The Anniversary Gift

The sky was a silent black slate, peppered with millions of tiny white dots. Amy was on her way home from work when she felt a cool breeze on her brow. A misty, chilly exhale followed every time she drew a breath. She enjoyed the crisp weather as she gazed around at the swaying leaves. The moon shone bright and was the only light source visible for miles. Soon, her path was obscured by darkness. Amy was exhausted. She’d had a long day.

Amy pushed the heavy gates of her house, her hand entirely seized by the touch of the iron bars, which were as cold as ice. The old cobblestone path beneath her was rough but smooth compared to the crunching of the dead leaf she stepped on. As her house got closer, everything around her became discreet and more distant. The murmurs of the trees had faded, and the cold iron gates were far in the distance. In front of her was the doorway.

Outside, her house appeared tall and thin, built out of large, dark grey stones with a rough texture, all sandwiched together by crumbling cement. Climber plants grew up the house, snaking around the drainpipes, soaking up the scant sunlight that reached this deserted location. The windows in the house shook violently in the wind. A few potted plants sat next to the door, once there to make a lovely appearance but now floppy and brown, almost certainly dead. The door was left ajar. William was desperate to see her.

Usually, Amy preferred to spend her Sundays curled up against her pillows with a bottle of beer, a crumpled bag of chips, and a Netflix series to watch with her husband. Instead, she had to spend the day burying her nose in documents and tossing the papers around restlessly.

She would have been able to enjoy the delicious dinner her husband had prepared for her if her co-worker didn’t back off the assignment at the last minute. She knew her husband would be angry at her for being late, but she needed to get to work. She decided not to stew in bitterness today because nothing could ruin her good mood.

It was half past ten by the time Amy arrived home. William was enraged because he had spent the entire evening waiting for her. He was about to call her when he heard the door in the hall open, and his wife called out to him, “Baby, I’m home; I am so sorry for being late; now, where are you?” But William was annoyed at her for being late even today.

Today was different from any other day; it was the couple’s second wedding anniversary.

When Amy returned, the festive atmosphere had vanished into thin air. The excitement he had catapulted to surprise her with a gift suddenly felt like a vacuum. Not only was he in a distasteful mood, but he also stormed down the stairs, looked at his wife, and began yelling before she could explain. “Did you notice the time? Do you know what makes today so special? Why are you so late?” William went all guns blazing on her. At the very least, he expected her to tell the truth today.

Amy had seen this coming. She wanted to avoid sulking and squandering the time until their anniversary was over. The following day was Monday, and she would return to her usual routine.

“Baby, I’m sorry; I know you’re upset, but I had important work at the office, please understand!” said Amy curtly.
Before William could question her further, Amy quickly went to her bedroom to dress -up. Her romantic side hoped that William wouldn’t make any more commotion.

Amy smiled as she set the table with a beautiful tablecloth and centerpiece, lit the candles for ambiance, warmed the food, and placed it on the table. She then plonked on the chair as if she was having dinner only for eating.

They ate silently, and she could tell he was still mad at her. So she decided they needed to do something different to lift their spirits, and what could be better than a dance. Amy played a song, and they danced for a while. It felt good to lose herself in him as she slipped her arms around his neck. But her efforts had little effect on William.

Soon, they decided to call it a day because it was already midnight. Amy fell asleep quickly as they lay in bed. William took a long gaze at her face, the night light making her look more beautiful by the minute.

William had been anticipating this moment for a long time. The sweet love drama had already consumed so much of his time that he didn’t want to waste it any longer. For the past month, Amy’s night routine had become more frequent. Every evening, she made a new excuse. Sometimes it would be hour-long traffic jams, a flat tyre, or her work keeping her in the office for long hours. But William had overlooked these things until one day, he saw Amy in the arms of her boss. It felt like a joke for a split second. He couldn’t believe what he saw.

He wanted to confront Amy and give her another chance if she could start over. He couldn’t think of a better occasion than his wedding anniversary. But even today, she had lied to him. William had yet to learn how long she had been doing this. She’d gotten quite good at it by now. It was difficult to tell when she was lying and being herself.

“How could she do this to me?” William thought. He had loved her with all his heart. This, however, was the final straw. William knew exactly what he needed to do at this point.

William looked down upon his sleeping wife, carefully picked her up in his arms, taking care not to wake her up, and went inside the bathroom to relieve the emotional burden. His lips curled into a sneer at the thought of soaking her pretty little nightdress in a pool of cold water. And with that, very firmly and slowly, he drowned his wife in the already-filled bathtub, a psychotic decision. Amy awoke, startled to find herself drowning and her husband murdering her. She gasped for air, but the handgrip on her was too tight. She frantically struggled to get out of the water but in vain.

“I’m sorry, darling, but I believe this is the only anniversary gift you deserve. I trusted you so much, I had no idea you’d cheat on me,” said William, and with that, he bid Amy goodbye before she could respond. She tried to scream, but her voice was cut short by a terrible pressure against her throat, which obstructed her breathing. A few minutes later, she lay motionless in the water. Finally, the emotional burden felt light. William was now a free man. He swiftly grabbed her and hid her body in the basement.

