Arun looked up at the sky and saw a lazy sun, its rays scattering over the road.  He claimed a red bus and clambered aboard, after winning a battle of the door with four other contenders. He could see regular crappy classes ahead of him. It didn’t look like anything would be special on his birthday. He couldn’t expect his friends to be creative enough to do something funky and out-of-the-box for him; all they would do is pester him for a treat. But even that prospect didn’t seem very bright. There were too many classes today. There was only one way left…
“Mark our proxies…” was what they thought would be the last thing they would say before the college gates were behind them. He messaged his friends in the other branches “to reach the gates ASAP” and felt himself almost triumphant in making his day better than what it could have been.
Thumb working furiously on the phone (he was glad he had asked for an Iphone on his birthday), he dashed down the steps. Just as he typed a “k”, a voice called out, “come here”. His heart nearly stopped when he saw his Physics professor beckoning him to a room. He followed with a heavy heart. “You guys, too!” Sir pointed to his pals following him. Stuck…attendance gone…were the only words that revolved in his mind. Before he could think of a cock-and-bull story, sir continued, “I wanted to show you all something.” And for the first time, he saw excitement and fire in the old man’s eyes-a positive infectious flame, whose warmth one would want to be infected with.
“The European Journal of Physics has published my research. 10 years- not a day less- on the subject I have worked. But it has all borne fruit…” As he scrambled through the cupboard, the students stared at each other, relief and awe writ large on their faces- relief as their attendance was safe and awe in respect of their teacher.
Sir’s excitement was truly contagious- stories of his work, all his experiences tumbled out and no one realized that time was passing. ‘How could somebody love the subject he abhorred so much?’ Arun wondered. His mobile was driving him crazy; he thought his pockets would rip because of the constant vibrations of his phone. He retreated to a corner and checked the phone screen. Gosh! 15 missed calls, 20 messages! 1 hour gone! They had to leave ASAP…but the Prof was on a roll…even the students egged him on.  An hour floated by. The vibrations in his pocket had now come to a standstill. What was the point of bunking the classes if they were stuck here? Even if they managed to get free, they would probably miss the morning show. He felt distant and morose as if losing control of everything. It seemed to be the research paper’s birthday, not his. How could his friends get engrossed in a “research” that was miles away from their standards? They couldn’t say they had classes because they were on a bunk.
He slid away quietly and trudged down the steps to the canteen. Sipping a solitary cup of coffee, he felt no better than the ’solitary reaper’- uncared for, unloved…he decided to go home and drown himself in the vast ocean of social networking sites. That was easy and hurtless.
However, before he could get up from his seat, hoots and wolf-whistles sounded and tight hugs gripped him. Astonished and gasping for breath, he extricated himself from his friends. Some of his effervescence returned when he saw all his friends, arms outstretched waiting to punch him, engulf him. He was hammocked by them and carried to the lawn. Cake war and friendly punches followed with food, food and food. There’s a saying that the way through a man’s heart is through his stomach. On Arun’s birthday, this aphorism proved truest of all. 

All day long, Samir felt something nagging at the back of his mind. It was a mixed feeling- a feeling of excitement and apprehension. As he prepared to leave the office, he remembered. And a wave of discomfiture washed over him. He knew he was the only one who could do it.

