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REAL LIFE STORIES Volume 1 | Issue 6 | January

CONTENTS WRITE ME A POEM..................................PAGE 1 DUTCH FRY BABY...................................PAGE 2 WILL THERE BE SALVATION...................PAGE 3 THEY LOST I FOUND...............................PAGE 4 THE ALPHABETS.....................................PAGE 5 STACK OF MEMORIES............................PAGE 7 THE GREAT EMAIL EXCHANGE................PAGE 9 CONNECTING THE DOTS.........................PAGE 12

TEAM INK Editor in Chief: Karuna Shah Content Analyst: Amy Johnston Communications: Annabelle Carrera Associate Editors: Aparajita Singh and Nidhi Panchal Ink Drift Publications www.inkdrift.com Email: inkdriftmag@gmail.com

SANS.......................................................PAGE 14


REMEMBER ME.......................................PAGE 15

To submit to us go to www.kalaage.net and create a writers profile. Look for open topic by Ink Drift and Submit.

I HEAR PINE NEEDLES............................PAGE 16 THE CHANCE...........................................PAGE 17 .THE MAN WITH THREE-LEGGED............PAGE 22 BURNING AND LEARNING.....................PAGE 26 THE FINAL MINUTE OF MY....................PAGE 27 REMINISCENCE.....................................PAGE 28 OLD POLAROIDS...................................PAGE 29 FROM THIS DISTANCE..........................PAGE 30 THE MIND PALACE................................PAGE 31 I NEVER HAD A LOVE............................PAGE 33


NOSTALGIA Volume 1 | Issue 6 | January


Each one of us is a traveler with a thousand of stories buried in our hearts. Ink Drift is an attempt to bring those stories out, in the form of literature. The word inside this magazines are treasures which are made available by various writers to all of the readers. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to all the contributors.





I feel so hollow . My heart seems empty . My nerves lack affection and response , From my fellow beings . What do I do ? Where do I find solace ? My voice echoes everywhere , Reminding me of the time when I wasn ' t this lonely . My kitten used to jump on my bed . Cuddle until she fell asleep . She slept in the very same blanket as I . Gestating a love story nobody ever understood . I know I sound absurd . Even though I have friends in every nook & corner of this world . It ' s impossible for me to bare myself anymore . All the possible humans have purged out of my life . The way it feels is disturbing . How do I deal with this dejection ? How do I stop this self - destruction ? I don ' t know . I simply don ' t . And this constant thirst to find answers is choking me . Will I never be able to break free from this maze ? God banished me from heaven . Devil refused me a shelter . Here I am , standing at the top of the world .

Stuck somewhere in - between . All I can do is write a poem . A poem narrating my agony . A poem to feed my virtue . A poem to defeat my anxiety . I have written the most honest piece . The universe knows it . It paints my picture of all the scars & wounds I am endowed with . It reflects me without faltering . As I am . Depressed . Broken . Thunderous .





We sit at the island in my turquoise kitchen our hands warmed by hot coffee in mugs of stoneware pottery . When I was little , you warmed my hand in the palm of yours , or in the pocket of a Woolrich jacket . Today ’ s mug up is rooted in the warmth and the bribery .

The driveway too slick to safely maneuver with shovel is plowed by you . In turn , the winds of Ceylon cinnamon blow . The egg and baked apple , the butter , flour and brown sugar , all counter your bluster . Like you , this morning is brisk . Across the over cast sea , squalls flash , fumble . In this moment your impatience is a calming sea . PAGE NO. 2


I chant not the hymns , nor do I perform meaningless rituals , I believe not in blind faith , I believe not in superstitions , Oh Lord . . ! Will thy divine light shine on me ? I follow the path of righteousness and virtue , I know not evil , I know not hatred , I believe not in idol worshiping , I believe not in PAGE NO. 3

whispering his name , Oh Lord . . ! Will there be salvation for me ? I believe in karma ' s and not in destiny , I believe in action and not in stagnation . I don ' t sprinkle the holy waters on thee , Will there be redemption for my soul ? Will there be liberation for me ? Stars in the night sky are my guiding light , They inspire me to chase my dreams and fight . I go not to pilgrimages and temples for getting my wishes fulfilled , Oh Lord . . ! Will thee still bestow your grace upon me ? I have seen this world cruel and brutal , I have seen bloodshed , war and violence . I will be thy angel , I will be thy Christ , I will end the darkness and spread thine divine light . Oh Lord . . ! Will I then be your child , your beloved being ? Living in this modern world , where we all are grappling with our own idea of " faith " it becomes important to question oneself that Is The Idea of Attainment Of God just restricted to mere idol worshiping or Is it something more ?


I and my world drowned in our own Ecstasy Regardless of all the Sorrow and Fallacy Meanwhile , it couldn ' t be avoided by cruel Jealousy And instantly it devised a corrupt Conspiracy It unleashed the Brightest Black and Exaggerated lies All together groomed much enough to threaten my pure side a reasonable amount of reverence enabled me to throw aside deeply rooted chain of intentional falsehood immensely thrived For a quite long while , ate stood against me deepest core of my heart cried Why always Me Those Pretty Faces I used to admire

All of a sudden turned black when Reality transpired But soul inside me persevere to struggle refilled with rejoice and burst out with giggle The Courage I held and the Smile I wore No doubt had rendered a resentment in all those The perception gradually took a U - Turn And here the mournful cry into all the fun faith in Almighty kept me going so long Today i stand freely where I want Yes , honor and shame from no condition rise I acted well my part and for me there all honor lies !





