She Would Fight To Return To Naivety

He destroyed in her the knowing, doubting, sophisticated Ella, and again and again he put her intelligence to sleep, and with her willing connivance, so that she floated darkly on her love for him, on her naivety, which is another word for a spontaneous creative faith. And when his own distrust of himself destroyed this woman-in-love, so that she began thinking, she would fight to return to naivety.”

― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

Women Are Second Class Citizens

‘Anyone could tell us two writers shouldn’t be together. Or rather, that a competitive American shouldn’t be with a woman who has written a book.’

‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘It’s a challenge to my sexual superiority, and that isn’t a joke.’

‘I know it isn’t. But please don’t give me any more of your pompous socialist lectures about the equality of men and women.’

‘I shall probably give you pompous lectures because I enjoy it. But I won’t believe in them myself. The truth is, I resent you for having written a book which was a success. And I’ve come to the conclusion I’ve always been a hypocrite, and in fact I enjoy a society where women are second-class citizens, I enjoy being boss and being flattered.’

‘Good,’ I said. ‘Because in a society where not one man in ten thousand begins to understand the ways in which women are second-class citizens, we have to rely for company on the men who are at least not hypocrites.’

‘And now we’ve settled that, you can make me some coffee, because that is your role in life.’

‘It will be a pleasure,’ I said, and we had breakfast in good-humour, liking each other.

– from The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

The Boulder Pushers

‘There’s a great black mountain. It’s human stupidity. There are a group of people who push a boulder up the mountain. When they’ve got a few feet up, there’s a war, or the wrong sort of revolution, and the boulder rolls down — not to the bottom, it always manages to end a few inches higher than when it started. So the group of people put their shoulders to the boulder and start pushing again. Meanwhile, at the top of the mountain stand a few great men. Sometimes they look down and nod and say: Good, the boulder-pushers are still on duty. But meanwhile we are meditating about the nature of space, or what it will be like when the world is full of people who don’t hate and fear and murder.’

‘Hmm. Well I want to be one of the great men on top of the mountain.’

‘Bad luck for both of us, we are both boulder-pushers.’

*****

“We spend our lives fighting to get people very slightly more stupid than ourselves to accept truths that the great men have always known. They have known for thousands of years that to lock a sick person into solitary confinement makes him worse. They have known for thousands of years that a poor man who is frightened of his landlord and of the police is a slave. They have known it. We know it. But do the great enlightened mass of the British people know it? No. It is our task, Ella, yours and mine, to tell them. Because the great men are too great to be bothered. They are already discovering how to colonise Venus and to irrigate the moon. That is what is important for our time. You and I are the boulder-pushers. All our lives, you and I, we’ll put all our energies, all our talents into pushing a great boulder up a mountain. The boulder is the truth that the great men know by instinct, and the mountain is the stupidity of mankind.

― Doris Lessing, The Golden Notebook

From Her Diary Boy Meets Girl

 

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Oh the dreariness of middle class life
the mediocrity of it
I know I should be grateful
but the path is too straight

I must be twisted to be longing
for something crooked
A road with numerous bends
That lead to passion, adventures
And yes even sadness

Alien emotions assuaging
my robotic existence

I am wallowing in too shallow waters
And in my inane concerns
My Siren feet keep pulling me down the deep end

Oh but what am I saying? I must be stupid or something.

I saw him again today as I was walking down the beach at sunset. I wanted to speak to him. Ask him why he always looks so morose in such a peaceful setting. What could that young man be thinking. It seemed as fathomless as the ocean in front of him.

I like his silly little curls neatly tucked behind both ears. He doesn’t look like his from around here. He looked exotic. Somewhat middle eastern? I can’t be sure. I am kind of stupid about this thing. Which reminds me I wanted to do some traveling in an exotic place like perhaps in Morocco? Daddy will be pissed. He’ll never let me. He will be too scared to let me go.

If I see that boy again tomorrow and he is still looking surly I will throw a stone at him to start a fight. It will be good fun. He could be good looking if he would just stop frowning….

*****

Ashok closed the diary. Closing his eyes he pressed his temples and drew a very long sigh. It was bittersweet to remember that day. Of course he had been noticing her since he started going to the beach every evening. That solitary girl walking along the shore completely lost in her own thoughts. But he was too shy to even looked at her then much less to speak to her.