He drove to a nearby market and parked his car in the space left by an outgoing SUV. Locking the doors, he walked with a heavy tread towards a chemist shop. He didn’t know what to say. Obviously, it was not a crime and yet he couldn’t just bring himself to do it. After all, he had never been one of those confident people, neither in school nor in college. And now even after reaching adulthood, he was always fraught with nerves and this time, he actually had a reason.
He pushed open the glass doors and entered. Hovering uncertainly, he wondered what to do, what to say, more importantly how to say it. He stood like that for a few minutes. He knew he would have to say something sooner or later. But he couldn’t help standing still.
“What do you want Sir?” 
A man behind the counter had just released a customer. Samir turned beetroot red. It was even worse now that he had been singled out, that he was being asked directly. He babbled the first thing that came into his head- the name of some moisturiser that he had seen in Ekta’s bag. The salesman dug into the shelves, looking for the product asked, while Samir heaved a temporary sigh of relief.
“Anything else Sir?” the damned salesman had returned sooner than expected, bringing along with the moisturizer, a fresh burst of color to Samir’s cheeks. 
Samir stood transfixed for a moment, not knowing how to respond. At one point, he decided to drop the idea. However, he had resolved to do it that day. He didn’t want to give up. Not at that point. At least not at that point of awkwardness, when the fellow at the counter was ogling confusedly at him and he had almost made a fool of himself. So, he mustered all his manliness and decided to take the plunge.
Manforce“, the words came out in a croaky tone, slightly broken. But thankfully, the salesman seemed to have understood.
“Flavored or normal?” he had the audacity to ask. Samir felt as if he must have looked naked to everyone at the shop. He felt as if every eye was on him, wanting to know what his preference would be. If he said flavored, they would probably take him for a kinky sort. If he chose normal, they would probably classify him as a noob in the bed business. But he preferred noob to kinky. So, he went for the ordinary one.
“How many?” 
The sales guy was now definitely making fun of him. Samir’s face assumed a darker reddish hue, if there could ever be such a shade. He muttered through gritted teeth, “A pack of 5 please”. 
Now he was just waiting impatiently to get it over with. His modesty had already been battered to pieces. He was now merely trying to salvage the vestiges of his virtue as all the buyers and sellers alike looked on, as if watching some freak comedy show.
“Here,” the now-superior-for-having-sort-of-caught-Samir-in-the-act sales guy handed him a black package, as if it contained sanitary pads or something. Sanitary pads would still have been better, for that matter.
Samir was ready with a 500-rupee-note. He could have ran away without waiting for the change had he been financially that stable. But, he was not. So, he waited while the cashier fished out the balance notes from a drawer. As soon as Samir got the money, he stuffed them in his pocket without bothering to even open his wallet.
He pushed the door, set to walk out of the hideously focusing limelight. 
Surprisingly, the door didn’t budge. He pushed it twice…thrice. 
So much for manliness. He wondered if he was pushing the wrong end of the door. He remembered having seen something similar in an advertisment of glass wherein people failed to perceive the glass barrier and rushed into it, thus banging their heads. But he didn’t think that was the case here.
He felt as if the people at the shop had trapped him, as if they wouldn’t let him escape unless he told them what he was planning to do with the stuff in the black package, to whom he was about to do it all, where, how and all sorts of vivid details. His face had reached boiling point and its redness measure had surpassed the topmost calibrations.
Just then, someone from outside the shop pushed the door and entered the shop. Gosh ! He just had to pull !!! He had managed to avoid maximum number of circumstances in his life that concerned all those fears of his about public speaking, interviews and so on. However this time, he had been caught with his pants down. Literally to some extent. His confidence had taken a sound beating. 
All the way to his car, he wondered about the travails that he had to endure for a night of happiness, for a night of Ekta. 