The gloominess in her mind did not disappear . Her parents ’ joy knew no bounds . Her brother did not show it but was definitely proud due to her admission into this prestigious institute . She wondered , ‘ For how long shall I just go with the flow ? I am just heading wherever destiny takes me to . Even here I am still aimless . What if this smile and pride disappear from my family only because of my ignorance ?’ As usual , the admission process was about to follow the alphabetical order and not the merit list . She hated her name . Most probably , her registration will be completed only after lunch hour . She looked around . There was this guy wearing a blue shirt , fair , not so handsome , might be waiting for someone standing two rows in front of her . Mom caught her looking at him . She said , “ He looks like our Vishal , doesn ’ t he ? You will be classmates .” She knew her mother . Whenever it is about the opposite gender , she becomes so talkative and speaks rubbish . “ Mom , please . Your daughter is not going to get involved in emotional matters ,” she thought . Deep inside , maybe she wants to ; but her reserved nature keeps her away from all these . She noticed him again . Those eyes had something in them – may be kind of arrogance , pride or stubbornness . For the first time , she stared at someone so long . The blue guy took the seats in the row before her . His father was with him . And another guy arrived and took the next seat . She gathered from their conversation that the blue guy was new to this place and the other one was providing information about whatever he wanted to know . Both of them were discussing some change in elective subjects . By nature , an over thinker , she started worrying about what now . She did not know about this change . Finally , she asked the friendly looking guy and cleared her doubts . He was good . Mr . Arrogant did interrupt in between but did not even smile at her . He just asked something to his friend and ignored her . She was pretty sure that she was not going to speak with this stubborn guy during the whole course . Akash , the friendly boy went for registration . She was arguing with her mom about this PAGE NO.5

nonsensical process of following the alphabetical order . And what happened next was out of her imagination - the over - smart one dared to speak to her . Guess what ?? In a know - it - all tone , “ Alphabets do matter ,” he said . She just wanted to kill him . He went when his turn came but had to wait due to some submission problems . The devil inside her felt happy and satisfied . After lunch , she completed registration and went for collecting identity cards . She met other girls who were enrolling for the same course . She had completely forgotten what happened earlier . Suddenly , a familiar voice struck in her ears . She looked behind and he was there . Mr . Arrogant , in the blue shirt , stood there now with a smile . She unknowingly smiled back . Being some sort of an angel , she asked , “ Everything completed ?” He nodded . He was quite talkative . He told her about his past education , interests and all in those few minutes . She just listened . After collecting her ID , she was about to leave and interestingly , she looked back and searched for him , yes , the stubborn guy in the blue shirt . Saks , where are you ? Saks , meri jaan !!” He hugged her from behind . “ Stop calling me by this name , Nikhil . It sounds so weird . I have a proper name , S - A K - S - H - I , Sakshi . And why are you so late ? I have been waiting for so long . You know , I was thinking how much I hated you in our first meeting . And what is the plan now ….. “

Really , alphabets did matter to them .



Call me an emotional fool , but I have a personal hoard of memories that I go through every time I am home . These are in the form of birthday cards , appreciation notes , letters , scrapbooks , boarding passes , concert tickets , School / Uni IDs and other silly stuff that for me , from my most valuable earnings till date . Increasingly , I have noticed that I bring home fewer and fewer things to add to my pile of treasure . As technology has taken over our lives , we hardly think of writing someone a letter . At the most , an e - card is sent if we tend to remind someone of our existence in their busy lives . Some people opt for the traditional methods , so they go to the extent of choosing a greeting card from the impersonal stack of mass produced commercialized cards available at the local stores . I am not against any of these methods of expressing emotions , I just prefer the hand drawn , handwritten ones above all . As I go through the silly drawings on the tiny cards we made for each other in school , I am reminded of our innocence . The colorful , sticker studded ones are a reminiscence of our gullible teenage years when expression had to be visual to the best . The more subtle , classy ones ( may I add , mostly store - bought ones ) are to be chalked up as the prideful reminders of our adolescence when the scented cards were in high demand . But the handwritten messages in these cards are what separate them from being cast away as impersonal stacks of paper I have to keep . Even a tiny little line written in a hurry has an impact on my memories of that person . The letters are the most cherished ones because they take me back in time at length and it ’ s hard to avoid the moisture welling up in my eyes as memories cloud my vision . Emotions change with time , relations tend to evolve as we progress in our lives . The once inseparable crime partners now rarely get the chance to catch up . The friends you thought would never grow up , have such time consuming professional lives that you tend to fade away from their priority list . Friends switch jobs , marry and move on , they shift to other cities , other countries and what you are left with are the memories you created with them . No one is to blame in this since its the cycle of life . But what we can do , is accept it and move on ourselves . PAGE NO.7

It is at this juncture that this silly fixation of mine towards what others might call , the stack of old stuff , comes in handy . I relive those memories while going through each and everything that mattered to me once upon a time . There was a reason why those book - pressed dry roses found a place in my scrapbook . The apology letter , the appreciation note , the funny roommate reminders , the lengthy emotional letters , all have a reason to be there in my treasure pile . And I want to keep that reason alive in my heart always . Always and forever .



Promise me , you ' ll remember the good times . " She stared at the email he had received . It took him a minute to process the message before replying for it . " What good times ? ! All I remember is you being a chore . " There was no contempt behind the reply . Shu had received dozens of similar emails . All his replies were acidic and rude , just as this one . When he responded for the first email , he had chosen to enwarp it with barbs . Now he responds as such just to keep pretence . ' Besides ' Shu thought ' If the sender didn ' t like his response , they wouldn ' t send him emails ' " Promise me , you ' ll smile today . " " No one pays me to smile , so why should I ? " Every morning there would be one waiting for him in his inbox . Sometimes there will also be one in the afternoon . " Promise me , you ' ll not hide behind that phone of yours . " " That phone of mine is very important seeing as we are living in the era of modern technology . Let me known when you come back from stone age ! " Shu didn ' t mind the emails one bit . There were times when he looked to them , despite his claims . " Promise me , you ' ll compliment someone today . " " Sure . I will , if there is anyone worth complimenting . " Some days he carries out the request unintentionally . " Promise me , you ' ll eat healthy . " " I do ! My version of healthy is not the same as yours . " He had partially eaten his lunch before realizing it wasn ' t the usual carb - filled one . There were never any replies to his own emails . Just new ones with more requests . Sometimes they were bizarre . " Promise me , you ' ll be more colorful in your choice of clothes . " " Why do you care ? " "