At once, he dashed into the hallway. Not long before he moved towards the stair, he noticed, from the corner of his eye, that the chair in the dining room had been jolted back and tilted towards him. He pushed those thoughts aside, wondering if he was hallucinating. But then he felt a sudden puff of air on his earlobe. He shuddered slightly, and his heart began to race, for he knew he had committed a crime. He stood still, petrified, unable to make any movement. Was something haunting William?

He turned around, but all he could see was dust floating in the air. With no time to waste, he dashed up the stairs, cringing at each creak, but this didn’t deter him from reaching the second-floor bedroom. He changed his clothes and packed his belongings for his departure from the city. He had already disposed of all the evidence. No one in the neighbourhood had heard any screams coming from his home. It was the perfect gift or the perfect revenge for his sweetheart.

William approached the bedroom door and attempted to turn the knob, but it fell off as soon as he touched it. This scared him a little. His heart began to tick-tock like a clock. He inhaled deeply and punched the door, but it refused to budge an inch. After a five-minute struggle, he finally pushed the door open, only to hear a crackling voice.

“Aren’t you forgetting something, Honey?” said the voice.

He froze, startled by the sudden noise, and his pulse quickened. His teeth began to chatter, and his knees started to jelly as he turned back to see a greenish-white light flickering from the corner of the room. The light gradually grew larger, taking on the shape of his now-late, beloved wife. Mist obscured his vision, but he saw her moving towards him in the shadows. As she came closer, sweat trickled down his body, his spine stiffened, her cries echoed in his head, and his heart raced as her dark eyes blazed with agony. As she moved, water dripped down her hair. William took a big swig.

“Where is my anniversary present, my darling?” the phantom howled.

William tried to speak, but his mouth was so dry from fear that he could only make soft gasping noises. Amy’s once beautiful face had turned into a hideous green mask as the glowing phantom approached William. “You killed me, Dear Husband. Don’t you expect a return gift now?” she smirked.

“Happy Anniversary, darling,” said the phantom. “This is my gift for you.”

The phantom then pulsed with a wild green light, closing in on William as the noise grew louder and louder. After that, it pounced on William, pressing his face against a pillow. He then felt a sudden twitch underneath him. At that moment, William realized it would soon be over. The world quickly darkened.

The following day, when the maid arrived, she discovered William’s body lying in a pool of blood in the bathtub, his neck twisted. Amy was nowhere to be found.

Nobody will ever know what happened in that house, but if you were the maid, would you be able to sleep at night?



Ananya sat in the corner of a coffee shop, weeping, hidden from the gaze of others. She did not want others to see her in such a precarious position. She held her head down, her eyes fixed on the table, and her phone balanced on her lap. Aman, the coffee shop manager, saw her but did not want to intrude on her privacy. So he turned his attention elsewhere, but Ananya had caught his eye. Therefore, she became alarmed because she didn’t want to seem like a five-year-old.

She looked depressed, with dull brown eyes and heavy bags under them from a lack of sleep. Her dry hair flew everywhere as it emerged from her hurried messy bun, which stood embarrassingly over her head. She wore a crimson wrap-around crop top with cream palazzos, supported by a dandelion-coloured belt that complemented her ivory skin. Aside from her glum expression, she looked stunning.

Aman was saddened to see her depressed state. He wished he could console her, but it was against his rules. He didn’t know her name. She hadn’t ordered anything since she arrived, and asking her to leave would be impolite. She was weeping, she was clearly in a vulnerable state, and the least he could do was leave her alone.

But could he? Any tear that Ananya shed drew him closer to her. He couldn’t look away from her or her pretty face. The coffee shop was almost empty, and there were only a few customers to serve. With nothing much to do, Aman made a tasty ‘Hot Chocolate.’ And with that, he went and placed it on Ananyas’ table. She didn’t look up; maybe she was trying to hide her face or overlooking Aman. Aman thought it was best to leave her. He had already done his job.

Aman returned to the counter, but he kept staring at Ananya out of the corner of his eye. He wanted her to drink the coffee so she might feel better. But Ananya was busy staring at her phone screen with dull orbs, struggling to hold back the tears that threatened to fall from her eyes. Her coffee’s steam swirled above the mug and clung to the coffee shop window, obscuring her view of the world beyond the glass. She was still lost in her phone. 📱

Some of the 8-10 customers that sat in the coffee shop had started to leave. Aman was still waiting for Ananya to drink the coffee but realized it would have become cold. Just when he was going to clean her table, Ananya glanced up, surprised to find a cup of coffee on her table. She hadn’t ordered anything. She wiped her tears and, on instinct, turned to look at an approaching Aman, who had stopped midway. Their eyes met for a split second, after which Ananya returned her gaze to the cup of coffee. Without saying or asking anything, she slowly drank the cold coffee, left money on the table, and hurriedly walked out of the coffee shop. Aman was perplexed. Perhaps something was seriously wrong in her life. He wished to see her the next day, but she was just another customer, and he was just another regular working in a coffee shop. So he let go of the possibility of seeing her again. But was she ‘just another customer?’