They were lugging things down from the second floor to the road where the truck and the car were waiting. Jai huffed and puffed, taking large noisy strides down the stairs, carrying two plastic bags. Jaya Sharma, Jai’s mother, shouted, “Where is the bag of handkerchiefs? And the bag of socks? Are you carrying it Jai?”
Jai gritted his teeth and reluctantly answered in a low voice, “Yeah mom…I have them”.
“Everything taken?” Jai’s father asked his wife. “All the big stuff is in the truck. Just make sure all the trousseau and your make up kits and the “important little” things have been take care of,” he further ordered. “This is my fifth trip and I don’t want to make one again!”
“Don’t be such a control freak now!” Jaya retorted. “Everything has been done! Come mother, let’s go.” With this, she started escorting her mom-in-law out of her puja room.
“Wait…just let me check on a few things,” Jai’s grandmother peered into the empty rooms. “Oh you forgot this jug in the kitchen, Jaya!” she exclaimed, picking up an antique looking jug with JJ inscribed on the bottom face and tucking it beneath her armpits.
The ‘Sharmas’ had settled in their new abode. It had been a week since the final day of shifting. Relatives and guests had started pouring in.
On this particular day, Jaya was hurriedly frying some frozen potato wedges and corn fries for Mr. Sharma’s friends who had come to see the newly-built house.
“Get the glasses ready,” Jaya ordered her son.
Jai quickly put the glasses on the tray.
“Now just pour the juice in a jug,” she instructed.
Jai looked around, opened the cupboards and brought out his favourite jug- the antique one with a silverish patina and intricate designs carved on it. For Jai, the best part of it was the initials JJ artistically inscribed at the bottom face of the jug.
“Put that down, will you?” Jaya snapped at her son, snatching the ancient-looking urn from him and opened another closet to fetch a glass jug.
Jaya placed a plate of food in front of her mother-in-law.
“I wanted to ask about that old ceramic jug. Don’t you think we should give it to Omwati ?”
“Omwati ?!” the old woman’s pitch rose. “She hardly cleans properly! She always tries to shirk work. Every time I see her, she is standing with a broom, sweeping lazily. She doesn’t even bend while sweeping. What kind of a cleaning is that? No way should you give her anything!”
Her mother-in-law was vehement and totally in favor of keeping the urn.
“Besides, that jug is so pretty. It has been in our house for as long as I can remember. I think someone gifted it to you on your wedding day. Wasn’t it your classmate, Jaideep? I don’t think you should dispose of it like that. By the way, just get me a glass of water, Jaya.”
And thus ended Jaya’s hopes of getting rid of the antediluvian jug.
“Please come in.”
They ushered in their neighbour, Mrs. Verma, who was an ebullient woman of about thirty. She came in with a little girl, who was an uncanny replica of her mother’s. “Hello! It’s very nice to have you here! My daughter will finally have someone to interact with in this building. She gets quite lonely. Also, there are some wonderful hobby classes in the next street! We could get them admitted, you know! Then we could chat and all while taking them there! I get bored at home all day,” Mrs. Verma gushed.
“Yeah…that would be great!” Jaya put on her most convivial demeanour. “Jai come here! Come and meet a new friend of yours.”
As Jai shyly shook hands with Preeti, the women started chatting and the kids went to play in the dining area. A while later, they saw Preeti whispering something in her mother’s ear.
“No! That is a most impolite thing to ask!” Mrs. Verma was heard chiding her little daughter. “You go play and don’t you dare behave like that!” After her mother’s admonition, Preeti’s face fell and she sat down.
“What happened, beta ?” Jaya called Preeti to her side. “What do you want? Tell me…Is Jai being naughty?”
Preeti glanced at her mother once but on insistent cajoling by the ‘new and nice’ aunty, she burst out, “I want that silver pitcher but Jai says he won’t give me.” And she started to sob a little.
“Very bad, Preeti. Very misbehaving of you.” Mrs. Verma tried to discourage her daughter. But Jaya had already got up.
Presently, she emerged from the dining area with the old faded urn and handed it to the little girl, who jumped in exhilaration.
“No, no, no Mrs. Sharma! You mustn’t do this! ” Mrs. Verma protested. But Jaya was hell bent on getting rid of the God awful jug, that was refusing to exit her life after having spent ten useless years in their house.
“Mom ! There is Verma aunty at the door!” Jai called. As Jaya proceeded to the door, Mrs. Verma started apologizing, “Actually this is about that jar. Preeti has gone to sleep now. And I came to return this. You know my husband; he is very particular about such things. He is slightly touchy about taking things, especially valuable stuff. Also, we have only just met. So, please don’t mind!” 
Jaya couldn’t help but take it back.
Off went another chance of throwing away the damned jug.
The clattering noises from the kitchen meant that the dishes were being washed. As Jaya piled on dish after dish, an idea struck her. She saw the jug perched innocently on the kitchen slab. If she were to accidentally slide it over the edge or wave her hand in a moment of decided recklessness in a certain wayward manner, the jug would reach the destination she desired for it. Thus, while wiping the plate and before placing it on the rack, she touched the jug with a plate with amazing adroitness so that it teetered on the edge of the slab hanging on for dear life. She went on cleaning, hoping for the jug to fall but it held on fast. Then she dropped all subtlety and plunged into deliberate action. The old container would easily have fallen and shattered into a million pieces had it not been for the hero who saved it. Mr. Verma himself was much astonished at his heroic deed.
“Careful Jaya! Don’t be in such a hurry! We would have lost a beautiful receptacle if not for this fortunate accident.”
Jaya had decided now. She called the washerwoman in the evening one day.
“Rama, you were talking about that woman who collects old stuff, right? Clothes and utensils and the like? I have some really good things from my old home, things which I don’t need anymore. So, send her in whenever you can.”
“Madam, 300 is too much. I can only manage 200,” The scavenging woman had her own rules and conditions.
“Fine!” Jaya said. “Just take it.”
She was in a mad hurry to bid adieu to the ill fated jug.
“Look what I have got here!” exuded Jaya’s father-in-law as he took off his sandals at the doorstep.
“Give it to me! ME! ME! ME!” cried Jai in glee.
“What is it, baba ?” Jaya came with a glass of chilled water.
The old man gushed happily, “I bought this beautiful antique vase for just Rs. 500 from the Budh Bazaar. See!”
Jaya unwrapped the newspaper which enveloped the gift. She gasped in shock.
There it was- the jug she had gotten rid of a few days ago. The symbols JJ stared out at her.
She settled for the fact that Jaideep would probably never go away from her life. She should have realized as much when she named her son Jai. The jug would probably never leave her house as long as she lived, just like the memory of the man she had once loved.  