That was when he was in his first year in that foreign country. He was friendless and lonely and mad at his parents for sending him abroad. His parents thought finishing a degree in a more advanced country would give him more chances to succeed financially in life. He could not see any merits on whatever they were planning for his future then. At that time he was only thinking about how he missed his friends back home and of course of his childhood sweetheart. And how some students in his college were too cruel to him.

But one good thing did happen to him while studying abroad and much to the chagrin of his parents. He met her. Have fallen in love with her. Got immersed in the beauty of her world. Discovered feelings he never knew existed.

Ashok opened his eyes and smiled.

A Parallel Life

©JMKhapra

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A Summon From Beyond The Grave

Ashok reached her apartment in one hour after he left the airport. He opened the door with his spare key.

For a moment he stood in the middle of the room holding the unopened package feeling dislocated. The room was empty. Their memories scrubbed and washed away hidden under the newly installed carpet. The walls that stood witness to their passion regained its innocence in the purity of fresh white paint.

He sat in the middle of the floor crying silently. Only there could he unleash his sorrow. His remorse. He bottled it inside of him and kept the pain at bay until now. He let his tears fall calling out her name.

He undid the bow that tied the package. He caressed the worn out leather covering the diary, wiped it every time his tears fall on it. A slim silky ribbon attached to it parted the notebook in the middle. He opened it to where it was marked. A letter fell from between the pages. He picked it up. His hands trembled while he read it.

Suicide is an act of revenge. We discussed this a few times. And agreed on this. It is meant to punish the one you felt had wronged you by burdening their conscience forever.

We laughed at tragic lovers. We promised never to fall into melodrama. Who knew. I never thought I’ll get waylaid by an emotion like this.

You broke a promise. This is my way of getting even. I will do this out of spite not love. I will not be generous. I will not wish you well. I wish you emptiness, I wish your life will be haunted by my grief.

You shook your head at those who take the easy way out. To those who put a period on their life story by a noose on the ceiling fan. You thought they were weak. But you are weak. I will do this to mock you.

If there is hell will you rescue my soul and follow me? Will you be brave this time? In our next life will you search for me? Will you choose me then?

I will wait for you Ashok.


A Parallel Life

©JMKhapra

Apple And Abigail: Online Romance

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Apple blushed unexpectedly. “ Well, I met someone.”

“ Really? “ Abigail’s eye widening in excitement her current distress momentarily forgotten.

“ Where ? Who is he?”

“ Online. “

“Oh.” She leaned back, looking skeptic.” People still chat? “

“ Well he’s nice. I like him. He’s from India.” Apple answered defensively. Lowering her eyes and blushing again.

“ India? Bombay? ” Abigail snickered.

“ Don’t be stupid, they are called Indians not Bombay. Bombay is a city. “

Abigail wrinkled her nose as if smelling something pungent.

“ I’m not fond of Indian food.” Abigail said as if she meant to say something else. She looked at Apple as if she was laughing at her.

“ Who’s talking about food. Well I was reading about this book by an Indian author, Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. It’s an amazing book. I totally fell in love with the characters. The ending made me cry so much. It’s about the partition in India–“

“ Where do you find the time to read.” Abigail interrupted. She was not all interested about anything Indian.

“ Anyways, I am really curious about India and their culture.” Apple continued, slightly annoyed at being interrupted.

“ Does he speaks English? “ Abigail teased.

“ Don’t be stupid he speaks perfect English. Plus he sounded nice. “

Abigail raised her eyebrows. “You spoke to him on the phone? “

Apple blushed even more. “ He calls me sometimes.”

“ What does he do? “

“ He’s an artist.”

“ Hmmm…Anyway, do you think I should call Oliver? “

Apple knew that Abigail’s interest in her life had ended there.

“ Oh shoot! I don’t have any money!” Abigail said after rummaging through her purse. Apple shrugged and said she’ll take care of it.

“ I hope your car tank is filled? ”

“ I didn’t check.” Abigail bit her lower lips and looked wide-eyed.

Apple pretended to be annoyed but can’t help but smile. She can’t resist Abigail when she put on the charm.