There she was, precisely at 7 pm, at the same table. She wore a lovely red colour long skirt that flattered her white button-down shirt very well. She wore a scintillating choker that enhanced the beauty of her overall look. She was gorgeous. But only if she removed this gloomy look and smiled. Still, Aman was delighted to see her. He hadn’t expected she would come. Yet again, she sat staring at her phone. Aman still didn’t know her name, and there was no way to ask her. He decided to do what he was best at, making and serving coffee. He prepared another cup of coffee, a ‘Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino,’ set it on her table and left.

From her peripheral vision, Ananya saw a pair of legs walk past her table. The urge to look at the coffee shop guy was intense, but she didn’t want to look up and meet his gaze. So she did what she was best at, ignoring and pretending. She curled her tiny, slender fingers around her cup and lifted it to see its wet condiment through the transparent lid. She then took a long sip with the straw, the sweet taste of coffee overwhelming her taste buds. Once her coffee was finished, she got up, put the money on the table, and left. This became her usual routine.

She came everyday. Same time, same table. Often she would sit silently; other times, her fingers would drum along to the soft music playing in the coffee shop, and now and then, her head would bop in sync with the beat of the music. But she was always alone, troubled, and distraught. She never ordered anything, but Aman always brought her a fresh cup of coffee every day. He had her try everything, from ‘Vanilla Latte’ to ‘Caffé Mocha’ to ‘Choco Java Chip.’ But they still didn’t know each other’s names. There was an unspoken agreement between them, unspoken words that they exchanged, an unspoken relationship that they didn’t know was brewing between them. A lot can happen over a cup of coffee! ☕️

Ananya liked coming to this coffeeshop now. This was one of the best coffee shops in the city. The air here was always overflowing with a dizzying array of coffee aromas mixed in an unforgettable blend of nuances. There were sounds of people chatting, cups being picked off plates, and assistants working, all of which contributed to the vibrant and enthusiastic atmosphere. Baked foods were always neatly arranged on the transparent glass cabinet, ready to be served. There were also a variety of cakes like Blueberry Cheesecake, Loaves, and Cookies. The walls were decorated with vintage photographs, encouraging coffee tasters to admire the photography techniques and remember their past. The nine-foot-high ceiling of the coffee shop was always lit up with low lights that were bright enough to reflect on the chestnut-coloured furniture.

Ananya enjoyed coming into this mini art museum and sitting in her cozy corner, silently staring at the pictures in this peaceful setting, sneaking glances at Aman. They all seemed to combine so well with each other that Ananya thought she was a slacker in such a beautiful setting. But who would tell her that it was her, who was the beautiful setting for Aman?

Everyday, Aman waited for her to give her a new coffee, expecting her to smile once. This continued for a month. Suddenly after that, she stopped coming. Aman waited for her. He hoped everyday she would come. But there was no sign of her. He felt sad, but what could he do. He didn’t know her name. Maybe everything returned to normal in her world now that she had shaken his world. Nature’s equilibrium was preserved. 💔

After about 2 months, Aman heard a sweet voice when making entries in the register. His heart had a feeling it was her. He didn’t want to believe it, but something compelled him to tell her it was her. The unspoken connection.

He didn’t want to look up. Was it her?

“Hi,” Ananya said. Aman raised his head, shocked to see her. He may have died just to see her again. ‘Happy’ didn’t even come close to describing how he felt at that moment. Suddenly, everything in the universe felt small in comparison to that moment. He couldn’t believe it. He thought he was dreaming when Ananya said, “Hi, my name is….”

Aman was so engrossed in her that he didn’t even hear her name. He just stood there, admiring her appearance. Today, she was smiling. She looked happy. Gorgeous. Lovely. Stunning. Aman could use all the good adjectives to describe her today. Even that would be less. Ananya wore the same dress she wore the first time she met Aman. Indirectly. But she looked her best today because she was smiling. She’d let her hair down today, cascading down her back. She’d let an unruly smear of hair fall down her forehead, which Aman wished he could tuck behind her ear. Her silky black hair matched her well, and this was the first time Aman had a good look at them. The caramel highlights in her hair offered a pleasant contrast of shade, which reminded him of decadent desserts that are hard to resist. Ananya had never let her hair down everytime she came to the coffee shop. They were tied in a sloppy bun or poorly drawn back into a chignon.

Today her chocolate brown eyes met Aman for the first time. How long he had wanted her to look at him like that! Her cherry-red lips added a pop of colour to her skin. Her delicate hands terminated in painted, polished butterscotch nails. Did he mention charming and attractive? 😍

Aman’s reverie broke when Ananya said, “Hi, for the third time, can I please have a Hot Chocolate?”

“Sure madam, Short, Tall, Grande, Venti?” stammered Aman. He was mentally kicking himself for not reacting the other two times Ananya spoke to him.

