – too far from where I lived and soon our contact fizzled. The second time I got hold of her she was in Toronto, much, much closer to where I lived. As soon as I found out that she lived close, I pestered my husband to take me there. We visited her and as soon as she opened the door, I could feel tears in my eyes. I had no clue I had missed her so much. The 2 decades of time did not seem to exist (except in the form of our teenage kids!) and we were back to being how we were. She had stayed the same – the quick wit, the funny stories, the simplicity and the grace – they were all there.
From that time onwards I have stayed in constant touch with her. I realize that I laugh a little bit more and harder when I am with her. I feel a lightness in me in her presence. It’s like the warmth of her soul touches mine and adds to it. I just have one regret, I wish I had reconnected earlier. Earlier enough to have met her mother – a woman I have admired all my life. I wish she could have seen that her only daughter had a bevy of girl friends who loved her daughter with all their heart. Aunty, if you could somehow read this please know that your daughter is loved and prized by all of us. Alhumdulillah!

The last vacation we took, I feel like brought us even closer. I was content playing her sidekick, carrying her jokes forward. It is not like we share all fun and games. We talk serious too, but even serious talk is laced with so much humor that it makes even tough situations lighter. That is what I love the most about her and me when we are together. The fact that everything can be laughed at when I am with her, even the most serious of problems. 

Zareen Fatima – I want you to know that you are loved and cherished. I love everything about you – from the Michael Kors Purses, the Nike t-shirts(!) to the scarves around your neck, to the style you exude, to the person you are – gorgeous, inside and out! I want you to know that you are the one person who could make me laugh from the bottom of my heart not once or twice but every minute that we are together! I want to thank you for being my friend. I feel sometimes you are my twin (don’t know if that is a good thing or bad) – you think like me, you don’t take yourself too  seriously and you can splurge on things  ;-) I feel honored that you are in my life – you make it richer, you make it lovelier, you make it more alive, you make it joyous and most of all you fill it with laughter. May Allah always keep you happy so that you can spread that happiness to those around you, especially me, as you already do. :-)







Count your riches by your friends...


Life is characterized by many phases. Phases in which some things gain importance, some lose their’s and some change their significance. As one’s priority in life changes, so do a lot of things that go with it. 

As a kid, I think the priority in my life was to play outside and have as many friends as possible to have fun with. Importance was given to the quantity of friends rather than the quality. The more the merrier kind of thing. As I grew older, I realized (were made to realize rather) that more than anything else your studies should have your complete attention. So making friends took a backseat as I tackled the maze to end up at the front of the class. Yes, friends still mattered but life was not dictated by the number of friends you had, but rather by the number of marks you got in your Math test!

After the frenzy of studying that lasted more than a decade I finally found myself in an Engineering College. It was intimidating to say the least because I was uprooted from one part of the state to another (which by the way have been turned into two separate states now). I was returning to my native city, but it had been such a long time and I was considered a non-local even in my birth place. As I walked into the huge gates of the college and looked up to see the winding road going up towards the place I was going to spend the next 4 years of my life I vowed to make friends. There was not one friend I could claim at that point of time and more than anything else, I looked forward to making new friends and boy, did I make friends!

It was difficult in the beginning, but I have to say my class was blessed with the coolest and nicest girls in the world. Everyone was so friendly and so willing to help, I realized my fears based on some very mean depiction of college girls in Bollywood movies were totally unfounded. I was blessed, truly blessed to have been part of this wonderful group of girls. We did so many things together. We laughed, stayed together and mostly had a grand time. However, as our graduation day from the college drew nearer, our priorities changed once again. Gone were the carefree days where we could play antakshiri till the wee hours of the night. Gone were the days where we could just sit, talk and giggle without even planning for the next day. Instead we were faced with planning our futures. Not fun at all.

The last day of college was a mixed bag. On one hand I could proclaim to be an Engineer, on the other hand I knew that it would be virtually impossible for our group of friends to retain the same closeness. Sure enough within a few months all of us were scattered over different parts the world. Communication was not as easy as it is today and soon we lost contact except for a few of us who stayed in touch because we were in the same foreign country pursuing a higher education. Even that was limited though – a phone call here, an email there, but that was about it. Since all of us were really busy, we did not even miss each other that much. At least not all the time.