Abigail was always running out of cash and constantly borrowing from her. She had a fondness for expensive clothes and bags and can’t seem to control herself when they go out shopping. Apple in contrast was very frugal and sometimes Abigail found it frustrating that Apple takes forever to decide in buying one item of clothing. “ What is there to think about? It’s only 500 pesos.” Abigail would say in exasperation .

“ Well, I don’t really know if I need it. And it doesn’t match with any of my clothes.”

“ Arrgh. We wasted time for nothing! ” Abigail would exclaim, irritated.

At the end of the day Abigail would have tons of shopping bag in her hands while Apple would end having a new book instead.

Apple glanced around the café. The place was packed. Young professional like them were yapping away while drinking their cappuccinos. Some just got off from work. Some engrossed with their laptops.

“ Oh I’m so bored. I wish he’d call me and apologize for what he said. How can he think I’m so needy? “ Abigail exclaimed, still thinking of her ex-boyfriend.

“ Forget about him. You’ll find someone new. Look, that cute guy over there is checking you out.” Apple said teasing her, subtlety pointing with her lips at the guy sitting on the table on their right. The guy had been constantly looking in their direction all evening. He smiled when they caught him looking at them. He has nice dimpled smile. Abigail giggled.

“ You’re crazy.” Abigail said shyly. “ I can’t think about other guys right now. I am heartbroken.” But she was blushing and stole a glance at the guy.

Apple laughed and shook her head. “ I’ll just check my mails.” She opened her laptop and logged on to her yahoo messenger.

“ He’s online”

“ Who?”

“The guy I was telling you about.”

“What’s his name?”

Suraj.”

“Suraj? ” Abigail laughed. “What kind of name is that? Show me his photo.”

Apple searched for a downloaded photo of Suraj in her computer.

She showed her a close up photo of a man with a charming smile. Abigail looked at the photo and looked at her with both eyebrows raised. “Hmm. He’s not bad looking.” The guy was slightly tan with prominent well shape nose and forehead. He has deep set eyes curtained by long curly lashes. Expression in his eyes gentle and easy. Jaws evenly shaped and masculine with strong slightly pointed chin. His smile created a nice dimpled line on his cheeks. His hair was slightly wavy just tucked behind ears curling around the lobe.

“ He doesn’t look Indian “. Abigail remarked.

“ Yeah I know.” Apple replied, smiling.

“ He looks more like Italian or something. “ She added.

“ Is he tall?” Abigail asked, interest growing in her eyes.

“ 5’10 or 5’11 I think. He’s very smart too.” Apple said, feeling proud now.

“Are you sure he’s not a psycho. I heard horror stories about guys in the internet. He could be a con artist or something. “ Abigail looked at Apple, trying not to sound impressed..

“ No I don’t think so. I am very good judge of character. I’ll know if he was lying to me. He is just a regular guy. “ Apple felt defensive again. She wondered why does she always seeks Abigail’s approval on her choices of men. She can’t help feeling inferior to Abigail in this aspect. She hates to admit that she actually cares what Abigail thinks about Suraj.

“ Still, you should be careful. If he’s all that great why is his spending so much time on the internet?” Abigail said leaning back on her chair.

Well, I am there too and for sure I am not a psycho. Meeting people online gives you a chance to know more the person’s mind first and appearance comes secondary as opposed to when you meet someone in person. They judge you with how you look first before they become interested in you. “ Apple replied almost crossly and blushed profusely afterwards. She knew she sounded desperate to justify her friendship with Suraj. She didn’t need to.

Abigail nodded. “ Well, that’s true. That’s what happens to me all the time I guess. I get fooled by someone’s appearance. Sometimes they can appear to be intelligent even when they’re not. Sometimes it’s too late in the conversation before you notice how idiotic they were.”

“ I want you to meet him. Let’s have a conference online.” Apple felt grateful that Abigail finally saw the sense in what she was doing. It assuaged her fears that she was doing something silly.

“Okay.”

Abigail reached for her bag and took out her pink Apple Macbook pro.

“ Do you have an YM ID?” Apple asked.

“ I think so. Let me check if it’s still working.” Abigail double clicked her yahoo messenger application.

Apple sent Suraj a message.