She was strolling in the market, looking for gifts. The chattering crowds and the hustle bustle of the market were like music to her. It had been so many days since she had walked like this among people. Free and unhindered. Had her husband known that she was wandering in the market alone, he would certainly have freaked out. There are as many downs as there are perks of pregnancy. She thoroughly enjoyed her hubby fussing over her, making dinner, taking her out for walks, shopping for her and so on. Just that his apprehensions put a kibosh on her solitary outside activities. He wouldn’t let her out of his sight for fear of some mishap. Today, he was in the office working late as he was taking the following day off so they could spend Rakshabandhan at their in-laws’ place. He had a younger sister, who was in college. Since he would be late in returning from office, he had reluctantly acceded to Radha’s idea of choosing a gift for his sister. However, he had extracted a promise from Radha that she would take the neighbouring Mrs. Verma along. Mrs. Verma had already left for her relatives’ place. As a result, Radha had to go alone, an opportunity she did not regret. Her husband, Rohit cared for his sister like a father. Probably that’s where his fretting and worrying came from.
Radha glanced at a golden purse with a beaded chain around it. She wondered if Naina would like it. No…it was too jazzy. She should look for something decent and yet smart. Her eyes fell on a grey purse in a square shape. It certainly looked different and yet she had seen it before. Oh yes! That’s what Varun had chosen for her on one particular Rakhi. But the thought of Varun made her heart clench. It was painful to think of him. Or of her parents. Especially today. On the eve of Rakhi.
It had been four years since she had left her maiden house. There had been a terrible quarrel and she had opted to live with her chosen mate much to the chagrin and anger of her parents. They did not approve of Rohit. Because he did not have a very high paying job. He was not an MBA after all. He worked in the delivery department of a small company. They had met on the metro. While she was returning from college, he was usually returning from work. How they talked and when their chemistry sparked is another story. But before long, they knew they wanted to spend their lives with each other. When they broke the news to their families, they were met with two opposite reactions. While her in-laws welcomed her with open arms, her own family severed all contact with her. She could understand her father and mother. But her brother too? It was quite unbelievable. She had always found support in Varun. When she wanted to go to a disc with friends, it was Varun who convinced their parents to let her go. It was Varun who always took her shopping even though he cribbed and complained a lot while doing so. It was Varun who always got her thoughtful gifts on Rakhi. She remembered their childhood when they used to invent games of their own. There was one particular ritual which they used to follow that stuck in her memory just because it was so ridiculous and weird. Taking cue from mythological shows, they used to create a sacred potion which they called as the power potion or the potion of life. They used to pour water in an earthen bowl (the mud pots that were kept unused in the storeroom) and take a candle out into the balcony. Then they would say all kinds of hocus pocus and light the candle. Placing the bowl above the candle, they would say one by one- “earth, sky, air, water, fire!” and after the pronunciation of the five essential elements, they would pour the water into two glasses and drink them in a most formal manner. To them, it was a sacred potion made of the five basic elements and contained utmost potential.
Radha laughed inwardly as she thought of the stupid tricks they used to cook up. Then the laugh turned bitter as she realized she sorely missed all those idiocies and oddities.  
The memory of the day she had stormed out of her house was clearly stamped in her mind. Varun did not support her. He disowned her as easily and heartlessly as if nothing of value had ever existed between them. She had spent four Rakhi-less years. Four years of not seeing her parents or her brother.
While such thoughts invaded her mind, she walked past a herd of cows contently grazing on a pile of garbage. The dairy owners let the cows loose in the evenings, thus creating chaos and unnecessary traffic. Thankfully, there hadn’t been any accidents owing to the docile creatures. But that status was going to change today. As Radha walked onward, she didn’t see a calf lying down and stumbled on its legs. The squeal of the calf was not the turning point but the sudden obstacle took Radha by surprise and she moved to her right in a protective move. Just then, a scooter rushed by, hitting Radha in her side, causing her to topple over the calf, which elicited a plaintive cry from the animal. The pain rocked her consciousness and threatened to engulf her. She saw people hurrying toward her but could not keep her eyes open any longer.
It was the umpteenth time that his phone had rung. ‘Who was calling at this Goddamned hour?’, Varun wondered, rubbing his eyes. He clicked open the flap and saw the number. His face hardened. Why would Rohit be calling him? And that too at this time of the night? He decided to ignore it. The rings stopped after a while. He went back to bed. But a sense of unease had taken hold of him. Rohit had called him only twice before. Once, to apologize in an effort of reconciliation and another time, recently to inform him of Radha’s pregnancy. Not very fruitful conversations both, he must admit. He was still deeply stung by Radha’s treachery. But none of those calls had come in the middle of the night. He decided to let his guard down for a while. Before he could harden himself by reminding himself of his sister’s betrayal, he had already dialled the number.
“Why did you call? What happened? !!”
“Radha was in an accident…” and Varun didn’t need to hear the rest of the words. All his pride and hurt forgotten, he told his dad that he had been called urgently to a friend’s and rushed to the hospital Rohit had mentioned.
Radha was covered in a white sheet, her eyes closed and her body moving rhythmically up and down in the action of breathing. Varun looked at her through the jalousie. Radha hadn’t changed much. Women rarely do for that matter. Her cheeks were always sunk in a certain manner, which Varun had often teased her about as witch’s cheeks. She had always been plump and now looked even healthier in the hospital room with a mound in the middle of her structure. He wondered if she was safe…if the baby was safe.
He kept looking at her for another hour or so when Rohit came and thanked him for coming. He offered him something to eat but Varun refused.
Varun could not decide if he should tell his parents about Radha. They might take it badly. He decided to wait till he heard from the doctor. It was nearly morning when the doctor let them in the ICU. He couldn’t bear to see her ebullient sister so helpless and wounded lying on a drab hospital bed. His vision grew misty and it took all his self control to prevent tears from breaking through his eyes. He wondered if it had been his fault and his intransigence that had led to all this. Had they reconciled their differences, his sister would not have been roaming around alone and nothing like this would have happened. That rascal Rohit ! It was his fault ! He couldn’t understand the reason why he was at daggers drawn with Rohit. Rohit did not earn very well…accepted. Apart from that, there was nothing that hateful about him. His family was decent and had accepted Radha and welcomed her. Perhaps he was just not ready to relinquish his sister to another man. Perhaps he abhorred the idea of her sister’s devotion and love to another man. That sounded highly ludicrous even to Varun himself. But feelings do not follow norms. Just like at this point, his long-upheld pride and animosity had been punctured by his conscience and the old deep-seated affection he always had for his sister.
He hurried out of the hospital. Right outside the gates, stood a tea seller, offering tea in earthen cups. He bought two, paid him and rushed back to the room where his sister lay.
He pushed open the door carefully, trying not to give Radha a shock. Rohit stood beside her, cradling her head. “I told Radha that you came, Varun. And she is out of danger now. I will give you two a minute to yourselves.” and so saying, Rohit exited the room.
“Have this…”, Varun said, handing one of the tea cups to Radha. “It is a power potion made of the five basic elements, remember?” A faint smile played on Varun’s lips. “It was prepared outside with the sky and the air and the other things. You will be fit and running in no time. Come on, have it !” Radha was not as capable as Varun in stemming the floods behind her eyes. Her tears flowed freely as she sipped her tea. This was probably the most poignant Rakshabandhanof her life.     