Then of course came careers, marriages and children – a time to do so much for everyone but so little for yourself. There was just no time for anything else in life except work, work and more work. Kids needed to be taken care of, careers need to planned, husband’s needed to be attended to, in-law’s needed to be humored and houses needs to be furnished. The only kind of friends I could make were the one’s I made online. It was like friends’ in the physical realm were almost impossible to maintain. But as the children got older and life seemed to be very slowly but surely allowing time to breathe, I thought back to my old friends – one in particular, especially because I had lost touch with her.
She was titled the baby of our group because of her flawlessness. Her innocence was childlike, her simplicity matched my own. Her wit was legendary and she gave the jester of our group a run for his money. I was always in awe of her ‘haazir jawaabi’ and enjoyed every bit of it. When she was around somehow the sun seemed to shine a little bit brighter -  at least for me. 

I realized that I missed her presence in my life and sought her out. The first time I tried she was in Dubai – too far from where I lived and soon our contact fizzled. The second time I got hold of her she was in Toronto, much, much closer to where I lived. As soon as I found out that she lived close, I pestered my husband to take me there. We visited her and as soon as she opened the door, I could feel tears in my eyes. I had no clue I had missed her so much. The 2 decades of time did not seem to exist (except in the form of our teenage kids!) and we were back to being how we were. She had stayed the same – the quick wit, the funny stories, the simplicity and the grace – they were all there.
From that time onwards I have stayed in constant touch with her. I realize that I laugh a little bit more and harder when I am with her. I feel a lightness in me in her presence. It’s like the warmth of her soul touches mine and adds to it. I just have one regret, I wish I had reconnected earlier. Earlier enough to have met her mother – a woman I have admired all my life. I wish she could have seen that her only daughter had a bevy of girl friends who loved her daughter with all their heart. Aunty, if you could somehow read this please know that your daughter is loved and prized by all of us. Alhumdulillah!

The last vacation we took, I feel like brought us even closer. I was content playing her sidekick, carrying her jokes forward. It is not like we share all fun and games. We talk serious too, but even serious talk is laced with so much humor that it makes even tough situations lighter. That is what I love the most about her and me when we are together. The fact that everything can be laughed at when I am with her, even the most serious of problems. 

Zareen Fatima – I want you to know that you are loved and cherished. I love everything about you – from the Michael Kors Purses, the Nike t-shirts(!) to the scarves around your neck, to the style you exude, to the person you are – gorgeous, inside and out! I want you to know that you are the one person who could make me laugh from the bottom of my heart not once or twice but every minute that we are together! I want to thank you for being my friend. I feel sometimes you are my twin (don’t know if that is a good thing or bad) – you think like me, you don’t take yourself too  seriously and you can splurge on things  ;-) I feel honored that you are in my life – you make it richer, you make it lovelier, you make it more alive, you make it joyous and most of all you fill it with laughter. May Allah always keep you happy so that you can spread that happiness to those around you, especially me, as you already do. :-)







Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Joy Luck Club - A Review

I am always looking for books that are unputdownable. Books that want me to keep flipping the pages, drink the words in and savor them slowly. Books that I can’t wait to get to the end, but those that I don’t want to end. When I was a kid, Enid Blyton made sure I had a stream of such books at my disposal with the Famous Five Series. A little older and I was reading Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys. After that, Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse made sure I had this saga of wanting nothing more than getting back to my book going. 

I realized that murder mysteries were the books I was most interested in and especially Hercule Poirot made sure that once I started reading the latest case he was on, I couldn’t stop until he caught the perpetrator of the crime. It was great fun while it lasted. Soon I got over my mystery fixation and started branching out into more mature reading.

I found a lot of books that I just devoured, but soon life started to kick in and my reading was limited to a book here and there. Now was the time I needed books that belonged to the unputdownable category for me to put life on the back burner and turn the pages. Well, I found some but for the past few months, I haven’t been able to find anything that would remotely match that category.

While doing some spring cleaning our house, I chanced to see Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club”. I did not remember buying it. I took it in my hands. It was a very old paperback and I opened it to see my nephew’s name written on the first page. This intrigued me since the book itself seems to explore mother-daughter relationships. The big bold letters “Nine Months on the New York Times bestseller List” helped too and I was soon putting it away as a book to read rather than a book to be donated.

As many of my intelligent readers must have figured out by now, this book fit into that category - like a 100% fit. Right from the beginning till the very end, Amy Tan had me captivated and awestruck by her writing style. Being a daughter and a woman, I could relate completely to the book. I have read a fair bit of China-based literature in the past year including the much acclaimed “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. While that was a good read too, it was too long and sometimes the one track story got so intense, that one longed for a break, a diversion from the main characters. ‘The Joy Luck Club’ is that and so much more.
I will go a quick synopsis of the story for the reader’s benefit. The story is about Chinese Mothers who have immigrated to the United States. All of them have daughters who are Americanized and feel a little embarrassed about their heritage. There are a few stories running in parallel that I had trouble keeping track of because I have a condition of not quite associating names with stories. This made it hard for me to follow the story as a whole, but I didn’t mind. I was just savoring the writing style. Incredible would be the word. I can’t imagine how someone can write so well. That’s what writing is - pure magic.