BookWormIsh85: Hi there.

005Nightcafe83: Hey, how are you?

BookWormIsh85: I’m good. I’m with a friend. She wants to meet you.

005Nightcafe83: Oh okay. What’s her name?

Bookwormish85: Abigail.

When Abigail went online, Apple invited the two for a conference.

005Nightcafe83: Hi Abigail, nice to meet you.

Decadent_Diva0022:Hi Suraj, what’s up?

005Nightcafe83: Nothing much. Just drinking beer and chatting.

Decadent_Diva0022: Cool. What do you do Suraj?

005Nightcafe83: I paint occasionally. Most of the time I’m on bike, traveling.

Abigail laughed.

Decadent_Diva0022: Do you carry an umbrella?

Apple pinched Abigail

005Nightcafe83: Huh?

Shut up Abigail.

Abigail could not stop laughing.

BookWormIsh85: I am sorry Suraj. Abigail is teasing you. Most of the Indian who lives in Philippines rides a motorcycle and carry umbrellas.

005Nightcafe83: Oh.

Decadent_Diva0022: And they have this business. 5-6.

005Nightcafe83: What is that?

BookWormIsh85: It’s like this. Supposed they lend you money for five thousand and you return it to them as six thousand. They come to your house everyday and you have to pay 1 peso a day until you fully paid it

005Nightcafe83: Lol, really.

Abigail was still laughing.

“Abigail, stop it”. But Apple can’t help but laugh too.

005Nightcafe83: I know that some Indian went to Philippines when they fought for the British army during World War 1. They were called Sepoys.

Decadent_Diva0022: Oh. We didn’t know that.

BookWormIsh85: Well, I kind of heard about that. In history class I think.

Decadent_Diva0022: I also paint. Sometimes. I’m a graphic designer. Who’s your fav artist.

005Nightcafe83: Van Gogh.

Decadent_Diva0022: Mine is Gauguin.

005Nightcafe83: Hmm. I like Gauguin too. He was friends with Van Gogh. I like his palette.

Decadent_Diva0022: And I really hate Picasso and Dali.

005Nightcafe83: Why do you hate Picasso? I hate Dali too. I think his works are bullshit.

Decadent_Diva0022: Picasso and Diego Rivera were both blatant womanizers. Ugh.

BookWormIsh85: I like Frida Kahlo’s work. She’s a strong woman and it shows in her work.

005Nightcafe83: Yeah Frida Kahlo is cool.

Decadent_Diva0022: Anyway, do you have sample of your work?

005Nightcafe83: Hold on.

After a few minutes Suraj started photo sharing his work. It was a caricature study of his face.

Decadent_Diva0022: Wow these are good.

“I told you he is good.” Apple whispered.

Time flew and they found themselves still chatting after a few hours past midnight. Common interests were shared. Suraj mentioned he liked beaches and the two girls exclaimed that their country was surrounded by it. Suraj in turn told them about his bike trips to the Himalayas.

BookWormIsh85: On a bike? In the snow? Isn’t it dangerous?

005Nightcafe83: Not really, one has to be slightly careful. There’s nothing like it. It’s exhilarating. The landscape changes after every few kilometers from green meadows to desert to snowy mountains.

BookWormIsh85: Oh wow. Let me Google some photos of that.

Decadent_Diva0022: I would really want to see Taj Mahal. I think it is just amazing. I am really fond of Mughal architectures.

005Nightcafe83: If you are really interested, you should both come here. I would be glad to show you around.

Apple and Abigail looked at each other. Go to India?

“We’ll think about it.” They both typed at the same time and laughed.

A bit of light was already creeping in the horizon when they finally stopped chatting. But the café was still full.

“That chat made me crave for the beach. I’m thinking we should go to Boracay. “ Abigail said, dreamily.

“ Aren’t you looking for a job? “ Apple looked at her frowning.

“ Not to worry about that. Sooner or later I’ll join my father’s company. For now I just want to take it easy. And you can do your job anywhere. “

Apple already joined a pool of writers for a local tv station after their internship. She will start writing for a daily soap opera very soon.

“ It’s the rainy season now, not exactly the best time for the beach.” It was already middle of June and the rainy season had begun.