Sometimes Shu wondered if it was one of his colleagues sending him emails. At times like this he would look around. His colleagues were busy doing their job. All of them were too serious. He would sit down thinking 'It can't be. They're hardly the kind to send him such emails!' Shu opened the email he had received in the morning. 'Just who are you?' He thought. It wasn't the first time he had this thought and he knew it wouldn't be the last. "Promise me, you'll hum while you work" "Can you tell me which asylum you are in? Maybe we can be room mates when all this over." Shu hadn't told anyone about the mysterious emails except his mother. Actually, he had suspected her to be the source. She had been amused when she heard the whole story and read a few emails. ( Shu hadn't shown her his replies. She would have raked him over the coal.) She had teased him about admirers and possible girlfriends. She also jumped to the other extreme and made him watch a documentary on 'STALKERS AND HOW TO SPOT THEM' Maybe he should have shown her his responses as well. "Promise me, you'll exercise regularly." His mother had raised an excellent point. "If it bothers you so much, why do you respond ? Just don't ! Maybe who ever this is will stop." Shu decided to give it a shot. By lunch time,it was apparent he was failing. Miserably. He was constantly thinking of ways to answer the email before he would remember he wasn't going to respond. Settling down in the cafeteria, he eyed his lunch. French fries and burger. Suddenly he didn't feel hungry. He picked a fry and nibbled it. The problem was that he didn't mind the emails. They reminded him of the past ; of how he used to be, full of life and colour, constantly on the move. They reminded him of the time when his smiles didn't feel fake, a time when he wasn't bogged down by the intricacies of life. Shu sighed as he looked at his lunch. "Everything alright Shu?" He glanced at the colleague who had settled next to him. "Yes " he said " You can have that if you want. I haven't touched it." Shu indicated at the tray of food as he got up. He was out of the cafeteria before the colleague could reply. By afternoon, a reply was sent. Shu smiled as he powered down his system and left work. PAGE NO. 10

Is blinking considered an exercise ? In that case , I exercise the most . " ' It has been two years since the great email exchange started . ' Shu thought ' Great email exchange . . . . Seems quite suitable . ' He smiled . Shu felt particularly happy today . He had made minor changes to life . Now he felt alive and carefree than before . He felt more like himself . He powered up the computer and settled into his chair . He opened his inbox the minute he could . Just as he had expected , there was a new email . However , this time there was no text , only an attachment . He opened the attachment . There was only one line . " Promise me . you ' ll wake up to the next sunrise . " As always , Shu paused long enough to formulate a suitable reply before hitting send . He smiled ' Yes , today is a good day ' he thought as he started with his work , humming a tune . " Sunrise . . . Wait ! You mean the giant yellow ball in the sky ? That thing rises ? I assumed it always stayed there , stuck in the sky . " Little did Shu know that would be the last email he would get . It had been a year since Shu got his last email . He didn ' t understand why they stopped . His mother had speculated that something bad had happened to the sender . She hadn ' t wanted to believe her but with the passing of days and no new emails , that seemed to be the only logical solution . It was a pity , though , he loved replying to those emails . they were something to look forward to ; the unpredictable factor in his predictable life . He sighed as he settled behind his desk . Though he had changed a lot since the start of the great email exchange , he still worked in the same office , behind the same desk . He liked to believe that maybe the mysterious sender will restart the exchange . It was foolish , he knew . His mother had raked him over the coal for that . ' HOPE IS A GOOD THING ' He had heard and he had hope , so he stayed where he was . Shu powered on the system and opened his inbox . He clicked on the tab labeled " GEE " . It showed all emails he had received from the mysterious sender . He scrolled down the list and opened the email he wanted . Shu figured that until that faithful day may occur , he can reread the emails he had received . He smiled as he read the message " Promise me , you ' ll remember me . " His response . " It is a bit difficult to forget to see as you remind me every day . " "



We tend to think that by connecting the dots we have not only the answers to problems but also the various situations that initially led to the problems in the first place . Our history is a combination of those dots , events good or bad that brought us to where we are now . Every author is aware of how important it is for him or her to connect the dots whether the piece is fiction or non - fiction . But what if the dots are there and there doesn ’ t seem to be far to connect them ? Recently I was faced with just that kind of situation , which was born by similar event though the circumstances in which they occurred were entirely different . The first of these two events happened years ago , and it probably has suffered some distortion that memory with its own creativity always applies . Whether it ’ s because I ’ m an author or it ’ s the result of some other innate quality , I am a very observant person , wherever I happen to be I am very much aware of my surroundings . I am also “ a people watcher .” Both qualities have stood me in good stead , often giving me the background for my writing , fiction or non - fiction as this piece happens to be . Years ago there happened to be a man in the building where I live who attracted attention by his strange actions . I usually saw him in the morning just before I left the building to go to the Inatteso Cafe where I ate my breakfast . He was a man of middling height , thin and always wore a dark colored suit , white shirt and tie ; and an overcoat in the winter when the weather required it . I don ’ t remember if he wore any kind of a hat . And , as I recall , he was swarthy as people are who come from India , Pakistan or the Middle East . There were also times I saw him in the evening when he returned from wherever he ’ d spent the day . He left by cab and returned the same way . He looked like any other business man , except for his unusual actions when he left the building in the morning and before he entered it the evening . It was those actions that attracted my attention , otherwise , he would have been just another resident going to work and returning from it . As soon as the cab he hailed stopped , he ’ d turn toward the building and with his hands make several different kinds of motions . One always reminded me of a kind of hand signals that told someone not to follow him . But there was never anyone there . PAGE NO.12