“Much like the first time you gave it to me”, replied Ananya with a blush. That Hot Chocolate worked like a charm.

“And what name do I write on your cup?” asked Aman.

“Ananya”, she replied, and went back to sitting in her cozy space in the coffee shop. Finally!

Aman prepared the coffee, went and set it on her table. He paused to speak with her, then realized it would be inappropriate to talk to a customer in this manner. Hence, he turned around and was about to leave when Ananya said, “wait, I am sorry.” For shaking his world upside down?

“I am sorry ma’am, I didn’t understand you”, replied Aman, as he turned towards Ananya.

“Please don’t call me ma’am, and will you please sit down so that we can talk? Can we not pretend Aman?” Thanks to the nametag on his apron.

“Yes, sure, but…how do you know my name?” asked Aman, completely forgetting about his nametag. Ananya pointed towards it. Aman felt stupid to have pointed out such an obvious thing.

Ananya signalled Aman to sit on the chair opposite her. He hesitated because there were other customers, but he wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Once both got comfortable, Ananya said, “The first time I came here, I was crying. I’d had a bitter breakup with the guy I dated for 6 long years. He called me that day to tell me he had fallen out of love and didn’t want to continue our relationship. That day was the day he had proposed to me first. I couldn’t believe it. It broke my heart.” Life doesn’t play fair, mainly concerning matters of the heart.

“I came to this coffee shop to sit alone and do nothing. My phone was open and displayed the text from him, the text I was constantly looking at – Please live your life and let me live mine! We are done! I wanted to throw my phone across the coffee shop and scream, but I didn’t want to create a scene.”

Before Aman could respond, Ananya added, “I want to thank you. Before you ask why, please allow me to finish. I came here every day to sit and contemplate what I could do with my life. How could the one I cared about the most leave me in such a way? I wanted to slit my wrists and die. But then your coffee came along and shook my world of lost hope. Your coffee gave me a different reason to get up in the morning. I started looking forward to different coffees everyday.”

Aman made a gesture to speak. He wanted to tell her he was glad he could help her. He wanted to say so much more and show her he could do anything for her love, fight anyone who made her cry, but he settled for thinking he was just a coffeeshop guy. Ananya kept her fingers on his mouth to prevent him from speaking and said,

“With different coffees everyday, you showed me that there are flavours, that I have options in this world, and that I don’t have to settle for one. If I didn’t try new flavours, I would have missed out on the best. You saved my life. After the breakup, I was scared to invest in any connection. I was afraid, not to commit, but to surrender myself and place my heart ❤️ into hands that didn’t know how to hold it. But you rekindled my faith in love. It took me 2 months to realize my feelings. Those 2 months when I didn’t come to the coffeeshop, I realized I missed your coffee, I missed you, so I finally dared to accept something. And I am just going to say it.”

Ananya sat down on one knee, took his hands in hers, and confessed, “So I am back in this coffee shop for you, Aman, to tell you that I have fallen for you. It’s not the best pickup line ever, but I want to tell you, you are just the way I like my coffee.”

“You mean different flavours everyday?” asked Aman, hinting at the possibility of different men in her life.

Ananya laughed and said, “I meant, I like my coffee just the way YOU make it!”

“I love you Ananya!” replied Aman, as he pulled Ananya in his arms. Love me like you do, la-la-love me like you do, touch me like you do, ta-ta-touch me like you do…plays in the background.

Love always finds you, if you make room for it. People say love hurts, but love is the only thing in this world that covers up all the pain.

Don’t Hide your Pride! 🌈

No one deserves to live in a closet. That’s what Harry Potter movies taught us, right?

So let’s talk about some who are still ‘closeted’ and whom we call homosexuals. Don’t worry if you’re homophobic. This post isn’t for you, but here’s a great welcome to those who think this is perfectly normal and believe homos aren’t on the wrong side of the wall.

In today’s world, we see that identity is an essential aspect because it explains an individual’s characteristics. This aids in categorizing them, making it easier for us to deal with these people. But who are these people?

They are just ordinary people who are attracted to the same gender. They should not be labelled as “not straight.” Do we refer to the colour black as non-white? Or the bottle of ketchup as non-mustard? Giving people names or labelling them has long been a practice. The person is branded into a pre-determined category where all people with that “label” are viewed as the same.

Why is it so difficult to accept that a girl loves another girl or a boy loves another boy the same way a man loves a woman? Is marrying a person of the opposite gender only justified because they can have children while Homos cannot? There are adoption homes and orphanages, still love, or marriage should not be done solely to have children. To live a happy and peaceful life, all one needs is a companion to share their love with.

If we follow nature’s lead, we will realize that sexuality was implanted in our bodies primarily for reproduction, and we’re all here as a result. It’s because there is pleasure attached to it. But if there was no pleasure in it, no one would do it; giving birth is a harrowing experience for a woman. Even so, we see that many people today do not pursue pleasure. Just because someone is romantically attracted to another person does not mean they must be sexually attracted to that person, right? It’s because some people can think beyond their hormones.