“I like rainy season on the beach more than summers. The annoying Manila crowed would no longer be there. Besides it is off season now. Everything will be cheap.” Abigail said looking at her with half smile. She knew Apple’s weakness for discounts.

“ I guess I can take a week off before they started shooting the soaps and we are also done with the brain storming, anyway. I’m doing the episodes for the third week though. I suppose it would be nice to write my stories there.”

Abigail looked at her. “As if I will let you write in peace.” She chuckled naughtily.

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Apple And Abigail: Sunset At The Beach

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Mandy was already drunk when Abigail and Apple joined her and Sheila on the beach. Mandy was flirting hideously with two male foreigners. The taller one had his arms around Mandy tightly. Sheila appeared uninterested and a little annoyed.

“The day is just starting for us but you are already wasted.” Abigail remarked acidly.

“ This is the life! Wohooo!” Mandy shouted and laughed. The guy who was holding her lifted her up and then ran towards the water. He dumped Mandy on the shallow part of the sea and laughed at her. Mandy struggled, startled.

“ Hey! You assholes!” She shouted angrily.

The other man, younger and more brazen leaned close to Abigail. “ So…”

Abigail gave him a withering look. “ Not interested. Please go away.”

He was taken aback. “ Bitches ! C’mon man let’s go.” He snarled. He stood up and both men walked away.

Abigail gave them a cold stare but did not reply.

“ Mandy attracts the worse of them.” Abigail said looking at Mandy contemptuously. Mandy was still in the water struggling with the top of her bikini. It got untied.

Sheila stood up and walked towards Mandy. She helped tie Mandy’s bikini top.

“ I told you not to encourage those guys. They were over staying opportunistic foreigners looking for an easy lay. You acted like a prostitute.” Sheila scolded Mandy.

“ Shut up! I was bored. Don’t be a kill joy like your friend Abigail.”

“ Abigail is paying for your vacation, idiot. You begged me to let you come and you promised to
behave if I take you along. Now I regret it.” Sheila snapped.

Apple could hear them very audibly. Abigail didn’t seem to hear them at all.

Sheila sat down beside Abigail. “ Sorry about that, Abigail. This stupid idiot is a slut.”

“ I don’t deny it. I am dying to get laid. “ Mandy said and laughed. She told them about how long she had been without a boyfriend. She started telling them about lewd, but very funny experiences she had with men that after sometime they were all laughing, grudges forgotten.

“ I was like, f–k he’s been bragging how amazing he is in bed and that he bedded dozens of women but he doesn’t even know where to put it in. He kept saying, “Where is it? Where is it?” “What, you need a f–king map down there? I said. I just started laughing and laughing. I end up not having sex with him. He was a f–king virgin. I felt short changed.” Mandy said acting the scene with exaggeration.

“ That’s terrible.” Abigail was laughing the hardest. They ordered their fourth round of margaritas and now they were all drunk.

Apple blushed the whole time Mandy was speaking. She has not been with a man yet. It’s not that she was a prude but she wanted her first experience with a man who is worth it. She was not in a rush.

The sun was setting so the waiter lit up a candle on their table. The bamboo torches along the shores were also lit. Reflected in the water’s surface were golden sparkles of the light coming from the torches. There was a pleasant rustling of coconut tree leaves as the breeze pass through it, fanning the drunken ladies below.

“I think it’s sweet. “ Sheila said, dreamily. “You were almost his first.”

“Not for me.” Abigail said haughtily.” I want my man powerful, confident and experienced. We’re too young to be cougars.”

They all laughed.

Soon the sun had set and all the four girls were heavily drunk even Apple who has a low tolerance for alcohol. They laughed and giggled at the silliest things. When they got bored sitting at the beach they decided to go to a bar. They walked to a famous drinking bar where young single professionals hang out. As soon as they entered a lot of young men, locals and foreigners, turned their heads to look at Abigail. Apple saw Abigail smiling at one of them. A group of young men obviously from the city asked them to join their table. They consented as the place was packed and they could not find any vacant space. Soon Mandy was already sitting on the lap of one the guys.