Amy Tan writes about so many simple situations that might seem normal to the society, but how they can systematically erode the person that is going through them to a point that even their own mother cannot recognize them! The book celebrates strong mothers and how their presence (and even absence) impacts the lives of their daughters. Good or bad impact, the reader is left to decide. The author just presents the stories with no judgment whatever on who is right and who is wrong.

The lingering theme running through all 4-5 stories that make up the book, is the presence of quiet older women who have gone through a lot when they were young and how they fought their circumstances, went against them and managed to give their daughter’s a better life only to seem the young women struggling in their lives. Struggling not because of the circumstances surrounding them, but rather with the choices they made. The contrast between the lives of illiterate women who had nothing but their spirit guiding them and the spoilt kids that grow up into unsure women even though they have everything going for them forms the crux of the stories. Each life, each relationship finding something similar in each other.

The one thing you might find is that Amy Tan does make one feel that the American way of life is not as honorable and right as the Chinese. But I guess considering she is writing about a crusty old woman, we could forgive her that transgression!

Read it and you will find yourselves drawing parallels with your own life.

I am reproducing some of the best lines from the book that have touched me in some way or the other.

After a while, I didn’t think it was terrible life, no, not really. After a while, I hurt so much I didn’t feel any difference. What was happier than seeing everybody gobble down the shiny mushroom and bamboo shoots I had helped prepare that day? What was more satisfying than having Huang Taitai nod and pat my head when I had finished combing her hair one hundred stroked? How much happier could I be after seeing Tyan-yu eat a whole bowl of noodles without once complaining about its taste or my looks? It’s like those ladies you see in American TV these days, the ones who are so happy they have washed out a stain so the clothes look better than new.
Can you see how the Huangs almost washed their thinking into my skin? I came to think of Tyan-yu as a God, someone whose opinions were worth much more than my own life. I came to think of Huang Taitai as my real mother, someone I wanted to please, someone I should follow and obey without question.

I asked myself, What is true about a person? Would I change in the same way the river changes color but still be the same person? And then I saw the curtains blowing wildly, and outside rain was falling harder, causing everyone to scurry and shout. I smiled. And then I realized it was the first time I could see the power of the wind. I couldn’t see the wind itself, but I could see it carried the water that filled the rivers and shaped the countryside. It caused men to yelp and dance.
I wiped my eyes and looked in the mirror. I was surprised at what I saw. I had on a beautiful read dress, but what I saw was even more valuable. I was strong. I was pure. I had genuine thoughts inside that no one could see., that no one would ever take away from me. I was like the wind.

For unlike my mother, I did not believe I could be anything I wanted to be. I could only be me.
And for all those years, we never talked about the disaster at the recital or my terrible accusations afterward at the piano bench. All that remained unchecked, like a betrayal that was now unspeakable. So I never found a way to ask her why she had hoped for something so large that failure was inevitable.
And even worse, I never asked her what frightened me the most: Why had she given up hope?
For after our struggle at the piano, she never mentioned my playing again. The lessons stopped. The lid to the piano was closed, shutting out the dust, my misery, and her dreams.

I wasn’t so afraid of my mother was I was afraid for Rich. I already knew what she would do, how she would attach him, how she would criticize him. She would be quiet at first. Then she would say a word about something small, something she had noticed, and then another word, and another, each one flung out like a piece of sand, one from this direction, another from behind, more and more, until his looks, his character, his soul would have eroded away. And even if recognized her strategy, her sneak attack, I was afraid that some unseen speck of truth would fly into my eye, blur what I was seeing and transform him from the divine man I thought he was was into someone quite mundane, mortally wounded with tiresome habits and irritating imperfections.

“A girl is like a young tree,” she said. “You must stand tall and listen to your mother standing next to you. That is the only way to grow strong and straight. But if you bend to listen to other people, you will grow crooked and weak. You will fall to the ground with the first strong wind. And then you will be like a weed, growing wild in any direction, running along the ground until someone pills you out and throws you away.”


Here’s to strong mothers and to their poor hapless daughters who take forever to realize that their moms were right and knew better all along!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ringa Ringa Rahman!

Listening to spotify Radio I found myself swaying to a host of songs that have one thing in common. Guess?

Ringa Ringa Ringa...
Tere Bin Tere bin Besuaari yeh raina...
Sona nahi na Sahi...chaandi nahi na sahi...
Rang De Basanti Chola...Mohe Rangde Basanti 
Khwaaja Mere Khwaaja...dil mein samaaja....