Many people consider homosexuality an illness, a sinful act that can be remedied. But how can you rectify something that isn’t wrong? How can medicine be created when there is no disease? Covid requires treatment. Identities don’t. Love is not bad, and it can be felt by anyone.

We’ve all grown up watching Disney movies that instilled morality in children subtly. But who decides what morals should be depicted in these films? Why does only a Prince save Sleeping Beauty or fall in love with Cinderella? Why can’t it be a Princess?

With heterosexuality as society’s assumed sexuality, non-heterosexuals face increased discrimination and prejudice. The prevalence of heteronormativity in popular culture has altered how people perceive homosexuality. It’s like public vs. private, with heterosexuality being public and homosexuality being confidential, thus not to be discussed. Do we still have that age-old thinking ki jo chala aa raha hai, wahi theek hai? The problem is this is what we have been taught as kids. It was Jack and Jill who went up the hill, and not Jack and Johnny!

This is one of the topics that is rarely discussed, particularly in India, where it is considered a stigma, and societal acceptance is still a long way off. However, young people are becoming more accepting of this due to the increased awareness generated by social media and films. Homosexuality was subtly depicted in films such as Kapoor & Sons, Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, Dostana, and others. These films made numerous attempts to challenge society’s established norms. However, they are still few and far between. So there is a growing need for more attempts to challenge and subvert the established sexual orientation norms.

But that’s just one part of the problem. The bigger ones come when homosexuals are told things like, “I can cure your disease,” or “So what’s in your pants?” “You don’t look like one,” “There are only two genders,” “It’s a phase,” or “Just pick a side.” Well, attraction isn’t a game of dodgeball, is it?

The fact that one aspect of the physical occupies so much of the human mind creates a wrong view of life. Being ruled by your sexual orientation, whether hetero or homo, is essentially the same thing. You are entirely ruled by one aspect within you. An aspect created for a specific purpose has now become the most dominant factor in you, to the point where you cannot think otherwise. Isn’t it a pity? Nature trusted us, humans, with our intelligence and believed that our minds could function independently of our hormones, but much of humanity has failed nature. So it doesn’t matter what kind of sexual identity we’ve received; being identified with a few body parts is terrible enough.

Many people in the world are confused as to what precisely determines sexual orientation. Several scientific studies have been conducted, and the findings contradict people’s commonly held beliefs. Most people believe that because they are different, homosexuals must be strange, cursed, immoral, or subject to punishment. Because of this fear, people remain in the closet, sometimes forever, because they don’t want to become prey to the judgmental eyes of their family and the world. How difficult will it be for their parents to find them a match of the same gender? Will the homophobic society accept it? (But then homosexuality ends with ‘ality,’ so does ‘reality’ and ‘personality.’ While homophobia ends with ‘phobia,’ which is an anxiety disorder, and OMG! It’s that part of the society that needs help, not the Homos. They are doing great!)

But thankfully, the attitude towards homosexuality has shifted over time. It is no longer considered abnormal behaviour and has been removed from the list of mental disorders. It has been decriminalized in many countries like Argentina, Australia, France, South Africa, the UK, and India, too (cheers to section 377 of the Indian Penal Code).

With such awareness, many events have been held for this community. For example – Gay and Lesbian Pride in Johannesburg, The Gay and the Lesbian film festival in Lisbon, Porto Pride Party in Portugal, Pink Dot in Singapore, etc. Cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Nagpur, and many others, have also hosted the gay pride march. This clearly shows India’s homosexual community and how vocal they are in their demands and rights. Even though it took a lot of time, the decision regarding Section 377 is commendable.

If you’ve made it this far, I’d like to thank you for your time because it means you’re not one of those ‘homophobes.’ We need more people like you in this world. Surely then, will we get the nerve to convince the rest of the world to change its mind and welcome diversity in all its forms?

I remember reading these beautiful lines somewhere “being a homo is like being left-handed. Some people are, most people aren’t, and nobody knows why. But it’s not wrong or right. It’s just the way it is!” You can think of it this way, or, more importantly, you don’t have to label them because they aren’t different. They are Homo sapiens (the scientific name of the human species). 

So whenever a person goes up to them and asks about their identity, it reminds them that coming out is never a one-time thing! Every new person they meet, they get asked the same question. It’s frustrating.

Therefore the next time someone tells you or your homo friend that being “homo” is actually a CHOICE, please ask them – When did they decide to become STRAIGHT? 

Here’s to loving who you love, to stand in your authenticity, and to the people of generations passed who fought to gain the rights and opportunities that are there in the world today. ❤️

Let’s celebrate the national #pridemonth 🏳️‍🌈 and spread some love!

The Future looked Positive but turned out Negative!