Every year on Rakhi, their mom and dad used to buy things for them, which after the Rakshabandhan ceremony, they gifted each other. Adi and Pia used to receive similar gifts- mostly clothes, which left no ground for arguments since Adi would receive a jeans-tee set and Pia would get a frock or a jeans-top combo. However, if they got chocolates, excitement and anticipation would rage in their minds and they would compare their brands and tease each other over which was the more chocolaty of the chocolates. Soon, mom and dad started giving them chocolates of the same brand, in different packages perhaps but not different enough to make them quarrel.

One Rakhi, their parents changed tact. Mom had asked both of them to choose gifts for themselves instead of the ritual of handing them gifts to be given to each other. Ecstatic on getting to choose their own presents, Adi chose a Tetris game and Pia went with Hershey’s box of huge chocolates.

That Rakhi morning was an exhilarating one with the kids full of cheerful expectations and unlimited joy. As a result, Pia was extra polite while tying the rakhi on Adi’s wrist and putting the gulabjamun in his mouth while Adi was generous enough to offer his sister a sweet. After the rituals were over, the time for gifts finally arrived.

They handed each other their respective polybags, trembling with delight. Slowly they unwrapped their packages, savouring the moment of happy knowledge and playing at a make-believe surprise game. However, the game turned out to be true as their faces betrayed intense confusion and significant disappointment when the gifts were finally out in the open. Their gifts had been exchanged ! Mom confirmed their suspicions. They had chosen gifts not for themselves but for EACH OTHER. Hark! What a disheartening end to a hopeful morning! They had to contend themselves with accepting the others’ gifts and making ‘pacts’ and ‘agreements’ to use each other’s possessions.

Another Rakhi arrived but the previous year’s deceit had dampened their gift spirits. Coincidentally, they had had a bit of a spat a few days preceding the festival. Adi had told off on Pia to their mom. Pia had upturned the bowl of custard as she tried to fetch some water from the fridge. Adi had grabbed the chance and run straight to mom telling her everything. As a consequence, when the time for buying presents for Rakhi arrived, they did not put utmost thought into each other’s gifts because they were apprehensive about the other choosing mediocre stuff for them.

Rakshabandhan was finally here. The sweets were ready and their relatives had arrived. Mom was in a resplendent saree, dad in a dapper maroon kurta and the kids too sported elegant traditional outfits. The mantras were uttered, rakhis tied and presents given/received. As Pia unwrapped her gift, her eyes fell on the penstand that she had selected for her brother. On the other hand, Adi too looked flabbergasted holding the sketchpen set he had chosen for his sister. The siblings just couldn’t follow the kind of game that their parents were playing. It seemed that their parents would always outwit them in their quest of fostering love and affection between the two.


“Do you remember where that old phone of yours is?” Mimi’s dad asked her.

