Poems

Breathless in the mind

Breathless in the mind
Running,
chasing,
What I want
An arms length away,
There, I see it,
I run to it
I am breathless in the mind

A pause
Gasping and doubled over
Eyes rise from a spinning ground,
There, I see it
Just an arms length away
Standing there breathless in my mind

Another run will make it
Another pause will have it
Happiness, I see it
Shimmering in the yellow horizon
One more burst
One more thrust
Lunging forward
Breathless in my mind

Runs and pauses
Reach where I saw it
It was there I saw it
Barren and scorched
By my wants and needs
Happiness has moved
A little more to the east
Under the yellow horizon
There it lies
One more chance to find
I begin over
Breathless in the mind

-Arsee.

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Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 17 My Father, a Polyp and I

It was the Monday after the news of Sreedevi’s passing. The nation waited with bated breath to learn the exact details of what might have taken the life of one of India’s brightest stars. I waited with bated breath as well, but for my father’s CT scan report. My little tragedy in the glare of a much bigger tragedy was slowly emerging from the scans of the Radiologist’s computer.

It was seven in the evening and I made it a point to get home earlier than usual, waiting for the scans. When the report finally came I plucked it out of the big heavy envelope and tried to make sense of the medical terms. Polyp said the report. I had no idea what that meant. In the colon said the report, I had a fair idea where that was. Adenoma or Adenocarcinoma with a question mark said the report in conclusion. My heart was beating so fast that I could hear it above the din of the children playing in the garden downstairs.

I called the Radiologist, Dr Shetty. He said, “Riddhi the news is not great. It is a tumor but it looks like it is early and I would suggest you see a gastroenterologist.” He was dear enough to make an appointment for me.

My father got back from the gym and he done his own sleuthing and knew what the report said. There was no keeping the truth from him. I began to make my calls. I called Boss. He gave me a few numbers and told me to hang in there. One day at a time is how things went on planet polyp.

Dr Parikh met us as quickly as he could and explained to us in detail what was wrong with my father. He said that the polyp could be cancerous or not, it really depended on the findings of the colonoscopy that we needed to do. We decided to get on with it and do the test.

Early in the morning at the hospital, the colonoscopy did not take long but the Doctor told us that we would have to wait for the results of the biopsy. That took really long. Not in terms of the time that it took but in terms of the wait. It seemed like the longest two days of my life.

Saturday evening, I called the Doctor and he said, “Riddhi, it is cancerous says the biopsy. We need to meet and discuss the way forward.” I hung up on the Doctor and for what seemed like a long while I stared at a sheet of white paper which had some numbers on it that I may have written down in a more emotionally coherent time. I had no idea what those numbers were. It was more like blue ink scribbles. My father had cancer; it came to me slowly and crowded my senses till it became an unbearable drumbeat in my mind. Boss told me that I was having the usual reaction to the dreaded C word. I should be patient and strong. Yes, I had to be patient and strong.

My father’s friend Dr Rai, his gym mate, was guiding us at every step of the way. He was also of the opinion that Dr Parikh was, that surgery was probably the way to get this growth out. He was also pretty certain that we would get all of it.

Dr. Sanjay Sharma put us at ease almost instantly. Affable with effervescent positivity; he promised us that he would get the adenocarcinoma out!

My father and I walked into the hospital early in the morning and I had him settle in his room. The surgery was scheduled for the next day. I stayed with him all day. We spoke about everything but not about the surgery that was about to happen. It was the elephant in the room that we chose not to look at lest it make us weak and break us.

It was going to be a four-hour surgery. The Doctor would remove a portion of the colon along with the polyp and stitch the rest up. Sounds simple when you think of it on paper but when you deliberate and understand that it is going to happen in the human body and your Father’s body at that, it can get very unnerving.

He was wheeled in and I waited in his hospital room. I did not want to think of the surgery and tried reading but the pages felt like they had nothing written on them. I stared at the paper and my mind was filled with memories of my father and me through the years. I fought the tears and they would retreat only to come back again.

