Friday, 29 February 2008

Moments after Death (fiction)

I still remember the sight when I first entered her room. The redness of her blood impregnated everything and it all radiated in a crimson shade of light. She lay there, on the floor, her body face down, arm stretched out and wrist slit. The moment halted, and time came to a surprising stand-still, as I absorbed the image in my mind. The stillness of her body, the river of blood, the peace on her face, the blood-bathed sheet of paper lying next to her and the knife...the culprit. In that moment, I already knew that I'd lost my best friend forever.

What happened next is still hazy. I can recall snapping out of my daze, and rushing forward. I could not feel the grief then, it was just hysteria. I turned her, I shook her, I took her blood-soaked arm and tried to find a pulse. I couldn't. Her eyes remained shut. She did not breathe. It was over.

It felt like a huge arm had clamped around my throat, and it was suffocating me. I fell back and sat still. Slowly, I reached out and dialled the number of the ambulance from my cellphone. How I remembered the number in that moment, I don't know. How I could make my fingers move, I cannot imagine. What I said on the phone, I cannot remember. The call ended, and I just sat there, unaware of anything. The imaginary arm relaxed, enough to let me breathe.

The sight before my eyes did not change, even the blood seemed to have frozen. I noticed that she had been wearing her favourite pink pyjamas. They were stained now. I observed that her hair was unruly, as if it hadn't been brushed for a few days. She'd probably just ruffled it, like she did when she cried. I saw the bracelet on her un-cut wrist, which had her initials NM strung together on a black thread. It was made of beads, five different colours. I cannot remember the colours now, but I remember they were very bright. She used to call it the Rainbow bracelet and she said she wore it because looking at the brightness gave her a reason to be cheerful. I looked around her, and saw the drenched piece of paper. I reached out and picked it up, and let the blood drip off. Then I read it.

It said...
I don't know who will see this letter first, so I don't know who to address it to. Whoever it is, I'm sorry you have to see me like this. I genuinely regret for anyone to see such a sight. You will not be able to forget this for maybe the rest of your life, but then, maybe that is what I want. I know that if you are the first one to see this, you probably know me, and all my life i've always wished to be in someone's thoughts forever. So, along with the apologies, I also thanking you, for fulfilling this desire of mine. Just to make things clear, this actually is a suicide. I will not rant about how sad I was or what a bitch life has been. I think this scene itself proves that, I don't need to put it in words. However, I want to say that I really did try. Don't judge me, and don't hate me.

If there is anything life has taught me, it is to keep trying till you die. I kept trying, but I'm choosing to die now. There comes a point in everyone's life when you seek eternal peace. I'm going in search of that peace, which no matter how hard I try, life will never be able to give me. I saw this knife today, and it screamed of peace, and the sound was so loud, I just could not ignore it. I decided to take this step because the silence offered by that noise was really irrisistible. The knife's shine is calling me, hollering for me to experience that end. It is magnetic and I cannot resist the pull much longer. I'm going to let it win, because I'm greedy for the reward. I beg you, don't judge me, please don't judge me.

I'm leaving behind a lot. There are people who love me, and will be destroyed by what i've done. But i've gone my whole life choosing my actions according to what others want from me, and now I just want to do what I want to do. I have put the most important people in my life as a priority, even before my own needs, and I don't regret that at all. I just want to put myself first now. It is selfish, but I have to do it. Maybe now, I will be a priority too. I lived like an option my whole life, it's time for a change now. There is only one person who has the slightest hint of this. I know he will try to stop this. I just want to explain to him, that there is nothing he could have done. I know he will miss me, and my heart weeps at the idea of what i'm doing to him. I'm sorry, but I cannot anymore. It's too hard. Just too hard. And now, the knife awaits me, it is asking me to succumb, and i'm going to give in. Please don't hate me... Naina

I don't know what I could have done and what I couldn't have. Now it did not matter. She'd ask me to not hate her, so I won't. Maybe this is the only thing I can do now.

The next few hours zoomed by. Paramedics came and took her away. It was over.

The redness blackened,
the light darkened,
the room emptied, a life just ended,
and with it, a part of my soul disappeared forever.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Can't Explain...

A simple home-cooked meal,
a decadent piece of chocolate cake,
a sip of piping tea,
the feeling, I can't explain.