Each song a work of art in its own.

A kind of electricity running through each one of the that had the power if you let it to put you into a trance. “In the Zone…” as my co-worker said as I continued listening to a magician’s rich compositions while my co-worker wanted to draw attention to the mundane task of our production server being down! Trying to come out of this glorious trance... I knocked my  phone down, clicked on the window I was trying to hide, almost spilled my coffee, all the time still hanging on to one side of the earphone, not wanting to come out of the zone. A zone in which I could only hear : Basti Rang De…Hasti Range…Mohe Mohe tu Rang de Basanti!


What would I call these compositions. Each one different from the other in every way possible but each holding its ground in overwhelming my senses, as I paid close attention to the music in the background. There is so much going on, so many things almost like a cacophony that ripple in to create a crescendo that is knock-out awesome. One has to listen to these songs many, many times before one can even come close to enjoying what all they have to offer. I am still discovering new things as I listen to them almost every few days only to understand that I haven’t even scratched the surface.

I wonder what it is to have talent like that. To be able to come up with creations like these. Entirely your own. Overwhelm a normal person who does not know even know much about music to keep on taking in the richness of the melody, music and not the least, the man’s own glorious voice! 

My day has gotten so much more better because of you Mr.Rahman! Thank you.  

Ringa Ringa Ringa from Slumdog Millionaire - Throbs Intensely…showing bollywood’s choli ke peeche, khatiya etc songs how it should be done and executed - what wonders a master composer can do to a item song bollywood ishtyle. Pulsating, rhythmic and energy bubbling out…and I do have to credit to Alka Yagnik for coming in at appropriate moments to support the music admirably. Not an easy task if you ask me to match steps with a master composer’s work of art.

Tere Bina Tere Bina from Guru- Not fair that he can sing like this too and that too in a language that is not his mother tongue! Totally unfair…maybe not. If you want a total Rahman-isque experience, this is the song for you. No throbbing intensity here but like a deep dive that just keeps taking you deeper and deeper with no end in sight and when you finally reach the end, you feel like taking the dive all over again and when you do, you can see more experiences being added to your dive. 

Sona Nahi Na Sahi from 1 2 ka 4- This one is more of a conventional Hindi Romantic Song but with all the Rahmanisque touches that makes it stand out from a thousand songs of this sort out there. (and I absolutely am not crazy about the fact that I cannot listen to Hindi Music for long without stumbling on an SRK song!)

Mohe tu Rang de Basanti  from Rang De Basanti - This song features in my all time favorite list. I can smell fragrance of the “dhool mien...dharti ki mere watan ki” and feel the khushboo of my vatan’s (I am sucker for all those meta vatan cheesy songs) mast pavan as I hear this song. This song has so much going for it, that it needs its own solo review for itself. The background, the foreground and everything in between is so well organized, that I would term it as a song that can shake all your senses into submission. Foot Tapping, Jaw Dropping...awesome! The picturisation of the song is pretty awesome too wherein I always fail to understand how Aamir Khan can so effortlessly carry of the role of a collegiate even after 20 years of QSQT!


Khwaaja mere Khwaaja from Jodhaa Akbar - Being a love of Sufi music, this features high on my list. Once again this song also manages to induce a trance like submission as it does to Hrithik Roshan. Sufi music by itself is pretty intense, add Rahman to the mix and the result is a deadly cocktail. 

I will add more as I listen to more magic...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Tale of a home made Pizza


A conversation with my 6-year old after I served him a fresh home made pizza.

Me: So you think it's better than the little Caesar's pizza?
He: Mom, I am telling you this one last time. Anything you cook is way better than what we get at stores.
Me: You know what to say to make mom happy, don't you?
He: So where did you get all the ingredients from?
Me: Whole Foods.
He: Nice. Whole foods is never going to go out of business.
Me : :-)
He: Can I have more.
Me: You already ate more than half of it. But you can have a piece.

I cut out a small piece from the pizza half and he reaches for the other piece. That's my son!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Magic Mirror - Part 1


There's a magic mirror in my bedroom. I swear there is. You believe me, don't you? You have to, because no one else seems to.

I have told my husband, Rob, about it innumerable times. In the beginning he used to laugh at me, then he started ignoring me and now-a-days he seems to get angry – oh so angry – he starts screaming at the top of his voice.

I feel almost as scared as I do when I look into the magic mirror – well almost, because nothing could compare to the terror I feel in its presence. Not even when Rob accuses me of slowly going insane while turning him insane too. He keeps yelling at me not to look into the mirror. He threatened to smash it one time, I slowly reminded him that breaking a mirror amounted to seven years of bad luck.