I don ’ t remember whether I saw his lips move though he was obviously performing some sort or religious rite , a supplication to whatever spirits he believed were there not to follow him . He repeated the same ritual before he entered the building in the evening . Once I asked the concierge about what he thought the man was doing , but he shrugged and said , “ We get all types in a building this big .” That was and probably still is true , but however strange they may have been or still are none of them caught my attention the way this particular man had . Eventually , he moved out of the building and his peculiar motions faded into my memory ; and they would have remained there - - perhaps never to be recalled unless something triggered their resurrection . And something had done exactly that on a Tuesday , which is the only day that I don ’ t go to the cafe for breakfast because I go instead to the Veteran ’ s Hospital on East 23rd street and 1st Avenue . As I usually did , I hailed a taxi cab and when it stopped I was greeted by a “ Good morning .” I returned the courtesy and settled in the rear seat and told the driver where I wanted to go . It took me about a minute to realize that the cabbie was a man in his late fifties or early sixties . He was short , wore glasses , had a pepper and salt scraggly beard and wore a round white hat - - though I ’ m not completely sure about the hat . He adjusted the rearview mirror so that he could easily look at me ; and then , as we entered the tunnel on West Street that leads directly onto the FDR Drive his hands began to move ; and though I couldn ’ t hear him , I knew he was mumbling something . Instantly I remembered the man who lived in my building and made those strange hand motions after he left the building and when he returned . The driver of the cab was doing a similar thing , only this time I had the feeling that whatever he was doing had something to do with my presence . I was curious about what he was doing ; but I intuitively knew that if I asked , he would deny that he was doing anything but driving the cab . When we reached my destination , I left the cab . But now I had two dots to connect . One happened years ago and the second one just occurred . I was sure there was a connection , obviously not between the men but rather between whatever mystical rites each performed . Since I haven ’ t any truck with the mysticism of any kind I had no idea what I was experiencing or witnessing in either situation . What took place outside the building where I lived had nothing to do with me ; while what the cabby did while driving seemed to have everything to do with me . Was I disturbed by it ? Not in the least . But I was curious and that curiosity will remain with me until I find an answer , if I ever do . More than likely I will stumble on it because I do not intend to actively search for one . At four - score and seven years , I ’ m not given to worrying about what will happen to me . “ Life is real , life is earnest and the grave is not its goal ,” so wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , but at the end , the grave or PAGE NO. 13 crematorium is its goal . That for all of us is the final dot .



I saw mom cry , And dad desperate to pretend dry , A child , still five , Left in a hostel , unknown . The warden was mild , even caring Which I found surprising . It found new names , But it wasn ' t home .

Their querie , an endless line , I pretended to be fine . A decade passed by , Of barely months at home , Being okay was no longer a pretence , I began to remember them by their absence .

Mom called a week later , Dad ' s laughs made me feel better , PAGE NO. 14



Sunshine has faded away Stars are not showering love again . Moon is not re - cherishing our togetherness . Every day I find myself lost in this weary way . Life has become so merciless And I am destined to pine for your touch every day . I sway and slumber in the midst of past and future But you have stopped recognizing me since three years , Leaving behind so many lovely moments . I remember those wonderful PAGE NO. 15

days wherein we spent time together . Now , you have forgotten our togetherness , I have decided to make you fall for me again So that you remember me again . I am waiting for you to hold my hands And walk in this weary life ' s path again . We are destined to be together So , you need to recover . We will build memories again And I will wait till you remember me again .


I HEAR PINE NEEDLES Crunch . Crunch . Something beneath my feet Walking through the shrubbery Towards the parking lot . Tears resting on the lids of your eyes After you understand what has just occurred .

We ’ re having spaghetti for supper . ” You said it under your breath . And I said , “ sounds good . ” Because I can hear that , too . “

Click . Click . Click . Click . That was the turn signal .

I walk back a second time And stomp my shoes down again . Crunch . Crunch . Crunch . I smile . And you smile As droplets of water make their way Down your face . Because for the first time in my life , I can hear it .



THE CHANCE I can still recall across the years the first time Candy walked into my office . She stood in the doorway , poised like a bird about to take flight , and looked at me whimsically . Her face was smooth , pretty , I suppose , for a Chinese . But what I came to cherish was the wry twist of her mouth , and the way she half - cocked her head as if to ask me a question . On this occasion , she said nothing , and just stood there . Somehow her presence made me start up from my desk . And I asked her what she wanted . “ I come to help , ” she said , with a self - deprecating smile . “ Mary away . ” Mary was my secretary ( our audit group still had secretaries then ) – a proud girl very conscious of her position . If I asked her to photocopy something , she would do it for me reluctantly , and only because I was a gweilo ( ghost fellow ) . The Chinese managers she waved in the direction of the filing clerks . Candy , however , was a typist , a lower class in the office hierarchy . The typists sat in Word - processing – an airless windowless room in the centre of the office . When our accounts needed to be typed they would be flung into this room like lumps of meat for the lions . And within their cramped domain the typists were lion - like in their ferocity . No one would dare to confront them , and when the accounts had been chewed and pawed and were returned , they would be meekly accepted . That was how the firm was run . You can imagine that I had no great expectations of Candy ’ s service . Yet she accepted the work I gave her meekly enough . As she walked out of my office , I could not help glancing down at the long legs beneath her short skirt . I quickly looked up – to find her looking back at me with that whimsical expression . Embarrassed , I bent over my audit file and tried to put Candy out of my mind . A few minutes later there was a gentle knock on the door . I looked up with irritation . But it was Candy again . “ So soon ! ” I exclaimed , getting up despite myself . “ For you , ” she said modestly , putting the sheets in my intray , and strode PAGE NO. 17

but . This time I managed to keep my eyes level with hers . Picking up the pages she had typed , I sat down to work on the corrections . There were few enough : it was an excellent job of work . And over a beer at lunch I extolled the virtues of my temporary secretary to John , the other gweilo manager in my group . John had his own take on Candy . “ A raving stonker , ” he said , picking a chip from my plate and transferring it to his mouth . John had a shock of curly red hair – the kind most provocative to Chinese sensibilities – and a Scots accent , for in those days the firm used to recruit from Britain ’ s Celtic fringes . As he masticated the chip he added , “ You ’ re on to a nice one . ” I laughed , for we were both young men . Yet that afternoon as Candy came into my office again , the bravura faded and I felt myself shrink under that mild gaze . Almost apologetically , I handed her another task – for it was the busy season and there was much to be done – but she accepted it without a word . I wondered briefly at myself . What was so overawing about a young woman who hardly spoke and was after all only a typist ? But the thought was barely formed before the phone rang and I had to explain the increase in audit fee to a client . #