I did not turn the light on as the evening slowly turned into night. My father’s cell phone beeped and I walked to it to check if it was important. It was not. I chanced on his whatsapp. On a whim I went to his profile and saw a picture of him laughing and the tears came back when I read his status. It said, “spreading smiles’. It was his whatsapp group where they sent each other jokes and laughed all day. I wiped my tears instantly.

Doctor Sharma called me half an hour before the operation was due to be completed. I sat in his office waiting for him. Hoping and praying that everything was all right. He came in with an assistant wheeling in the tumour. He smiled and said, “We got it. We got all of it!” I wanted to collapse on his desk and thank him, thank God, thank everyone, so much gratitude burst through my heart.

28 May, 2018; As I write this, my Father gets better everyday. The Doctors have asked him to walk around and though that helps him immensely, it does cause him a lot of pain and discomfort. Last evening he prayed for some good sleep and no walking in the morning. He was tired and wanted to rest. I asked the Doctor to excuse him for one session and the Doctor agreed with a smile.

This morning I found him walking when I got to the Hospital. He never stops surprising me! “You did not want to walk?” I exclaimed. He smiled, “Must walk. This is no way to live life,” he added. My eyes filled up with tears again but this time I knew why. They were telling me that my father had not stopped teaching me. Even this morning he was giving me a lesson in life. If there is an art to living, this is it.

As for me, I have taken on from where my father left off on the day of the surgery. I put funny videos on my Instagram everyday. We have to spread them smiles you see!

-Arsee.

Little stories · Short stories

Arsee’s short stories 43 A letter from a father to his daughter

A letter from the man that taught me –
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Our normalcy is in our madness.
Time gave us a little bit of a run, but there’s nothing some swimming can’t fix.
I love you Papa, the most special man in my world x

Thinking Chitalia

My story today is a special one. Here’s the most precious gift I could have asked for! In a way it is the sum of my father’s various experiences or in other words, the essence of his life’s stories put together so it can be of some use.

24th April 2018
Dear Riddhi,

It is a very special day today. At the stroke of midnight you turn twenty-one. Which is a remarkable feat considering the klutz you are! I am also overjoyed by the fact that you can finally cross the road and make difficult calculations in regard to velocity and acceleration of moving objects, we call cars, and negotiate a crossing by adjusting your own speed. Belive me, that’s very advanced calculas.

Jokes apart, I am happy you are now in adult land and boring adult things will be expected out of you. You have fought so many battles…

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Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 16 The Third Person

Bob was a star. No one had an idea of how big a star he would be one day before his film released. On the day after his film released he was a sensation. In a matter of two days he went from nobody to the heartthrob of the country. Such was the Goddess of glamour; she took you dizzying heights if she fell in love with you. In Bob’s case she was clearly head over heels.

Me? I was just a writer. I had written the film that had catapulted Bob to the top of the heap. The success of the film did not change my destiny like it did his but I was happy for Bob, he had been my friend through our infinite struggles and I knew he deserved his place in the sun.

It wasn’t easy anymore; doing things we did when he was a nobody. Now, everywhere we went he was surrounded by people and inundated with attention. No more quiet beers and long walks with Depeche Mode on the stereo, those days were over. Yet, I was excited for him and his new life.

It was late one afternoon when Bob drove up to my house in his new swanky car and asked me to accompany him to the opening of an art exhibition. He had no desire to go but he was committed. And it wasn’t like I was doing anything much in any case so I hopped into the comfort of the zero to eighty-in-three seconds-kind of sports car.