He did not. I am not sure why.

I don't think he believes in superstition – but I guess its a matter of not pushing your bad luck further. So I keep looking into the mirror, trying to break its hold over me – trying to find things I want to find, not the things it insists on showing me, the things that terrify me beyond measure.

I don't know when I started to realize that there was something wrong with the mirror in the room. One day it was a simple but elaborately designed little thing that fit perfectly in our huge room placed in a way that it was visible from every nook of the room and also from outside.

I hardly paid any attention to it except when I had to snatch a quick look at myself before stepping out of the room. Maybe that's what angered it, I am not sure. But one day, as I did my routine of looking into it while stepping out of the room, I found a stranger staring back at me. Scared out of my wits, I just ran from there not trusting myself to give it another glance.

Soon the incident was forgotten and tucked away into the inner recesses of the brain where so many other unpleasant scenarios are left in the hope that they would be lost forever. In a perfect world things lost on purpose will never be recovered, but unfortunately, the world we live in is so far from perfect.

I was just sitting on my bed, I don't quite remember doing what, when I caught a movement in the mirror. I looked up to see a figure making its way towards our room. I watched transfigured, as the image of the man crept closer and closer towards our room. I could not tear my eyes away from the mirror no matter how hard I tried. The figure loomed larger, I could see it more clearly.

It was snapping and snarling like a wolf circling its prey , but what terrified me most was the look in those inhuman eyes. It was a look of pure hatred and disgust. I closed my eyes tightly, burying my face in my hands.

“Are you alright?” I heard Rob's voice come from the doorway.

I could not bear to open my eyes. Yes, the haunting of the mirror had started and was gaining ground. I could not quite shake the feeling off completely after that no matter how hard I tried. I would try my best not to look into the magic mirror, but it was a difficult thing to ignore. My eyes would involuntarily turn towards it and whenever they did, it would show me the most grotesque things ever.

I tried to hide it from my family first. I had to make sure I was not going crazy, because I knew that would be the first thing everyone would accuse me of if I even alluded to it – that I was thinking it all up and it was just a figment of my imagination. But the more I tried to keep it under wraps, the more difficult it became for me to conceal. It was not like I was seeking for things to happen. The mirror controlled what I saw and slowly it began to control how I reacted.

I can't ever forget the day that everything came into the open. It was the day Rob was due to return home from an official trip out of town. It was early in the morning and I had overslept by about a couple of hours. I tried to get up, but I felt extremely groggy and sick. I called out to Samantha hoping against hope that she had not yet left yet.

I heaved a sigh of relief when I heard footsteps making their way to my room. I don't remember what happened next, but the next time I opened my eyes, my gaze fell directly on the mirror. I saw what I assumed to be Samantha's back slightly bending towards me. I opened my mouth to say something before I froze, catching the gleam of a knife in her hand.

She was lunging for me and before she could bring the knife down I leaped out of the bed and ran downstairs – screaming. I opened the front door trying to make it to the neighbor’s house. I was about to ring their doorbell when a hand fell on my shoulder. I passed out.

When I came to my senses, I found myself in my bed and it as dark – really dark. I was sweating profusely and I could hear my breath – in and out, in and out. I wanted to call out to someone to come help me but the image from the morning held me in its grip.

What if Samantha responded to my call again? What if she came in with the knife in her hand? Why was she trying to kill me? My throat felt parched. I needed a drink of water. I saw a glass of water on the nightstand and reached for it. My hand wobbled and the glass broke with a crash to the ground. I closed my eyes. I did not want to look into the mirror – I was exhausted, I could not handle any more of its magic.

The next few months are a blur, but basically everyone came to know that there was a magic mirror in my room. Not that they believed in it, they seemed to blame me squarely for that.

Rob suggested moving the “darn thing” out of the room and I thought that was a very good idea until he started to take it out. The 'darn thing' was so securely fastened to the wall that no matter how hard he tried, it did not budge. He sat down exhausted and I turned my face towards it to see how much he had progressed.

I saw the stranger I had seen the first time the magic in the mirror had revealed itself to me. This time, I kept looking and I found her smiling – seemed like she was mocking us, mocking me, mocking Rob. I willed her to stop, she started laughing. It was eerie just watching her laugh, not being able to hear her.

I had to stop it, I had to make her go and leave me in peace.

“STOP!” I screamed out.
“Good Lord! As if mocking and laughing at me is not enough, you have to also try to give me a heart attack...!”

I looked at him. I could not understand what he was saying. He seems to be mistaking her mocking with mine. I had to tell him that it was not me who was doing that. I had to let him know that the magic in the mirror was doing that.