Yet Candy could speak . And she knew what she wanted . The following day when she brought back some work , she stood there expectantly , tall in the doorway , the papers clasped to her bosom . After a moment ’ s silence , I said , “ Can I help ? “ I want to learn English , ” Candy said . “ You help ? ” “ Your English is very good , ” I began , “ At least , the written . . . . ” “ Conversation bad , ” Candy insisted . “ You make better ? ” What young man could resist an invitation like that , especially when accompanied by a winning smile ? I nodded . At university I once had a summer job teaching English to Italians . Assuming a professional air I asked her some questions to gauge her ability . Candy answered , haltingly at first , then with gathering confidence . When she made a mistake , she screwed up her nose appealingly and shook her long tresses . “ Never mind , ” I said , “ The thing is to keep trying . ” She frowned , and tried the sentence once again . This time it was better . Then we both heard the scrape of a chair from the next room . The partitions between managers ’ offices were thin affairs . Candy turned – she had been standing all this while – and walked out of my office with an elegant swing of her long legs .


I cleared my throat and recited some lines in a loud voice as if preparing a speech . But the pretense did not work . Word traveled quickly ; there were glances as I walked along the corridor , and when I passed a group of gweilo managers on the corner they fell silent , exchanging grins . John – to his credit – was the only one who would say it to my face . “ Hooked her already , have you ? ” he asked with a knowing smirk . I blustered , but it was no use . “ Reel her in , that ’ s the way with a lass , ” he continued . Putting a finger against his nose he promised to keep it secret . Whether John kept his promise or not , the whole office was aware of it – or at least aware of what it imagined . The secretaries gossiped , and although I understood only a little Cantonese , it was clear what they were talking about . The innuendoes and glances were distracting me from my work . And in reality , it wasn ’ t that I fancied Candy . Infact I had a girlfriend – a lawyer – and I just hoped she wouldn ’ t hear of it . No , it was a strange sense of obligation , of noblesse , oblige , if you like , that made me help my typist . Candy herself seemed unaffected by all the gossip . Each time she brought work back to my room , if I was not on the phone she would stand there expectantly , and I would ask her hurried and low - voiced questions . She answered promptly , and with increasing accuracy . In the effort of concentration , she even suppressed her natural movements – the wry twist of the mouth , the frown disappeared , replaced by a set of the jaw when she tried to recall a word . Clearly , her posting with me was a once - in - a - lifetime opportunity , and she was determined to make the most of it . Eventually , I began to run out of questions . We seemed to have covered everything in the office , and I didn ’ t want to probe into her home situation . “ I know , ” I said , brightening . “ Let ’ s pretend that you went to the market and bought something for yourself there . Was it , say a tee - shirt ? ” Candy smiled – revealing broad white teeth – and was about to answer when John walked past the door . She saw him out of the corner of her eye and stopped . Gathering up her papers she walked straight out . John came in . “ Disturbed your little tete - a - tete have I ? ” he said . I shook my head , wondering – not for the first time – if I really needed to keep John in my circle of acquaintances . But he went on in a kindly way to offer help on one of my audits . Then , looking quickly around , he said , “ I hear Mary ’ s coming back . ” It seemed that Mary ’ s transfer to corporate finance had not worked PAGE NO. 19

out – which was hardly surprising – and the powers within the firm had decided to return her to my group. “That means Candy has to go back to Word-processing?” I asked, although I hardly needed an answer. John nodded. “You might talk to HR, though,” he went on, looking at me. “If her performance is good….” I thanked him. The phone then rang and I became absorbed in the difficulties my largest client, a listed company, was having with its accounts. The following morning Candy came into my room wearing a yellow tee-shirt. I said it seemed a little bright for the office. “I bought it in the marketplace,” she replied (her English had improved quite a lot by now.) “What do you think?” And she turned round for me to see, her long hair sweeping out in an arc. I was staggered. “I didn’t mean...,” I began. She pouted. “You told me to buy it.” And she looked down at herself, at the yellow cotton stretched over her bosom, as if she and the shirt were not good enough. I sprang up and came round the desk to placate her, but stopped short of touching, for one doesn’t touch the Chinese. I assured her that it was lovely, that she was lovely. Then, remembering where we were, I lowered my voice. “You know Mary is coming back.” She nodded, looking at me. I went on, “That means you won’t… I mean, there won’t be….” The dark eyes were intent now. Something sank in my stomach, and I gulped, “I–I’ll see what I can do.” Suddenly Candy’s eyes glowed, and the warmth of her expression was like a promise, like an embrace. I ushered her out of my room, in the confusion steering her out by the shoulders. I still recall the feel of her shoulders in that tee-shirt, soft and warm under my hands. I had made a commitment and she had responded, as surely as if the two of us had recited marriage vows. At my desk afterward, I sat for a long while turning it over. I was only a junior manager; my ability to sway HR was limited. Of course, I could try. But trying for the sake of trying would not help. I consulted the group partner, who looked at me wryly but responded kindly enough. PAGE