“I need a cigarette, real bad,” he whispered into my ear in the middle of all the attention the paparazzi and the invitees to the exhibition were showering on him.
“Sure,” I was going to fish out one from my pocket when he stopped me and said it had to be in the room, where no one could see him smoke. I put the cigarette back into my pocket and planned a room smoking opportunity for him.
“Why the secret cigarette rendezvous?” I asked when we were alone in the room. He looked at me like I was his village cousin. “I am star now Amy,” he explained, taking pains to speak slower. “I must have an image. I want people to see me as this role model, as this good guy. I want all mothers to ask their kids to be like me, I want to be a role-model.”
“Why not just be yourself and let the mothers figure out what they want for their children?” I asked him with all earnestness. He laughed and shook his head like I would not understand. Perhaps, I did not.

Years went by, Bob and I lost touch. I did write some more successful films but never really hit anything out of the park. Bob in the meanwhile just grew from strength to strength. He did become Mr. Nice guy like he had planned for himself. I don’t really know if the mothers were talking to their kids to be like him but if they were I wouldn’t be surprised.

And one day a creaky cupboard opened up somewhere and a skeleton came tumbling out. Bob’s female assistant filed a police complaint against him for repeated sexual harassment. The media went berserk. Mr. Nice guy a molester? The news was too good to be true!

Once the creaky cupboard opens there is really no stopping it. Stories of other women came out accusing Bob of similar behavior began to crop up all over the place. Then the reports of some rehabilitation program for drug addiction, drunken driving; it was just like a free for all.

Late one night I got a call from him, “I need to see you Amy. I need a friend.” He surely needed one. I drove up to his place.
I found Bob sprawled drunk on the expensive marble floor of his extravagant house. He smiled at me and asked me to come and sprawl next to him. I did.
“I have figured something about life Amy, I want to share it with you,” he said slurring his way through the words. I nodded, all ears.
“Remember the cigarette in the room? The day I began my Mr. Nice guy journey?” I nodded remembering it only too well. “You know what happened that day? Another me was born.” I nodded again. Then he tried to stand up and failed. Fell back on the marble and with some effort begun to talk again.
“When I gave birth to a new me, I really gave birth to another me. The older me never really went away. He was always around mocking at the new one. I was being this but I really wanted to be that. And you know what happens when you are two people Amy? Somewhere the two people meet and conspire to become a third person. That third person does everything that the first guy always did but the second guy; the nice guy makes the third guy do all this things deviously. When what you always were meets what you are pretending to be a third guy is born Amy, and this third guy takes all your innocent wants and turns them into perverse and devious actions. He is very dangerous, this third guy…. Very very dangerous.”

Half an hour later, Bob was dead. I had no idea that he had stuffed himself on a drug cocktail.

Three days later when they lowered him into his grave I thought back to what he said, “When what you always were meets what you are pretending to be a third guy is born Amy…” He was right. I had to get home. I had to write again. I had to tell the world what Bob had found out about life. About this third guy.

-Arsee.

Poems

Spotlight

Sleep less
But dream harder
Hate less
But fight harder
You are not owed
It’s not your right
Place for just one
In the spotlight

Not abusive
But scream harder
Not jostling
But dance harder
If not your day
It will be your night
Place for just one
In the spotlight

Not betrayal
But compete harder
Not greedy
But grab harder
Hiding behind goodness
Don’t lose sight
Place for just one
In the spotlight

-Arsee.

Fiction · Little stories · Short stories

Vol 2 Arsee’s short stories 15 The Last Letter

Rob was only twenty-one when everything in the world went instant. Instant gratification was the most marketable commodity and strangely among the first things to go instant was food, they called it fast food. Just a few pounds could buy a meal and you could be out of the establishment way before the pennies in the parking meter ran out. No more waiting and listening to the boring pipe music in restaurants and staring at the cutlery wondering when you would be able to use it.

For a loner like Rob fast food made the whole meal effort more bearable. It was a Saturday night and Clock Work Orange was playing at the Odeon. Clock Work Orange had to be seen, it was a message from heaven for cinema buffs. Rob made the pilgrimage and immersed himself in Kubrick’s classic. It was late in the evening when he stepped out of the magical darkness into the real world. Spring was in the air, the night was making way for more daylight and Rob decided it was going to be the pizza kind of fast food that would fill his stomach while he ruminated on the movie.