Abigail was engaged in an animated conversation with a guy she was smiling at earlier. Sheila had left their table when she saw an acquaintance from another table. Apple was left with the quietest guy in the group. They both smiled awkwardly at each other. A band was playing in the bar and soon all of them hit the dance floor.. They dance crazily for hours. Hooting and shouting like maniacs at every song the band played.

Around three in the morning Apple realized they didn’t have anything to eat for dinner. Her head started to ache badly. She said goodbye to the guy she was dancing with and went looking for Abigail. She wanted to ask her if they could go. But she saw Abigail kissing the guy she had been dancing all night with. She could not find neither Sheila nor Mandy. She decided to return to their hotel by herself. She slumped into her bed without changing her clothes and slept soundly.

It was already mid noon when Abigail returned to their room. She was positively glowing despite the obvious lack of sleep. Apple groaned. Abigail was in love again.

“He‘s very nice. His parents are friends with my dad.” Abigail said. Abigail recounted their whole conversations of the night. She was besotted. After a while Abigail fell asleep.

Apple opened her laptop and checked her YM, Suraj had left a few offline messages.

005Nightcafe83: Hey party girl, what’s up

005Nightcafe83: You seem to enjoying your vacation you have forgotten about me

005Nightcafe83: Buzz me as soon as you get online. Have fun.

Apple checked her mobile phone and saw several miss calls from Suraj.

Apple smiled. Her heart skipped a bit but decided not to answer Suraj’s messages.

Apple closed her computer and took a shower.

When Apple went outside the bathroom after taking a bath Abigail was already awake and typing on her laptop.

“ Oh, you are done. I ‘ll take a bath too.”

Apple glanced at Abigail’s computer and was surprised to find Suraj’s webcam video opened on her computer screen .

Abigail was chatting with Suraj! Apple frowned, a little alarmed. She liked Suraj a lot and didn’t really feel like sharing him with Abigail.

“ I didn’t know you started chatting with Suraj. Apple said when Abigail came out of the shower.
“ Oh, he added me and one time I went online he was there so we started chatting.” Abigail looked at her.
“ You don’t mind, do you?”

“ No, not really.” She lied.

Don’t worry I’m not into him, he’s just fun to talk too. He has a lot of intelligent things to say. Besides I really like Randy. I think he’s just awesome. He invited us to a party tonight with his friends.”

Sheila and Mandy came into the room.

“So Mandy, your problem been taken care of?” Abigail teased.

Mandy giggled delightfully. “Very much! Woohoo! Oh so much. My legs are still shaking. Woohoo! ”

“ And Shiela did you hook up with anybody? You vanished as soon as went inside the bar.” Abigail slipped into a yellow slip dress.

Shiela shrugged. “Nobody interesting.”

” I couldn’t find the two of you yesterday. ” Apple raised her eyebrows teasingly.

“Oh we went to this guy’s cottage and hit some bong.”

“Yeah Woohoo tripping!”

“Yeah it was fun but now I am famished. We haven’t had anything to eat since last night. I can eat a whole octopus.”

“Let’s surprise Randy. And invite him for lunch.” Abigail said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea Abigail. They might still be sleeping.” Apple said suddenly. Alarmed that Abigail was falling into her old pattern.

But Abigail was unstoppable. “I really want you to meet him guys. I miss him already! C’mon.”

Abigail dragged them towards station 2. It was atleast about fifteen minutes walk from their hotel.

“You didn’t tell us we have to walk this far!” Mandy complained.

” Abigail couldn’t we have something to eat first. I’m dying of hunger.” Shiela groaned.

They stopped in front of a Mediterranean looking hotel.

“ There he is. Hey Randy!” Abigail walked up to a group of young men coming out of the hotel.

“We’re going for lunch. Wanna come.” Abigail took Randy’s hand.

“Actually we’re planning to ride a jet ski.” Randy hesitated.

“Oh.” Abigail looked disappointed. Randy kissed her forehead.

“But I’ll join you for lunch. Guys I’ll catch up with you later.”

His friends hooted and walk towards the beach.

Apple stopped herself from rolling her eyes. She found it awkward to watch Abigail act that way.

Whenever she was in love she became like a little girl. Giggly and happy.

“Oh these are my friends. Shiela, Mandy and Apple.”

Shiela smiled at Randy, obviously impressed.

“ Hi ” Mandy said coquettishly.