NO. 20

He felt that HR was beyond him too , but said he would do what he could . I should make the first approach . HR , when I finally reached that formidable department , was personified in a small mean manager who did not even look up as I came in . He had been transferred in from audit against his will and took out his frustration on the staff . I knew before I started that it was hopeless . “ Look , ” I said , leaning across the desk , trying to catch his eye , “ Candy has performed well , and I think she has the potential to do even better . Can ’ t we find a place for her somewhere ? ” HR muttered something about the annual process . But it was February ; the end of the year was too far away . Once Candy went back into the lions ’ den , that would be the end of her . “ Haven ’ t you got a counteroffer ? ” I asked , in a final appeal . “ You can ’ t send me out with nothing . ” HR looked up at me with narrowed eyes . “ The annual process . ” I thanked him for his help and strode out . Cooling off afterward with John over a beer , I reflected that he probably wasn ’ t the right level to make the decision , but at least he should have taken it up . John shrugged . “ Can ’ t expect him to play the white man . ” On hearing my story the partner , to his credit , also tried . But he came back that afternoon to my office shaking his head . “ The little bastard won ’ t budge , ” he said , lips quivering . “ Once the Chinese are sure of themselves , they dig their heels in and you can ’ t do anything . The race doesn ’ t negotiate . Well , ” he pulled himself together , “ he ’ s not coming back into my audit group . ” The day of Candy ’ s departure neared . I apologized to her over a coffee – we had got to that stage now , for the office was too public . She looked at me silently but did not seem downcast . On her final day , she was wearing her tee - shirt again , her skin glowing richly against the yellow . “ Thank you for everything , ” I said . “ And again , I ’ m sorry we couldn ’ t do more for you . ” She pressed her long fingers into mine and held them softly . Then she turned , and the image of her hair spreading out in an arc lingered with me long after she had disappeared down the corridor . After that , I got even busier with my clients . Mary came back , sour as ever , but even she felt the pressure and helped . In the flurry of clients , staff , and partners , Candy slipped my mind . And then my listed client made me an PAGE NO. 21

offer and I accepted . My girlfriend saw me in a new light , and by the end of the year I was married . A Hong Kong bachelor no more , I dedicated myself to my job and to married life . Both went well , and it seemed no time before I was holding a baby , and my name card had on it the title , ‘ Director ’ . For some of us then , Hong Kong was an easy ride . That was already years ago . My children are adults now , and my wife – when I see her , for we split up when I became chairman – has also grown old . But I am happier now . I have more time for myself with my family off my hands , and my work is easier too . I drink less now , and walk more , for health . One day I found myself walking along the street below the office of my old firm . I paused to look in the window of a fashion shop on the ground floor when I saw a woman coming out . She was tall , with long hair , and her swinging gait was somehow familiar . I glimpsed her face through the glass , and I was sure . It was Candy . The passage of almost thirty years had aged her , but she still looked good . As she came out into the street , she half - turned , just yards from me , and a light of recognition seemed to shine in her eyes . At that moment , unburdened and free as I was , a thought came to me . It was a thought of what might have been – a tender thought that transported me over the busy years to a moment of quiet understanding . I smiled acknowledgment , for me now not only understood the folly of my life but also saw the means of my salvation . Then as if in some nightmare , Candy ’ s face twisted in a horrifying grimace . Looking past me , she screeched something . I turned , and there on the busy street a paunchy expatriate , his face ringed with graying curls , shrugged his shoulders , and stepped back from a Filipina with whom he had obviously been negotiating . Candy strode towards him , scolding , and he bawled angrily back at her in a raw Scots accent . Neither of them noticed me . The smile remained frozen on my face as I lost myself in the burgeoning crowd .



Eric Lassiter was ninety - three years old . Slightly bent he walked with a cane when he felt stable enough to use it , or he used rollator when he felt wobbly . A man of middling height , green eyes and almost balled pate , he had a gray beard that along with his hair was trimmed monthly when he accompanied his wife , Julia , to the beauty parlor . Wearing jeans in the winter and short pants in the summer , and always a black T - e shirt , short or long sleeved depending upon the season , he appeared to be almost indigent ; but of course he wasn ’ t . A very good pension after the years of having been the Chairman of the English Department at Bridge College , his social security , in addition to other sources of income , provided a very comfortable life , at least financially , for him and his wife . But their ages and other medical issues severely limited their activities . Eric ’ s main pleasure , or rather his feeling of satisfaction came from the simple act of feeding sparrows . Every morning when the weather permitted it - - meaning that it wasn ’ t raining or snowing - - he occupied the table closest to the door of the Inaatteso Café on Little West Street and shared his raisin scone with the birds . If he had a ritual , it was that – a half an hour devoted to something other than thinking about his or his wife ’ s infirmities or that chaotic national and world situations . His place at that table gave him the opportunity to meet many people ; and though he didn ’ t know their names , he recognized them and exchanged greetings with them , which was how he met the man with the three legged dog . The dog ’ s name was Lacy , and though he and the man exchanged names , he couldn ’ t remember the man ’ s name and was too ashamed to ask him what it was . Lacy went to him the moment she spotted him and rested her head on his lap . She was tawny colored Lab . Their bond was instantaneous and he often bought her a scone that she quickly devoured . Lacy ’ s master was a tall , broad shouldered man of indeterminate age . He might have been in his sixties or as old as Eric . He said the he came from Scotland , but his accent was Germanic . And that discrepancy created a problem for Eric , who , in the past , had known several different Scotsman and was totally familiar with the bur in their accent . It wasn ’ t an immediate problem , rather it was one the developed over period of the few years that they knew each other and remained with Eric until the man and Lacy went missing , stopped coming to the café because they either moved out of the neighborhood or one or the other of them passed away . PAGE NO.22

