Fiction, Random thoughts

The New Normal

I’m beginning to lose hope that things will ever get better.
I’m beginning to think this is the new normal
That dystopian novels predicted.
The separation along the lines of religion.
The harassment of those who want to earn a living.
Of those who are saving lives.
The inability to do anything that would make a difference
And the constant noise that doesn’t let anything else sink in.

The chatter of the free birds saying,
‘Now you know how it feels to live inside cages’.
The women in harems telling
The more ‘cultured’ ones, ‘Welcome to our world.’
The oppressive heat saying ‘I fooled you’.
The constant buzz on the telephone
With relatives long forgotten.
Misinformation on state of affairs being shared.
And again religion comes to play.

And I’m beginning to think that this the new normal.
And I don’t think I can get out this whirlpool yet again.
And I’m longing to go home again.
But this is the new normal
And I need to get used to it all over again.

What if there was no Goa Fest next year?

An annual conference on the sunny beaches of Goa was the holiday we all waited for. A refresher course as we would call it. Two days of international speakers culminating into the most happening advertising awards show in the country.  Since our agency hardy entered any creatives for the awards it was more for the break and the international speakers that we went.

The speakers were a league apart. Stuff we thought needs to be done they had already executed it and were talking about the benefits of the same. The need for full service agency rather than specialised ones. The need for agencies to stop working in silos and the need to collaborate to provide better value to clients. Digital, customer targeting, value generation and more. Inspiring award winning work and campaigns. And just imagine if all this came to an end.

Next summer we were told that budgets were tight and the conference is being canned. No more speakers, a small awards show will be held in Mumbai. Really were they serious?

This couldn’t be happening we thought. It was all this very, very bad dream and had to come to an end. We instantly went online and googled about the same. The entire advertising community was in an uproar. So much so they suggested that they would pay a little extra, didn’t want fancy stuff but the evil sponsors just didn’t want to relent. They thought of the event as a drunken party at their expense which they were better without. We clearly were not.

That night we went back home to think of ideas to counter this ‘client’. Each member of the fraternity had to think of five workable solutions to make this event happen.

In the following days, we held online petitions against these so called sponsors. Worked up a fund to invite some speakers on our own. And were finally ready to arrange for the biggest crowdsourced event in advertising history.

The flight was kind of jerky. The seat belts sign were on but we were just too excited about that we finally made it. As I was returning to my seat, the craft passed through a bad patch and I hid my head against a near by seat and passed out.

When I came to my senses, I found myself lying down on the floor with a severe headache. I think I hit my head against the bed post.

Oh crap! That means all that was a dream! We still have no funds, the event is really not happening? I checked the phone to see what day it was and the time. Just about 7.30 AM. *uggghhh*. With that crappy feeling, I got out of bed slowly to grudgingly go to work again…


Walk through the park

Nikki and  Anshuman walked solemnly across the park, clutching each other’s hands. Afraid if they loosened their grip they would lose each other too.  Near the exit, on a green bench sat an old woman knitting a small, red sweater.

Nikki didn’t realise it at first but the trickle of tears on her hand made her realise that he was silently sobbing at the sight. Two months ago they were planning to bring their first born to the park everyday. Now they just walked around here hoping to recapture those happy moments. She saw him crying and wanted to just hug him and cry to. But she remained stoic. Hoping her calm composure would help Anshuman remain  strong.

Anshuman always knew his wife was the tough one. She could take whatever blow and see the positive in it and make him believe life was all hunky dory. But it was not. He missed hearing the heartbeat of his child. The child he buried just two hours after she was born. A still born they said. He missed seeing the kicking feet. He missed every bit of it. The old woman made him think of his mother who received the news when she was midway knitting a sweater for his child. His child who just left him too early. Nikki tugged at his hand to move on , he wiped his tears with the other hand and walked on. Knowing this was just the beginning to a long and painful end.

The old woman was furtively knitting the sweater. Her grandchild was only a few months away and at this speed she would not be able to gift him the red sweater. It was a tradition in her family that the eldest gifts the youngest a handwoven sweater. She would have just loved to buy it off Macy’s or something but that was just cheating. So, she usually got out in the afternoons and spent the better half of dusk knitting at the park bench. Enough light which also helped her old bones. Looking up at her this day’s of work she held the sweater against the light to see if the stitches were all in a straight line. Satisfied with her day’s work she stuffed the unfinished sweater in her bag and headed home.

At the exit she saw this young couple arguing. She was a bit taken aback. Wasn’t this the same couple who were clutching each other’s hand in the park and that man there was even crying. What’s with these new age couples she thought and walked on.


One evening

Nikki held his hand and let him out of the car.

There is nothing to feel sad about dusk. Nothing is going to end today. We are going for the evening walk I promised you and that’s final.

She loved it when she could have her way him him. Towering over him outside the way he did at work.

Slowly they walked to the gardens. She knew that place. She had been there before. It was beautiful during dusk and she wanted him to see that beauty. As they walked the leafy path her eyes crossed the unkept lawns and the broken pathway. The only thing the municipal actually repaired was the path near the lake, she told him. That path was laid with perfectly rounded cobbled stones and black, light bollards  lined it on the inside facing the lake. It reminded you of Central London or something.