Apple waved hi. She felt relieved. Suraj was safe from Abigail’s clutches for now.

Abigail and Randy walked in front of them hand and hand.

It took them a while to decide where to eat. A smorgasbord of succulent seafoods were on display in front of most the restaurants along the beach. Apple liked seafoods a lot especially crabs. It made her mouth water looking at those delicacies. There were grilled giant squid, boiled crabs, grilled fish of all variety and prawns cooked in coconut milk. There were also side dishes of green mango and shrimp paste fried eggplant and chopped tomatoes mixed with salty eggs.

After finally choosing an outdoor restaurant they all had a generous serving of grilled squids, steamed crabs, steamed rice and a side dish of green mango salad with shrimp paste. They washed down the delicious meal with beer. Before long they were all drunk again. Randy was sitting in between Abigail and Sheila. Sheila kept hitting Randy on the thigh every time she laughed with what Randy was saying. Abigail did not appear to notice. Mandy was talking on her mobile phone and giggling uncontrollably. Apple tried to join the trio but found their conversation a little shallow and dull. She just observed the people passing by instead. Mostly they were Asian foreigners, probably Koreans or Japanese.

The party that they went to later that evening was held in a private house owned by Randy’s friends. Mandy did not come with them but instead went out on a date with a guy she met the night before. It was a loud party and the air was thick with smoke. A mixture of cigarette and hashish. Apple felt lost and out of place every time Abigail dragged her in this kind of parties. She feels like being inside a surrealistic dream where she was the only one awake. She had always preferred gatherings where guest can somehow talk to each other. Not sprawled out in sofas, passed out or making out.

Apple saw groups of youngsters hanging out slumped on carpets or bean bags all over the house with dazed expressions on their faces, passing joints to each other or taking hit from a bong made of soft drink bottle or a long wooden pipe. Apple didn’t know where to go or who to talk to. She pretended to browse the collection of CDs on a shelf while sipping a glass of wine. Once in a while she would attempt to start a conversation with anyone who would be looking in her direction but it was in vain. Most of then are either too high or too drunk to make any sense. She gave up eventually and sat on a dimly lit corner by herself.

It was getting very late in the night when Abigail burst out from one of the rooms crying. She took Apple’s hand and dragged her running away from there.

“ What happened?” Apple asked bewildered.

“That bitch Sheila! I can’t believe it!” Abigail wailed.” She went after Randy. “That ungrateful bitch! I saw them doing it in there.”

“I thought you were with Randy the whole time.”

” I was. Sheila was hanging around us like an idiot. She wouldn’t leave us alone. I was alarmed at first but didn’t think much about it but then Randy introduced me to a group of friends. And we started snorting coke, I got so high, I didn’t even notice they were not there anymore. I was going to pee and I went into the room and there they were cavorting like rabbits.”

“You are doing coke?”

“Don’t look at me like that. I don’t need that now. But for your peace of mind, it was my first time. I did it because Randy asked me too. That bastard! Oh why, why do I always attract losers!”

Apple helped Abigail out of her clothes and into a hot shower. After she tucked Abigail into bed she peeked at Sheila and Mandy’s room.

Sheila was there angrily putting her clothes in her suitcase. She saw Apple and started ranting against Abigail.

” She’s so self righteous as if she had not stolen one of my boyfriends before. Why should she always have to get the best guys?”

“Where are you going?”

“Randy invited me to stay with him. He liked me better. He said Abigail is too clingy. Tell her I’m paying for my room, so don’t worry about it. Mandy will stay with Leo. We might stay here longer.

Then Sheila looked at her coldly and said, ” I’m sure you’re happy now that you have Abigail all to yourself. Ever since she met you, she started hanging out with me less anyway. ”

Apple was taken aback. She had no idea that Sheila was jealous of her.

The next day Abigail and Apple flew back to the city. Abigail was doubly depressed. She had not even recovered from her break up with an ex boyfriend yet, the primary reason why they took the vacation and losing one best friend over a one night stand was more devastating.

“ I guess she was always been envious of me since college. I was always more popular than her. But what can I do? I can be insensitive at times, I know. But I will not knowingly betray a friend.” Abigail lamented.