By his own admission , Eric was a connector of dots , meaning that for every event there is a concomitant cause and some of the causes themselves had other causes . Years before when he began teaching literature at Bridge College , he became well known for connecting the social and psychological backgrounds of authors whose works he taught . He often stated that development civilization can be understood by series of interconnected dots - - events - - that clearly showed its evolutionary nature . To Eric some dots were mysteries - - problems - - while others were answers and it encompassed individuals as well as other things natural or man - made . With the disappearance of the man and Lacy , the problem of connecting the dots about him became acute in the sense that it left Eric with several open questions : who was he , why was his accent so totally different from the accents of the Scotsmen he had known , and where did he go to ? Eric knew that another man might not give the problem the proverbial second thought the “ out of sight , out of mind ” thing . But that wasn ’ t his way . Besides , it gave him something to think about that was completely outré from anything else he thought about . It was a kind of psychological game in which he was not only looking for the dots he was also seeking the connections to the dots if he found them . The connection or at least part of it came from an unexpected source in an unexpected way . At the time he and the man would meet they were joined by an other man , Peter , who also had a dog , one of those small boutique animals whose breed Ira couldn ’ t even guess at . The dog held little interest for him , but Peter did . First , because name was the same of one of Eric ’ s boyhood friends , whose background was German - Jewish , while the Peter he saw almost every morning was Italian - American . Peter was heavy set man with blonde hair and blue eyes , which was unusual for a man with his heritage , made the same connection that Eric had about the man with the three legged dog some months after he went missing . “ The accent doesn ’ t match his claim ,” Peter said during a brief conversation about the missing man . That was followed by , “ He ’ s hiding something .” “ But what could it be ?” Eric questioned . Peter shrugged and their conversation ended . That the man with the three legged dog was possibly “ hiding something ” resonated with Eric , he spent much of the small amount of free time he had thinking about it . The rest of the time he took care of his invalid wife who was physically limited as a result of an accident , a fall that completely altered not only the way she could walk , but it also completely changed what they were able to do . Eric couldn ’ t let go of what Peter said . It was as if he ’ d eaten something with a bad taste and wasn ’ t able to get rid of it no matter how many times he brushed his teeth or rinsed mouth with mouthwash . And then the thoughts - - daydreams really - - and nightmares started first about faces and names . He remembered the faces , many


from his boyhood and the years in high school and college . But he seldom could match a name to particular face . Then , that changed and he was back in a place he wished he ’ d never been in , the battle for Italy during World War Two . He was at Anzio and the battle for Rome , the bloody crossing of the Arno River . It was all there , and he was helpless to stop it . The men in his platoon , he remembered their faces when they were alive and when they were dead . And somehow the man with the three legged dog was inextricably tied to that part of his life . Eric was only seventeen when he enlisted . His father had signed him . By eighteen , he was a battle hardened veteran . That was more than seven decades ago , and events of that time became during the passing of the years more like a bad dream than something that was real , terribly real . #

One night as he sat in a high backed chair near the window and watched a storm come into the city from the Jersey side of Hudson River , he began to cry . There was no ostensible reason for him to be melancholy enough weep ; and yet it was happening . Moving very slowly with her rollator , his wife , Julia , came into the living room . All of her steps were tentative and when she finally reached him , she wanted to know why he was sobbing . “ I remembered who he was ,” he answered . “ Who ?” “ The man with the three legged dog .” She shrugged and asked , “ Does it matter that much to make you cry ?” He waved the question away and said , “ Italy , North of Florence . Heavy fighting . My platoon lost most of it men .” “ It happened so many years ago . Why bring it up now ?” Julia asked . “ Because of the man with the three legged dog . He was there too . And I shot him , wounded him in his left leg , and gave him the limp he has .” “ How could you be sure it was him ?” “ He was my counter - part , a German platoon sergeant .” “ There were only ten of us left from the original thirty - six . The others were either dead or severely wounded . Our ammo was low and I was thinking that our best to stay alive was to surrender . But a white flag went up from the German position . Immediately , I knew their situation was worse than ours . He another man came forward . I ordered them to halt ; they didn ’ t . I fired two rounds , killing one of them and wounding the other , the man with the three legged dog .” “ You did what you had to do ,” Julia said . Eric shook his head . “ I did what angry man does , a man whose “ blood is up ” as they say .” PAGE NO. 24

Do you think he recognized you ? She asked ; her concern obvious in the tone of her voice . Eric shrugged . “ Maybe . I don ’ t know . He doesn ’ t come to the café any more . . . I haven ’ t thought about the war for so many years . But I guess it was always there .” “ You can ’ t be sure it ’ s him ,” Julia said . “ I mean , he ’ s been meeting with you for a few years . Why would he have waited - - ” “ For the same reason that it took me so long to recognize him , neither of us were sure who we were looking at .” “ But it all happened so long ago ,” Julia answered ; then she asked , “ Does it really matter now .” Eric reached for a tissue from the box on the nearby windowsill and wiping the tears from his eyes , he said , “ It matters enough to make an old man cry . . . We were animals and even if we killed for our country , we still killed .” Julia gently took hold of his hands . “ It will pass ,” she told him . He shook his head . “ I could have ordered them to halt a second time , but I didn ’ t . I wanted to kill them . . . That ’ s what I will remember for whatever time I have left .” “ But you let one of them live , you helped him to live .” Eric shrugged . He couldn ’ t give her an immediate answer . But after a few seconds passed , almost as if it was a revelation , he said , “ I did , didn ’ t I .” “



We burned like candles in the stark darkness, our skins coming off, scarred like the melting wax and souls flickering like the dancing flames gentle yet strong against the currents and struggles that blow and bellow. We’re like the candles in the night, glowing in our finest hour, no matter how small or big our flames be, but the fact that we still burn and learn. PAGE NO.26


All fuzziness of thoughts eliminated, Still, there is an awful lot to learn, It’s the Almighty whom I mentally summon, To express all anxiety that is still suppressed. All the laughter ended in tears, Still, I am not afraid of this lethargic situation. This is the final time I adore His creation, Tonight after death becomes mine, I have no other fears. Just a few minutes more, Then my beetling eyelashes, I shut forever. And surrender my vexed body to the eternal slumber. All my fame would then lie buried under the dead floor. At my death bed, I have none as my rival, My undone work would be done by some inspired lad. My soul fares all well before leaving this vile world, “For this is the final minute of my survival”… PAGE NO.27


That same old beaten path Bearing those sandal marks Made immortal by a memory Kept beyond time's grasp That same old mystic incense The most addictive fragrance Pulled by the winter mist Never to be had again. That same old, queer sound Beyond recognition. Abound At the back of my memory The voice, never again found. That same old sight For the sore heart, swollen eyes A broken home, shattered windows The place where my spirit lies. That same old pain. Of promises in vain Of coming back someday, Someday Never since, never again.