“No..no..it's not me. It's her who's mocking you...us..” I cried.
“Who?” he asked.

I pointed to the mirror. Slowly he kept all his tools away. I watched him as he turned towards me and in a voice that made me freeze to my bone said,

“The issue is not with the mirror or the room. The issue is with you.” and walked out.

I started to say something to stop him but nothing came out. I looked at the mirror. The stranger was laughing her head off. She was pointing at me and making gestures that indicated that I was mad.

Had Rob really insinuated that I was crazy? The same Rob, who not a long time ago had declared his undying love for me. Who used to profess that the only reason he would open his eyes every day was because he knew he would see me sleeping next to me. What had happened to all that?

The thick and long hair he used to caress fell in wisps all around my forehead. The lips he used to kiss so passionately were so colorless that they mingled with the paleness of my face. The face that he would hold in his hands, close, very close and just stare at it saying it was the most beautiful thing in the world.

I glanced in the mirror, fully expecting the stranger to be lurking there but instead what I saw horrified me even more. There was nothing there – absolutely nothing – it was like I did not exist. I have never been so scared in my life ever. I needed someone to be around. I needed to talk to someone. I needed to feel alive, give myself proof that I existed. Mom!

“Why do you keep looking into the mirror while talking to me?”
“I just want to make sure that I can see myself in the mirror”

My mom looked towards it.

“I can see you fine. You are as pretty as you always have been – my beautiful little princess! ”

Yes, everything was fine. My image appeared crisp and clear, right next to my mother's. She was sitting there in all her stately finery. White pearls clasping her neck and hanging from her ears. Her gray hair with streaks of golden brown that she had refused to color all her life. The crocheted white shawl wrapped slightly across her shoulders. Her eyebrows carefully plucked to form an arch that I had tried all my life to reproduce but could never quite get it right.

“Thanks Mom!” I said squeezing her hand.

“I am always here for you darling, always here...” she said squeezing back my hand as I drifted off to sleep.

When I got up she was gone but her shawl lay wrapped around me. I felt rested and refreshed after a very long time.

As had become the norm, I instantly looked towards the mirror and I found an image of a little girl. She was wearing a snow white costume and had her head down looking at what presumably seemed to be big basket. Ringlets of hair kept falling around her face and she kept pushing it back.

I strained my neck to get a good look at her face but could not get a clear picture. I watched her for a while as she kept looking down looking for something in her basket.

“Look at me, little girl. Look at me!” I whispered to her.

“Who are you little one...who are you?” My voice grew louder.

“SHOW ME YOUR FACE!” I finally screamed.

She looked up. Her eyes were moist, she had a look of terror in them. As soon as her gaze fell on me, she let go off the basket, got up and extending her hands with a smile playing on her lips as tears streamed over he cheeks she said something that tore through my soul -

“Mommy! Help me! Help me Mommy!”

Yes it was her. My worst fears were true. She had waited for me to help her. She had been hoping that I would rescue her. Instead I had pushed her into a death trap.

“I am sorry darling. I am so sorry...” I wept like a baby as her image faded away.

“Come back sweetheart. Please come back to your Mommy. I promise I will help you. I promise I will shield you from everything. Just come back to Mommy, my love.”

“Just how long do you plan to keep this going?” his icy tone interrupted my monologue.

Once again his head in the mirror was replaced with that of a wolf's. But this time around the image did not inspire fear in me instead it inspired loathing.

He walked in and I lunged for his face. He jerked back but not before I had gotten to him first. He screamed out in pain

“What did you do that for? Bitch!” he screamed as he looked towards the mirror.

Now I could see his human face – the face that he put on to fool the world. A face that he used to fool a silly young woman into thinking that he was the man destined to be the love of her life.

(to be continued...)  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Magic Mirror - Last Part


“Isn't he the handsomest man you've ever seen mom?” I said with the stars still showing in my eyes.
“I must admit he is pretty good looking but I still think your dad would hold that title...”
“Oh come on Mom. You say that only because you love him.” I said making a long face.
She winked - “My point exactly!”
“Seriously Mom. What do you think of him?”
“Not much!”, she said with all seriousness.
“What do you mean?” I wailed.
“He is not the one for you...that's what I mean.”
“How can you say that after meeting him just once...”
“I have known him through you. I had my doubts which were confirmed further after meeting him.”
“Oh! Please don't say that.”
“OK I won't!” she said getting up.
“Why are you doing this?”
“If you are not willing to listen to reason, why do you even bother asking me?”
“You know how important you are to me Mom.”
“Well obviously not as important as he seemed to have become in a span of a couple of months.”
“Oh no Mom. That's not true.”
“Sylvia, listen to me, he's not the right man. You don't have to rush in, If you still think you want to see him, go ahead, spend some more time with him and try to get to know him better. You can't give your life to a man you have known only for a couple of months.”
“But I love him Mom”
“Love, my dear is highly overrated.” She sighed.
“I can't wait...”
“...and why not?”
“We are pregnant Mom!” I blurted out.