“I guess it is in the study table drawer in Ravi’s room, I will have to check.” 
She faintly remembered putting that small black old phone away on her last birthday as she received a brand new phone with a 5-inch screen replete with Android OS and a cute Hello Kitty cover.
Ravi was four years younger to her and was still in school. He was supposed to get a cellphone after his tenth board exams. Consequently, he had to make do with leftover phones of mom, dad and this time his elder sister, as his phone’s display had stopped displaying anything.
He managed to rummage through the wires and other electronic junk and emerged with her old black phone. As their mother placed breakfast in front of them, she realized she was running late for the 10 a.m. class and hurried out.
Her day at college was uneventful save something nagging at the back of her mind. She couldn’t seem to place her finger on what that something was. She decided to ignore the feeling. On getting home, while she was having dinner, hungrily stowing spoonfuls of rice into her mouth, her phone beeped. It was him, reminding her about the report the next day. And then like lightning, it struck her.
All of a sudden, she couldn’t wait for Ravi to sleep. She desperately wanted him away for some while. She hoped he would go to the washroom or just anywhere so she could have a look at her old phone. 
But he deliberately seemed to linger, longer than usual (obviously to her hyperactive imagination) around his new phone. But Providence was not so cruel. Dad called him for some work, which was likely to take some time. She stole over to his room, grabbed his phone and thumbed through the messages part. There was nothing except operator notifications and a few other random messages. Her little brother’s messages had not populated the inbox yet. However, the inbox was not her concern. She scrolled down to ‘Sent Items’ and ‘Drafts’ to ‘My Folders’, her heart almost jumping out of her chest. 
And there it was ! That old folder of hers, that she had titled ‘NEW FOLDER’ to disguise it. That was where the clandestine conversations were stored. She clicked on it. Her heart sank to the level of the earth’s molten core as she saw those lovey-dovey exchanges between her boyfriend and herself. 
Yuck ! To know that her brother must have read them! Those messages to write which she had had to combine all her poor creative faculties together and often take the assistance of mushy Internet lingo…those messages which seemed sweet only when you sent them but ridiculous and cloying sugary on reading them later…to think that those highly confidential and personal messages of hers had been perused by her brother! 
She wanted the earth to swallow her and never burp her out again. She shuddered to think that he might have come across some saucy messages, that had been sent and received more recently than mushy ones because sensuality usually leads the way to sexuality in a relationship. 
Mustering whatever courage and dignity she had left and dispelling disturbing thoughts, she got back to the ‘My Folders’ menu and while travelling down found another folder titled ‘new folder’- all in small letters, which was weird because she had never seen such a folder before and didn’t remember creating any such with the same name. On entering it, she found a dozen or so texts to/from her brother’s girlfriend. The messages were personal enough to indicate that they were lovers but quite lame compared to her ‘mature’ messages. She started wondering that perhaps he had deliberately created this folder, may be as a sarcastic message saying- ‘Sis, you would always be one step ahead ! Precisely why my new folder is all small lettery compared to your NEW FOLDER in blaring capitals’ and a winkie emoticon ahead. It was as if he was taking baby steps in the dating world following in her footsteps. Mimi wished she could turn back time. Oh that cunning rogue!  
Throughout my school and college years, I have researched on the countless means and methodologies of combating exams. I even purchased a book on the art of exam preparation. With years of experience in the science of time management, I feel that my keen insights are best shared with the world at large so that today’s generation of rising and shining youth are benefited from it.
Situation: At home –exam preparation days
      1.    Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;   
feel sleepy after an hour and doze off.
      2.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
read something in the newspaper and drown into the matter.
      3.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Decide with a fresh mind to start off with To Do 1.; breakfast arrives,  you switch on the TV to have a little entertainment alongside and it remains ON…
      4.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Your admit card arrives. You are filled from the soles of your toes to the tip of your head with brainbursting anxiety; the day rolls on…
      5.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
A harmless thought flies in and gets perched on your nerves. You investigate and you investigate…
      6.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Dreams build up-they make a building, a city-a city of dreams…
      7.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
A beep sounds,it’s a message. And a string of messages follows.
      8.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Trill! trill! It’s the goddamn phone! And hours fly away…
      9.   Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Your head hurts, nose runs, body aches – only you do nothing…
      10. Get up in the morning, make an elaborate plan of work;
Finally, you embark on your first question- and guess what- that screws up your day.
Wait, you want some more ways.
      11.  Don’t get up.
The Crash Course has ended.
Now head for the Exams, with all your ammunition!
All The Best!!!