The scent of my mother's hands,
a joke shared with dad,
a cosy meal at the table,
the feeling, I can't explain.

A desire finally fulfilled,
a challenging task overcome,
a phase of life changed,
the feeling, I can't explain.

An unexplained tear,
an urge to break-down,
the absolute pits,
the feeling, i just can't explain.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Milano: The Milanese (Part IV)

A city without its people is like a ravioli without the filling, like a pizza without topping, like a girl without pretty shoes! Milan, like any other metropolitan city has a mix of different kinds of people and cultures, but unlike other metropolitan city, there's a strange sort of homogeneity which is rather prevalant. Milan is probably the most international city in Italy, yet its foundation remains stubbornly Italian. If the cobbled streets don't remind you of where you are, the immaculately dressed, high-heeled, slim-waisted, stunner of a waitress definitely will!

People's Style

As I walk out of the metro at Piazza Duomo every day, my eyes dance around, prancing off and observing all those people who walk around me. Once overcome the grandness of the place, I steal a moment or two to notice those in my vicinity. Whether its the businessman in the chic Armani suit, or the little kid holding a big read baloon, whether its the skin-tight jeans wearing teenager, or the moderately dressed middle-aged woman carrying a Fendi bag...they all exude an obvious fashion sense, which i've never witness in any other city in the world! According to some statistics, (let's not be picky, I have NO idea where these stats come from!) an average earning Italian spends 40-45% of his/her income on clothes. I'd doubt this statistic anywhere else, but in Milan, this percentage seems to be just right!

I've learnt a lot about people's fashion on my gazillions of shopping trips with friends. Specially during the blessed sale times. As crazy as it might seem to me, spending 300 euros for Prada shoes seems to be quite acceptable here. I've gone roaming around Via Montenapoleone, the fashion Mecca, and have been absolutely dazzled by the displays, and the prices that accompany them. But to a Milanese, the 50% off tag is enough to go and purchase the most excuisite fashion accessories and garments. Oh, but don't be mistaken. The people I usually go shopping with are "poor" students, who thrive during sales. These branded fashion stores sell all year round, to the fashion-worshiping Milanese. Its us "poor" students who go buy 600 euro shoes at half price ( tsk tsk) or D&G jeans for 75% off ( sigh...).

Milan is home to some of the biggest fashion labels across the world. Names like Giorgio Armani, Benetton, Cavalli, Etro, Fendi, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Max Mara, Trussardi, Prada, and many more, are based here. I guess it's no wonder then, to see Fashion penetrating right down to the day-to-day wear of the Milanese. Walk into a Bocconi University classroom and this theory is instantaneously proven. From sunglasses to bags, from shoes to caps, from fur coats to low-cut jeans, everything is labelled! And these people would not have it any other way! Imagine my plight on the first day, when the girl sitting next to me was holding a Louis Vuitton bag, while I vehemently tried to hide my modest little jhola-bag bought from some godforsaken run-down shop on the streets of Delhi!

The Milanese Attitude

Eloquence seems to run in the air in this city, and the Milanese wear it with pride. Although accompanied by a genetic humility, they also hold a very obvious vanity in their demeanour. Two and a half years in the city has made me learn a considerable lot about the people, and their attitude sticks out like a shining sword.

Walking into a Bocconi classroom, again, once over the initial shock of the glaring brands, you tend to notice the behaviour of the people. There is a certain poise in the manner of speaking, it has a refined sound to it. Students being students, there is of course the general mocking and joking around, but still, somehow they even manage to be hooligans with some amount of style! I guess the Armani jeans and the Gucci shoes contribute to that....

Often known for their flamoyance and uhm, snobbery, the Milanese, like Italians from any other part of the country, are proud people and love to be what they are. They loudly criticize, happily drink and lovingly banter till they can scrape up energy. I feel, compared to other places in the country, the Milanese are a lot more open and accepting and willing to go international and let outsiders integrae with them. I admire them for their flexibility and the eagerness with which they want to expand out of their horizons.

The Milenese attitude is as infectious as the fashion sense, but heck, what do I have to fear? Can't hurt to be stylish, can it?

That's all for now....will come back with more snippets soon!