She sat down and both of us found ourselves staring at the floor.

What she said next caught me completely by surprise. I expected her to shout at me, maybe even hit out at me but instead in a quivering voice that with a lot of effort she seemed to be holding steady, she said

“That does not mean you have to throw away your life.”

I simply stared at her dumbfounded. I had not realized that she disliked him to such an extent. I had assumed that once I told her about the baby, she would push me into getting married to him.

“Mom...I...”
“Sylvia, do you want to marry him because you are pregnant with his child?”
“No...I love him too Mom.”
“Would you still want to marry him were you not pregnant with his child?”
“I...”
“Don't! Please don't. He was married..he has a grown up daughter. Life is not easy as it is and with more complications thrown in, it can become unbearable,” her voice completely steady now, she said holding my hands.
“I am sorry Mom. I have to. I can't...”
“You can't what?”
“I can't say No to him.”
“That is no reason to get married.”
“I love him mom, I promise you I love him.”

She closed her eyes and nodded.

“and he loves me to. I will prove you wrong mom. I will. We will.”

“You don't have to.” She said simply and that was the end of the conversation.


I married him a week later.

My mom played her part in it to perfection, but I knew that she was doing just that – playing her part. I thought I would not mind being so much in love with the man I was marrying. But it did matter to me. Every few minutes I would glance in her direction. There she would be talking to someone, laughing at a joke, taking a sip of her drink or glancing at me. I searched for some sort of approval in her eyes. I could not find it that day and I haven't found it yet. Nor was I able to prove her wrong.

Doubts had set in very early in the marriage. Things did not fall in place like I had expected them to. But I had trudged along unable to look reality in the eye. Life taught me to accept things that at one time seemed unbearable to even contemplate. Slowly but surely I found myself getting used to a small disappointment there, a slightly bigger disillusionment there and soon I found myself just going along with anything and everything that life and my spouse threw at me. There came a point when neither mattered and life became a series of footsteps one after the other.

I laughed at the memory of the starting years of my marriage how I had striven to paint a perfect picture of my marriage to my mom. Slowly the shift had occurred to prove a point to myself. Ah! The deceptions we put ourselves through, trying not to see the things that are in plain sight - trying to set aside one serious issue after another as insignificant in the larger scheme of things - trying to look for things that need us rather than things that we need so that we might find ourselves useful. To me all that represented my daughter - Joanne.

I took to her care with a vengeance. She represented the whole world to me and when I was with her, the wounds would heal themselves magically. I would be transported into a world where nothing needed to be proved, where I could be myself and be happy with who I was. But there was something about my little one that did not quite seem right. She laughed and played with me but there was a sadness in her eyes – a sadness that I attributed to her relationship with Samantha, my step daughter.

I had hoped Joanne could play a part in weakening the invisible wall Samantha had built around herself where I was concerned, the wall that she had put in place right from the day she had set eyes on me and which had grown stronger, brick by brick, with every passing year. But, alas like everyone of my hopes and dreams, I had to shelve this one too! Samantha became more and more distant. She resented me and hated Joanne with an intensity that seemed to surpass her hatred towards me.

In sharp contrast Joanne craved for her elder sister's affections. I would find her looking longingly at Samantha when she would play with the neighbor’s daughter, Kathy, who was about the same age as Joanne, but never with her. I could see that she did it to get back to me, but to my sweet little daughter it was heart breaking. I felt helpless and had tried my best to make the situation better but my hands were tied – there was nothing I could do. I died a thousand deaths whenever I found a tear trickling down Joanne's closed eyes as I tucked her into bed.

I felt bad not only that I could do nothing to help her but it hurt even more that my presence did not seem to satisfy Joanne like it used to once. There was a time when I had the ability to complete her world. Now I was a necessary presence she had gotten used to and she reached out for more exciting things. I guess every relationship takes its toll and somewhere along the way, the feeling of you being a non-entity in it is complete. The relation continues, your importance in it just diminishes.

I wished I could take away her hurt, I wished I could give her the world I had promised her to, but as with everything else in my life, I could not do anything but watch helplessly as another part which I had hoped to succeed in life seemed to be crashing around me. When had I become so powerless? What had happened? What a complete failure I was – as a daughter, as a wife and most importantly as a mother.