This is a tribute to those bespectacled (or otherwise; it would be stereotypical of me to associate specs with spods since I sport dorky eyewear too) friends of mine, who are wedded to their technologies, those wonderfully open-minded beings who have never failed to enlighten me with valuable pieces of information that have proved highly instrumental to me in passing my exams. Those models of intellect and eidolons of perseverance who have proved the most faithful and reliable comrades on the night before exams and those simple-minded chaps with child-like demeanours who are way beyond emotions and sensitiveness of any sort, whose highest forms of joy reside in the world of middle-earth beings and X Men. Kudos geeks!  
I was resting my head against the cool window of the bus, feeling lucky to have found a seat. Just then I noticed a puny guy with thick black spectacles trying to grope his way to the conductor. Just as I felt pity for this little schoolkid(or so I thought) with a bag slung over his shoulders, he placed his ringing phone to his ear and I heard him saying- ‘the shellscript needs to be modified for it to install…’
The moment I heard the words, I dismissed him as another geek, another nerd…
After sometime, it set my bored mind thinking…that guy is either a very enthusiastic schoolkid or a software engineering student…so…do engineers ultimately turn into geeks? Or nerds? More importantly, was I one of them? Being a geek was bad enough, being a girl geek, even more disconcerting. I started checking myself for signs of ‘geekiness’ and asked myself-what makes geeks so? Though nerd is listed as a synonym of geek on, are nerds and geeks actually synonyms?
What I have seen is that people who are very involved in a particular subject or hobby are tagged as geeks. Although the dictionary definition of nerds is almost the same as above, the word is used interchangeably with the word geek, which connotes a computer enthusiast. Another word though a tad less popular than the above- dweeb refers to a mega-nerd.
Geeks remind me of a popular TV show The Big Bang Theory that portrays the characters’ geekiness in very entertaining ways. However, I feel geeks are not necessarily (though generally so) so full of brains as people normally make them out to be.  They are just intensely involved and passionate about what they do. At times, they resemble philosophers, poets, even scientists in the focussed way they lead their lives and by the love and passion they possess for their hobby.
At times, the societal hypocrisy makes the sensitive sort of people coil into their shell and makes them uncomfortable and unable to blend with the society. A lot of these sensitive ones can be found in the geek section who look for sanctuary from the ‘callous world’ in their hobby. When life looks untoward and goes retrograde, when nothing appeals to them, they go for the unreal- some medium where their innermost ideas can take shape and they can realize their dreams. Just as fabricating stories is a medium of liberation for a poet, similarly, delving into the various aspects of the computer world spells freedom for a geek. The latest Lenovo ad that says “For Those Who Do” is an apt expression for these ingenious minds whose hobby is to unravel all the secrets of the software world.
The virtual world is easier to handle, devoid of the twists and turns of the manipulative human mind; the virtual world is facile and lives up to the expectations and the sensibilities of these minds. Where reality mocks them and hurts their senses, this world welcomes them with open arms, allows them to live the life they have always dreamt of leading. This is the foundation of the social networking mania that has gripped the world at large. In today’s fast-paced world where none has the time “to stand and stare” (Wordsworth), people seek refuge in all sorts of domains. Addiction is the next stage of hobby as the present world and the work sphere, peaked with stress, does not leave any space for personal gratification or self actualization.
The ease and the cogent functioning of the cyber world attracts all sorts of people. It has something for everyone. There is a certain sense of equality here which is lacking in our own real world. In the computer world, there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, sex, religion –  the internet is  open for all to use…Google does not care who you are or where you are from…this search engine makes us wish – had RTI been half that efficient, life would have been so much better. The only form of inequality that might exist would be in terms of the filthy lucre- as in the softwares which have to be bought in order for us to avail all its features. However forerunners of the open-source software movement have removed that roadblock too. The emergence of new technologies and the power to not just use but create and implement such technologies attracts and infuses in people great self-esteem, an adventurous spark and a feeling of exuberance which is nearly druggish in nature.
 I believe, the geek streak is more out of habit and lifestyle than genes. Unprecedented and unlimited exposure to gizmos have not only created possibilities of more spoiled kids but also more geeks. The interest gradually leads to intense involvement and finally turns into cybermania bordering on addiction.  Computer lovers are sometimes born out of a need for personal domain, an independence which this medium makes available for them.
There might be some people who prefer sitting and doing stuff rather than going out. At times, these fellows turn into geeks out of sheer laziness. Though there are rare such cases like me.
Just as I was about to class myself as a non-geek, the bus lurched to a stop. An ostentatiously dressed girl with jazzy thick maquillage, chattering away at her bluetooth device, came and sat next to me. One look at her and I dropped the idea of untagging myself.