Those snaps with close friends All smiley and giggly But the eyes spoke a different story Somewhat shy, reserved and distant Friends coaxed to open up Time passed by New faces entered the picture Bringing with them a much needed change The eyes that once shied away Now light up with that someone special Slowly breaking down the walls built Finding true love in the end still feels like the beginning



Going through old Polaroids Triggered a trip down memory lane On a closer look A mini movie unfolds


I can imagine it now how we could each disappear completely connected only through memory’s fault lines, subduction zones all our own, lie-protected over time’s distance surfaces sliding under recollection as overlaying sediments accumulate transform into anthracite or other hardened evidence under pressure of ages ago. Remembering itself long since fading at some lost premise: We once sang so goofily out of tune we may actually have laughed out loud. Uncertain too are favored wines: zindfandel, chardonnay, oaky pinots we declared made just for us–– Little suspecting some later taste like treachery, say, calculated or maybe only through regret conveniently overlooked while staring into one another’s eyes. So somewhere now in middle-age uneven embarrassment draws me back to where memory techtonically shears along fault lines long past each other. Whole continents have drifted slowly to their present locations built up and worn away, tracing rifts in the crust still.



A sub - conscious mind is a place so vast that even oceans shy away from it . It has no bounds much like a wanderer ’ s lust for traveling . It is a palace of unimaginable possibilities and though away from reality , its roots are what we see but don ’ t pay attention to every second of every day . So , when do these small things come out ? What do these tiny fragments form ? How do they matter ? Has anyone ever asked these questions ? Even if they have , have they really thought about it in detail ? Every single action , every decision and every thought that you jot down is based on your sub - conscious mind . The things that you think you don ’ t pay attention to or the actions you think don ’ t matter from your personality . They form you . Whatever you speak , your opinions , the way you absorb the reality come out of your mind palace . It is a library of all the emotions that you have felt and a museum of each memory . It is a desert of the things you desire and an aquarium of what you owned . Your conscious mind does not remember it or it may fade away with time but your beautiful , beautiful palace has every feeling stored and it makes sure to hit you once in a while . To make you experience that high or that pain you once felt . To allow you to form your analysis of who you really are . It attacks you like an unexpected storm and your conscious self - adapts it in the routine you follow . The innumerable possibilities and scenarios come only in this far away land , often known as your dreams . Sometimes , it may be your last thought of the day or the last piece of music you heard or the last person you talked to . Or sometimes it may be the movie that was playing on the television while you were chatting with your friend . It might be an amalgamation of something you love with something you absolutely despise .


What ticks you and what doesn ’ t is all decided by your sub - conscious . The person you like or the animal that you are oh - so - scared of but still put on a brave face in public . Every single action of yours is stored away like the hard drive that is kept and forgotten in the bedside drawer that is filled with wires . But , just once in a while , your hand comes across it and it opens the door to the collection . You sub - conscious is a place where you might not be the hero every time . It gives you a reality check but just not when you are in reality or in your conscious state . It is a palace without bricks . It is a palace that does not need any support . Most of all , it a palace reserved only for you and it is the biggest , most widest place you will ever come across without actually coming across . You need to utilise the hurricane when it hits you and not hide under the table . Who knows , your hands might never stumble upon that book ever again .




Mr . Karthik ... ", words came ringing into my ears as I stood startled , confronted by her beautiful memories that shattered me into million fragments in a whack . I stroked my dense beard solemnly for a moment . "

My white collar stained of chillness in the freezing room . I stood up from my CEO seat and fixed my vision right at her . Her ravishing presence in green saree quietly bolted my present mind in silence . She too returned back , possibly for one last time The clock ticked back 7 years and memories glided down to when I was one among the other engineering students , busy writing record works in class . A terrible day that haunted for years ; those moments I wished to forget but couldn ' t . An awkwardly awesome situation that bore the fact that the hardest part is not the one to put your crush off your mind but the memories she leaves behind without taking and turning back . A bunch of girls entered hastily , in saree , with anklets dangling and mild giggling . I cocked my head to one side , ignoring those girls ' theatrics and desperately waited , putting the graphs sheets aside , for her . Part of my mind wanted to admire , while the other badly opposed by warning that it holds a possible chance of paralyzing for years to come by indelible scenes . But cruelly , she chose the latter by stepping in minutes later , in a light orange shaded saree mixed with pinkish linings , shimmering in the ray of a beam that shone towards her through the frozen window panes . Smile struck her face upon joining her friends , sending shivers down my spine in exuberance . Left awestruck , I couldn ' t kick my sight off her innocent and homely chuckles that followed in sequential moments leaving me unmoved and worried about the eternal truth that blared my mind - " Don ' t reach for what you can ' t grab ! " Every once in a while , I wobbled my vision past the throng of students to fall beneath her exquisite beauty . Sometimes she hid behind her mates and watched me craving for her . Our eyes met and soon she turned back in embarrassment , cheeks turning soft pink , forcing her tight smile to hide and dimple to settle in . PAGE NO. 33

The day of mixed emotions and multiple adorably traumatic scenes remained firm and flexible in my memories . Wish I had the ability to forget to unload my past and not mull over the future but just focus on the present and what ' s possible and attainable . Oh , crazy mind with stupid memories , it forgets what we tend to think back but remembers the whole of what we wish to blank out . Crazy it is ! From then on , though from a while before , all I prayed to The Almighty for was to bestow me with prolific guts to express my feelings and well - built love for her . Or with her feeling my intangible dreams and affection . Been around 7 years but yet ... Mr . Karthik ..", words came again from Varun , my new employee , interrupting my bittersweet past , standing behind my desk holding his wedding invitation . Priya stood beside him , unchanged in her look as she was years back . Now just a card separated us from everything I had dreamt of . "

Pretending to act normal , I shook hands and congratulated the couple , yet Priya ' s head hung low , unmoved and restricted to emotions . Bitter agony went past her face and I was too matured to read that , after 4 years of interpreting her opaque emotions . And finally , reality dawned , she felt my inner intangible dreams , after ages , but in vain . He , The Almighty , had imparted me with fine entrepreneurship and bags and bags of bucks to toy around , but sadistically left me chanting , " I never had a love story ! "


“How lain on




beneath strange



rain roof,


― William Faulkner