Apple frowned thinking about Suraj. She know that was a lie. She wondered what kind of friendship the four them had fallen into. Sighing, she wondered why relationships with girls her age are so complicated.

©JMKhapra

*image from google

Lullabies In The Valley Of Dreams

 

A quaint little village in Sangla

Summer arrived, blazing and crackling. The air sizzled frying at forty-five degrees (Celsius). Fed up with living in air-conditioned existence, we decided it was time to leave the city.

So Hubby, Babar and I with our suitcases packed for a seven-day adventure, drove up and up the mountain chasing some chilly wind.

Narkanda highway
Wall of pine trees in Kufri
Heart-stopping roads in Kinnaur District

The roads tapered off as we were nearing the top, sending some nervous flutter in my heart.

Descending from Rampur, a pleasant drive along the river.
Babar enjoying the breeze. Ears flapping about.
If I have ears that long it will be flapping too.
Climbing extremely narrow roads on the way to Sangla.

 Then it soared when my eyes behold the snowy peaks in the horizons.

The lethal beauty of Sangla Valley at the height of 2800 meters.
Babar passed out after a whole day of driving.

As the sun was setting, finally we reached the camp. The signboard was on the road but darned it the campsite was way down below.

Kinner Camp

Holding my breath while Hubby turned the car around, tires rolling by a hair’s breadth on the edge of the cliff, I was left thinking the camp owners may have some sadistic streak. After enduring the torment of that snaky ascent, they make sure the thrill continues with the roller coaster descent.

Very comfortable accommodation with an attached bathroom ( western toilet and shower) unlike real camping at all.
The valley morning after.
Babar sleeping soundly in the fresh air.
Sharing a cup of chai with hubby.

Waking up the next morning after a very sound sleep, sipping tea in front of the tent with the mighty snowy mountain right in front of me, I was filled with a deep-seated feeling of well being.

Not a soul was stirring from the nearby tents. The silence was pure and sweet. A commune with nature in the truest sense.

The Mighty Baspa River

When Hubby and Babar finally roused, off, we went hiking towards the mighty stream. Furious cascading water thundering down from the melting snow of the northern Himalayan peaks.

The roaring stream.
Babar testing the waters.

The energetic canine run to and pro, going mad with the freedom to leap and bound. Once or twice, Babar braved the icy water and dipped his toes. Oh, how he loved the water! He would swim if not for the turbulent flow.

The water dog.

Lovely Chitkul Valley
Pashmina heaven.
Passing by surrealistic looking roads on our way to Kalpa

Snowy peaks in Kalpa

Days in the camp passed by like a dream. We were lulled into calmness and serenity. All our silly worldly cares momentarily forgotten.

Babar made a lot of new friends in the camp.
Little girls who were very fond of Babar.

I go to nature to be soothed and healed and to have my senses put in order.
-John Burroughs

©JMKhapra

To Be A Woman Independent And Single

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What is terrible is that after every one of the phases of my life is finished, I am left with no more than some banal commonplace that everyone knows; in this case , that women’s emotions are still fitted for a kind of society that no longer exists. My deep emotions, my real ones, are to do with my relationship with a man. One man. But I don’t live that kind of life and I know few woman who do. So what I feel is irrelevant and silly…I am always coming to a conclusion that my real emotions are foolish, I am always having, as it were, to cancel myself out. I ought to be like a man, caring more for my work than for people; I ought to put my work first, and take men as they come, or find an ordinary comfortable man for bread and butter reasons– but I won’t do it, I can’t be like that…

Ella from The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

This novel have me in a tight grip. As I turned the pages I get sucked more and more into it. I can feel my mood changing, my being, my thoughts, influenced. My dreams becoming vivid intermingling with the characters in the book as if I am living their lives.

The Author a woman. The protagonist a woman who is writing about the life of a woman in the 1950s. About a period of time when the roles of women were set for change. Feminism was rising in a crescendo and women were breaking free from stereotypes but still galled at the fact that they still need the love of a man to make them happy. Her honesty stings. And still so relevant even today. The truth in her words scalds. It forces you to look at what you refuse to acknowledge.I am like a moth drawn to a fire. I cannot stop reading even if it burns me.

©JMKhapra

Illustration by Jofelyn M. Khapra