Turning the wheel of time and reliving those fond moments…it has hardly been a few months since college ended and I still feel like a plebe. So vivid are those moments and so easily those exchanges come to mind. Simple and yet satisfying, I take a ride on the memory carriage and halt at the fest of 2011.
The sun’s rays fell full on our faces as we sat on the very lawn benches where we did revision for our exams. The purpose was not very different though. We were trying to brainstorm our way to a new event in the CSI fest- Algorhythm 2011.
The thought of coordinating an event sent a thrill down my spine, that familiar sensation of excitement which always struck me when there was something fun and innovative to be done. But the important point was that there were so many events in the fest that to make our event fun-filled and worth participating in would require us to have an impressive format that would get us approval from the team that would decide and finalize the events for the fest.
So we sat, wrote, cancelled and quarrelled. As in a beehive, our buzz reached other bees of our class. “Salad-making? In a fest?   Go for some game, yar…Like Tekken…A1, S1 and S2 are doing that”, A2 said.
“Their entire group is involved. They have even got the posters ready,” K joined in.
“Salad-making wouldn’t be uninteresting , you know…” H countered. “Aashi, you start framing the rules. Just write a lovely description that would impress Sir.”
“Mouth-watering salad that would make the meal afterward taste like crap…”, I sang.
“Why not a salad-eating contest? I want to take part in that!”, M smiled.
And everyone else raised their hands.  Titters and giggles followed.
“And now is the part when we bid goodbye to our lovely group for a while…”, I chirped in, taking H away from the class.
“Want to do the event?” I asked her.
She looked at me for a minute, a resigned smile on her face.                                                                            I tore a page from my Mechanics register and started writing.
We entered the CSI room.N di, Y bhaia and T Sir were sitting across a table. We sat on the other side and gave the description of our event.
“How much budget have you allotted to the event?”
The first question had us foxed. We hadn’t thought of that.
And the questions that followed made me feel that our event was off the list even before it had a chance to be a part of the fest.
Nevertheless, we lounged about the CSI room the following day, trying to know the results.
We saw Neha di walking past so we accosted her.
“Look for a volunteer”, she said and smiled.
So, we got it!
Despite our amateur handling of the questions, they had decided to give us a chance. Were we ecstatic!
Now came the preparation part- the publicity, posters, the infrastructure involved and …the volunteers.
‘We don’t need a volunteer’, we decided.
‘Nobody would volunteer for us’, we meant.
When we gave the news to our friends, even their faces betrayed surprise. They promised to support us and publicize the event as much as possible.
We couldn’t contain our jubilation and kept discussing while the class went on, the rules and the materials required and how we would go about it, in low voices. Right behind us sat L, who probably couldn’t concentrate on the given question because of our chatter. He finally got drawn into our conversation and asked, “mind if I volunteer?”
We both stared at him and didn’t waste another moment. Before he could change his mind, we texted his name to Neha di. Volunteer Problem Resolved!!!
Publicity- online and offline, endless discussions about how we would conduct the event, late-night last-minute arrangements were some of the things I wouldn’t forget easily.
The event was to take place on Sunday. The vegetables were to be bought the day before so they would remain fresh. Hence, the night before the event saw us in frantic discussions, ensuring the availability of the various veggies plus extras like mayonnaise, pepper, salt, plates and the stuff required for the next day, while the rest of the crowd cheered for the contestants of Manhunt.
The D-Day arrived. The event was about to start at 10:30. We three rushed to our stall with our paraphernalia and started setting everything up. While our friends crowded round our stall, lifting our moods by playing music and frollicking about, we put up our charts, bought the remaining veggies from the Julena sabzi mandi, decorated the tables and waited.
It was a weird wait. For the first time, I felt like I was selling something and wanted to have customers.
As soon as the above thought crossed my mind, I saw a group of people approaching our table. Quickly handing them their share of knives, carrots, radishes, onions, tomatoes and so on, we inaugurated the competition. And then followed a hustle-bustle that kept us busy for the rest of the day. What with timing the participants, storing the plates for the judges to see, making available the necessary condiments and barring the participants from demanding extra cucumber, we lost track of time. By the end of the day, we were all completely spent.
The judge for the contest arrived and a crowd gathered to hear the result. She was amazed to find this culinary creativity in budding engineers…so beautifully were the salads garnished and so skilfully the shapes cut out of vegetables.
We proudly called them the Saladgineers of our event- “SALADGINEERING”.

I had written this in 2010 when the Bengali Committee in our colony had organized Rabindra Jayanti at Sarita Sadan. I had worn a red-and-white saree and recited Gurudev’s poetry. It was quite an experience. As usual, I felt awkward, wearing wet red lipstick, wanting to wipe it off, scared of swallowing it and feeling the glare of lights on my face. But when we ended, I couldn’t recognize myself. I felt like some artist flown in from Kolkata, such was the effect. 

Unnecessarily long sleep stretches had entered my life after the main bout of exams got over. Mum must have diagnosed it early as three days later, she sent me to Shibangi di’s place to meet up with the two enthusiasts behind the ‘Rabindra Jayanti’  on  16 May- Shibangi di and Neena aunty.
So,began another kind of coaching-a Bangla crash course or ‘Mastering Sruti Natok in a week’ programme. Anyway, coaching has been the buzzword in my life for two years now, though I expected this to be better than unbearable monologues by some middle-aged science freaks. And it lived upto my ideas-with visual aids,a comfortable and amiable environment and ample breaks.
The evening practices brought back those old times when I used to be a part of the plays, dances and songs. With Mili and Lipika aunties taking the lead; other kiddos had succeeded us (very well) in the dances. Catching up with friends was a bonus.
The result?
When D-Day arrived, the audience could vouch for me being a ‘pukka’ Bong! Success- that’s the word, I guess.