Many years ago, people expected that 2020 would be a year of growth and success. So we were all living comfortably as we awaited this future. Greta Thunberg’s School Strike for Climate captivated the world’s attention. We were making memes on how to fix things with instant noodles, etc., until the time a strange, unheard virus shattered everything we used to perceive as usual. The lethal virus, COVID-19, has become a household name now. #COVID has been the most often used expression in history.

We, humans, have a proclivity to manipulate life so that we can chart our own path toward achieving our goals. But life, contrarily, has other intentions and does not always go as planned. For example, who would have expected a pandemic to occur, stranding us inside our homes?

The yearlong lockdown compelled mankind to reconsider the decisions made over the last few decades. Things we took for granted were quickly ripped away from us. Such as how we used to head off to college, how we dressed up for celebrations, the quick drive we used to take to the nearest grocery store, or how we waited in theatres to see movies. Our lifestyles have changed dramatically due to digitalization, from socializing with peers to “let’s do a zoom call.”

2020 was a one-of-a-kind experience for everybody. It has forced people to change their working patterns from the workplace to the home, forcing them to devote more time to care for their loved ones. Others found it frustrating due to the large amount of free time, where they were curled up at home with little to do but watch Netflix and scroll Instagram. Although some enjoyed this isolation, others were experiencing difficulties. In those times, daily wage workers and unorganized sectors struggled to survive and earn a living.

The “New Normal”

How we lived in 2020 is now a part of our everyday lives. However, boredom has led people to pursue their passions, which they once had little time for. Many people have shown their culinary abilities, while some have admitted their enjoyment of reading books. In contrast, others have used this time to take new online courses.

Last year, the malls, restaurants, movie theatres, saloons, shops, schools, colleges, and religious places, were shut. The world had come to a standstill. But that made us realize that we can still lead our lives. We do not need to go out for vacation, order food from outside, or necessarily sit in the office for long hours. This period has made us realize our existence, the importance of family relations, and spending quality time.

Now slowly and steadily, things are opening up, and the countries are trying to get back to being “normal,” or whatever the hell it is. Since we operate from home, businesses have reduced office rooms, expenses, and travel budgets for themselves and their workers. Furthermore, for a large city like Mumbai, the traffic was atrocious. People now save a lot of time by not getting caught in traffic. This time is better spent on other things. This trend of WFH is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.

What’s in Store Ahead?

People all over the world are profoundly shaken and affected. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on many facets of the world’s economy, finances, families, jobs, and physical and mental health. Nonetheless, humans remain hopeful that the planet will return to pre-pandemic times. We want to feel secure in our lives and be in command of them. But this has drained us emotionally, and we are stuck in a never-ending cycle of “what if it never happens?” This has caused us to conjure up hypothetical possibilities about what will happen next, but no one knows. We’re all in the same boat.

Everyone is clueless right now. We cannot predict what disease will come next. Where will the following bushfires be, or will life change for the better? Will we ever shake hands and hug our friends like before?

What will the ‘post-coronavirus civilization’ bring for us?

Over the early years, there was a pervasive belief that the world would eventually improve. However, in the name of progress, man has destroyed nature, resulting in the annihilation of mankind. For example, humans caused a lot of emissions by using cars and ships and establishing new industries. Much of this has, in the long term, affected our lives. We’ve got Asthma, Diphtheria, and other illnesses. Nature, however, is recovering as a result of the pandemic. The Ganges Water, which was formerly polluted, is now comparatively clean. 

Before Covid-19, we lived as if we were the ultimate identity on this planet, taking advantage of man-made facilities to the next level. We didn’t realize that there is a high risk of the emergence of life-threatening illnesses capable of eradicating our simple mortal being. Following the Covid-19 episode, we must be careful that more lethal diseases could occur. Because Covid-19 leaves no stone unturned to persuade us that other events are possible, humans are not impressed. Are we waiting for a more lethal version to jolt us out of our stupor?

2020 will live on in people’s minds for the rest of their lives. It will be remembered as the incident that threw our lives into disarray. It resulted in tumultuous changes. It was an excruciatingly difficult year for some. In contrast, for others, it was a year with a complete lull in their calendar.

I recall that 2021 began with new dreams, resolutions, and prayers. People were hoping for life to return to normal.
But are we making some realistic decisions for 2021 based on last year’s experience? Or are we simply waiting for the vaccine to allow us to resume doing whatever we were doing before the virus paralyzed us?

Since the future is unknown, it is up to us to make decisions that will pave the way for new opportunities. Some paths may lead us to harmony and peace, similar to how the sun rises every day in the hope of igniting a new desire and longing. Our happenings from the past and the present can affect our future.

The covid vaccine will become readily available in the market soon. Most people will wear masks even a year from now, and lifts will have self-cleaning buttons. We may or may not have virtual yoga lessons or squats with a bag full of books, but we will certainly meet the demands of pandemic-era exercise.

Although there’s one thing we have discovered now- we learn best when we are affected as individuals, when our freedom and satisfaction are at stake.

To all the people out there, stay home, stay safe, and save lives. Remember, you are not stuck at home. You are safe at home! Please use double masks, sanitize yourself, and get your vaccine as soon as possible! We will fight this together!

