23:23

People believe I am mad, a crazy lunatic, obsessed with the time 23:23. But let me tell you something; I did not go searching for 23:23, it found me. It was relentless in its pursuit; it hounded me night and day, until I had no other choice but to acknowledge it. I tried everything, switched off my phone, tried to sleep when it was still a safe 22:22, shut my eyes and refused to look at my bedside clock. But somehow, somewhere I always managed to see 23:23.

I had such confidence in my sanity, my logic, my rationality; that I discussed about 23:23 with people, many people; my husband, friends, colleagues and believers in the paranormal. Some looked at me in awe, some even suggested I was a shaman and some strongly believed that I was ready to fall over the threshold of madness.

Before you throw away this paper, attributing it to the rant of a mad woman, let me tell you about me.

My name used to be Anu, short for Anuradha. I say used to be, because now, it is just patient no. 2323.

I was happy, once. I used to live in the bustling city of Bangalore, with its surprise showers and cool weather. I was married too, to the man of my dreams and I bore him two beautiful little girls, twins at that. In our uninhibited joy, we named them Thea and Rhea. Thea, Goddess of the moon and Rhea, the daughter of Gaia (Earth). Both my daughters orbited around each other from the time they were born. Oh how I had loved them until they were toddlers, their constant need to be with me, their constant demands, their unending cries for ‘Mumma’. That was only until they were old enough to realise that all they ever needed was each other. They had a look that was only meant for the other one, like telepathic Siamese twins.

Such strong was the connection between my daughters; that I became the ostracised mother who wasn’t privy to that bond.

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Fury…

It is past midnight. You struggle between the need to watch another episode of Black mirror, or to sleep. You take a look at the time again, 12:30 am. You calculate that if you sleep just about this minute, you would get exactly five hours of rest before your alarm starts screaming to “it’s all about that bass” by Meghan Trainor. A heavy cloud of exhaustion lowers itself and settles on your shoulders. You feel burdened, not just by your increasingly heavy frame but also by your head that carries viscous notions. You sigh and promise yourself that tomorrow you would put Adi early to bed, so that you would have the time to watch at least two episodes of Black Mirror and yet get to sleep by midnight.

You shut your laptop screen and half walk, half tumble into Adi’s room. Partly out of habit and partly out of admiration. You remember how terrified you were of sleeping alone when you were six. In fact, you admit to yourself, but only to yourself, that even now every night you have to stop yourself from begging your six year old to sleep with you, in your room.

You switch on the night-light and watch your little son sleep, his steady breathing calming the storm inside you. You are going to switch off the light and walk back into your room, but you decide against it. You don’t want your child to burden the night terrors that you did, growing up. You are about to turn your back to Adi, when you hear a scratching noise. Your hands freeze, an inch away from the night-light. You stop breathing, your eyes are wide, bulging out of their sockets. Your feet are tethered to the ground like massive Oak trees. Your heart…Your heart beating like horse hooves in a stampede, is the only sound you can hear now. You try telling yourself that you imagined the scratching noise. Yet a sane part of you begs you to double check under Adi’s bed, inside his closet and under the study table. So then, you attempt moving your feet that are still rooted to the ground, after some amount of nudging; they move and as if on autopilot, walk you back into your room. You try to convince yourself that if you don’t acknowledge the fear the fear, doesn’t exist.

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