On the opposite side of the cobbled path were blue iron benches. Lovers had already taken their spot to enjoy the evening. The sky had turned orange and the water reflected the same.  The walked on for a while looking at the health freaks strut up and down as if that one walk will help them achieve their goal of losing x kilos. They laughed at the odd balls, the women in sarees and the men in pyjamas. They eavesdropped on mother-in-laws bitching about their daughter-in-laws. They heard married lovers speak about their spouses. They heard about the big plunge one stock took that trading day and lots of inane things which didn’t matter. What mattered was that sun was setting and he was happy.

The birds were cackling all around, returning to their homes as the sun went down. He loved bird watching. He was fascinated with the way they built their nests on trees and that they remained unharmed even in the harshest of weathers. There were enough and more species to look out for. But they were no ornithologists, they didn’t even know the name of the species. All that mattered was the setting was perfect, the birds, the breeze, the trees and the setting sun. Just like she wanted, just so tranquillising as if casting a happiness spell.

She was just happy to spend that alone time and hoping it would lead to something later… They found a spot after wandering along for a while and plonked themselves on the benches. They just stared out at the lake and the sun setting the big tree in the centre of the lake. Looks like a mangrove with its tentacle-like roots swamping all around. You can occasionally see a kingfisher stick his head out from under one of those roots. But today she was just waiting for a the first sign of darkness to fall over them. She just wanted to hold his trembling hand and show him that all is ok. She just wanted to kiss him in the cacophony of birds to forget all the apprehensions he has about sunsets. Evenings are never bad she thought, they were the most romantic time of the day. How could anyone possibly get upset during that phase.

And then he said something she could not understand. Nikki was to be busy watching the sun set that she forgot he was sitting by his side. She blanked out and he wanted to leave. He couldn’t take it anymore. The sounds, the warmth were to much for him and she couldn’t do anything to pacify him. She held him close and he kissed her slightly and all he said was let’s take the action elsewhere. She could do nothing but comply and nothing she ever said later could make him take another evening walk with her.

She still thinks what happened that evening. But guess there are some things best left unexplored, undisturbed.


A conflict about falling in love

Stop being a martyr. It’s been four years. How can you say you no longer have that love-walli feeling for me?

But I don’t. I never did. It was just a compromise and you know that. After AG, nobody has ever made me feel that way. I don’t want to be in this relationship. I feel so stifled.

Is that so?


Then so be it.

With that ended yet another messy chapter in my life. Yes, it’s been so many years. But there hasn’t been anyone else who makes me feel that way. Who makes me want to love and fall in love again and again.

I’ve lost my job, I’ve lost a seemingly right relationship and nothing seems to be going right. I just hope I get through that advertising agency I applied to. Time seems to be going just so slowly when you need it to run…just wish I saw AG for that one last time. I wouldn’t have held on to him with such fervour then.

The phone rings and interrupts my thoughts. They want yet another interview. Tch! How many more rounds, I thought.

Yes ok. I’ll be there at 2.30.

After yet another uninteresting meeting, where I needed to sound excited and happening, I got my offer letter. A measly increase but I need to start working now before I plunge myself into the sea of self-remorse.

Ok. I’ll be there from the first of next month. Yes, I will submit my documents before. Thank you for the opportunity, Sirs!

First day at work. Disinterested I go about learning the little bit I’m taught by an inept colleague. My boss is on leave today. His boss decides to take over and introduces me to the office and I go about saying my hello’s and introducing myself. It’s a Monday morning and the agency gathers around to plan the week ahead. I attend in amusement and dismiss all the disorganised others trying to wheeze their jobs in an already packed creative schedule. After many ‘pleases’ and ‘it has to get done this week’ most of the jobs are in place.

And then he walks in.

For a moment I thought my heart skipped a beat. Was I staring too hard? Or was the clickity clack sound of his shoes enough to attract attention. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t focus on what was happening? As if every other sound in the room automatically dulled out and I could just hear my heart beating really loud and the sound of his shoes. He came and sat at the head of the table in the opposite end and observed the proceedings while playing with his cigarette stick. I quickly adjusted my vision to my feet below the table. Staring hard at them till I didn’t regain some strength to not look at my right again. By the time I looked up the meeting was over and he had already walked out. Who was he? Whoever he was, I needed to stay away. I couldn’t feel like this about anyone. No, I couldn’t fall in love again. But those eyes, that swagger…sigh!

Three days into work and I had managed to avoid any kind of contact with the mystical man. On the fourth day, I was to meet the head of creative for my induction into their world. I just prayed it wasn’t him. But since when did my prayers get answered.

I consciously walked into his room and introduced myself. Focus, Nikki, focus. You need to hear him out not stare at his deep brown eyes. He will know in a jiffy. What seemed like immediately after he asked me if I had any questions, I said no and left quickly. Anshuman Goyal, the best creative mind Delhi ever had; a certified womaniser with a drop-dead gorgeous smile and childlike innocent eyes.

What was I getting into? I must avoid him and that’s for sure. He’s not my AG so what if their initials matched and they share the same birthdate. Yes, I googled him enough to know all of this. God, why me, why him and why now! I cursed under my breath.

For some reason, I began watching his every move in office. Tried to get as much gossip. Which wasn’t difficult since everyone just spoke about his escapades. Even then why was I so drawn to him. He seemed just perfect. I even contemplated changing my job. But something about him just didn’t make me leave. I now started looking for excuses to talk to him and soon we were working on a big project together. A biscuit launch.