Marcy’s Pizzeria played some fabulous Depeche Mode making it a clear choice for the evening. He did not see her clearly at first. She was standing with the menus in her hand looking at a couple of bills. She must have sensed someone standing behind her, which was probably why she turned around with a ready smile on her face. Rob had never seen someone as beautiful as her. She had large light brown eyes made to look prettier with the use of a simple liner. A straight nose and perfect red lips added to the perfectness of what destiny had planned for her face. A creamy complexion on curves to die for, Rob wondered if she was the advertisement for the pizzeria. He stared at her like a teenager who had just discovered the opposite sex; Clock Work Orange had obviously stopped ticking.

She let him finish staring, with a patient smile for him and waited for him to come back from his round trip to that man place in his head. Then she showed him to the table and asked him if he wanted to have anything to drink. She did notice that Rob was looking at her nametag that announced her name to be Anna. It was with great effort that Rob managed to order his pizza, with greater effort he managed to eat it and no amount of effort could make him ask for the cheque. And yet he had to, it was a done thing, people usually left after they ate and when you had waited around for an hour after you had finished eating you had no more excuses to stay.

He was back the next day and asked her if she would like to sit at the table and eat with him. Anna told him politely that she worked at the pizzeria, she was a stewardess and she was not allowed to eat with the patrons. She was touched that he would inquire and that he should be so thoughtful.

It was evening again and Rob was back. Anna was beginning to see that Rob was completely besotted. She would have to tell him the truth. Rob asked her out and she told him that she would see him after the pizzeria shut down close to midnight. From the window of the pizzeria she could see Rob wait for her, it was four hours before she could meet him and for four hours Rob stood under the streetlight, waiting for her.

Then they went to a bar close by. Rob blabbered on like a schoolboy who had found his first friend ever. He had been friendless and he had so much to share. After a polite drink Anna broke the sad news to him. She told him that she was married. It broke her heart to see the tears flow out of Rob’s eyes. He was devastated. Anna had never seen love like that. She was choked with as much pain as Rob. They sat together in silence. Then Rob took a serviette and scribbled his phone number on it and looked at her sadly, “If you should ever be alone, ever need a shoulder, ever need a friend and more than ever if you should ever need someone to take care of you the way you deserve to be taken care of, would you call me?” Anna smiled, “And how do I deserve to be taken care of?” Rob looked deep into her eyes and whispered, “In the way that should a man allow even a hint of sadness cross those eyes he should be cursed to lose you forever.” Anna could not see him anymore. She just took the serviette and left the bar.

Anna never called Rob and Rob grew up to think how stupid he was. How stupid that he expected her to call. He became a writer of great repute, wrote wondrous books, won many an accolade but through all that he never forgot that beatific face that he had seen at Marcy’s Pizzeria.

It was about two weeks past his sixty-second birthday when his assistant announced a young man at his office. The young man had an envelope with him. Rob asked the young man who he was but the young man was not forthcoming. He handed Rob the envelope and said, “My Mother died last Thursday, she left this for you.” Even before Rob could open the envelope the young man had left his office.

On the envelope was written just one word, “Rob”. When he opened the envelope he found the serviette with an old telephone number of his scribbled on it, in his own handwriting. He recognized the serviette immediately and he knew whom it was from. Behind the very same serviette was written a note for him, “Dear Rob, I looked at this serviette every day of my life. This paper napkin told me that there was a Rob out there who loved me like no one else could ever. This paper napkin made it possible for me to live through all these years. If this serviette has reached you then I am dead and I have no commitments anymore. I have finally dialed your number. I love you.”

Rob sat down and closed his eyes, a girl with menus in her hand turned around and looked at him with a smile.

-Arsee.