Lifeline to Lifeless…

To many people, it may appear to be a mode of transportation, but only a true Mumbaikar knows what it’s like to travel in a Local train. Yes, it is the lifeline of Mumbai- a model based on diversity and plenty of human emotions.

A Local Train approaching the station

The city once known as Bombay, now Mumbai, is known by many names like, ‘the city of dreams’ or ‘the city that never sleeps.’ It is described as a city brimming with passion and opportunities, its willingness to walk that extra mile, and its fast-paced way of life – it is said that Mumbai never stops!

This pace of life can be found nowhere else in the country, a pace that is often suffocating for some and a blessing for others. This pace is amplified by the local trains of Mumbai. These trains are evidence of the city’s strength, which may explain why the announcement to suspend railway service as a control measure against Covid-19 on March 23, 2020 was regarded as a watershed moment.

Yesterdays’ lifeline has become Today’s nostalgia!

I recall the first time I had to use local. I had avoided it for a long time, yet in 11th grade, I had no choice but to use local because my college was far away and there was no point in wasting money on an auto-rickshaw. My father accompanied me to the station for the first time, and he instructed me to board the train as soon as it arrived. I assumed (having never travelled from the local during the rush hours) it would be simple: the train would stop, people would disembark, and people from here would then get in. But, of course, what was I thinking? LOL!

I couldn’t get inside the first train with all that bhaag-daaud and dhakka-mukki. That was the time my bubble of misconception broke. The fact that I thought people waited for the train to stop and everything was in order, was just a joke! My father was laughing as he looked at me. He said I had to push people and find a way in because there was no other way. Mumbai mein rehna hai toh local mein chadhna toh seekhna hi padega! (If you want to stay in Mumbai, you need to learn to travel by local trains).

I was a little annoyed by people’s impatience to get inside the train, battling for that little leg space, hanging on their dear life, and saying “aage badho.” Why can’t they just wait for people to get out properly and then get in? Train rookne se pehle chadhna zaroori hai kya? But by the second time, I was determined to catch the next train, by hook or by crook! So as soon as the train came I shamelessly elbowed the people to get inside. I wanted to turn around and wave goodbye to Dad, but by the time I did, the train had already moved away from the platform, having been stopped for two minutes! I was curious if my father was still laughing.

Well, that was my first experience, and after that I completely fell in love with the connectivity of local trains in Mumbai. Now that it’s stopped, I recount some amazing things about Mumbai locals –

1- It’s Aamchi Mumbai : When these words are spoken, the true spirits of local trains are reflected in them. Locals have become a symbol of Mumbai, so it’s no surprise that regular visitors refer to them as their first home.

2- It’s a ‘fare’ deal (see what I did there) : because it’s cheap, fast, easy, and you can go wherever you want, thanks to the connection between the three major railway lines – Western, Central, and Harbour. Remember the times when Nokia came out with the tagline ‘connecting people’? Well, I don’t know about the phone but with its colossal network of criss-cross metal rails and overhead electric lines, the local helps 7.5 million commuters to travel daily. It surely serves as a great connecting network!

3- The helpful crowd : As a commuter, all you have to do is purchase a ticket, the rest is handled by the crowd. When the local train arrives, you are automatically lifted and pushed into a compartment by the human escalators that line the platform.

4- Sharing is Caring : after all the “arey yaar, andar bhado, bahot jagah hai” you do manage to get a little space to stand, even though you continue to fight with those strangers for ‘thodi se jagah’ because you don’t have much choice.

5- “Ye Virar Fast hai.” Enough said! (Mumbaikars, you know this one)

6- The mild panic attack : we experience on hearing the words “Next stop Dadar”, and brace ourselves for the same.

7- Shopping and Entertainment : From all kinds of munchies to accessories, kitchen tools, cosmetics and clothing, everything is available. And to make up for the lack of music, there is Bhajan Keertan. Really!

8- Window seat : with a blissful nap over a shoulder, or standing at the doorway to enjoy the cool breeze, based on first come first served lol…Missing much?

9- A mix of people : When you travel by local train, you meet people from all walks of life. A nosy neighbour peering into your phone, a crying toddler with her mother, an uncle staring at you for no apparent reason, that one woman fighting for space with everyone, and finally, the ‘bhajiwaali aunties.’

10- Yaatrigan Kripya Dhyaan dijiye” (travellers, please pay attention) : There’s always hope for the next train to come soon if you’ve missed the first one!

All of this has taught me to be more patient in life and to cope with new experiences. Once you learn how to travel in the local train, you will soon become a member of that community because such is the vibe. You will realize that these train journeys teach you a lot because the people in them share a common goal: they want to arrive at their destination safely, and on time!

Hopefully, everything will return to normal soon, and then we will talk about how ‘the city that never stops’, stopped in its tracks (literally).

We are Best Friends!