“Mommy...I love you,” she whispered to me as I bent to kiss her. Maybe there still was hope for me.

I got her a kitten the next day. She loved it so much. She named him “Flower” and he became a central part of her existence. She carried him around everywhere with her in a small basket that she had decorated with pink flowers, golden ribbons and red hearts. It gladdened my heart whenever I saw them together.

“Can I wear the costumer for a little longer?”. I looked at her. She was wearing the snow white costume my mom had made for her. She looked so pale in it, I wished she would take it off but I did not want to disappoint her - “OK!” I said.

“I am going out with Flower” I watched as she walked out with quite a lot of effort, trying to balance Flower in the basket, the tiara on her head and the long flowing costume.

Spring was in the air and I could smell the crisp air as she opened the door. The tulips that we had planted the year before were sprouting and I knew that would be her first stop. But I also knew eventually she would sit below the huge oak tree with Flower in her lap, pretending not to watch Samantha playing with Kathy

Joanne ventured out only when her older sister was outside. It was like she held on to a hope in her heart that one day a miracle would occur and Samantha would play with her. I refused to admit it, but I did too.

I kept watching her from the kitchen window as I did the dishes. Suddenly I saw her get up and walk towards Samantha. What had happened? I craned my neck but could not quite see what was happening. Something warned me and I made a dash for the front door. What I saw next is what my nightmares now are made of.

Flower was across the street and Joanne was walking towards him.
“Joanne...NO!” I shouted, but she did not hear. I ran towards her but she had stepped on the road. The next thing I heard was the screeching of the brakes, a thud and my own screams.

She died a few days later due to multiple organ failure, her frail little body refusing to breathe any more amidst the plethora of tubes and pipes criss crossing across her body. I had tried to talk to her. The doctor's assured me she could feel our presence inside the room. I wanted her to live, I willed her to live but she did not.

My last hope for redemption had just passed away.

I could not understand how it could've happened. How my timid little girl had found the courage to cross the street when she had never found the courage to even venture out near the curb?

Kathy amidst sobs told her mother what had happened. Flower had run away and Joanne was coming in to get me. But Samantha called out to her and had challenged her to get the kitten on her own. When she refused, Samantha called her a coward and said that if Joanne showed her she was brave enough to do cross the street and get the kitty, she would allow her to play with them.

I wept. That was all I could manage to do.

I signed the forms for the release of her dead body. I couldn't even remember my name. I just scribbled as the nurse guided my hand.

“Mrs. Lowe there is something I need to tell you. Please call me.” she said in a low voice, slipping a piece of paper into my hand.

Everyone says I went crazy after that. That I started seeing things, that I started being suspicious, starting talking about a magic mirror that showed me things I did not want to see. To that my answer would be that I had now started to see things as they were and not the way I had wanted to see them.

Yes the magic mirror guided me in seeing things. Like that day when it guided me towards the piece of paper that must've fell out of my purse. I picked up to see a telephone number scribbled onto it hastily. I could not remember what that number represented but I gave it a go.

Nurse Mathis answered. What she told me managed life to give me another shock where I had thought that no more was possible.

“Mrs.Lowe, I was hoping you would call me. I wanted to speak with you regarding a matter relating to your daughter. Can we meet somewhere?”

That was the first time I had ventured out of the house after Joanne's death.

“Mrs.Lowe, I don't know if you remember me but I used to work with your Mom, God rest her soul. She was a wonderful doctor and an even better human being. I am so sorry about your daughter. She was such a pretty little girl. Just like you when you were her age. I wanted to speak with you earlier but did not want to intrude into your pain and cause more hurt with what I believe are my own deductions. But I have to let you know. I couldn't rest from the day I overheard your husband talking to Joanne. You see Mrs. Lowe, I have suspicion to believe that he was you know...abusing... sexually abusing her.....”

I don't know what she said after that. I didn't need to know. I had found the answers to all my questions. My failure was complete.

I walked into the kitchen and saw the wolf and the murderer look at me.

“How did it go sweetie? Did you have a good time with your friend?”

I nodded.

“I need to go out for a while. We are closing in on an important contract with Children's memorial hospital. Samantha is going to be around if you need her.”

I nodded again and walked upstairs to the mirror.

“Tell me what to do.” I implored.

I saw a flash and looked up to see the reflection of the screen saver from Rob's laptop. I walked towards it.

'Email Sent to Child Services and Children memorial hospital.' The message on the screen read.
“Along with attachments of pictures of child pornography...” I said to myself.

The mirror showed me Samantha walking into her room at the other end of the corridor. I walked behind her catching an image of the knife I held in my hand in the mirror....

(The End)