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Milano: Italians and their Coffee (Part III)

No matter how long you stay in a place, there will always be some things that will perpetually amuse you about the locals. In India, the gossiping "aunty-jis" have been quite a spectacle to me. In Bahrain, the horn-honking rich Arab brats, who drove around the main street on Saturday night, made me smirk. Then, I came to Italy...and Italians just take the cake when it comes to amusing! As a people, they're passionate and gregarious by nature, and their enthusiasm no less of being contagious. Having been bitten by most of their favourite bugs, i.e. fashion, food and fun, one still remains a leering enigma...their passion for good coffee!

Myself being loyal to my Indian tea, or Chai as it's called, it took me quite some time to appreciate Italian coffee. A typical Espresso is a shot of deep brown coffee served in a little cup, and usually drunk on the counter of any remotely italian looking bar. One word: Strong! This is the purest form of Italian coffee, any slight variation, and there's another name for it! There's the Caffé Macchiato ( expresso "stained" with a bit of milk), Cappucino (steamed milk with expresso), Latte Macchiato ( Milk "stained" with expresso), Caffé Corretto ( coffee "corrected" with alcohol, usually Grappa), Caffé Americano (tall glass of expresso), Caffé Hag ( Decaf), Caffé Marocchino ( with some milk and cocoa powder)...and many, trust me, MANY more kinds...

To an ignorant outsider, like me, this special treatment given to a drink is nothing short of alluring. Watching Italians drink their espresso on the counter, any untrained eye would see it as a 3 second action, which doesn't require much thought or time to enjoy the drink. Eight years of experience however, opens your eyes to a lot more. It's not just an activity, its a ritual. Its an integral part of life. It's almost as religious as prayer. It's a lifeline! Try to take an italian of their coffee for a day, and there, you've unleashed a monster! It's this tiny little drink that keeps them so joyful and amiable. Miss a day of coffee, and all the grumpiness comes gushing out. Take my word for it, i've was NOT pleasant!

In Milan, like any other city, town, village, locale, etc, in this country, every corner has a bar or coffee shop or restaurant which serves italians their beloved drink. I've even written about one such place before, Lino's Coffee. But it is an entirely different experience making this coffee at home. Having recently moved into a typical century old italian house, I found several "macchine del caffé", i.e. coffee machines stacked up in the kitchen. There are 5 of them, all different sizes, depending on how many cups of coffee is needed to be made. Now, this Moka is a very special kind of coffee maker. I shamefacedly asked a friend to teach me, and he very professionally and proudly did. There are three "compartments" in this utensil. The bottom one is where you fill the water, the middle is a little containd, with filtering holes, where you fill the coffee, and then there's the top part, where you, well, dont put anything. The water boils in the lower container, and goes through, and then, with the coffee streams into the top compartment, from where you can pour the coffee out. Whoever thought of this thing must have been a downright genius, since making a coffee has never been simpler than this!

My belief about the love italians have for their coffee was reinforced when recently a friend, who's currently in America for an exchange program told me about her little exchange of words at the university caffeteria. It went something like this:
Friend: Hello, One espresso please.
Poor coffee girl: Ok, what size?
Friend: Umm, Bye.
Then she left.

So, if there's one (more) thing that you should never dream of messing up when around Italians, its their caffé!

That's all for now...there's a lot more where this came from.
Till next time...ciao!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Story of a Cake

In a bowl of anticipation,
an eager mix of glee and glow,
a spoonful of excitement,
and dash of sweet and low,
a beater waiting lovingly by,
a pinch of fear sprinkled on,
the powdered bits of gusto,
mixing till the butter's gone.

Meticulously, stirred and beat,
the wonderful color of affection,
the chocolatey softy creamy brown,
all put together until perfection.

Poured into a dish of joy,
flowing fluidity the batter bore,
the tenderness of hopeful care,
the gentle warmth of the oven door.

In sometime, with shining eyes,
the pick is recovered clean,
the plateful of love is ready,
radiating a delightful gleam.

Once out, it sits exposed,
the eyes dart expectantly around,
they sadly meet an emptiness so vast,
the heart breaks with a cackling sound.

Untouched, it lies in dismal waiting,
for a desireful mouth-watering heir ,
unfortunately denied of its one wish,
there isn't one with whom to share...