I don’t remember exactly when, but we met at a young age and shortly developed a connection. As I started growing up, she never left my side. We soon became close, it became impossible to part my ways with her. Although she was an enemy most of the time, she was also a good companion, someone who was always there for me, irrespective of what. She was like a sister, my other half. She was like a shadow, always there, following me, advising me to concentrate on my work.

We fought plenty, by which I mean every time. But it wasn’t entirely her fault. It was mine too, thanks to all the emerging hormones I didn’t sign up for. She was irritating at times, then again she was just doing her work, cautioning me here and there, constantly looking out for me in times of need, and well that’s what a good friend does.

We were so intimate, it felt like she always spoke out my sub-conscious thoughts, as if she could peep right into my mind like an open window, and shut it whenever she wanted. It was one of those critical windows which only she could see and had the control to. Well again, who coined the term “best friends?”

She was always around, easily reachable and knew exactly what I was thinking. This infuriated me. Was I really easy to read or had it been long enough to our friendship, or I had nobody else but her to open up to? I didn’t want her to know everything every time. Hello privacyyyy?

It was upsetting. Some things are to be kept a secret, even from a best friend. I didn’t want her to be around so often, I didn’t want her seeing all my disordered thoughts and imaginations, giving me useless suggestions all the time, which I already knew. But that’s the thing. Once you’re attached to someone, the road to suffering begins. Attachment makes you mentally enslaved, and it inevitably destroys you in ways you never imagined.

But something about her kept our friendship going. She didn’t mock me like the others and never made fun of me. She embraced my flaws and imperfections. Told me it was normal to think like that and be vulnerable at times. She infact, helped me get through it. We all have a friend like that right!

Even though she was the more dominant one within the relationship, I didn’t comply with her all the time. Sometimes I argued and refused to give in to her terms. She’d fight with me, shout at me, mentally abuse me, and give me temporary headaches. On and off, she would hold me down, scream down my ears until I zoned out enough to hear nothing else but the sharp screams of her voice.

Sometimes when I acted stubborn, she’d rebuke me and stop talking to me altogether and pay no heed to my complaints. But it’d only ever last for some hours. Soon she’d be back to normal and she’d come to me. We’d sit hugging one another like two friends in a new place, and we would hold onto each other for a long time. That was her way of telling me that she’d forgiven me, and she’d make everything perfect. She would reassure me that all the worries inside my head were real but easily controllable. All I had to do was hear her and follow her commands.

Listening to music, taking a deep breath, and writing down my thoughts, were some things  that helped- things that she taught me as part of my growing up, things that I could use to handle the bad days. “No, don’t go there, it’s not safe”, “What if you fail?” she’d say. “Face it, you’re good for nothing”, “Don’t try this or people will laugh at you”, so on and so forth. I’d generally take her advice now and then. No questions asked.

The first time it happened, I felt embarrassed, like why does she need to make it so obvious? But there was logic to her words. Whenever I did what she told me to, it felt a burden had been lifted off my heart, like everything that was pushing down on me had wiped out. Surprisingly, even she would leave me and go once I complied with her norms.

We used the ‘this-is-how-you-cope-up-with-bad-days’ methods she taught me, quite a lot. Distancing myself from people and shutting myself to the world for some days so I could rejuvenate myself, was another of her suggestions. When the typical methods weren’t enough, this might come in handy. It was sort of a physical reminder that I had done something or something terrible had happened to me. So when I returned to the ‘normal me’, I could relax and I didn’t need to worry.

We had to make sure that we worked together. It was exasperating and everything simple became complex. I didn’t like her now, but I knew I needed her. If she left me, I’d lose a part of myself too. She was wise. I couldn’t deny her of that. She knew ways to encourage me. She knew how to make the pain go away and if it didn’t go away, on the bad days, it might just worsen and she knew this.

I still feel embarrassed. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, good or bad, normal or not. Sometimes when I’m working, I attempt to cover it up, pretending I’m fine, smiling, and acting like things are all right. I walk around as if nothing is happening, I’ve become quite the actor you know! I should definitely give it a try just in case I fail, and here we go again! You’ll know what I’m talking about once you reach the end, don’t worry!

It’s harder to pretend when people are around. I feel like they’re watching me. Judging me. Laughing at me. But if they heard what I did, if they saw the things that I did, if they felt the things I did, they’d do it too.

I’m not crazy. I understand that it’s not logical. I know that I have given my best during exams, I have been loyal to my boyfriend, I have selected the right career choice, I have turned off the AC in my room, or I’ve locked my house, but what if I haven’t? I know that I have brushed my teeth before eating food, but what if I haven’t? I know that by placing my lipstick in the exact same position after I used it, won’t mean that something bad won’t happen, but then, it’s not been proven otherwise.

I don’t know what part of ‘I know it already’ does she not understand. She is still there. Sometimes in front of me, sometimes behind the back of my mind. She looks out for me. She is my “best friend”, as she likes to call it. And for a few hours, sometimes minutes, seconds, she gives me peace. But she is the one who gives me hell too. She is my other self, a part of me that I can’t unfortunately cut off.

She is my anxiety.