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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Halloween gone wrong…

“Tonight, some one is going to kill us. Pick us off one by one, when we least expect it, when we think we are safe in our cozy dorms, snuggled up to our furry feline friends; the killer is going to come unnoticed, sneak up on us and before our cats can even raise an alarm, bury a hatchet in our brain and watch in rapt fascination when tissues of grey matter squiggle out of the only deep opening in heads.” I said in a silent whisper, hoping that I sound menacing enough to scare the girls.

“Ahhhh” I hear two, satisfyingly, loud intake of breaths just as Fuschia, my Persian cat, snuggles up to me demanding a belly rub.

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“Jasmine, you can do better than that. Come on, this remotely sounding prophetic statement wouldn’t scare an 9 year old, forget 19 year olds.” Laura, my nemesis, spoke clearly exasperated by our incompetence to scare each other.

But then again, I knew she had it in for me. From her ordinary mousy brown hair to her spectacled black eyes; from her evident poo belly to her H&M’s clearance sale clothes; Laura was not the type who would be asked out on a date even if she were the last girl in the dorm. Continue reading

The day Pikku disappeared

I make myself believe that I clearly remember the day Pikku disappeared. I remember the bright rays of sunshine that shone through our windows. I remember the smell of pancakes wafting up through the steps into our room. I remember mummy and daddy talking loudly, about something, something inconsequential to the memories of that day. I remember Pikku lifting my blanket and peeping inside, grinning. Her front two teeth were missing. All I saw were pink gums, bright blue eyes and flushed cheeks. Her brown hair fell in ringlets around her chubby face as she tickled me and ran down the steps giggling. I ran behind her, laughing loudly, “You chump, you absolute chump, I am going to get you.” I shouted. This was our weekend routine.

It always took me a while to settle into the skin of an elder brother, a whole two and half years older. Now that I am an adult, I realize how easy it is for a child to forget, forget that he is growing up. Continue reading

Come on Sarah!

Now that you had not seen this coming Sarah, it’s safer to assume, you are caught off-guard. Perfect. It’s time to put your training to use, and the training remember Sarah, as you have been told by Mr. Kyle repeatedly, is merely about strength, or agility, or tricks, it’s more about the awareness of your mind. So focus.

A man has broken into your house. You have heard the shattering of the window glass. It could be a wild animal too, but what if it is a man? An animal does not know you are home alone, a man does.

He knows you are alone and mom has said she will be late, so of course dad has a big enough window to go out and gamble. You be the secret keeper and don’t tell anyone, not even your brother Eddie when he comes back tomorrow, dad has told you and that’s fine. Let dad gamble. He is not an addict. Plus he is good at it. He is fine. You are fine. Everything is fine.

So come on now, do the thing where, facing downstairs, hands on railing, you hop down the stairs,  one at a time, when mom’s not watching, and it’s okay if it’s getting a lot harder now compared to how it felt a few years ago, because someone’s feet are getting longer every day.

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At fifteen, Sarah, you grow faster than ever. And people notice that sort of thing; “Hey! You are developing breasts!” Continue reading

What Else Do You See?

Saw him in a Jason Mask at the Halloween party last week, walked over and greeted, “Hi”, but there was no response. “So … ”, I said, from under my devil’s mask, my pitch trying to cut through the stereo woofing by the window, “I am Zach and you are?”

He walked away, out through the main door and disappeared somewhere near the driveway.

Called my girlfriend, “Sweetie, come over here”, she came close, half tipsy, breath smelling like vodka and cigarette, tail wagging like Catwoman, “Do you know who came to our party in a Jason Mask?”download

“In a what?”

“In a Jason Mask”

“What’s that? Are you drunk?”

“I am not drunk,” I said, pulled off my Devil’s mask and kept it on the corner table, “You are drunk … and Jason Mask is … have you not seen Friday the 13th?” Continue reading

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs!

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Detective Dumpty crinkled his nose at the smell of scrambled yolk that was emanating from the sidewalk. Another day another rotten egg cracked open on the pavement. He had reached the crime scene where his deputies were still drawing the outline of the dead body in chalk and others were holding back an eager crowd. Dumpty could make out the egg white and the yolk of the dead egg that were already beginning to cook in the heat of the sun. He could see a young newspaper egg carrying the morning edition, “Extra Extra, Jack the Cracker strikes again! Another rotten egg cracked open! Prime Minister to declare resignation today! Extra Extra.”

Dumpty glared at the newspaper egg and then noticed Benedict Singleyolk, the reporter for ‘The Transparent Shell’ the liberal propaganda mouthpiece that had squeezed this whole case for all that it was worth and more. Dumpty had always hated Singleyolk and his crazed conspiracy theories. His minute coverage of this case was churning Dumptie’s yolk inside his shell. He secretly hoped that Jack the cracker, as the serial killer had been dubbed, opened Singleyolk’s shell next. Continue reading